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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England’s midfield balance – 2022 World Cup Analysis

In light of Mason Mount’s lack of form at the start of the 2022 World Cup and in the recent months for Chelsea, Gareth Southgate has since opted for an experienced pairing of Declan Rice and Jordan Henderson at the base of the midfield, pushing the fresh legs of 19-year-old Jude Bellingham further forward. This has worked like a charm, bringing out the best in each of Southgate’s midfield men, and allowing Bellingham to play some of his best football of his career thus far under the freedom of an advanced role. Here is why the balance of England’s midfield has been so successful in recent matches, and why the trio could be the key to success in unlocking France.

Initial thoughts on a professional women’s league in Canada

Last night, news circulated that the long wait for a women’s professional league in Canada may soon be on its way. News has circulated in the past that some traction may be developing in this area, but never with the evident backing of people like Christine Sinclair and Diana Matheson, or clubs like the Vancouver Whitecaps and Calgary Foothills. We’re still a few years away from the proposed 2025 start date, but it appears as though we can officially cheer for joy that a women’s league in Canada will be on its way.

France 3-1 Poland – Match Analysis – 2022 World Cup

Even despite six of their potential pre-tournament starters now missing, France continue to be one of the most electric sides at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Supercharged by the vibrancy in attack of Kylian Mbappé and masterfully supported by Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud – France’s front four quartet work together wonderfully to bring out the best in one another. The French put on a dominant display on Sunday, rolling to a rollicking 3-0 win over the Poles in the Round of 16. Here is our match analysis.

Gareth Southgate – England – Tactical Analysis – World Cup 2022

Three games down and England have made it out of Group B with seven points, on nine goals scored and two allowed. It sounds dominant, but skepticism remains among fans across the country as to how the Three Lions will react against a higher-quality, more expansive footballing side. USA were a tough matchup: tight marking and possession-oriented. Yet, England’s squad should still have blasted past the young Americans without too much trouble. Senegal next, and without Sadio Mané, they also lack world class talent; but their high pressing game and expert transitional attacks make them a dangerous opponent in the Round of 16. Here is our analysis of Gareth Southgate’s England at the 2022 World Cup, after the group stage.

Reflections from Canada’s loss to Croatia – 2022 World Cup

After taking a few days to reflect on Canada’s disappointing loss against Croatia, I have been able to take away many positives from the performance. Kamal Miller won’t get much in the way of praise after being hung out to dry at the end of the game, but he had another brilliant performance at the back. Alphonso Davies meanwhile bagged the nation’s first goal at a Men’s World Cup inside just two minutes of action, waking my neighbours up as I yelled of joy. But in dissecting the game further, it’s clear to see that Croatia operated at a higher level, with their fanciful one-touch triangulations causing chaos for Canada every time they had the ball. For what feels like the first time ever, a few things will need to drastically change from a tactical standpoint heading into the next fixture from John Herdman’s team. Here are my reflections on Canada’s 4-1 defeat to Croatia.

Kamal Miller – Player Analysis

Canadian footballers operating in the MLS have been notoriously underrated over the years, but now with the nation putting themselves on the world stage, clubs across the globe should start to pay more attention to our greatest players. One of those who has announced himself on the grandest stage is CF Montreal’s Kamal Miller. Miller’s been arguably Canada’s best defender across the two opening group stage matches at the 2022 World Cup, serving as a nice compliment to his defensive partner Steven Vitoria at the back. With a range of qualities on and off the ball, Miller could easily be playing for a club in Europe’s top five leagues already. So with that, we aim to strengthen Miller’s case for a move across the pond.

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