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Sep 2011
Champions League analysis 27-28/09/11

General Articles

Rafa Benítez

We’ve had another Champions League round of games and as usual it gave us some interesting things to debate, analyse and consider.

I’m not going to analyse the groups too much, although some things stand out like Inter’s away win 2-3 against CSKA. With Ranieri’s arrival, a good coach with European experience, they have won two out of two.

Another thing that caught my eye was the hard fought win of Olympic Marseille against Dortmund, which impressed me on Tuesday. This makes Arsenal’s group, which appeared difficult at first, look better for the London side and the French team although it is still too early to be sure.

It also was a bit of a surprise to see how Real Madrid overcame Ajax at the Bernabeu – on the counter attack! The good news for football is that Kaka played well with a great goal and good assist.


Barcelona won 0-5 and showed their strength and the gulf between them and Borisov Belarus. But what is most noticeable about Barcelona is how they penetrate defences who have up to nine players in the box. Did you see Messi’s second goal? The Argentinian has scored 14 goals in 10 matches equalling the legendary Kubala with 194 goals, making him the second highest goalscorer for Barcelona.

Chelsea drew against Valencia, with a highly motivated Torres and clear chances to score. Great performance by the home keeper, Diego Alves, and as if it was ever any other way, football can be strange, one week talking about Lampard’s future and next he scores Chelsea’s goal. Then a ‘rare’ penalty by Soldado, the striker, to equalise for Valencia.

Arsenal–Olympiakos, 2-1

Arsenal won which is a big step forward. Not just in the performance but also for their self-belief. With so many injuries, Song playing at centre back and Andre Santos at left back, the defence played well despite this. Chamberlain showed his ability and pace on the right, with a positive attitude taking on defenders and also scoring the first goal. Arteta, assisted by Rosicky and both covered by Frimpong, kept the ball and dictated their play. The team tried to play their usual game and succeeded at times although they had some problems as well. Valverde, the Spanish coach, has brought in players like Orbaiz, Fuster and Ibagaza and others from the Spanish league, and at times they controlled and dominated the midfield. On the left flank, Mirallas penetrated well, but where they really caused problems for Arsenal was at corners. They had been defending zonally but changed to man to man, and a simple block in the 14th minute allowed Olympiakos to get a man free for a clear chance. Again in the 26th minute, they exploited poor positioning and Fuster scored with a free header and in the 28th minute Arsenal had more problems marking at the corner. It confirms what we have been saying for a long time, it is not the type of marking you use but the capacity and concentration of the defenders which makes you more successful when defending corners.

Bayern–City, 2-0

I’m sorry but I won’t talk about the Tevez incident because you can find that in the press. I’m more interested in the play.

Bayern played with their usual 4-2-3-1 and City had a ‘false’ 4-4-2, because Silva, nominally playing on the right was constantly in the middle. This allowed City to start well with superiority in the middle and with a lot of space on the right for Richards who was not being tracked by Ribery and he got in 3 times with a definite threat and even had a claim for a penalty. They also started pressing high which made it difficult for Bayern.

However, this attacking threat on the right for the City stars became a weakness for the first goal with Ribery’s dribble inside, assisted by Lahm overlapping on the left which gave them a 2v1 situation and Richards could do nothing about it. He was initially helped by Yaya Toure and then by his brother Kolo, but this left a gap in the middle which Mario Gomez exploited to net the rebound.

Another tactical aspect to consider was how Manchester City defended corners with the first line marking zonally and the second line man to man, leaving 3 forwards up.

I will finish with a puzzle and a question I ask myself surrounding the game which maybe someone can help me with – why, if there are 2 linesmen and 2 assistant referees, do they work on the same side of the pitch? We all know that the linesmen work different halves of the pitch and the referee covers it diagonally. Nowadays, with the 4th official there is yet another pair of eyes on the centre of the pitch even if he doesn’t make any decisions. With the 5th and 6th officials there is even more control of the areas on the pitch but why do they work the same side as the linesmen?