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Archives for October 2011

Is Premier League defending getting worse?

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Alistair Magowan - BBC Sport | 23:58 UK time, Sunday, 30 October 2011

After his side conceded six goals against Manchester City last weekend, it was perhaps not surprising that Sir Alex Ferguson's priority on Saturday for Manchester United was defence.

United sacrificed some of their attacking instincts to gain a defender's favourite result of 1-0 against Everton at Goodison Park - and took their first steps to reducing the alarming number of chances they have granted this season.

If only the same could be said of Chelsea, who let five in against Arsenal in an eight-goal thriller at Stamford Bridge.

It was the latest in a bizarre run of results that has seen the Premier League's top teams toss away their usual cautiousness against each other and serve up a feast of goals.

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Silva and Milner add guts and guile to fluid Man City

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Alistair Magowan - BBC Sport | 11:37 UK time, Monday, 24 October 2011

In football, a long-held personal view is that too much credence is given to formations.

They have their value, of course, and provide a good starting point when talking about how a specific team sets up, but most of the time they allude to a side's defensive positioning.

A manager's instructions to play 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1 means that a team, in theory, can be perfectly organised to close down space and not let the opposition cut through them. In attack, however, it is in a team's interest to let loose and offer all sorts of problems for the opposition defence.

That is one of the reasons why Barcelona cause so many headaches for teams they face. Trying to pin them to a formation is pretty pointless as it is often something like a 4-6-0, such is their ability to group in midfield and attack en masse.

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Can Milner provide a third way for Man City?

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Alistair Magowan - BBC Sport | 23:52 UK time, Thursday, 20 October 2011

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini has some interesting dilemmas ahead of what is likely to be one of the most hotly-contested Manchester derbies in years at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Does he play with two strikers - a formula that has been successful against weaker teams in the Premier League - and look to exploit a Manchester United defence which has conceded vastly more shots on target this season?

Will the Italian manager opt for the formation which was key in beating United during the FA Cup semi-final last season, where Yaya Toure operated behind lone striker Mario Balotelli?

Or with a draw enough to keep City top of the league, could he opt for a more conservative approach which was more in keeping with the early part of last season?

Manchester City have been more positive this season under Mancini

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Newcastle profit from Pardew's methodical approach

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Alistair Magowan - BBC Sport | 16:46 UK time, Thursday, 13 October 2011

One of the hard truths about football coaching is that while many managers recognise the value of defensive discipline and team shape, spending hours doing it on the training pitch is a sure-fire method for ensuring most of the team get bored.

Newcastle, who have hardly been known for their strength in this area in recent years, have come up with a straightforward solution which has kept their players switched on and helped earn them the title of the Premier League's meanest defence heading into this weekend's fixtures.

Twice a week manager Alan Pardew splits his training sessions into two and drags his defenders away to work on positioning and covering and, while it is not exactly rocket science, the regularity of the sessions is clearly making an impact.

The Newcastle defence has significantly improved since last season.

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Right-back Walker provides competition for England

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Alistair Magowan - BBC Sport | 12:26 UK time, Monday, 3 October 2011

Amid the maelstrom at White Hart Lane on Sunday was a battle between what could be England's future in the full-back positions.

Arsenal's left-back Kieran Gibbs was pitted against Tottenham right-back Kyle Walker and both had an influence on the key moments in a game rich in entertainment.

The Spurs player has rightly grabbed all the headlines for his 25-yard strike to win the game and his inclusion in the England squad to face Montenegro on Friday shows that his development is currently more advanced than his Gunners opponent.

Gibbs, on the other hand, played his part in Arsenal conceding the first goal, according to Match of the Day 2 expert Lee Dixon, and is playing in a backline that showed yet more of the "schoolboy defending" the former Gunners defender believes could leave them struggling to make the Premier League's top eight come the end of the season.

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