Tag Archives: Soccer

Emmanuel Adebayor justifies his return to prominence at Old Trafford


Courtesy of: Roger Gorączniak

One of the few alterations in Tim Sherwood’s resurgent Spurs side is the inclusion of two strikers. Andre Villas-Boas’ reluctance to play a 4-4-2 left supporters and the ownership disgruntled, and it was one of the key factors that led to his dismissal.

Villas-Boas’ persistence to play marquee signing Roberto Soldado as the lone striker didn’t replace the attacking void Gareth Bale’s departure left in attack – and it’s difficult to solely blame the Spaniard for Spurs’ attacking deficiencies. Soldado isn’t a traditional number nine – he thrives when teammates are within close proximity to link play, and adequate service is provided. Villas-Boas’ side struggled to score goals and create chances during the latter stages of Villas-Boas’ tenure, while Soldado was merely a peripheral figure that spent many matches isolated against the opposition’s centrebacks.

Another difference to the North London side since Sherwood’s appointment is Emmanuel Adebayor’s presence in the starting XI. Villas-Boas banished Adebayor from the first-team, and the Spurs striker only featured for 45 minutes this season prior to Sherwood’s appointment.


Tottenham’s trip to Old Trafford was pivotal, and their impressive away record instilled optimism, as Sherwood’s men aimed to defeat Manchester United for the second consecutive season. Sherwood made one change to the attacking six that comfortably defeated Stoke City over the weekend, introducing Etienne Capoue for the injured Paulinho. Christian Eriksen was expected to drift infield from the left flank to provide creativity, whereas Aaron Lennon and Kyle Walker were responsible for width on the right.

While Eriksen’s impact on the match was monumental, Adebayor’s performance exhibited Spurs’ attacking approach. Spurs struggled to sustain possession in the opening half hour – they constantly misplaced passes in key areas, and their decision-making was poor. Yet, despite United’s dominance in possession and down the right flank, it was Sherwood’s men who created the better chances.

Adebayor was a reliable passing outlet for the North London side, as he often dropped deep into midfield to receive the ball, and bring the midfield – that often sat deep – into the match to link play; a feat that Soldado struggled to complete as the lone striker. The Togolese striker initiated quick counters from his own half, and his rampaging run into United’s third, which led to Lennon’s tame effort in the 12th minute, highlighted his impact. Towards the end of the first half, Adebayor wonderfully brought down a loose ball, and played an incisive pass to Lennon that led to a squandered Soldado opportunity.

The Spurs striker’s involvement in both goals summed up his influence on the match. Eriksen’s ability to locate and attack space enabled the Dane to get into United’s third to deliver a cross at the far post, and Adebayor rose above Chris Smalling to direct the ball past David De Gea – it was the Togolese striker’s fourth goal since his return from exile.  Likewise, it was Adebayor who brought his midfield into the attack in the buildup to Eriksen’s goal, as he played the initial pass to Soldado, which led to Lennon’s penetrating run towards United’s box.

And while Adebayor’s involvement in both goals was pivotal, his determination and work ethic was identical. His battle with Wayne Rooney to win possession near the Spurs corner flag, along with his powerful run to the byline, before cleverly back-heeling the ball to his teammate displayed his ambition.

Unfortunately for the Togolese striker his exceptional afternoon was short-lived as he was stretchered off the pitch midway through the second-half. Spurs dug deep for the final moments of the match, and Hugo Lloris made a few key saves to preserve the lead. Sherwood’s belief in Adebayor has gifted Spurs with a rejuvenated striker, who’s developed into a key cog in their push for Champions League football. Here, he was the goal scorer, creator, and at times the heartbeat of the Spurs attack.

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Posted by on January 1, 2014 in Match Recaps, Published Work


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United regain superiority at Old Trafford


Courtesy of:

Many milestones have been broken at Old Trafford this season. Most recently, Everton and Newcastle ended overdue winless droughts at the Theatre of Dreams, and West Ham was looking to replicate their achievements. Manchester United were in jeopardy of losing three consecutive home matches for the first time since 1979, as West Ham came into the match confident off their midweek Capital One Cup victory at White Hart Lane.


United took control of the match in the opening minutes, due to West Ham’s cautious approach. The issue David Moyes’ side encountered was the lack of creativity in the final third.


Luckily, Antonio Valencia and Rafael continued to impress down the right flank, completing the most passes between two players. United’s main goal in the first was to overload the right flank – a tactic used during Moyes’ tenure at Everton – Tom Cleverley and Phil Jones drifted forward towards the right, aiming to find openings behind George McCartney, but they rarely harmed the West Ham back line.

United dominated possession in the opening half, but rarely tested Hammers goalkeeper Adrian. However, Danny Welbeck’s inventive back heel to Rooney was the magic Moyes’ side lacked in the final third, and it was fitting that it led to the Englishman’s left-footed strike past the West Ham keeper – his first home goal in 14 months. Subsequently, it was Welbeck’s ability to hold up the ball, and James Collins’ putrid defending that led to Adnan Januzaj’s first goal at Old Trafford, doubling United’s lead and securing three points. The Welbeck/Rooney partnership has reaped rewards in the past, and here, Welbeck was pivotal – thus leaving Moyes worried, when the English striker was forced to leave the match early in the second half.

United’s midfield was untested as Jones comfortably protected the back four, and confidently drove at the heart of the West Ham back line.


Cleverley passed his way through midfield, whilst Rooney began to find pockets of space between the lines, and picked up deeper positions in midfield to demonstrate his excellent passing range and help the midfield duo sustain possession. Also, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans were magnificent – displaying defensive solidity and assuring that United may have found their new first team centre-back partnership.

Although Carlton Cole found a way through United’s impeccable backline, Moyes’ right side replicated their first half performance and constantly tormented McCartney. The West Ham left back was exposed for United’s third goal when Rafael played a lovely ball to Valencia in the right channel. The Ecuadorian’s cut back pass to Rooney was decent, and the Englishman laid it off to substitute Ashley Young, who struck the ball into the top corner, scoring for the first time in 19 months in front of the United faithful.

West Ham was lethargic for large portions of the match. Sam Allardyce’s men lack a significant focal point to link play and bring the midfield forward – Modiba Maiga was woeful – whereas they relied on creativity from wide areas, and their wingers were unable to get into advanced positions. West Ham’s poor away form played a factor, but Allardyce’s side desperately need a competent target man.

Robin Van Persie – the man who singlehandedly won them the title last year – is unavailable, but Moyes is getting the best out of the players that recently fell out favour with the supporters. United enjoy a manageable festive period, and results of this stature will push Moyes’ side back into the title hunt.

Don’t count out the Red Devils, yet.

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Posted by on December 21, 2013 in Match Recaps, Published Work


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David Moyes’ tactical alteration leads to Young’s impact at the Britannia


At one point it looked like no one could do it on a cold Wednesday night at Stoke. Both sides were ushered off the pitch as heavy hail forced referee Mark Clattenburg to delay the match for 10 minutes. Prior to his decision, the match was played at a lethargic pace, as neither side was capable of retaining possession, due to the dreadful field conditions.

United dominated possession in the first half, but they lacked creativity, invention and penetration. Anderson and Tom Cleverley maintained deep positions alongside Phil Jones, and they rarely ventured forward. Mark Hughes’ men dropped off and focused on limiting gaps of space in midfield, and United rarely looked threatening, apart from Anderson’s sporadic balls between the lines to Welbeck.

The issue with United’s 4-5-1 was their lack of numbers in the final third. Welbeck was an isolated figure that linked play well, but received minimal service, while Oussama Assaidi and Jon Walters protected their fullbacks, thus limiting Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia’s influence on the match.

Moyes’ men gradually improved in the second half, as the pitch and weather conditions were playable, along with Anderson and Cleverley’s willingness to thrust into the final third. Likewise, Moyes quickly turned to his bench, and introduced Javier Hernandez, as United became a 4-4-1-1.


Welbeck played off Hernandez, and the Stoke’s defenders dropped deeper than expected, in fear that Hernandez’s pace would leave them exposed. With two attackers roaming around the final third, Cameron and Erik Pieters were forced to sit narrow, thus giving Young and Valencia space to receive the ball and attack the fullbacks.

Coincidentally, while Moyes’ substitution and tactical alteration were beneficial, Hughes couldn’t say the same. A minute after Marko Arnautovic entered the match, Wilson Palacios switched off – Young drifted away from the Honduran to receive a ball from Cleverley, then played a pass to Hernandez and ran towards goal – past Palacios – and fired a venomous shot past Thomas Sorensen – scoring his first goal for United in 19 months.

Hughes was then forced to replace the injured Ryan Shawcross for Charlie Adam – this forced Cameron to play centreback and Glenn Whelan to cover at right back. Subsequently, Young received a pass from Evra and attacked Whelan – however, Walters drifted over to help the Irish midfielder cope with the Englishman’s threat.


Young created a 1v2 situation, as Walters drifted over to assist Whelan. Evra’s run created half space, but no Stoke defender tracked his run, and the Frenchman was able to cut in and curl his shot past Sorensen.

Here, Young created half space for Evra to run into, and he played the pass to the United fullback, who cut in and curled his shot into the far corner with his weaker foot.

Stoke pushed forward searching for goals in the second half, but their deliveries from wide areas lacked quality, and Crouch’s aerial threat was poorly utilized. Hughes’ men didn’t record a shot on target, which highlighted United’s impressive defensive display. Chris Smalling continuously won aerial duels, Phil Jones covered every blade of grass making five tackles and three interceptions, while Cleverley was the most proficient passer on the pitch, completing 79 passes with a 90% pass accuracy rate.

United reverted to a 4-5-1 in the latter stages of the match, when Darren Fletcher made his second appearance of the season, to close out the match. The performance didn’t showcase any significant progress under Moyes, but his valour to change his system reaped rewards, as United still lack an offensive identity.

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Posted by on December 18, 2013 in Match Recaps, Published Work


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Manchester City 6-3 Arsenal


Manchester City moved three points behind Arsenal with a convincing victory at the Ethiad Stadium.


Arsene Wenger made five changes to the side that Napoli defeated at the San Paolo. Nacho Monreal, Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Bacary Sagna were in the starting lineup.

Manuel Pellegrini recalled Sergio Aguero, Alvaro Negredo, Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri to the starting line up.

Arsenal’s complacent approach without the ball led to City’s dominant performance, as Pellegrini’s men were devastating in the final third.


Coming off a midweek loss to Napoli in the Champions League, many questioned how Wenger and his men would respond. It’s uncertain as to whether their conservative approach without the ball was down to fatigue, but it allowed City to assert their dominance on the match.


Wenger’s men dropped into two banks for four, but like their press was non-existent. They allowed City’s midfielder’s time on the ball, while Silva and Nasri freely roamed between the lines.


Arsenal invited pressure into their third, but they didn’t prevent City from asserting their dominance in these areas.

On the other hand, while City also dropped into two banks of four, their approach was pragmatic. City minimized space between the lines for large portions of the match – Toure and Fernandinho sat closer to their back four, and the midfield pressed Arsenal’s creative players when they approached dangerous areas.


Arsenal’s approach without the ball enabled City to get into better positions, whereas Pellegrini’s men displayed impressive work ethic to prevent Arsenal from penetrating in the final third.

Full backs freedom

Nonetheless, the two teams had different approaches when they dropped into two banks of four, yet there shapes were identical. Both sides were fairly narrow when the opposition was in possession, and this encouraged fullbacks to push forward.

Arsenal’s enjoyed a different element of attack this season through Sagna’s crossing ability from the right, while Pablo Zabaleta is renowned for driving into advanced areas. Gael Clichy was the least active fullback from an attacking sense, and this was logical, as he was the only fullback that was matched up against a legitimate wide player in Walcott.


Zabaleta constantly pushed forward, attacking space behind Wilshere, as the Englishman was often caught in central positions.


With Wilshere and Monreal dragged into the centre of the pitch, Zabaleta was a preferred outlet for Pellegrini’s men – coincidentally, it led to City’s second goal.


Here, we see two issues with Arsenal’s approach – one, Toure is allowed too much time on the ball, and once again Zabaleta is free on the right flank. Arsenal’s midfield failed to close the Ivorian down, and he found Zabaleta on the right flank, which resulted in a well-weighed ball for Negredo to tap in.

Sagna, also received space on the right to deliver crosses into the box, but unlike previous matches, the quality of the deliveries were poor – and when they did get into the box, Kompany did well to clear his lines.


Arsenal struggled to create legitimate goal-scoring opportunities in the first half, but they did find an equalizer against the run of play. The goal was significant because it was one of the few times an Arsenal player pressed a City midfielder, and it highlighted Ozil’s use of half space.

Ramsey stepped forward to dispossess Toure, and he drove forward to play a ball to Ozil on the left flank.


Ozil ran into half-space after receiving the ball from Ramsey. He can now chose to go forward and continue to penetrate or look for an option. His run into half space forced Yaya Toure to track a forward run into the box, when he/or a midfielder should be looking to intercept a potential cutback.

Ozil did well to attack the half space, and he played a cutback ball to Walcott, who placed his shot into the right corner.


Ozil decided to make the cut back pass to the advancing Walcott, who is unmarked at the edge of the box. This is down to Ozil penetrating half space.

Ramsey’s tackle was pivotal, but Ozil’s ability to efficiently utilize the half-space led to the goal, as it drew Toure and the rest of the City defenders into the box, thus leaving the edge of the area vacant.


Another issue Arsenal encountered was their inability to contain Silva and Nasri. City’s fluid system is maximized when both players are in the XI, and they were a constant threat against Arsenal.


The duo was City’s most proficient passers – alongside Toure – as they constantly buzzed around the final third. They dropped deep to help City push forward as a unit, but quickly found space between the lines to spring City attacks.


Nasri and Silva roaming around between the lines

Silva drifted around the final third, weaving in and around the edge of the area, yet he also ignited swift counter attacks.


Whereas Nasri was more direct with his approach – he provided intricate passes, and nonchalantly drifted past his opposition at every opportunity.


Here Yaya Toure isn’t closed down, while Nasri and Silva are free between the lines

The Frenchman improved when moved into the no.10 role, but failed to score against his former side.


Shockingly, Arsenal struggled to close down the duo’s passing lanes or close them down – Nasri and Silva dominated Arsenal in the final third, leaving Wenger’s men to chase shadows.

Arsenal improve

Arsenal’s best spell of the game lasted 13 minutes. Fernandinho increased City’s lead in the 50th minute, which led to Arsenal’s brief resurgence.

In fairness, City should also be held responsible, as their lackadaisical approach saw them drop deeper towards their box and avoid their defensive duties. Ozil became a prominent figure as he dropped deeper into midfield to receive the ball and began facilitating passes, while aiming to create overloads in wide areas.

Olivier Giroud received wonderful chances to bring Arsenal back into the match, but his poor finishing let him down.


No City player closes down Ozil and Ramsey is free to receive the ball

Luckily for Arsenal, City continued to sit off, opposed to applying pressure, and as you can see below Ozil and Ramsey received ample space to create Walcott’s second goal.


Ramsey is still unmarked between the lines. He’s free to receive the ball, and play a pass into Walcott, which leads to Arsenal second goal.

There’s no pressure applied on Ozil and Ramsey, and they were able to find pockets of space to exploit. However, Arsenal’s lead was short lived, as City stormed forward on the attack once again, and negligence to Silva’s movement in the final third restored City’s two-goal lead.


The way both managers utilized their substitutions was pivotal in the latter stages of the match, yet it also displayed an issue Arsenal possess.

Pellegrini was forced to introduce Jesus Navas for Aguero, who suffered a calf injury. Subsequently, he also replaced Silva with Milner, thus pushing Nasri behind Negredo, as City became 4-2-3-1. This forced Arsenal’s fullbacks deeper due to City’s threat in wide areas, and it also injected more pace into the home side’s approach. Milner was fouled for City’s sixth goal, while Navas’ direct approach, led to his cross for Silva’s goal.

More so, with the game now stretched, the injected pace constantly troubled the Gunners backline. The onus was on Arsenal’s their tired legs to search for a goal, and it let to mistakes that Fernandinho pounced on, which contributed heavily to his improved second half performance.


As for Arsenal, they made a player swap by introducing Nicklas Bendtner for Giroud, while Serge Gnabry replaced Flamini. Wenger conceded defensive solidity in midfield for a direct wide threat, but neither Wilshere nor Ramsey were capable of completing their jobs. The match had slipped away from the Gunners, but Pellegrini’s substitutions preserved the result.


City produced another superior performance at the Ethiad, and Arsenal’s feeble approach ensured that. They allowed City’s midfield to dictate the tempo of the match, Wilshere failed to track Zabaleta’s runs, and Wenger’s options on the bench failed to change the match. 

“It’s very important to be an entertaining team but I would prefer we won 6-0 rather than 6-3,” Pellegrini said. 

“It’s possible to [win in attacking fashion without conceding] but the whole team must know how to defend. I will watch the game again but I don’t remember Arsenal having that many chances to score more than three.” 

Pellegrini should be wary of City’s defensive frailties – while they do score a lot of goals, there were periods in the match where his men lost awareness, and were exposed by Arsenal.

However, Wenger’s reluctance to tinker the squad is finally catching up with his side. This will be an interesting period for the league leaders, as the fixture list picks up, and failure to rotate the squad can lead to individual burnouts, and dropped points.

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Posted by on December 16, 2013 in EPL, Match Recaps


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Tactical Analysis: Bosco Lions vs. 2-1-2


The 2-1-2 has been the Bosco Lions’ preferred formation since their existence. Other formations were experimented with in the early days, but this system enhanced the performances of their attacking players. Defensively, the Toronto-based side has never been strong, yet they always had an abundance of attacking impetus – and the players who were playing consistently for the first time had the potential to increase this threat.

Flashback to three years ago; Sunday’s – usually utilized for leisure time or rest – brought together a group of friends that decided to form a soccer team. Initial success wasn’t expected, but the determination to win was evident. On a weekly basis these young men took the field in their bright lime green jerseys and put their bodies on the line for one another.

Their road to glory wasn’t a formality – penalty shootouts, nail-biting late winners and a surmountable attempt at revenge against rivals DMP is what led them to lifting a championship on a gloomy Sunday afternoon. They did the impossible. A team built to have fun and potentially grow into ‘winners’ did the unthinkable on their first try.

It’s easy to win a title, but defending the crown is a difficult task. The hunger was gone. Complacency snuck upon them, and although their confidence levels increased, they were unable to replicate such success.

What happened?

This team did encounter a few changes that conflicted with their natural balance, but as a whole they improved over the past three years. The core of the team is the same, and the players who were beginners at the time have improved vastly. These players know how to win, so what’s the issue?

They’ve won more games than they’ve lost during this period, but they fail to prosper when it matters. The dependency on individual brilliance hit an all-time high, and although this method of attack was positive, Bosco has been overrun in midfield on several occasions over the past few years.

Is there a talent issue?


Bosco could field their five best players for longer periods of the match, and the chances of them claiming another title would still be slim. Their method of attack has become predictable, whereas they’ve yet to instill a proper defensive system.

However, despite all the flaws they hold, this Bosco side isn’t a lost cause. In short, they lack a bit of structure and tactical discipline. More so, this is a simple guide that can be beneficial towards these young men maximizing their individual talent. A key component that leads to success in indoor soccer is cohesion, and below I will explain what Bosco needs to do to achieve a cohesive system.


The 2-1-2 is a common formation used in indoor soccer that relies on two hard working strikers and an energetic, yet tactically disciplined midfielder – pretty much a box-to-box midfielder. Here, the midfielder has two jobs – they need to be able to link play with the attackers, but also provide astute defensive cover for the two defenders. Playing one midfielder is the risk, because there’s a great chance that your side is overrun in midfield, which is why this player needs to be tactically disciplined.

Base shape   


Bosco Lions 2-1-2

Bosco doesn’t possess two naturally gifted strikers so they often field two grinders upfront. Their main strength is in midfield, and while they do possess competent defenders, these men are attacking minded.

A key feat towards the success of this system is the positioning of the midfielder. In the past, he’s often positioned himself with his back to goal, or roamed higher up the pitch searching for space to receive the ball. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the sole purpose of this system is to sustain possession, and hand the midfielder full control of the match.

In retrospect, the system I’m about to present is similar to the way Pep Guardiola’s sides play. In the early days at Barcelona, Dani Alves would play as a right winger – which led to a great understanding with Lionel Messi and tons of goals from the right side – with Eric Abidal sitting back to provide balance. In Guardiola’s final year, Barcelona played a 3-4-3, which ultimately became a 3-3-4 as Alves bombed forward, and Sergio Busquets dropped in between the defenders.


David Alaba and Phillip Lahm are in the widest/highest positions on the pitch as fullbacks.

Now, Guardiola implements a 4-1-4-1 at Bayern Munich – although his approach is risky, the field at the Vaughan Sportsplex is neither wide nor long. The Spaniard encourages his fullbacks to surge into advanced positions, while his midfield players drop deep to dictate the tempo of the match.


Alaba and Lahm are higher up the pitch out wide, and Thiago dropped deep. In this screenshot he’s about to play a pass to Lahm, so he can drive forward.

However, while the generic shape is a 2-1-2, the aim of this system is to end up in a 1-2-2. Ball retention is pivotal, and even though this system could be somewhat conservative, if executed properly, it’ll lead to success.

Without the ball

The most important feat regarding success in 5v5 matches is your shape when your opponent has possession. Your side can field a lineup with a strong attack, but if they’re disjointed as a unit without the ball, there’s a good chance that you won’t succeed over the long-term.

More so, shape is a factor that most teams tend to overlook – but little do they know that your defensive shape wins you the big games, especially against superior opposition. Defending at the Sportsplex should be fairly simple – based on the size of the field, assigning each player a man would be the easy route to take.


How Bosco should be set up on goal kicks and when the goalie has the ball

The first area that needs to be addressed is defending your opponent’s goal kick or when they opt to play passes to their goalie. This is the only time Bosco should press high. The forwards should close their defenders – midfielder on midfielder and the defenders should keep tight on their attackers. The main goal is to force the opponents goalkeeper to concede possession, and if this press is executed properly then there’s a 99% chance he will.

Apart from those scenarios, Bosco should NEVER press high or press the goalkeeper, unless you’re confident you’ll steal the ball or force him to concede possession. Defensive solidity, organization and cohesion are pivotal in a 5v5 match, and majority of the time it makes a difference.

To avoid being overrun in midfield, or dragged out of position, it’s important that the strikers drop a few yards away from the opposition’s defenders. The aim is to stay compact, and force your opponent to work hard to break your backline down. Regardless of the situation, the attackers should always be behind the ball, which requires improved work-rate on both ends. Below I break down two scenarios that are likely to occur.


Our shape if the defender beats Randy

Here, the right defender evades Randy’s press. The wide men is the least threatening player so Jose should drop back to cover him, while Randy picks up the left defender. Steve/Nooch should press the opposition’s midfielder, while Bosco’s midfielder should close down the opposition’s right defender.


If Claudio/Jose gets beat by a defender

Another situation would be Jose/Claudio getting beat by the left defender. Here we still want Jose/Claudio to hustle back and cover the player out wide and Steve/Nooch to close down the midfielder. Bosco tends to concede fouls when their forwards relentlessly track back in attempts to win the ball from the defender that beat them – this gives them the responsibility to keep wide player on their flank, and ensures that the three defenders protect central areas.

In Bosco’s most recent fixture, this defensive model was displayed in the second half after going down 4-1. Subsequently, the opposition failed to threaten Bosco’s goal for the rest of the match. Coincidence?


The 2-1-2 Bosco intend on playing leaves the midfielder with a huge task on both ends – as stated earlier, this player is practically a box-to-box midfielder. Although that isn’t necessarily a bad option when playing inferior opposition, the idea of playing a box-to-box midfielder in a single pivot can be suicidal.

This formation abandons that philosophy – the midfielder in this approach needs to be tactically disciplined, as he’ll be somewhat of a deep-lyer. The main responsibility this player withholds is dictating the tempo of the match. This player is effective when the ball is at his feet. He drops deep to receive the ball and build play, but he’s also required to constantly string passes together, in search of openings.


Here you see Thiago dropping deep. This allows Alaba and Lahm to push forward, but the centre back the freedom to play long diagonal balls. Also if Lahm or Alaba lost the ball in their zone, Thiago provides defensive cover when either centre back is forced to sweep up.

On the defensive end, he drops deep to become the third defender. Many can see this as an impractical approach, but this is important because it ensures that Bosco always has a numerical advantage at the back.

In the past Bosco has relied on their midfielder to be their attacking thrust, and in certain situations he should be, but this role allows him to be beneficial to Bosco’s overall play. By no means is the midfielder shackled to tactical instructions – indoor soccer provides a lot of openings and chances to break on net, and the midfielder should only push forward when the opportunity is certain.

Finally, teams will be keen to press the midfielder out of the equation, but as the match progresses and players tire, he’ll slowly be handed the space to influence the match. The key is patience – most games are 50 minutes, and in reality the midfielder might take 10-15 minutes before he begins to dictate the tempo. He’ll receive the ball higher up the pitch, but his significance increases once he picks up the balls in pockets of space or at the edge of his own box.

In short, the midfielder’s role in this system is more defined – if he fulfills his duties, the chances of his side’s success increases. He needs to be disciplined, calm, a leader, and defensively astute – yet his ability to play incisive passes and eye for goal must be proficient.

Attacking philosophy

This system instills a sense of defensive solidity, so some may fear that Bosco’s approach going forward will be conservative. In fairness, this may be the case, but if you’re not attacking on the break, the intent should be to move up the field as a cohesive unit.

Virtually, Bosco should be a 1-2-2 when they’re possession. In order to do this, they must focus on ball retention. An issue Bosco encounters on the attack apart from a lack of movement would be their persistence to force passes. They continuously force long balls over the top, or attempt to squeeze penetrating passes into tight areas.


Here, we see the Bosco midfielder as the last man – his job is to circulate the ball around the field, but also move laterally to provide a passing outlet for wide players that have no forward option. Bosco defenders seem to be hesitant with playing the ball backwards, but they should ALWAYS drop the pass back to the midfielder or the goalie if a passing lane isn’t available – the same goes for corner kicks, as the chances of completing a successful cross into the box is slim.

The longer Bosco holds possession, the less defending they have to do, which conserves energy levels. Likewise, not every pass needs to go forward. There’s nothing wrong with restarting the play and going back to your goalie or back to the player who initially played the pass. You can’t concede a goal if you have the ball, which is why possession is vital. Passing lanes will eventually open, legs will tire, and chances will be created, but Bosco needs to monopolize possession in a professional manner.

When the midfielder drops deep to receive the ball in any situation, the two defenders should be pushed into advanced positions. Majority of the time, this will create 3v2 situations and their will always be an outlet for the midfielder to play into. But the advanced positioning of the defenders is key, because it pegs the opposition into there half, as they now become an offensive threat.


How Bosco should be shaped when they enter the oppositions half.

Essentially, the Bosco defenders are auxiliary inverted wingers on the attack. They have two options when pushing forward – they can either cut in and shoot, or drive forward and stretch the field. Each Bosco defender has the tendency to cut in and shoot, and while this is encouraged, the opposite winger’s job is to stay wide and stretch the field. Also, the defenders have to be disciplined with their movement, as they’ll be required to transition from attack to defence quickly to support the midfielder, if they’re caught on the break. However, if Bosco can sustain possession in a 1-2-2, their defenders will maintain high energy levels, and sprinting back into position won’t be difficult.

Bosco currently have three strikers at their disposal, and you can argue that they haven’t been utilized properly. Claudio is a pacy, dynamic attacker, Jose is a hardworking space invader, whilst Randy is a genuine poacher.


Identical diagram to the one above, but now we’re highlighting the attackers.

Here, Jose and Randy are the two strikers up top, and Claudio would preferably slot into Jose’s spot, because they somewhat pose a similar threat. The diagram above encourages Jose to drop deep into space, and then subsequently move out to the flanks and push forward. Jose’s movement is key because it drags a defender out of position and allows either a defender or the midfielder to attack the space.

Jose/Claudio’s movement should be varied – dropping deep into the midfield and drifting over to the wing is encouraged, but most of their energy should be dedicated to their defensive duties. You should NEVER tire yourself out when Bosco has possession of the ball.


The midfielder won the ball and sprints forward to put himself in a 2v2 situation. Jose is encouraged to make a diagonal run to drag the defender with him – this allows the midfielder to isolate the defender in a 1v1 scenario.

Also, Jose/Claudio play a pivotal role on the break if a midfielder or defender surge forward. There job is to make an opposite run from the ball carrier to drag a defender out of position, and give the carrier half a yard to make a pass or shoot.

Randy’s position is unique – no player on the team possesses the ability to get into goal scoring positions like him. This system will free up space for the midfielder to locate Randy and the defenders to take shots, which can potentially lead to rebounds for him to pick up. Randy needs to get to/near the box frequently, but he also needs to be aware of the space that Jose is creating for him to run into. If Tim/Araujo cut in, Randy will make a straight run into the box, but if the right defender provides width then Randy should make a diagonal run towards the box.


“Whether detailed or vague, good or bad, effective or ineffective, all football teams try to play a certain way to win.”

Richard Whittall, soccer features writer at, stated that in his weekly ‘The Skeptical Tactician’ column, and frankly, it’s true. Bosco currently play a high-octane game that allows them to score, but there’s also heavy reliance on individual brilliance.

This system presented allows the forwards to be scrappy, the midfielder freedom to dictate the match, and gives the defenders a chance to express themselves in an attacking sense. Now, it will take time for Bosco to adapt to this system, but it’s a system that should lead to success over the long-term.

Furthermore, the system ensures defensive solidity and organization at the back, yet it requires patience, cohesion and possession to reap rewards.

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Posted by on December 12, 2013 in College Soccer


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Tottenham 2-2 Manchester United


Manchester United came from behind twice courtesy of strikes from Wayne Rooney, to earn the champions a vital point at White Hart Lane.


David Moyes made three changes to the side that comfortably defeated Bayer Leverkusen in midweek. Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley were introduced in midfield, alongside Phil Jones, Shinji Kagawa and Antonio Valencia. Also, Nemanja Vidic made his return to the starting line up, forming a centre back duo with Jonny Evans.

Andre Villas-Boas also made three changes to his starting eleven after last week’s embarrassing defeat to Manchester City. Moussa Dembele and Nacer Chadli slotted into midfield – which pushed Paulinho behind Roberto Soldado – while Vlad Chiriches played at centre back alongside Michael Dawson.

This was a tight affair that was decided by individual mistakes – Spurs went ahead twice, but failure to increase their lead, and individual defensive mistakes allowed United back into the match.


A main feat that contributed to the minimal chances created was the shape both sides dropped into when the opposition was in position.


Shockingly, Spurs’ defence sat deeper than usual with the midfield sitting off in front of the back four, which allowed Jones and Cleverley time on the ball.  Villas-Boas’ men were content with the duo sustaining possession, and there was no surprise that the Cleverley and Jones completed the most passes in the match.


Soldado nor Paulinho applied much pressure on the United defenders either – Evans, Chris Smalling and Vidic completed the most passes after the duo – as it was an incentive for United to push forward, and Spurs to hit them on the counter. At times, Paulinho did work hard to close down United defenders, but there was always a spare outlet available.


Lennon and Chadli tracked back into deeper positions admirably, while Sandro and Dembele worked hard to limit activity in the final third.


On the other hand, United stuck to their defensive principle under Moyes, and prevented Spurs from playing out of the back. Valencia and Welbeck pressed the Spurs full backs when they received the ball, while Jones and Cleverley picked up Dembele and Sandro. Spurs were forced to play long balls into the channels for Soldado and Paulinho to chase, and their best opportunities were often created on the break.


In the 14th minute, United were nearly awarded for their work ethic out of possession, as Rooney forced Chiriches to concede possession and he played a pass to the advancing Valencia. Dawson blocked the Ecuadorian’s initial cross, but he cut the ball back to Rooney, who also had his attempt blocked by Sandro.

United dominated the possession statistics due to Spurs’ approach – who chose not to press Moyes’ men – but when Villas-Boas’ men did move forward as a cohesive unit, the tempo was often slow and they lacked creativity.

Right flank

Similarly, there was a distinct feat in the set up of both sides, as they both enjoyed more freedom down the right flank.

Valencia was an influential figure in the match using his pace and strength to get the better of makeshift left back Vertonghen.


This forced Chiriches to often come across to limit his threat in the final third, while Chadli sat deeper – more so in the second half – to prevent the Ecuadorian from isolating Vertonghen and Smalling from getting forward.

Likewise, the role Evra has developed under Moyes has left him vulnerable against sides that possess pacy, direct wingers. Lennon’s movement dragged Evra out of position, and the United left back was unable to cope with his pace. Also, Welbeck and Kagawa’s inclusion on the left flank ensured that Evra was vulnerable. Considering majority of Spurs’ attacks were on the counter, United’s left attacker was often caught out in a central position – specifically so Evra could push forward – and this allowed Walker to surge forward.

  • 27th min: Sandro wins a loose header that Lennon keeps in play, and the Spurs winger drove forward, holding off Welbeck and Evra, and plays a ball to an advancing Walker. Walker’s cross goes to the far post, but Chadli didn’t make a run at the far post.
  • 30th min: Soldado freely receives the ball, turns and finds Lennon making a diagonal run into the box. The Spurs winger beats Evra for pace, fires a shot at De Gea, and then squares the rebound across the six-yard box, but it’s a few yards ahead of the unmarked Paulinho.
  • 78th min: Jermain Defoe plays Walker in free on the counter, and Evans allows him to drive forward and play a sensational ball to Andros Townsend, but the substitute was unable to direct the ball on net.

Valencia was a significant threat in United’s attack, but the threat of Lennon and Walker pushed Spurs into dangerous positions – this will be explained below.


In the 17th minute Paulinho received a ball around the 18-yard box – as Jones allowed Sandro’s nod back to bounce behind him – and the Brazilian was fouled at the edge of the box by Evans, thus leading to a Spurs free kick. Walker scored from a free kick, but the main issue in this situation was the wall in front of De Gea.

The free kick was positioned approximately 20-yards away from goal, and considering Walker is known to go for power opposed to precision, it was peculiar to see the United wall jump. The likeliness of Walker getting/opting to place the ball over the wall and beat De Gea was slim, and there was no need for the United wall to jump.


One of the main talking points heading into this fixture was the utilization of Soldado in Villas-Boas’ attack. The Spurs striker hasn’t enjoyed a great start in the Premier League, as he’s often been an isolated figure up top.

Here, Villas-Boas played Paulinho in an advanced role – Lewis Holtby hasn’t prospered behind the Spaniard, and Christian Eriksen is injured. Not only did the inclusion of the Brazilian allow Spurs to play Dembele and Sandro, but it also gave Paulinho freedom to make runs into the box.

In the 28th minute, both men displayed what they offer to the Spurs attack. Paulinho played a ball to Soldado on the break and he did well to lay it for the Brazilian, who drove forward and played a well-weighed ball to the Spaniard, but he skied his shot over the net.

To an extent, Soldado’s poor scoring form can be down to the lack of chances created from the Spurs midfield – however, this wasn’t the case against United.


  • 5th min: Sandro plays a good ball to Lennon, and his first touch evades Evra, forcing the United fullback to foul him. Paulinho picked up the loose ball and played it out wide to Walker, who ran behind Evra, but Soldado was indecisive with his movement, and the Spurs right back let the ball out for a goal-kick.


  • 38th min: Dembele completed a powerful run from deep in his half and picked out Chadli, who played a nice ball behind Evra for Lennon, but Soldado nor Paulinho make a run to meet Lennon’s cross.

The decision to play Paulinho behind Soldado was to get a player close to the Spaniard, in hope that he would be more involved in the attack. While Villas-Boas did succeed in that aspect, Soldado’s movement in the final third was poor, and apart from his wild shot over the goal, he didn’t come close to testing De Gea.

United going forward

While United sustained majority of the possession for large portions of the match, they struggled to break down Tottenham’s back line. Initially Rooney and Kagawa didn’t have an impact around the edge of the box, so they dropped deeper into central areas, to help United push forward as a unit.


Equally, this didn’t improve United’s attack. Kagawa, Welbeck and Rooney were dropping into the same area, leaving the Spurs centrebacks fairly comfortable at the back. Moyes’ men didn’t offer an attacking thrust in the final third – Rooney was starved of service, Kagawa didn’t stamp his authority on the match and United failed to create one legitimate goal-scoring opportunity in the first half.

Moyes’ alterations


Towards the end of the first half Moyes decided to play Kagawa on the left, and push Welbeck ahead of Rooney. This was a logical move because United lacked proper service in the final third, and a physical presence to compete with Dawson and Chiriches.

The move gave Rooney more freedom to express himself, and United were now more threatening in possession. Also, Welbeck was now a danger man because of the strength he possesses to hold up the ball, his pace to attack space behind the Spurs backline and he was still able to drift around the final third to help United sustain possession. Ultimately, Welbeck’s pace did pose problems against Spurs’ backline, and in the 68th minute, he nearly punished Villas-Boas’ men.

Welbeck received a simple ball over the top in the left channel, and he beat Dawson for pace at the byline, but his cross didn’t meet Rooney, who was closely watched by Dembele. Moyes’ alterations increased United’s attacking impetus, as there was a gradual improvement in the final third – Welbeck was now an attacking threat opposed to a defensive liability, Rooney vastly transformed from a peripheral figure to United’s most important player, and Kagawa limited Walker’s freedom down the right.


The most eventful moments of the match took place in the 54th minute when Sandro received the ball in midfield, drove forward, turning Cleverley in and out, before firing an unstoppable shot past De Gea.

Surprisingly, it took United two minutes to equalize.


Walker gambled and flew into a 50/50 challenge with Vidic in United’s third, and came up short. Rooney picked up the loose ball and drove towards Tottenham’s half. With Lennon and Walker out of position, Sandro was forced to drift over to close down the United striker.


Had Walker been disciplined, he’d be marking Rooney, and Sandro would be in a position to cut off Rooney’s reverse ball to Welbeck. However, Spurs were lacking numbers on the break, and Rooney provided Welbeck with a magnificent ball behind the Spurs backline. The Englishman took the ball in stride, and was tripped by Hugo Lloris.

Subsequently, Rooney converted a spot kick down the middle to level the score line, as United pounced on another defensive miscue from Walker.


Neither side was content with a draw, as it would increase Arsenal’s lead at the top of the table to double digits.

Villas-Boas replaced Lennon with Andros Townsend and Defoe for Soldado. Townsend added another element to Tottenham’s attack with his powerful running from deep areas. Unfortunately for Spurs supporters his crosses were comfortably dealt with, and he was unable to meet Walker’s ball in the 78th minute.

Defoe’s impact on the match was minimal, apart from a Vidic foul near the edge of the box in the 88th minute. Defoe’s mobility was an improvement to Soldado’s, but his decision-making and lack of service in the final third hindered his chances of winning the match.

Moyes’ changes were also straight swaps, as Javier Hernandez replaced Welbeck to no effect, while Nani and Ashley Young were introduced in the final minutes of the match, but there wasn’t enough time for the duo to have a significant impact.


Spurs created the better chances throughout the match, but two defensive miscues – solely from Walker – gave Rooney the platform to earn United a crucial away point.

Spurs will feel that they deserved maximum points, but the home side never looked comfortable when they took the lead. Their cautious approach limited United’s attacking threat, and their natural shape without the ball was a massive improvement from a defensive perspective. Spurs still need to address issues going forward, but Villas-Boas appreciated the overall response from his men.

“We are extremely happy with the performance but not so much the result, because a win would have taken us above them, but it’s a good response, not a bad result,” said Villas-Boas.

Once again glimpses of Rooney’s brilliance guided United to a positive result – Moyes’ men were mediocre on the day, and will need to improve as Rooney’s magic may not be enough to earn a result against Everton, Wednesday night.

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Posted by on December 2, 2013 in Match Recaps, Published Work


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Samir Nasri’s revival lifts Manchester City


Samir Nasri’s career outside of France has been reminisicent of an emotional roller coaster. Yet, over the past 12-18 months, the Frenchman has also endured negativity in his homeland. The scene was familiar to Nasri. It was happening again.

Nasri, arguably the most vilified footballer on the planet, was held responsible for France’s 1st leg World Cup playoff loss to Ukraine, in Kiev. The media was unimpressed with Les Bleus’ performance, and they shared their disgust in French newspaper L’Equipe. Whilst the French paper referred to the display as ‘the worst ever’, a nightmare, and a black evening to forget, the player rating the Manchester City midfielder received was mind-blowing.

A team low three out of ten – shared with Eric Abidal and Laurent Koscielny – was harshly awarded to Nasri, and it led to his inclusion on the bench in the return leg. Nasri’s role as France’s main creator behind the attacking three was peculiar – specifically because the nifty Mathieu Valbuena was left on the bench. Nasri could’ve had a significant impact on the right flank –  Loic Remy was anonymous, and Nasri’s presence would provide natural balance, thus handing Valbuena the freedom to link play in the final third.

Nasri found himself in deeper positions – the Frenchman drifted yards away from Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi to receive the ball and help France push forward as a unit. More so, when he did get into positions near Olivier Giroud, Nasri played clever incisive passes in the final third. The Frenchman received a great chance to equalize late in the second half, but Andriy Pyatov comfortably saved his tame effort. Simply, it wasn’t his night.

Relatedly, Nasri is accustomed to hostile reception and criticism. His devilish smile, quirky hairstyle and individualistic aspirations have tarnished his once admired demeanour. Equally, he’s a player that’s easy to despise – some would go as far as saying he’s a player you’d want to punch, but this doesn’t faze the 27-year-old midfielder. Pressure and heavy criticism was a formality growing up in Marseille. Nasri stated that the city would mourn a Marseille loss, and frequent visits from the director of football, and president of the club were normal.

The former Marseille ball boy also had to deal with comparisons to Zinedine Zidane during his youth career. It drove me mad. When you’re 17 years old, you don’t play well every week. You can imagine what it was like to be compared to the best player the world has seen in recent years, “ Nasri said in an interview with FourFourTwo Magazine.

However, there’s been a significant change in Nasri’s game. In the past, an international disappointment of this stature would hamper the Frenchman’s overall game, but the atmosphere around the blue side of Manchester is different. Nasri’s enjoying one of the better seasons in his career, and the contrast in performances compared to last season is evident.

Nasri labeled last season the worst of his career. The Frenchman never fully recovered from the controversy that occurred at Euro 2012 – mentally, and emotionally he was in a dark place. “In my head I wasn’t the same. I didn’t play well for City and lost my spot in the squad and at the end of the year, you look at your season and you realize I was not myself,” Nasri said.

The Frenchman couldn’t stay out of the media, and they heavily scrutinized his poor performances and lack of interest on the field. Likewise, former City manager Roberto Mancini’s comments weren’t beneficial to Nasri’s form.

In the past the Italian manager publicly questioned Nasri’s work ethic and stated his desire to punch the Manchester City midfielder – simply because of his inconsistent form – which left the Frenchman displeased. “Managers have different ways of working, some like to say things in the press to make players react and some like to say things face to face with the player. Some players see things in the press, it touches their ego and they react,” Nasri said.

Nevertheless, Manchester City has looked a rejuvenated side this season – albeit they still struggle to obtain maximum points on the road.  But their results at home and in Europe have improved vastly, and Nasri’s inclusion in the squad is a significant factor. His form, swagger and confidence are back. The Frenchman’s nonchalant movement around the final third, along with Jesus Navas’ wide positioning has provided balance in the City attack.

The flair and trickery of the past bewilders defenders, his forward runs into the box are being translated into goals, and his precise, incisive final balls have created several top-class goals. Both of Nasri’s goals for City this season were in blowouts at home against Newcastle and Manchester United. The Frenchman reacted quicker than Davide Santon, and pounced on a loose ball, which sent him free on goal, and he fired his shot past Tim Krul. Whereas against United, he made a 60+ yard run, slyly drifted towards the back post and side-footed an exceptional Navas cross past David De Gea.

Equally, Nasri’s passing has been proficient this season. He tends to drift into central positions to help City sustain possession, but also to create a numerical advantage in midfield. This season alone he’s provided two magnificent final passes to Sergio Aguero that allowed the Argentine to showcase his prolific finishing. Also, as good as Nasri is going forward, the Frenchman doesn’t ignore his defensive duties, and has provided remarkable cover for his fullbacks, when needed.

Statistically, Nasri has been impressive. According to, the Frenchman currently maintains a 90% passing rate – in both the Premier League and Champions League –  and completes 2.3 key passes per game domestically. Only Angel Di Maria has recorded more assists than Nasri’s four in the Champions League, while his 3.2 key passes per game is only bettered by Nico Gaitan, Juan Mata and Franck Ribery.

Nasri’s revival at Manchester City has been positive, and the Frenchman believes Manuel Pellegrini has played an integral role under his return to prominence. “What is different between him and the other manager is he is really present in the training. He stops it when something is wrong and that is interesting for us because he wants us to play with principles and to understand,” Nasri said.

The Frenchman has highlighted a similarity between Pellegrini and his former manager Arsene Wenger’s work ethic and man-management skills. “He [Pellegrini] is someone who talks with the players and it is good for the players to know exactly what he is doing right or wrong. What I like about him is he also talks about everything outside football, to know how you are in your life and it is pretty important for a manager to know these things,” Nasri said.

Nonetheless, Nasri is a player that relies on support and guidance from his manager. The Frenchman arguably spent the best moments of his career – thus far – at Arsenal, and he looks capable of surpassing that level at the moment. “I suppose the best Nasri will come in the future – he has a lot more where he can improve,” Pellegrini said.

Those words indicate belief in Nasri, but it also demands improvement. Nasri is enjoying the best moments of his domestic career since leaving the Emirates in 2011, and has become an integral piece to City’s title contending puzzle. The skill, talent, experience and work rate were always present, but Pellegrini is looking to add one more element to Nasri’s game that will merit him as a top-class player.


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Posted by on November 29, 2013 in EPL, Published Work


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