Thursday, 20 July 2017

The Battle of Shefield: Shefield Wednesday vs Shefield United

In the last fifteen years or so, football fans here in Nigeria have come to know some of the exciting football rivalries in European leagues. From the El Clasico of Real Madrid vs Barcelona, and the Milan derby of Ac Milan vs Inter Milan, to the Manchester derby of Manchester United vs Manchester City and the London derby of Arsenal vs Chelsea. These are the rivalries known to the average football fan in this part of the World. However, there are so many other rivalries that are more intense than the ones mentioned above. 

The Shefield derby is much more than a derby; it is a battle between Shefield United and Shefield Wednesday. In this match, blood is spilled that resembles what we see in action movies. This battle doesn't stop in the field of play between the opposing players but it also extends to the opposing fans who fight before the match, during the match and after the match. 

The hatred is so genuine that during match days security is increased to avert or better put to ameliorate fans violence. The stewards at match venues usually work harder than they would if the match wasn't a Shefield derby. 
Fans in violent conduct

Monday, 17 July 2017

Costa, the rebel of football

For anyone who has been following the Premier League since August 2014 should not have difficulty in understanding the title of this story.
In 2014, Chelsea FC secured the signature of Diego Costa from Atletico Madrid to bolster their attacking line, but little did they know that they were also buying a player who was not only good in scoring goals but also a master of the dark arts. The number of controversies caused by the Brazilian born Spain international are numerous to mention.
The Brazilian fights everyone including his opponents, his team mates and even his coaches. He doesn't shy away from doing same off the pitch as well.
However, his time at Chelsea FC and indeed the Premier League could be up before the end of this summer's transfer window (as per skysports). Well, once he leaves, English football would bid him farewell without any emotion attached since he came as a rebel, he will leave as a rebel.

Monday, 5 December 2016

The Green Card Rule in Football

As per 90min, the green card was used for the first time in football in a Serie B match between Virtus Entella and Vicenza of Italy. And it was issued in favour of the visitors. Although not a physical card like the yellow and red cards, the green card would be recorded in favour of a team for fair play.

So, what actions would be adjudged fair play from a player? For instance, in the Serie B match, the referee gave a corner kick to the away side only for the Vicenza player involved in the action to tell the centre referee that it was a goal kick instead for the home side, Virtus Entella because his attempted cross did not touch the defender.

Well, that was in the Serie B match, where arguably, the competition is less fierce compared to a Serie A game involving say Juventus and Roma or a very competitive match on the last day of the season where the same Serie B teams are fighting for survival. In either case, you would see clearly that the green card rule wouldn't matter at all when the stakes are high.

In essence, in a very competitive league or tourney, the green card rule would be observed by teams only if the stakes are not high; when the fate of every team has been decided; the title has been won and lost, the relegation battle has been won and lost, qualification for European competitions has been decided. Otherwise, the green card rule would be as useless as the letter "p" in the word "psychology" since it would be left at the mercy of teams to decide whether it is issued or not. To put it clearly, in a highly competitive game, no player would be so honest as to reject a penalty kick wrongfully awarded by the referee when his team are chasing a game or searching for a winner.

After all said and done, it would be quite interesting if teams observe this latest rule in the game irrespective of the competition involved, since it would further enhance the good reputation of football and also endear opposition players to opposition fans. As we await its wider application across the various leagues and competitions in the World, it is my candid hope that the green card rule succeeds for the good of the game.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

The Workaholic Sanchez

I imagine where Arsenal would be in the premier league table if Alex Sanchez was not in that Gunners team. Take him out of the team, and Wenger's side will be struggling. He is the type of player that is tailored made for the highly rigorous premier league. 

Unlike Ozil who lacks strength but possesses technique, Sanchez possesses both. He starts and finishes a game closing down defenders and always looking for that half a yard space to shoot. 

In the game against Westham, he took full advantage of the Hammers' shambolic defending to score a hatrick. Although he should be given credit for all three goals especially the second, where he produced a Messsi-esque movement to score. Of all the Arsenal front players who played at the Olympic stadium, only Sanchez looked like a player willing to win. 

As an opposition fan, sometimes you wish to have players of other teams play for your team because you think they will do better and even improve your team. Sanchez is a player who will walk into any team and fit in perfectly. 

The Conte Code 3-4-3: II

When Man City and Chelsea team news were announced yesterday, it was obvious that both Gurdiola and Conte had set out their teams to win. In City's case, six changes were made to the side that won at the Turf Moore last weekend, but Chelsea made only one change to the side that has played in the last six games with Fabregas coming in for the injured Matic.

Gurdiola deployed Navas and Sane as wing backs to nuliffy the attacking threats of Alonso and Moses, although the City duo did troubled the Chelsea wing backs especially the cross from Navas that resulted to an own goal by Cahill, the decision backfired as Chelsea capitalised on the Man City players little familiarity of the 3-4-3 system to win 1-3.

It could be argued that Gurdiola is also an advocate of the 3-4-3 system, but only in rare occasions did his rampant Barcelona side play in this system so also did his Bayern side. In Conte, you have a manager who knows and plays the 3-4-3 system including its equivalent, the 3-5-2 like no one else. He used the latter system at Juve to win three consecutive Scudetti, and it also worked wonders for his Azzuri side in the last Euros.

Every manager has an area of specialization. Talk about the pressing game, Klopp is a master of this. To nuliffy the threat of an opposition team, Mourinho is second to no one in this respect. If you want your team to dominate in possession for 90 minutes of a game, hire the service of either Gurdiola or Wenger. To find tactical codes, call Conte.

Indubitably, in the coming weeks or perhaps months, the premier league may witness a paradigm shift from the favoured 4-2-3-1 system to the "Conte Code 3-4-3" or its equivalent, the 3-5-2. The success of either systems is heavily dependent on; first, defenders with good positional discipline most especially when the wing backs are in advance positions of the pitch, second, wing backs with intelligence and stamina to defend and attack in equal measure, third, central midfielders with the ability to sprint and cover as much ground as possible, and fourth, attacking players who are clinical in front of goal and also willing to offer defensive cover if need be. If the Chelsea game against Man City is anything to go by, Antonio Conte knows more than this, and I bet it could take more than a like minded manager as the Italian to break the "Conte Code 3-4-3". Until then, let us enjoy his tactical masterclass while it last.

Friday, 2 December 2016

The Conte Code 3-4-3: I

In the last premier league game between Chelsea and Tottenham, we saw how Pochettino's team pinned Chelsea back to their own half in the first half hour of the game. This, many pundits attributed to the success of Spurs' counter tactics of deploying the trio of Son, Kane and Dele Alli who continuously pressed the three Chelsea defenders (Azplicueta, Luiz and Cahil) and this made it very difficult for the Blues to build from the back. Spurs' game plan was working to perfection until Pedro's goal cancelled out Eriksen's strike to level things up for the home side.

Typical of Spurs, their system collpased in the first fifteen minutes of the second period which Chelsea took full advantage of to go in front through a Victor Moses strike. Had Chelsea not equalized in the first half, you would expect Pochettino's men to go into the second half and stick to their game plan and maybe grab the second vital goal . If this had happened, we would have heard pundits talking about how the 3-4-3 Conte's tactics Code was broken. Nevertheless, the Chelsea boss would have gone back to his tactics board after the Spurs game to find out how he would stop the 3-4-3 Code from being broken in his side's next match against Man City. Even though City provides a more difficult test than Spurs, it is not possible for City to press Chelsea in the same manner as Tottenham because the Etihad side do not have the requisite personnel to do so.

The prove of the difficulty in breaking the Conte's 3-4-3 Code is the successful application of its like, the 3-5-2 in the ever tactically competitive Serie A. No doubt, the 3-4-3 Code will be broken in time to come, but it will be as hard as anything you could think of.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

David Luiz to Return to Chelsea

According to Sky Sports (here), Chelsea have  made an offer of £30m to bring David Luiz back Stamford Bridge where he left in the summer of 2014 for a record transfer fee of £50m for a defender.
It is understood that the flamboyant 29-year old Brazilian defender is eager for the deal to to happen. If the deal goes through, we except nothing short of an emotional reunion for both parties (the player and the club).
With the transfer market set to close in the next two days, the three parties (PSG, Chelsea and David Luiz) will have to finalize the deal early enough to avoid a repeat of the Real Madrid and Manchester United saga over the transfer of David De Gea.