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Category: Football tactics

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Why is David de Gea exceptional for United and indifferent for Spain? | Jonathan Wilson

Goalkeeper is an outstanding shot-stopper but does not excel at passing and this is reflected in how Manchester United playDavid de Gea has been named in the PFA team of the year in five of the past six seasons. He has been Manchester United’s player o…

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How Chelsea may line up under Maurizio Sarri this season

Jorginho will be key in midfield but Gonzalo Higuaín and Sergej Milinkovi?-Savi? would really give the squad some heftBy Martin Laurence for WhoScoredHaving been in the pipeline for a few months, Maurizio Sarri’s arrival came as a relief for the majori…

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How Russia 2018 saw claustrophobic football crowd tiki-taka off world stage | Jorge Valdano

The changing of the tactical guard at the World Cup was marked by early exits for Germany and Spain, and now the pace and aggression of France shows the way forwardWhen France won the 1998 World Cup, they brought cross-culturalism – which in football i…

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How Russia 2018 saw claustrophobic football crowd tiki-taka off world stage | Jorge Valdano

The changing of the tactical guard at the World Cup was marked by early exits for Germany and Spain, and now the pace and aggression of France shows the way forwardWhen France won the 1998 World Cup, they brought cross-culturalism – which in football i…

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France v Croatia: four areas where the World Cup final can be won and lost | Jonathan Wilson

Kylian Mbappé and Mario Mandzukic offer very individual forward threats but the clash of two midfields boasting energy in abundance could be mesmerisingGiven how Croatia struggled to deal with the pace of Raheem Sterling in the first half against Engla…

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Croatia v England: where the World Cup semi-final could be won or lost

Five tactical posers for Gareth Southgate and Zlatko Dalic, from England’s set pieces to setting up around Mario MandzukicThe big decision Zlatko Dalic has to make lies in midfield. Does he play Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic deep with Andrej Kramaric in…

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If Belgium are to beat Brazil in their quarter-final, how can they do it?

Mexico highlighted the vulnerability at right-back, where Danilo and Fagner have struggled to fill Dani Alves’s shoesThere was a spell, for the first 20 minutes or so, when it seemed Mexico might be able to trouble Brazil. Carlos Vela was getting the b…

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Possession lost on the World Cup stage as defences learn to adapt | Jonathan Wilson

Tactical postmortems must also factor in those things which cannot be planned for, as Spain and Germany can attestNo side, perhaps, is ever so much itself as when it is going out of the World Cup. When teams – or at least those with aspirations to the …

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Colombia set-piece prowess spells out warning to England

Still waters run deep for last-16 opponents whose Juan Quintero is a proven dead-ball specialistIt was a moment that Idrissa Gana Gueye would surely rather forget. The Everton midfielder’s casual application to defending Senegal’s near post from a corn…

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‘I love football because it’s the opposite of science: contradictory, primitive, emotional’

These days we know someone ran 12.345km during a game. An admirable figure but did he run to help? To get in the way? As he ran, did he think? We need the context. If not, let’s leave the numbers for something elseLet’s not allow the uncertainty of res…

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World Cup’s lack of goals is down to issues that stretch back decades

Low strike rate has its roots in the bunker mentality created by the growing gulf between rich and poor and the lack of time more talented teams have to develop attacking tacticsIt did not take long – it never does – for all the pre?tournament hype to …

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Pragmatism could be decisive factor in World Cup success | Liam Rosenior

The glut of goals from set pieces suggests that those coachable, controllable moments could be more important than a team’s style in open playHave you noticed that England are all the rage in Russia and I’m not talking about their clothes, their social…

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How England changed shape: Holland on Southgate’s tactical evolution

England assistant manager reveals the influences and considerations that led to England’s decision to play a back three in RussiaIt was over dinner one night in Sochi when the idea was crystallised. Gareth Southgate was with his assistant, Steve Hollan…

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Forget artist v mechanic: Mourinho and Conte’s midfield duel holds key | Jonathan Wilson

José Mourinho’s dig at Antonio Conte has diverted attention from the FA Cup final’s pivotal confrontation in which Chelsea’s midfield could be overrun by Manchester United“I’m not,” José Mourinho said after Manchester United’s home win over Liverpool i…

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Premier League 2017-18 review: what we learned tactically from the season | Jonathan Wilson

As the gulf grows between rich and poor clubs so, too, does a culture in which some teams enter games accepting the only way they can compete is by not competingTactics are always contingent, never discreet. No manager can ever casually decide how he w…

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Manchester City’s success highlights Pep Guardiola’s full-back plan | Liam Rosenior

Spending £50m on a full-back may seem extravagant but it demonstrates the position’s importance in the modern gameAccording to some people, any club who can afford to spend £50m on a full-back should be champions. I have lost count of the amount of ti…

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Manchester City’s success highlights Pep Guardiola’s full-back plan | Liam Rosenior

Spending £50m on a full-back may seem extravagant but it demonstrates the position’s importance in the modern gameAccording to some people, any club who can afford to spend £50m on a full-back should be champions. I have lost count of the amount of ti…

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Roma must avoid slipping into bunker mentality in face of Liverpool storm | Jonathan Wilson

Liverpool’s physicality and ferocious pressing mean the tactics that served Roma against Barcelona will have to be redesigned for the Champions League semi-final first legTwo problems dominate all others before Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final at …

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Rafael Benítez shows his class as Arsenal fail to learn their lesson | Jonathan Wilson

Arsène Wenger’s lively forwards were undermined by shoddy defending on a day when Newcastle all but secured safetyThe quest for meaning, the need to form the unbearably random constituents of our existence into some kind of order, to create a narrative…

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Manchester City were rumbled – now they must respond against United | Paul Wilson

By the benchmark they have set, Manchester City were terrible at Liverpool – light up front, porous at the back and less than tigerish in midfield – and they need to react quicklyOnly three managers have outwitted Pep Guardiola this season, and while W…