Cristiano Ronaldo's return to Manchester United started off with a bang. The Red Devils secured a remarkable 4-1 win over Newcastle that day, with the Portuguese striker scoring a brace. Since that dream debut, United have only won two from seven matches, playing some of the worst football they've displayed in the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era. Questions continue to persist regarding Solskjaer's future, but the problems at United lie far deeper than the manager himself. Here is a tactical analysis of United's tactical follies in the post-Ronaldo era.
Much of the discussion surrounding Manchester United at the moment revolves around one central tenet – the fact that they still have Fred & McTominay playing in midfield – rather than superman and wonder woman. It is true that United strengthened in several areas that they did not necessarily need to over the course of a busy summer window. It is also true that they neglected to strengthen the widest, gaping whole in their entire team. But Fred & McTominay have become scapegoats for the fragility of a fairly flimsy team that almost certainly would be worse off without them.
Borussia Dortmund are heading towards one of their worst seasons in years, and it is in large part due to the tactics of their new manager - Marco Rose. But quite confusingly, they continue to grind out wins. Rose has set his team up to play in a diamond midfield formation, that suits one single player in the squad, and nobody else, yet somehow they've escaped complete desperation two weeks in a row. The Black & Yellows currently sit second in the table as things stand, three points off the top, but they are very lucky to be anywhere near that.
How can a team with so much verticality be so terrible in transition? Well, welcome to Signal Iduna Park - the home of Borussia Dortmund. Dortmund will always score goals, but they will always make life difficult themselves by simply being poor in transition, and poor from set-pieces. That's exactly how 1899 Hoffenheim got back into the game not once but twice, and how they could have put the game to bed themselves had Gregor Kobel not been in such fine form.
Tottenham Hotspur are a team in transition. And with all the surrounding newness, it's easy to expect (or, in some cases, hope for) complete novelty, an immediate replacement of old, bad habits and tendencies with new, good ones. Unfortunately, this forecast is more fanciful than fair. Tottenham Hotspur are a team in transition. And with all the surrounding newness, it's easy to expect (or, in some cases, hope for) complete novelty, an immediate replacement of old, bad habits and tendencies with new, good ones. Unfortunately, this forecast is more fanciful than fair. Squad rebuilds are a function of two factors working in dichotomy: time and money. The greater one becomes, the lesser the other can be. In this way, football clubs with immediate access to financial capital can regenerate a squad in short order. For everyone else, it takes time. But even as a slow reconstruction in progress, managers can face significant pressure in the form of tactics reimagined. Realistically, teaching and optimizing a new system of play takes additional time and risks subpar performance in the interim, while simple replication of previous methods will surely be seen as short-sighted redundancy. Into this predictable but unfortunate conundrum stepped Nuno Espirito Santo, a manager who recently traded Wolves’ black and yellow for Spurs’ white and blue.
Borussia Dortmund got off to a flying start in their opening matchday fixture against Eintracht Frankfurt, with Oliver Glasner's side looking completely out of sorts. Marco Rose's men on the other hand completely took the game to Frankfurt, with Haaland, Reus and co. in full flow. Here is our tactical analysis of Dortmund's first match and all the wonders they accomplished.
The mental side of the beautiful game is at least as important as the physical side, but is often neglected by coaches in training sessions. In this series, Travis Norsen, author of Play With Your Brain, will discuss small tweaks to standard training exercises and the large positive effects they can have on players’ decision-making and soccer intelligence. This week, Travis explores why you should be more defensive about your rondos.
Former Barcelona man Xavi Hernandez is widely considered one of the best midfielders of all time. In his hay-day with both Spain and Barcelona, Xavi formed one of the best midfield triads the game has ever seen, alongside Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets. He won twenty-five major trophies with Barcelona and three for Spain, before moving to Qatar ahead of the 2015-16 season. He then went on to finish his career in style, winning the Qatari league in his final season at the club in 2018-19. The very next season he was named manager of the squad and soon afterward completely revolutionized Al Saad into a near unstoppable unit in the QPL. The Spanish midfielder has quietly gone about his business at Al Sadd, playing in Guardiola-esque ways and doing del-Bosque-esque things, winning six trophies in two seasons so far. Barcelona are keeping a close eye on the now 41-year-old, and in time we may see one of the game greatest ever midfielders become one of the game's greatest ever managers. Here is a tactical analysis of Xavi Hernandez's Al Sadd.
Two seasons ago, Denis Zakaria was heavily linked to Manchester City, and hailed by pundits and fans alike as the next coming of Fernandinho. The Swiss midfielder still possesses all of the same qualities he did back when the speculation first surfaced, yet no one seems to talk about Zakaria in that same light anymore. Still only 24-years-old, Zakaria still has the world at his feet and should develop into one of the very best defensive midfielders in the world. If Manchester City had him on their radar, every other club should too.
Although Chelsea can't quite seem to find the back of the net, very few managers in Premier League history have had a better start to life than Thomas Tuchel. The Blues have won nine of their thirteen matches under Tuchel's management in all competitions, keeping eleven clean sheets during that time. Some underlying issues are still evidently exposed as Tuchel works around his squad and attempts to find his best possible eleven, but the improvement from Frank Lampard is also evident for all to see. Tuchel's defensive tactics in particular have been outstanding, and much promise for the future remains if Chelsea can find their shooting boots and score more goals on a regular basis. Here is our latest Thomas Tuchel analysis, covering his first thirteen matches in charge at Stamford Bridge.