It felt like Leicester took a key step toward securing the Premier League title at the start of the week when they bounced back from the draw with West Ham to dispatch Swansea 4-0 with an assured display, even in the absence of Jamie Vardy. With Tottenham then dropping two points the following day, it now means the Foxes need only 3 points from the remaining 3 fixtures to guarantee the title. While I feel it is unlikely that they will secure the title at Old Trafford on Sunday, with Spurs travelling to Chelsea the following day, a draw may prove to be a good result.
It was interesting to see Real Madrid adopt a relatively conservative approach in their trip to the Etihad; presumably the thinking was that as long as they weren’t behind going into the second leg, they would win the game at the Bernabeu. City have two key saves from Joe Hart to thank, but will feel that they are in a strong position going into the game in Spain; with Aguero seemingly fit and back to his best they will fancy their chances of getting a goal and if they were to score first it would really put the pressure onto Real.
Real’s cross city rivals produced another brilliant and highly effective team performance; this time the ‘immovable object’ frustrated another ‘irresistible force’ and nullified Bayern’s previously free-scoring attack just as they had Barca’s in the previous round. Once again it was an utterly captivating defensive display from Simeone’s side. They actually seem to relish having their ‘backs against wall’ and seemed to get better and better as Bayern endeavoured to notch up the pressure on them. I saw a stat the following morning that Atletico have now registered 135 clean sheets in the 256 games that Simeone has been manager; that equates to more than half of the games in which he has been in charge. The reaction to the game from pundits and reporters suggest a shift in the way that Simeone’s approach is perceived; with more and more comment centring on not just how effective Atletico are, but being genuinely complementary about how enthralling it is to watch. Atletico’s approach isn’t purely a defensive one that centres on sitting deep and tight around their penalty area and making it hard for the opposition to get through; it also includes intense pressing high up the field, especially in the earlier parts of the game and quite possibly the best one-on-one tackling that I have seen. When they do win the ball they attack with genuine intent and at pace and carry a real goal threat.
It is starting to feel that the obsession with possession approach typified by Guardiola’s Barcelona and the Spain national team is coming to an end; with more and more success coming from teams that are organised and capable of launching clinical counter attacks at pace. On the BT UK coverage, Gary Lineker highlighted the similarities between Leicester and Atletico and it will be interesting to see if this type of approach becomes the modus operandi for more and more teams in coming seasons.
6 thoughts on “Football Nerd Weekly Ramblings”
Liverpool also tried to stifle Viilarreal by commanding possession in the midfield. It worked well for 93 minutes, but then they fell for the sucker punch.
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It isn’t of course an easy tactic and requires 100% concentration throughout the match. It feels like the key for Liverpool will not be conceding an away goal; unless of course they can summon up another magical comeback!
Hoping Leicester will win the League at Old Trafford.It would be even more special for Kasper Schmeichel.
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Let’s hope United stick to the script!
I think tiki-taka in its classic form died on 13 June 2014, no? People who know more about these things than me – that is, people who watch the games – say that Guardiola ‘s whole thing in Munich has been finding more than one to way to play. And Barcelona changed last season to much faster counterattacks once Suarez was integrated in the side. So the “best” teams – those with the wherewithal to buy players to suit any style of play they fancy, rather than maximising limited resources – have been trying for a couple of years to combine Jose-style “transitions” with the possession game of Pep-era Barca. Maybe it’s just a personnel thing – once Xavi was past it, TT was never the same. Just like total football was less total once Cruyff left Ajax. The most aesthetic styles depend on on individuals to a greater degree than more functional approaches?
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I think you are probably right, the humbling of Barca by Bayern in the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2013; followed by Holland beating Spain 5-1 at the World Cup signalled the death knell for tiki-taka in its truest form.
Having been highly impressed by Bayern when they played Arsenal in the Champions League last autumn; my description of their style of play was that they were like a pacey Barcelona.
It does seem that the intention of the best (richest) teams has been to try and nurture a hybrid of Pep and Jose’s approaches; but the key factor is personnel – certainly in Barca’s case their evolution in style is probably as much due to Xavi leaving and Suarez integrating as the way that Enrique wants to play.
In the English game it will be interesting to see if Leicester’s success signals attempts to return to a counter-attacking 4-4-2 style.