Madrid punk heavy metal Liverpool after curtailed 25-minute set

Alan O’Brien 

Gegenpressing is the best playmaker there is, according to Jurgen Klopp; heavy metal football, as it were. But what happens if your gegenpressers blow their amps after 25 minutes? In Kiev, on Saturday evening, the one-note German found out. Continue reading

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Guardiola and self-doubt: the Klopp effect

Alan O’Brien 

When ideology meets pressure there is usually only one winner. History is littered with raging socialists whose left-wing zeal quickly moderated upon assuming any significant responsibility. In Greece, Alexis Tsipras’ Syriza party stands as the most recent high-profile example. Anti-establishmentarianism quickly morphed into fiscal rectitude when the time came to stick or twist. Continue reading

Ascendant Arsenal pierce Palace lines with ease

Alan O’Brien 

It took 30 harrowing minutes for Roy Hodgson to give up the 4-4-2 ghost here. Four goals down when the stable door was finally closed, the Arsenal horse had already bolted, lived a full life in the wild, and expired of natural causes. Continue reading

Central midfield chasms result from Wenger’s latest bout of Conte copying

Alan O’Brien 

Back in August, Antonio Conte deviated from his title-winning 3-4-2-1 system for a big game just like this one. Tottenham Hotspur were frustrated, and bested, by a more conservative Chelsea 3-5-2. Its inception was designed to ensure greater defensive security against stronger sides. Yet, on Wednesday night, in another London derby, it achieved anything but. Continue reading

Burnley and Liverpool role reversal inspires late Clarets defeat

Alan O’Brien 

There was more than a touch of poetic irony about Ragnar Klavan’s late winner here. Burnley, not Liverpool, were punished for a late lack of restraint. Liverpool, not Burnley, turned aerial supremacy into unlikely glory. Continue reading

Stephens shines as compact Southampton deny moribund Manchester United

Alan O’Brien 

Bereft of confidence, and showered in sarcastic cheers on departure, Henrikh Mkhitaryan lasted only 65 minutes here. Hung out to dry, on his first Premier League start since November 5, the Armenian’s Old Trafford career looks totally unsalvageable. Continue reading

Premier League: Three tactical talking points from Matchday 18

Alan O’Brien 

1) Pacy Palace playing to their strengths under Hodgson

Turning Crystal Palace into a tiki-taka media darling is a long-held goal of chairman Steve Parish. Hence his summer decision to hire Frank de Boer, against the alleged protestations of the club’s American paymasters. Continue reading

Premier League: Three tactical talking points from Matchday 16

Alan O’Brien 

1) Hard-running Hammers consign sluggish Slaven days to memory

If Slaven Bilic’s West Ham United had greeted the champions in this manner, claret (and blue) would surely have spilled. Continue reading