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Steve

The English Football Thread

Started by Steve,

The Telegraph

Friday September 25 2020

Football Nerd

How Crystal Palace's attacks have been the fastest in the Premier League

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By Daniel Zeqiri

 

Exploiting attacking transitions is crucial in modern football. Thanks to the exhaustive use of data and ever more forensic video scouting, teams have never been more well organised and attuned to their opponent's strengths.

The few seconds after possession changes hands when defences are disorganised is a precious chance to launch an ambush.

No team has been more impressive in this regard than Crystal Palace, who collected maximum points from two difficult opening games against Southampton and Manchester United.

Palace have recorded the fastest attacking sequences of any team in the Premier League so far this season.

With the important caveat that the season is only two games old, I analyse those numbers here.

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Should City have signed Thiago or can they replace Silva from within?

https://theathletic.com/2090519/2020/09/25/manchester-city-aouar-foden-thiago-bennacer/

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For all the centre-back hokey cokey, the striker enquiries, the left-back wait-and-sees and the Lionel Messi rollercoaster, Manchester City have been clear on one thing this summer: there will be no new midfielders.

No Denis Zakaria, no Ismael Bennacer, no Houssem Aouar, no Thiago, not even Douglas Luiz, who could have been re-signed from Aston Villa with a buy-back clause.

Despite David Silva’s exit, and his importance not just to this City team but to every City team of the last decade, the club’s decision makers believe they have everything they need already.

“At the moment we have enough players in this position,” Pep Guardiola said last Friday.

But do they?

Phil Foden is supposed to be Silva’s successor, of course, and that is something Guardiola himself has said many times. A year ago, had it been suggested that City would buy a replacement for Silva they would have been criticised for putting an obstacle in Foden’s path, and there would’ve been some justification for that criticism.

A lot has changed in that time, however, as it has become increasingly clear that Guardiola is reluctant to play Foden or Bernardo Silva in Silva’s left-sided No 8 role. In the past few months, it has been more common to see Foden playing in the front three, and Bernardo’s appearances in midfield have generally been in place of De Bruyne.

That’s because, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, Foden, Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bruyne are different players to Silva, and Guardiola wants one “De Bruyne-type” and one “Silva-type” when he plays two No 8s.

Foden, Bernardo and De Bruyne will carry the ball and probe for openings, whereas Silva is a “take the ball, pass the ball” kind of player. By using the ball quickly and efficiently, it helps dictate the tempo of a game, and it gives an element of control. Ilkay Gundogan is the only similar midfielder in the squad, which is why the German has filled in for Silva far more than anybody else.

But while Silva and Gundogan are the same type of player, Silva is far more effective in the final third. Even so, Silva was often left out last season because of his lack of physicality and energy, so in an ideal world City would need a mobile, hard-working, creative No 8 who can also dictate the rhythm of a game, which is obviously not easy.

It seems a no-brainer to many of us to simply play Foden or Bernardo next to De Bruyne given they are all mobile, hard-working and creative, but without that element of control it’s just not a Guardiola team.

Instead, one of the ways he planned to replace Silva and retain that level of control heading into this season was to play four central players in the team instead of three — for example Rodri, Gundogan, De Bruyne and Bernardo — and that is what we saw on Monday at Wolves.

In Gundogan’s absence, Fernandinho returned to midfield alongside Rodri in a double pivot, which seemed to be Guardiola’s preferred mechanism for protecting his defence last season. De Bruyne floated around on the left, where Silva would normally be, and Foden dropped in from the right wing, making it a midfield four at times but still managing to provide an outlet out wide, which is bound to be very useful.

It worked well enough and it is easy to imagine Bernardo slotting in somewhere (either in Foden’s position or even De Bruyne’s) and Gundogan being used basically anywhere, given how much Guardiola values him.

So there are clearly ways to live without Silva, and in Rodri, Gundogan, Fernandinho, Foden, Bernardo and De Bruyne you would sound a bit spoiled to suggest City need another player, but… there’s a very good argument that they do.

Guardiola’s two most successful seasons at City came with one holding midfielder and two No 8s, and of the four players who can play there (Foden, Bernardo, De Bruyne, Gundogan), three are effectively vying for the same role, with Gundogan the only one who can do close to what Silva did. That’s not ideal because even those around Gundogan believe he is better in a deeper position.

It is obviously difficult to find another Silva in the transfer market, but there simply isn’t one in the City squad at all and that makes it very hard to return to the system that delivered so many trophies between 2017 and 2019.

And clearly there were some options in the market this summer. It’s hard to make the argument that City need another deep-lying midfielder urgently, given Rodri is entering his second season, Gundogan is a very good option and Fernandinho is very capable cover even at 35, but… City are using the double-pivot quite a lot and sometimes a player becomes available that is worth going for.

“That 20 to 25-year-old category, that’s the spot that we like,” City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak says of potential signings, “but at the same time, sometimes opportunities come up that fit with what the manager wants and with what we need for the squad that might be out of that box, and if that’s the case we’re pragmatic enough to make that move.”

He was talking more about Kalidou Koulibaly and Messi, but surely that also goes for 29-year-old Thiago?

There’s an element of fantasy football about this but given City would move for older players if they’re what’s needed, the relatively low transfer fee (£20 million) and his sheer suitability to the squad, then surely the Spaniard would have been perfect?

It would have been harder to justify a move for Bennacer, the highly-rated Algerian at AC Milan, or even Douglas Luiz who improved so much at Villa last season. Thiago, on the other hand, may just be the best “control” midfielder in the world so it’s hard to think of an especially good reason why he would not have been of interest to City. If anything, it would have stopped Liverpool getting him and, with the benefit of hindsight, had City taken that approach with Virgil van Dijk, then history would have looked very different.

And then there’s Aouar, a player City like a lot and one who played so well against them in the Champions League in August. With City short of options to play Silva’s No 8 role, the Frenchman would have been perfect. He is the same type of “control” player, but one who is creative in the final third. Lyon seem to be willing to sell for under £60 million, the type of figure City have spent on players in the past two summers, and going by the enquiries they have made in other positions, they have that money available.

In fairness, Guardiola’s first attempt to crack life after Silva looked promising at Wolves, and if Foden’s ability to play in midfield and out wide at the same time is what it takes to help City move on then he will be, in a way, the Silva successor after all.

But if the plan is to get four central players into the team instead of three, there’s bound to be a shortfall somewhere else eventually. There will be games when City need a right winger who can destabilise the opposition with a dribble, when somebody like Riyad Mahrez or new boy Ferran Torres will be needed to help unpick a deep defence, and Guardiola will have to come up with alternative arrangements in midfield. Perhaps that will be what he tried last season, with Rodri and Gundogan next to each other and De Bruyne further forward. The prospect of the “Rodrigan” pairing, rightly or wrongly, will not fill many fans with confidence.

There is something to be said for trying to find solutions within the current squad. From within the City bubble it’s easy to say that the defence, midfield and attack all need new signings (and from my point of view, they do) but, at the same time, outside observers could surely argue that a squad filled with such quality and expensive players, coached by somebody as good as Guardiola, should not always rely on the transfer market.

So it will be both interesting and refreshing to see Guardiola and his players come up with the solutions themselves.

But you don’t win extra points for degrees of difficulty, and in terms of squad planning it does seem to be a risk for a club as prepared as City not to address the situation.

They’re still trying to replace Vincent Kompany’s unique influence, after all. It would be a real achievement if they can get by without Silva.

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5 minutes ago, Vesper said:

Should City have signed Thiago or can they replace Silva from within?

Foden is natural replacement. 2 goals and 1 assist this season in 2 games. I really rate him.

Vesper likes this

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3 hours ago, MoroccanBlue said:

Has Foden really done anything other than score or assist a goal in a game that finishes 4 or 5-0?

Mount did very well in his first season in epl and so did Tammy, yet all you hear is foden rashford greenwood etc......biased bums.

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Third Brighton's game I am watching this season and they are great to watch. They are  a well coached team,you can tell it easily. 

 

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2 minutes ago, 0007 said:

Third Brighton's game I am watching this season and they are great to watch. They are  a well coached team,you can tell it easily. 

 

Potter is a great manager. Saw this when he was here in Sweden with Östersunds FK for ages. He took them to Europe, and they were utter shite before he came.

0007 and Atomiswave like this

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