English Premier League Tactical Review: 5 Things We Learned
English Premier League Week 16 treated us to some enticing matchups, plenty of goals and a ferocious Manchester derby.
Paul Lambert remains tactically flexible, David Moyes managed to strangle a win out of his Everton side and Sir Alex Ferguson went home smiling.
Check in to see this week's tactical review.
Lambert Does It Again
With defensive injuries continuing to hound Aston Villa, Paul Lambert opted for a three-man defensive system against Stoke City. It was as risky, if not riskier, as when he tried it at Loftus Road.
The result was pretty favourable, as the Potters' three-game winning streak was brought to an end. Villa secured a clean sheet and absolutely dominated the game.
In both of the games that Lambert has opted for this system, he's been up against managers deploying just one striker. Whilst Marcelo Bielsa would shift uncomfortably from one foot to the other on hearing this, it has steadied a rocky Villa ship.
Stoke's Plan C?
In contrast to Aston Villa's spirited performance on Saturday, Stoke were the epitome of drab.
Peter Crouch has been a near-constant in Tony Pulis' side this season, and with him on the bench and Charlie Adam suspended, the Potters looked positively clueless.
Wasteful in possession and beaten in the air—not a promising end-of-game report for the manager to deal with on Monday.
Fergie Outfoxes Mancini
Forget possession, forget formations, forget intricate details.
When you've got the firepower Manchester United have, you can afford to surrender the ball and counterattack when away from home.
The Red Devils' game plan was so simple it was ridiculous—defend like it's the last day of your lives, recover the ball, spread it wide and allow Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young and Robin van Persie to punish your opponents with clever movement and speed.
Darron Gibson the Unsung Hero
I wrote a piece on the rise of Seamus Coleman after Everton's last-gasp 2-1 victory over Tottenham on Sunday, but the real star of the show was Darron Gibson.
He was pinging passes around in the fashion the Toffees have been desperate for all season long, and his comeback from injury could not have been timed better.
He completed 48-of-52 passes at Goodison Park this weekend, and hardly any of them were short Xavi-esque ones. Hollywood Gibson.
Tactics vs. Psychology
With modern technology available to us, we can analyse football down to the finest detail.
Sometimes, however, it's not about tactical "Eureka!" moments or carefully planned strategies. It's about knowing you're capable and thinking you can win.
Two examples: Star-studded Manchester City finishing last in UEFA Champions League Group D after being outplayed by all three of the opposing teams, contrasted with Norwich City, who are now nine points clear of the relegation zone and unbeaten in eight.
City looked psychologically inferior against Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid, yet Norwich are so confident that Bradley Johnson is hitting the bar with first-time reverse flicks.