Chelsea vs Cardiff City

Chelsea vs Cardiff Preview: the Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Back in 1966, Italian movie director Sergio Leone released one of the greatest Spaghetti Western epics of all time. ‘Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo’ had Clint Eastwood in a remarkable role and is known for Leone’s use of long shots and close-up cinematography, as well as his distinctive use of violence, tension, and stylistic gunfights.

Well, maybe we’ll not see stylistic gunfights at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, but for sure there will be a lot of tension on the field. That’s because Cardiff City travel to London without a win to face a Chelsea side who have won all four league matches this season.

At first sight, it’s an easy match for Sarri’s rangers if we compare both teams on Twelve’s leader board. Of the top 10 players, only three are from the Bluebirds: Joe Ralls, Sol Bamba and Sean Morrison. Read More

Newcastle United vs Chelsea preview

Newcastle United vs Chelsea Preview: Hardest challenge for the Blues

If someone, a month ago, said to Maurizio Sarri that his players will adapt that fast to his ideas, he would not believe it. “For sure, in this moment, we are not at the top of our potential,” he said just ten days ago.

“I hope to be at the top of the potential of the squad in one or two months, but I don’t know. I hope that the second part of the season, for us, will be very good with a lot of points. I expect in the first part of the season some problems.”

Well, it’s early to project anything, but Chelsea leads the Premier League with Manchester City and Liverpool, with two wins and six goals scored. More importantly, we can identify Sarri’s ideas on his players’ behavior already.

Looking at Twelve’s leaderboard, Marco Alonso is the best performer of the team so far, with Jorginho – Sarri’s alter ego – and Pedro, the striker, right behind him. Take also the good job of David Luiz, N’Golo Kanté and Antonio Rudiger and you have the answer of good understanding of Sarri’s ideas. Read More

Chelsea Huddersfield preview

Huddersfield Town vs. Chelsea Preview: Do you feel Sarri?

Here we are starting a new Premier League season with great tactical ideas coming from the best managers on earth. And if Pep Guardiola, Jürgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino reigned before, there’s a new knight on Queensland. He’s Chelsea’s new manager, and he speaks with his hands.

For me it’ll be a pleasure to follow Italian coach Maurizio Sarri’s work at Stamford Bridge and bring it to you here on Twelve Football, using these amazing tools and producing some thoughts about tactics and analytics.

Sarri marks a significant shift in tactical strategy for Chelsea following 14 years of reactive counter-attacking football instigated by Jose Mourinho way back in 2004. It became a Blues tradition to hire coaches with principles of conservatism, with Andres Villas-Boas the notable exception.

From Rafa Benitez to Luis Felipe Scolari, from Mourinho’s second term to Antonio Conte, Chelsea had always preferred not to propose the match, but to suffer without controlling the ball. That’s coming to an end now.

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France and fencing on the run

France has done just enough to sneak by every opponent thus far, earning all but one of their five wins by one goal. They come into the final against Croatia as heavy favorites, however this will be a cautious game between two teams keen to avoid risks, both looking to grind the other down via their respective world-class central midfields.

I’ll compare the players who, for me, will have particular clashes between them and the results will determine the progress of the match.

For that reason, the head-to-head between Luka Modric and N’Golo Kante – the tournament’s two most impressive players – should define the World Cup final, both tactically and symbolically. Kante’s role is extremely important given Paul Pogba’s tendency to drift and Blaise Matuidi’s need to close down on the left wing, and the Chelsea midfielder certainly won’t choke; he has made more ball recoveries (48) and interceptions (19) than any other player at the World Cup.

On Twelve’s chart for Modric in attack, we can see where he created his best actions with the ball. Good passes and chances created around the 18 yard box. Also good long balls from behind the centre spot line.

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Allez Les Bleus, On The Counter-Attack

France have steadily improved as the tournament has progressed and are now starting to justify the hype surrounding their presence at Russia’s World Cup. They have kept three clean sheets from five matches and been largely untested thus far – even against powerful teams such as Argentina and Uruguay.

Didier Deschamps’ team proved to be comfortable when they let the opponents retain ball possession. When it happens, France is able to put their offensive threats – Kylian Mbappé and Antoine Griezmann – to play at their best in the situation they are more suited for: on counter attack.

Instead, when France were forced to control the game through possession, as they did against Uruguay, they faced trouble trying to provide their forwards with good chances.

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Uruguay’s last breath was a sad metaphor of their own

The great question for Uruguay was how to maintain their game model without Edison Cavani. As we talked about here, Uruguay’s strength is based on their duos’ work: Godin & Gimenez at the back and Suarez & Cavani at the front. Throughout the World Cup, there was no midfield build-up play star man or ideas that pushed the team to work the ball from the middle.

Tabarez likes the long balls. It was always like that, and there’s no difference in this 2018 team. Well, Cavani had important work as forward, sometimes building deep position in the six yard box, other times opening the field creating chances and giving assistance.

Against France, Cristhian Stuani, a 31 year old forward from Girona FC, was responsible for replacing the PSG star man, and replicating all his actions on the pitch. That would be a burden for any player, but especially for an ordinary forward with no great international background.

Looking at his Twelve dashboard, Stuani scored -14 points in 58 minutes played. A really terrible performance by a player who is expected to be a great part of the scene. A lot of errors and a poor job with the ball made Stuani’s performance forgettable.

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Colombia 1-1 England (3-4 pens): Unrecognizable Colombia flying home

From a tactical perspective, it was not the brightest match from the Cafeteros. Pekerman’s strategy was to stop the ball circulation from England’s midfielders and that was crucial for a team with such offensive vocation.

We saw in our previous analyses how Juan Quintero plays a central role on Colombia’s team, and how all the build-up thinking passes thorough him.

Well, when Colombia most needed the football from his ball wizard, Quintero had his worst performance in the tournament. Aggravated by the absence of star man James Rodriguez, we saw a Colombian team worried more about American referee Mark Geiger’s actions rather than it’s own football playing.

Quintero scored 662 points in 88 minutes, an average of 7.5 points per minute, and he only played one important pass on Twelve’s dashboard (worth 86 points at minute 75). A very poor production from such a key player.

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Uruguay 2-1 Portugal: Duos are making the difference.

On the same day Messi was sent home by France in Argentina’s loss, the other “GOAT” at this tournament was also eliminated. And it was only two weeks ago that Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat trick in the same stadium against Spain, stroking his chin after the first goal to imply he was the “greatest of all time.”

This time it was Cavani who instead took the spotlight. He combined with Luis Suarez to complete a series of precision passes to give Uruguay the early advantage with a header in the seventh minute.

In this map from OPTA, we can see how Cavani starts the build-up play from his own half, and attacked the space on Portugal’s six yard box to receive the assist from Suarez. Great goal. In fact, the ball hit his face and bounced in but the combination play was still something to savour.

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Colombia Analysis: What Lies In Wait For England?

Passing through Group H with good football moments and some really not good looking situations, Colombia face England as a very irregular team with some important flaws that can be explored by Southgate’s Three Lions.

Juan Quintero has been Colombia’s best player at the tournament so far, with bright performances in the first two games against Japan and Poland. He is a good creator and also a good ball carrier. His decision making can be questionable at times, but nevertheless he tries to make something happen and pulls it off more often than not.

These attributes have been moderated and put to incomplete use with James’ inclusion in the side. Quintero dropped himself deeper, allowing James to be incisive in attack.

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Cavani & Suarez will always make the difference for Uruguay

Luis Suarez has been on his best behavior in Russia, scoring twice as Uruguay swept through the group stage with three straight victories – sending the two-time champions to the knockout round. Edson Cavani also scored, showing the full strength of Charrua’s team in the World Cup.

Besides the offensive power, goalkeeper Fernando Muslera has not allowed a goal in any of the team’s six matches this year. At the post match press conference, Suarez said:

”After winning the first two matches 1-0, our goal was to get another. We wanted to play the same we had before, only better.”

And they did. Not only better, but different. Against Russia, Tabarez started with two young and fast players in the middle: Vecino and Nández playing as internal midfielders in a 4-3-1-2, with Bentancur as number one behind Suarez and Cavani.

This formation allowed Uruguay to have a “football flux” from the beginning of the play till the final shot. Different from the traditional 4-4-2 they used to play, with slow players at the sides (Cebolla and Sanchez), with this formation and players Uruguay played with more triangles and possession build-up. Read More