Be Bold To Change

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Booking under: Nicole

I will keep the intro utterly short because a lengthy post is awaiting for you below.

Two giant blue teams faced pressing need for tactical change after a disappointing season start. Fortunately, they had one of the world’s best orchestrators in the house to drive these changes, for which they were changes for the better.

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The greatest underdog story of all

leicester city champions

Booking under: Keith

The greatest thing about sports is the upsets. Appalachian State-MichiganGreece winning the 2004 Euro ChampionshipBuster Douglas vs. Mike Tyson. Still, perhaps the greatest underdog story in football, and professional athletics as a whole, is Leicester City’s triumph in the 2015-16 Premier League season.

It was not supposed to happen. Leicester spent much of the previous season battling relegation. They had a fraction of the budget of their “Big Six” peers. They opened the season with 5,000 to 1 odds of winning the league. And yet, with two games to play in the season, Leicester City lifted the Premier League trophy for the first time in club history.

How did such an unthinkable triumph happen? Here are three factors for the Foxes’ miracle run.

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Press It Hard

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Booking: Nicole

Summer is officially here! It’s that time of the year again when people rush to the gym to get in shape for all the water activities. While people ought to exercise all year round, let’s not forget the lonely gentleman up there and give him a round of applause for doing push up planking to strengthen the inner core. Such intensity training requires high level of discipline and a lot of practice.

The same attributes apply to football too, especially when it comes to pressing. Like many other football tactics, it does the team wonder if you practice it well. Otherwise, it can cost loads. Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte proved to the world that you need not dominate possession to win a game if you exercise counter-attack well; however, it is no surprise that winning a game means scoring more goals than your opponent and you need to have possession of the ball. But what to do when you lose possession?

André Villas-Boas is a strong believer of playing high block football. At Chelsea, he experimented this approach and demanded defenders to maintain a high defensive line so that they could push as advanced as possible when possession was lost. The problem with this was that opponents easily exploited the space behind the defenders and put them out of position, resulting in huge defeat against Arsenal and Manchester United. Villas-Boas’ wrong assessment on the approach cost him his job as Chelsea manager and was sacked only after 8 months in regime.

While Villas-Boas’ high block tactics did not click with Chelsea, the following managers’ pressing philosophy has brought their clubs to the next level.

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The Slip

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Booking under: Keith

This past weekend, Real Madrid defeated Liverpool 3-1 to win their thirteenth Champions League title. For Liverpool, who deserve the title of being the second-most entertaining team in Europe this season, it’s a sorry way to end a promising campaign.

In fact, a further look at this Liverpool team reveals similarities to the 2013-14 edition of the club. The Reds were brilliant in attack and featured a player who would win the PFA Players’ Player of the Year, FWA Footballer of the Year, and the Premier League Golden Boot.

Unfortunately, even with Luis Suarez netting 31 league goals in 13/14 and Mohamed Salah scoring one more in the league and 44 overall (tying Ruud van Nistelrooy’s 02/03 record) this year, Liverpool finished second in the Prem in 13/14 and runners-up in Europe this season. Let’s rewind and revisit.

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Spanish False Nine

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Booking under: Nicole

As Real Madrid lift their third Champions League trophy in a row, it marked the end of the 2017/18 season in the European continent. When Chelsea fans looked back the season, it was full of ups and downs. Although the disappointing loss to Newcastle kicked Chelsea out of top-four, the lads salvaged the season by beating United at the FA Cup Final. Other talking points persisted throughout the season include new signings like Alvaro Morata and Tiémoué Bakayoko failing to make an impact, rising tension between the club management and Antonio Conte, and Eden Hazard’s discontent to play as a false nine.

Deploying Hazard to play in such role was Conte’s tactical decision to support either Olivier Giroud or Alvaro Morata in a 3-5-2 formation. While Hazard felt like an isolated figure and not playing with his qualities, an ex-Chelsea player nailed the role of a false nine.

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Tippy Tappy, Tikia Taka

FC Barcelona vs. Celta Vigo in La Liga

Booking under: Keith

This past weekend saw the end of the 2017/18 Premier League season. While the fight for the top 4 continued until the final whistle, champions Manchester City comfortably became the first Premier League team to end a campaign with 100 points, finishing 19 points ahead of second placed United.

Manchester City’s success owes itself to the sweeping football orchestrated by manager Pep Guardiola (as well as their endless amount of spending in the transfer market). Guardiola was a well respected player for Barcelona, but his claim to fame comes from his coaching stint at the club, turning Barcelona into the dominant side in world football. With two Champions League titles (both against Manchester United) as well as domestic league and cup trophies in Spain, Germany, and England, Guardiola’s brand of football is undoubtedly successful. So what’s this Tiki Taka that everybody talks about?

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Italian Invasion

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Booking under: Nicole

It has been an eventful weekend in the football world as there was news involving two remarkable and well-respected managers in the Premier League. Sir Alex Ferguson has undergone emergency surgery for a brain haemorrhage and is now being taken care of at the rehabilitation center. Our thoughts are with him and we wish Fergie a smooth and speedy recovery. His adversary Arsene Wenger has bid a sensational farewell to Arsenal after the Gunners beat Burnley with 5 goals at home. 22 years of hard work and now it’s time to take a break and relax, Le Professeur!

Ferguson and Wenger together represented the beginning and golden era of the Prem. Since then, quite a few Italian managers like Gianluca Vialli and Claudio Ranieri (both with Chelsea) emerged in the 2000s and brought about new tactic focusing on flexibility and scalability. The Italian influence became more dominant when the following two managers joined the Prem and led their teams to win the top-flight title.

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Righties on the left, lefties on the right

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Booking under: Keith

As an avid football fan, it’s no surprise that I enjoy football video games. Both as a way to unwind and to play with my favorite players in dream teams, I’ve enjoyed my time on games like FIFA.

So far, I’ve owned two mainline FIFA games – FIFA 2005 and FIFA 17. Besides the different available players and the graphical improvements, there’s one big notable difference between the two instalments.

In FIFA 2005, wingers tended to play on the flank corresponding to their preferred foot. For example, Manchester United featured the right-footed Cristiano Ronaldo on the right while the left-footed legend Ryan Giggs roamed down the left. Fast forward to FIFA 17, and Ronaldo is now cutting in from the left (as are players like Eden Hazard and Neymar) while Lionel MessiGareth Bale, and Mohamed Salah are lefties cutting in from the right flank.

What caused this shift towards “inverted” wingers? Let’s have a look.

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A Wet And Windy Night At Stoke

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Booking under: Nicole

There are two touchline styles in the world.

Some managers like Jose Mourinho, Pep Guadiola, and Arsene Wenger are wearers of bespoke suits. Other manager like Jurgen Klopp is a big fan of club training gear. Antonio Conte and Mauricio Pochettino are sort of in between as they are equally stylish and comfortable in either a tracksuit or a suit.

Tony Pulis‘s sartorial style is a level ahead of Kloop’s. As a Welsh old-school football manager, his tracksuit and baseball cap look earned him the name of the Father of Roadman. Indeed, wearing the same club badge gear has been his unique trademark for the past 15 years. The clothes you wear reveals your character and personality, and it’s not hard to decode Pulis’ managerial style from his unchanging wardrobe choice.

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Roonaldo

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Booking under: Keith

This past week, Manchester City secured the 2017/18 Premier League title. As wretched as the experience was (to a long-time United fan), there’s no denying that City played flowing, beautiful football that was streets ahead of their Premier League rivals.

The only solace, if any, is in knowing that this City team was not the first Premier League team to play aesthetically pleasing football and achieve success. While the Arsenal sides of the early 2000s (like The Invincibles) were highly successful and pleasing to the eye, perhaps the most lethal and flowing football side to grace the English game before the Cityzens were the United teams from 2006-2009.

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and revisit why Sir Alex Ferguson‘s last great team was so monumental.

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