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Tom Williams

Yes, they’re all European — but the other thing all three teams left in the World Cup share are shapes featuring two deep but complimentary midfielders…one creative, one holding. “[I]t is very difficult to establish control of a game without a composed player operating in central areas who is capable of picking a pass and either slowing or raising the tempo when necessary. Deploying two destroyers leaves a team bereft of that control in the middle of the pitch and unheathily dependent on their forwards for inspiration.” (Tom Williams/Football Further)


Quarterfinal Previews: The Sign(s) of Eight

Like the classic joke “The Aristocrats,” most of the eight World Cup quarterfinalists play the 4-2-3-1 — but each put a different spin on the formation that distinguishes it, says Tom Williams at Football Further. (Watch out especially for “the role of the right-sided midfield carillero” in Brazil’s play today.) Meanwhile, Elliot at Futfanatico inhabits Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as he examines the cases of and for each side: “This Brazil wears gloves, a mask, dusts its own prints, and leaves no trace of impressive success in its wake. Not wanting to leave behind a shell, a bullet, or any other clue, the Brazilians prefer a much simpler, less noisy, and less messy manner of murder: asphyxiation.”

Introducing the False 10

If Leo Messi is the paradigmatic false nine, this World Cup is introducing us to the false 10 — the playmaker who “facilitates the work of the false nine and operates in tandem with him to destabilise opposition defences.” Creators like Özil, Honda and Sneijder are pushing up and leading the line, directly attacking and sowing confusion among defenses. As Jose Mourinho said of Sneijder: “Is he a midfielder? Sometimes I think he is a striker.” (Tom Williams/Football Further)

What’s Wrong With Alberto Aquilani?

Xabi Alonso’s ostensible replacement has a nagging ankle injury that might be all in his head, as Rafa Benitez has suggested. But when Alberto Aquilani starts, Liverpool scores a lot and wins. Is the attacking Aquilani a victim of Benitez’s “playing by zones” philosophy…or something else? Given Liverpool’s struggles this year, “the Italian’s failure to make any kind of impact in his Anfield career to date remains something of a mystery.” (Tom Williams/Further Football)

How Wigan Became More Athletic

Roberto Martínez began his tenure at the helm of Wigan Athletic last summer promising a flowing, building-up style that allowed players to make their own decisions. But reality (in the form of Chelsea, Man Utd. and a 9-1 shellacking by Spurs) mugged Martínez…and now Wigan battles to stay out of relegation with a completely different aesthetic: muscle. “Martínez has learnt quickly that the Premier League is no place for romantics.” (Tom Williams/Football Further)

Free the Analysts

Sir Alex calls Real Madrid a circus because 2,000 people watch its practices — while United and other top EPL teams close their preparations to the public. But isn’t that why British football journalism is light on tactical analysis and heavy on celebrity and locker-room fighting? (Tom Williams/Further Football)

Read of the Day: Smilla’s Sense of Strikers

The stolid British have only three names for positions: Defenders, midfielders and strikers. As with love, though, the Romance languages have so many more. But does English’s linguistic impoverishment restrict the very game itself in Britain…especially for “strikers”? (Tom Williams/Football Further)