Best Way for Pep Guardiola to Silence Doubters Is to Show Flexibility

December 15, 2016

“… There he stands. He can’t do it any other way. Which is all fine and noble and laudable. His philosophy has been highly successful, bringing six league titles and two Champions Leagues in seven seasons in management while producing some of the most startling and beautiful football the world has known. If it takes stubbornness, iron will and inflexibility to achieve that, so be it. Great men are rarely easy; vision comes at a cost.” Bleacher Report – Jonathan Wilson

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The best World Cup format–that FIFA would never consider

December 8, 2016

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“The World Cup might grow to 40 teams, or it might wind up with 48. It might be eight groups of five or four groups of 10, or there might be 16 seeds and a straight 32-team knockout round to get to join them in the format we have now. Or it might be 16 groups of three. Either way, the endless gigantism stimulated by FIFA presidential elections, as candidates promise more and more nations that they, too, can play in a World Cup, means that the competition will be even more bloated, even more unwieldy by then. Of course, this is 2026 we’re talking about, so there’s a significant chance global political elections by then will mean that by then, as George Orwell foresaw, it’s just three teams: Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Tactics: back three back in fashion

December 5, 2016

“Chelsea, Manchester City, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur, Juventus, Roma, Sevilla, Wales, Serbia, Italy, Spain. The list of teams who have played with a back three at some point this season is long, varied and growing. In the Premier League, playing three at the back has spread with extraordinary speed since Chelsea manager Antonio Conte reacted to his side’s defeat at Arsenal by returning to the shape he had favoured with Juventus and Italy.” World Soccer – Jonathan Wilson


Pep Guardiola v Antonio Conte: a tactical showdown of brooder against extrovert

December 2, 2016

“It would, perhaps, be the defining irony of Arsène Wenger’s uneasy relationship with Chelsea if it turns out that when he finally devised a way of beating them it provoked a tactical shift that won the Blues the title. Since Chelsea switched to a back three when 3-0 down at half-time at the Emirates, they have conceded only once, winning seven Premier League games in a row. They passed one major test by coming from behind to beat Tottenham last week but on Saturday represents an even more severe examination as they go to Manchester City.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Diego Costa’s cheery scowl shows Chelsea are in a good place

November 26, 2016

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“Unless the rest of his life is one enormous bluff, it is safe to assume Diego Costa is not a particularly successful poker player. It is never hard to know what he is thinking: he is an open book whether he is scowling in anger, scowling in frustration, scowling in irritation or, as has increasingly been the case recently, scowling cheerily.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Brendan Rodgers, the beauty of 3-4-2-1 and its potency as a tactical weapon

November 18, 2016

“In a modern world in which style so often matters more than substance – and at times neither seems to matter much at all – moments of significance can be lost amid the swirl. It’s easy to dismiss Brendan Rodgers’ last full season at Liverpool: the ineffectiveness of Mario Balotelli, the falling out with Raheem Sterling, the final-day humiliation at Stoke … and yet it also included a nugget of genuine tactical innovation. It’s not to say that Antonio Conte, Pep Guardiola or Serbia’s Slavoljub Muslin have copied Rodgers or have in any way learned directly from him to point out that all have, this season, employed some of his model with success – and Rodgers, it might also be pointed out, was inspired by Paulo Sousa.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Brazil look to banish Belo Horizonte demons against struggling Argentina

November 11, 2016

“It has been 28 months, but finally Brazil will return to the site of their greatest trauma. Their World Cup qualifier against Argentina on Thursday will be their first game in Belo Horizonte since the 7-1 defeat to Germany in the World Cup semi-final. Nothing will ever erase that horror but a victory over Argentina would make the ghosts loom less menacingly over the Mineirão in future – particularly if it adds to the growing fear in Argentina that the country may not qualify for the next World Cup.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson