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Alan O'Brien

A maths graduate who prefers to apply his analytical skills to something far more serious than life or death - football. Alan writes about the game at all levels - he is also the foremost authority on the amateur scene in his native Limerick (see https://limerickdl.wordpress.com/). Tweet him @alanob2112
<> at Vicente Calderon Stadium on April 17, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.

Analysis: Advantage Atletico as Simeone Stops Pep’s Wingers

Pep Guardiola’s decision to field two out-and-out wingers failed to bear fruit against Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid. Cognisant of the compactness of Atletico, who defend narrowly with at least ten players behind the ball, the Bayern manager looked to the wings by asking Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman to hug their respective touchlines. Thomas Muller, normally fielded in a half-forward …

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Analysis: Blanc’s Back Three Blunts PSG

Laurent Blanc’s baffling decision to opt for a 3-3-2-2 formation rendered his PSG side impotent going forward, helping Manchester City to secure their debut Champions League semi-final appearance. Blanc surprised many by dispensing with his usual 4-1-4-1 system in favour of a back three, with Thiago Motta holding just ahead. Under the circumstances, with the French champions needing to score, …

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DUBLIN, IRELAND - OCTOBER 08: Head Coach Martin O'Neill of Republic of Ireland reacts during the UEFA EURO 2016 Qualifier group D match between Republic of Ireland and Germany at the Aviva Stadium on October 8, 2015 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Slovakia Stalemate Highlights Pros And Cons Of Ireland’s Diamond

The Republic of Ireland’s 2-2 draw with Slovakia on Tuesday evening highlighted both the benefits and drawbacks of Martin O’Neill’s preferred 4-3-1-2 formation. After experimenting with a 4-4-2 against Switzerland four days earlier, the Irish manager reverted to the diamond formation that inspired Ireland’s dramatic turnaround in qualification fortunes last year. This tactical switch coincided with the return of the …

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Ireland Defeat Swiss With Passable Leicester Impression

Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland turned in a passable impression of Premier League table-toppers Leicester City to triumph over Switzerland on Saturday evening. Having cited the success of his former employer as cause for Irish hope on the eve of the game, it was not entirely surprising that O’Neill opted to select a 4-4-2 for the first time in his …

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LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MARCH 10: Jurgen Klopp, manager of Liverpool celebrates as Roberto Firmino of Liverpool scores their second goal during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 first leg match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield on March 10, 2016 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Klopp Inflicts Comprehensive Tactical Defeat On Van Gaal

Jurgen Klopp won a comprehensive tactical victory over Louis Van Gaal on Thursday night to earn Liverpool a two-goal advantage ahead of next week’s second leg at Old Trafford. Although both sides lined up in 4-2-3-1 formations, the respective personnel employed on the flanks differed greatly. Klopp’s choice of two number tens, in Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho, allowed Liverpool …

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BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 07: Arsene Wenger manager of Arsenal looks on prior to the Barclays Premier League match between A.F.C. Bournemouth and Arsenal at the Vitality Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Bournemouth, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Tactics Truck: Wenger Selection Sees Arsenal Lose Further Ground In Title Race

Arsene Wenger’s decision to start Gabriel Paulista ahead of World Cup winner, Per Mertesacker, cost Arsenal two first half goals, allowing an understrength Manchester United to sit in and see the game out on the counter. Despite a 50/50 possession share in the opening twenty minutes, Arsenal – channeling their attacking play down the left – looked likelier to break …

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LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 04: Mesut Oezil of Arsenal scores his team's second goal from a free-kick during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Liverpool at Emirates Stadium on April 4, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Tactics Truck: Simpson Dismissal Allows Arsenal To Destroy Leicester On The Flanks

Arsenal took full advantage of Danny Simpson’s second half dismissal to overrun Leicester City on the flanks and secure a famous comeback victory. Leicester’s 5-2 defeat at home to Arsenal in late September prompted manager Claudio Ranieri to drop his aggressive full backs and take a more considered approach that saw his side go unbeaten in the league until Boxing …

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Tactics Truck: Leicester Destruction Of Manchester City Has Us All Believing In Miracles

Typing the words “a lesson in football” into your search engine of choice yields a YouTube video as the top result. “Manchester United 0-4 Nottingham Forest: A Lesson In Football”  features just over two minutes of highlights from the December 1977 game that turned the many doubters of Brian Clough’s newly-promoted side’s title credentials into true believers. With a devastating …

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Tactics Truck: Trademark Leicester City Performance Renders Klopp’s Liverpool Toothless

Leicester City remain three points clear at the top of the Premier League table on Tuesday evening, thanks to a trademark display of defensive and counter-attacking prowess against Liverpool at the KP Stadium. By now, every manager in the Premier League knows precisely how Claudio Ranieri is going to set up his side. With few exceptions, the Foxes approach each …

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Tactics Truck: Groundhog Day For Manchester United

Phil Connors, the character played by Bill Murray in the 1993 film Groundhog Day, enjoyed more variety in his life than a Manchester United supporter. Saturday afternoon’s performance against Southampton can be safely filed under “more of the same”, with any excitement only briefly provided by the appearance of another rodent – a mouse – on the field of play. …

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Tactics Truck: Manchester United Defensive Frailty Exposed As Van Gaal Relaxes The Reins

Few would have foreseen an extraordinarily open six-goal thriller at St. James’ Park on Tuesday evening. Even fewer would have foreseen such a wholesale change in tactical emphasis from Manchester United’s Louis Van Gaal. Out went the status quo of plodding possession fetishisation that was so painfully on display against Sheffield United on Saturday. In its stead arrived a direct, counter-attacking …

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Tactics Truck: Ranieri And Pellegrini Both Spring Tactical Surprises

Leicester City will go into the New Year level on points with Arsenal at the top of the Premier League, after an uneventful – but tactically interesting – scoreless draw against Manchester City. Both managers sprung tactical surprises here, by deviating from their preferred starting shapes. Rather than the narrow, ultra-compact 4-4-2 that he usually favours, Claudio Ranieri instead opted for …

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Tactics Truck: How Stoke Hammered Another Nail In The Coffin Of Van Gaal’s Moribund Manchester United Reign

There were numerous moments during Saturday afternoon’s defeat to Stoke City that one could highlight to illustrate the irreparable dysfunction rife amid the ranks of Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United. But for this writer, the manner in which United allowed Marko Arnautovic the opportunity to spurn a glorious 36th-minute clear-cut chance takes the cake. By this point, Van Gaal’s side …

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Tactics Truck: Ranieri Channels Simeone’s Atletico To Send Leicester City Top At Xmas

It is arguably the most remarkable turnaround in fortunes in Premier League history. Saturday afternoon’s victory at Goodison Park ensured that Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City side will sit atop the league tree this Christmas – a far cry from 12 months ago, when they languished at its foot. Ranieri returned to English shores this summer under a cloud, after an …

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Tactics Truck: Klopp’s Liverpool Ineffectual When Counter-Attack Not An Option

Recent away thrashings of Manchester City and Southampton had fueled talk of a surprise Liverpool title challenge. New manager Jurgen Klopp’s rapid implementation of his patented counter-pressing, counter-attacking style resulted in his new charges punishing both sides for their expansiveness. However, results of games in which Liverpool are expected to dominate the ball have been more mixed to say the …

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Would Pep Be More Of The Same For Jaded Manchester United Fans?

Ken Early, writing in the Irish Times on Monday, suggests that disgruntled Manchester United supporters should not necessarily welcome weekend newspaper reports of Pep Guardiola’s apparent wish to coach at Old Trafford. Early’s argument centres around his claim that strong parallels can be drawn between the preferred playing styles of the Spaniard and the much-maligned Louis Van Gaal. The self-styled “flame-haired, flamethrower …

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