Michael Cox

Author's details

Name: Michael Cox
Date registered: September 27, 2014
URL: http://www.theguardian.com/football/burnley

Latest posts

  1. Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola cancel each other out in frantic contest | Michael Cox — March 19, 2017
  2. Tie-by-tie tactical analysis: Champions League quarter-finals — March 17, 2017
  3. Jürgen Klopp’s diamond surprise tires under Manchester United pressure | Michael Cox — January 15, 2017
  4. Champions League last 16: Tie-by-tie analysis | Michael Cox — December 12, 2016
  5. Dangerous Alexis Sánchez the driving force of Arsenal’s attack | Michael Cox — November 28, 2016

Author's posts listings

Mar 19

Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola cancel each other out in frantic contest | Michael Cox

Two of the Premier League’s most tactically astute managers each had spells of superiority but Manchester City and Liverpool had to settle for a draw

In a season featuring the best managerial lineup in Premier League history, this felt like the type of match we were promised. Two high‑tempo, dynamic sides with different attacking philosophies produced an enthralling end-to-end contest featuring mesmeric passing moves, incredible bursts of pace – and some quite dreadful misses.

Manchester City started strongly, enjoying good spells of possession and working the ball into David Silva regularly. Pep Guardiola deployed a 4-2-3-1 rather than his usual 4-3-3, continuing with Kevin De Bruyne in a deep midfield position and Silva at No10, after his switch to that system prompted a second-half improvement at Monaco in midweek. Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sané stretched the play, while Fernandinho charged forward from right-back as City focused their attacking down that side, causing James Milner serious problems.

Related: Manchester City 1-1 Liverpool: Premier League – as it happened

Related: Pep Guardiola’s zonal theory will take time for Manchester City to learn | Jonathan Wilson

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2017/mar/19/jurgen-klopp-pep-guardiola-cancel-each-other-out-frantic-contest

Mar 17

Tie-by-tie tactical analysis: Champions League quarter-finals

Will Barcelona be able to cope with Alex Sandro over two legs and will Bayern benefit from Carlo Ancelotti’s tactical consistency against his former club?

This is a contest between the two biggest overachievers in Europe’s major leagues – and Atlético Madrid’s shock 2013-14 La Liga victory acted as something of an inspiration for Claudio Ranieri, himself a former Atlético manager.

Related: Champions League quarter-finals: Leicester City to face Atlético Madrid

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/mar/17/champions-league-quarter-finals-tactical-analysis

Jan 15

Jürgen Klopp’s diamond surprise tires under Manchester United pressure | Michael Cox

Liverpool’s narrow system allowed space down the flanks which José Mourinho’s team exploited with regular switches of play, sapping the energy of the visitors

For the first time in the 25 seasons of the Premier League, Manchester United and Liverpool’s two league meetings both ended in a draw. This, however, was a much more exciting contest than the dreadful 0-0 in October. Jürgen Klopp sprung a tactical surprise from the outset by deploying a diamond midfield, a considerably different shape to Liverpool’s regular 4-3-3. This involved Adam Lallana playing as a No10, allowing Roberto Firmino and Divock Origi to make dangerous runs across the opposition defence from out to in.

The main outcome was Liverpool making life very difficult for Michael Carrick, who has been excellent in recent weeks. Lallana marked him excellently in the opening stages, meaning Carrick was unable to put his foot on the ball and put United in charge. It was not entirely surprising when José Mourinho substituted Carrick at half-time, introducing Wayne Rooney and switching to a 4-2-3-1 shape. Lallana’s discipline meant a holding midfielder was always unlikely to find time on the ball.

Related: Zlatan Ibrahimovic strikes late for Manchester United in draw with Liverpool

Related: Mourinho and Klopp proving right fit for Manchester United and Liverpool | Jamie Jackson

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2017/jan/15/jose-mourinho-jurgen-klopp-manchester-united-liverpool-tactics

Dec 12

Champions League last 16: Tie-by-tie analysis | Michael Cox

Real Madrid ought to have too much for Napoli, but there are tough challenges ahead for Arsenal, Leicester and Paris Saint-Germain

Related: Champions League final: Ronaldo ‘had feeling’ he would score winner

Related: Arsenal better set for deep run in Champions League, says Arsène Wenger

Related: Juventus 1-3 Barcelona | Champions League final match report

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2016/dec/12/champions-league-last-16-analysis

Nov 28

Dangerous Alexis Sánchez the driving force of Arsenal’s attack | Michael Cox

Alexis Sánchez scored twice against Bournemouth and showed that his work ethic remains undimmed as his partnership with Mesut Özil flourishes

Arsenal’s 3-1 victory against Bournemouth perfectly summarised their recent performances: three shots on target and three goals. It means their total for November, traditionally the month where Arsène Wenger’s side endure a slump in form, is 10 goals from just 11 shots on target – an entirely unsustainable rate.

In a flat performance, Arsenal’s standout performer was Alexis Sánchez. Reverting to his centre-forward role having played wide in the 2-2 draw with Paris Saint-Germain, the Chilean demonstrated his all-round ability here, scoring two goals, hitting the bar with a powerful shot from a tight angle, and also creating five chances for his team-mates, the most of any player on the pitch. He was Arsenal’s chief provider, and most dangerous goal threat.

Related: Alexis Sánchez double helps Arsenal fend off tenacious Bournemouth

Related: Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2016/nov/28/dangerous-alexis-sanchez-driving-force-arsenal

Nov 20

David Luiz holds back to ensure Chelsea’s defence stays unbreached | Michael Cox

Centre-half David Luiz negated Middlesbrough’s threat by staying tight to Álvaro Negredo while Chelsea then tried to profit down the wings

Six matches into Antonio Conte’s 3-4-3 system, and opposition managers are no closer to working out how to defeat Chelsea – or indeed, even score against them. It is now a cumulative score of 17-0 since Conte switched to that formation in the aftermath of the 3-0 defeat at Arsenal, and they have risen from eighth to top in that period. While this was not an overwhelmingly impressive attacking display, Chelsea had very few problems defensively.

Whereas other managers have reorganised dramatically in an attempt to cope with Chelsea’s formation, Aitor Karanka stuck to his usual template. This was a narrow, defensive‑minded 4-1-4-1 system that left the somewhat immobile Álvaro Negredo desperately isolated up front, although Middlesbrough got numbers back to cope with Chelsea’s overlapping wing-backs, and the back four remained close together, preventing dangerous through-balls penetrating their defence.

Related: Middlesbrough 0-1 Chelsea: Premier League – as it happened!

Related: Chelsea top the Premier League as Eden Hazard inspires Everton thrashing

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2016/nov/20/david-luiz-holds-back-chelsea-defence-unbreached

Nov 12

The key tactical trends in the Premier League season so far | Michael Cox

False No9s are in; free roles, with the exception of Mesut Özil, are out; back threes are making a comeback; and pressing is en vogue

A few years ago possession was the most discussed concept in football. Since then there has been a shift from a possession-based approach and more attention paid to pressing. Mauricio Pochettino’s Southampton and Tottenham sides pressed in advanced positions to win the ball quickly, Klopp popularised counter-pressing, winning the ball immediately after it has been lost, and Guardiola also emphasises the importance of closing down in advanced positions.

Related: Tammy Abraham, Pontus Jansson and the Championship’s most eye-catching players | Nick Miller

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2016/nov/12/premier-league-key-trends-of-season-so-far

Oct 20

Pep Guardiola’s latest trick offers pointers for Barcelona’s Etihad visit | Michael Cox

Manchester City’s heavy pressing and transient defensive shape shut off supply line to Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar until Claudio Bravo’s sending-off

Manchester City’s team selection this season has essentially become a game of ‘What will Pep Guardiola think of next?’ and few could have predicted his major decision here – leaving out Sergio Agüero, with Kevin De Bruyne fielded in a centre‑forward role.

Related: Lionel Messi hat-trick sends Barcelona waltzing past Manchester City

Related: Pep Guardiola pays the price for keeping Sergio Agüero from the reunion | Sid Lowe

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/oct/20/pep-guardiola-trick-barcelona-manchester-city-etihad

Aug 25

Champions League: How the groups shape up for 2016-17

Pep Guardiola will pit his wits with Manchester City side against his former team, Barcelona, while Leicester City’s approach will be fascinating

Arsenal have been eliminated in the second round of the Champions League for the past six seasons and it is easy to imagine something similar happening again because they appear most likely to finish second in this group. PSG are now established as one of Europe’s major forces, and while the loss of Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a setback, he had a patchy record in this competition. Basel have a 100% record in the Swiss Super League this season and Arsenal’s trip to Switzerland will not be easy, while Ludogorets are clear underdogs, even if Brazilian striker Wanderson looked dangerous in the qualifying rounds.

Related: Real Madrid win Champions League on penalties against Atlético

Related: Claudio Bravo: The reluctant goalkeeper who became Pep Guardiola’s No1 man

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/aug/25/champions-league-pep-guardiola-manchester-city-barcelona-leicester-city