Our Ten Most Popular Analyses of 2021

2021 was the most successful year in the six year history of TheMastermindSite.com. Over the course of the year, we doubled our number of views, visitors, social media followers and email subscribers from where we left off in 2020. Our most popular feature and the aspect of our website that has gained the attention from pro club managers, former and current professional players, and writers from The Athletic, has been our tactical analyses all year long. So with that, here are the ten most popular analyses of the year, all written by Rhys Desmond in 2021.

10. ERIK TEN HAG – AJAX (2020-21)

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Written originally for RDF Tactics’ YouTube channel, our analysis of Erik Ten Hag has continued to claim popularity due to the ongoing speculation of his future with a Super League giant. Whenever a new job opens up, Ten Hag always seems to top the list of potential replacements, and the readership comes pouring in for our thoughts on the Dutchman’s tactics. What people don’t know when they first view this article – it’s currently only available to subscribers of the site. So if you want to read the in-depth analysis of Ten Hag’s tactics in full, you must become a subscriber.


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In a similar vein to Erik Ten Hag, Graham Potter seems to be perpetually linked to any vacant managerial job. That only boosts the traffic to our 2020-21 analysis of his team, where we analyzed his intricate tactics, the parallels with Tuchel’s Chelsea, and why their league position did not tell the whole story. If you’re a coach looking to play total football in a back three, there are few better to read about than Graham Potter.


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We’d say that this is the only analysis in the top ten that doesn’t cover a single team, but then again, it kind of does. Our analysis of which players should make the 2020-21 PFA Team of the Year achieved widescale success on the site, and ended up coming pretty close to the real deal. Other than a glaring omission of Declan Rice, the PFA Team of the Year wasn’t too far away from the truth, but we still prefer our version.

7. thomas frank – brentford (2020-21)

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Perhaps the most surprising entry on our top ten, Thomas Frank was still managing in the Championship by the time we posted our 2020-21 analysis of his team. Written just before the Championship Playoff Final against Bournemouth, our analysis turned out to be a carbon-copy of how they’d go on to secure promotion to the Premier League. Since Brentford’s big jump to the top flight, Thomas Frank has made very few changes in both tactics and personnel, allowing our analysis to stay relevant and popular.

6. Italy – Euro 2020

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One of the more unsurprising entries in our top ten, Italy shocked the world with their stellar tactics at Euro 2020, going on to win the tournament after back to back penalty shootout victories. With Jorginho pulling the strings from midfield just as he did for Tuchel’s Chelsea, many footballing fans wondered whether the Italian could even make a claim for a Ballon d’Or. It didn’t end up panning out that way, but his form for Italy at the Euros certainly caught attention. Combine that with the aging, experienced heads of Bonucci and Chiellini continuing to perform, and some young guns up front impressing like never before, many fans wanted to know more about how Italy achieved their success, and came right to our analysis.


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Zinedine Zidane is yet another name who continues to be linked with clubs around the world, but in his case, he seems to have no intention of returning to the game any time soon. Our 2020-21 analysis of his Real Madrid team continues to live on and prosper as a result, with many taking notes on how he could one day set up his next club. The thing is, his next club may very well be Real Madrid yet again, just as it was the last time he took a hiatus from management. Regardless, our tactical profile of his team from 2020-21 will continue to serve as the reference until his next big move.


Shortly before Thomas Tuchel was suggested to be linked to the Chelsea job, we randomly analyzed his principles of play in a three-part series, discussing which club he should manage next. Little did we know in a few days time that our words would blow up, with thousands of views pouring in across the days that followed. Since then, this article’s views have rapidly died down, in favour of another analysis on this list. But the timing has perhaps never been more perfect, making everyone question whether or not we had psychic powers (no one actually asked that).


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Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan were absolutely on fire in 2020-21, breaking Juventus’ long-standing Serie A win streak. The very first team analysis we ever did discussed Conte’s Premier League winning year with Chelsea, which we then followed up with our first relevant to the time analysis of his Inter Milan team in 2019-20. Since those initial Conte pieces, we’ve analyzed hundreds of teams, players and managers. So it’s no surprise that featuring in the top three this year is another Conte piece, where we analyzed his Inter Milan in 2020-21, toward the end of their title winning campaign.


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Despite never being a Manchester City fan, Pep Guardiola has been my favourite manager to watch since he arrived in the Premier League. His tactics are always special and innovative, and 2020-21 was no different. The analysis caught the eye of Tifo’s Alex Stewart when RDF Tactics asked us for permission to use it on their YouTube channel, and has been one of the most popular articles to ever grace the site. Even better – we already have our updated 2021-22 analysis out, where Guardiola has already developed new ways of playing against the odds.


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Head and shoulders above the rest, our Thomas Tuchel Chelsea piece has amassed over 30,000 views since it was posted in March. While you may think it was inevitable for the UEFA Champions League winning manager to finish number one on our website, what makes this analysis so special is that we analyzed not just what was good about Chelsea, but what was actively bad. The problems we pointed out in our analysis still persist today, and perhaps Tuchel himself should take a look. In another sense, the number one landing spot really is no surprise, given the fact that we’ve made references to it in nearly every tactical analysis since. That’s a testament to Tuchel and his innovative tactics seen at Chelsea, which have served as a blueprint for all teams across the calendar year.

So there it is! Our top ten most popular analyses written in 2021. Be sure to check out all ten analyses listed here, and more, as we continue to bring you what you want to see before the end of the year. For the most recent analyses, simply see the below. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

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The difference between seeing and understanding in analysis

When it comes to analysis, it’s no secret that the goal is to think on a deeper level, scrutinizing over the finer minutia beyond what you see at first glance. But it’s also no secret that this skill takes dedicated time and energy to learn. A lack of deep tactical understanding about the game often comes at a cost to coaches and amateur analysts. They are adequately able to perceive events on a football pitch, but they may be unsure of how to change what they are seeing for the better, or even fully comprehend what they are seeing to the level required. Coaches in my Mentorship Program often ask me – “How do you go from seeing to understanding?” Well that, my friends, is what we’re after today. In this series of notes, I’m going to give you a series of images and videos, where you can go from seeing, to understanding. If you’ve been doing analysis for years, no worries, this will still be an excellent way for you to practice and refine your skills.

Why Marc Cucurella is perfect for Manchester City

Out of all the names to be linked with Manchester City, Marc Cucurella would have been an obscure choice beyond belief this time last year. But after a successful first season in the Premier League with Brighton & Hove Albion, the versatile Spaniard may now be a few weeks away from securing a dream move to the Champions. Cucurella is one of the most versatile players on the planet, making him an ideal candidate to be City’s next rising star. Here is our analysis of the 23-year-old, and his potential fit for Manchester City.

UEFA Euro U19 Stars: Yusuf Demir – Player Analysis

A rollercoaster of a year for Yusuf Demir can end with his head held high after a tournament full of pride with Austria’s Under-19’s. Not reaching the semi-finals will feel like a major disappointment for Das Team, but the Wien local boy looks to have found the reinvigorating form that earned him a move to Barcelona at the start of last season. Things never quite panned out for Demir at Barca, and his contract was terminated after just six months. Since returning to Rapid, his performances have been up and down, but his evident technical quality still brings promise for what could become of the 19-year-old in the future. This Euros tournament has been all about regaining the confidence that sent Yusuf Demir to Camp Nou in the first place, and many top European sides will now be on red alert for his signature. Here is our analysis of Demir at this summer’s U19 European Championship.

Premier League Transfer Tax (Part 3)

After examining all twenty Premier League sides, we’ve reached a conclusion. Bundesliga Tax exists in abundance, and at this point has to be considered a real phenomenon. For bottom-table sides, Bundesliga stars did little to aid chances of survival, with even Emmanuel Dennis unable to carry Watford over the line. Whether it’s the nature of players signing from the league in comparison to others, or simply something wrong with their ability to adapt, players coming over from Germany’s top flight have ranked consistently lower than players arriving from other leagues in all three sections.

Explaining the Ball-Playing-Centre-Half – Player Role Analysis

As the name suggests, a ‘Ball-Playing-Centre-Half’ is a centre-back that excels in possession of the ball, from passing to long passing to carrying to dribbling. They can simultaneously exist as ‘Sweepers’ or ‘Stoppers’, providing another interesting asterisk to the role not found in many other positions. Unlike say a fullback or goalkeeper where we have created clearly defined separations and almost polarizations on a style scale, ‘Ball-Playing-Centre-Halves’ can also be ‘Stoppers’ or ‘Sweepers’.

Why Nick Pope is perfect for Newcastle United

It’s taken longer than most would have expected for Nick Pope to arise attention in the 2022 Summer Transfer Window, but it now appears as though the Burnley cult hero is days away from securing a move to Eddie Howe’s Newcastle United. Back in early June, our readers and contributors picked Pope as the number one player from relegated teams to keep an eye on this summer, and that promise now prepares to come to fruition with the Magpies. Pope would be the perfect player to bring greater stability and solidity to their defensive structures, not to mention between the posts, and at only 10 million pounds, remains an absolute steal. Here is why the Burnley man would be such an astute signing for the Magpies.

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