Tactics Board: Coleman, Sterling are difference-makers

Posted by Richard Jolly

Seamus Coleman had licence to run forward.GettyImagesSeamus Coleman had licence to run forward.


EVERTON 2-0 MANCHESTER UNITED

There was a time when Everton’s attacks were focused on the left flank. Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar combined so well there that they could neglect the right. Perhaps David Moyes was thinking back to his time as manager at Goodison Park, because his United were undermanned on Everton’s right.

Ostensibly Shinji Kagawa was United’s left-sided midfielder. In reality, he spent much of his time in central areas, joining Juan Mata as a second No. Continue Reading...

How Liverpool can win the Prem - a tactical breakdown

Posted by Michael Cox

AP Photo/Jon SuperLuis Suarez and Steven Gerrard will be tasked with leading Liverpool to success in their remaining four matches with important players set to miss some time.

Watching Liverpool’s title charge unfold this season has been remarkable -- Brendan Rodgers’ side have progressed from no-hopers, to outsiders, to dark horses, to challengers, to contenders, to nailed-on favourites.

Most observers predicted Liverpool would have an uphill struggle to reach the Champions League places this season, yet four games from the end of the season, a first Premier League title is now widely anticipated.

Liverpool’s destiny is in their own hands: four wins and the title is theirs. Continue Reading...

Who do Arsenal miss most?

Posted by Martin Laurence, WhoScored.com

Arsenal Other / ESPN FCArsenal have struggled without some of their best players.

Arsenal's comeback win in midweek moved them back into familiar territory, for the time being at least, with the Gunners having never finished outside the top four during Arsene Wenger's 18-year reign. The fact is that the remarkable record is out of their hands for now, with Everton just a point below them with a game in hand, albeit having to face title hopefuls Manchester City.

Wenger's aspirations have fallen from top spot -- a position his side held just 10 games ago -- to fourth place in two short months, and there's a sense of "same old Arsenal" to their relative dip in form. Continue Reading...

Tactics Board: Coutinho the right man for Liverpool

Posted by Richard Jolly


LIVERPOOL 3-2 MANCHESTER CITY

Sometimes Brendan Rodgers’ two aims seem mutually exclusive. The Liverpool manager looks to outnumber the opposition in midfield. He also tries to cram in as many attacking players as possible. It requires compromise and Philippe Coutinho started on the right of a midfield diamond, rather than his preferred station as a No. 10.

Philippe Coutinho was able to support the attack despite being positioned on the right.
Other / ESPN Stats & InformationPhilippe Coutinho was able to support the attack despite being positioned on the right.

Nevertheless, he had licence to get forward. His touch map is a further illustration of that. Continue Reading...

Is old-school Flanagan the key to LFC-Man City?

Posted by Michael Cox

Michael Regan/Getty ImagesFlanagan's approach to full-back play could be key on Sunday.

Jon Flanagan is a proper full-back: a right-back, a left-back and a throwback. English football hasn't witnessed a youngster in his mould for a while -- a wide defender whose most eye-catching quality isn't his crossing or his pace, but his tackling.

Few clubs' supporters cheer a local lad as fervently Liverpool fans do, and Flanagan is the archetypal youth product. His father was on Liverpool's books as a youngster but didn't quite make it, while Flanagan himself grew up on Utting Avenue, no more than 250 meters from Anfield, where you can hear the roars from the crowd on a match day. Continue Reading...

Cavani's chance to be the main man

Posted by Michael Cox

AllsportIbrahimovic was injured in last Wednesday's first leg.


In the modern era, the importance of shirts numbered 1-11 has unquestionably declined, but it’s still pleasing to see combinations of players wearing traditional numbers: a left wing comprised of a no. 3 and a no. 11, for example, or a centre-back combination of 5 and 6.

When PSG signed Edinson Cavani last summer, he was unveiled clutching the no. 9 shirt; traditionally the one worn by the main central striker. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, PSG’s other world-class striker, wears 10 (having initially worn 18 until Nene's departure). Continue Reading...

Tactics Board: Gerrard shines in quarterback role

Posted by Richard Jolly


WEST HAM 1-2 LIVERPOOL

Steven Gerrard's two penalties took him past Kenny Dalglish in Liverpool's all-time scoring charts, but these days a man who was once a support striker now stands close to his centre-backs. Indeed, his touch map shows he was on the ball only three times in the final third: one corner and his two spot kicks.

Steve Gerrard pass heat map against West HamOther / ESPNHeat Map showing Steven Gerrard's distribution of passes against West Ham.

Yet he contrived to have an influence all over the pitch in open play. His pass map -- showing where his passes were directed -- proves how ambitious Gerrard is in his distribution. Continue Reading...

The wisdom behind Roberto Martinez's savvy subs

Posted by Michael Cox

Jamie McDonald/The FA/Getty ImagesRoberto Martinez, right, has a knack of making the right substitutions, as evidenced by Ben Watson's late winner for Wigan in last year's FA Cup final.

Roberto Martinez's greatest success as a football manager was a late victory, thanks to a goal from a substitute.

As Ben Watson replaced Jordi Gomez with nine minutes remaining of last season's FA Cup final, it appeared a simple like-for-like change to boost Wigan's energy levels in preparation for a gruelling period of extra-time.

Instead, Watson was the hero, rising to meet a Shaun Maloney corner and heading in for the new Wembley's most famous goal, and ensuring Martinez's substitution -- his only change that afternoon -- must be remembered as one of the most important in the history of the FA Cup. Continue Reading...

Key individual Champions League quarterfinal matchups

Posted by Michael Cox

Alexandra Beier/Bongarts/Getty ImagesRibery and Robben pose two of many Bayern threats to Manchester United.

The Champions League has reached the quarterfinal stage. Here are the four key matchups for this week’s first legs.

Manchester United vs. Bayern Munich: United full-backs vs. Bayern wingers

Ahead of Tuesday’s clash at Old Trafford, many have recalled the previous meeting between these two sides, four years ago at the same stage. Then, Bayern triumphed on the away goals rule after a 4-4 draw on aggregate, a “victory” sealed by Arjen Robben’s brilliant volley from a corner. Continue Reading...

Tactics Board: Sterling service, Palace power

Posted by Richard Jolly

Raheem SterlingOther / ESPN FCRaheem Sterling stayed out wide for the most part.

LIVERPOOL 4-0 TOTTENHAM

Raheem Sterling’s previous start for Liverpool (against Man Utd) came as a No. 10. Recalled to the starting lineup and restored to his favourite position on the right flank a few games later, the teenager exerted a huge influence and showed that, while Brendan Rodgers’ coaching has brought other elements to his game, he remains a winger first and foremost.

The most revealing element of his touch map above is the cluster of dots just inside the Spurs penalty box. Continue Reading...

David Silva's lack of goals shouldn't obscure his brilliance

Posted by Michael Cox

Alex Livesey/Getty ImagesDavid Silva dictated the game against Man United, proof of his class.

David Silva's performance at Old Trafford on Tuesday night was one of the most magnificent displays of the Premier League season.

Literally from the kick-off Man City's Spanish playmaker took control of the game, an almost insultingly simple victory over rivals Manchester United, producing a fabulous little burst to run through the opposition defence in the build-up to Edin Dzeko's first-minute opener. He then controlled the contest authoritatively from there.

Taking advantage of United's uncertain positional shape -- particularly the unsuccessful 4-3-3 David Moyes selected from the start -- Silva continually found pockets of space. Continue Reading...

Manchester United defence not fit for purpose

Posted by Alistair Tweedale, WhoScored.com

Chris Smalling PA PhotosChris Smalling has Manchester United's worst pass completion percentage.

Manchester is one of Europe's premier fast-growing and cosmopolitan places, with change characterising recent decades in the north-west of England. The city's football teams have, correspondingly, gone about similar transformations, in the past few years in particular. David Moyes' debut season at Manchester United as successor to the most successful manager in history continues to go from bad to worse, with Tuesday night's 3-0 derby loss to Manchester City the final straw for some supporters. Continue Reading...