Premier League Tactical Review: 5 Things We Learned
Another week, another scintillating set of English Premier League fixtures to get your teeth into.
Queens Park Rangers' win can be attributed mostly to one man, Manchester United continue to reap the benefits of one of the most tactically aware players in the world and Aston Villa showed us exactly how to deal with false forwards.
Read on for more details!
Three-Man Defence Trumps the False-Nine
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Liverpool didn't play with a true false-nine against Aston Villa, but they don't use a target man, don't possess an exclusive striker and the forward line often interchange positions.
Luis Suarez is adept at dipping in and out of the line to fool defenders, and Lionel Messi's exploits have taught us you risk conceding if you follow him.
With a three-man line, however, that threat is positively absent. We saw Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli ignore Cesc Fabregas' runs at Euro 2012 due to sheer caution, but we saw Ciaran Clark do the polar opposite at Anfield.
He followed Suarez around and wouldn't let him go, knowing that Liverpool's 4-3-3 would never allow the Reds to gain a man over on Nathan Baker and Chris Herd.
Villa faced a 4-3-3 away to Queens Park Rangers and Clark never followed Jamie Mackie—this was a modification built specifically to deal with the Uruguayan and it was superb from Paul Lambert.
Regarding Tom Cleverley, We Get It Now
Tom Cleverley looks like a good little player, doesn't he?
Manchester United fans will respond with "duh!" but the rest of the footballing world has been skeptical for some time about what he actually brings to the table.
I've taken the time to watch him on several occasions now, and he's developing into an all-round excellent player.
His ability to play in almost any central midfield role—box-to-box, holding, in a diamond, in the hole—is astounding for one so young, and his attribute range is scarily wide.
Tackle, shoot, Hollywood pass, short pass, off-the-ball movement—you name it, he's got it.
He's still unrefined, but it's easy to see why Sir Alex Ferguson is persisting with him ever since he got his big chance in the Community Shield seasons ago.
Adel Taarabt's New Look
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It's remarkable that Mark Hughes didn't do this a little more often.
As Harry Redknapp gets to grips with his new team, he's tried out a few different formations and some differing personnel. He may just have struck gold, however, by moving Adel Taarabt inside.
He's a certifiable menace cutting in from the left—sure, but what happens when you can't get him in the game? He tends to drift inside anyway in search of the ball (thus ripping the formation apart), so why not just play him in the No. 10 role to begin with?
It's the position he looked so promising in at Tottenham, and in some ways reminds us of what Kevin Prince-Boateng can produce when he's on form.
His two goals against Fulham won the R's their first league game this season and made Brede Hangeland look like a lumbering old fool.
Robin van Persie's Movement Is Stupefying
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We've known Robin van Persie is a clever, clever player for some time, but it might just be Sir Alex Ferguson's system that suits him the best and has allowed him to improve yet again this season.
His movement in and out of the forward line is second to none, and the likes of Jonathan Wilson aren't calling him "the falsest nine of all" for nothing (via The Guardian).
His peeling off of the defenders for Manchester United's third goal on Saturday was superb, leaving Titus Bramble in a panic about who to mark. He took Ashley Young's layoff and fizzed in the cross he would demand from his providers for Wayne Rooney.
Andi Weimann Is Darren Bent Mark II
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Many didn't understand why Darren Bent wasn't being favoured at Villa Park when they needed goals.
Paul Lambert has stuffed his faith into Andi Weimann and is currently reaping the rewards—he's formed a formidable partnership with Christian Benteke in the role that was carved out for Bent himself.
Benteke drops a little deeper to contribute to the buildup play, but Weimann is almost exclusively a poacher. He's deputised in the wide areas and tried his hardest, but his strengths lay purely in finishing.
He's got an instinct some would kill for and really comes to life in the 18-yard box. The common consensus is that Villa don't miss Bent due to the presence of Benteke, but it's the Belgian's partnership with his Austrian colleague that really has the fans and manager ecstatic.