• Liverpool's press vs. Mesut Ozil might be key to Sunday's clash with Arsenal

    Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was the last to find out after Georginio Wijnaldum welcomed his second child. Few fixtures over the past four years have been as entertaining as Liverpool-Arsenal: Their eight matches in that time have averaged 3.8 goals, a run that includes a 0-0 draw at the Emirates. And even that stalemate was fast-paced, frenetic and thoroughly entertaining. Their fixture slated for Sunday seems to be a genuinely big game. It appears doubtful that both sides will finish in the top four given the competition from Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham. Three games...


    Source: | Published: Mon, 19 Feb 2018 16:20:18

  • How Real Madrid surprisingly came to dominate the Champions League

    With Champions League matchday 1 looming, the FC crew delve into the marquee fixtures. It feels like yesterday that Real Madrid were obsessed with "La Decima," their relentless quest to become the first club to move into double figures in terms of European Cups. Yet after three triumphs in the past four years, they have 12 to their name, five clear of their nearest challengers, Milan, and seven clear of archrivals Barcelona. A haul of 12 European Cups suggests that Real Madrid have triumphed consistently over the history of the competition, but that's not entirely true. It has...


    Source: | Published: Mon, 19 Feb 2018 16:20:13

  • 3-4-3 formations in focus as Chelsea and Arsenal meet again

    Stewart Robson and the FC crew discuss Alexis Sanchez's role in the Arsenal squad and why he must be in the XI at Chelsea. Antonio Conte doesn't want to speak about Arsenal's situation and has a laugh at comments about how Morata's scoring goals. For a managerial rivalry that is just a year old, the meetings between Arsene Wenger and Antonio Conte have produced a series of fascinating Arsenal vs. Chelsea clashes that essentially tell the story of the Premier League's most significant tactical shift during that time: A shift from clubs being fixated upon four-man defences, to an increasing dominance of the back three. Sunday will mark the fifth meeting between Wenger and Conte since the latter arrived in London. In the league last season,...


    Source: | Published: Mon, 19 Feb 2018 16:20:09

  • Is Mourinho right that the Premier League is more defensive than before?

    Craig Burley scoffs at the idea of the Premier League title being a two-horse race between United and City this season. Regardless of the positional history of pundits, defending is often the first thing to be analysed. It's easier -- and probably makes for better television -- to find fault, rather than highlight the positives and, when analysis contains replays of goals, focusing upon defensive blunders is inevitable. But Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, when quizzed last week about Wayne Rooney's career ahead of his Old Trafford return, implied the opposite. "I think Wayne spent probably 10 years of his...


    Source: | Published: Mon, 19 Feb 2018 16:20:06

  • Hazard vs. De Bruyne: Dazzling finesse against dominating power

    Jonathan Smith reports from Man City's training ground where Pep Guardiola speaks for the first time since Sergio Aguero was involved in a car crash. Antonio Conte sends well wishes to Man City's Sergio Aguero after he was involved in a car crash in Amsterdam. Until recently, Premier League fans would have struggled to name a famous Belgian. Belgium's contribution to the English top flight was mediocre, with Philippe Albert's legendary chip over Peter Schmeichel in Newcastle's 5-0 victory against Manchester United in 1996 possibly the only standout contribution. It took two decades of Premier League seasons until a Belgian won the title. Now, however, you can't move for Belgians. There are currently 16 Premier League players who have represented Belgium...


    Source: | Published: Mon, 19 Feb 2018 16:20:03

  • Jonjo Shelvey's high-risk, high-reward football is quintessentially British

    The Exploding Heads take a look at the weekend's Premier League fixtures, including the unveiling of West Brom's new mascot and the tattoo World Cup. Few players in the Premier League influence a game, for better or worse, like Jonjo Shelvey. Every year, Time Magazine names their "Person of the Year." It's a curious award, famously not (as the name might imply) intended to reward someone who has necessarily done something positive, but simply to highlight someone who has, "for better or for worse... done the most to influence the events of the year." It's an interesting variation upon typical award criteria. Good? Bad? It doesn't matter. They've done something major. If football were to follow the same criteria -- man of the match...


    Source: | Published: Mon, 19 Feb 2018 16:19:59

  • Happier memories of Cazorla show the way for Arsenal to play vs. Man City

    Thursday wasn't a particularly enjoyable day for Arsenal supporters. Shortly after sitting through a dull goalless Europa League draw with Red Star Belgrade, many will have scrolled through their social media feeds on the way home and discovered the horrifying extent of Santi Cazorla's ankle and Achilles tendon problems. The graphic pictures of the injury, as well as a moving story in which Cazorla reveals he feared his foot would be amputated, goes far beyond the usual football fitness woe. Yet,...


    Source: | Published: Mon, 19 Feb 2018 16:19:54

  • The key to Man City's superb season might be Raheem Sterling's new role

    ESPN FC's Mark Ogden and Man City correspondent Jonathan Smith assess City's chances of finishing the Premier League season unbeaten. Man City's Raheem Sterling talks to ESPN FC about the Manchester derby, Pep Guardiola's tactics and much more. Craig Burley compares Manchester United to a small club playing a giant in the FA Cup in their loss to Manchester City. Pep Guardiola always springs a tactical surprise in big matches and Manchester United know that more than most. Guardiola underlined his status as a top-class manager back in May 2009, when his Barcelona side defeated Manchester United in the Champions League final thanks, in part, to a tactic involving the positioning of Samuel Eto'o and Lionel Messi. Eto'o, who had played the majority of the season upfront, started wide-right. Messi, who had occupied the right-sided role, started in the centre....


    Source: | Published: Mon, 19 Feb 2018 16:19:50

  • Criticising Liverpool for rotation is silly as it arguably makes them great

    There are certain footballing topics that appear to become a major issue every few years and considering the nature of the word, "rotation" seems a perfect example. It's currently a hot topic in the aftermath of Jurgen Klopp's decision to rotate his side for the recent 1-1 draw against Everton. Liverpool stumbled in typical fashion, outplaying the opposition before one defensive error cost them two points. Yet Klopp's team selection, rather than Liverpool profligacy or defensive errors, was held...


    Source: | Published: Mon, 19 Feb 2018 16:19:46

  • If Swansea avoid relegation it'll be due to new players, not new manager

    Swansea City's decision to dismiss Paul Clement felt entirely inevitable simply because sacking the manager has become the go-to solution when a club is struggling, regardless of whether he's actually done anything wrong. Yet they're in a relatively unusual situation because they have a fine defensive record and a very poor attacking record. In this situation, a quick fix is considerably more difficult than when a new manager inherits a leaky defence but a decent attack. So far, 2017-18 has...


    Source: | Published: Mon, 19 Feb 2018 16:19:42