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Category: Football tactics

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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…

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Chelsea have not recovered from loss of Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic | Jonathan Wilson

Antonio Conte’s 3-5-1-1 formation, partly a result of dissatisfaction with the replacements for Matic, has played a big part in the club’s declineIf there was a moment when, symbolically at least, last season’s title race tipped decisively the way of C…

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Disjointed, vulnerable and slow: Barça exposed by Chelsea’s tactical rigour | Jonathan Wilson

Chelsea stifled Barcelona’s key players, proving that the Spanish side should not be so feared as they once wereThe first leg, you suspect, went just as Antonio Conte would have wanted it to go – apart from the bit about not playing a square ball acros…

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Henrikh Mkhitaryan may rediscover the old spark amid Arsenal energy

Arsène Wenger’s pressing issues will not be solved by another creator but his front-foot tactics may galvanise a player who looked lost under José MourinhoOne game – or, more accurately, one half?game – dominates the memory of Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s time…

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The Mourinho method: how his charismatic authority brings success … and instability | Jonathan Wilson

Manchester United manager’s mastery of psychology gets players to buy into his philosophy. But history suggests it cannot lastLast season, Eden Hazard observed that the main difference between José Mourinho and Antonio Conte was that Mourinho does not …

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Ferocious Liverpool press home advantage over panicking Manchester City | Jonathan Wilson

The pressing by Jürgen Klopp’s side was so disciplined that it forced a collective loss of control in the visitors’ backlineIt turns out, then, that the formula was simple. All anybody had to do to beat Manchester City was to match them shape for shape…

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Ferocious Liverpool press home advantage over panicking Manchester City | Jonathan Wilson

The pressing by Jürgen Klopp’s side was so disciplined that it forced a collective loss of control in the visitors’ backlineIt turns out, then, that the formula was simple. All anybody had to do to beat Manchester City was to match them shape for shape…

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Why Liverpool might not miss Philippe Coutinho as much as people think | Sean Ingle

Anfield feels it has lost its key man but statistics do not back that up and suggest that while Barcelona have signed a fine player, Jürgen Klopp has alternativesNo sooner had Philippe Coutinho’s frenetic scribble sealed a £142m transfer to Barcelona, …

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Tactical review of 2017: Pep Guardiola reasserts his version of post?Cruyffianism | Jonathan Wilson

It took a while but the Manchester City manager has conquered England with a football that is not merely beautiful but also dominant. The question for 2018 is: can he now do it in Europe?The year ends with Pep Guardiola ascendant, his juego de posición…

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Nemanja Matic gave us a reminder of why great teams need a water carrier | Liam Rosenior

The value of a reliable, unfussy midfield shield can be easily overlooked in an era of statistics and analysis but even the most expansive and exciting teams need a Kanté, a Busquets or a MakéléléOne man doesn’t make a team but one player can make the …

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Proper Football Men, sentient stat-borgs and football’s battle for survival | Barry Glendenning

The mistrust harboured by a minority of hardliners in each community for the other will continue to provide a rich seam of entertainment for the rest of usAs debate not so much raged but gently percolated over the merits of “expected goals” as a useful…

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English football is on the rise – we owe a debt of gratitude to Marcelo Bielsa | Liam Rosenior

The philosophies of ‘El Loco’ have influenced Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino, and English football is reaping the benefit of their coachingI’m so excited for English football right now. Whether it’s watching Tottenham dismantle Real Madrid inspi…

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Pep Guardiola’s flying full-backs expose Chelsea’s vulnerability | Jonathan Wilson

Once a position for the energetic and combative, Manchester City showed it has become one for those who can exploit the space in front of them to shape a game

This is what the Premier League has been waiting for since Pep Guardiola arrived at Manchester City. There had been hints of it before, most notably in the first half of the derby at Old Trafford last season, but City’s performance at Stamford Bridge on Saturday was the first time a Guardiola side in England has so thoroughly dominated another member of the elite from start to finish. All the familiar tropes were there – the domination of possession, the rapid transitions, the tenacity at winning the ball back; all that was missing was the scoreline. This was 1-0 going on 3– or 4-0.

Related: Chelsea sunk by Kevin De Bruyne winner for Manchester City

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Sead Kolasinac and a back three: how Arsenal can halt Chelsea onslaught | Paul Doyle

Sead Kolasinac has the steel Arsenal need to end their run of five defeats at Stamford Bridge but Arsène Wenger must play him on the left and stick to three at the back

Arsenal fans will travel to Stamford Bridge on Sunday with a dram of hope, even though they know that by most measures their spirits should be low. Recent visits to Chelsea have been harrowing for the north London club, with Arsenal losing their last five matches there by a combined score of 15-2. Both their away games in the Premier League this season have brought similar ordeals, with Liverpool thrashing them 4-0 and Stoke City punishing errant finishing and flaky defending to inflict a 1-0 defeat. A strong case can be made for dismissing Arsène Wenger’s timid travellers right now as “same old Arsenal” and not even bothering to watch their inevitable defeat against Antonio Conte’s side on Sunday. But where is the joy in that?

Related: Sead Kolasinac could be strongest I’ve worked with, says Arsène Wenger

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Álvaro Morata’s fast Chelsea start shows how Arsenal are playing catch-up again | Jonathan Wilson

The Spanish No9’s instant integration into Chelsea’s forward line only adds to the sense that Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal are a club locked in perpetual transition

In football, there are perhaps two types of crisis. There is the Arsenal type that festers for years until after a decade of stagnation and low-level grumbling you suddenly find all your best players are out of contract and you are battling Everton for sixth place. And there is the Chelsea type that bubbles up from nowhere, threatens to derail everything, and then blows itself out just as suddenly as it arrived.

Whatever was going on at Stamford Bridge in August essentially ceased to affect performances on the pitch as soon as Antonio Conte put on a suit again; the semiotics of a Chelsea manager’s dress sense remain a fertile area of research. The squad still looks a little slender to compete in both Premier League and Champions League, which may lead to problems later in the season, but for now Chelsea look set fair, particularly given Eden Hazard’s return from an ankle injury.

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Pep Guardiola’s central problem not dispelled by Manchester City’s spending

Pep Guardiola has spent £158m on his rearguard but not bought a centre-back and a shortage in that position could be exposed by Liverpool, which would augur badly for the season

Despite a £226m summer transfer splurge, Manchester City are still vulnerable in central defence as Pep Guardiola’s team welcome Liverpool for the early kick‑off on Saturday. Premier League hostilities resume at the Etihad Stadium after the international break against a Jürgen Klopp swarm‑and‑attack unit that should offer a gauge of how City’s failure to strengthen at centre-back may affect their 2017‑18 campaign.

Vincent Kompany, John Stones and Nicolás Otamendi are the manager’s leading players in the position. With Guardiola now preferring to utilise a three‑man defence and wing-backs, injury or loss of form for one of those will leave a hole as the only deputies at centre‑back are the unfancied Eliaquim Mangala and the inexperienced Tosin Adarabioyo.

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Tinkering to follow tactical fashion can put right players in wrong roles | Liam Rosenior

This season we’ve seen full-backs at centre-half or attacking midfielders as wing-backs but it is hard to perform when you’re not comfortable carrying out the duties asked of you

After a hectic start to this Premier League season, the first international break is upon us and managers are sweating over the fitness of their players on international duty, training grounds are much quieter than normal with only eight or nine players working in the week and clubs are analysing their opening three games in terms of their own performances but also the trends of other clubs that they are competing with.

Last year Chelsea won the title based on Antonio Conte’s 3-4-3 system which allowed players such as Eden Hazard, Pedro and Willian the freedom to cause damage in key areas high up the pitch and I’ve found it fascinating how many teams are adapting their own systems – often on a game-by-game process – from four at the back to three central defenders.

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The Question: why are so many Premier League teams so bad in defence? | Jonathan Wilson

It’s not a coincidence that the Premier League has become the global home of shambolic defending and Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea all have issues to resolve before the weekend

Even before the Premier League got round to the traditional kick-off time, 13 goals had been scored in two games. A total of 31 goals were scored over the opening weekend as the first three of last season’s top six to play all conceded three. Take that, Spain, with your Cristiano Ronaldo controversies! Take that, Italy, with your resurgent Milan! Take that, Germany, with your finely tuned pressing structures! Take that, France, with your Neymar, your Bielsa and your Balotelli! For drama and giggling hilarity, the Premier League remains king.

It’s not king, obviously, if you want success in the Champions League. Nor is it king if you want to develop young players for the national side. And it’s certainly not king if you believe football clubs should have a pastoral role towards the communities they at least nominally represent. But for excitement and spectacle, for the sense that any daft thing could happen at any moment, it still rules.

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Chelsea full of holes in a dress-down Community Shield loss to Arsenal | Jonathan Wilson

Absence of the injured Eden Hazard was apparent as a substantially weakened team from Stamford Bridge again came up short in a Wembley showpiece

It was only a friendly. That’s a fact that means Pedro will be available for Saturday’s league game against Burnley despite his red card – and it’s also a useful excuse for a largely indifferent display from the Premier League champions. Arsenal may have needed a penalty shootout to win the Community Shield but Chelsea never seemed quite in the game. Quite how troubling that should be depends largely on what stage they are supposed to be at in their preparations, but there are definite causes for concern.

Chelsea’s strength last season was the 3‑4‑2‑1 formation that provided a platform on which their two main creators could perform with just enough assistance from the wing‑backs and a deeper-lying midfielder pushing forward.

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