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  • World XI: Football's Best Active Players Globally (Messi,Ronaldo,Neymar&More) | Wed, 12 Sep 2018 16:04:00 +0000

  • Olympiacos 2018-2019: Season Preview, Transfers and More! | Mon, 10 Sep 2018 16:17:00 +0000

    Olympiacos finished 3rd last season in the Greek Superleague, after winning 7 in a row from 2011-2017. It was a disappointing season, with a lot of players on large contracts that were not fit to the wear the shirt. However, the President Vangelis Marinakis was infuriated and in this season only 2 players from last season remain, Kostas Fortounis and Omar Elabdelaoui. Additionally, the team went through 4 managers, Besnik Hasi at the beginning of the season whereby he qualified to the Champions League but his football was lacklustre and he suffered defeat in derbies. Longtime Olympiacos fan Takis Lemonis took charge as manager for the 4th time in his career but only as an interim manager. After Takis Lemonis, Oscar Garcia took charge but his disappointing brand of football and slow time to adjust caused him to lose his job. Christos Kontis was interim manager until the end of the season.
    For the 2018-19 season, Pedro Martins was appointed the manager of Olympiacos. Martins had successful spells with Rio Ave, Maritimo and Vitoria Guimaraes, who he led to a Taca De Portugal final. He is a graduate of the Portuguese Football School, but his football is reminiscent of the Spanish brand of football. He uses German pressing, a high defensive line and looks to pass his way to victory, and utilises his wingers and fullbacks for width.



    Formation and Style of Play
    Starting 11
    A 4-2-3-1 is the system used by Pedro Martins. Andreas Giannotis is the goalkeeper of choice, who had a very impressive season on loan at Atromitos where he kept 13 clean sheets last season and he only conceded 18 goals all of last season. Loanee Jose Sa from Porto came in for rotation and at 28 has experience and can help Giannoti develop. Kostas Tsimikas at left-back is fast, has stamina and Martins trust him at 22 years old after a full season at Willem he has impressed at the beginning of the season. Elabdelaoui at right-back was disappointing last season, lacking both offensively and defensively.  Vukovic brings leadership and has a very good left foot for long passes. Meriah is very fast and Tunisian is a threat at set-pieces due to his athleticism. Kamara is reminiscent of Yaya Toure in his 2005-2006 season with his endless sprints and energy as well as intercepting everything that comes his way. Bouchalakis has had a good start to the season, but he is likely to lose his place due to Bibars Natcho and Guilherme transfers to Olympiacos, as both play in the number 8 position. Lazaros is an Olympiacos fan and was part of Gate 7, the Olympiacos ultras when he was young. His spirit, leadership and desire to bleed the shirt has already shown and will likely make him a fan-favourite. On the left wing, Podence is a speedster, with or without the ball, and his quick dribbling, as well as skills, make a defender for nightmares. Kostas Fortounis is a typical number 10: fast, unpredictable, dribbles excellent, is good at tight spaces and has amazing free-kicks. Finally, Angel Guerrero is an all-around great striker. Good on the ball, good at headers, can keep the ball at his feet and dribble to open up space and has great positional sense.

    Attacking Phase:

    In attack, Olympiacos likes to use his excellent wingers Lazaros and Podence. They hug the touchline to open the opposition defence, and the fullback either overlap or underlap depending on if the wingers cut inside or go wide to cross. Both Kamara and Bouchalakis orchestrate the attacks and can either shoot or pass from deep. Kostas Fortounis is a creative, unpredictable attacking midfielder who shoots from afar, has a killer pass and is a danger on free-kicks. Angel Guerrero is a modern striker, that holds up the ball and contributes to the attack and does not sit and wait for the ball. The wingers Lazaros and Podence are fast and great dribblers that form formidable partnerships with their respective full-backs. Center backs Vukovic and Meriah hold a high defensive line to 'box' the other team in their own half and both can pass well to start the attack from the back.

    Defensive phase:

    In the defensive phase, Olympiacos chases a lot and drops deep to form 3 lines. Fortounis and Guerrero press the backline to disrupt the opposition attack. The wingers drop back to support the fullbacks to prevent overloads. Kamara and Bouchalakis both chase and protect the backline. The 3 lines, are equidistant and always ready to burst onto a counter-attack. A 4-2-3-1 is fluid and is great because of the fast wingers, Fortounis and Guerrero that can spring onto a counter-attack as soon as they get the ball.

    Europa League Group

    In the Europa League group, Olympiacos was handed a tough-group.
    AC Milan is 5 times European Champions and has a long and successful European history. Gattuso's Milan does not have a specific brand of football but has quality players that are dangerous at all times. Milan's main man is striker Higuain, who transferred in this summer. They are favourites to top the group.
    Real Betis does not feature frequently and in total has played in 8 matches in the Champions League and 38 in the Europa League/UEFA Cup. Real Betis were excellent in La Liga last season as manager Quique Setien used a 3-5-2 that helped Betis secure 6th place, their highest La Liga finish since 2005.
    Dudelange is the first team from Luxembourg to ever feature in a European competition. They will likely not win any games, and any point collected will be good for Dudelange.

    Europa League
    1. Olympiacos
    2. AC Milan
    3. Real Betis
    4. Dudelange

    Round of 16:

    Greek Superleague

    Greek Cup

  • Premier League: Best young players XI | Fri, 07 Sep 2018 14:16:00 +0000

    GK: Kepa Arrizabalaga
    Chelsea's new signing is an excellent goalkeeper. He has amassed 53 caps in La Liga, in a very good Athletic Bilbao side. He kept 7 clean sheets last season which is impressive given Athletic's terrible season both defensively and offensively. His biggest strengths are long passing and Kepa is very good at saving penalties, saving 2 last season.

    RB: Bellerin
    Bellerin's last two seasons not seen his progress as much as he should have. However, Bellerin is only 23, and already has 128 first-team caps for Arsenal. He has featured in both the Champions&Europa League and has won 2 FA Cups and 2 Community Shields. Bellerin at his peak is fast, a great dribbler and an excellent crosser. Under the new management of Emery, Bellerin can become the best fullback in the league and on the best in the world.

    RCB: Sanchez
    An exceptional signing, Davidson Sanchez has fit right into Tottenham defence. Only 22, Sanchez is looking to impress both in the League and in the Champions League. Playing with Vertonghen and Alderweireld alongside him, he has improved massively, and his pace and physicality definitely single him out. A modern centre-back, Sanchez is bound to be on the best CBs on the planet.

    LCB: Issa Diop
    A new signing, West Ham's Issa Diop is a 21-year-old French giant. Standing at 194cm, the ex-Toulouse centre-back is very similar to Davinson Sanchez. Tall, agile and composed with the ball, Diop is bound to be successful in the Premier League.

    LB: Sessegnon
    Last season's Championship Player of the Season, Sessegnon is a left-back converted to a winger. He scored 16 goals and assisted 8 in the Championship, and scored a goal in the Championship play-off against Derby. He made his first-team debut at 16, Sessegnon is mature for his age. He is very concentrated, a good crosser but his defensive contribution is not as good, something Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic saw which is why he is trying him as a winger. Should Sessegnon continue to progress as he has the past two seasons, an England cap and a big transfer are bound to come.

    LCM: Keita
    Liverpool's record signing is a future legend. Dynamic, agile, strong, a great passer, great at interceptions and tackles, good distribution,long-shots but has a discipline problem and is weak aerially. However, Keita is one of the most complete midfielders in the world at only 23. What can only as an alloy of Kante and Pogba, Keita's panache but dynamic nature constitute him as one of the best.

    RCM: Torreira
    Arsenal's most expensive summer signing is a runner. He has the fight of AC Milan manager Gennaro Gattuso, a nature missing from the modern game. Defensively astute, his ball interceptions, tackling and concentration are excellent and is the steel in front of the defence that Arsenal is missing. Should he feature more regularly, Torreira's steel will show.

    LW: Rashford
    Rashford's goal in the Liverpool-Manchester derby revealed to the world what he can do. An incredible dribbler, that is very fast but has an essence to his game. His no-nonsense style of play really singles him out at the tender age of 20. In a struggling United side, Jose Mourinho should give him more game-time to unleash his potential.

    CAM: Alli
    Dele Alli character can make you dislike him, but you can not dislike his game. An English number 10 is a rare player and Dele is an 'extinct' player. Tall, agile, likes to dribble and cut inside but scores goals and does not hold on to the ball without purpose. A modern attacking midfielder, Alli is still only 22 and with the potential that he has shown, he is a future Tottenham captain.

    RW: Martial
    Antony Martial is a young player that has shown an established level. He is young but accomplished as he has shown as early as 21 years old that he can be the winger United needs. Extremely fast, he likes to cut inside, is a great dribbler and finisher, but can also hurt teams with his long-shots. He has a disciplinary issue as he has a short temper and his managers find that he can be troubling in the locker-room.

    ST: Jesus
    Although he had a terrible World Cup, Jesus is a great all-around striker. He is quick, strong, a great finisher can hold up the ball and is good at headers. His partnership with Aguero has produced some great moments but he can lead the line by himself. He won the Premier League last season scoring 13 goals in 29 apps and he also scored 4 goals in the Champions League.

  • Europa League Group Stage Predictions : Winners, Key Men and more | Tue, 04 Sep 2018 15:51:00 +0000

  • Where do the best Football Managers come from: A look at nationality and success for upcoming managers. | Mon, 03 Sep 2018 18:12:00 +0000

    Football started about 150 years ago. Laws were set, and the beautiful game sprung from Europe across the globe. The spread of football in many countries is reflective of the cultures in which it is embedded in. In England, football is kept simple and hard work and running are rewarded. The coal miners of the 30's, 40's and 50's were working close to 15 hours a day. Hard work off the field was rewarded on the field. Germany's cold and distant approach to life was seen in their 7-1 dismantlement of Brasil in the 2014 World Cup Quarter-Finals, where no matter the instances and no matter the context the Germans attitude remain distant and cold. Italy and Spain, although different footballing cultures reflect their good life with finesse and attractive football. Brasil's limited resources and relatively little freedom in their individual lives due to living in poverty, means they have to express themselves. When the Brasilian steps into the field, it is not just a game, it is a response to the struggles and crime, a dance to freedom, a dribble to divine ecstasy. Football allows them to express themselves, and the 5vs5 culture due to the rainforest climate means that their dribbling is supreme.
    The point is that each culture is reflected in the football they play. Culture is transmitted to most as firstly players and then as managers. A reflection of football IQ, of meticulousness, of hard work and of taking advantage of circumstances is what determines a football managers success. However, we will analyse which country has the most winningest managers and maybe suggest a reason why.

    The basis of our investigation is this table:

    1. KEY

    The European Cup or Champions League as it is called since its inauguration in 1992, is the most prestigious European competition. However, the UEFA Cup Winners Cup(CWC) was a similar competition that was defunct in 1999, which featured only the Champion of each European Country, not the 2nd or 3rd placed teams. Thus, it will be valued for research purposes. The Europa League or UEFA Cup is also an established competition and holds merit in Europe. The Intercontinental Cup was the 'ancestor' of the now called Club World Cup, a competition that features the Champions of each continent's top competition. The UEFA Intertoto Cup holds the least value as it was a competition created to include teams that did not participate in the UEFA Cup Winners Cup or the European Cup/Champions League. The Super Cup is the tie between the Champions League winner and the Europa League winner.

    The Numbers
    Mathematically, the country with managers that have won the most European competition is Italy. They have 46 titles in total, with 11 CL(highest), 5 CWC(second highest) and 9 EL(joint highest with Spain), 11 Super Cups(highest), 5 intercontinental cups and 5 Intertoto Cups. Italy has had by far the greatest success in Europe and impressively with many different teams. Giants such as Juventus, Milan and Inter have won Europe's top competitions but other teams such as Lazio, Sampdoria, Parma, Roma, Napoli, Bologna, Udinese and Perugia all winning European titles. This is highly impressive as all the Italian teams were coached by an Italian manager. Such feats are extremely rare and shows the faith the Italian clubs had on Italian managers. Most notably, Carlo Ancelotti won 3 Champions Leagues, Arrigo Sacchi and Nereo Rocco won two each, Giovanni Trapattoni, Fabio Capello, Roberto Di Matteo and Marcelo Lippi all won one. The variety of coaches winning the Champions League and all graduating from 'Coverciano' Italy's infamous coaching school, constitutes it by far as the best.

    As far as attractive football, there is no better place to look. From Pep Guardiola to Benitez, to Juande Ramos, to Emery and of course Vicente Del Bosque and Luis Enrique. Spanish managers were the earliest to dominate, as Real Madrid won 5 European Cups in a row from 1955-1960, with Jose Villanonga and Miguel Munoz winning two each while at Real Madrid. However, Spanish football evolved, and after Johan Cruyff took the helm at 'La Masia' and even before as a coach. It skyrocketed, with the possession-oriented game and masters of positioning, Spain saw great success. Guardiola's Barcelona is the most recent and most profound example as well as Real Madrid, under Benitez and Del Bosque. Surprisingly, Real and Barcelona are the only winners of the Champions League but Spain has been very successful in the Europa League. Sevilla has won it 5 times since 2008 and Atletico Madrid 3 times since 2010. Valencia won it in 2004 and Real Madrid won it in 1985 and 1986.
    Furthermore, Spain is the second highest winning nation mathematically but is very likely to increase in the future with a lot of young managers such as Emery, Lopetegui and Guardiola and older ones such as Del Bosque and Benitez looking to win Europe's top competitions.

    Germany is the third country overall in trophies. Germany has less diversity in managers with Jupp Heynckes, Ottmar Hitzfield, Udo Lattek and Dettmar Cramer being the four successful coaches. Heynckes, Hitzfield and Cramer won 2 Champions Leagues each and Udo Lattek one. They saw great success in the 80's when Bayern won 6 European Cups from 1974-76. Most recently, Jupp Heynckes' Bayern defeated Dortmund in 2013 to become European Champions after 12 years. Bayern Munich has won 5 Champions Leagues and Borussia Dortmund(1997) and Hamburg(1983) have each won one. German managers have also fared well in the Europa League, with 5 titles in total. Schalke in 1999 was the only German teams to win a Europa League where the manager was not German, he was Dutch.
    Germans have always been about 100% effort throughout 90 minutes, but also about discipline and strength. German managers and their teams have always been about dominance and mainly superiority, a reflection of German culture.

    To be precise, France has never had that many managers at the highest level. Before the golden generation of 1998, France was not a well-known footballing nation. The recent achievements of Zinedine Zidane and Gerard Houllier as well as Helenio Herrera, born an Argentine but a naturalised French are what rate France so highly. French managers have won 5 CL, 3 by Zidane and 2 by Herrera, and 1 Europa League as Houllier won it with Liverpool in 2001. Not a lot to say for France, except the fact that they rank higher due to winning 12 Intertoto Cups, which skews the results slightly.

    Founders of the game, England have won 23 European titles in total. However, the English games flourished in the 70s and 80s. English teams were a force to be reckoned with, and no team back then could match up to their physicality, strength and pace. The 4-4-2 was the formation of choice and teams such as Manchester United, Leeds, Liverpool, Ipswich and Brian Robson's Nottingham Forest conquered Europe. All teams had English managers, and the most well known were Bob Paisley, Tony Barton, Brian Clough and Bill Nicholson. Bob Paisley dominated with Liverpool and Ipswich, Tony Burton won the European Cup in 1982 with Aston Villa, Bill Nicholson won the Uefa Cup in 1972 and of course, Brian Clough's infamous Nottingham Forest that rose from the second division to win the European Cup, back to back, in 1979 and 1980. All these teams were physically strong, as players could get away with a lot back then, and they set true football foundations. The 4-4-2 had a solid backline of tall, physical players that stayed back. In the middle, workhorses dominated with their endless running. The wings had pacey players that could easily get past the slow, tall defenders. The striker(s) was strong, pacey and intelligent and could always do damage. These balanced, united and determined teams took over Europe.
    However, recently, there has not been a team managed by an English manager that has won a European competition, or the Premier League. The last Premier League winning manager was Howard Wilkinson in 1992. The FA has not acclimatised in the new era and still produces tactically inept managers. Instead, they focus on the 'psychological' aspects and physical aspects which is obviously a drawback. Instead, England must focus on the tactical aspect of football, to produce smarter players that look to out-smart the opponent than outrun him.

    The last country to have produced many significant managers, Holland is an interesting football nation. It is a small country with a lot of talents. Talented managers such as the infamous Johan Cruyff, Louis Van Gaal, Guus Hiddink and Frank Rijkaard. Dutch managers have won a combined 5 CL and 6 Europa Leagues. They produce countless youngsters season after season and have seen a lot of success. Notably, Johan Cruyff brought the biggest revolution in football in the 90s. He preferred small, agile, smart midfielders over the strong, physical ones of the past. In so, he created the golden generation of Barcelona, which won 3 Champions Leagues and won 6 titles in 2008. Cruyff won 1 European cup, but his legacy lasts longer than that. The Netherlands follows the footballing ethos of Spain and teaches values and ethics to youngsters and nourishes them to become people first and then footballers.

    Finally, it is not surprising that Italian managers are very successful. They have found the balance between intelligence, determination, fight and tactical adeptness. For upcoming managers, Italy's 'Coverciano' is the single best footballing school, with proven results.

  • Champions League Group Winners: Group A-H | Sun, 02 Sep 2018 22:05:00 +0000

     Group A 
    Atlético Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Monaco, Club Brugge 

    Winners: Atletico Madrid.
    Atletico Madrid looks to strong compared to the other teams. Dortmund will impress and Monaco is the weakest it has been for 3 years and has started their season poorly. Monaco will continue to the Europa League.
    Group B 
    Barcelona, Tottenham, PSV Eindhoven, Inter

    Winner: Barcelona
    Barcelona is a contender for Champions League winners. Led by Leo Messi, they will decimate teams at home and will top the group. Tottenham is likely to win all their home games, even pulling an upset against the La Liga giants, similar to last season with Real Madrid. Inter will most likely continue to the Europa League beating a good yet stale PSV to 3rd place.

    Group C 
    Paris Saint-Germain, Napoli, Liverpool, Red Star Belgrade

    Winners: PSG
    One of the closest groups, PSG and Liverpool will battle for 1st place. Due to PSG's attack and their good record in the group stage, you will see them top the group. Liverpool will come 2nd, and Napoli must contend for 3rd place.

    Group D 
    Lokomotiv Moscow, Porto, Schalke, Galatasaray

    Winner: Porto
    The most highly contested group, it is pretty even. Schalke will look to make a comeback to Europe but Porto's squad is impressive. With Moussa Marega leading the line, Brahimi at the wing and Herrera leading the charge, Porto will top the group. Lokomotiv and Galatasaray will battle for the Europa League with Lokomotiv beating the Turkish giants by a point or on goal-difference.

    Group E 
    Bayern Munich, Benfica, Ajax, AEK Athens

    Winner: Bayern Munich
    Bayern Munich got an easy draw, with their away trip to Lisbon against Benfica being a match where they could drop points. Benfica will come second and Ajax 3rd. AEK struggled to qualify and do not look convincing enough to challenge for that 3rd place.

    Group F 
    Manchester City,  Shakhtar Donetsk, Lyon, Hoffenheim

    Winner: Manchester City
    Pep's third at the helm of City, it is usually his most productive season. With all the signings, City are serious contenders and their home matches will be a joy to watch. Second place is reserved for Lyon and Hoffenheim will continue in the Europa League.

    Group G 
    Real Madrid, Roma, CSKA Moscow, Viktoria Plzen

    Winner: Real Madrid
    Real Madrid got an easy group and you will see them winning all their games. Last year semifinalists Roma, will come second and CSKA Moscow will continue to the 2nd European competition. 

    Group H 
    Juventus, Manchester United, Valencia, Young Boys

    Winner: Juventus
    With Ronaldo in their books, Juventus might win it this year. They will go unbeaten to the round of 16, and Ronaldo will score against all teams. Manchester United will come 2nd and Valencia is too good to lose the 3rd position.

  • Champions League Group A: Stats,Qualifying, and Key Players | Sat, 01 Sep 2018 18:09:00 +0000

    Group A 
    Atletico Madrid
    Form: WDW
    A true 'team', Atl. Madrid is a well-rounded team that Simeone has built. Now at Atletico since 2013, Diego Simeone will have high hopes of this squad. With excellent additions such as tricky wingers Thomas Lemar and Gelson Martins, reliable defenders such as Santiago Arias and the firepower of N.Kalinic Atletico Madrid is a European powerhouse. With the spine of the team remaining, Oblak-Godin-Saul-Griezmann, Atletico has a real shot of being European Champions. A mixture of youth and experience, and of Spanish and foreign talents sees a modern balance that could bring success.  They have started well, with 2 wins out of 3 games. The new Wanda Metropolitano will surely be a fortress, and the usual but confident narrow wins will give Atletico Madrid the first place in this group.
    Atleti's signings will look to make the difference for them this season.

    In: Rodri, Néhuen Pérez, Antonio Adán, Gelson Martins, Jonny Castro Otto, Thomas Lemar, Santiago Arias, Nikola Kalinic 
    Out:Diogo Jota, Gabi, Bernard Mensah , Pierre Kunde, Fernando Torres, Axel Werner, Emiliano Velázquez, Jonny Castro Otto, Carlos Mari, Sime Vrsaljko, André Moreira, Luciano Vietto, Kevin Gameiro 

    Form: WWD
    Under the guidance of former Monchengladbach and recently Nice manager, Lucien Favre, Dortmund will strive to dominate Germany and the European stage again. New faces such as Axel Witsel, Abdou Diallo, Thomas Delaney and Achraf Hakimi have been implemented into the first team to guide Dortmund to the top. Although, their weakest squad in years, and with key players such as Sokratis, Yarmolenko, Schurrle, Gonzalo Castro and Erik Durm leaving, it would not be surprising for this season to be transitionary. Dortmund look set to occupy second place and a fearful round of 16 partner looms.
    Dortmund's signings will look to make the difference.

    In: Abdou Diallo, Thomas Delaney, Axel Witsel, Marius Wold, Paco Alcacer, Marwin Hitz, Eric Oelschlagel, Achraf Hakimi
    Out: Yarmolenko, Sokratis, Mikel Merino, Gonzalo Castro, Nurk Sahin, Felix Passlack, Andre Schurrle, Dominik Reimann, Erik Durm, Roman Weidenfeller, Michy Batshuayi

    Club Brugge
    Form: WWWDWW
    The Belgian champions have not won a game in the Champions League group stage since 2005, 13 years ago. They are not favoured well in this group and not without reason. Although the champions had an excellent season in the Belgian First Division last season, it is a difficult group for them. They have also strengthened significantly, spending 5$ million to sign the 3rd highest-scoring striker in the Belgian First Division, Kaveh Rezaei, from Sporting Charleroi. Their key man is Ruud Vormer, as the midfielder registered 16 assists to his name last season, and is the engine of his team. Although, a strong squad with Belgian homogeneity, a solid spine and a young manager, it is unlikely for Club Brugge to occupy a place higher than 4th. 

    Rudd Vormer, Club Brugge's captain will lead the way for his team.

    In: Kaveh Rezaei, Matej Mitrovic, Karlo Letica, Siebe Schrijvers, Sofyan Amrabat, Mats Rits, Clinton Mata, Arnaut Danjuma, Luan Peres, Brent Gabriel, Lois Openda
    Out: Anthony Limbombe, Abdoulay Diaby, Tomas Pina, Alexander Scholz, Jeremy Perbet, Nikola Storm, Elton Acolatse, Jens Teunckens, Frank Brodic.


    Form: LWDL
    Early season form shows that Monaco is struggling. A far cry from the 2017 semifinalists, Monaco has been downgraded, to a great extent. They do not have the same attacking potency anymore, nor do they possess they same youthful exuberance of Thomas Lemar, Fabinho or Kylian Mbappe. Instead, for the second season in a row, they have seen their stat men leave, decimating whatever their coach, Leonardo Jardim, looked to build. It is not by any means a lacking squad, coming second last in Ligue 1, but they lost many players again. The transfers of Golovin, who had an exquisite World Cup, Henrichs, Chadli and Antonio Barreca will bolster their squad. However, the loss of Thomas Lemar and Fabinho will hurt their season. I do not seem them beating Dortmund to second place so they will occupy the 3rd spot in this group and continuing in the Europa League.
    Golovin is set to take Ligue 1 by storm.

    In: Aleksandr Golovin, B.Henrichs, Willem Geubbels, Jean-Eudes Aholou, Nacer Chadli, Antonio Barreca, Pele, Ronael Pierre-Gabriel, Jonathan Panzo,Samuel Grandsir and Sofiane Diop.
    Out:Thomas Lemar, Fabinho, Terence Kongolo, Rachid Ghezzal, Adama Diakhaby, Soualiho Meite, Joao Moutinho, Keita Balde, Ruben Vinagre.

    1st- Atl.Madrid
    2nd- Dortmund
    3rd- Monaco
    4th- Club Brugge

  • 4-2-3-1: In depth analysis, roles, build-up and advantages and disadvantages. | Fri, 31 Aug 2018 14:22:00 +0000

    The 4-2-3-1 is a modern formation, that sees more and more teams using it every year. It has been used by teams such as Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Inter and AS Roma. It is a successful system that has been implemented for years, and it will be analysed in depth.

    The 4-2-3-1 is a very flexible system, that can be a 3-1-5-1 in the attack, a 3-3-1-3 when transitioning into the attack, a 4-2-3-1 when in possession or when defending and even a 4-5-1 when trying to defend a goal lead. This flexibility allows it to transform with fluidity from one phase of the game to another, as seen in the examples below.

    In the transition to attack, the fullbacks move up and the wingers move wide or inside.

    When defending, a 4-4-2 with 3 lines of defence or a 4-5-1 when the number 10 drops deeper to cover the half-spaces.

    When in the attack, a 3-1-5-1 shape is formed, the number 9 being the pivot and the wingers, number 10 and fullbacks interchanging positions.

    Another characteristic of the 4-2-3-1 is that is defined by the intelligence of the individual players in the squad. For example, it is a great formation for a creative number 10, because it has 5 players, the 2 fullbacks-2 wingers and 1 striker, to feed through balls into or the number 10 can choose to dribble and take shots as spaces are opened due to the movement of the other 5 players. It is a diamond for creative players as well as wingers that like to play as inside forwards, whereby they can cut inside and go one-on-one versus the opposition defenders. Should a team have a great number 10, and 2 excellent wingers, the 4-2-3-1 is an excellent choice. It is also noteworthy to mention, that an intelligent forward that moves between the lines is a necessity for this system to function, something we will discuss further. 

    + The fluidity of this system is its biggest advantage.
    + Movement off the ball, meaning the interchanging of positions.
    + Can create overloads in the area of the ball
    + Has many attacking options with 2 wingers, no 10 and striker all available to strike.
    + Supports creativity.
    +Flexibility: can be used as a counter-attacking defensive system or an ultra-attacking offensive system. 
    -  If not executed well it can be a slow and lacklustre system.
    - Wingers/Attacking midfielders(no 7&11) have a lot more defensive responsibilities.
    -  Difficult to use with a slow back four because a high defensive line is used.
    - The forward can be isolated up-front since the attacking midfielders track back to help defensively.
    - Fullbacks deal with a lot of 1on1s. 

    Individual Roles:
    #1: The goalkeeper must be able to start his team's attack. A keeper that can distribute the ball, he is the team's first 'playmaker' as all attack start with him.

    #2 & #3: The wing-backs must cover their whole respective side, and therefore most physically fit players on the field. They must be technically and tactically adept, and to have a high football IQ. The wingbacks' role is to keep the width, and according to their skills to either overlap or underlap. They must know when to move forward and when to stay back. They must help in creating an attacking overload in their side, and when to 1 v 1 and be great crossers. Triangles between the fullbacks, wingers and number 10 are also common in the team's build-up or creating 2 v 1 against the opposition fullbacks with the wingers.

    #4 & #5: The centre-backs have many responsibilities. They must be able to organize the game from the back when in possession, must play relatively safe passes and keep a high defensive line. Knowing when to push, hold or drop back their line is essential, winning aerial duels and must have good acceleration, or to be able to sprint fast for a very small distance. If there is a high defensive line, the CBs must be agile, if the team looks to drop deep and counter-attack the CBs do not need to be fast, as there is less space to cover so they were unlikely to be sprinting for long distances. Anticipating and reading plays is crucial when the team has a high line since there is little reaction time.


    #6: The defensive midfielder. The DM normally just sits in front of the 2 CBs. He should be tall and combative, have an excellent passing range as he might have to pass it short or launch it long. He can get involved in the attack if the team is really looking for a goal, but he is generally meant to sit back to prevent counter-attacks, sitting in the half-spaces looking to intercept passes. It is him that dictates the tempo of the game.

    #8: The central midfielder. This midfielder is more attack-oriented but must also do his defensive work. He links the defence and attack and must have a combination of pace and strength. In simple terms, he is the engine of the team. He has more freedom than the #6, meaning he is everywhere. He must pass, dribble, have excellent technique, be a runner for the team and supply balls to the #10. He sits between #6 & #10 and must be able to link them. A pivotal player, a famous #8 currently is Miralem Pjanic, his whole team revolves around him and his movements. 

    #10: The attacking midfielder. The centre of all attacks, the #10 must be a creative genius. The epicentre of attacking lethality, he must: be a great dribbler, can 1 v 1, have excellent passing, be creative, unpredictable, and to be able to shoot with limited space and time. The #10 can link with everyone in the attack, with the striker to create space, with the other 2 attacking midfielders, the #8 to open up the play and even the fullbacks to create width. An attacking fulcrum, it is not uncommon to see teams struggle when their number 10 has a bad game. In defence, he pressures high and tries to win the ball back for his team.

    #7 & #11: The wide attacking midfielders/wingers. These must move up and down to both attack and defend. They must be able to dribble well, go 1v1, be great passers, be quick, technically adept and of course to be able to cross. They must have a great work rate, to track back but also be ready to counterattack when their team steals the ball. They decide what the wingbacks will do. If they cut inside the wingbacks overlap if they stay wide the wingbacks under-lap. The partnership between them and the wingbacks is vital to the attacking buildup. 


    #9: This number 9 can't be a tall, sluggish striker. A fast, agile striker is needed that tracks back to pressurize but is the first player to sprint for a counterattack. When in the attack, he can drift wide and a winger can take his place or interchange with the number 10. He must be good in the air, can hold up the ball, can combine with other players, and must be lethal. He needs to score with few chances since there are so many attacking players that if the fails to score his ability will come under scrutiny and is likely to be replaced. 


    #4 & #5: They must be coordinated like an opera in Teatro Alla Scala, they must know each other like their back of their hand. If a mistake is made, the forward could run behind them, and a counter-attack leading to a goal is possible. They must know when to hold, push or drop back their line when in the attack. 

    #6 & #8: These two must cover each other. The #8 pushes more forward but they must know when pushes forward and when one covers. They help orchestrate the game and is vital that they communicate effectively.

    #3 & #11: Their combination is mainly determined by the winger. If the wingers decide to cut inside, the fullback must stay wide to maintain the team's width. If the wingers move wide then the fullbacks under-lap to create the 

    #7 & #2: On this side, the same rules apply.

    #10 & #9: The precise movements of these two, cause holes in the defence which are the originators of most goals. They must be in tune, and to occupy the spaces each one leaves for the other. 

  • Dinamo Zagreb: 7 incredible players that went through their academy | Wed, 29 Aug 2018 17:42:00 +0000

    Although Dinamo Zagreb fell to a disappointing defeat to Young boys last night and missing a place in Europe's biggest competition, we thought it would be appropriate to look at past players that went on to become stars.

    7. Marko Pjaca
    The least well-known player from the list, Pjaca is still unproven. His applied his trade at Dinamo Zagreb for 2 years, 2014 until 2016, and had 61 apps with 19 goals. After his impressive seasons, Juventus bought him for 15 million. While getting the occasional apps for Juventus, even featuring in the Champions League, he has been sent on loan twice. Last January he was loaned to AC Schalke for a 6-month loan. With Ronaldo's transfer, and players such as Dybala, Douglas Costa and one of our other featured players Mario Mandzukic, playing time would be limited so he went on a season-long loan to Fiorentina, with an option to buy with an undisclosed fee. Pjaca is a wonderful player that could blossom into a Perisic-like winger. Still only 23 years old, he has a lot to prove to the footballing world.

    He is a traditional winger, but can also play as number 10. He likes to cut in on his right, like an inside-forward and is a great dribbler. He can ping long-shots as he possesses a deadly right foot.

    6.Milan Badelj
    Badelj was deemed as a replacement to Luka Modric when he left for Tottenham Hotspurs in 2008. Badelj featuring for Dinamo Zagreb for 5 years, from 2007-2012. He then moved to Hamburg for 2 years and then to Fiorentina where he stayed until last season. Badelj joined Lazio on a free transfer on August 1st, 2018.

    A combative defensive midfielder, Badelj strengths lies in his accurate passing, his ball distribution and his ball interceptions. He plays the ball on the ground, and does layoffs, meaning he likes to pass the ball in the path of a teammate. His discipline is a problem as he likes to tackle and commits fouls. 

    5.Sime Vrsaljko
    An attacking fullback, Sime Vrsaljko is a wonderful modern fullback that originated from the 'Bad Blue Boys' academy. He featured for the first team for 4 years, from 2009-2013, and amassed 73 caps and scored 1 goal. He then moved to Italy, where he stayed for 3 years, one year at Genoa(2013-2014) and 2 years at Sassuolo(2014-2016). He then got his big money move to Atletico Madrid, where he went on to the Europa League last season, becoming an integral part of the squad and taking the place of the well-known Juanfran. This season, he went on loan to Inter Milan on a one year loan with an option to buy, with a fee rumoured to be around 24€ million.

    A modern fullback, that is very concentrated, that favours defence rather than offence. He likes to shoot often and to shoot from distance. His pros include aerial duels and many(!) ball interceptions. As with his Croatian teammate Badelj, he is prone to committing fouls often and is not up to par with passing and especially crossing. 

    4.Dejan Lovren
    Lovren has a bad reputation in England, following disastrous appearances with Liverpool, where they gave up 2 and 3 goal leads. His inconsistency in England cost Liverpool points and was a scapegoat on many occasions. Nevertheless, Lovren is a great defender that has proved himself in Croatia, France and England as well the world stage on the Wolrd Cup and the Champions League. He featured for Dinamo Zagreb for 4 years, from 2006-2010. In that time, he managed 37 caps and 1 goal. He stayed at Lyon for 3 years(2010-2013), at Southampton for a year(2013-2014) and after an impressive season, like many Southampton players, moved to Liverpool.

    A combative defender that likes to use his size to bully his opponents. Lovren is not a leader in defence, as seen by his partnership with Matip last season. However, with Van Dijk taking charge last season as the leader, Lovren feels less burden and is much more comfortable in his abilities. Since his form has been excellent and that continued into the 2018 World Cup where Croatia reached the final.
    His pros are his passing accuracy as well as his aerial duels, where he really is impressive. His cons are his lapses of concentration and he is easy to outsmart.

    3.Mateo Kovacic
    An illustrious midfielder, Mateo Kovacic is the best young Croatian prospect at the moment. Back in Croatia, he applied his trade at Dinamo Zagreb for 3 years(2010-2010), gaining 43 caps and scoring 7 goals. His talent in midfield was recognised, and Inter Milan signed him for 11€ million. He stayed at Milan for 2 years(2013-2015) where his value and ability skyrocketed, making him one of Europe's hottest prospects. The big boys were certainly looking to buy him and when Real Madrid came knocking on his door, he answered. His stay was successful (2015-2018) as he won 3 Champions League's there and being part of the best midfield trio in the world along with Modric and Kroos. In his last season at RM, his playing time was limited and he opted for a move to Maurizio Sarri's Chelsea to prove himself in the best league in the world.

    A midfield with panache and elegance, Kovacic knows his way around through balls and his passing is immaculate. He can hold the ball and his dribbling is also superb. Tackles are a pivotal part of his game, as the midfielder charges in the opposition box to complete his side's attack. His pros are passing, dribbling and accurate through balls. His cons are only his aerial duels but that can also be attributed to his height.

    2.Mario Mandzukic
    A fiery character, Mandzukic never goes out without a fight. His determination and character show in big games, as he flourishes playing in the biggest competitions. He was part of the Zagreb side for 3 seasons(2007-2010) and became Dinamo's main goal threat. Teams across Europe went looking, and he moved to VFL Wolfsburg. He stayed for 2 years(2010-2012)  and he made his big move afterwards to Bayern Munich(2012-2014). He won the Champions League and scored 33 goals in 2 seasons. Atletico Madrid came calling, and he spent another season there where he won the Supercopa de España. His final move came to Italian giants Juventus, where he still is.

    A modern target man, Mandzukic is the pivot of the attack and likes to hold up the ball. His is very intelligent and can initiate an attack with just a flick on. A transformation to his playstyle ensued when he moved to Juventus, where he became a wide-target man, as he moved on the left-wing to accommodate Juventus style of play. While on the wings, he often cut in a second striker, while workhorse Alex Sandro managed to cover the whole left side as a Complete Wing Back. His strengths include aerial duels,holding up the ball and his headed attempts. His weaknesses are his discipline(fiery character) and his crossing.

    1.Luka Modric
    What can one say about this player? Luca Modric is a complete midfielder. He picks up the ball from defence and moves up and down the field constantly. He started at Dinamo Zagreb in 2003 and stayed until 2008, amassing 94 caps and 28 goals. There were echoes in Europe, and Tottenham Hotspur heard them and bought him for £16.5 million, truly a bargain. He stayed another 5 seasons in North London, where he gathered 127 caps with 13 goals. He was evolving into the complete midfielder, right when Real Madrid bought him for  £30 million in 2012. In his first season, he was voted as the worst signing of that La Liga season. Modric put his head down, worked and eventually became the best midfielder in the world. Unimaginable composure, immaculate passing, assists, goals and even his defensive output turned him into the Modric the footballing world loves to admire. His calm presence and shyness single him out as a star of his generation and the second best player behind Cristiano Ronaldo in the star-studded Real Madrid team.

    Modric never keeps his head down, and always chases behind the ball. He loves the ball at his feet as much as he likes distributing it. His pros include his meticulous passing, dribbling, long shots, through balls, key passes combined with his concentration and defensive contribution. His cons are his tackling and his aerial duels, which is attributed to his minute stature, standing only at 172 cm.

  • Tuesday 28th Football Round-up: Results,Reactions and more | Tue, 28 Aug 2018 21:46:00 +0000

    Champions League
    AEK-Vidi (1-1)

    Goalscorers: Mantalos(47')- Nego(57')

    AEK qualified as it was predicted. Although they lacklustre in the second half, their first-half penalty and the 2 away goals were enough to drive them to European glory after 12 years. In the first half, AEK pressured and were able to immobilise Vidi's attack. A great opportunity by Petros Mantalos led to him being pushed and taken down to award a penalty, right at the second half whistle. After the goal, AEK sat back and absorbed pressure, trying to hit Vidi on the counter. In the 57th minute, Vidi completed a wonderful attack, with Nego's elaborate chip seeming seamlessly flawless. The final minutes were, stressful for AEK, especially after Lopes' red card in the 81st minute. Scepovic had a final attempt in 90+6 which just went over the bar.

    Dinamo Zagreb-Young Boys (1-2)

    Goalscorers: I.Hajrovic(7')- G.Hoarau(64',66')

    Over 28,000 fans turned out in the Croatian capital as Dinamo started the match aggressively and after an early scare, they would take the lead in the 7th-minute after Dani Olmo’s cross from the left was poorly cleared and Izet Hajrović would bang home the loose ball from inside the box.  
    Dinamo had one foot in the Champions League but in the 64th minute, Young Boys got back into the match when Hoarau scored from the penalty spot after Marin Leovac brought down Assaléa in the box.  
    Two minutes later and it was Hoarau again who would tap in from a corner to give the Swiss side the lead.
    Dinamo now needing two goals tried all they could but Hajrović’s effort which hit the crossbar with 15 minutes left was and two Mario Gavranović’s close-range misses in stoppage time was the closest they would come.

    Dinamo Kiev-Ajax (0-0)


    A close game but an open one, with both sides involved having many opportunities. An early chance by Tadic, when his shot hit the bar in the 14th minute. Various opportunities by both sides were denied by both goalkeepers, with Boyko showing great reflexes. Ajax was solid defensively and even chased the game, with K.J. Huntelaar missing chances. An entertaining games overall, however, the 0-0 does not do it justice.

  • Champions League: Predictions,Matches,Betting Odds and More | Tue, 28 Aug 2018 14:55:00 +0000

    AEK Athens- Vidi FC(2-1)
    AEK Athens had an excellent game last time out but suffered after Bakasetas was sent off in the 54th minute. Vidi believed it and could have scored more than one goal. AEK were lucky to escape with the 3 points and are favourites for this tie.
    Qualification: AEK has too much and I see them going through.
    Uefa ranking:
    Aek: 123
    Vidi: 216

    Team News:
    Winger Anastasios Bakasetas is banned after a 1st Leg red card. Brazilian Alef could be drafted in but major changes aren't likely following a solid win last week.
    Midfielder Szabolcs Huszti is suspended after his red card last week. Forward Marko Šćepović may come in.


    Dinamo Zagreb-Young Boys(1-1)
    An action-packed game, Kevin Mbapu, formerly of Newcastle United, gave Young Boys hope after he scored the only goal in the 1-1 draw at home. Y. Boys were lacklustre and might be punished over both ties. I see Dinamo Zagreb going through.

    Qualification: Dinamo Zagreb

    Uefa ranking:
    D.Zagreb: 77
    Y.Boys: 74

    Team News:
    Few changes are likely from last week with a 4-1-4-1 approach likely again. Mislav Oršić should lead the line.
    Young Boys should stick with their usual 4-4-2. They rested players in the league at the weekend but still scored five with forward Roger Assalé among the scorers who will be hoping for a chance here.


    Dinamo Kiev- Ajax(1-3)
    Arguably the most entertaining match of this triplet,  Ajax looks to be the favourite of this tie. They had a wonderful game, with high tempo attacking football that was a joy to watch. There was little Dinamo could do at the newly renamed, Johan Cruyff Arena, as Ajax was too solid. I see Ajax going through this tie.

    Qualification: Ajax

    Uefa ranking:
    Dinamo Kiev: 23

    Team News:

    Dynamo Kiev are set to start at full strength for Tuesday's clash.
    Ajax were without David Neres and Joël Veltman at the weekend, and they are set to miss out here.


  • Manchester United vs Tottenham- Preview,line-ups and predictions. | Mon, 27 Aug 2018 13:12:00 +0000

    Monday Night Football is back with a tasty encounter. Manchester United hosts Tottenham for the last game of the 3rd game week of the 2018/19 Premier League season.


    Premier league positions
    Manchester United: 9th
    Tottenham: 6th

    Head to head:
    -Manchester Utd beat Leicester (2-1) at home but fell to a shocking defeat(3-2) last week to Brighton away.
    -Tottenham won both against Newcastle(1-2) away and against Fulham(3-1) at home.
    -Man Utd has won 21 of their 26 home League games against Tottenham (W21 D3 L2)
    -Harry Kane has scored just once against United in seven league games.
    -United have lost just 2 of their last 37 home League games.
    -Spurs have lost just two of the last 22PL matches anywhere.
    -With a third-straight win, Tottenham would make their best start to a league campaign since 2009/10.
    -United are unbeaten in their last 22 Premier League home games against London sides since 2014 (W15 D7)

    Appointed referee: Craig Pawson
    Avg.Cards: (⁠⁢RED-0.17) (YELLOW-3.60)

    Who will shine tonight?

    Manchester United:


    Out for Manchester United:
    Doubtful: A.Valencia, L.Shaw, A.Sanchez, N.Matic
    Out: S.Romero, M.Rojo, D.Dalot
    Out for Tottenham Hotspurs:
    Doubtful: V.Wanyama
    Out: J.Foyth, V.Janssen, H.Min Son

    Score: 2-1 for United
    Scorers: Lukaku, Lingard and Kane

  • Weekend recap: Serie A- Match review,highlights and goalscorers | Mon, 27 Aug 2018 11:47:00 +0000

    A comfortable win for Juventus, which has doubled in value since CR7 came in, saw Pjanic score a wonder goal to open the scoring. Mandzukic sealed the deal with a volley after Ronaldo was denied his first ever goal for Juventus.
    Fun fact: Ronaldo has brought the people to the stadium and Juventus ticket revenue has increased by 50%.
    Goalscorers: M.Pjanic(30'),M.Mandzukic(75')

    Milan went ahead 2-0 but collapsed in the second half. It was Napoli's second comeback in a row, after coming back the last matchday against Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico, from 1-0 to 1-2. Milan's defending was horrendous and Zielinski's double and Mertens late goal proved that Ancelotti's side has character and is a forced to be reckoned with this season.
    Goalscorers: P.Zielinski(53',67'), D.Mertens(80')-G.Bonaventura(15'),D.Calabria(49')

    Goalscorers: M.Antenucci(49')
    A tight game with Spal dominating, it was their second win a row, something Spal has not achieved since 1960. Antenucci strike sealed the game and gave SPAL their deserved 3 points.

    An action-packed game, which saw a dramatic late-penalty scored by K.P.Boateng, sealed the 2-2 draw. The game was even and the 2-2 draw seems a fair result.
    Goalscorers: L.Pavoletti(10',73')-D.Berardi(53'),K.P.Boateng(pen,90+9')

    A changed Fiorentina dominated Chievo and annihilated them, scoring 6 goals on the way. They had 22 shots overall and 12 shots on goal, with an incredible 50% conversion rate of shots on target. This was the first time Fiorentina scored six goals in a single Serie A game since 1996, after a 6-4 win against Padova.
    Goalscorers: N.Milenkovic(8'),Gerson(42'),M.Benassi(49',90'), F.Chiesa(71'), G.Simeone(90+3')

    A close game with both teams settling with a 0-0 draw.
    Goalscorers: -

    An even game which could have gone both ways, but Genoa had too much offensively and won. Empoli's defending for both goals was poor and they were punished.
    Goalscorers: K.Piatek(6'), C.Kouame(18')- S.Mraz(90+4')

    A true football 'suicide', the second by a Milan team this weekend, Inter saw a 2-goal lead lost after a second-half collapse. Inter's win hasn't come yet and they will start to wonder if they don't win next weekend, away at Bologna.
    Goalscorers: Perisic(6'), S. de Vrij(32')- A.Belotti(55'), S.Meite(68')

    Udinese won at home after a wonderful effort by R. De Paul. Udinese missed many chances and could have scored a lot more. An entertaining game overall.
    Goalscorers: R. De Paul(9')

    Roma did not look as good last match and needed a 90th-minute equalizer to seal the win away at Torino.
    Atalanta, led by Alejandro Gomez, beat Frosinone 4-0 at home in their first Serie A game.
    I predict a 3-1 win, with Dzeko, Kluivert and Manolas scoring for Roma and 'Papu' Gomez scoring for Atalanta.

  • Weekend recap: Premier League | Mon, 27 Aug 2018 10:28:00 +0000

    Premier League
    Wolves-Manchester City(1-1)
    The champion drew at the Molineaux stadium and dropped points. They were better for the most part but a lack of concentration cost them the 3 points. The referee was blamed for wrong decision for the goal and as well not awarding City a penalty.
    GoalScorers: Willy Boly(57'), Aymeric Laporte(69')
    Arsenal-West Ham(3-1)
    The scoreline favours the home side, as Arsenal produced a lacklustre performance, with West Ham being better for a large part of the game.
    Goalscorers: N.Monreal(30'), I.Diop(own goal)(70'), D.Welbeck(90+3')-M.Arnautovic(25')
    AFC Bournemouth-Everton(2-2)
    An even game with 2 red cards shown, one for each side, ended up as a draw. Everton lost their main man Richarlison in the 41' minute to a red card but scored two goals. Everton collapsed in the final 15 minutes which saw Bournemouth capitalise to earn them a point.
    Goalscorers: J.King(75'),N.Ake(79')-T.Walcott(56'),Michael Keane(66')
    Huddersfield-Cardiff City(0-0)
    A tight game which saw few opportunities to score from both sides.
    Southampton-Leicester City(1-2)
    An entertaining game, with a last-minute header by World 2018 England Hero, Harry Maguire. Hojbjerg saw a second yellow and was sent off.
    Goalscorers: R.Bertrand(52')-D.Gray(56'),H.Maguire(90+2')
    A clean victory for title contenders Liverpool, and another clean sheet.
    Watford-Crystal Palace(2-1)
    Goalscorers: R.Pereyra(53'), J.Holebas(71')-W.Zaha(78')
    A very entertaining game, with a high tempo, and could go either way. Roy Hodgson side were not clinical enough and missed many opportunities in the first half.
    Goalscorers: M.Seri(4'),A.Mitrovic(36',38'), A.Schurrle(83')- J.Hendrick(10'), J.Tarkowski(41')
    A joy to watch, Fulham ripped Burnley apart and scored 4 goals. Burnley looked tired from their European trip and it showed on the field.
    Goalscorers: Joselu(83')-E.Hazard(76'),D.Yedlin(own goal)(87')
    Newcastle defended well, but Schar was tricked by Alonso and gave away a penalty. newcastle looked to come back in the game in the 83rd minute, but an unfortunate D.Yedlin own goal, gave Chelsea the 3 points away.

  • Europa League: Match reports and who will qualify?(Predictions) | Fri, 24 Aug 2018 15:12:00 +0000

    The Europe League stage is almost upon us, and teams across Europe fight for a place in a much stronger Europa League 2018-19 campaign.

    (I will only cover the most popular games)

    1st leg(Olympiacos-Burnley 3-1)
    • Olympiacos, led by Kostas Fortounis, was too strong for Burnley in the packed Georgios Karaiskakis stadium. I see this tie, narrowly, going to Olympiacos. 
    Match Facts:
    • Fortounis strikes twice including a penalty to make it 3-1
    • Wood had equalised but Bouchalakis restored the lead
    • Gibson sent off for Burnley after a handball and conceding a penalty

    1st leg(Zenit-Molde 3-1)

    • Zenit with an all-around great performance got a satisfying lead going back to Aker Stadion.     Zenit will win this tie and progress to EL group stage.
    Match Facts:
    • Dzyuba, Zaboltony, Mevlja strike after Hestad opener.

    Trencin-AEK Larnakas
    1st leg(Trencin-AEK Larnakas 1-1)

    • A tight encounter, which saw both sides squander chances in what could have been a bigger scoreline. I predict AEK Larnakas to go through.
    Match Facts:
    • Acorán cancels out Sleegers goal
    • Trenčín surprisingly eliminated Feyenoord in last round

    1st leg(Suduva-Celtic 1-1)
    • Celtic had a great start but showed a leaky, shaky defence that could cost them. I still see them going through this tie.
    Match Facts:
    • Ntcham heads in Johnston cross for Celtic
    • Verbickas nods in to earn Sūduva draw

    1st leg(Apoel-Astana 1-0)
    • A fair result as Apoel looked shaky for the most part, so a narrow win is accepted as a satisfactory result. Apoel will win this tie.
    Match Facts:
    • Caju gives APOEL slender advantage
    • APOEL's record v Astana now: W3 D1 L1

    1st leg(Atalanta-Kobenhavn 0-0)
    • A standard 0-0 draw in a tightly contested game. Atalanta will go through.

    Match Facts:
    • FCK hold out for a draw in Italy.

    1st leg(Basel-Apollon)
    • 4 minutes salvio gives Apollon a great opportunity to progress. I see Apollon going through.

    Match Facts:
    • Cümart header gives Basel first-leg advantage
    • Van Wolfswinkel gave hosts lead and levelled at 2-2

    1st leg(Rangers-Ufa 1-0)
    • A frustrating evening saw Rangers only win by 1 goal, and face a difficult trip back to Russia. I see Rangers having enough to pull through this ties.
    Match Facts:
    • Goldson goal seals win for Steven Gerrard's Rangers
    • First European loss for Ufa in the fifth match of their debut campaign

    1st leg(Gent-Bordeaux 0-0)
    • A closely contested match which saw no winner. It looks good for Bordeaux back in France and I see them as the eventual winners.
    Match Facts:
    • Bordeaux, under caretaker coach Eric Bedouet, draw in Belgium
    • Odjidja hits the woodwork in added time for Gent
    • Bordeaux's Kounde sent off just before the end

    All in all, some interesting games, especially the Olympiakos-Burnley encounter. This year's Europa League is bound to be the strongest it has ever been.

            • The current best 11 in the Premier League based on individual quality: PhotoStory

     | Wed, 22 Aug 2018 21:16:00 +0000

              The best current 11 in the Premier League

              David De Gea: By far the best goalkeeper on individual quality, shown in the derby against Arsenal last season. Part of shaky Manchester United defence, he is undoubtedly their best player. He has won the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award a record 4 times(2014,2015,2016,2018). Manchester United legend.

              RB: Kyle Walker
              Kyle Walker is an excellent fullback that made his record-breaking transfer from Tottenham to Man. City worth it. Extremely pacey, strong, combative and an accurate crosser, he is an integral part in a well-oiled machine called Manchester City.

              LCB: Jan Vertonghen
              Jan Vertonghen is the leader of a Tottenham defence that terrified strikers. The intelligent but tough defender is also a great distributor of the ball, with possesses a very good long-ball for a central defender. He begins Tottenham game from the back and an on-field leader.

              RCB: Van Dijk
              He has completely changed the Liverpool defence. A leaky, immature defence before his arrival, that saw 3-goal leads lost, now is the most solid defence in the Premier League. A soon-to-be Liverpool legend.

              LB: Marcos Alonso
              A third-generation footballer. both his father and grandfather were professional footballers, Alonso epitomizes the modern fullback: fast, gets forward, tactically astute and a great crosser. Marco Alonso has a deadly left foot, which he is not afraid to utilize in free kicks and corners. He scored 3 free-kicks goals in the 17/18 season.

              DM: Keita
              Anyone that has watched Keita knows why he is in this team. Keita for me is a more attacking Kante. Keita is fast, strong, a bully on the as well as intelligent and elegant with his right foot. A true midfield powerhouse.

              RCM: Kante
              Kante ran the show for Chelsea last season, even in their unimpressive season. He is a workhorse, seemingly having an infinite running ability. Short but fast, he is the complete defensive midfielder. The earth is covered with 70% water and the other 30% is covered by Kante, as they say.

              LCM: Kevin De Bruyne
              A midfield maestro, KDB had his best season last season, where he led Manchester City to a Premier League&League cup double. His vision and crisp right-foot are truly unforgettable.

              CAM: Salah-
              To be honest, Salah has had two great seasons. Well, one excellent season(2016-2017) and one unimaginable season(2017-2018). In 2017-18, he amassed 52 apps and was involved in 60 goals(44 goals and 16 assists). The chips, dribbles and individual goals show that he is of unique quality.

              RST: Harry Kane
              Harry Kane was criticized during his breakout season, 2014-2015, that he has to be consistent to be considered a great striker. He proved the, just, criticism wrong and is now the pivot in Pochettino's great Tottenham side. World class.

              LST: Aguero
              Aguero is the current Manchester City all-time leading goal-scorer. His extreme composure, finishing, and overall play constitutes him as the best striker in the Premier League at the moment.

              The full team:

            • Cristiano Ronaldo Transfer: Fail or Success?

     | Sun, 29 Jul 2018 17:02:00 +0000

              Turin's culture never depended on football. The Renaissance buildings, the historic Po river as well the political and intellectual center of the Risorgimento, the movement for Italian political unification, are some of the historical facts of the city. From Amedeo Avogadro to Carla Bruni to Claudio Marchisio, Turin has always been a city of science, arts, and sports.

              In the upsurge of emigration from the North to the South, between 1950-1970, Juventus fanbase grew massively. This was due to Southerners moving north for work opportunities, since the end of the Second World War. Between 1951-1967, Turin's population rose from 719,300 to 1,124,714. The large FIAT factories provided work for these emigrants who idolized Turin for this opportunity. However, the desire for human beings to belong is biological and belonging can be interpreted varyingly. For many of these Southerners, in order to belong and to feel part of the city, they started to watch football and by watching football they started supporting Juventus, an already establish giant in Italian football. Juventini were widespread in Turin and large proportions were these emigrants. Football truly brought people together. When in the stadium, the large masses of all social classes cheered on their beloved team and felt part of something bigger than themselves, something great. Many modern Juventus fans are 2nd or 3rd generation emigrants and are proud of this team.

              Ronaldo broke Juventus' transfer record and signed for 100 million euros. It is the biggest transfer of the 2018 summer transfer window. He is obviously one of the best players of all time but does he fit the mold at Juventus? Juventus are used to big players featuring for their club but never indulged in selfish players. Not blaming Ronaldo but when you have the biggest club in the world playing around you for 9 years, you would expect similar or even identical planning. The Turin club rarely uses that team strategy, but it is also down to the coach's tactical preference. Juventus play a 3-5-2 or a 4-2-3-1 and the latter is more applicable in order to accompany CR7 on the left wing.
              Besides the tactical analysis, Ronaldo is Ronaldo. He has speed, the best positional awareness in the world is a leader and is a lethal finisher. His body is that of a 20-year-old, he has 7% body fat and has 50% muscle mass, something extraordinary for his age.

              Ronaldo will surely be a success, from scoring goals to helping youngsters acclimatise to the first team and even in attracting other big players to the club. Financially it was also a smart move, since sponsorship, social media growth, and kit sales will eventually pay the 100 million off. The only real negative is that he is 33 but in his case, it can be a positive since he ages like a fine wine.

            • World Cup opener: Russia vs Saudi Arabia

     | Tue, 12 Jun 2018 21:32:00 +0000

              On Thursday, June 14th, the 2018 World Cup in Russia starts. The first game, as always, features the hosts and in this year's edition, there is a very interesting opener. Russia faces Saudi Arabia, in a scorching hot match, but not for the obvious reasons.

              For the past 2 years, Europe has been ravaged by terrorist attacks, in majority by Muslim perpetrators. Saudi Arabia is the prime representative in the (western) world in relation to the Muslim religion, as it is the strictest and most devoted Muslim country by law. Women must wear the hijab, a symbol of the Muslim religion. Russia is the number one orthodox Christian country in the world and stills holds the Christian religion in extremely high regard. So how is this related? With political tension increasing worldwide, observed in the rise of right-wing parties and politicians, in countries such as France, Holland, Greece, Italy, England, Russia, Poland, Hungary, and Belgium, there is bound to be tension. Regardless of globalization, there has never been such a higher divide in societies, due to the large immigration crisis, and the large presence of Muslims in Europe. Russia is no exception and combined with the fact that Russian hooligans are known to love confrontation and violence. However, the Saudi Arabians are not the victims here, and it rather depends on them. In Russia the hijab is not allowed and should one choose to ignore that, he or she will be confronted about it. Russians hold on the patriarchal values, meaning that family, country, and God are their mainstay beliefs in which their life revolves around.

              Moving on, this match is a representation of the Western vs Eastern world. To clarify, I am not hyping up a religious war, I am just stating that there is bound to be tension due to the worldwide situation at the moment. Football fans are more than familiar that football, fortunately, or unfortunately, is not separated from politics and this is just one example. Argentina vs England in 1986, just after the conflict in the Falklands Islands, is a very good example, whereby the English were telling the players to give it all for their country. It is a matter of pride and of superiority. Russia on Thursday will want to show their superiority, their universal power on home soil and the maintenance of the old Christian values in a time where there is a 'decline in certainties' and one of those certainties is religion.

              In conclusion, football is a gateway against real issues, but that can sometimes not be true.

            • Winning and Style: Change of mindset

     | Wed, 21 Mar 2018 11:28:00 +0000

              Jose Mourinho ended a 15-minute rant after his side were eliminated from the Champion League, losing 1-2 at Old Trafford, knowing that things have changed. Mourinho was not slated because he lost. He was slated for United's identity. Manchester United is a massive club but has seen a steep downfall in recent years, mainly in the quality of football. The expectations are very large for Mourinho, who, in his defense, won 3 trophies last year, including the Europa League which has seen a rise in quality of teams the last 5 years. It is, however, how Mourinho won these trophies and how his side played this year that worries fans and justifies the criticism.
              In the Europa League, they were in a group with Feyenoord, Zorya, and Fenerbahce. A theoretically easy group, United progressed comfortably. In the round of 32, they faced St.Ettiene who they dispatched easily. They then struggled against Rostov at the round of 16, with their lackluster attack frustrating fans. In the quarters, they were extremely close to elimination at the hands of Anderlecht but they scrapped through. In the semis, they passed Celta Vigo with a 2-1 aggregate. In the final, to Mourinho's ingenuity, using Fellaini to man-mark Classen, Ajax's captain and main creative outlet, secured United's. Yet during all those stages, besides the 4-1 win against Fenerbahce, United looked sluggish and aimlessly retain possession against weaker sides without any sense of purpose. They looked sluggish and without a plan. If an attacking player did not perform well individually, United struggled to score. I do not doubt Mourinho's ability I only point out how his side is not as dominant as it used to be under Sir Alex but they do get results.
              However, the main point is that in my opinion, Guardiola epitomizes modern football. Smart, attacking, possession-based and lethal in the final third. His players are not very tall or athletic but they know how to play football. Selflessness is encouraged but winning in fashion is the key. Guardiola's style is one of finesse, panache but also of ruthless aggression. His style of tiki-taka is misunderstood. While his Barca side averaged a 65-70% possession, no pass was aimless. Whenever his players passed, the whole team knew exactly where to position itself to take advantage of this pass, even if it was between Pique and Puyol in defense. The whole concept was to get the ball to the final third and with intricate passing and using the pitch in its entirety, to dominate and batter the opposition defense. You could argue that Mourinho won 3 trophies last year and Guardiola won 0, but the modern football fan tends to devalue trophies if not won in an entertaining fashion. So if Guardiola's side wins this year's Premier League with the incredible football that they are playing, for many it will be considered a much better season than Mourinho's last year.
              Finally, I believe that football is evolving and that the average football fan is excited when his side plays beautiful football. We have been given something wonderful and expect to see it spread across the world.

            • #10: Alexis Sanchez.

     | Fri, 12 Jan 2018 18:28:00 +0000

              Alexis Sanchez is currently playing for Arsenal but is likely to move to Manchester City. Alexis Sanchez is a was born in Tocopilla, Chile and was raised by his mother. He has 2 siblings but he was the most talented of 3. He used to play in the streets of Tocopilla and he was snapped up by Cobreloa at the age of 15. He impressed there and he was snatched up by Udinese. Although he was amazed at the opportunity in hand, he was unready to change continents and was loaned out to Colo Colo in 2006 and to River Plate in 2007, where he shone. Finally, he felt ready to move to Italy and Udine and spent 3 great years there. His highlight was him scoring 4 goals in a game against Palermo where he broke the of goals scored by a Chilean player in Serie A, with the predecessors being Marcelo Salas and Ivan Zamorano. After he and Antonio Di Natale scored 39 goals, he impressed so much that Barcelona bought him for 26$ million and he became the first Chilean to play for Barcelona.
              At Barcelona, he fought hard to be a first-team player, and he was always impressing when given the chance. He scored a hat-trick against Elche in 4-0 win, but the memorable moment is that chip against Real Madrid. He runs towards the goal and slows down just outside the area, he looks up, weights the keeper and caresses the ball just perfectly for the ball to dip over the keeper, truly an exquisite goal. Barcelona won that match and he wrote himself in Clasico history.
              The last stage of his career, so far, is Arsenal. The English club signed Sanchez for £31million and at Arsenal, he truly took off. Dribbles, assists, incredible shots, running, and even back controls showed his free-flowing sudamerican style. He scored 25 goals in his first season, including a goal in the FA CUP final. That season he scored an impeccable free-kick against Southampton which was my most memorable goal of his with the volley against Anderlecht in the Champions League. That summer he scored the winning penalty which saw Chile the Copa America.The next season he made history when he became the first player to score a hat-trick in the Premier League, La Liga, and Serie A when he scored a hat-trick against Leicester. What followed is more goals, more running, more assists and an attitude so contagious that it lifted the whole team.

              Besides all those goals there is a different reason I really admire Alexis Sanchez. He reminds me of Ronaldinho in that he has a smile that is so contagious and transcends happiness. His attitude is all about winning but also about giving it all, regardless of the shirt he is wearing, something rare these days. Alexis is special in that he does not epitomise a one-club player but he treats each club like is his last and his uncanny ability to transmit happiness and joy is something that I will never forget. He never complains and, in my eyes, he is a true professional. He trains the hardest players the hardest and sheds blood on the pitch.  He just runs and runs and I have never seen him walk or even complain about a bad long ball that he chased. He is an exquisite footballer and his skills are pretty silky too. He is a role model too. While at Barcelona he urged all his teammates to contribute to help people back in his hometown after it was struck by a devastating earthquake. Also, every Christmas he and the mayor of Tocopilla go on a sleigh around town and give gifts to the kids, mainly (signed) football shirts. I know it is common for footballers to do good acts, but Sanchez always kept it secret and has been doing it for years, before any journalist knew about it. I guess I am impressed that he has not been corroded by what is modern football and his humility and kindness are everpresent. Lastly, I want to end this with a quote from Marcelo Salas:

              “He endears himself to you. It is impossible to dislike him.”

            • Virgil Van Dijk: Positive transfer?

     | Thu, 28 Dec 2017 14:29:00 +0000

              Virgil Van Dijk(VVD) made the headlines yesterday as he agreed to sign for Liverpool for £75 million, which made him the most expensive defender of all time. He is reportedly going to earn  £180,000-a-week and will join the Merseyside squad on January 1st. So there seems to be a lot of talk from pundits about whether he will succeed, but there are several factors to consider when selecting the player.

              To analyze VVD it is vital to ignore the price, as inflated prices have been present for the past 4-5 transfer windows and therefore it is irrelevant to judging a player. Of course, it can affect the player as in feeling the pressure but I think VVD can handle the pressure something reflected in his composure. How can we know if he will be good or bad? There is the qualitative and quantitative side. I would rather focus on the qualitative side as an interpretation of data is something that is extremely interest but my not my cup of tea I will analyse his game as I see them. 

              VVD is a powerful defender at 6'4(192cm) and he seems to dominate aerially and can bring some physicality to Klopp's side. His height does not hinder him, as his speed and agility are remarkable for someone of his stature. What is certain is that he rarely misses a header,  something useful, since Liverpool are vulnerable in defending corners. His interceptions are spot on and he can chase strikers and even wingers when needed. Due to Liverpool's defensive weaknesses, chasing the opponent's attack is of frequent nature, so he will certainly be useful. But I believe Liverpool are overlooking that weakness in the sense that they are looking into strengthening their defense overall, leading to less defensive mistakes with the purchase of VVD. He only made 1 defensive mistake during the 2016/2017 season. Additionally, VVD is a great ball playing defender and Liverpool can utilize that to allow more strength up front as he will be able to play long balls to the 'fantastic four'. His mere presence will bring more security to his whole defensive line. Mignolet will be less anxious, Klavan/Lovren will misplace fewer passes, and Joe Gomez and Andrew Robertson will certainly value someone of his caliber. 
              Lastly, one of his advantages is concentration and anyone that has seen Liverpool succumbing to late goals due to concentration lapses can see why VVD will fit the Liverpool squad.

              In my humble opinion, VVD will be a partial success at Liverpool, not because he is not as good, but because Liverpool's general defending is sub-par and Klopp knows that. Therefore, should Liverpool work on learning how to protect leads and work better as a unit, VVD will make them one of the best teams in the continent.

            • Which managers are the best: Defenders, Midfielders or Attackers.

     | Sun, 24 Dec 2017 14:54:00 +0000

              This topic was something that arose when I was researching the nationalities of the winningest football managers. I noticed that most successful were midfielders and in particular Defensive Midfielders(DMs). Most great managers are/were midfielders: Guardiola, , Wenger, Mourinho, Cruyff(use to drop deep and was many times a midfielder) Ancelotti, Conte, Unai Emert, Trapattoni, Bob Paisley, Van Gaal, Zidane, Vicente Del Bosque Capello,Nereo Rocco, Miguel Mūnoz, Beckenbauer, Bela Guttmann, Rafa Benitez, Simeone, Guus Hiddink, George Graham,Gerard Houllier,  Luis Aragones and many more. This is not a rule, it can be considered as an observation which can be dismissed. For example, SAF was a forward and as well as Lobanovski, Jupp Heycknes, Ottmar Hitzfeld, Brian Clough, Rinus Michaels, Matt Busby, Sir Bobby Robson and Udo Lattek.

              To be honest, from the managers that were forwards, most had something special especially in the case of SAF and Brian Clough. What is particularly interesting is that these two managers were very strict yet caring for their players, and imposed fear but that fear signified a lot of respect and former players from those teams always said that they gave 100% each match. Had they not given 100%, they would be dropped or given a right bollocking by the manager. I want to focus on the style of these managers. SAF, Clough, Lobanovsky, Heycknes, Hitzfield, Micheals and Busby were all very strict managers and all shared a common characteristic. That characteristic was them being prospective. They never celebrated success for too long as they aimed to build a dynasty that would be long-lasting and aimed to change a club from its foundations. SAF did at Manchester United, Clough did at Derby but notably at Nottingham Forest, Lobanovsky at Dinamo Kiev and, arguably, the Soviet Union, Heycknes at BMG and Rinus Michaels at Ajax and the Dutch National Team. Managers that were forwards tended to play extremely attractive football and were very adequate at man-management. They were all revered, and anyone that spoke with them understood how intelligent they were.

              I want to briefly mention Brian Clough since he is my favorite managers of all time. Brian Clough was a Northerner that came from a working-class family were his mum stayed at home and his dad was a coal worker. He adored football and was a prolific forward for Middlesborough and Sunderland in the 50's and 60's. He never studied football as much as most coaches but he had tons and tons of experience. He started coaching at a really young age,30 years old, managing Hartlepool United in the fourth division. Then he went to Derby where he took them from the Second Division to the First Division(Premier League) where he won the First Division. He then moved to Brighton for a while and then his true coaching ability was unveiled at Nottingham Forest. At Forest, he won 2 back-to-back European Cups, won the League once, won 4 League caps, won 2 Full members Cup, won 1 FA Charity Shield(Community Shield),  1 European Super Cup and 1 Anglo-Scottish Cup. This incredible tally was over an 18-year period where Cloughie built 2 great teams. He played direct football, focused on minimizing errors but it was clean football and very entertaining to watch. Clough's players gave 100% every time and his methods were unusual yet very effective. A pleasure to watch and all of Clough's documentaries do not do him good to explain this incredible man.

              Anyway moving to the point, we can see statistically than midfielders and especially Defensive Midfielders(DMs) are found to be the most successful managers in world football. The following correlation fits better for recent times, as football evolution has seen the foundation of football built on passing, which is the main job of midfielders. We can also deduce that due to this, DMs are the anchors that can make-or-break a whole team. For example, in Barcelona's 4-3-3 Busquets is the most important member of the squad and in a 4-4-3 in particular, the DM and striker are vital to the system being successful. A DM has to have a rounded approach to the whole game and has to think about both teams. What that means is that although he links defense to attack, if the ball is dispossessed he must be in a position to recover it, with the least effort possible. Busquet's positional sense is unmatched, and he can walk the pitch and still be able to be effective, turning his sluggishness to an advantage by just being in the right position. So DMs have a higher footballing IQ than others, and attacking players that have the high footballing IQ are Messi, Ronaldo, Best, Pele, Cruyff and Van Basten, arguably the greatest players of all time. Yet attacking players use physical traits a lot more than DMs do. Pirlo is another great example, being slow yet being a great distributor. So I assume that this great IQ is transferred to managers. In addition, we can see that managers that were DMs usually set up their sides to counter the opposition, this especially seen with Guardiola, Zidane, and Mourinho. Pep's intricate preparation against his opponent, made him use Messi as a false nine to exploit the gaps between the lines against Real Madrid, in which he revolutionized that role. Tactical efficiency is the key to this managers and it is found to be extremely effective. SAF and Clough were tactically sound, but they relied more on man-management, which can be traced to them being attackers and exposing their individuality rather than the DMs who lack egocentricity and focus both on their team and their opponents.
              Finally, I want to stress that this is merely an assumption and based on a simple observation. There are hundreds of factors to a winning football team, but to analyze the second most important factor, the manager, can really indicate a lot about that team.

              A few stats:
              From 14 World Cup winning managers*, 6 were midfielders, 4 forwards, 4 were defenders and 1 was a goalkeeper.
              From 42 Champions League winning managers*,  24 were midfielders, 12 were forwards, 5 were defenders and 1 was a goalkeeper.
              * Not all managers played professional football so were excluded from the stats.

            • Football Formations: 4-3-3

     | Wed, 29 Nov 2017 17:23:00 +0000

              My favorite formation in football is the 4-3-3. The 4-3-3 is very commonly used, especially in teams that have a very dynamic and skilled midfield, such as Ajax in the 80's, Barcelona and currently Manchester City under Pep, as well as Arsenal, Roma and Chelsea under Mourinho. It can vary according to from team to team but it has many variations.
              The first variation is the 4-1-2-3, where it is basically when a DM is used that sits in front of the defense and the CMs are usually box-to-box midfielders. The DM looks to break up play and distribute the ball to the wings or to his two supporting midfielders, an example of this is Busquets at Barcelona and De Rossi at Roma. These DMs have to be very intelligent to be able to break up the opposition's attack since they are usually slow so they have to use their mind instead of their body.
              The second variation is a flat midfield of three, which does not really exist as the midfielders always cover a more defensive or attacking role, meaning that the midfielders are never aligned, meaning it is a 4-1-2-3 or a 4-2-1-3.
              The last and very frequent variation is the 4-2-1-3, resembling a 4-2-3-1, which involves an attacking midfielder, such as the one used successfully in Barcelona with Iniesta or Messi in the CAM position. The attacking midfielder is there to cause havoc in the opposition defense as he is a smart player that finds pockets of space to dribble or to pass into. Messi was wonderful at that position for some time as well Mesut Ozil is extremely skilled both at Arsenal and at Real Madrid.
              A special variation is using the striker as a false nine, and the greatest examples are Johan Cruyff which revolutionized the position as well Messi and Totti. This is not really striker because he drops very deep to receive the ball and either turn and dribble or pass back to ultimately drag defenders out and leave space behind where the wide forwards/wingers can cut in.

              Defending in the 4-3-3 is based on high pressure and man marking. Barcelona, for example, whereby Pep had instructed them that if they have not won the ball in 3 seconds they were to drop back and defend. This is highly successful especially against weaker teams, where players are not as skilled and when they are closed down by 3 players they are very likely to make a mistake and misplace a pass thus giving the other team, in this case, Barcelona, the ball. This is another reason why is suits possession-based teams because as they regain the ball they are not susceptible to this type of pressure as they can pass the way out of many situations. It is called 'gegenpressing' a German term, and is used by many teams and recently Klopp's Liverpool and Tuchel's Dortmund.
              If they do not gain possession then the players drop deep, usually in a 4-5-1, when the wingers become midfielders. The team moves as a unit and the midfield and the striker pressurize the opponent as the DM reads the game and tries to intercept the passes. Also, a general characteristic is that they try to make the opposing team to attack from wide so that they can use the byline as an extra player and force them to cross from deep. Since the defenders expect this cross it is easier to defend, making this form of defending successfully. Usually, these teams use space-orientated zonal marking, meaning that each player has a zone in the field whereby he defends if the attacker leaves that zone he does not follow him.

              So each red dot has a designated space, indicated by the big circle, and when attackers move to that space, they mark them tightly, almost man mark, but when they leave that circle they let them go and the other teammate will mark them.

              Attacking in this formation is extremely simple but complicated and can involve up to 7 players. The two CMs, the three forwards as well the fullbacks that run upfield. It is the constant interchange between these players that allows this formation to be successful. 
              Initially, the striker drops deep which means that he leaves spaces behind him. There the wingers can move in to score, while the fullbacks stay wide to maintain width and for them and to keep the fullbacks occupied. Also, the wingbacks can cross should the wingers or striker make runs towards the area. Due to a large number of players in attack, there can be a variety of interchanges between the players. For example, currently, at Manchester City, Aguero, De Bruyne, David Silva, Sterling, Sane, Mendy(currently injured) and Walker all are around the opposition box during attacks. These players, except Mendy and Walker that keep the width, move in and out of the area constantly, and as a result, create an attacking overload that CB and midfielders are not able to deal with. Aguero moves out, Sane and Sterling move in that space, and balls are usually fed by Silva or De Bruyne. The obvious disadvantage is that if a team is extremely solid defensively and has 2-3 players able to counterattack, they are likely to score a goal since the team using the 4-3-3 has a high defensive line and only 3 players defending: the 2 CBs and a DM. 
              If the opposing team decides to play narrow, the full backs can cut in. To do that, the wingers of the team must hug the touchline to occupy the fullbacks. Then, the fullbacks become CMs which means that the actual CMs can overload the opposition's area. Fabian Delph and Kyle Walker did this recently by cutting in against Chelsea and Man City also used a high line and trapped Chelsea in their own half.
              Manchester City Current Formation

              Ederson is vital as the defenders are instructed to never boot the ball away and give up position and to support that Guardiola bought Ederson as a sweeper keeper that is good with the ball at his feet.
              The CBs need to be as good as the midfielders when it comes to ball distribution, but must not forget their primary job.
              The fullbacks have less work defensively as the attacking phase is emphasized.
              The DM must be very defensive since he and the two CBs will be defending when the team is attacking.
              The CMs need to be very creative and be able to distribute confidently, while one of two is a no10 that makes killer passes that split defenses.
              The wingers support the striker but as mentioned above can both cut in or stay wide to provide width if the full backs push forward.
              The striker must drop deep to help create and remain patient. The striker is the 'focus in-depth', and he must keep position while outnumbered, Luis Suarez is the perfect striker for this formation.

              Key points:
              1. The Striker and DM are the most important members of them because if one of two fails in the work the whole system disintegrates.(Eg. Luis Suarez has been struggling recently and due to that Barca has been struggling and has needed Messi to get them out of trouble)
              2. Build-up must start in goal and passing is key.
              3. Space must be used efficiently for the formation to work.
              4. A man advantage must be a target at all phases(defense, midfield, attack).

              The 4-3-3 has been one of the most successful formations and can be extremely effective if used correctly.

            • Art of Defending: Long Lost Love?

     | Tue, 21 Nov 2017 18:11:00 +0000

              Football is getting increasingly attacking. The switch of the game to a 3 at-the-back formation to secure the maximum amount of players offensively.  While it is obviously successful, seeing recently with the success of Chelsea and Juventus under the same manager, Antonio Conte. Thus, this trend of 3 at-the-back formations is becoming more and more common. Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City, and even West Ham, Stoke City have tried these formations. These, variate mainly as a 3-5-2 or       3-4-3 but the main point is that the point is that at a point up to 6 players can contribute to an attack.
              So back to the topic, why has defending seen less glamour in the past few years and why don't defenders win more individual awards. Statistically, only Paolo Cannavaro and Franz Beckenbauer have won the Ballon d'Or, once and twice respectively. From its initiation in 1961 up to 2017, only 3 out of a total of 56 have gone to defenders, which accounts for ~5%. This is extremely low and shows the underappreciation of defenders from the beginning of time. A side note is that true football fans truly do appreciate defenders and understand their value, but this for the 'mainstream' appeal of defenders according to awards.

              Firstly, it lies ideologically that offensive players are idolized more. This is due to their technique, goals, and contribution to the team that is more visible to an average football fan. This is not necessarily true. For example, Atletico Madrid in 2014 won La Liga based on a sold defending foundation and quick-counterattacking. The player of the season should have been Diego Godin but the individual award was given to Lionel Messi. No doubt Messi is the best ever and obviously had better performances, but how is that judged? Messi scored 43 goals and delivered 21 assists in 38 games which is an extraordinary feat. Godin though was a rock at the back and for example, was one of the reasons that at the last game of the season his defending led Atleti to a 1-1 draw with Barcelona, that saw them lift the title. 

              The point is that defending is and will always be an art. It takes extreme intelligence to be able to imagine where you are spatially and predict any passes, crosses, and moves that the attackers make during the match. And since many of these attackers are so talented, should they not be given more credit for the fact that they are able to stop them? Messi and Ronaldo make runs so explosive, precise and unpredictable that they are able to neutralize 2-3 defenders. So defenders that are able to stop them, which is something Godin was arguably doing at some point, he should be given more credit that he was. 

              Secondly, it is a fact that is easier to defend, in a superficial level, than attacking but the greatest defenders like Maldini, Beckenbauer, Moore, Baresi, Cannavaro and recently Chiellini had an understanding of the game like very few. They were doing 2 things: thinking about their positions and what the forward's next move would be. The football IQ that it takes is large and that is why there are very few names, of all time, that are that good. Cannavaro and Baresi, in particular, had a height disadvantage, standing at 1.76m, which led them to adapt their game in intercepting the play before it leads to a duel with an attacker in which they would probably have a disadvantage. They had to think even more than ordinary defenders, showing mental superiority.

              Thirdly, I want to touch on the fact that defenders have evolved into ball playing defenders. Meaning that defenders have to both protect their goal and try to distribute the ball, sort of like a defensive midfielder from deep. Although defending remains the focal point, teams can eliminate scouted defenders if they are not as good at passing the ball. This is very prevalent in teams like Barcelona, Napoli and Manchester City at the moment. Barcelona has the Pique-Umtiti duo, whereby Pique grew up with the Barcelona DNA which is to be good with the ball at your feet regradless of position and Umtiti is also a great distributor which why he was purchased from Lyon.( De Ligt, a ball-playing young defender from Ajax is the main January transfer target for Barcelona strengthens the ball-playing defender statement.) Napoli has Koulibaly and Albiol, which were arguably not great with the ball, but Maurizio Sarri has molded them into his desired distributing defenders. The same goes for Manchester City whereby the heart of the defense John Stones, has turned into one of the best ball-playing defenders with the ball, sitting currently at the highest across Europe, with a 96.2% passing accuracy, which is incredible. His partner, Nicolas Otamendi is also a great passer. This trend is spreading across Europe, with defenders such as Mustafi, Luiz, Sokratis, Bartra, Manolas, Boateng, Dante, and Riedewald to name of few. The problem with all these names is that some lack of defensive capabilities which is why defending is slowly losing its past character.

              Serie A was hated on for focusing on defense more than attack. That statement is obsolete now but it used to be very prevalent mainly during the 80's and 90's. What I always found wrong with that statement is that it was true that defensive solidity was the main focus but that does not mean that they were lacking in attack. Let's not forget that some of the best forwards played in Serie A during the past 20 years: Baggio, R9 Ronaldo, Totti, Ibrahimovic, Milito, Weah, Klinsmann, Inzaghi, Shevchenko ,Di Natale, Vieri, Zola, Vialli, Ravanelli, Montella, Batistuta, Schilacci, Crespo, Salas, Chiesa and Trezeguet. These names strike fear into most defenses and were a force to be reckoned with. It is a dilemma whether the defenders improved due to the strikers or whether the strikers had to step up their game due to the incredible defending. It can also be assumed that since there was so much focus on defense, there would be fewer chances offensively, thus it would be more advisable to have strikers of the highest quality to be able to convert these few chances, to make them count. It can also be argued that defending does bring success as their defending foundation saw Italy lift the 1982 and 2006 World Cup and losing in the 1970 and 1994 finals. Juventus has had European success as well as AC Milan and Inter Milan. 

              Lastly, it is a shame that sometimes that takes so much skill and elegance is being basically abandoned. The last generation of old defenders such as Chiellini and Barzagli is coming to its close, the true essence of defence might slowly fade. Change is not bad but sometimes we desire something more familiar and traditional.

            • International Football: All love lost?

     | Sat, 07 Oct 2017 13:55:00 +0000

              Now that international football is upon us, the same question arises: "Is international football really important?" To be honest, it is and it is not. See football fans, as humans want everything fast, something prevalent in international football. We love watching the Euros, Copa America and obviously the World Cup but we do not like the qualifying stage. We find it boring and we feel like the same teams will always go through. It is actually ironic how little we care about qualifiers, but we claim the world cup is the most important footballing event. We claim Maradona and Pele are the best ever because they won the World Cup even though their club careers did not match their international career, at least for Pele.

              With that aside, we also claim that Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are the best because of the Ballon d'Ors they have won, contrary to our belief about international football(even before Ronaldo won the 2016 Euros). It is a simple answer to say: "Well qualifiers do not really mean anything, as all the strong teams will go through" which is partially true. While Brazil, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, and England have topped their respective groups, there are teams in danger of being left out: Italy, Portugal, Netherlands, Scotland, and Croatia might not go through as they are going through the playoffs. Argentina, Colombia, and Uruguay are also probably not going to the 2018 World Cup. There are a lot of upsets and many greats game being played in the qualifiers but somehow matches count only during the World Cup, not bothering to see how your team progressed. In support of fans, due to the expansion of the groups, especially in Europe, it is difficult to watch your team compete, no offense, against Lichtenstein, Moldova, Faroe Islands, Malta etc. It is almost a certain win and provides no entertainment unless it is an 8-0 thrashing.

              Nevertheless, I find that international football is losing its value, even some players choosing to spend the international break resting, due to playing too many club level games. This is sad and shows a generation gap. You notice it even in the interviews when players say: ''It is a real honor to represent my country.'' The statements seem scripted and thoroughly rehearsed. No real emotion is shown neither then nor in the pitch. There are currently a few batch of players left that give their all for their countries, which is mainly because of the large monetary sums that clubs provide, unlike international football. 30 years ago, the money the players earned was less, and although the money at the time was not as little, glory was much more sought after. Winning the World Cup with your country was the number one target of any football player, no matter where he came from. I mean no offense to today's players and that same dream is obviously there for many, but having the lifestyle of a footballer is more important to some, so competing in the World Cup or any international tournament in that case does not mean as much, and is thought of as a mean to progress one's career at club level and secure a transfer.

              Anyhow, I hope that this weekend is somewhat entertaining, and we see some passion from the players. Also, I want to see more teams securing their spots, to know what to expect in the upcoming summer.

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