Tottenham 1-1 Chelsea: The Thinking Behind Mourinho’s Tactics at White Hart Lane

Tottenham 1-1 ChelseaThe 28 September clash between Spurs and Chelsea saw what many believed to be one of the most interesting matches of the season, with André Villas-Boas headlined as ‘The Student’ and his previous coach, José Mourinho, ‘The Teacher.’ Mourinho’s media plan was clear: he was to have little thought for what AVB had to say, refusing to be pulled into the same conversation as him and even refusing to be put into the same league as his former assistant.

The team selection saw Chelsea present the semi-flat back four that they have adopted in the opening few weeks of the season, with Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, and Cole ahead of Cech and behind the pivot of Mikel and Lampard. Torres got the nod over Eto’o, who’s fluid movement in possession to fragment center-back pairings and full-backs was impressive, but Torres’ recent form saw him play ahead of the two wide men Ramires and Hazard, with the controversial choice of Oscar in the Number 10 role. This was an extremely similar set up to the game at Manchester City last season, which Chelsea lost with the score of 2-0.

Tottenham initiated the game by taking early control of possession, fielding a medium block in ball control and defensive transitions, aiming to cut out quick tempo counter attacking play. This move was countered with Chelsea aiming to expose the rashness of premature pressing from Naughton and Walker with long balls. Chelsea also used the medium defensive line, utilizing Lampard as well as Brazillian Oscar, who’s role was to drop deep to counter Eriksen in his zone like a typical Number 10.

Hazard and Ramires were quite easy to handle however, as too often Ramires was cut off from counter attacking after being handcuffed with providing defensive acts, and was unable to make effective runs out wide. Ramires, providing width and the defensive ability to drop into the Chelsea final third at will was quite unable for this job also, as diagonal runs from Sigurdsson inside provided a mix up between Ramires, Mikel, and Ivanovic on who to mark. This eventually saw Eriksen skip away from the jogging Lampard out wide, cutting in Soldado, who played in Sigurdsson and made that clinical run in from the left wing to take the lead for Tottenham.

Pellegrini-style tactics were initiated from the Blues in offensive transitions, creating pockets near corner flags of triangles including the winger, ST and AM, all rotating bar Ramires. This provided width and a crossing option during build up, which was however rarely utilized. The inability to provide effective possession build up in the first half was easily contained, and saw Chelsea create little opportunities to capitalize on. This ineffective use of possession in the first half saw more and more bodies pile up outside the Spurs box, creating large gaps in Chelsea’s defensive midfield area, which was totally exploited by the extremely influential Eriksen during Tottenham’s lethal counterattacks.

Tottenham 1-1 ChelseaThe second half saw Mourinho solve almost all of Chelsea’s defensive problems, with Ramires being repositioned into RDM and completely negating offensive runs from Eriksen and Sigurdsson, silencing them almost entirely for the second half. Jose switched his team to a 4-2-4 looking side with the substitute Mata being played in a central winger role, drifting wide into a RAM spot where his left foot came into effect beautifully. Oscar provided cover in defensive transitions whilst marking Walker as well as dropping deep like a traditional AM.

Hazard was repositioned into a LF role, playing between the LW and slightly deeper and to the left of the ST, being perfectly positioned to make the most out of diagonal runs being fed by Mata. The long ball was also not used quite as often, due to Spurs’ low defensive line, and this as a result saw Chelsea being far more direct in possession, using Mata to his full potential. The 4-2-4 switch was warranted due to Tottenham’s lack of numbers going forward in the early second half. Oscar was quite often being pulled deep and out of formation due to effective runs from Spurs attackers, which saw Hazard rotating and hugging the touch line more often, resulting in the instinctive Schurrle providing the runs as he was substituted for Hazard.

After a perfectly weighted cross from Juan Mata, Terry glanced it by Lloris, seeing Chelsea abandon the 4-2-4 and switch to a defensive 4-3-3, resulting in Oscar rarely going forward. Ramires’ defensive duties in the DM spot eradicated any vacant space left to be picked up by Tottenham offensive runs or through balls, heavily thwarting Spurs’ counter attacking transitions. After the red card incident, Schurrle took up a more central position with both wingers dropping even deeper, pushing Oscar out wide away from his LCM role to provide cover for offensive runs from Schurrle. This resulted in a late on possession dominance from Spurs, exploiting Chelsea’s wide midfield, flooding players centrally which forced an extremely deep line from the Blues.

In the final moments, Azpillicueta was substituted for the fatigued Oscar, carrying out a number of defensive duties and effectively man marking wing backs. The sub also provided a worrying threat on the counter, similar to his role against United in the final moments. Despite a poor first half, Chelsea deservedly earned a 1-1 draw following drastic half time improvements implicated by the Special One himself, Jose Mourinho.

Written by Sean McBride

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Will the Exodus of Spanish Players from La Liga Spark the End of Spain’s Dominance?

SpainLa Furia Roja have been dominating the global stage for just over five years now, winning two European Championships in 2008 and 2012, one World Cup in 2010, and a second-fiddle Mediterranean Games in 2009. This emphatic dominance has been accompanied with a style of play that impressed pundits all over the world, a football approach that was instated by the much revered Luis Aragonis and further developed by the successful Vicente Del Bosque.

What makes this supremacy more extensive is that La Rojita also managed to impress at all age levels, winning two European Under-21 Championships in 2011 and 2013, two European Under-19 Championships in 2011 and 2012 in addition to reaching the semifinals in 2013, and unfortunately bowing out of the 2013 Under-20 World Cup in the quarterfinals. With a satisfactory run to the finals of the Confederations Cup in Brazil this summer, the Spanish progression is showing no signs of slowing down. Or is it?

Much has been said of the Spanish superiority. Articles were written and studies were conducted to find a suitable label for this divinely played football and to analyze the basis of this success. While no one can highlight what guaranteed the Spanish revolution, many factors can be attributed to this success. Dependence on young talents, prioritizing technical development, using “total football” as a platform and having a competitive league that boasts two powerhouses in Barcelona and Real Madrid have without doubt helped elevate Spanish football to exceptional heights.

Spain has simply invested in a triumphant strategy and deserves to reap the rewards. As a result of creating a unique identity, Spain finally drained the “incompetent” tag and embarked on a journey that doesn’t seem ready to hobble into retirement any time soon. The past nine La Liga’s were won by only two sides: Barcelona (6 titles) and Real Madrid (3 titles). No other team was able to break this duopoly. No one came even close to playing a “dark horse” role that might have added a special flavor to a league that is followed by millions of fans all over the world. This two-horse race will surely affect Spanish football in general and the national team specifically.

But this hasn’t always been the case. In the nine seasons that preceded the above mentioned period, La Liga was as aggressive as it gets. Five teams managed to snap up nine titles, which is a signal of healthy competition. This rivalry was one of the things that laid the foundation for the national team’s future success. The competitiveness that pigmented La Liga is what attracted world class players to come to Spain and young emerging talents to aspire to one day ply their trade in La Liga.

BarcelonaRonaldo, Christian Vieri, Roy Makaay, Predrag Mijatovic, Bebeto, Davor Suker, Rivaldo, Pauleta, Claudio Lopez, Patrick Kluivert, Diego Forlan, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Nihat, and Darko Kovacevic, were only some of the foreign players that lighted up Spanish football. With every passing season, the quality of players improved in La Liga, transforming it to an entertaining championship full of surprises and thrilling performances. Has this been the case lately?

Coming at the end of a season in which German clubs schooled Barcelona and Real Madrid in Europe’s biggest competition, Brazil’s crushing victory over Spain in the Confederations Cup increased the impression that football has been freed from the tika-taka dictatorship. Many might argue that factors such as fatigue, conditions, and off-days for normally reliable players affected the outcome, but this defeat was so comprehensive that expressing doubts about their system and personnel is no longer enough to identify the reasons behind this downfall.

While a competitive league does not in any way guarantee a dominant national team, it surely does present an apparatus for laying successful foundations. And when a certain league stops attracting quality players then something wrong must have happened, and on the long run, the class of this league will start to weaken. While Real Madrid and Barcelona will always be able to attract superstars, will the other teams be capable of keeping up?

If a good player is not desired by these two big guns, he will most probably be affordable for the rest of the Spanish teams. The purchasing power of other La Liga teams is already small and still fading away as time goes by. Between La Liga, the Premier League, and the Bundesliga, the number of departures is the highest in Spain. Players are getting fed up with the diminishing competitiveness of their teams and are starting to look for pastures new.

Juan Mata, David Silva, David De Gea, Michu, Radamel Falcao, Sergio Aguëro, Javi Martinez, Santi Cazorla, Joaquin Sanchez, Fernando Llorente, Gonzalo Higuain, Raúl Albiol, José Callejon, Jesús Navas, Álvaro Negredo, Iago Aspas, Marc Muniesa, Andrés Palop, Roberto Soldado, Thiago Alcantara, Bojan Krkic, Gerard Deulofeu, and formerly Fernando Torres, Pepe Reina and Mikel Arteta, in addition to the large amount of juveniles such as Suso, Denis Suarez, Fabregas, Bellerin, and Miquel represent a small fraction of the quality that abandoned the “lure” of La Liga.

Brazil 3-0 SpainIt is becoming clear that Spain is facing some kind of a brain drain. In the last few years, many young, talented, and ambitious players decided to leave Spain and move abroad to fulfill their potential and achieve financial gain and personal glory. Not only do Real Madrid and Barcelona out-muscle their Spanish counterparts in spending and attracting foreign players, they also steal local talents such as Jordi Alba, Isco, David Villa, Seydou Keita, Sergio Canales, Raul Albiol, Dani Alves, Illaramendi and Adriano.

It’s true that these two major forces have always possessed larger budgets, stadiums and trophy cabinets, but never have they faced such little competition, never have they reached 100 points in the league, never have they scored this outrageous number of goals in a single season, never has a draw tasted like a defeat and never had the other 16 teams settle for battling for the third spot starting week four or five. If this supremacy continues for several years, add to it the so called “brain drain” and the continuing unfair distribution of TV rights we will have a recipe for failure. A recipe that will most certainly affect Spanish football in general and consequently the National team, which in turn will pose the question is it the end of Spanish dominance?

Imagine what would’ve happened if Pellegrini stayed with Malaga, retained Isco & co. and bought Jovetic, and if Valencia still had Villa, Silva, Mata, Soldado, and Alba. Imagine if Sevilla still had Alves, Keita, Navas and Negredo, and if Atletico Madrid still had Torres, Aguero, Forlan, Falcao, and Diego. It’s true players come and go, and teams have to always manage, adapt, and continue building, but if things continue in the same pace a lot of questions will be posed.

Will Real Madrid and Barcelona winning every league game by four or five goals benefit La Liga? Will the quality of these two sides eventually decline and affect their performances in Europe? Are Barcelona and Madrid willing to take a step back in order for the league to take a step forward? Will the effort and time that were invested throughout several years go in vein? But in the end, the most important question is will all this affect the Spanish National Team?

Written by Hassan Chakroun

Spain 2-1 Uruguay: Spain Kick Off Confederations Cup Campaign in Style

Spain 2-1 UruguayWorld Champions Spain kicked-off their Confederations Cup campaign with a tough match against South American Champions Uruguay. The match, which was played at the Arena Pernambuco in Recife, was the first Group B match in this year’s competition.

Spain, who were the stronger team in the end, emerged winners thanks to two first-half goals from Barcelona striker Pedro Rodriguez and Valencia’s Roberto Soldado. Liverpool’s Luis Suarez managed a consolation goal for his side towards the end of the game with a brilliant free-kick but, as it had looked from the start, Spain bagged all three points.

Although Spain had dominated the game from the first whistle, it took them 20 minutes to finally score an opener against Oscar Tabarez’ men. When the Uruguayan defenders failed to clear a Xavi Hernandez corner sufficiently, his Barcelona teammate, Pedro Rodriguez, received the ball and saw a good opportunity to shoot home from the edge of the box and took it. His shot took a big deflection off Malaga defender, Diego Lugano, and went into the net to make it 1-0 to Spain.

Galatasaray and Uruguay goalkeeper, Fernando Muslera, was beaten yet again just 12 minutes later on the 32nd minute when Spain scored their second goal; this time from a bigger mistake. Some good football by another Barcelona player, Andres Iniesta, allowed Cesc Fabregas to get the ball in the center and pass to Roberto Soldado on the edge of the box. Valencia’s top scorer then confidently put the ball past Muslera, who was, by this time, already having one of the worst birthdays ever for a goalkeeper!

Uruguay’s Edinson Cavani had had a chance to head things level shortly before Spain’s second goal, but he was unsuccessful. Spain continued in their strength and confidence for the remainder of the first half and went into the dressing-rooms with a comfortable 2-goal lead.

At the break, Oscar Tabarez introduced Lazio’s Alvaro Gonzalez for Southampton’s Gaston Ramirez. Vicente del Bosque made no changes and was, unsurprisingly, comfortable with a squad that had enjoyed a whole 78% possession in the first half.

Spain 2-1 UruguayThe second half started more or less like the first one had: with Spain continuing to dominate. The World Cup Champions had a chance to make it 3-0 four minutes after the second half whistle, but Pedro Rodriguez was unable to receive a good Roberto Soldado cross.

Tabarez made his second substitution when nothing changed for his side, bringing on midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro for Internazionale’s Walter Gargano. Vicente del Bosque responded almost immediately by making his first substitution, Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla for Cesc Fabregas 20 minutes into the second half. Tabarez, after a glance at his watch, then made his third and final substitution bringing on his side’s top scorer, Diego Forlan for Bologna’s Diego Perez.

Uruguay had gotten stronger than they had been in the first half and caused the game to even-out for some minutes before scoring a consolation. After 38 minutes of tough football from Spain, Luis Suarez was finally gifted a chance to reduce the deficit after Sergio Ramos fouled him in a good position, favorable for his kind of free-kicks. Suarez shot and scored from the resulting free-kick and redeemed his side.

A powerless Iker Casillas in the Spain goal, who had had almost nothing to do for the whole game, this having only been Uruguay’s second shot on goal for the whole night, could do nothing to stop Suarez’ brilliant curling shot. With this goal, Suarez becomes Uruguay’s joint top goalscorer (alongside Diego Forlan) with 33 international goals for his country.

Despite the brilliance of Suarez’ goal, however, Uruguay were unable to get a second goal and Spain, who are now unbeaten in 23 games, finished with all three points. Spain had dominated a very large portion of the game and enjoyed 71% possession overall. Uruguay had been fortunate not to have conceded more than just the two goals they did. Fortunately for Oscar Tabarez’ men, however, they have a good chance against the remaining Group B teams. Their next game is against African Champions, Nigeria’s Super Eagles, whose wings they will hope to clip.

Andres Iniesta was elected Budweiser’s man of the match for the hard work he had done to help his side secure a deserved victory on the night.

Written by Ange Marline

Champions League Round of 16 Preview: Part 3

I hope you all enjoyed parts one and two of my Champions League previews. As promised, here’s part 3:

AC Milan vs. Barcelona

Lionel Messi and Jordi AlbaMilan have not been enjoying domestic football this year, only racking up 37 points in 22 games as they currently lie at a disappointing fifth place. Barcelona on the other hand seem to be running away with the league, with an impressive 58 points (15 adrift of Real Madrid) and a scary goal difference of 47. The La Liga title looks set to be heading to Catalonia.

This is not the first time these clubs have met in Europe. In fact, they will be very familiar with one other having played against each other on five separate occasions in only two years. Milan failed to beat Barcelona in all five games, managing only two draws. Will this statistic prove to motivate AC Milan, or will it create a sense of nervousness? But only time can answer that question.

Key players

I see Stephan El Shaarawy, or better  known to his fans as Il Faraone (The Pharoah), as AC Milan’s key player.  El Shaarawy has made a name for himself in Italy. In this current season, he has been a part of 18 goals, having scored 15 and assisting 3. El Shaarawy will be a relatively unknown threat to Barca due to his young age. If  he can turn up for Milan in such a vital game, I believe he will be a handful for the Barcelona defense.

But does Barcelona’s key man really need an introduction? Lionel Messi has continued to stun spectators with his talent and abilities. Breaking many records year after year, he still continues to amaze. Having scored 33 goals already in La Liga, surely no player can stop him (and lets not forget Barca have Iniesta, Xavi, Fabregas and co. Unlucky Milan).


Barcelona will advance, no doubt about it. Perhaps a nervy game leading to a draw at the San Siro will occur, but Barca are just too good to not advance in to the quarter finals. AC Milan will be praying to the football Gods (as did Chelsea!).

1st Leg: AC Milan 1-2 Barcelona
2nd Leg: Barcelona 3-1 AC Milan

Valencia vs. Paris Saint-Germain

Zlatan IbrahimovicArguably the quietest of ties. Yes, perhaps the other more extravagant fixtures have over shadowed this tie, but do not be mistaken, this game has the makings to be one of the most exciting.

Valencia have not been enjoying the best of years in La Liga. With only 33 points in 21 games, the Valencia of today seem a far distance from the consecutive Champions League runners up  in the 1999/00 and 2000/01 seasons.

PSG on the other hand have been enjoying their best run of form since 1994! The affluent Parisian club have asserted their financial dominance in Europe with the mega money signings of Ibrahimovic and Lucas Moura. They certainly have the quality to go far in this tournament.

Key Players

Ibrahimovic, the man, the myth, the verb? (Yes, ‘To Zlatan’ is a recognized verb in Sweden). Ibra has been relishing his time in France, having scored 19 goals in 19 games! He hasn’t lost his eye for a goal has he? Valencia will most certainly have to nullify the threat Zlatan imposes.

Meanwhile, Valencia have an attacking threat of their own. Roberto Soldado has been the key man for Valencia, stacking up 11 goals already this season. For Valencia to have any chance of progressing, Soldado has to rise to the occasion.


PSG are too hot to handle at the minute, and the pace, skill, and power they posses are far too much for Valencia to handle. I’m going to predict a win in both legs for Paris Saint-Germain.

1st Leg: Valencia 0-1 Paris Saint-Germain
2nd Leg: Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 Valencia

Written by TheFootballSupplement