Early Doors

Tactics Bored: Liverpool’s success explained in one image

Early Doors

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There was drama in the Premier League this weekend, as Liverpool closed in on their Premier League victory, their first ever. Of course, it’s easy and obvious to get excited by things like incorrectly awarded penalties, assistant managers throwing a strop that rivals anything seen in a drunken, borderline-violent Big Brother rant, and seeing a club like Liverpool end their title drought.

It’s easy and obvious to get overcome at the meaning and importance of it all, and that’s where tactical analysis comes in - to take what is an inherently visceral and yet occasionally subtle game, and strip it of context to the point it approaches a meaningless spectacle. Here is that meaningless spectacle. Try to learn something, if you’re able.

MIKE DEAN’S MAN OF THE MATCH PERFORMANCE

At the start of the season, referees visit sides to educated players and managers of any new rule changes or tweaks in the understanding of the instructions they will give. It’s common sense, because referees should, obviously, allow the game to flow, and players will not wish to pick up bookings or red cards. However, it works both ways, with players giving signs to referees about how they can best influence the game.

Mike Dean has led the way in this regard, and he put in a man of the match performance for Sunderland on Saturday. First, he put in a wonderful defensive effort, preventing Ramires from heading into an empty net by ignoring an obvious foul from Sebastian Larsson.

Secondly, he allowed Ramires to elbow Larsson in the face. Later on, he assisted the winner by awarding the penalty when Jozy Altidore slipped on wet turf. Although Rui Faria’s actions were clearly unforgivable on a football pitch, Dean still tapped in the open goal by sending him off. You can have a look at Dean’s performance on the incompetence map below.

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MOYES IS ONE UNHAPPINESS VACUUM AWAY FROM A UNIFIED TEAM

David Moyes has been criticised for alienating many of his players. There have been rumours from almost the start of the season that he was at odds with players over things like training, tactics and man management. Some people have taken that as a sign that he simply is not the man to take charge of Manchester United any longer. His days, apparently, are numbered. Louis van Gaal has been linked as a potential replacement, and if that’s true, there are probably talks with other candidates. This would be a mistake, though. Moyes is merely playing the long game.

It would be obvious to unite the team by giving them all confidence, and building trust between all of them. It would be obvious to use coaching skills to improve the ability of players, young and old, in order to improve the relations between the staff, and to increase the loyalty they feel to them. It would be obvious to single out senior players for praise and to establish some deputies in the dressing room willing to encourage commitment to the cause. It’s so obvious, that Brendan Rodgers will probably win the title with Liverpool using these methods. That’s not for Moyes, no. Moyes has deliberately alienated players and executives alike, and so the club has become united in their dislike of the man. United are pulling in the same direction - away from Moyes - but they’re doing it together.

If you have a look at the unhappiness formation below:

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You can see that Moyes just needs to upset a goalkeeper in order to have a full set of players against him, and that’s when United will start their ascent up the table.

PASS COMPLETION PRECIPITATION VARIATION

There has been a lot of discussion from tactics experts and analysts since the introduction of the pass completion cloud, which showed which passes were on target and which weren’t.

Of course, though, that was still a very simple reading of football, but further work has been done. The raindrops have been analysed and dissected, and further information has been extracted. It turns out for some sides, depending on how they approach the game, the water is cooler or warmer depending on how hard the passes are made.

Liverpool, because of their quick, short passing have a simple raindrop, as the atoms are too agitated to get cold. Fulham, however, have a pass completion snowball, as they are slow and often in the clouds, which is a much cooler part of the atmosphere. Look:

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It’s all, as I’m sure you’ll agree, very informative. Fulham have been sent a fax with a snowball on, marked FAO: Felix Magath. Expect Fulham to transform their approach and stay up. You’re welcome, Felix.

Alexander Netherton - @lxndrnthrtn

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