Blog by Ross Eaton (@boxtoboxcb):
Scoring the joint most goals in the Premier League this season as well as racking up an average of two goals per game in the Champions League group stage is Manchester City. When a team has such a good goalscoring record, you would imagine they'd be flying in all competitions, however this hasn't been the case. City have a poor defensive record and rely too heavily on their ability to score more goals than the opposition, rather than preventing the opposition scoring. The Citizens have been exciting to watch in the final third and with players such as Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva and Sergio Agüero this doesn't come as a surprise. This article will be taking a look at the fashion in which City attacked against Dynamo Kiev in the the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie.
Manuel Pellegrini changed the roles certain personnel played in, unexpectedly. Yaya Toure was moved from the number 10 role to a deeper role alongside Fernando in the double-pivot. David Silva took up his preferred 10 position which vacated the right-wing, Fernandinho took this position, perhaps to add more aggression and defensive ability to City's high-press. Raheem Sterling played on the left while Sergio Agüero was striker.
Finding Space in Between the Lines
One player who excels when given, or finding space in between the lines is David Silva. Mistakenly, this is the player Dynamo Kiev gave space to in between the lines.
Kiev's disjointed press led to poor vertical compactness during City's build-up which centre-back Vincent Kompany took full advantage of by breaking Kiev's lines with a penetrating pass to Silva who got himself into intelligent positions where lanes were open. This often meant drifting from the centre into either halfspace, more often the right, but this wasn't too big a problem as it allowed him to dribble into the centre which could drag Kiev players from their position, potentially providing him with an opportunity to slip Aguero through.
Despite Silva and Aguero linking up nicely when the Spaniard found space in between the lines, not everything was so positive and well worked. Due to Fernandinho not being a natural right-winger, he didn't have the attacking intelligence a natural forward would have. This meant he struggled at times to make intelligent runs forward which Silva would be able to find when he had the space. Due to this, Silva was often forced to play down the left to either Sterling or Clichy, who made forward runs more frequently. After a while though, this became predictable and Dynamo made sure to track all of Sterling and Clichy's forward runs, as this could significantly limit the influence of Silva when on the ball in Zone 14 (regarding Zone 14: http://leochanperformanceanalysis.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/what-is-zone-14-in-football.html?m=1). Due to the right side being relatively ineffective in attack and Kiev suffocating their left side in the final third, this forced Silva to play more horizontal and backward passes than he would've liked to.
Interchanging and Flexibility
With the tactically innovative and flexible Pep Guardiola planning to join the club next season, we can expect City to be extremely fluid in attack. However, we are not being made to wait as current boss Manuel Pellegrini seems happy to watch his forwards move fluidly into almost whichever area they see as the best in their current situation.
One player who largely influenced the movement of the players around him was David Silva. Silva's drifting movements into the halfspaces and sometimes even wings opened up lots of space for his teammates on central positions. When Silva moved into a wing or halfspace, the winger from that side would usually move infield and push up alongside Aguero to attack the box, if the winger decided to remain on the wing to create a 3v2, this meant there was space for Yaya to make runs from deep into the 10 space, an area he is so dangerous in.
'This shows Silva moving wide to attempt to create an overload, as well as opening the 10 space for Yaya Toure to move into from deep'
The movement of the winger moving infield not only got themselves in a dangerous position but also opened more space for Silva and an overlapping full-back to overload the wing. Silva was very useful in these situations, where City overloaded a wing/halfspace, as his good decision making and precise passing made life a nightmare for Dynamo's full-back and eventually wingers, who were forced to track back and support their respective full-backs. This limited the attacking threat of Dynamo on the counter-attack as Yarmolenko wasn't able to move into an attacking position quickly enough in the transition from defending deep.
Fernandinho Moves Intelligently in New Role
Making the switch from playing as a standard 6 to playing as a right-winger isn't one many players have done, even less so successfully. Fernandinho though, made the switch against Dynamo Kyiv and played a very good game. Although he was put into the role primarily to aid City without the ball, adding some much needed aggression and intelligence to their high-pressing, Fernandinho actually did very well when on the ball.
Rather than attempt to beat his opponent with a skilful dribble or even with raw pace, Fernandinho played cleverly and made lots of simple horizontal passes and movements, to create space and opportunities for more creative players in the team.
One simple movement with the ball from the Brazilian was to receive the ball very wide, which dragged the full-back near the touchline away from the centre and then to accelerate quickly infield when the full-back was still on the back foot. This made up for his lack of pace as by moving at the correct moment he could get past him as it would be almost impossible for the full-back to make a change of direction so quickly. As Fernandinho dribbled inside towards the halfspace, the full-back was forced to chase his shadow, which opened a lot of space on the wing. This was perfect for an overlapping Bacary Sagna if the ball got moved out to him. The way the ball was moved out to him was simple, yet very effective. Fernandinho would play a short horizontal pass to Silva or Toure who would then attempt to play a first-time diagonal pass in between the centre-back and full-back, into the space opened up by Fernandinho on the wing. This provided Sagna with plenty of time and space to cross or cut the back back in or around the box.
All in all it was a much improved Manchester City performance who were very good in both phases of the game, attack and defence. Despite Man City creating quite a few of their chances through high-pressing, they were very good with the ball and used it more effectively than we've seen them previously. The one-two between the #10 and full-back we've seen lots by City this seen wasn't seen so much against Dynamo Kyiv, however, Fernandinho's movements inside which created space for Sagna made this unnecessary. The fluidity of City's movement caused Dynamo serious problems throughout, and even forced them into a 30th minute tactical substitution to prevent City finding so much space when attacking.
Blog by Ryan McGinlay (@NewsOfCeltic and @ryanmcginlayy):
Watching my beloved Glasgow Celtic recently has become much more of a chore than it ever has been before. With Rangers out of contention for this season, we are expected to win the Scottish Premiership for the fifth year in a row in a bit of a canter. Yes, the emergence of Aberdeen as a possible title contender has been a wake-up call in a sense but do they really have the resources to compete with us? This brings about the question of whether or not there is a potential for us playing on a bigger stage: The Barclays Premier League.
In my opinion, Celtic would bring about far more positives than negatives in terms of what they would add to the already prestigious line-up of teams in the league such as Chelsea, Arsenal, the two Manchester giants, and of course the emerging teams such as Tottenham and Leicester. Yes, our reputation you could say has been tarnished over the past couple of years with fan trouble in domestic and international competition but in terms of stature I feel that we would be a welcoming fit in the BPL.
If Celtic were to go into the English Premier League in the near future, it would totally revitalise and rejuvenate the Parkhead faithful. It is no secret that our crowds are decreasing year upon year but if we were in an exciting and dynamic league brimming with top talent then this wouldn’t be a problem! No disrespect to teams such as Motherwell and Kilmarnock, but who would punters be more inclined to watch their team come up against: them or European heavyweights like Liverpool or Manchester United? There is no comparison.
The answer is clear for all to see not just in a competitive sense but financially as well. With the new television deal set to come into play next season, English teams will become even more powerful in the transfer market while we’re left languishing on the scraps that the big boys leave us. We find ourselves in the mind-blowing times where teams such as Bournemouth, Norwich and Watford can spend more cash on one player than we can all season. An example of this would be AFC Bournemouth’s recent signing of Arsenal reject Benik Afobe, who was seen as a ‘steal’ at £10 million, while my team is always looking to buy potential rather than forking out the cash for proven talent. There is simply no need to, as we are overwhelming favourites to win the league every year with the squad we have when compared to the other teams. Competition is needed.
It’s a move which I feel that would be definitely supported by our fans and by emerging teams such as Hearts and Aberdeen, who would have a far bigger chance of winning the Scottish league if we were gone. The people who would probably not support this monumental move would be the higher order in charge of the Scottish league as I’m sure they would not want to lose one of their biggest sources of revenue to their arch-rivals down south who are outperforming them on every front. Of course, it would be damaging to the league in a financial sense but in terms of long-term ambitions in sustaining our 128-year history then this move could prove pivotal to that.
In terms of who would be our main rivals in the Premier League, the obvious one would be Chelsea. The Blues are known for being friendly with our arch-rivals Rangers and our fans famously just don’t get on with friends of the other side of Glasgow. Another rivalry would between us and Manchester United, due to the Scottish links such as Denis Law and more famously the main man himself, Sir Alex Ferguson, not to mention former Celt David Moyes and his infamous tenure as the Red Devils’ manager.
Realistically, I think our aim position-wise would be to firstly establish ourselves in the league and possibly look for success in the cup competitions like the FA Cup. From then on we should look up rather than down the table. In order to do this, we would probably need to change our management to one which is experienced at this level. My personal pick would be former Porto, Chelsea and Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas, currently managing Zenit Saint Petersburg. Yes, he got sacked by both Spurs and Chelsea but give him time and he will emulate the huge success he achieved at FC Porto. Other realistic candidates in my view would be Brendan Rodgers and of course David Moyes, who used to play for the Hoops.
All in all, I hope that in time my team will be playing in the English Premier League or that a merge of Scotland and England’s league merge together to create a British league, along with Wales and Ireland. It would maximise profits for both the businessmen and for all clubs rather than restricting the big bucks to teams down south and would make for some great new rivalries, as well as rekindling old ones.
Blog Written by Adam Stapleford (@asfooty1984):
May 28th 1980 at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid, and John Robertson's goal has just won Nottingham Forest their second consecutive European Cup. The 1-0 win over German side Hamburg is Forest's 7th major trophy in just three years. Champions of England, League Cup winners twice, Super Cup winners, Charity Shield winners, and two European Cups. All from a team that was only promoted to England's top flight in 1977. The unbelievable achievements management Brian Clough and Peter Taylor reached will never be forgotten.
Fast-forward to 1992 and Forest are relegated to the second tier of English football, in Brian Clough's last season in management before retirement. The man to step in and replace Clough was one of his own, Frank Clark. Clough had signed Clark back in 1977 from Newcastle United, and the left back played in the first European Cup victory in 1979. Forest immediately bounced back, gaining promotion in Clark's first season. A third place finish in the Premier League the following campaign was a great achievement. The year after that, Forest slipped to the 9th spot, but did enjoy two successful cup runs, reaching the Quarter Finals of both the FA Cup and UEFA Cup, losing to Aston Villa and Bayern Munich respectively. The following season was a struggle. Clark departed in December 1996, leaving club legend Stuart Pearce to take over. Unfortunately Pearce couldn't stop the slide, and once again Forest found themselves in the second tier. Dave Bassett was then handed the reigns, and again Forest bounced back straight away, gaining promotion as champions. But this time, the Reds only managed a year in the top flight. Bassett departed in January 1999, Ron Atkinson was brought in, but his task to keep Forest up failed, and again the Reds found themselves relegated.
July 1st 1999. David Platt is appointed Nottingham Forest manager. His task: Promotion. Platt was given money to burn, Forest failed, and after only two years in charge, he left to take charge of the England Under 21's. Academy manager Paul Hart was then promoted into the hot seat, and in his second season in charge had guided Forest to a 6th place finish, and a play-off place, with only three games away from the Premiership again. But the Reds couldn't get passed Sheffield United over two legs in the semi-finals, so another season in Division One awaited. Several key players left during the summer, and after injuries to other major players, Forest was struggling. February of 2004 saw Hart replaced by Joe Kinnear. Forest survived, and then it was Kinnear's turn to get Forest back to the Premier League. Kinnear lasted 11 months, and in January 2005 Gary Megson took over, and once again Forest struggled at the wrong end. This time they couldn't survive, and that year Forest had been relegated to Division Two, the third tier of English Football.
Forest expected an immediate return, but after some poor performances, and heavy defeats, including a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Chester City in the FA Cup, Megson departed. In the summer of 2006, Colin Calderwood was appointed the new manager. In his first season, Forest reached the play-offs, losing to Yeovil Town over two legs, but the following year the Reds gained promotion on the final day of the season. They found the Championship however a struggle, and Calderwood departed in December 2008. Billy Davies, given the job a month later, managed to keep Forest above water, and avoid relegation. That summer Davies restructured his squad and guided Forest to a third place finish, playing some brilliant football along the way, including thumping wins over Leicester City 5-1, QPR 5-0, and a 3-1 away to West Brom being the highlights. But Forest again failed, losing to Blackpool in the play-offs. The following campaign saw Forest again the end of season lottery after a 6th place finish, this time losing out to Swansea City, and in June 2011 Davies lost his job.
Former England manager Steve McClaren was the brought in, but only lasted 4 months, being replaced by Steve Cotterill, who would only be given time to see the season out. In the summer of 2012 the Al-Hasawi family took control of Nottingham Forest, replacing Cotterill with Sean O'Driscoll. The new owners had big plans, and pumped several millions into the club. A virtually new team arrived, and Forest set out to regain their Premier League dream. However after a 4-2 win over Leeds United on Boxing Day in 2012, O'Driscoll was surprisingly sacked, and replaced 24 hours later by Alex McLeish, but the Scot didn't last long either, and after just 7 games left the City Ground. His replacement: an old face, Billy Davies. Forest just missed out on the play-offs that season, but in the summer of 2013, Davies once again began to build a promotion chasing squad. The season started well with Forest winning their first three games, and topping the table. But it didn't last, and in March 2014, following a 5-0 defeat to local rivals Derby County, Davies departed. Forest played out the remainder of the season and the summer of 2014 saw the return of Stuart Pearce as manager which lifted spirits but the Reds legend couldn't find the magic either, and less than a year later, it was his turn to leave the hot seat.
February 1st 2015. Dougie Freedman is appointed Forest manager, finishing the season in 14th place. Forest then started the 2015-2016 season under a transfer embargo, with Freedman working with a one out one in process, and a maximum £10,000 per week wage structure. This season looks like it will fade out, with Forest too far away to challenge for a play-off spot, whilst having given themselves enough breathing space from relegation. The summer will see Forest's embargo lifted, and will give Freedman more freedom to move in the transfer market. Hopefully with long term injured players returning, and new players coming in, the 2016-2017 season may see Forest challenging again, but the glory years that Clough and Taylor brought to this club seems a very long time ago now, and pretty certainly, will never be repeated.