The Element of Suicide, Or What Must Go Right For Manchester United To Win

May 25, 2011 — by Adam

[Editors’ note: We welcome back Adam Novy for a preview of this Saturday’s little match in London–Manchester United versus FC Barcelona, meeting at Wembley for the 2011 UEFA Champions League final.]

Suicidal tendencies?

Manchester United is a cunning team who play a vintage 4-4-2 formation and, when focused, do well controlling games against big teams, as with their three recent wins against Chelsea, a side who always used to kill them. While Barcelona my be slightly overrated by a droolingly uncritical press who’ve made them poster kids for liberal self-congratulation despite their racist players, they play the best and most attractive football of any club in memory, and have five or six of the best position players in the world, including Leo Messi, who’s in a class by himself. To beat Barcelona, Utd will need a number of things to go their way, and, if any single one of them doesn’t, they will lose. (You should probably be told, gentle reader, that I’m a Man Utd fan.) It’s not impossible for Utd to pull this off, but it’s highly unlikely.

Here is a list of things Utd need to do to win:

Squeeze Out Service To Messi

Lionel Messi is almost impossible to stop, except when he plays for Argentina, when he never gets the ball in dangerous places and has almost no influence at all. Germany contained him without sweating, and, to do the same, Utd will need to keep the ball from getting to him in the box. Because he moves back and forth and side-to-side, Utd will cede possession if he’s far from the goal, but try to angle him away if he’s in the area. Also, once he gets the ball, he’ll need to be smothered. He cannot be allowed to pass to open teammates.

CommentaryUnited States

Extremely Brief USA v Ghana Preview Suited To Our Era Of Distraction

June 26, 2010 — by Adam2

This weekend, the American team continues its fabulous march to destiny with a match against Ghana, the sole remaining Africans, in a meeting with uncomfortable hegemonic overtones, not that American fans give a shit. Here is a reductively short perversion of what both teams need to do to win the match.

Ghana Has To Do Two Things:

1. Find A Goal

Ghana have only scored two times. Both were penalties by forward Asamoah Gyan. Gyan runs the channels well, links up play and helps his teammates, but he does not really look for goals. Ghana are formidable defensively because they don’t throw players forward, ever, but the Americans are weak at tracking back up the middle. Make the likes of Maurice Edu, Ricardo Clark, Benny Feilhaber and Jose Torres defend their area and you can hurt the USA. Let them attack all day and you will lose.


A Continuing Obsession With Spain

June 26, 2010 — by Adam

It’s not often that a single strategic decision decides a football match, but that’s what happened yesterday, when Chile played Spain. The high defensive line played by Chile let Spain off the hook.

Chile play a very unusual system, in which they attack without cease for every minute of the match, and play what looks like six wingers. Sometimes, personalities or luck or athleticism decide which team wins a match, but because the Chileans are so novel, they almost always win or lose based on tactics.

One risky aspect of Chile’s game is the high defensive line they play. Chile shrink the field so they can make the short, angled passes that spring their wingers into space,, but to do this, their defenders need to stand very close to their attackers, so they can start their passing game with accuracy. Long passes are notoriously hard to complete and give defenders time to organize their shape. The virtue of Chile’s system is the claustrophobic terror it creates for defenders, and Spain were petrified today, at least for twenty-four minutes.


A Listicle: 5 Reasons Spain Lost To Switzerland

June 16, 2010 — by Adam5

This was an upset that absolutely no one thought would happen, except, perhaps, for Switzerland’s veteran German coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, who has, as they say, seen it all, or at least he’s seen the film of how the United States beat Spain last summer in the Confederations Cup. His surprisingly simple game plan gave the world a blueprint to beat the European champions. Journalists like the venerable @sidlowe are saying that Switzerland’s goal was “absurdly silly and fortunate,” but France went down to such a goal against Senegal and never recovered in 2002. It looked unlucky at the time, but seems indelible in retrospect.

Because Spain’s football is considered the standard for beauty, symmetry and international poetry, watching the Swiss defend them out of the match was a little like watching Republicans outmaneuver Harry Reid. It simply isn’t fair! Still, Spain will have to be more than poster children for liberal self-congratulation in their next game. They will have to adjust. Here are five issues Spain will have to understand if they are going to survive what is now a very tricky group: