BBC BLOGS - Football Tactics

Archives for February 2011

McLeish tactics lay foundation for superb win

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Alistair Magowan - BBC Sport | 00:39 UK time, Monday, 28 February 2011

To those who dismiss the role of tactics in football matches, Sunday's Carling Cup final was a classic case of what can be achieved when a system and its players combine.

Was Birmingham's victory over Arsenal down to tireless effort by their midfield, a superb display by their keeper and a huge dose of luck for the winning goal?

Or was it because Birmingham boss Alex McLeish chose a system where his team could play to their strengths and expose Arsenal's weaknesses?

The truth is probably a combination of both elements, but it is worth underlining how some of the more human aspects of the match came as a result of the framework McLeish set up.

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How Birmingham can unsettle Arsenal

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Alistair Magowan - BBC Sport | 15:15 UK time, Friday, 25 February 2011

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger believes something has changed in his team this season.

"We have matured, certainly, because we can win a game when we are less creative and less fluent, with intelligence and calmness," he said after the 1-0 Premier League win over Stoke at the Emirates on Wednesday.

"One or two years ago when we were not on our top game we dropped points, but on Wednesday you could see the team realise, right, let's not make a mistake and I must give a lot of credit to my players for that."

Recent performances against Newcastle aside, there is growing evidence the Gunners are riding storms in certain games to emerge on the other side with the equanimity that Wenger talks about.

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Respect should be paid to contrasting styles

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Alistair Magowan - BBC Sport | 07:13 UK time, Thursday, 24 February 2011

Arsenal fans need to get off their high horses and realise there is more than one way of playing football.

Not every team in the Premier League, let alone the rest of English football, has the resources to scour the globe for the best talent and weave it together under the tutelage of one of the world's best coaches in Arsene Wenger.

So sometimes opponents play to their strengths by being solid and competitive, and attempt to pinch a point against one of the best footballing teams in the world.

That is what Stoke tried to do on Wednesday night at the Emirates but you would have thought the Gunners were up against Satan's XI the way Arsenal fans were booing at Tony Pulis's players, tactics or tackles.

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Can Torres and Drogba play together?

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Alistair Magowan - BBC Sport | 14:33 UK time, Monday, 21 February 2011

In the three games since Fernando Torres became eligible to play for Chelsea, he and his new team-mates have failed to score in normal time.

Granted, the Spaniard was cup-tied for the loss to Everton on Saturday, but Frank Lampard's extra-time strike in the penalty shoot-out defeat is the only goal manager Carlo Ancelotti has seen his team score in 300 minutes of football.

A worrying scenario for any team, let alone last season's Premier League and FA Cup winners, who now realistically only have the Champions League to play for and face FC Copenhagen on Tuesday aiming to make it through to the quarter-finals.

Chelsea have certainly had a better time of it in Europe this season where they qualified for the knockout stages top of their group.

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How Arsenal can beat Barcelona

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Alistair Magowan - BBC Sport | 06:31 UK time, Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Ever since Arsenal and Barcelona were pulled out of the hat to meet in the last 16 of the Champions League, reigning champions Inter Milan have been held up as an example of how to beat the Catalan giants in Europe.

Inter's two-legged win over them in last season's semi-finals was achieved in the second leg where, reduced to 10 men and hanging on to a 3-1 home leg victory, they were happy to yield possession and committed themselves to all-out defence.

The chances of Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger taking a similar approach to then Inter boss Jose Mourinho are even less likely than the prospect of a goalless draw between the Gunners and Barca on Wednesday evening.

Instead, Wenger will get the opportunity to show that attack can be the best form of defence and prove that his team have progressed since they lost to Pep Guardiola's Spanish charges at the quarter-final stages last season.

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Adaptable Wilshere makes encouraging start

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Chris Bevan | 13:20 UK time, Thursday, 10 February 2011

He may not have done it exactly in the way that was anticipated but, on his first start for his country, Jack Wilshere still demonstrated just how adaptable he is during the first half of England's 2-1 friendly win over Denmark.

Following pre-match comments from coach Fabio Capello comparing him to, among other world stars, Claude Makelele, it was expected that the 19-year-old Arsenal star would be employed predominantly as a holding midfielder in Copenhagen.

Although Wilshere did have more defensive responsibilities than he is normally given by the Gunners, in many ways he operated as an orthodox midfielder during his 45 minutes on the pitch against the Danes.

And he did an extremely disciplined job. More than half of his 35 touches were in the Danish half - and he certainly did not function as an out-and-out anchorman.

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Are Manchester United lacking a midfield spark?

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Alistair Magowan - BBC Sport | 09:39 UK time, Monday, 7 February 2011

So Manchester United's 29-game unbeaten run in the Premier League has come to an end. Who guessed it would have been Wolves, the division's bottom club on Saturday morning, who inflicted the damage?

Not many, perhaps. Yet coming after the wins over Chelsea and Manchester City at Molineux, the 2-1 victory showed that Mick McCarthy's side are more than a match for some of the league's biggest teams.

Goals by George Elokobi and the industrious Kevin Doyle cancelled out Nani's opener but there was evidence from the back to the front that Wolves deserved their victory.

The problem now for McCarthy is to maintain that sort of form against lesser teams, a key factor if the Midlands outfit are to stay up.

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Dalglish knowhow can help fill Torres void

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Alistair Magowan - BBC Sport | 17:11 UK time, Thursday, 3 February 2011

Only Andy Carroll's thigh injury has denied Liverpool fans the chance to directly compare their new strike force with former hero Fernando Torres when the Reds travel to Chelsea on Sunday.

They will already be buoyed by Luis Suarez scoring on his debut against Stoke in midweek and will look forward to a partnership with Carroll some are likening to previous Liverpool forwards John Toshack and Kevin Keegan.

Nevertheless, the question remains whether the deal to bring in £35m Carroll and £22.7m Suarez for £50m Torres represents good business.

On the one hand you have a World Cup and European Championship winner who has scored 65 Premier League goals, while on the other you have a striker new to English football and a 22-year old who has scored 14 times in the top tier.

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