Jonathan Wilson

Author's posts

Dec 07

José Mourinho faces the season’s big question – how to stop Manchester City? | Jonathan Wilson

In Sunday’s Manchester derby the United manager must call on all his pragmatism to halt Pep Guardiola’s side and keep the title race aliveThis, it feels, is it. It may be only the second weekend of December but if Manchester United lose at home to Manc…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2017/dec/07/manchester-city-manchester-united-derby-jose-mourinho-pep-guardiola

Nov 26

Antonio Conte shaking up title-winning tactics to keep Chelsea’s rivals guessing | Jonathan Wilson

At Anfield the Chelsea manager again favoured a 3-5-1-1 formation to the 3-4-2-1 that was the basis of his team’s title win last seasonTo stand still, as Peter Reid once observed, is to move backwards. There is need for permanent revolution, constantly…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2017/nov/26/antonio-conte-chlesea-tactics-shake-up

Nov 23

Liverpool’s defensive problems do not begin and end with Alberto Moreno | Jonathan Wilson

The Reds have let in three or more goals four times this season but the main problem is not just in defence but more the lack of a proper holding playerAt around 10 to 10 local time on Tuesday Liverpool were leading Sevilla 3-0. The home side were pres…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2017/nov/23/liverpool-alberto-moreno-defensive-problems-holding-midfielder

Nov 19

Arsenal defeat highlights Tottenham frailties against Premier League’s big six | Jonathan Wilson

Until Mauricio Pochettino’s side learn how to win away against their biggest rivals they will struggle to turn their undoubted potential into silverwareFor all that is positive about Tottenham, for all that they are about to move into an exciting new s…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2017/nov/19/tottenham-arsenal-premier-league-woeful-away-record

Nov 11

Manchester City’s start no flash in pan but history is littered with flops | Jonathan Wilson

Pep Guardiola’s side are threatening points and goals records and, though other fast starters have faded, nothing suggests they will do likewise in the title raceManchester City’s start to the season has been remarkable, largely because they are challe…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2017/nov/11/history-manchester-city-premier-league-title-race

Nov 06

Manchester United pay for their meek approach against Chelsea | Jonathan Wilson

José Mourinho’s stubbornly dogmatic team tactics cost his side at Stamford Bridge and look to have handed the title initiative to Manchester CityThe memories of Manchester United in 1985-86 and Newcastle United in 1995-96 serve always as caveats, but a…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2017/nov/06/manchester-united-tactics-chelsea-manchester-city

Nov 02

Tottenham’s defeat of Real Madrid is a warning to Europe’s super-clubs | Jonathan Wilson

Spurs made the European champions look limp, lazy and disorganised – maybe the competitiveness at the top of the Premier League is finally benefiting the English sidesIt was one of the greatest nights in Tottenham’s history. It was better than beating …

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2017/nov/02/tottenham-real-madrid-europe-super-clubs-premier-league

Oct 29

José Mourinho’s game of chicken will pay off until the opponent does not blink

Manchester United manager’s late show mindset, relying on exploiting errors, reaped rewards against Tottenham but he risks denting fortune-teller reputation‘Sometimes, it was as though he could see the future,” the former goalkeeper Vitor Baia said of …

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2017/oct/29/jose-mourinho-game-of-chicken-manchester-united-tottenham

Oct 22

Tottenham show José Mourinho how counter-attacking game should work | Jonathan Wilson

Mauricio Pochettino exploited Liverpool’s defensive vulnerabilities and exposed the Manchester United manager’s rationale during their recent visit to AnfieldMauricio Pochettino had promised further surprises after his deployment of a 5-3-2 against Rea…

Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2017/oct/22/tottenham-jose-mourinho-counter-attacking

Oct 01

Pep Guardiola realises importance of full-back and exposes Chelsea vulnerability | Jonathan Wilson

Once a position for the energetic and combative, Manchester City showed it has become one for those who can exploit the space in front of them to shape a game

This is what the Premier League has been waiting for since Pep Guardiola arrived at Manchester City. There had been hints of it before, most notably in the first half of the derby at Old Trafford last season, but City’s performance at Stamford Bridge on Saturday was the first time a Guardiola side in England has so thoroughly dominated another member of the elite from start to finish. All the familiar tropes were there – the domination of possession, the rapid transitions, the tenacity at winning the ball back; all that was missing was the scoreline. This was 1-0 going on 3 or 4-0.

Related: Chelsea sunk by Kevin De Bruyne winner for Manchester City

Related: Gabriel Jesus stars to help Manchester City cope without Sergio Agüero | Barney Ronay

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2017/oct/01/pep-guardiola-importance-full-back-exposes-chelsea-vulnerability-manchester-city

Sep 25

Brighton’s Chris Hughton serves up reminder of lost art of defence | Jonathan Wilson

In the 1-0 win over Newcastle both managers set up their teams not to lose and, while their organisation was impressive, it was at the cost of attacking flair

Sometimes straightforward virtues are the best. In a Premier League that at times seems to have all but given up anything resembling traditional defending, there was something almost comforting about a clash between two sides who play in such a familiar, unpretentious way. This was a reminder of simpler virtues, a world in which the greatest aspiration is to be compact, and produced a sort of mutually assured self-neutralisation, a game in which flair was all but absent and, where it did exist, confined to a tiny sliver on the flanks. That the one goal came from a set piece was entirely appropriate.

The free-kick that produced the goal five minutes into the second half was in part a result of the Brighton left-back Markus Suttner pushing forward and linking with Tomer Hemed on the left, which always looked the most likely source of a breakthrough for Brighton. There seemed a fairly clear plan from the start to isolate DeAndre Yedlin, the Newcastle right-back, against Solly March. It was the 23-year-old’s cross, after Newcastle had been opened up by a burst from Anthony Knockaert, that led to the Pascal Gross shot that cannoned to safety off Knockaert and then his cross-shot, cutting inside, that drew an awkward sprawling save from Rob Elliot.

Related: Tomer Hemed’s strike sinks Newcastle as Brighton seal much-needed win

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2017/sep/25/brighton-chris-hughton-reminder-lost-art-defence-rafael-benitez-newcastle

Sep 07

Premier League truly starts now – so how do the title contenders measure up? | Jonathan Wilson

The transfer window has shut, the first international break is over and the real business is about to begin. Can any of Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham or Manchester United be content with the state of their squads?

August never seems an entirely satisfactory month. The closing of the transfer window and the scramble for last-minute deals always seems to deflect from the matches themselves – although these days, perhaps, it’s the other way round – and then just as everything’s about to get going for real, just as throats have been cleared and vocal chords are warmed up, everybody dashes off to play a series of internationals that, in the year before the World Cup, contrive to be highly significant while feeling like an unwanted distraction.

The phoney war is over. For four months the transfer window is closed and barring the next set of internationals – which at least will determine who is going to the World Cup, making them far harder to begrudge – there is nothing to get in the way of the actual business of trying to win football matches, starting on Saturday lunchtime with a proper heavyweight clash as Liverpool go to Manchester City, the game that last season left Pep Guardiola happier than apparently anything else in his time in England to date, despite it ending in a 1-1 draw.

Related: Football transfer rumours: Chelsea to sign Thomas Müller from Bayern?

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2017/sep/07/premier-league-title-contenders-manchester-city-united-liverpool-chelsea-tottenham-squads

Aug 17

The Question: why are so many Premier League teams so bad in defence? | Jonathan Wilson

It’s not a coincidence that the Premier League has become the global home of shambolic defending and Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea all have issues to resolve before the weekend

Even before the Premier League got round to the traditional kick-off time, 13 goals had been scored in two games. A total of 31 goals were scored over the opening weekend as the first three of last season’s top six to play all conceded three. Take that, Spain, with your Cristiano Ronaldo controversies! Take that, Italy, with your resurgent Milan! Take that, Germany, with your finely tuned pressing structures! Take that, France, with your Neymar, your Bielsa and your Balotelli! For drama and giggling hilarity, the Premier League remains king.

It’s not king, obviously, if you want success in the Champions League. Nor is it king if you want to develop young players for the national side. And it’s certainly not king if you believe football clubs should have a pastoral role towards the communities they at least nominally represent. But for excitement and spectacle, for the sense that any daft thing could happen at any moment, it still rules.

Related: Chelsea full of holes in a dress-down Community Shield loss to Arsenal | Jonathan Wilson

Related: Premier League 2016-17 review: what we learned tactically from the season | Michael Cox

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/aug/17/question-premier-league-teams-bad-in-defence-arsenal-liverpool-chelsea

Aug 11

Premier League bubble keeps on growing before a season rich in intrigue | Jonathan Wilson

The summer splurge on full-backs is a reflection both of ever-expanding wealth and of Antonio Conte’s tactical success with Chelsea last season. How rivals respond will be fascinating to watch

This is the age of the full-back – and that says a lot. For years full-backs were scorned as players who were not defensively sound enough to play in the middle of the back four nor technically good enough to play in midfield – “Nobody,” as Jamie Carragher has observed, “grows up wanting to be Gary Neville” – but this summer an astonishing amount of money has been spent on them. Most of the money, admittedly, has been splurged by Manchester City, who made Kyle Walker the most expensive defender in history at £50m then bought a back-up in Danilo for £26.5m before breaking their own record to sign Benjamin Mendy for £52m.

This is not just a Premier League phenomenon. Barcelona and Real Madrid have spent more than £26m on full-backs, while Milan have picked up a pair for the better part of £50m. But it is a phenomenon centred on City, where Pep Guardiola, having chosen not to augment his four thirtysomething full-backs last season, has swung to the opposite extreme. In City’s outlay on full-backs, three trends meet: Chelsea’s success with a back three last season has brought the lateral centre-stage; English clubs are spending mind-boggling amounts of money; and City, perhaps frustrated at how last season turned out, are spending (or, at least, have spent) the most of the lot.

Related: Sacks of cash, sound and light but how about a real Premier League title race? | Barney Ronay

This is what the Premier League is best at: turning the generation of cash and its expenditure into a spectator sport

Related: Transfer window 2017 – every deal in Europe’s top five leagues

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2017/aug/11/premier-league-bubble-season-jonathan-wilson