Tactical Outlook: Premier League Gameweek 2
By Alex Fairchild
Premier League clubs have offered up some interesting tactical looks, patterns, and approaches against their opposition. Below is a look at some of what we saw on the second weekend of play.
Wayne's World Meets Mourinho's "Attack":
Jose Mourinho claimed he brought a positive side to Old Trafford, but without the teeth of an established striker, The Special One's troops left viewers wanting more. Chelsea set out in a rigid 4-2-3-1 with Frank Lampard playing to Ramires's left. Oscar played in the hole, with two wingers in Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne to his side. Andre Schurrle ran up top. The German was stopped by Manchester United wherever he turned. Attempting to beat three defenders on the night, he failed each time. Schurrle only garnered one attempt on goal, which was blocked. Fernando Torres was introduced in the second half, pushing Schurrle to the right and though the change saw Chelsea push further forward, the title hopefuls managed only a blast from 18 yards in the final half hour.
Without an out-and-out striker, Chelsea were at a loss. It was almost as if Mourinho wanted to go the Barcelona root and play with six midfielders. However, the difference with that tactic is that the Catalonian midfielders can finish on a regular basis. Players like Hazard and Schurrle are quality and can score, but are far more comfortable creating. Against United, Chelsea lacked a physical presence up top and had it not been for their back four, Mourinho's choice could have hurt the club. Leaving Romelu Lukaku, a powerful presence on the pitch, on the bench, along with Torres was interesting from the Portuguese. For Manchester United, Wayne Rooney patrolled the middle of the pitch and of all men looked the most likely to break the deadlock. The No. 10 dropped back into defense at times and, as usual, came very deep to get the ball. He proved easy to find for his center midfielders and worked hard to get from flank to flank in order to receive passes.
David Moyes gave Rooney license to operate behind and around Robin van Persie. Meanwhile, Danny Welbeck trended towards the left side of the pitch, but cut in enough to give Patrice Evra space to make runs down that side. Phil Jones, who is a natural center back, was deployed by Moyes as an attacking right back. He certainly struggled, giving the ball away in Eden Hazard's part of the pitch six times.
Southampton Attack, Sunderland Defend:
Emanuele Giaccherini was the difference for the Black Cats, sliding between the Saints's defense to finish a header with 3 minutes gone. The Italian went unmarked and found the net easily with the posts unmanned. Adam Johnson played to the left for Sunderland, while the goalscorer took the right, though neither had much of influence on the match. Having taken an early 1-0 lead, Paolo Di Canio decided it was time to pack it in. Jozy Altidore led the line, while Stephane Sessegnon played behind the American, as two, compact banks of four became the day's order for Sunderland.
Southampton applied pressure on its opponents, but failed to break them down. The deep-lying midfield pairing of Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama provided much support for the Saints's front four. Calum Chambers made multiple approaches from right back, while James Ward-Prowse did very well to whip balls into Rickie Lambert. Ward-Prowse, who played down the right in the first half, only to drop next to Wanyama in the second, created a pair of chances for Lambert, who totaled eight shots on the afternoon, five of which came from his noggin.
Sunderland were possessed to death by the home side, who completed more than twice as many passes.
But Sunderland's woes can be chalked up to Southampton's quality attackers. While they were unable to finish from open play, they certainly looked dangerous. Pablo Osvaldo, the club's latest signing, showed off his skill on the ball. The Italian slotted in well with Rickie Lambert in his first appearance at St. Mary's.
Poor marking by influential substitute Connor Wickham allowed Jose Fonte to equalize with an easy header from a delicious Ward-Prowse set piece.
Liverpool, Villa and Possession:
The polarization of the Liverpool-Villa match was unprecedented. Liverpool pinned Villa in the first half with a barrage of short passes. In the game's opposite leg, the Villains returned the favor. Aston Villa's 206 passes in the second half put Liverpool on the back foot.
This battle played out on Liverpool's right flank (Villa's left). With Liverpool getting down that side in the first half via Glen Johnson, Gabriel Agbonlahor was forced further and further back, limiting Villa's options on the counter. Once Villa gained confidence on the ball, and eventually control of the match, Agbonlahor got forward, pushing Johnson toward his own goal. With Antonio Luna following Agbonlahor down their left side, Brendan Rodgers was forced to deplete his attack. The Liverpool gaffer had Daniel Sturridge play as a right midfielder, leaving the Reds without a pure striker, at times, in the second period of play.
As Villa's grip on the game firmed, Rodgers ceded more of his attack. In the 69th minute, he introduced his latest signing to Liverpool supporters. Aly Cissokho, a left back, sat in front of Jose Enrique, who continued shoring up the left side of the team's defense. But Cissokho's impact was limited, as the unit forced three turnovers and bailed the Reds out of danger with two clearances.
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All stats from FourFourTwo StatsZone