Scouting report: Barcelona U19

September 13, 2012

There was much intrigue ahead of Barcelona U19’s showdown with Tottenham U19 at White Hart Lane. How good are they, and how similar are they to Tito Vilanova’s side?

The result, a 2-0 away win, mattered little. What was interesting was how Barça set up, their tempo, what type of players they had and, mostly, if their senior team’s superiority was reflected as far down as U19 level. Considering Barcelona’s seemingly endless production line, expectations were high.

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Understanding Brendan Rodgers

August 15, 2012

Many are talking about Brendan Rodgers, but how well do we know him? Dafydd Pritchard, sport reporter for Swansea’s regional paper, sheds light on his character, his tactics and the time he scouted Fernando Torres for José Mourinho.

The path to the top has been steep for Brendan Rodgers. Since quitting as Chelsea reserves coach in 2008, the Northern Irishman has managed Watford, Reading and taken Swansea from the Championship to 11th in the Premier League.

On Saturday, only four years after leaving Stamford Bridge, the 39-year-old will oversee his first Premier League match in charge of Liverpool.

While some have questioned his credentials, the achievement of bringing attractive and winning football to Swansea on limited resources makes him an intriguing prospect. But what are the methods of the Liverpool manager? Dafydd Pritchard, who last year forged a close relationship with Rodgers while covering Swansea for the South Wales Evening Post, has the answers.

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Chelsea’s Oscar: a 90-minute observation

August 7, 2012

It is dangerous to judge a player based solely on 90 minutes’ lazy couch scouting, but in few players is talent more apparent than 20-year-old Oscar dos Santos Emboaba Júnior – or simply Oscar. 

Chelsea’s £25m summer acquisition looks as complete an attacking playmaker you can find – at least based on the Olympics semi-final between South Korea and Brazil. While possessing pace, vision, great passing and a hint of artistry – what South American forward doesn’t? – the Brazilian stands out in one particular area; intelligence. No pass is wasted and, wherever possible, the solutions are progressive and constructive.

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The psychology of José Mourinho

June 5, 2012

The secret of José Mourinho’s success is best explained by his deep understanding of football’s most unexploited resource: the human psychology.

William James, the distinguished American psychologist and philosopher, once wrote: “Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. We are making use of only a small part of our physical and mental resources… [The human individual] possesses powers of various sorts which he habitually fails to use.”

The thought is as fascinating as it is true: humans operate within a small percentage of their capacity; mentally and physically. What if, say in football, someone found a way to extract some of that potential?

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Why Torres is struggling

December 5, 2011

Blaming Fernando Torres’s ineffectiveness on ‘poor form’ and ‘lack of confidence’ would undermine an equally important tactical factor: Chelsea’s passing tempo.

Torres’s struggles at Chelsea have been well-documented. Most agree five goals in 34 appearances is poor value for a £50m striker; even André Villas-Boas has appeared to lose patience, opting for Didier Drogba in recent games.

Yet few have shed light on why the previously-unplayable Spaniard has struggled so desperately – beyond easy arguments of lacking sharpness, hunger, motivation and whatever other qualities a world-class predator is supposed to possess.

While those factors are influential, they only partly explain Torres’s spectacular fall from grace since flourishing under Rafa Benítez’s stewardship. When arriving at Chelsea, Villas-Boas was right stating collective adjustment was key to improve the Spaniard. Yet the Chelsea boss has failed to make those changes, primarily because his patient build-up style clashes with the type of striker Torres is.

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The reintroduction of Villas-Boas’s 4-3-3

November 3, 2011

The Portuguese’s redeployment of Porto’s 4-3-3 formation at Chelsea only scratches the surface of what is a replica of deeper tactical concepts. Chelsea's Andre Villas-BoasAndré Villas-Boas’s methods are still being questioned. Last weekend he had to defend his adventurous football philosophy – like all managers are when losing – after conceding five goals to Arsenal at Stamford Bridge.

Interestingly though, reporters quizzed him in context of José Mourinho, a tactical chameleon whose success is centred on pragmatism.

“I won’t change my philosophy,” the Chelsea manager responded. “It’s a personal and club value and we will not sell it cheaply. It makes us proud with the way we are playing. We just have to correct things.”

His answer emphasised two differences to the Special One: Villas-Boas is more attacking – and less flexible. Within months at Stamford Bridge, Mourinho dropped his narrow 4-4-2 diamond in favour of 4-3-3 to accommodate Arjen Robben, Joe Cole and Damien Duff. With Villas-Boas, the system is pre-determined, and players adapt to the formation. In fact so much so that  several Chelsea players perform near-identical roles to those of last year’s all-conquering Porto side.

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A Catalan legacy

May 31, 2011

Brendan Rodgers may have taken most of the plaudits after guiding Swansea to the Premier League, but it is Roberto Martinez who deserves the main credit for the Jacks’ historic achievement.

It was the spring of 2007 when Swansea’s road to the Premiership really started. The club had been drifting outside the League One play-offs for years, and clouds of confusion and nostalgia were hanging over a fanbase still licking their wounds after the heartbreaking departure of Lee Trundle.

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