Tag Archives: Xavi

Barcelona’s identity crisis suggests “Messidependcia” lives

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Barcelona’s 1-1 El Clasico draw against Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid was perceived as a loss rather than one point gained. Though it may only be December – with more than half the season to play – Real’s six-point lead over their rivals is an assuring gap.

The Spanish champions’ recent rut includes four draws in five games, in which Enrique’s men have struggled to impose their authority on opponents and are simply devoid of attacking flair in the final third. In majority of these matches, the Catalan side’s attack was completely tame, and you could argue that in most scenarios, barring Lionel Messi’s brilliance, Barca were rather fortunate to avoid defeat.

The treble winning season witnessed Barca go on a tremendous run of form at the turn of the year that possibly coincided with Messi moving to the right so Luis Suarez could roam laterally into the channels to lead the line. Last year they broke away from the pack in the first half of the season, but suffered a losing streak in the spring – that included a Clasico defeat to Real and a Champions League exit by Atletico – and were ultimately rescued by Suarez’s glut of goals.

Perhaps the tactical periodization so heavily mentioned when many defended Barca’s poor form under Enrique is responsible for their slow start to the season, but stylistically, the issue seems more severe. Where you could once argue Barca possessed the best XI in world football, the fear of potential injuries encouraged the club to heavily bolster their depth over the summer.

The arrival of Denis Suarez, Lucas Digne, Andre Gomes, Samuel Umtiti, and Paco Alcacer provided depth in areas that Barca felt they risked vulnerability if injuries occurred. But where you can argue that the reigning Spanish champions have a better squad, Enrique’s men haven’t necessarily progressed.

Success is often the downfall for most football clubs because if you tinker with a winning side you risk tampering with the overall balance. Yet, when clubs opt to persist with the current squad or improve depth, they often experience regression as opponents identify ploys to negate their threat and equally evolve as well.

The issue many had highlighted during the early stages of Enrique’s tenure, but in terms of the club’s philosophy following the Guardiola era, the current Barcelona side still featuring Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets is drifting in a different direction. Enrique’s signings have been predominantly direct players opposed to legitimate ball treasurers, which was an integral trait in midfield during the Guardiola era.

In truth, it starts with their work-rate out of possession: the high intense pressing, and swarming counter-press in central areas is barely displayed. Dropping into two banks of four, Messi and Suarez have remained central – though they perform their fair share of closing opponents down from the front – but Barca retreat into their base shape, conceding ample space in central areas.

Elsewhere, as witnessed in the most recent draws at the Anoeta and Clasico, when Barca encounter heavy pressing, they no longer possess the personnel capable of retaining possession until the opposition tired. Simply marking Busquets out of the match deprives Barca of control in midfield, thus leaving the front trio isolated upfront and starved of service, whereas the option of Gomes, Arda Turan, Rafinha and to an extent Denis Suarez have been overrun and out-worked in central areas.

This was also witnessed in a comeback victory over Sevilla a few weeks prior, but Messi’s second half brilliance was pivotal to the eventual outcome. Messi was forced to drop deeper to spread possession, play penetrative passes in advanced positions, and ignite breaks with his dribbling, which resulted in a goal and game-winning assist from the Argentine.

Essentially it takes away from Pep Guardiola’s initial plan of keeping Messi within close proximity of the opposition’s goal, but the Argentine’s passing range prevents Barca from simply aiming to quickly play passes into the attacking trio’s feet. Talks of “Messidependcia” have decreased in recent years, but if Busquets’ influence is negated, Enrique’s Barca now seem heavily reliant on the 29-year-old.

Messi has scored 62 per-cent of Barcelona’s goals since defeating Manchester City at the Camp Nou in mid-October, and in many of those games he’s been the defining factor between wins and losses. Though Messi wasn’t at his best against Real, he was still involved in the club’s best moves and frankly should have won the game.

To be frank, that was the negative aspect of the Clasico result from a Barca perspective. Although they squandered two legitimate opportunities to secure maximum points, it took Iniesta’s return to slightly improve the entire dynamic of Barca’s play. The Spaniard is one of the few core players remaining from prior success, and though his game is heavily based on his swift dribbling, he still represents a calm presence in possession.

But Iniesta’s lack of consistency in terms of overall displays at the club level suggests that even his presence in the XI isn’t the definitive answer. Rakitic and Suarez’s poor form, the slight tweaks to Neymar’s role – that saw the Brazilian hug the touchline before cutting inwards – combined with the unrealistic demands on the new young summer signings to immediately adapt to the Barca style coincides with the current identity issue at Camp Nou.

Once renowned for their wonderful team play and built around a ball-retention philosophy, Enrique’s Barca transitioned into an individualistic side suffering in a broken system. Coincidentally, it’s rivals Real, that pride themselves in buying the best individuals under Florentino Perez, that now represents a pragmatic cohesive side under Zidane.

Real pressed the Barca midfield intelligently at the Camp Nou, and under the guidance of the magnificent Luka Modric they comfortably disrupted the hosts play and enjoyed positive moments on the counter. Even with several first-team players unavailable due to injury this season, and Cristiano Ronaldo possibly suffering from regression, Real have found ways to win games, whilst remaining compact and defensively resolute at the back.

Ironically, now, Real’s midfielders can control games though ball retention and pass their way to victories, along with still retaining the devastating frontline that can exploit the smallest errors on the counter-attack. In what’s clearly a hybrid of proactive and reactive football, the most important element to Zidane’s success involves keeping fringe players happy, and being able to count upon his entire roster to abide by the Frenchman’s pragmatism through tactical discipline.

Real Madrid haven’t been stellar this season, but unlike Barca, when playing poorly, they’ve found ways to win games. When key players were missing, and the youngsters filled their roles admirably, meanwhile at the Camp Nou it’s difficult to harp the same tune. Enrique’s tenure as Barca manager has been equally peculiar: despite claiming the treble in the first season and a league-cup double last year, the reigning champions have failed to perform well over the duration of a full season.

Losing integral players that understood what was once Barca’s default system – like Dani Alves, Xavi and Pedro – has essentially provided a stylistic dilemma, but equally placed additional workload on Messi, in particular. Where Enrique can’t be faulted for turning to youth, Messi’s brilliance won’t overshadow the issues at Camp Nou.

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The increasing concern on individualism amongst the front three and quick counters leaves Barca without a clear systematic approach. Perhaps Iniesta’s return and the eventual winter break can allow several Barca players to rediscover their optimum form to alleviate the pressure, but with Real representing possibly the most settled side in Europe – given the personnel – Enrique’s margin for error is slim.

Barca may have improved their depth this summer, but at the moment they simply aren’t performing as a cohesive unit under Enrique, and the reliance on Messi is reaching insurmountable levels.

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Posted by on December 9, 2016 in Published Work


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Spain 1-5 Holland


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Holland avenged their World Cup finals defeat by thrashing the reigning champions in the second half.

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Diego Costa was deemed fit to feature in Vicente del Bosque’s 4-2-3-1 ahead of Andres Iniesta, Xavi, and David Silva. Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets played in the double-pivot.

Louis van Gaal started Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie upfront in his 3-4-1-2 with Wesley Sneijder playing behind the duo. Jonathan de Guzman and Nigel de Jong formed a midfield two, while Daley Blind and Daryl Janmaat operated as wingbacks. 

Despite starting the match well, Spain failed to cope with Holland’s direct approach that involved the midfield quickly facilitating the ball to their strikers behind the Spanish defence.

Holland with out the ball

The most intriguing talking point subsequent to kickoff was Holland’s approach without the ball. Usually teams would opt to defend in two deep banks of four and force the Spaniards to break them down, but here, van Gaal’s men held an extremely high-line and pressed in midfield.

Van Gaal aimed to pack central zones with hard-working players and limit as much space as possible for the Spaniards to work in. De Guzman and de Jong pressed Xavi and Xabi Alonso – who were both quiet – Sneijder worked hard to cut off Busquets’ passing lanes, and the surprising feat was the positioning of Stefan de Vrij and Bruno Martins Indi.


The two outside centre-backs man-marked Iniesta and Silva when they drifted infield to receive the ball; sometimes all the way into Spain’s half. Iniesta and Silva were often fouled and they struggled to turn due to the committed defending of de Vrij and Indi.

Likewise, neither Cesar Azpilicueta nor Jordi Alba got forward enough, as their was limited time in central areas to string passes out in these wide zones, while Janmaat and Blind closed the Spanish full-backs down.

Holland’s intent was to clog spaces in central zones to prevent the Spaniards from overloading the midfield and dictating the tempo of the match.

Spain’s shape

Spain, on the other hand, was more conservative out of possession, and didn’t rely on their high-pressing that has proved beneficial in recent years. Spain dropped into two banks of four with Xavi behind Costa attempting to close down the Dutch defenders.

The issue with Spain’s approach without the ball was that it lacked motivation and grit. At times, Holland easily shifted the ball from side to side, as the Spanish players failed to effectively close van Gaal’s men down. Silva and Iniesta also appeared disinterested in committing their defensive duties in wide areas, further allowing Holland’s wingbacks forward, while Robben and van Persie made runs into the channels.

Spain’s work ethic out of possession was the vast difference between Holland’s approach as del Bosque’s men were sluggish and lacklustre.

Spain attacks 

With both side’s opting to play with high-lines, the space to exploit was behind the defence. Spain, however, encountered two issues throughout the match.

First, Spain didn’t offer runners in midfield, and the only player aiming to get behind the defence was Diego Costa. Costa made several intelligent runs behind Holland’s back-line, and he appeared frustrated when passes weren’t played into his path. Jordi Alba was the other player that could have offered this threat but Janmaat kept the left-back quiet.


Silva’s movement into central areas left gaps of space available on the right, but Azpilicueta was quite cautious with his positioning. Pedro Rodriguez would serve as a useful option on the right flank, as would Juanfran who displayed his adventurous running when he exploited Eden Hazard in the Champions League this season; but it appeared that Azpilicueta was preferred based on his defensive qualities.

Spain, however, did receive their opportunities when they occasionally bypassed Holland’s press, or the outside centre-backs were caught out of position. Xavi played two balls into Costa – one from deep and the other between the lines – but on both occasions the recovering Ron Vlaar broke up the play. Xavi’s third pass was the charm, and it occurred when the Dutch centre-backs didn’t come out to press Iniesta and Silva. The duo exchanged quick passes ahead of de Guzman and de Jong before sliding the ball into Xavi between the lines, and the Spaniard delivered an inch-perfect pass to Costa who was taken down and awarded a penalty.

An identical situation occurred in the latter stages of the half with Iniesta dropping deep into midfield – away from de Vrij – and Silva drifted to the left channel to make an unmarked forward run to collect the Barcelona midfielder’s sumptuous no-look pass, but he failed to beat goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen with his delicate chip.

The Spanish attacking three exploited space between the lines frequently in the second half, but they weren’t on the same wave-length with Costa – who didn’t appear 100 per-cent fit – and their final ball was often underwhelming.

Spain struggled to play their preferred game due to Holland’s pressure, but with limited runners providing penetration, and the lack of conviction or a final ball in advanced areas, del Bosque’s men were bound to encounter issues.

Holland attacks

Van Gaal’s aligned his side to exploit the space behind Spain’s high-defensive line, and the warning signs were evident in the opening minutes. Alba’s poor chest pass in Spain’s half saw Robben slide the ball into Sneijder, but the Dutch midfielder fired his shot directly at Casillas.

Robben and van Persie were both caught offside on a few occasions prior to the latter’s opening goal, yet del Bosque was unfazed by their threat. The other worry was the combination plays on the flanks subsequent to Alonso’s goal that led to de Guzman and Blind delivering quality crosses into the box that surprisingly evaded everyone. The work ethic from Iniesta and Silva in these defensive errors were poor and Holland’s forwards were keen on drifting wide to create overloads.

Coincidentally, the buildup in Holland’s opening goals were identical, as Blind’s terrific long diagonals from the half-way line saw van Persie lose Ramos, and Robben sneak behind Pique to provide quality finishes. The quality of the finishing and deliveries were world-class, but the defending from the Spanish centre-backs was putrid.


The two following goals were merely defensive errors – both by Casillas, while Azpilicueta deserves some blame for the third goal – but the final goal epitomized Holland’s attacking approach. Indi won the ball off Pedro and Sneijder quickly sprayed the loose ball into the path of Robben who outpaced Ramos before cutting back inside to grab his second goal of the night.

While Spain didn’t field enough options to exploit the space behind the defence, van Gaal possessed two forwards capable of punishing any side in the world under these circumstances.


There were evident flaws in Holland’s brave approach, but van Gaal’s decision to alter his preferred system reaped rewards.

“If I played with three attackers, my wingers would have chased down the Spain backs too much, that would be a waste,” van Gaal said.

“I played this system because I believe that we are not good enough to beat Spain with our normal 4-3-3 formation.”

Van Gaal’s approach maximized the pace of Robben, and prevented Spain from dictating the tempo of the match in a congested area. Certainly if del Bosque introduced runners, or Silva converted his chance prior to van Persie’s equalizer the match could’ve been different.

This serves as another crushing blow on Brazilian soil, yet the fact that it was preventable – del Bosque didn’t need to risk going 4-3-3, which created more gaps in midfield for Holland to penetrate on the counter – and could harm Spain’s chances of progressing out of the group.

Van Gaal pragmatically built his approach towards nullifying and exploiting Spain’s strengths, whereas del Bosque’s belief in his players and reluctance to stray away from their philosophy led to their downfall in a match that could’ve gone either way.

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Posted by on June 14, 2014 in Published Work, World Cup 2014


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Barcelona 3-2 Sevilla


Barcelona remains at the top of La Liga courtesy of Alexis Sanchez’s injury time winner against a resilient Sevilla side.

Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino made two changes to the side that defeated Valencia at the Mestalla, two weeks ago. Christian Tello started along side Lionel Messi and Neymar in the attacking three, while Xavi Hernandez joined Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets in midfield.

Unai Emery made four changes to the side that drew Malaga two weeks ago, adding Jairo Sampeiro and Vitolo to the attacking three behind Kevin Gameiro. Sebastian Cristoforo played with Stephane M’Bia in the double pivot of Emery’s 4-2-3-1, while Beto started in goal.

This match came to life in the final 15 minutes once Messi gave the Catalan side a two-goal lead – yet despite their victory, Barcelona’s issues at the back are now palpable.

Sevilla’s Shape

Emery’s men faced an onslaught of pressure in the opening 45 minutes but were only down a goal, due to their shape without the ball. Emery’s men dropped into two banks of four with Gameiro and Rakitic up top, aiming to close down Busquets and Xavi – when they dropped deeper. M’Bia was instructed to track Iniesta’s movement, while Cristoforo occasionally pressed Xavi.

However, what was most impressive was Sevilla’s ability to limit the gaps in midfield and defence. Barcelona constantly aimed to penetrate through the middle but was unable to find the final ball or gap in the final third, and that was down to their compact shape and organization. This affected Messi’s influence on the match, as he often dropped deep into midfield, attempting to drag defenders out of position and find his own gaps – but the Argentine forward had little success.

Barcelona down the left

Martino’s men did enjoy success in the first half, mainly down the left hand side. It was a constant source of attack, as Tello and Dani Alves were peripheral figures for large portions of the opening 45. Neymar received the ball countless times and was encouraged to take on Coke Andujar. The Brazilian winger constantly got the better of the Sevilla fullback – due to his marvelous skills and Jordi Alba’s ability to get forward – but his decision-making and quality in the final third was subpar.


Alba was forced to leave the match midway through the first half, thus allowing Adriano to make an appearance. This now presented Barcelona with a balance, yet neither fullback was eager to push forward – but when Alves did, he was moving centrally. Neymar continued to trouble Coke for the duration of the match, but Barcelona’s opener was orchestrated on the left flank. Adriano finally surged forward and provided a cross to the far post, which Alves nodded past Beto. It was one of the few time Alves broke forward due to Vitolo’s admirable will to track back and protect Alberto.

Martino’s men struggled to find openings in the Sevilla defence, but their narrow shape allowed Barcelona’s left-sided players freedom to penetrate.


Barcelona continued to dominate possession in the second half, as they searched for a second goal. Vitolo drifted centrally early in the second half, looking to find gaps to exploit, but the Sevilla attacker realized the service was limited. Yet, two wide men enjoyed a terrific second half, due to Adriano and Alves’ will to surge forward, thus leaving space available behind them to penetrate. Jairo and Vitolo isolated the Barcelona fullbacks, and got into dangerous positions in the final third, which led to corner kicks.


Sevilla’s first goal stemmed from majestic work from Vitolo. The Sevilla attacker won the ball on the break and attacked space after being played in by Marko Marin. Vitolo danced past Busquets and Gerard Pique, then laid the ball off for Ivan Rakitic to fire past Victor Valdes.

Besides an improvement in the minimal pressure applied by Sevilla, their were two elements of attack that led to their comeback – Jairo and Vitolo’s threat in wide areas on the break was the first positive aspect in Sevilla’s second half resurgence.


Martino has been heavily criticized for the club’s decision to ignore their defensive issues. The Catalan club is in desperate need of a top-class centreback, but continue to have faith in a Javier Mascherano – Pique partnership. Also, over the past few years, Barcelona has lost players that possess an aerial threat, such as Carles Puyol, Eric Abidal, Yaya Toure and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

This season, Barcelona’s slow defenders have been exposed and their inability to successfully defend set pieces has also been highlighted. Helder Postiga made a near post run and freely nodded in a corner kick at the Mestalla, two weeks ago – and the same issues recurred against Emery’s men.

In the 63rd minute, Cala snuck between Alves and Busquets and nodded a corner kick at the near post, past Victor Valdes. The goal was wrongfully ruled off for a ‘ghost’ foul, which should’ve equalized the scoreline. Martino noticed his side’s disadvantage in height, so he took his players off the post to develop a numerical advantage in the box. Cala got the best of Busquets and Fabregas in the 82nd minute, but the Sevilla defender nodded his header wide of the net. But eight minutes later, Coke earned the equalizer, as the Sevilla fullback was left unmarked to hit the corner kick on the volley, past Valdes.

For all of Barcelona’s talent in attack, they still look frail in defence, and it’s an issue Martino needs to address, if the Catalan side aims on claiming trophies this season.


There’s no question about Cesc Fabregas being Barcelona’s most influential figure this season, and he continued to showcase that in the second half. Minutes upon his arrival, Fabregas made a simple run between the lines to free space for Messi to make a pass, and run into space to tap in Barcelona’s second goal of the night.



Martino’s men began to find gaps of space between the lines and in the final third in the final 15 minutes of the match, and Fabregas played a key role in their success. His direct forward runs into pockets of space and behind the defence, along with his persistence to get into key areas in the final third, opened up space for Messi, Neymar and Sanchez to penetrate.

Fabregas’ movement and direct approach opened up space for Barcelona’s attackers to express themselves – prior to that they struggled to penetrate in central areas, thus highlighting the impact of his appearance.


Barcelona was dominant in possession for large portions of the match, but their lack of penetration and issues on the break and defending set pieces is alarming. Sevilla will feel they were robbed of points due to Cala’s goal being called off, and the timing of Sanchez’ winner, as their second half performance was promising – specifically Jairo and Vitolo’s

Martino’s men remain unbeaten in league play, as Fabregas’ arrival shifted the match offensively for the Catalan side. It seems evident that the Spaniard is now a key asset to Barcelona, and it’ll be interesting to see if he can sustain this good run of form throughout the season.

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Posted by on September 17, 2013 in Match Recaps, Published Work


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Valencia 2-3 Barcelona


Lionel Messi’s first half hat trick was enough to guide Barcelona past Valencia, and remain top of the La Liga table.

Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino made two changes to the side that drew Atletico Madrid midweek, in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup. Pedro Rodriguez joined Lionel Messi and Neymar to form the attack in Martino’s 4-3-3. Andres Iniesta also returned to the side replacing Xavi, to form a midfield three with Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Busquets.

Miroslav Dukic made three changes to his starting lineup, after last week’s defeat to Espanyol. Sergio Canales and Dorlan Pabon joined Ever Banega in Valencia’s attacking three, replacing Jonas and Sofiane Feghouli. Andres Guardado started at left back in place of Jeremy Mathieu in Valencia’s back four, while Helder Postiga started as the lone striker.

Despite Postiga’s late first half goals, Barcelona took advantage of the space between the lines and was the dominant side, creating several chances throughout the match.

Valencia’s shape

It’s normal for teams to drop off against Barcelona, based on their superiority in midfield, but what’s key is how you approach the match without the ball. Valencia took a naïve approach and chose to sit deep in a 4-5-1, as they chose to play a high-line.

Now there’s no issue with the way Dukic aligned his men – the main issue was the lack of pressure applied to the Catalan side when they had the ball, and the amount of space between defenders. Valencia allowed Barcelona to play the match with freedom, and they punished Dukic’s men with three first half goals.

Barcelona press

One area that Barcelona got criticized for last season was their goal to keep a solid shape, opposed to pressing higher up the pitch when they lost the ball. Not only did it force Barcelona to defend for longer periods, but they also strayed away from a formula that was successful in the past.

But the arrival of Martino has seen the Catalan side revert back to their defensive strategy, when the opposition has possession. They worked hard to close down Dukic’s men when they attempted to play from the back, forcing the home side to concede possession. It was successful in the first half, and it led to Messi’s second goal of the night. Valencia won possession and looked to play out of their half through Banega, but Busquets pressed the Argentine and won possession. Fabregas picked up the ball and played a lovely pass to Messi, who calmly slotted his shot into the back of the net.

Martino’s men worked hard to retain possession with their pressure, forcing Valencia to concede possession in their own half, presenting them with legitimate goal-scoring opportunities.

Barcelona between the lines

One clear aspect to Barcelona’s dominance was the amount of space available between the lines. Dukic’s men often changed their shape without the ball – they went from two banks of four, to a bank of five ahead of the back four, and despite being organized, they were not compact.

Messi’s opener stemmed from the amount of space and time Fabregas received on the ball. Minutes prior to Messi’s goal, Fabregas played a defence splitting pass to Neymar, but the Brazilian was unable to make the most of the opportunity. Messi was different – despite being fortunate, the Argentine made an identical run behind the defence, but he got the ball past the keeper and tapped it into the open net.


But it wasn’t only Fabregas enjoying the abundance of space available, Messi also dropped deeper, and the Barcelona forward had a significant impact in the Catalan side’s dominance. Messi found pockets of space throughout the Valencia half and was combining with his teammates, spreading passes wide, and aiming to thread that decisive ball in the final third.


It was no surprise that Messi and Fabregas connected for Messi’s third goal – based on their dominance in the opening 40 minutes, it was just a matter of time. Messi dropped into midfield to receive the ball and he found Fabregas unmarked between the lines, waiting to receive the ball. Messi played in Fabregas, who then found Neymar out on the left – Neymar found an oncoming Messi who slotted the ball into the net.

The third goal highlighted the amount of freedom Barcelona was given when in possession, and Martino’s men deserved their three-goal lead.

Helder Postiga

The often-maligned Portuguese striker was signed by Valencia to replace Roberto Soldado, who made a move to Tottenham over the summer. Surprisingly, for all the negative reviews the Portuguese international gathers, he’s still managed to find the back of the net. And in the span of five minutes, Postiga pegged his side back into the match with two quality finishes.


Postiga provided an exquisite finish for his first goal, as Joao Pereira got into an advanced position on the right flank, and provided an outstanding cross for his countrymen. Minutes later, Postiga narrowed the lead to one, when the Portuguese striker made an intelligent near post run and flicked the ball into the far post.

Postiga’s goals provided moments of brilliance, which allowed Valencia back in the game, despite their shambolic performance in the first half.

Wide Areas

Valencia got into dangerous positions in the final third, when they took advantage of the space provided in wide areas.

In the first half, Joao Pereira was allowed to push forward at will, with Neymar not instructed to track the Portuguese fullback, when he surged forward. Iniesta drifted over occasionally to nullify Pereira’s threat, and Mascherano was forced to on a few occasions as well – this didn’t bode well for Martino’s men as Postiga was then able to drop off and link play with Mascherano out of position. Pereira’s freedom out wide led to Postiga’s opener, and it was an element to their attack that was successful in the opening 45 minutes.

Dukic’s men took their focus to the opposite flank in the second half, looking to overload Dani Alves. In fairness, if Barcelona continued their high pressing that was so successful in the first half, this may not be an issue, but the Catalan side chose to get back into shape without the ball. When Barcelona lost possession, Banega and Pabon attacked the space behind Alves, creating a few opportunities. Banega and Pabon overloaded the left flank when Barcelona got into their shape, delivering dangerous balls into the box, but Valencia failed to find an equalizer.


Barcelona was exceptional in the opening 40 minutes, and although they missed several chances to put the game out of reach, the rapid decline in their intensity, allowed Valencia back into the match.

Valencia drops their second match in a row, conceding six goals in total, which is not impressive. Dukic’s men were fortunate not to lose by higher tally, based on how open they were throughout the match. With the Europa League about to kick off, it’ll be interesting to see how Valencia copes, but there are a few warning signs that are clearly being shown. The one positive is that Postiga has yet to look a downgrade to Soldado, and they’ll need the Portuguese striker firing if they intend on claiming a European spot this season.

Barcelona keeps their perfect record intact, and they may not have an easier away outing this season. More importantly, the front three are beginning to click and Neymar is slowly finding his groove in La Liga. The one worry for Martino besides signing a centre-back, will be the approach he adopts, once his men are unable to press higher up the pitch, as Barcelona look quite vulnerable when sitting off and keeping their shape. Nevertheless, Messi continued to display why he’s the best player on the planet, while Fabregas has given Martino belief that he can afford to rest Xavi.

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Posted by on September 3, 2013 in Match Recaps, Published Work


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Brazil prove to be the REAL winners at the Confederations Cup

Brazil claimed their fourth Confederations Cup title with a convincing victory of World champions Spain.

It was a result many would have never predicted and it left football fans around the world with hope that Spain can be knocked off their perch. More so, the much-maligned Confederations Cup that takes place every four years, one prior to the World Cup, went against the cliché of being a pointless tournament.

Over the past two weeks, we have witnessed high quality football matches – the three matches featuring football minnows Tahiti were blowouts, yet even the small nation with a population of approximately 267,000 people gave us something to cheer about. A tournament consisting of Brazil, Italy and Spain was never going to disappoint, and although it looked certain that these sides would finish in the top three, it was never guaranteed.

This tournament was always going to be a great chance for Brazil and Italy to establish themselves as contenders for next years World Cup, while Spain was looking to covet the one trophy that has eluded them during their phenomenal five-year run – but the key question that needs to be raised is did these teams achieve their goals? And who was the real winner over the past two weeks?


Cesare Prandelli has done a remarkable job in transforming the identity of the Azzuri since taking over the Italian side. Reaching the European final last year was a fantastic achievement, but the Italians have taken a few steps back over the past 12 months. Prandelli’s obsession with a possession-based system has been no secret, and the Italian has been keen on playing in a 4-3-2-1.

The importance of dominating the midfield has become essential, and a midfield containing Riccardo Montolivo, Andrea Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi is more than capable of achieving success. Surprisingly, besides the opening game against Mexico, the midfield trio failed to impress – they struggled against Japan, missed the Brazil match and were better against Spain, due to their lack of pressure.

Despite his mediocre displays for Roma, Daniele De Rossi has once again rose to the occasion under Prandelli – his ability to break up play, drop deeper to provide another passing outlet, spray positive forward and diagonal passes and getting forward to provide the final ball and score goals, displays why he’s one of the top midfielder’s in world football.

Along with De Rossi’s star performances, Mario Balotelli also demonstrated that he has the qualities to be a top striker at the international level. The AC Milan striker’s presence was missed in Italy’s final two games, as he played an integral role in the Azzuri’s attack. Balotelli’s ability to hold up the ball and turn on either side, along with his brute strength to shrug off defenders was key – it’s also key to highlight the two goals scored in three games played, one being a winner against Mexico.

Prandelli will also be pleased with Emanuele Giaccherini and Antonio Candreva – both men showcased their tactical discipline and awareness throughout the tournament. Giaccherini linked play with the Italian striker, got into dangerous areas throughout the final third, and his versatility to play in a wingback role against Spain was pivotal.

Candreva was the odd man out prior to the tournament, but injuries and suspensions earned the Lazio winger a place in the starting lineup, and he failed to disappoint. His performance against Spain was memorable – he sat back to protect Maggio, and on the attack he would drift centrally to receive the ball, along with relentlessly attacking Jordi Alba. Prandelli’s dilemma in finding suitable floater’s to play in his 4-3-2-1 may be solved with the emergence of Giaccherini and Candreva.

Surprisingly, Italy’s weakness throughout the tournament was their defence – the days of scoring a goal and defending deep as a unit may have past us. In five games, the Italians conceded 10 goals, keeping only one clean sheet against Spain. The Juventus trio in Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli looked comfortable playing in a back three, opposed to a back four, where they left large gaps available and made several errors.

Gianluigi Buffon patched up a few blemishes throughout the tournament with the three penalty saves he made in the third – place penalty shootout, but the errors made should never be overlooked. Like the Juventus centrebacks, Buffon looked a shadow of himself, and although it’s certain he’ll be in Brazil next year, questions must be posed on whether he should be Italy’s starting keeper for the future. With more games under his belt, Mattia De Sciglio has the potential to be a top-class left back in the near future, while Prandelli still faces issues on the right side. Ignazio Abate hasn’t been consistent enough, while Christian Maggio continues to thrive in a wingback role, but is a liability in a fullback position.

Some positives have come out of Italy’s Confederations Cup campaign, but Prandelli shouldn’t let their third place finish overshadow the issues that need to be addressed over the next 12 months. Prandelli has yet to find the perfect starting 11 for his 4-3-2-1 that he seems keen on playing in – but the Italians have displayed their tactical versatility to play in multiple systems, which is key at this level. If the Italians can address these issues heading into Brazil, there’s no reason why Italy shouldn’t be in contention to lift their fifth World Cup.


Out of the three contenders in this tournament, Spain looked to be the closest thing to complete. Del Bosque was disappointed to hear that Xabi Alonso would be unavailable for the entirety of the tournament – handing Javi Martinez, arguably the best player in that position this season, a chance to play in the double pivot with Sergio Busquets. Another surprise was the squad selection – many were expecting Del Bosque to select a younger squad, so the first-team could finally get a well-deserved rest, but to also implement a few fresh faces. Spain failed to lift the Confederations Cup, once again losing by a large margin – but unlike their 2-0 loss to the Americans in 2009, this time Del Bosque’s men were thoroughly out played.

Del Bosque stuck with a 4-3-3 throughout the tournament – Spain was now fluid in attack and creating more chances – but they were vulnerable to quick direct counter attacks. The reason why Del Bosque introduced the double-pivot upon his arrival was to prevent the likeliness of Spain being carved open on the counter – this made his decision to keep Javi Martinez on the bench peculiar. With Jordi Alba being one of Spain’s main attacking threats, this left del Bosque with three defenders and Sergio Busquets – Gerard Pique has declined over the past year, Alvaro Arbeloa a generally decent defender had a shocking tournament, leaving Sergio Ramos as their only competent defender.

This forced Spain to defend cautiously, along with the high temperatures and fatigue issues during the latter stages of the tournament. Nevertheless, Diego Forlan found space behind Busquets in the opener, Nigeria was allowed space in midfield to penetrate when Spain dropped into their shape, Italy nullified Jordi Alba’s threat by cleverly attacking the Spanish fullback and Brazil’s explosive direct counter attacks exposed del Bosque’s men. Del Bosque stuck with the 4-3-3, but it left Spain exposed, and the heat, along with the span between games hindered their chances of being successful in this tournament.

Another key factor was the injury of Cesc Fabregas – the Barcelona midfielder has finally secured a starting role, and was a key loss to la Roja. Fabregas provided Spain’s attack with an extra reliable passer/passing option, and his ability to find space between the lines was key. He was positioned narrow to allow Alba to surge forward, but he often linked play with Pedro Rodriguez, and got into advanced positions from midfield. His overall presence was integral to Spain’s fluidity going forward, which could have played a part in Spain failing to score in their final two games.

Spain has an abundance of world-class midfielders, but del Bosque has struggled to implement his top-class midfielders in Santi Cazorla and Juan Mata into the side. Both midfielders have struggled to adapt to Spain’s tiki-taka approach, often playing more direct balls, which isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s affected the balance and fluidity in the side – with the decline of David Villa and Fernando Torres, along with del Bosque not fancying Roberto Soldado, the balls provided from Cazorla and Mata haven’t been needed.

Is tiki-taka dead? Has Spain’s dominance come to an end? Both questions can’t be answered with full confidence, but it’s key to note that these same questions were posed after Spain’s defeat to the Americans four years ago – then they went on to win the World Cup and the Euro Cup two years later.

“I won’t make excuses – they were better than us and that is that. Sometimes it’s convenient to lose so you don’t think you’re unbeatable.” – Vicente del Bosque

Del Bosque’s decisions were stubborn, and he ignored the deficiencies that his side possessed – similar to Tito Vilanova’s situation against Bayern Munich this year, albeit Vilanova’s bench was much weaker. Based on the past, Spain should still enter Brazil in 2014 as favourites, but del Bosque will need to make some alterations to his system – preferably playing with a double pivot – if Spain intend on winning their second consecutive World Cup.


Luiz Felipe Scolari had many critics to silence ahead of his second stint with the Brazilian national team. Scolari inherited a side that had failed to impress over the past 24 months, failing to make an impact in the Copa America, along with the loss to Mexico in the Olympics last year. In a nation where expectations are so high, Scolari had to not only convince his side that they were winners, but the fans as well.

One of Brazil’s main strength’s going into 2014 is their defence, which could explain why they only conceded three goals throughout the entire tournament. They relied on direct play from their fullbacks, David Luiz’ reliable passing out of the back and the leadership of Thiago Silva. Surprisingly, it was the offence that needed to be ironed out, as there were many questions about Brazil’s tactical discipline and awareness. Nevertheless, three of Brazil’s front four were superb – Oscar moved into pockets of space to receive and play incisive passes, Neymar showcased the talent he possesses scoring four remarkable goals and Fred’s ability to link play with the attacking three, along with leading the press was vital.

Scolari made one change to his starting lineup during the tournament, when Hernanes started ahead of an injured Paulinho. It was shocking to see Hulk start in all five matches based on his form and the fact that Lucas Moura was available – a player that offers more pace, danger in the final third, and has a higher tactical IQ than the Zenit St. Petersburg player. Brazil developed a perfect blend of defence and attack in their starting line up, and Scolari displayed his ability to make tactical alterations in matches – specifically against Uruguay.

Although, Brazil won all five matches, there are still some questions to pose. Brazil’s ability to take over games once their opponents settle has yet to be seen, and there was a heavy reliance on players such as Neymar and Oscar – Scolari can get away with a small bench here, but he’ll need to rotate throughout the World Cup and be able to cope if one of the aforementioned players is sidelined.

On the other hand, they scored 14 goals in five games, conceding four, and finished the tournament unbeaten. Scolari was able to find cohesion between midfield and attack, building a potential starting 11, which showcased his sides tactical flexibility. Brazil have been here before, but have failed to replicate their success the following year, and Scolari will need to do so if he wants to mark his reign as a successful one.


We now sit 12 months away from arguably the biggest tournament on the planet, and three potential contenders have showcased their progress thus far. Italy’s tactical versatility, Spain’s fluid attack and Brazil’s energetic starts were positive – but defensive errors, naivety in tactical changes, and failure to take over matches will be one of many flaws to fine-tune.

“Now I am able to dream that we have an idea, that we have a path ahead of us, and that we have a good team to play in the World Cup next year as equals with other strong contenders.” – Luiz Felipe Scolari

“But as far as the team is concerned, one thing that is important is that in the last 30 days we have beaten four former or current world champions: France, Uruguay, Italy and Spain,” Scolari said.

“We are a team still being formed, facing a lot of difficulties and I think this win upgrades the team, giving us more confidence. It’s something that will make us play in a different way,” he said.

Nevertheless, although no team has ever won the World Cup after a Confederations Cup triumph, Scolari’s men were the real winners over the past two weeks.

They found a distinct balance in skill, power and tactical awareness – luckily for the other 31 teams, a lot can change in 12 months.

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Posted by on July 4, 2013 in FIFA


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Brazil 3-0 Spain


Brazil win their fourth Confederations Cup in convincing fashion, producing a dominant performance at the Maracana.

Luiz Felipe Scolari made no changes to his starting lineup – he’s only tinkered with his lineup when Paulinho was unfit to play against Italy in Brazil’s final group game. This meant Brazil played in a 4-2-3-1 with Fred leading the line ahead of Oscar, Neymar and Hulk, while Paulinho and Luiz Gustavo played in the double pivot.

Vicente Del Bosque made one change to the side that defeated Italy midweek, introducing Juan Mata into the attacking three alongside Fernando Torres and Pedro Rodriguez. Del Bosque stuck with his midfield three of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets, while Cesc Fabregas, Javi Martinez, David Silva and Roberto Soldado sat on the bench.

Brazil’s constant pressure disrupted Spain’s passing rhythm and their direct play exposed the space behind the Spanish midfield, which led to their superiority throughout the match.


Strikers have been a talking point in Brazil over the past few years, because they have been heavily criticized for not possessing a world-class striker. Fred has been in and out of the Brazilian national team since 2006, but has finally delivered and possibly made a stake for a starting spot in next year’s World Cup, if he stays fit.

Fred may not be the flashiest striker, and is far from being a legitimate world-class player – he is a natural poacher, which blends in with Brazil’s versatile attack. Fred scored five goals in five games, four of which came against arguably the two best European sides in Italy and Spain. But besides goals, Fred offers more to Scolari’s side – his ability to lead the press, link play with the three attackers behind him, and his movement off the ball has seen him flourish under Scolari.

Fred’s ability to hold up the ball and play in advanced runners, and the several defensive headers on Spain set-pieces will be overlooked, because of the two goals he scored, but Fred has displayed why he has all the qualities to lead the line in the future.


A common feat in Brazil’s performances throughout this tournament has been their energetic starts. High pressing, and wing play have been key in the opening minutes of their matches, but we’ve often seen both energy and pressing levels dip throughout the match. Surprisingly, Scolari’s men were able to sustain their energetic pressing, as they did against Italy, which disrupted Spain’s passing rhythm and prevented Del Bosque’s men from settling into the match.

Spain was unable to build attacks from the back, as the Brazilian attackers closed down Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos, while Oscar stayed close to Sergio Busquets. Brazil quickly hounded the ball when they were dispossessed and Spain was forced into several errors, often conceding possession.

It’s key to note that Brazil’s double pivot’s physicality proved to be vital. Gustavo tracked Iniesta, and although the Spanish midfielder produced moments of magic, he had little influence on the match. Xavi also struggled to dictate the tempo of the match against Paulinho, and this forced him to drop deeper into the midfield to receive the ball.

Brazil was brave with their pressing – they didn’t allow Spain to set the tempo of the match and play out of the back – they simply modified the approach Italy took in the semi-finals, the difference was they were ruthless in front of goal.

Double pivot?

Spain strayed away from their beloved 4-2-3-1 system and opted to play a 4-3-3 throughout the tournament. With Xabi Alonso unavailable due to injury, Busquets was given the duty to protect the back four alone, like he does for Barcelona. This was an odd move by Del Bosque to stick with this system throughout the tournament – especially when you have arguably the best player in that position in Javi Martinez that can provide physicality and key passes, on the bench.

The system change was positive going forward – Spain looked to be more fluid in their attack, as they created more legitimate goal scoring opportunities. While this was true, the reason why Del Bosque introduced the double pivot upon his arrival as Spanish manager was to not only protect the back four, but also prevent sides from exposing Spain on the counter attack.

Throughout the latter stages of this competition, Nigeria, Italy and Brazil began to penetrate spaces behind the advancing Alba and behind Busquets, and they were keen to play on the break because they found it relatively easy to drag Spain out of position.

This, along with fatigue, could be the main reason why Spain failed to press Italy and Brazil higher up the pitch. Del Bosque possibly noticed the space Nigeria received between the lines, and that Uruguay exposed once Forlan was introduced. Nevertheless, it played into Brazil’s hands, as Luiz Gustavo was able to receive the ball in deep positions because Xavi refused to press the Brazilian midfielder in those areas. Brazil was now able to play from the back – they often played direct balls into Fred, so he could play in the attacking three or to Hulk so that he could isolate Alba.

Del Bosque’s attempt to move away from the double pivot benefitted his side going forward, but against teams that constantly pressed Spain higher up the pitch, it became a defensive liability.


It was no surprise to see Del Bosque look to his bench in the second half, but the fact that his changes had little impact on the match was shocking.

Cesar Azpilicueta replaced Alvaro Arbeloa, and although he didn’t have a poor outing, one could argue that the Chelsea right back could be held responsible for Brazil’s third goal. Jesus Navas replaced the uninspiring Mata, as a direct threat – this pushed Pedro to the left flank and Spain improved going forward, and Navas’ impact resulted in a penalty shot that Ramos missed.

Del Bosque’s final change was to introduce David Villa for Torres. Torres didn’t receive much service, but when he did, the Spanish striker was often outmuscled by David Luiz and Thiago Silva. Torres dropped deep to receive the ball, but struggled to turn on his defender and play in Mata, Pedro or Navas. The best chance Spain received through Torres was when Pedro was played in by Mata, but he was denied a goal due to David Luiz’ heroic block. It was interesting to see Del Bosque keep a player like David Silva on the bench – Silva would have been an ideal replacement for the isolated Torres, to provide Spain with more passing options and he possesses the ability to open gaps in Brazil’s back four.

Del Bosque’s attempt to get Spain back into the match failed, and once Piqué was sent off, his side was forced to defend for the rest of the match.


Brazil outwitted an extremely tired Spanish side with high/energetic pressing, quick direct counter-attacks and ruthless finishing.

Scolari’s men end the tournament unbeaten, and more importantly they look to be heading in the right direction for next year’s World Cup on home soil. Prior to the tournament, many were worried about Brazil’s tactical discipline and the cohesion between the front four, and throughout this tournament Scolari has ironed out those issues. There are still questions as to whether Hulk will be in the starting eleven next year, with the rapid growth of Lucas Moura, but Scolari has completed a job – he found his potential starting 11, molded them into winners, and has turned the Brazilian crowd into believers.

Spain once again fail to win the Confederations Cup, and fatigue, along with Del Bosque’s selections have played a role in their failure. Four major tournaments in five years has taken a toll on this Spanish side, and it showed towards the end of the tournament with their lack of pressure and energy. Del Bosque experimented with a 4-3-3, and has failed to get the best out of a few players in this system. When Spain failed in 2009, Del Bosque was forced to make a few changes to find the right blend of players/system and he’ll need to do so again if he intends on leaving the Spanish post a champion.

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Posted by on July 1, 2013 in Match Recaps


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Manchester United and the WWE go hand in hand

Sunday night I decided to tune into the WWE Royal Rumble for nostalgic purposes. Growing up I was a big wrestling fan, but now I prefer to watch the Road to WrestleMania, because WrestleMania is equivalent to a Champions League final. The Pay Per View overall was quite poor and the main event saw The Rock defeat CM Punk in his first match in 9 months. May I remind you that CM Punk held the title for 434 days, and the manner in which he lost the title was an absolute farce.

Moving forward, what caught my eye was the traditional, “30 Man over the Top Rope” Royal Rumble match. This is where I realized the WWE and The Barclays Premier League have a lot in common. I mean the final five men in the match were predictable and there were only two possible winners, Ryback or John Cena. These two were the only men in the match who had a chance of main eventing WrestleMania, as the other wrestlers are substandard to them.  It’s similar to our modern day Premier League that from opening day had only two legitimate title contenders in Manchester United and Manchester City.

The Premier League is the most watched soccer league in the world with arguably the largest fan base. The league gets more popular as time passes with the help of TV deals and an influx of foreign talent choosing to play their trade in England.

I mean the Premier League has to be the best league in the world right?

When was the last time you saw a title race go down to the final whistle?

Who won the 2012 Champions League in Munich?

The BPL has to be the best considering the “white Pele” plays there opposed to leagues that consists of two horse races or a league like the Serie A, in which Juventus is a class above the rest – hyperbole.

When you think of Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson, history and trophies come to mind. United is the most successful team in the Premier League era winning 12 Premier League titles, including a treble winning season in 1999.

Last season they conceded the title to their noisy neighbours on the final day of the season via goal difference. A 94th minute Sergio Aguero winner had denied United from claiming their 20th league title. It was a trophyless season, which saw them crash out of the group stage of the Champions league and get played off the park by Atletico Bilbao in the Europa League.

In any sport, the aim is to get better and fix the flaws that you possess. When you’re a team like Manchester United, a trophyless season is unacceptable. United, like many Premier League teams, had various issues to address over the summer if they wanted to be legitimate contenders not only domestically but also in Europe.

But on Friday August 17th 2012, they showed their domestic title aspirations as they acquired Robin Van Persie for £24m from Arsenal. Many questioned the signing, as Ferguson ignored two key areas he needed to address. However, we’re half way through the campaign and as the days go by it looks like Ferguson made the right decision.

Van Persie has netted 22 times this season and is arguably the reason why United, with a game in hand, are four points clear at the top of the Premier League. The Dutch striker scored 36 goals last season for Arsenal is also a key factor in United’s FA Cup and Champions League run.

United have made their best start to a season since the three point rule was introduced, obtaining 55 points from 66 in the opening 22 games.  It’s a remarkable stat and if they were to continue picking up 2.5 points a game they would match the 95-point record set by Chelsea in 2004-2005.

Theoretically to win a soccer match you need to outscore your opponent, which is what United are doing. Although they have major weaknesses, their luxury in attack has covered up their flaws.

Javier Hernandez, Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck have scored approximately 62% of United’s goals in all competitions and 60% of their goals in the Premier League. Also, with Patrice Evra and Jonny Evans having their best goal scoring seasons, United have scored a league high 57 goals.

Despite their fantastic start to the season, if United reclaim the Premier League title, they’ll do so with the worst defensive record in the last decade. The most goals conceded by a champion over the last decade were 37(Manchester United 2010-2011) and United have already allowed 30.

This season United has given up several goals from set pieces, and have been exposed when teams take the game to them. In fullbacks Rafael and Patrice Evra, they have great options going forward but defensively they’re good, but not reliable. David De Gea has had a few shaky moments this season; he’s a great shot stopper that lacks a physical presence but will only get better with experience. In terms of centre backs Evans and Rio Ferdinand have been efficient, and are at their best when United sit deeper. With Chris Smalling and Phil Jones they have young English talent that have potential to be top Premier League defenders in the future. Lastly captain Nemanja Vidic is a massive boost when in the line up, but there are concerns in whether he’ll ever recover his best form.

In the midfield you have deep lying players in Michael Carrick (whose been fantastic this season) and Paul Scholes who like to control the tempo of the game, but also struggle when pressure is applied to them. In Anderson and Darren Fletcher you have runners who provide energy in the midfield but both struggle to stay fit. Then you have Tom Cleverley, who is by far United’s most technical midfielder. Cleverley is a very versatile midfielder that tends to play higher up the pitch and is direct when United have possession.

What United lack in their midfield is a physical presence – a box-to-box midfielder. United struggle to take control of games and against sides that possess highly technical and physical players in the midfield, they lose control of the game and get overrun. Juventus has Pirlo, Marchisio and Vidal, Barcelona has Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas, Real Madrid can rely on Khedira, Alonso and Modric, and Bayern Munich has Martinez, Schweinsteiger , Kroos and Gustavo at their disposal. There’s a gulf in class in the midfield between world football’s elite and England best and that is quite alarming.

The question most will ask is with defensive frailties at the back and the lack of a dominant box-box midfielder, how are United still at the top of the Premier League?

Well that’s down to the decline of quality teams in the Premier League over the last two seasons. The Premier League is filled with many inferior sides when matched up to the clubs from Manchester, which explains why they succeed despite possessing major blemishes. Neither side has a tactical identity, but they have an abundance of attacking players, and a few world-class players. Their ability to outscore several inferior sides is the answer domestically, but has been their downfall in Europe.

The WWE has gone from the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Undertaker, Triple H, Brock Lesnar, Chris Benoit, The Rock, and Kurt Angle to John Cena, CM Punk and Sheamus. Once upon a time Liverpool, Chelsea, and Arsenal were elite European sides that also made the Premier League competitive. Now there’s a distinct gulf in class between the two clubs from Manchester and the rest of the so-called top Premier League sides, as there is with the top stars in the WWE.

Since the recent decline in the Premier League, Manchester United has made it past the Champions League semi-finals once, in which they were outclassed by Barcelona at Wembley. That year they faced Marseille, Chelsea and Schalke 04 to make it to the finals, teams that are good, but not great. The year prior they were knocked out by Bayern Munich and last season they failed to get out of the group stage, and were played off the park by Atletico Bilbao in the Europa League. It’s not only Manchester United, but the other top English sides have failed to make a mark in Europe, other than Chelsea’s fortuitous Champions League victory last season. Prior to that they were knocked out of the round of 16 by Inter Milan, the quarterfinals by Manchester United, and the group stage this season.

Frankly, one can argue that United’s success this season isn’t due to how good they’ve been but is simply an indictment on the league as a whole. But it leaves us to ask one question, why hasn’t Ferguson attempted to fix these issues? It looked like he was keen on doing so after being humiliated at Wembley, but it’s possible he felt his side would be able to bounce back from that.

Half way through last season Paul Scholes came out of retirement as a short-term option to bandage the issue. He did a great job, but United falling short to City has made Fergie determined to reclaim the Premier League title, and has once again overshadowed the problem. The signing of Robin Van Persie was the answer to his problem, and thus far it’s been a success domestically. With a Champions League tie against Real Madrid looming, we’ll get to see how United fare against an elite side.

The WWE in general has a handful of elite stars and through watching the Royal Rumble Sunday night, I’ve come to a conclusion that like the WWE, The Premier League and Manchester United have suffered a major decline in terms of quality.

Nevertheless, in terms of points total, this can be the greatest Manchester United side in the Premier League era.

With some saying, we’ve yet to see the best from United this season, it’s possible that this might be as good as they get. Its time to accept what United are, and what the Premier League has become.

United is not an elite side and The Premier League is not the best league in the world.

Furthermore, United is a good side that has possibly created a new cliché in modern day football.

That being, offense wins championships, in the Premier League.

Tyrrell Meertins

Follow @ TEEWHYox

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Posted by on January 29, 2013 in EPL


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