Friday, October 8, 2010

Reckless my arse

All this talk of tackling becoming reckless in the Premier league is getting me a bit worked up.
It's unrealistic to expect every team to play fast, attractive attacking football. It is advantageous to some teams to make everyone lose their physicality, Bolton or Blackburn is never realistically going to out pass Arsenal? It is their way of countering the fast passing and movement by throwing in a push shove and the occasional late slide. This is football it happens. Everyone is complaining about Nigel De Jong and his challenge on Hatem Ben Arfa. Although I haven't seen the tackle, whether it was late or not I don't think he should be ridiculed or dropped. The midfield enforcer is an important role in a team and with the increased diving and theatrics on display I feel some strong tackles are needed. De Jong is right now one of the most disliked players around, but I really genuinely like him. He's the modern day Roy Keane. Someone who is going to go out every Saturday and play his heart out, put himself on the line for his team and make no apologies for it.

This supposed recklessness is nothing new either, over the years there have been many hard tackling 'reckless' players( Keane, Vieira, Cantona to name but a few) who have been loved. Watching their tackles was just as thrilling as some of the goals were. Footballers are becoming soft, a couple of hard tackles and they start throwing their toys out the cot. For heavens sake, you don't get paid 100 000 quid a week and spend hours in the gym to prance around. Get stuck in!

The real problem that needs addressing is diving. FIFA and the individual leagues need to introduce some form of punishment for the gamesmanship that goes on today. lengthy bans and suspensions should be handed out by post match review panels and teams should be given the opportunity to submit incidents for review, as they do in rugby for dangerous tackles. Something must be done soon before this all gets out of hand, and come on footballers, grow up.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Direct Germans should pass Spain

Germany surged past England and then Argentina on their way to the semi-finals of the World Cup. Their direct style of play and astute tactical display helped them to crush both teams.

Spain however represent a different and more difficult challenge. England were slow, off form and had a very bad defensive display while Argentina had a poorly balanced side while Germany had their best display yet to dismantle the South Americans. Spain have the best passers in the world and are able to hold possession for long periods of time as well as having a top striker on form in David Villa.

The Germans will however cause the Spanish many problems through their lethal counter attack. The speed with which they break will cause any team problems but could cause undue difficulty to Spain who on many occasions leave themselves severely understaffed at the back. If they stick to the current line up with Villa on the left, Torres through the middle and Iniesta down the right Sergio Ramos will have to push up further than usual to cover for the gap left by Iniesta when he pushes infield much like Steven Gerrard. This will leave a gap at the back for Oezil and co to exploit.
The Spanish team is very similar in tactics and personnel to the Barcelona team, and in this bracket they share a common defensive frailty. it is often covered up by the skill level in the midfield and the ball playing ability of the players but Germany will do well to target the counter attack as their best option.

The flaws in the defense were exposed in the champions league matches against Arsenal and Inter Milan. Ramos will push up like Alvez does and the defenders always run back to the middle before spreading wide when scrambling for the counter and Podolski will sit wide on the far side and receive the ball early. All three of his goals so far have come in this fashion. Exactly as Sneijder did it for inter. Otherwise the probing runs made by Oezil and Klose could prove difficult for Puyol, whose temperament and positioning is often questionable at best.

Spain will hold the ball for minutes at a time but if you can pressure them early and win balls in key areas and then break with pace and numbers they are certainly beatable. I believe this German team has the perfect balance to do this. In Schweinsteiger and Khedira they have two solid midfielders who shield the defense well and win balls, Schweinsteigers passing range rivals the best and can fuel the running and probing of Oezil and co.

A key area for me is the suspension of Thomas Mueller. The 20 year old has had an outstanding tournament and his understanding and link up play with Oezil is often what makes the Germans so dangerous. It will be interesting to see if whoever replaces him, most likely Piotr Trochowski can maintain the threat of the right flank. If they can Germany could well be in for a second final in three tournaments.

Bongi's key men:

Bastian Schweinsteiger - the central midfielder holds this German team together and will be marking key man Xavi, this battle could be pivotal.

Lucas Podlski- Podolski will attack the gap left by Ramos and will need to offer a bit more in Muellers absence.

Phillip Lahm - He will need to keep his charges calm and confident as well as marking the dangerous David Villa.

Bongi's predo:
Germany 3- 1 Spain

Monday, June 28, 2010

bongis tactics corner - capello gets selections all wrong

After yesterdays humiliation at the hands of Germany many people now look for what went wrong in a campaign touted to be potentially cup winning and a swansong for England's so-called golden generation.

many fans will use Frank Lampard's disallowed goal as a reason for the defeat but that would just be hiding away from the fact that poor team selection and an interrupted preparation for the toughest tournament in football.

Capello picked several players who are off form have had severely interrupted seasons or who are just not world class. The Germans exposed almost every one of these areas without fail. Starting from the back. In goal David James made a couple of good saves but was poor in the third goal and is prone to dodgy moments. Joe Hart, Premiership goalkeeper of the year, wasn't given a chance. The form keeper of the three that were selected and the one playing for the best side in the league. Experience is one thing nut David James hasn't played champions league football for more than a couple of seasons and has never played at the world cup so is he really that experienced or is his age actually negative.

In defense, Capello started with Johnson, Upson, Terry and Cole. Johnson simply isn't world class and is very dodgy in defense which is his main priority. Upson is in the same bracket and while he scored he was tame at the back to say the least.He doesn't have the speed or the ability to defend against the best and that was shown yesterday. Terry had a shocking game giving the ball away cheaply on several occasions and often caught way out of position. Klose's goal came from terry being far out of position off a goal kick. now ask yourself how a top quality centre back can be caught out off a goal kick?
Terry and Upson both struggle for pace which is a huge risk in a defense often left open down the right due Johnson's constant forays forward. Terry's form has dropped since his personal extravaganza and the captaincy seems to have kept his form down and his age is also a worry. Ashley Cole may have looked below par but he is undeniably one of the top fullbacks in the world. I believe Cole was weighed down by the amount of work he has to do to make up for the rest of his team. With Gerrard roaming inside a lot Cole has to make up the options down the left as well as being left exposed by Gerrard's absence. he also has to provide more cover for the centre back. If we look at all 4 of Germany's goals Cole was there every time having to cover for the centre backs. Add to that the fact that all 4 of them came from the right or the centre.

The midfield has the wrong balance to be successful. It is well known Gerrard doesn't play his best football down the left and while he is allowed to roam that means that there is always a big whole down the left and the attacks always go through the middle or the right. Barry can't hold the midfield together against the top teams because it's not his natural game. he prefers to play like Gerrard and roving upfield not holding the midfield together. Lampard had a much improved performance and was unjustly denied a goal but he needs to be given more space to move into. One of the main problems he faces is his way is always blocked by his forwards deep lying positions.
The problem is that while Rooney hasn't hit top form England don't play a style that suits him. At Manchester United he can sit right in the box and poach and attack many balls flung across the box by Valencia and Nani. With England he must come deep to fetch the ball and the crosses he recieves are poor. But not just Rooney, Crouch and Heskey are also strong in the air so why make them play on the ground. To get the best out of the forwards Capello picked he needs to put quick players on the flanks and send quality balls into the box but this for some reason does not happen.

This is where i question both the tactics and the selection. If you want to play the ball on the ground and run at your opponents you need to pick players like Lennon, Walcott and Agbonlahor who are fast agile and can probe the opposition defence. You could play Gerrard supporting Rooney with Lennon and Walcott on the flanks.
If you want to play with Rooney and Heskey or better Crouch or Bent you need fast wingers with good final balls and England only have three of those. Only 1 was picked. Joe Cole, Ashley Young and Adam Johnson are the only players with genuine pace and a good final ball who can pick out and use the aerial prowess of the forwards.

Many since the game have bemoaned the lack of young talented players coming out of England compared to Germany and other nations. But is this really so? no I don't believe it is. The English U21 team made the finals of the championship last year and lost out only to Germany. How many players from that winning German team are in their current squad compared to England?
Germany have khedira, Oezil, Boateng, Kroos, Marin, Badstuber and Mueller while England have only Milner and Hart(who wasn't given any minutes). This is why Germany will always beat England in the knockout stages of the World cup unless something changes now. England don't give any of their young players a chance to go to the world cup so by the time they do they're the seniors in the squad but have never been to the world cup before while Germany in 2014 will have 18 players who have been there before in 2014.

England have the talent available they just don't pick the young players who are on form. Dawson, Young, Huddlestone, Hart, Bent, Adam Johnson and several others should all have been picked and given a chance to add flare and youth and to gain experience at the world cup. Johnson starts ahead of Wright-Phillips at City. Bent scored more than Crouch, Heskey and Defoe while Young has pace and good delivery. Huddlestone is strong and anchors the midfield on a regular basis at club level while Hart was the best goalkeeper in the league over last season above Cech, Reina and Van Der Sar.

It is now up to Capello, Use the Talent Available and Don't stick with old, off form and poor players.

Bongi's England Starting Line up.

4-4-2
Gk:Hart
RB: Warnock
CB:Dawson
CB:Jagielka
LB:A.Cole
RM:A.Johnson
CM:Huddlestone
CM:Gerrard
LM:A.Young
ST:Crouch
ST:Rooney

bench:
Bent
Defoe
Lennon
Milner
King
Green
G.Johnson