English Premier League Tactical Review: 5 Things We Learned
Week 15 of the English Premier League was a quiet one tactically, but there were a couple of anomalies and some important comparisons to make nevertheless.
What did Paul Lambert do differently on Saturday? What's the difference between Stephane Sessegnon and Wes Hoolahan? What's Harry Redknapp doing to steady the ship at QPR?
Read on for more details.
Three at the Back Good for Multiple Reasons
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As I sat at Loftus Road and saw Aston Villa line up in a 3-5-2, I had to wipe my eyes.
I've spoken about teams who could switch to this system in the past, but Paul Lambert's side were absolutely nowhere near this list.
As the game wore on, it became clear that Villa had used this system due to their severe weakness at left-back. Rather than roll with a weak link, Lambert wanted the insurance of three centre-backs in a tough game.
It turns out, you can use a three-man defence to cover for a weakness in other areas as long as you're bold enough to try it.
Mohamed Diame Lays Credence to the Rule
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Mohamed Diame came on for West Ham and almost single-handedly destroyed Chelsea in the second half.
Roman Abramovich may have recruited several players with silky skills, but it's the physical edge that coaches should be looking for in 2013.
Players like Kwadwo Asamoah and Marouane Fellaini—those with technical talent combined with the strength and size to overpower as well.
Diame made life hell for Chelsea in midfield, forced errors, made them uncomfortable and even scored a pivotal goal.
Redknapp Finding a Rhythm
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The good news for Queens Park Rangers is that Harry Redknapp isn't afraid to try something new.
He's used two different formations so far, but he has also kept to his policy of using only one striker. Against Aston Villa, he went 4-3-3 and used the width extremely well. Jose Bosingwa looked like a player reborn, overlapping at right-back.
Jamie Mackie is clearly the preferred striker, and rightly so—his teamwork and work rate will serve the R's well in the long run.
With the former Tottenham manager still shuffling his pack to find the right combinations, QPR become an interesting watch every single week.
Lack of Service
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Steven Fletcher isn't getting the service he needs to score goals.
Sunderland are struggling massively to get things going offensively, and it's no surprise why.
A total of 13 passes found their way to the Scotsman during the Black Cats' 2-1 loss to Norwich on Sunday, which is eerily similar to Darren Bent's struggles against West Ham on the opening day of the season.
The midfield aren't creating, and Craig Gardner can't be relied on to deliver the ball wide or through the middle with the regularity that Martin O'Neill's team demands.
No. 1 priority this January? A Gareth Barry-esque central midfielder, surely.
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The comparisons between attacking midfielders Wes Hoolahan and Stephane Sessegnon are startling.
At Carrow Road on Sunday, Hoolahan was the heartbeat of Chris Hughton's side yet again, managing 40 passes in a variety of positions on the field to keep his team in control and inside the final third.
In stark contrast, Sessegnon managed a paltry 18 passes as his role in Martin O'Neill's team continues to be questioned.
We all know the Benin international is capable, so is it a lack of quality behind him or a struggle for form?