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England's players enjoyed a day off from World Cup duty in Russia, as Gareth Southgate's team prepare for their second group stage game against Panama on Sunday. England's training base in Repino is an approximate 45-minute drive from St Petersburg - the former capital of Imperial Russia and crucible of 1917's October Revolution. Players went off to explore the historic city on the Gulf of Finland, which will host one of the World Cup semi-finals. Jordan Henderson shared an Instagram story while touring the Hermitage - a museum of art and culture that is the second-biggest in the world, located on the Palace Embankment near the Winter Palace. Fabian Delph did likewise in front of the picturesque Church of the Saviour on Blood - where Tsar Alexander II was fatally wounded by an assassination attempt in 1881. If you can’t have an inflatable unicorn race after a win, when can you? �� A post shared by England (@england) on Jun 20, 2018 at 5:56am PDT There is also much to keep the players occupied at their Repino training base, including races on inflatable unicorns in the indoor swimming pool. There is also a games room and basketball court, as well as full access to English television to ensure Love Island watchers get their fix. England will travel to Nizhny Novgorod - a closed city during the Soviet era - later in the week for the match against Panama. Dele Alli is a doubt after a scan revealed a minor strain, while Gareth Southgate is also considering replacing Raheem Sterling with Marcus Rashford. Fabian Delph was just one England player exploring St Petersburg Credit: Instagram: @fabian_delph Southgate said: “We have to prepare as perfectly for Panama to make sure we get the result in that game we need. “I think the players know it’s hard to win a match in the World Cup against any opposition and Tunisia were opposition we respected. “But Panama for 45 minutes were obdurate opponents against Belgium and we’ll have to prepare 100 per cent right to win it.” England's campaign got off to a dramatic start with Harry Kane scoring a 90th-minute winner against Tunisia. It was the first time England had won their opening game at a major tournament since the 2006 World Cup. WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Inflatable unicorns and St Petersburg sightseeing: England players enjoy day off at World Cup 2018
England's players enjoyed a day off from World Cup duty in Russia, as Gareth Southgate's team prepare for their second group stage game against Panama on Sunday. England's training base in Repino is an approximate 45-minute drive from St Petersburg - the former capital of Imperial Russia and crucible of 1917's October Revolution. Players went off to explore the historic city on the Gulf of Finland, which will host one of the World Cup semi-finals. Jordan Henderson shared an Instagram story while touring the Hermitage - a museum of art and culture that is the second-biggest in the world, located on the Palace Embankment near the Winter Palace. Fabian Delph did likewise in front of the picturesque Church of the Saviour on Blood - where Tsar Alexander II was fatally wounded by an assassination attempt in 1881. If you can’t have an inflatable unicorn race after a win, when can you? �� A post shared by England (@england) on Jun 20, 2018 at 5:56am PDT There is also much to keep the players occupied at their Repino training base, including races on inflatable unicorns in the indoor swimming pool. There is also a games room and basketball court, as well as full access to English television to ensure Love Island watchers get their fix. England will travel to Nizhny Novgorod - a closed city during the Soviet era - later in the week for the match against Panama. Dele Alli is a doubt after a scan revealed a minor strain, while Gareth Southgate is also considering replacing Raheem Sterling with Marcus Rashford. Fabian Delph was just one England player exploring St Petersburg Credit: Instagram: @fabian_delph Southgate said: “We have to prepare as perfectly for Panama to make sure we get the result in that game we need. “I think the players know it’s hard to win a match in the World Cup against any opposition and Tunisia were opposition we respected. “But Panama for 45 minutes were obdurate opponents against Belgium and we’ll have to prepare 100 per cent right to win it.” England's campaign got off to a dramatic start with Harry Kane scoring a 90th-minute winner against Tunisia. It was the first time England had won their opening game at a major tournament since the 2006 World Cup. WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
England's players enjoyed a day off from World Cup duty in Russia, as Gareth Southgate's team prepare for their second group stage game against Panama on Sunday. England's training base in Repino is an approximate 45-minute drive from St Petersburg - the former capital of Imperial Russia and crucible of 1917's October Revolution. Players went off to explore the historic city on the Gulf of Finland, which will host one of the World Cup semi-finals. Jordan Henderson shared an Instagram story while touring the Hermitage - a museum of art and culture that is the second-biggest in the world, located on the Palace Embankment near the Winter Palace. Fabian Delph did likewise in front of the picturesque Church of the Saviour on Blood - where Tsar Alexander II was fatally wounded by an assassination attempt in 1881. If you can’t have an inflatable unicorn race after a win, when can you? �� A post shared by England (@england) on Jun 20, 2018 at 5:56am PDT There is also much to keep the players occupied at their Repino training base, including races on inflatable unicorns in the indoor swimming pool. There is also a games room and basketball court, as well as full access to English television to ensure Love Island watchers get their fix. England will travel to Nizhny Novgorod - a closed city during the Soviet era - later in the week for the match against Panama. Dele Alli is a doubt after a scan revealed a minor strain, while Gareth Southgate is also considering replacing Raheem Sterling with Marcus Rashford. Fabian Delph was just one England player exploring St Petersburg Credit: Instagram: @fabian_delph Southgate said: “We have to prepare as perfectly for Panama to make sure we get the result in that game we need. “I think the players know it’s hard to win a match in the World Cup against any opposition and Tunisia were opposition we respected. “But Panama for 45 minutes were obdurate opponents against Belgium and we’ll have to prepare 100 per cent right to win it.” England's campaign got off to a dramatic start with Harry Kane scoring a 90th-minute winner against Tunisia. It was the first time England had won their opening game at a major tournament since the 2006 World Cup. WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Inflatable unicorns and St Petersburg sightseeing: England players enjoy day off at World Cup 2018
England's players enjoyed a day off from World Cup duty in Russia, as Gareth Southgate's team prepare for their second group stage game against Panama on Sunday. England's training base in Repino is an approximate 45-minute drive from St Petersburg - the former capital of Imperial Russia and crucible of 1917's October Revolution. Players went off to explore the historic city on the Gulf of Finland, which will host one of the World Cup semi-finals. Jordan Henderson shared an Instagram story while touring the Hermitage - a museum of art and culture that is the second-biggest in the world, located on the Palace Embankment near the Winter Palace. Fabian Delph did likewise in front of the picturesque Church of the Saviour on Blood - where Tsar Alexander II was fatally wounded by an assassination attempt in 1881. If you can’t have an inflatable unicorn race after a win, when can you? �� A post shared by England (@england) on Jun 20, 2018 at 5:56am PDT There is also much to keep the players occupied at their Repino training base, including races on inflatable unicorns in the indoor swimming pool. There is also a games room and basketball court, as well as full access to English television to ensure Love Island watchers get their fix. England will travel to Nizhny Novgorod - a closed city during the Soviet era - later in the week for the match against Panama. Dele Alli is a doubt after a scan revealed a minor strain, while Gareth Southgate is also considering replacing Raheem Sterling with Marcus Rashford. Fabian Delph was just one England player exploring St Petersburg Credit: Instagram: @fabian_delph Southgate said: “We have to prepare as perfectly for Panama to make sure we get the result in that game we need. “I think the players know it’s hard to win a match in the World Cup against any opposition and Tunisia were opposition we respected. “But Panama for 45 minutes were obdurate opponents against Belgium and we’ll have to prepare 100 per cent right to win it.” England's campaign got off to a dramatic start with Harry Kane scoring a 90th-minute winner against Tunisia. It was the first time England had won their opening game at a major tournament since the 2006 World Cup. WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Roberto Martinez has been criticised by Belgium supporters for many of his tactical choices amid concerns this crop of superb talent might be in the hands of the wrong person. Martinez's exclusion of Radja Nainggolan - the third best player in Belgium, according to Martinez's predecessor Marc Wilmots - was... confusing. Nainggolan retired from international football as a direct result. But - and there is a but - Martinez won the FA Cup with Wigan once. So he must know what he's doing. Right? Why it might not work Belgium have some of the best individual players in their position in the world. Kevin De Bruyne is a star, Eden Hazard too, while Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Yannick Carrasco, Jan Vertonghen and Nainggolan (the one they left at home) are up there - but rather than fit the system to the players, Martinez is shunting as many excitingly shaped pegs as he can into 11 square holes. Against Costa Rica they were outstanding, blasting their way to a 4-1 win, while a 3-0 win over Egypt was another example of their firepower. But Portugal were able to hold Belgium to a 0-0 with what was essentially their reserve side - whenever this Belgium side comes up against a similarly talented group of players, that imbalance is really obvious. "Mexico were just tactically better," said De Bruyne after a 3-3 draw with Mexico in a friendly back in November. "Their system made our five defenders sit deep and we were swimming in midfield - it was five against seven." This what Belgium's 5-3-2/3-4-1-2 looks like on the pitch: a huge amount of space between midfield and defence. Martinez wants to play Lovely Football, control possession and score goals but has implemented the same 3-4-3 he used at Wigan and Everton with a group of players who it actually probably doesn't suit. Here's the lineup for a 1-0 friendly win over Japan in November 2017: It sort of makes sense. De Bruyne can play in central areas, Eden Hazard can attack from wide, as can Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku is in the right place and there are three defenders comfortable making passes. Going forward, this is great. However, playing attacking wingers as wing-backs is risky and although Thomas Meunier is fine, if a little attack-minded, Nacer Chadli is not an elite wing-back. He's not even a wing-back. Neither is inside-forward Yannick Carrasco, who often plays on that left side in this setup. World Cup rankings: Who looks good ahead of kick-off in Russia? Players can adjust to new positions over time - look at Victor Moses - but will make mistakes along the way. At international level there is no room for error and when things get hectic on the pitch, that lack of muscle memory and instinctive knowledge of where to be when, could be a real issue. As for the midfield, Alex Witsel can be left isolated. His job is to sit in midfield and keep things tidy, passing sideways or backwards, but with De Bruyne expected to join in attacks, Witsel is left protecting an enormous midfield area. It makes it look almost as if Belgium are divided into an attacking team and a defending one. Belgium goal gif This isn't great. Belgium's non-functioning press Below, the two strikers, Hazard and Lukaku, close down the man on the ball and block the passing lane. De Bruyne tries to get close to the player in the centre-circle to block that channel, the rest of the team sits behind halfway. They are neither pressing high, low or even in the middle of the park and don't really have coverage of the pitch. Mexico have plenty of passing options. Belgium are caught in two minds here, as though needing direction. This has the effect of making it too easy to bypass Belgium's lines of defence. In this same move, Lukaku closes down the man on the ball but Mexico have time and space to pass their way beyond the first line of Belgium's defence. Within seconds they are behind the midfield too. It's way too easy. With a three on three, this move eventually breaks down but that gap between defence and midfield is obvious. Too many players have gone on the attack too quickly and the back three is left exposed - is it a fault of the players or the team's shape? Mexico's third goal in that friendly revealed the same problems. Again, Belgium press with two strikers and an attacking midfielder, all wasting their energy since Mexico have options everywhere. To press effectively high up the pitch, the team really needs a high defensive line and players must be close together. Belgium sit deep with space between the lines of players, a rogue midfielder steps up to attack the man on the ball. With one pass, Mexico easily beat the first line of the press and within four seconds, that long ball over the top has given them a three on three attacking situation. The midfield chases back, the defence are in panic mode, and Hirving Lozano cuts inside to shoot. The goalkeeper parries, the defence are all over the place, Lozano thumps the loose ball into the back of the net. "As long as we don't have a good tactical system, we will have difficulties against countries like Mexico," De Bruyne continued. "It's a pity that we have not yet found a solution. "Of course we play with a system that is in principle very defensive, but it is filled with many attacking players who want the ball. "Then you have a bit of a problem, like against Mexico. It was a match in which we had very little possession and everyone in a system that doesn't really fit. "But eventually Martinez decides. I think the trainer has to find a solution so that we can avoid such situations in future." World Cup whatsapp promo It's easy to be an armchair manager... There are hundreds of possibilities for this team and frustratingly for Belgium fans, most of them look sensible, defensively sound and rather obvious. Creative players tend to be selfish and don't like to defend, so need a safety net to flourish. The current system suits a counter-attack strategy but Belgium have heaps of attacking players on the pitch and are trying to keep possession... all of this looks and sounds like two conflicting ideals in one tactical setup. Martinez's possible starting XI A back four of Vertonghen (who has often played as a full-back) - Alderweireld/Vermaelen - Kompany and Meunier makes sense on paper, as does a midfield two of Witsel and the brilliant Mousa Dembele. A possible Belgium 4-2-3-1 Lukaku as striker, De Bruyne at 10, Hazard wide left and Mertens wide right with overlapping full-backs sounds... sensible. There's balance, excellent players in attacking positions and defensive cover. It would look more like this in possession: How Belgium's attacking shape could look in a 4-2-3-1 Perhaps this is what it's meant to look like in the 3-4-3 as it is. It certainly doesn't on the pitch. This 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 shape should be flexible in-game but there's not a lot of evidence the players sufficiently understand how to make such a fluid plan actually work, and De Bruyne's comments suggest they aren't fully behind the strategy either. When Belgium play against organised, quality opposition, they can look a little ordinary - Portugal played the reserves and really didn't struggle in that 0-0 friendly played earlier in the month. World Cup 2018 tactics | JJ Bull analyses formations, line-ups and more Belgium destroyed a group containing Greece, Estonia, Bosnia and Cyprus but with the quality of player available should probably be expected to do so and easy(ish) wins over Panama and Tunisia should be expected. For too long the problem has been coping against similarly matched opposition, when their defensive frailties become apparent. The dark horses need to make sure they aren't too top heavy if they are to progress beyond the first knock-out stage - assuming they get that far. They should manage this at least and the key to it is finding balance. The worry is that Martinez, even at this late stage, is still looking for that. World Cup whatsapp promo World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more
World Cup 2018 tactics: Roberto Martinez in danger of putting Belgium's star-shaped pegs in square holes
Roberto Martinez has been criticised by Belgium supporters for many of his tactical choices amid concerns this crop of superb talent might be in the hands of the wrong person. Martinez's exclusion of Radja Nainggolan - the third best player in Belgium, according to Martinez's predecessor Marc Wilmots - was... confusing. Nainggolan retired from international football as a direct result. But - and there is a but - Martinez won the FA Cup with Wigan once. So he must know what he's doing. Right? Why it might not work Belgium have some of the best individual players in their position in the world. Kevin De Bruyne is a star, Eden Hazard too, while Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Yannick Carrasco, Jan Vertonghen and Nainggolan (the one they left at home) are up there - but rather than fit the system to the players, Martinez is shunting as many excitingly shaped pegs as he can into 11 square holes. Against Costa Rica they were outstanding, blasting their way to a 4-1 win, while a 3-0 win over Egypt was another example of their firepower. But Portugal were able to hold Belgium to a 0-0 with what was essentially their reserve side - whenever this Belgium side comes up against a similarly talented group of players, that imbalance is really obvious. "Mexico were just tactically better," said De Bruyne after a 3-3 draw with Mexico in a friendly back in November. "Their system made our five defenders sit deep and we were swimming in midfield - it was five against seven." This what Belgium's 5-3-2/3-4-1-2 looks like on the pitch: a huge amount of space between midfield and defence. Martinez wants to play Lovely Football, control possession and score goals but has implemented the same 3-4-3 he used at Wigan and Everton with a group of players who it actually probably doesn't suit. Here's the lineup for a 1-0 friendly win over Japan in November 2017: It sort of makes sense. De Bruyne can play in central areas, Eden Hazard can attack from wide, as can Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku is in the right place and there are three defenders comfortable making passes. Going forward, this is great. However, playing attacking wingers as wing-backs is risky and although Thomas Meunier is fine, if a little attack-minded, Nacer Chadli is not an elite wing-back. He's not even a wing-back. Neither is inside-forward Yannick Carrasco, who often plays on that left side in this setup. World Cup rankings: Who looks good ahead of kick-off in Russia? Players can adjust to new positions over time - look at Victor Moses - but will make mistakes along the way. At international level there is no room for error and when things get hectic on the pitch, that lack of muscle memory and instinctive knowledge of where to be when, could be a real issue. As for the midfield, Alex Witsel can be left isolated. His job is to sit in midfield and keep things tidy, passing sideways or backwards, but with De Bruyne expected to join in attacks, Witsel is left protecting an enormous midfield area. It makes it look almost as if Belgium are divided into an attacking team and a defending one. Belgium goal gif This isn't great. Belgium's non-functioning press Below, the two strikers, Hazard and Lukaku, close down the man on the ball and block the passing lane. De Bruyne tries to get close to the player in the centre-circle to block that channel, the rest of the team sits behind halfway. They are neither pressing high, low or even in the middle of the park and don't really have coverage of the pitch. Mexico have plenty of passing options. Belgium are caught in two minds here, as though needing direction. This has the effect of making it too easy to bypass Belgium's lines of defence. In this same move, Lukaku closes down the man on the ball but Mexico have time and space to pass their way beyond the first line of Belgium's defence. Within seconds they are behind the midfield too. It's way too easy. With a three on three, this move eventually breaks down but that gap between defence and midfield is obvious. Too many players have gone on the attack too quickly and the back three is left exposed - is it a fault of the players or the team's shape? Mexico's third goal in that friendly revealed the same problems. Again, Belgium press with two strikers and an attacking midfielder, all wasting their energy since Mexico have options everywhere. To press effectively high up the pitch, the team really needs a high defensive line and players must be close together. Belgium sit deep with space between the lines of players, a rogue midfielder steps up to attack the man on the ball. With one pass, Mexico easily beat the first line of the press and within four seconds, that long ball over the top has given them a three on three attacking situation. The midfield chases back, the defence are in panic mode, and Hirving Lozano cuts inside to shoot. The goalkeeper parries, the defence are all over the place, Lozano thumps the loose ball into the back of the net. "As long as we don't have a good tactical system, we will have difficulties against countries like Mexico," De Bruyne continued. "It's a pity that we have not yet found a solution. "Of course we play with a system that is in principle very defensive, but it is filled with many attacking players who want the ball. "Then you have a bit of a problem, like against Mexico. It was a match in which we had very little possession and everyone in a system that doesn't really fit. "But eventually Martinez decides. I think the trainer has to find a solution so that we can avoid such situations in future." World Cup whatsapp promo It's easy to be an armchair manager... There are hundreds of possibilities for this team and frustratingly for Belgium fans, most of them look sensible, defensively sound and rather obvious. Creative players tend to be selfish and don't like to defend, so need a safety net to flourish. The current system suits a counter-attack strategy but Belgium have heaps of attacking players on the pitch and are trying to keep possession... all of this looks and sounds like two conflicting ideals in one tactical setup. Martinez's possible starting XI A back four of Vertonghen (who has often played as a full-back) - Alderweireld/Vermaelen - Kompany and Meunier makes sense on paper, as does a midfield two of Witsel and the brilliant Mousa Dembele. A possible Belgium 4-2-3-1 Lukaku as striker, De Bruyne at 10, Hazard wide left and Mertens wide right with overlapping full-backs sounds... sensible. There's balance, excellent players in attacking positions and defensive cover. It would look more like this in possession: How Belgium's attacking shape could look in a 4-2-3-1 Perhaps this is what it's meant to look like in the 3-4-3 as it is. It certainly doesn't on the pitch. This 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 shape should be flexible in-game but there's not a lot of evidence the players sufficiently understand how to make such a fluid plan actually work, and De Bruyne's comments suggest they aren't fully behind the strategy either. When Belgium play against organised, quality opposition, they can look a little ordinary - Portugal played the reserves and really didn't struggle in that 0-0 friendly played earlier in the month. World Cup 2018 tactics | JJ Bull analyses formations, line-ups and more Belgium destroyed a group containing Greece, Estonia, Bosnia and Cyprus but with the quality of player available should probably be expected to do so and easy(ish) wins over Panama and Tunisia should be expected. For too long the problem has been coping against similarly matched opposition, when their defensive frailties become apparent. The dark horses need to make sure they aren't too top heavy if they are to progress beyond the first knock-out stage - assuming they get that far. They should manage this at least and the key to it is finding balance. The worry is that Martinez, even at this late stage, is still looking for that. World Cup whatsapp promo World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more
Roberto Martinez has been criticised by Belgium supporters for many of his tactical choices amid concerns this crop of superb talent might be in the hands of the wrong person. Martinez's exclusion of Radja Nainggolan - the third best player in Belgium, according to Martinez's predecessor Marc Wilmots - was... confusing. Nainggolan retired from international football as a direct result. But - and there is a but - Martinez won the FA Cup with Wigan once. So he must know what he's doing. Right? Why it might not work Belgium have some of the best individual players in their position in the world. Kevin De Bruyne is a star, Eden Hazard too, while Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Yannick Carrasco, Jan Vertonghen and Nainggolan (the one they left at home) are up there - but rather than fit the system to the players, Martinez is shunting as many excitingly shaped pegs as he can into 11 square holes. Against Costa Rica they were outstanding, blasting their way to a 4-1 win, while a 3-0 win over Egypt was another example of their firepower. But Portugal were able to hold Belgium to a 0-0 with what was essentially their reserve side - whenever this Belgium side comes up against a similarly talented group of players, that imbalance is really obvious. "Mexico were just tactically better," said De Bruyne after a 3-3 draw with Mexico in a friendly back in November. "Their system made our five defenders sit deep and we were swimming in midfield - it was five against seven." This what Belgium's 5-3-2/3-4-1-2 looks like on the pitch: a huge amount of space between midfield and defence. Martinez wants to play Lovely Football, control possession and score goals but has implemented the same 3-4-3 he used at Wigan and Everton with a group of players who it actually probably doesn't suit. Here's the lineup for a 1-0 friendly win over Japan in November 2017: It sort of makes sense. De Bruyne can play in central areas, Eden Hazard can attack from wide, as can Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku is in the right place and there are three defenders comfortable making passes. Going forward, this is great. However, playing attacking wingers as wing-backs is risky and although Thomas Meunier is fine, if a little attack-minded, Nacer Chadli is not an elite wing-back. He's not even a wing-back. Neither is inside-forward Yannick Carrasco, who often plays on that left side in this setup. World Cup rankings: Who looks good ahead of kick-off in Russia? Players can adjust to new positions over time - look at Victor Moses - but will make mistakes along the way. At international level there is no room for error and when things get hectic on the pitch, that lack of muscle memory and instinctive knowledge of where to be when, could be a real issue. As for the midfield, Alex Witsel can be left isolated. His job is to sit in midfield and keep things tidy, passing sideways or backwards, but with De Bruyne expected to join in attacks, Witsel is left protecting an enormous midfield area. It makes it look almost as if Belgium are divided into an attacking team and a defending one. Belgium goal gif This isn't great. Belgium's non-functioning press Below, the two strikers, Hazard and Lukaku, close down the man on the ball and block the passing lane. De Bruyne tries to get close to the player in the centre-circle to block that channel, the rest of the team sits behind halfway. They are neither pressing high, low or even in the middle of the park and don't really have coverage of the pitch. Mexico have plenty of passing options. Belgium are caught in two minds here, as though needing direction. This has the effect of making it too easy to bypass Belgium's lines of defence. In this same move, Lukaku closes down the man on the ball but Mexico have time and space to pass their way beyond the first line of Belgium's defence. Within seconds they are behind the midfield too. It's way too easy. With a three on three, this move eventually breaks down but that gap between defence and midfield is obvious. Too many players have gone on the attack too quickly and the back three is left exposed - is it a fault of the players or the team's shape? Mexico's third goal in that friendly revealed the same problems. Again, Belgium press with two strikers and an attacking midfielder, all wasting their energy since Mexico have options everywhere. To press effectively high up the pitch, the team really needs a high defensive line and players must be close together. Belgium sit deep with space between the lines of players, a rogue midfielder steps up to attack the man on the ball. With one pass, Mexico easily beat the first line of the press and within four seconds, that long ball over the top has given them a three on three attacking situation. The midfield chases back, the defence are in panic mode, and Hirving Lozano cuts inside to shoot. The goalkeeper parries, the defence are all over the place, Lozano thumps the loose ball into the back of the net. "As long as we don't have a good tactical system, we will have difficulties against countries like Mexico," De Bruyne continued. "It's a pity that we have not yet found a solution. "Of course we play with a system that is in principle very defensive, but it is filled with many attacking players who want the ball. "Then you have a bit of a problem, like against Mexico. It was a match in which we had very little possession and everyone in a system that doesn't really fit. "But eventually Martinez decides. I think the trainer has to find a solution so that we can avoid such situations in future." World Cup whatsapp promo It's easy to be an armchair manager... There are hundreds of possibilities for this team and frustratingly for Belgium fans, most of them look sensible, defensively sound and rather obvious. Creative players tend to be selfish and don't like to defend, so need a safety net to flourish. The current system suits a counter-attack strategy but Belgium have heaps of attacking players on the pitch and are trying to keep possession... all of this looks and sounds like two conflicting ideals in one tactical setup. Martinez's possible starting XI A back four of Vertonghen (who has often played as a full-back) - Alderweireld/Vermaelen - Kompany and Meunier makes sense on paper, as does a midfield two of Witsel and the brilliant Mousa Dembele. A possible Belgium 4-2-3-1 Lukaku as striker, De Bruyne at 10, Hazard wide left and Mertens wide right with overlapping full-backs sounds... sensible. There's balance, excellent players in attacking positions and defensive cover. It would look more like this in possession: How Belgium's attacking shape could look in a 4-2-3-1 Perhaps this is what it's meant to look like in the 3-4-3 as it is. It certainly doesn't on the pitch. This 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 shape should be flexible in-game but there's not a lot of evidence the players sufficiently understand how to make such a fluid plan actually work, and De Bruyne's comments suggest they aren't fully behind the strategy either. When Belgium play against organised, quality opposition, they can look a little ordinary - Portugal played the reserves and really didn't struggle in that 0-0 friendly played earlier in the month. World Cup 2018 tactics | JJ Bull analyses formations, line-ups and more Belgium destroyed a group containing Greece, Estonia, Bosnia and Cyprus but with the quality of player available should probably be expected to do so and easy(ish) wins over Panama and Tunisia should be expected. For too long the problem has been coping against similarly matched opposition, when their defensive frailties become apparent. The dark horses need to make sure they aren't too top heavy if they are to progress beyond the first knock-out stage - assuming they get that far. They should manage this at least and the key to it is finding balance. The worry is that Martinez, even at this late stage, is still looking for that. World Cup whatsapp promo World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more
World Cup 2018 tactics: Roberto Martinez in danger of putting Belgium's star-shaped pegs in square holes
Roberto Martinez has been criticised by Belgium supporters for many of his tactical choices amid concerns this crop of superb talent might be in the hands of the wrong person. Martinez's exclusion of Radja Nainggolan - the third best player in Belgium, according to Martinez's predecessor Marc Wilmots - was... confusing. Nainggolan retired from international football as a direct result. But - and there is a but - Martinez won the FA Cup with Wigan once. So he must know what he's doing. Right? Why it might not work Belgium have some of the best individual players in their position in the world. Kevin De Bruyne is a star, Eden Hazard too, while Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Yannick Carrasco, Jan Vertonghen and Nainggolan (the one they left at home) are up there - but rather than fit the system to the players, Martinez is shunting as many excitingly shaped pegs as he can into 11 square holes. Against Costa Rica they were outstanding, blasting their way to a 4-1 win, while a 3-0 win over Egypt was another example of their firepower. But Portugal were able to hold Belgium to a 0-0 with what was essentially their reserve side - whenever this Belgium side comes up against a similarly talented group of players, that imbalance is really obvious. "Mexico were just tactically better," said De Bruyne after a 3-3 draw with Mexico in a friendly back in November. "Their system made our five defenders sit deep and we were swimming in midfield - it was five against seven." This what Belgium's 5-3-2/3-4-1-2 looks like on the pitch: a huge amount of space between midfield and defence. Martinez wants to play Lovely Football, control possession and score goals but has implemented the same 3-4-3 he used at Wigan and Everton with a group of players who it actually probably doesn't suit. Here's the lineup for a 1-0 friendly win over Japan in November 2017: It sort of makes sense. De Bruyne can play in central areas, Eden Hazard can attack from wide, as can Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku is in the right place and there are three defenders comfortable making passes. Going forward, this is great. However, playing attacking wingers as wing-backs is risky and although Thomas Meunier is fine, if a little attack-minded, Nacer Chadli is not an elite wing-back. He's not even a wing-back. Neither is inside-forward Yannick Carrasco, who often plays on that left side in this setup. World Cup rankings: Who looks good ahead of kick-off in Russia? Players can adjust to new positions over time - look at Victor Moses - but will make mistakes along the way. At international level there is no room for error and when things get hectic on the pitch, that lack of muscle memory and instinctive knowledge of where to be when, could be a real issue. As for the midfield, Alex Witsel can be left isolated. His job is to sit in midfield and keep things tidy, passing sideways or backwards, but with De Bruyne expected to join in attacks, Witsel is left protecting an enormous midfield area. It makes it look almost as if Belgium are divided into an attacking team and a defending one. Belgium goal gif This isn't great. Belgium's non-functioning press Below, the two strikers, Hazard and Lukaku, close down the man on the ball and block the passing lane. De Bruyne tries to get close to the player in the centre-circle to block that channel, the rest of the team sits behind halfway. They are neither pressing high, low or even in the middle of the park and don't really have coverage of the pitch. Mexico have plenty of passing options. Belgium are caught in two minds here, as though needing direction. This has the effect of making it too easy to bypass Belgium's lines of defence. In this same move, Lukaku closes down the man on the ball but Mexico have time and space to pass their way beyond the first line of Belgium's defence. Within seconds they are behind the midfield too. It's way too easy. With a three on three, this move eventually breaks down but that gap between defence and midfield is obvious. Too many players have gone on the attack too quickly and the back three is left exposed - is it a fault of the players or the team's shape? Mexico's third goal in that friendly revealed the same problems. Again, Belgium press with two strikers and an attacking midfielder, all wasting their energy since Mexico have options everywhere. To press effectively high up the pitch, the team really needs a high defensive line and players must be close together. Belgium sit deep with space between the lines of players, a rogue midfielder steps up to attack the man on the ball. With one pass, Mexico easily beat the first line of the press and within four seconds, that long ball over the top has given them a three on three attacking situation. The midfield chases back, the defence are in panic mode, and Hirving Lozano cuts inside to shoot. The goalkeeper parries, the defence are all over the place, Lozano thumps the loose ball into the back of the net. "As long as we don't have a good tactical system, we will have difficulties against countries like Mexico," De Bruyne continued. "It's a pity that we have not yet found a solution. "Of course we play with a system that is in principle very defensive, but it is filled with many attacking players who want the ball. "Then you have a bit of a problem, like against Mexico. It was a match in which we had very little possession and everyone in a system that doesn't really fit. "But eventually Martinez decides. I think the trainer has to find a solution so that we can avoid such situations in future." World Cup whatsapp promo It's easy to be an armchair manager... There are hundreds of possibilities for this team and frustratingly for Belgium fans, most of them look sensible, defensively sound and rather obvious. Creative players tend to be selfish and don't like to defend, so need a safety net to flourish. The current system suits a counter-attack strategy but Belgium have heaps of attacking players on the pitch and are trying to keep possession... all of this looks and sounds like two conflicting ideals in one tactical setup. Martinez's possible starting XI A back four of Vertonghen (who has often played as a full-back) - Alderweireld/Vermaelen - Kompany and Meunier makes sense on paper, as does a midfield two of Witsel and the brilliant Mousa Dembele. A possible Belgium 4-2-3-1 Lukaku as striker, De Bruyne at 10, Hazard wide left and Mertens wide right with overlapping full-backs sounds... sensible. There's balance, excellent players in attacking positions and defensive cover. It would look more like this in possession: How Belgium's attacking shape could look in a 4-2-3-1 Perhaps this is what it's meant to look like in the 3-4-3 as it is. It certainly doesn't on the pitch. This 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 shape should be flexible in-game but there's not a lot of evidence the players sufficiently understand how to make such a fluid plan actually work, and De Bruyne's comments suggest they aren't fully behind the strategy either. When Belgium play against organised, quality opposition, they can look a little ordinary - Portugal played the reserves and really didn't struggle in that 0-0 friendly played earlier in the month. World Cup 2018 tactics | JJ Bull analyses formations, line-ups and more Belgium destroyed a group containing Greece, Estonia, Bosnia and Cyprus but with the quality of player available should probably be expected to do so and easy(ish) wins over Panama and Tunisia should be expected. For too long the problem has been coping against similarly matched opposition, when their defensive frailties become apparent. The dark horses need to make sure they aren't too top heavy if they are to progress beyond the first knock-out stage - assuming they get that far. They should manage this at least and the key to it is finding balance. The worry is that Martinez, even at this late stage, is still looking for that. World Cup whatsapp promo World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more
Roberto Martinez has been criticised by Belgium supporters for many of his tactical choices amid concerns this crop of superb talent might be in the hands of the wrong person. Martinez's exclusion of Radja Nainggolan - the third best player in Belgium, according to Martinez's predecessor Marc Wilmots - was... confusing. Nainggolan retired from international football as a direct result. But - and there is a but - Martinez won the FA Cup with Wigan once. So he must know what he's doing. Right? Why it might not work Belgium have some of the best individual players in their position in the world. Kevin De Bruyne is a star, Eden Hazard too, while Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Yannick Carrasco, Jan Vertonghen and Nainggolan (the one they left at home) are up there - but rather than fit the system to the players, Martinez is shunting as many excitingly shaped pegs as he can into 11 square holes. Against Costa Rica they were outstanding, blasting their way to a 4-1 win, while a 3-0 win over Egypt was another example of their firepower. But Portugal were able to hold Belgium to a 0-0 with what was essentially their reserve side - whenever this Belgium side comes up against a similarly talented group of players, that imbalance is really obvious. "Mexico were just tactically better," said De Bruyne after a 3-3 draw with Mexico in a friendly back in November. "Their system made our five defenders sit deep and we were swimming in midfield - it was five against seven." This what Belgium's 5-3-2/3-4-1-2 looks like on the pitch: a huge amount of space between midfield and defence. Martinez wants to play Lovely Football, control possession and score goals but has implemented the same 3-4-3 he used at Wigan and Everton with a group of players who it actually probably doesn't suit. Here's the lineup for a 1-0 friendly win over Japan in November 2017: It sort of makes sense. De Bruyne can play in central areas, Eden Hazard can attack from wide, as can Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku is in the right place and there are three defenders comfortable making passes. Going forward, this is great. However, playing attacking wingers as wing-backs is risky and although Thomas Meunier is fine, if a little attack-minded, Nacer Chadli is not an elite wing-back. He's not even a wing-back. Neither is inside-forward Yannick Carrasco, who often plays on that left side in this setup. World Cup rankings: Who looks good ahead of kick-off in Russia? Players can adjust to new positions over time - look at Victor Moses - but will make mistakes along the way. At international level there is no room for error and when things get hectic on the pitch, that lack of muscle memory and instinctive knowledge of where to be when, could be a real issue. As for the midfield, Alex Witsel can be left isolated. His job is to sit in midfield and keep things tidy, passing sideways or backwards, but with De Bruyne expected to join in attacks, Witsel is left protecting an enormous midfield area. It makes it look almost as if Belgium are divided into an attacking team and a defending one. Belgium goal gif This isn't great. Belgium's non-functioning press Below, the two strikers, Hazard and Lukaku, close down the man on the ball and block the passing lane. De Bruyne tries to get close to the player in the centre-circle to block that channel, the rest of the team sits behind halfway. They are neither pressing high, low or even in the middle of the park and don't really have coverage of the pitch. Mexico have plenty of passing options. Belgium are caught in two minds here, as though needing direction. This has the effect of making it too easy to bypass Belgium's lines of defence. In this same move, Lukaku closes down the man on the ball but Mexico have time and space to pass their way beyond the first line of Belgium's defence. Within seconds they are behind the midfield too. It's way too easy. With a three on three, this move eventually breaks down but that gap between defence and midfield is obvious. Too many players have gone on the attack too quickly and the back three is left exposed - is it a fault of the players or the team's shape? Mexico's third goal in that friendly revealed the same problems. Again, Belgium press with two strikers and an attacking midfielder, all wasting their energy since Mexico have options everywhere. To press effectively high up the pitch, the team really needs a high defensive line and players must be close together. Belgium sit deep with space between the lines of players, a rogue midfielder steps up to attack the man on the ball. With one pass, Mexico easily beat the first line of the press and within four seconds, that long ball over the top has given them a three on three attacking situation. The midfield chases back, the defence are in panic mode, and Hirving Lozano cuts inside to shoot. The goalkeeper parries, the defence are all over the place, Lozano thumps the loose ball into the back of the net. "As long as we don't have a good tactical system, we will have difficulties against countries like Mexico," De Bruyne continued. "It's a pity that we have not yet found a solution. "Of course we play with a system that is in principle very defensive, but it is filled with many attacking players who want the ball. "Then you have a bit of a problem, like against Mexico. It was a match in which we had very little possession and everyone in a system that doesn't really fit. "But eventually Martinez decides. I think the trainer has to find a solution so that we can avoid such situations in future." World Cup whatsapp promo It's easy to be an armchair manager... There are hundreds of possibilities for this team and frustratingly for Belgium fans, most of them look sensible, defensively sound and rather obvious. Creative players tend to be selfish and don't like to defend, so need a safety net to flourish. The current system suits a counter-attack strategy but Belgium have heaps of attacking players on the pitch and are trying to keep possession... all of this looks and sounds like two conflicting ideals in one tactical setup. Martinez's possible starting XI A back four of Vertonghen (who has often played as a full-back) - Alderweireld/Vermaelen - Kompany and Meunier makes sense on paper, as does a midfield two of Witsel and the brilliant Mousa Dembele. A possible Belgium 4-2-3-1 Lukaku as striker, De Bruyne at 10, Hazard wide left and Mertens wide right with overlapping full-backs sounds... sensible. There's balance, excellent players in attacking positions and defensive cover. It would look more like this in possession: How Belgium's attacking shape could look in a 4-2-3-1 Perhaps this is what it's meant to look like in the 3-4-3 as it is. It certainly doesn't on the pitch. This 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 shape should be flexible in-game but there's not a lot of evidence the players sufficiently understand how to make such a fluid plan actually work, and De Bruyne's comments suggest they aren't fully behind the strategy either. When Belgium play against organised, quality opposition, they can look a little ordinary - Portugal played the reserves and really didn't struggle in that 0-0 friendly played earlier in the month. World Cup 2018 tactics | JJ Bull analyses formations, line-ups and more Belgium destroyed a group containing Greece, Estonia, Bosnia and Cyprus but with the quality of player available should probably be expected to do so and easy(ish) wins over Panama and Tunisia should be expected. For too long the problem has been coping against similarly matched opposition, when their defensive frailties become apparent. The dark horses need to make sure they aren't too top heavy if they are to progress beyond the first knock-out stage - assuming they get that far. They should manage this at least and the key to it is finding balance. The worry is that Martinez, even at this late stage, is still looking for that. World Cup whatsapp promo World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more
World Cup 2018 tactics: Roberto Martinez in danger of putting Belgium's star-shaped pegs in square holes
Roberto Martinez has been criticised by Belgium supporters for many of his tactical choices amid concerns this crop of superb talent might be in the hands of the wrong person. Martinez's exclusion of Radja Nainggolan - the third best player in Belgium, according to Martinez's predecessor Marc Wilmots - was... confusing. Nainggolan retired from international football as a direct result. But - and there is a but - Martinez won the FA Cup with Wigan once. So he must know what he's doing. Right? Why it might not work Belgium have some of the best individual players in their position in the world. Kevin De Bruyne is a star, Eden Hazard too, while Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Yannick Carrasco, Jan Vertonghen and Nainggolan (the one they left at home) are up there - but rather than fit the system to the players, Martinez is shunting as many excitingly shaped pegs as he can into 11 square holes. Against Costa Rica they were outstanding, blasting their way to a 4-1 win, while a 3-0 win over Egypt was another example of their firepower. But Portugal were able to hold Belgium to a 0-0 with what was essentially their reserve side - whenever this Belgium side comes up against a similarly talented group of players, that imbalance is really obvious. "Mexico were just tactically better," said De Bruyne after a 3-3 draw with Mexico in a friendly back in November. "Their system made our five defenders sit deep and we were swimming in midfield - it was five against seven." This what Belgium's 5-3-2/3-4-1-2 looks like on the pitch: a huge amount of space between midfield and defence. Martinez wants to play Lovely Football, control possession and score goals but has implemented the same 3-4-3 he used at Wigan and Everton with a group of players who it actually probably doesn't suit. Here's the lineup for a 1-0 friendly win over Japan in November 2017: It sort of makes sense. De Bruyne can play in central areas, Eden Hazard can attack from wide, as can Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku is in the right place and there are three defenders comfortable making passes. Going forward, this is great. However, playing attacking wingers as wing-backs is risky and although Thomas Meunier is fine, if a little attack-minded, Nacer Chadli is not an elite wing-back. He's not even a wing-back. Neither is inside-forward Yannick Carrasco, who often plays on that left side in this setup. World Cup rankings: Who looks good ahead of kick-off in Russia? Players can adjust to new positions over time - look at Victor Moses - but will make mistakes along the way. At international level there is no room for error and when things get hectic on the pitch, that lack of muscle memory and instinctive knowledge of where to be when, could be a real issue. As for the midfield, Alex Witsel can be left isolated. His job is to sit in midfield and keep things tidy, passing sideways or backwards, but with De Bruyne expected to join in attacks, Witsel is left protecting an enormous midfield area. It makes it look almost as if Belgium are divided into an attacking team and a defending one. Belgium goal gif This isn't great. Belgium's non-functioning press Below, the two strikers, Hazard and Lukaku, close down the man on the ball and block the passing lane. De Bruyne tries to get close to the player in the centre-circle to block that channel, the rest of the team sits behind halfway. They are neither pressing high, low or even in the middle of the park and don't really have coverage of the pitch. Mexico have plenty of passing options. Belgium are caught in two minds here, as though needing direction. This has the effect of making it too easy to bypass Belgium's lines of defence. In this same move, Lukaku closes down the man on the ball but Mexico have time and space to pass their way beyond the first line of Belgium's defence. Within seconds they are behind the midfield too. It's way too easy. With a three on three, this move eventually breaks down but that gap between defence and midfield is obvious. Too many players have gone on the attack too quickly and the back three is left exposed - is it a fault of the players or the team's shape? Mexico's third goal in that friendly revealed the same problems. Again, Belgium press with two strikers and an attacking midfielder, all wasting their energy since Mexico have options everywhere. To press effectively high up the pitch, the team really needs a high defensive line and players must be close together. Belgium sit deep with space between the lines of players, a rogue midfielder steps up to attack the man on the ball. With one pass, Mexico easily beat the first line of the press and within four seconds, that long ball over the top has given them a three on three attacking situation. The midfield chases back, the defence are in panic mode, and Hirving Lozano cuts inside to shoot. The goalkeeper parries, the defence are all over the place, Lozano thumps the loose ball into the back of the net. "As long as we don't have a good tactical system, we will have difficulties against countries like Mexico," De Bruyne continued. "It's a pity that we have not yet found a solution. "Of course we play with a system that is in principle very defensive, but it is filled with many attacking players who want the ball. "Then you have a bit of a problem, like against Mexico. It was a match in which we had very little possession and everyone in a system that doesn't really fit. "But eventually Martinez decides. I think the trainer has to find a solution so that we can avoid such situations in future." World Cup whatsapp promo It's easy to be an armchair manager... There are hundreds of possibilities for this team and frustratingly for Belgium fans, most of them look sensible, defensively sound and rather obvious. Creative players tend to be selfish and don't like to defend, so need a safety net to flourish. The current system suits a counter-attack strategy but Belgium have heaps of attacking players on the pitch and are trying to keep possession... all of this looks and sounds like two conflicting ideals in one tactical setup. Martinez's possible starting XI A back four of Vertonghen (who has often played as a full-back) - Alderweireld/Vermaelen - Kompany and Meunier makes sense on paper, as does a midfield two of Witsel and the brilliant Mousa Dembele. A possible Belgium 4-2-3-1 Lukaku as striker, De Bruyne at 10, Hazard wide left and Mertens wide right with overlapping full-backs sounds... sensible. There's balance, excellent players in attacking positions and defensive cover. It would look more like this in possession: How Belgium's attacking shape could look in a 4-2-3-1 Perhaps this is what it's meant to look like in the 3-4-3 as it is. It certainly doesn't on the pitch. This 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 shape should be flexible in-game but there's not a lot of evidence the players sufficiently understand how to make such a fluid plan actually work, and De Bruyne's comments suggest they aren't fully behind the strategy either. When Belgium play against organised, quality opposition, they can look a little ordinary - Portugal played the reserves and really didn't struggle in that 0-0 friendly played earlier in the month. World Cup 2018 tactics | JJ Bull analyses formations, line-ups and more Belgium destroyed a group containing Greece, Estonia, Bosnia and Cyprus but with the quality of player available should probably be expected to do so and easy(ish) wins over Panama and Tunisia should be expected. For too long the problem has been coping against similarly matched opposition, when their defensive frailties become apparent. The dark horses need to make sure they aren't too top heavy if they are to progress beyond the first knock-out stage - assuming they get that far. They should manage this at least and the key to it is finding balance. The worry is that Martinez, even at this late stage, is still looking for that. World Cup whatsapp promo World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more
Roberto Martinez has been criticised by Belgium supporters for many of his tactical choices amid concerns this crop of superb talent might be in the hands of the wrong person. Martinez's exclusion of Radja Nainggolan - the third best player in Belgium, according to Martinez's predecessor Marc Wilmots - was... confusing. Nainggolan retired from international football as a direct result. But - and there is a but - Martinez won the FA Cup with Wigan once. So he must know what he's doing. Right? Why it might not work Belgium have some of the best individual players in their position in the world. Kevin De Bruyne is a star, Eden Hazard too, while Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Yannick Carrasco, Jan Vertonghen and Nainggolan (the one they left at home) are up there - but rather than fit the system to the players, Martinez is shunting as many excitingly shaped pegs as he can into 11 square holes. Against Costa Rica they were outstanding, blasting their way to a 4-1 win, while a 3-0 win over Egypt was another example of their firepower. But Portugal were able to hold Belgium to a 0-0 with what was essentially their reserve side - whenever this Belgium side comes up against a similarly talented group of players, that imbalance is really obvious. "Mexico were just tactically better," said De Bruyne after a 3-3 draw with Mexico in a friendly back in November. "Their system made our five defenders sit deep and we were swimming in midfield - it was five against seven." This what Belgium's 5-3-2/3-4-1-2 looks like on the pitch: a huge amount of space between midfield and defence. Martinez wants to play Lovely Football, control possession and score goals but has implemented the same 3-4-3 he used at Wigan and Everton with a group of players who it actually probably doesn't suit. Here's the lineup for a 1-0 friendly win over Japan in November 2017: It sort of makes sense. De Bruyne can play in central areas, Eden Hazard can attack from wide, as can Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku is in the right place and there are three defenders comfortable making passes. Going forward, this is great. However, playing attacking wingers as wing-backs is risky and although Thomas Meunier is fine, if a little attack-minded, Nacer Chadli is not an elite wing-back. He's not even a wing-back. Neither is inside-forward Yannick Carrasco, who often plays on that left side in this setup. World Cup rankings: Who looks good ahead of kick-off in Russia? Players can adjust to new positions over time - look at Victor Moses - but will make mistakes along the way. At international level there is no room for error and when things get hectic on the pitch, that lack of muscle memory and instinctive knowledge of where to be when, could be a real issue. As for the midfield, Alex Witsel can be left isolated. His job is to sit in midfield and keep things tidy, passing sideways or backwards, but with De Bruyne expected to join in attacks, Witsel is left protecting an enormous midfield area. It makes it look almost as if Belgium are divided into an attacking team and a defending one. Belgium goal gif This isn't great. Belgium's non-functioning press Below, the two strikers, Hazard and Lukaku, close down the man on the ball and block the passing lane. De Bruyne tries to get close to the player in the centre-circle to block that channel, the rest of the team sits behind halfway. They are neither pressing high, low or even in the middle of the park and don't really have coverage of the pitch. Mexico have plenty of passing options. Belgium are caught in two minds here, as though needing direction. This has the effect of making it too easy to bypass Belgium's lines of defence. In this same move, Lukaku closes down the man on the ball but Mexico have time and space to pass their way beyond the first line of Belgium's defence. Within seconds they are behind the midfield too. It's way too easy. With a three on three, this move eventually breaks down but that gap between defence and midfield is obvious. Too many players have gone on the attack too quickly and the back three is left exposed - is it a fault of the players or the team's shape? Mexico's third goal in that friendly revealed the same problems. Again, Belgium press with two strikers and an attacking midfielder, all wasting their energy since Mexico have options everywhere. To press effectively high up the pitch, the team really needs a high defensive line and players must be close together. Belgium sit deep with space between the lines of players, a rogue midfielder steps up to attack the man on the ball. With one pass, Mexico easily beat the first line of the press and within four seconds, that long ball over the top has given them a three on three attacking situation. The midfield chases back, the defence are in panic mode, and Hirving Lozano cuts inside to shoot. The goalkeeper parries, the defence are all over the place, Lozano thumps the loose ball into the back of the net. "As long as we don't have a good tactical system, we will have difficulties against countries like Mexico," De Bruyne continued. "It's a pity that we have not yet found a solution. "Of course we play with a system that is in principle very defensive, but it is filled with many attacking players who want the ball. "Then you have a bit of a problem, like against Mexico. It was a match in which we had very little possession and everyone in a system that doesn't really fit. "But eventually Martinez decides. I think the trainer has to find a solution so that we can avoid such situations in future." World Cup whatsapp promo It's easy to be an armchair manager... There are hundreds of possibilities for this team and frustratingly for Belgium fans, most of them look sensible, defensively sound and rather obvious. Creative players tend to be selfish and don't like to defend, so need a safety net to flourish. The current system suits a counter-attack strategy but Belgium have heaps of attacking players on the pitch and are trying to keep possession... all of this looks and sounds like two conflicting ideals in one tactical setup. Martinez's possible starting XI A back four of Vertonghen (who has often played as a full-back) - Alderweireld/Vermaelen - Kompany and Meunier makes sense on paper, as does a midfield two of Witsel and the brilliant Mousa Dembele. A possible Belgium 4-2-3-1 Lukaku as striker, De Bruyne at 10, Hazard wide left and Mertens wide right with overlapping full-backs sounds... sensible. There's balance, excellent players in attacking positions and defensive cover. It would look more like this in possession: How Belgium's attacking shape could look in a 4-2-3-1 Perhaps this is what it's meant to look like in the 3-4-3 as it is. It certainly doesn't on the pitch. This 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 shape should be flexible in-game but there's not a lot of evidence the players sufficiently understand how to make such a fluid plan actually work, and De Bruyne's comments suggest they aren't fully behind the strategy either. When Belgium play against organised, quality opposition, they can look a little ordinary - Portugal played the reserves and really didn't struggle in that 0-0 friendly played earlier in the month. World Cup 2018 tactics | JJ Bull analyses formations, line-ups and more Belgium destroyed a group containing Greece, Estonia, Bosnia and Cyprus but with the quality of player available should probably be expected to do so and easy(ish) wins over Panama and Tunisia should be expected. For too long the problem has been coping against similarly matched opposition, when their defensive frailties become apparent. The dark horses need to make sure they aren't too top heavy if they are to progress beyond the first knock-out stage - assuming they get that far. They should manage this at least and the key to it is finding balance. The worry is that Martinez, even at this late stage, is still looking for that. World Cup whatsapp promo World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more
World Cup 2018 tactics: Roberto Martinez in danger of putting Belgium's star-shaped pegs in square holes
Roberto Martinez has been criticised by Belgium supporters for many of his tactical choices amid concerns this crop of superb talent might be in the hands of the wrong person. Martinez's exclusion of Radja Nainggolan - the third best player in Belgium, according to Martinez's predecessor Marc Wilmots - was... confusing. Nainggolan retired from international football as a direct result. But - and there is a but - Martinez won the FA Cup with Wigan once. So he must know what he's doing. Right? Why it might not work Belgium have some of the best individual players in their position in the world. Kevin De Bruyne is a star, Eden Hazard too, while Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Yannick Carrasco, Jan Vertonghen and Nainggolan (the one they left at home) are up there - but rather than fit the system to the players, Martinez is shunting as many excitingly shaped pegs as he can into 11 square holes. Against Costa Rica they were outstanding, blasting their way to a 4-1 win, while a 3-0 win over Egypt was another example of their firepower. But Portugal were able to hold Belgium to a 0-0 with what was essentially their reserve side - whenever this Belgium side comes up against a similarly talented group of players, that imbalance is really obvious. "Mexico were just tactically better," said De Bruyne after a 3-3 draw with Mexico in a friendly back in November. "Their system made our five defenders sit deep and we were swimming in midfield - it was five against seven." This what Belgium's 5-3-2/3-4-1-2 looks like on the pitch: a huge amount of space between midfield and defence. Martinez wants to play Lovely Football, control possession and score goals but has implemented the same 3-4-3 he used at Wigan and Everton with a group of players who it actually probably doesn't suit. Here's the lineup for a 1-0 friendly win over Japan in November 2017: It sort of makes sense. De Bruyne can play in central areas, Eden Hazard can attack from wide, as can Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku is in the right place and there are three defenders comfortable making passes. Going forward, this is great. However, playing attacking wingers as wing-backs is risky and although Thomas Meunier is fine, if a little attack-minded, Nacer Chadli is not an elite wing-back. He's not even a wing-back. Neither is inside-forward Yannick Carrasco, who often plays on that left side in this setup. World Cup rankings: Who looks good ahead of kick-off in Russia? Players can adjust to new positions over time - look at Victor Moses - but will make mistakes along the way. At international level there is no room for error and when things get hectic on the pitch, that lack of muscle memory and instinctive knowledge of where to be when, could be a real issue. As for the midfield, Alex Witsel can be left isolated. His job is to sit in midfield and keep things tidy, passing sideways or backwards, but with De Bruyne expected to join in attacks, Witsel is left protecting an enormous midfield area. It makes it look almost as if Belgium are divided into an attacking team and a defending one. Belgium goal gif This isn't great. Belgium's non-functioning press Below, the two strikers, Hazard and Lukaku, close down the man on the ball and block the passing lane. De Bruyne tries to get close to the player in the centre-circle to block that channel, the rest of the team sits behind halfway. They are neither pressing high, low or even in the middle of the park and don't really have coverage of the pitch. Mexico have plenty of passing options. Belgium are caught in two minds here, as though needing direction. This has the effect of making it too easy to bypass Belgium's lines of defence. In this same move, Lukaku closes down the man on the ball but Mexico have time and space to pass their way beyond the first line of Belgium's defence. Within seconds they are behind the midfield too. It's way too easy. With a three on three, this move eventually breaks down but that gap between defence and midfield is obvious. Too many players have gone on the attack too quickly and the back three is left exposed - is it a fault of the players or the team's shape? Mexico's third goal in that friendly revealed the same problems. Again, Belgium press with two strikers and an attacking midfielder, all wasting their energy since Mexico have options everywhere. To press effectively high up the pitch, the team really needs a high defensive line and players must be close together. Belgium sit deep with space between the lines of players, a rogue midfielder steps up to attack the man on the ball. With one pass, Mexico easily beat the first line of the press and within four seconds, that long ball over the top has given them a three on three attacking situation. The midfield chases back, the defence are in panic mode, and Hirving Lozano cuts inside to shoot. The goalkeeper parries, the defence are all over the place, Lozano thumps the loose ball into the back of the net. "As long as we don't have a good tactical system, we will have difficulties against countries like Mexico," De Bruyne continued. "It's a pity that we have not yet found a solution. "Of course we play with a system that is in principle very defensive, but it is filled with many attacking players who want the ball. "Then you have a bit of a problem, like against Mexico. It was a match in which we had very little possession and everyone in a system that doesn't really fit. "But eventually Martinez decides. I think the trainer has to find a solution so that we can avoid such situations in future." World Cup whatsapp promo It's easy to be an armchair manager... There are hundreds of possibilities for this team and frustratingly for Belgium fans, most of them look sensible, defensively sound and rather obvious. Creative players tend to be selfish and don't like to defend, so need a safety net to flourish. The current system suits a counter-attack strategy but Belgium have heaps of attacking players on the pitch and are trying to keep possession... all of this looks and sounds like two conflicting ideals in one tactical setup. Martinez's possible starting XI A back four of Vertonghen (who has often played as a full-back) - Alderweireld/Vermaelen - Kompany and Meunier makes sense on paper, as does a midfield two of Witsel and the brilliant Mousa Dembele. A possible Belgium 4-2-3-1 Lukaku as striker, De Bruyne at 10, Hazard wide left and Mertens wide right with overlapping full-backs sounds... sensible. There's balance, excellent players in attacking positions and defensive cover. It would look more like this in possession: How Belgium's attacking shape could look in a 4-2-3-1 Perhaps this is what it's meant to look like in the 3-4-3 as it is. It certainly doesn't on the pitch. This 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 shape should be flexible in-game but there's not a lot of evidence the players sufficiently understand how to make such a fluid plan actually work, and De Bruyne's comments suggest they aren't fully behind the strategy either. When Belgium play against organised, quality opposition, they can look a little ordinary - Portugal played the reserves and really didn't struggle in that 0-0 friendly played earlier in the month. World Cup 2018 tactics | JJ Bull analyses formations, line-ups and more Belgium destroyed a group containing Greece, Estonia, Bosnia and Cyprus but with the quality of player available should probably be expected to do so and easy(ish) wins over Panama and Tunisia should be expected. For too long the problem has been coping against similarly matched opposition, when their defensive frailties become apparent. The dark horses need to make sure they aren't too top heavy if they are to progress beyond the first knock-out stage - assuming they get that far. They should manage this at least and the key to it is finding balance. The worry is that Martinez, even at this late stage, is still looking for that. World Cup whatsapp promo World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more
Roberto Martinez has been criticised by Belgium supporters for many of his tactical choices amid concerns this crop of superb talent might be in the hands of the wrong person. Martinez's exclusion of Radja Nainggolan - the third best player in Belgium, according to Martinez's predecessor Marc Wilmots - was... confusing. Nainggolan retired from international football as a direct result. But - and there is a but - Martinez won the FA Cup with Wigan once. So he must know what he's doing. Right? Why it might not work Belgium have some of the best individual players in their position in the world. Kevin De Bruyne is a star, Eden Hazard too, while Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Yannick Carrasco, Jan Vertonghen and Nainggolan (the one they left at home) are up there - but rather than fit the system to the players, Martinez is shunting as many excitingly shaped pegs as he can into 11 square holes. Against Costa Rica they were outstanding, blasting their way to a 4-1 win, while a 3-0 win over Egypt was another example of their firepower. But Portugal were able to hold Belgium to a 0-0 with what was essentially their reserve side - whenever this Belgium side comes up against a similarly talented group of players, that imbalance is really obvious. "Mexico were just tactically better," said De Bruyne after a 3-3 draw with Mexico in a friendly back in November. "Their system made our five defenders sit deep and we were swimming in midfield - it was five against seven." This what Belgium's 5-3-2/3-4-1-2 looks like on the pitch: a huge amount of space between midfield and defence. Martinez wants to play Lovely Football, control possession and score goals but has implemented the same 3-4-3 he used at Wigan and Everton with a group of players who it actually probably doesn't suit. Here's the lineup for a 1-0 friendly win over Japan in November 2017: It sort of makes sense. De Bruyne can play in central areas, Eden Hazard can attack from wide, as can Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku is in the right place and there are three defenders comfortable making passes. Going forward, this is great. However, playing attacking wingers as wing-backs is risky and although Thomas Meunier is fine, if a little attack-minded, Nacer Chadli is not an elite wing-back. He's not even a wing-back. Neither is inside-forward Yannick Carrasco, who often plays on that left side in this setup. World Cup rankings: Who looks good ahead of kick-off in Russia? Players can adjust to new positions over time - look at Victor Moses - but will make mistakes along the way. At international level there is no room for error and when things get hectic on the pitch, that lack of muscle memory and instinctive knowledge of where to be when, could be a real issue. As for the midfield, Alex Witsel can be left isolated. His job is to sit in midfield and keep things tidy, passing sideways or backwards, but with De Bruyne expected to join in attacks, Witsel is left protecting an enormous midfield area. It makes it look almost as if Belgium are divided into an attacking team and a defending one. Belgium goal gif This isn't great. Belgium's non-functioning press Below, the two strikers, Hazard and Lukaku, close down the man on the ball and block the passing lane. De Bruyne tries to get close to the player in the centre-circle to block that channel, the rest of the team sits behind halfway. They are neither pressing high, low or even in the middle of the park and don't really have coverage of the pitch. Mexico have plenty of passing options. Belgium are caught in two minds here, as though needing direction. This has the effect of making it too easy to bypass Belgium's lines of defence. In this same move, Lukaku closes down the man on the ball but Mexico have time and space to pass their way beyond the first line of Belgium's defence. Within seconds they are behind the midfield too. It's way too easy. With a three on three, this move eventually breaks down but that gap between defence and midfield is obvious. Too many players have gone on the attack too quickly and the back three is left exposed - is it a fault of the players or the team's shape? Mexico's third goal in that friendly revealed the same problems. Again, Belgium press with two strikers and an attacking midfielder, all wasting their energy since Mexico have options everywhere. To press effectively high up the pitch, the team really needs a high defensive line and players must be close together. Belgium sit deep with space between the lines of players, a rogue midfielder steps up to attack the man on the ball. With one pass, Mexico easily beat the first line of the press and within four seconds, that long ball over the top has given them a three on three attacking situation. The midfield chases back, the defence are in panic mode, and Hirving Lozano cuts inside to shoot. The goalkeeper parries, the defence are all over the place, Lozano thumps the loose ball into the back of the net. "As long as we don't have a good tactical system, we will have difficulties against countries like Mexico," De Bruyne continued. "It's a pity that we have not yet found a solution. "Of course we play with a system that is in principle very defensive, but it is filled with many attacking players who want the ball. "Then you have a bit of a problem, like against Mexico. It was a match in which we had very little possession and everyone in a system that doesn't really fit. "But eventually Martinez decides. I think the trainer has to find a solution so that we can avoid such situations in future." World Cup whatsapp promo It's easy to be an armchair manager... There are hundreds of possibilities for this team and frustratingly for Belgium fans, most of them look sensible, defensively sound and rather obvious. Creative players tend to be selfish and don't like to defend, so need a safety net to flourish. The current system suits a counter-attack strategy but Belgium have heaps of attacking players on the pitch and are trying to keep possession... all of this looks and sounds like two conflicting ideals in one tactical setup. Martinez's possible starting XI A back four of Vertonghen (who has often played as a full-back) - Alderweireld/Vermaelen - Kompany and Meunier makes sense on paper, as does a midfield two of Witsel and the brilliant Mousa Dembele. A possible Belgium 4-2-3-1 Lukaku as striker, De Bruyne at 10, Hazard wide left and Mertens wide right with overlapping full-backs sounds... sensible. There's balance, excellent players in attacking positions and defensive cover. It would look more like this in possession: How Belgium's attacking shape could look in a 4-2-3-1 Perhaps this is what it's meant to look like in the 3-4-3 as it is. It certainly doesn't on the pitch. This 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 shape should be flexible in-game but there's not a lot of evidence the players sufficiently understand how to make such a fluid plan actually work, and De Bruyne's comments suggest they aren't fully behind the strategy either. When Belgium play against organised, quality opposition, they can look a little ordinary - Portugal played the reserves and really didn't struggle in that 0-0 friendly played earlier in the month. World Cup 2018 tactics | JJ Bull analyses formations, line-ups and more Belgium destroyed a group containing Greece, Estonia, Bosnia and Cyprus but with the quality of player available should probably be expected to do so and easy(ish) wins over Panama and Tunisia should be expected. For too long the problem has been coping against similarly matched opposition, when their defensive frailties become apparent. The dark horses need to make sure they aren't too top heavy if they are to progress beyond the first knock-out stage - assuming they get that far. They should manage this at least and the key to it is finding balance. The worry is that Martinez, even at this late stage, is still looking for that. World Cup whatsapp promo World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more
World Cup 2018 tactics: Roberto Martinez in danger of putting Belgium's star-shaped pegs in square holes
Roberto Martinez has been criticised by Belgium supporters for many of his tactical choices amid concerns this crop of superb talent might be in the hands of the wrong person. Martinez's exclusion of Radja Nainggolan - the third best player in Belgium, according to Martinez's predecessor Marc Wilmots - was... confusing. Nainggolan retired from international football as a direct result. But - and there is a but - Martinez won the FA Cup with Wigan once. So he must know what he's doing. Right? Why it might not work Belgium have some of the best individual players in their position in the world. Kevin De Bruyne is a star, Eden Hazard too, while Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Yannick Carrasco, Jan Vertonghen and Nainggolan (the one they left at home) are up there - but rather than fit the system to the players, Martinez is shunting as many excitingly shaped pegs as he can into 11 square holes. Against Costa Rica they were outstanding, blasting their way to a 4-1 win, while a 3-0 win over Egypt was another example of their firepower. But Portugal were able to hold Belgium to a 0-0 with what was essentially their reserve side - whenever this Belgium side comes up against a similarly talented group of players, that imbalance is really obvious. "Mexico were just tactically better," said De Bruyne after a 3-3 draw with Mexico in a friendly back in November. "Their system made our five defenders sit deep and we were swimming in midfield - it was five against seven." This what Belgium's 5-3-2/3-4-1-2 looks like on the pitch: a huge amount of space between midfield and defence. Martinez wants to play Lovely Football, control possession and score goals but has implemented the same 3-4-3 he used at Wigan and Everton with a group of players who it actually probably doesn't suit. Here's the lineup for a 1-0 friendly win over Japan in November 2017: It sort of makes sense. De Bruyne can play in central areas, Eden Hazard can attack from wide, as can Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku is in the right place and there are three defenders comfortable making passes. Going forward, this is great. However, playing attacking wingers as wing-backs is risky and although Thomas Meunier is fine, if a little attack-minded, Nacer Chadli is not an elite wing-back. He's not even a wing-back. Neither is inside-forward Yannick Carrasco, who often plays on that left side in this setup. World Cup rankings: Who looks good ahead of kick-off in Russia? Players can adjust to new positions over time - look at Victor Moses - but will make mistakes along the way. At international level there is no room for error and when things get hectic on the pitch, that lack of muscle memory and instinctive knowledge of where to be when, could be a real issue. As for the midfield, Alex Witsel can be left isolated. His job is to sit in midfield and keep things tidy, passing sideways or backwards, but with De Bruyne expected to join in attacks, Witsel is left protecting an enormous midfield area. It makes it look almost as if Belgium are divided into an attacking team and a defending one. Belgium goal gif This isn't great. Belgium's non-functioning press Below, the two strikers, Hazard and Lukaku, close down the man on the ball and block the passing lane. De Bruyne tries to get close to the player in the centre-circle to block that channel, the rest of the team sits behind halfway. They are neither pressing high, low or even in the middle of the park and don't really have coverage of the pitch. Mexico have plenty of passing options. Belgium are caught in two minds here, as though needing direction. This has the effect of making it too easy to bypass Belgium's lines of defence. In this same move, Lukaku closes down the man on the ball but Mexico have time and space to pass their way beyond the first line of Belgium's defence. Within seconds they are behind the midfield too. It's way too easy. With a three on three, this move eventually breaks down but that gap between defence and midfield is obvious. Too many players have gone on the attack too quickly and the back three is left exposed - is it a fault of the players or the team's shape? Mexico's third goal in that friendly revealed the same problems. Again, Belgium press with two strikers and an attacking midfielder, all wasting their energy since Mexico have options everywhere. To press effectively high up the pitch, the team really needs a high defensive line and players must be close together. Belgium sit deep with space between the lines of players, a rogue midfielder steps up to attack the man on the ball. With one pass, Mexico easily beat the first line of the press and within four seconds, that long ball over the top has given them a three on three attacking situation. The midfield chases back, the defence are in panic mode, and Hirving Lozano cuts inside to shoot. The goalkeeper parries, the defence are all over the place, Lozano thumps the loose ball into the back of the net. "As long as we don't have a good tactical system, we will have difficulties against countries like Mexico," De Bruyne continued. "It's a pity that we have not yet found a solution. "Of course we play with a system that is in principle very defensive, but it is filled with many attacking players who want the ball. "Then you have a bit of a problem, like against Mexico. It was a match in which we had very little possession and everyone in a system that doesn't really fit. "But eventually Martinez decides. I think the trainer has to find a solution so that we can avoid such situations in future." World Cup whatsapp promo It's easy to be an armchair manager... There are hundreds of possibilities for this team and frustratingly for Belgium fans, most of them look sensible, defensively sound and rather obvious. Creative players tend to be selfish and don't like to defend, so need a safety net to flourish. The current system suits a counter-attack strategy but Belgium have heaps of attacking players on the pitch and are trying to keep possession... all of this looks and sounds like two conflicting ideals in one tactical setup. Martinez's possible starting XI A back four of Vertonghen (who has often played as a full-back) - Alderweireld/Vermaelen - Kompany and Meunier makes sense on paper, as does a midfield two of Witsel and the brilliant Mousa Dembele. A possible Belgium 4-2-3-1 Lukaku as striker, De Bruyne at 10, Hazard wide left and Mertens wide right with overlapping full-backs sounds... sensible. There's balance, excellent players in attacking positions and defensive cover. It would look more like this in possession: How Belgium's attacking shape could look in a 4-2-3-1 Perhaps this is what it's meant to look like in the 3-4-3 as it is. It certainly doesn't on the pitch. This 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 shape should be flexible in-game but there's not a lot of evidence the players sufficiently understand how to make such a fluid plan actually work, and De Bruyne's comments suggest they aren't fully behind the strategy either. When Belgium play against organised, quality opposition, they can look a little ordinary - Portugal played the reserves and really didn't struggle in that 0-0 friendly played earlier in the month. World Cup 2018 tactics | JJ Bull analyses formations, line-ups and more Belgium destroyed a group containing Greece, Estonia, Bosnia and Cyprus but with the quality of player available should probably be expected to do so and easy(ish) wins over Panama and Tunisia should be expected. For too long the problem has been coping against similarly matched opposition, when their defensive frailties become apparent. The dark horses need to make sure they aren't too top heavy if they are to progress beyond the first knock-out stage - assuming they get that far. They should manage this at least and the key to it is finding balance. The worry is that Martinez, even at this late stage, is still looking for that. World Cup whatsapp promo World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more
Roberto Martinez has been criticised by Belgium supporters for many of his tactical choices amid concerns this crop of superb talent might be in the hands of the wrong person. Martinez's exclusion of Radja Nainggolan - the third best player in Belgium, according to Martinez's predecessor Marc Wilmots - was... confusing. Nainggolan retired from international football as a direct result. But - and there is a but - Martinez won the FA Cup with Wigan once. So he must know what he's doing. Right? Why it might not work Belgium have some of the best individual players in their position in the world. Kevin De Bruyne is a star, Eden Hazard too, while Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Yannick Carrasco, Jan Vertonghen and Nainggolan (the one they left at home) are up there - but rather than fit the system to the players, Martinez is shunting as many excitingly shaped pegs as he can into 11 square holes. Against Costa Rica they were outstanding, blasting their way to a 4-1 win, while a 3-0 win over Egypt was another example of their firepower. But Portugal were able to hold Belgium to a 0-0 with what was essentially their reserve side - whenever this Belgium side comes up against a similarly talented group of players, that imbalance is really obvious. "Mexico were just tactically better," said De Bruyne after a 3-3 draw with Mexico in a friendly back in November. "Their system made our five defenders sit deep and we were swimming in midfield - it was five against seven." This what Belgium's 5-3-2/3-4-1-2 looks like on the pitch: a huge amount of space between midfield and defence. Martinez wants to play Lovely Football, control possession and score goals but has implemented the same 3-4-3 he used at Wigan and Everton with a group of players who it actually probably doesn't suit. Here's the lineup for a 1-0 friendly win over Japan in November 2017: It sort of makes sense. De Bruyne can play in central areas, Eden Hazard can attack from wide, as can Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku is in the right place and there are three defenders comfortable making passes. Going forward, this is great. However, playing attacking wingers as wing-backs is risky and although Thomas Meunier is fine, if a little attack-minded, Nacer Chadli is not an elite wing-back. He's not even a wing-back. Neither is inside-forward Yannick Carrasco, who often plays on that left side in this setup. World Cup rankings: Who looks good ahead of kick-off in Russia? Players can adjust to new positions over time - look at Victor Moses - but will make mistakes along the way. At international level there is no room for error and when things get hectic on the pitch, that lack of muscle memory and instinctive knowledge of where to be when, could be a real issue. As for the midfield, Alex Witsel can be left isolated. His job is to sit in midfield and keep things tidy, passing sideways or backwards, but with De Bruyne expected to join in attacks, Witsel is left protecting an enormous midfield area. It makes it look almost as if Belgium are divided into an attacking team and a defending one. Belgium goal gif This isn't great. Belgium's non-functioning press Below, the two strikers, Hazard and Lukaku, close down the man on the ball and block the passing lane. De Bruyne tries to get close to the player in the centre-circle to block that channel, the rest of the team sits behind halfway. They are neither pressing high, low or even in the middle of the park and don't really have coverage of the pitch. Mexico have plenty of passing options. Belgium are caught in two minds here, as though needing direction. This has the effect of making it too easy to bypass Belgium's lines of defence. In this same move, Lukaku closes down the man on the ball but Mexico have time and space to pass their way beyond the first line of Belgium's defence. Within seconds they are behind the midfield too. It's way too easy. With a three on three, this move eventually breaks down but that gap between defence and midfield is obvious. Too many players have gone on the attack too quickly and the back three is left exposed - is it a fault of the players or the team's shape? Mexico's third goal in that friendly revealed the same problems. Again, Belgium press with two strikers and an attacking midfielder, all wasting their energy since Mexico have options everywhere. To press effectively high up the pitch, the team really needs a high defensive line and players must be close together. Belgium sit deep with space between the lines of players, a rogue midfielder steps up to attack the man on the ball. With one pass, Mexico easily beat the first line of the press and within four seconds, that long ball over the top has given them a three on three attacking situation. The midfield chases back, the defence are in panic mode, and Hirving Lozano cuts inside to shoot. The goalkeeper parries, the defence are all over the place, Lozano thumps the loose ball into the back of the net. "As long as we don't have a good tactical system, we will have difficulties against countries like Mexico," De Bruyne continued. "It's a pity that we have not yet found a solution. "Of course we play with a system that is in principle very defensive, but it is filled with many attacking players who want the ball. "Then you have a bit of a problem, like against Mexico. It was a match in which we had very little possession and everyone in a system that doesn't really fit. "But eventually Martinez decides. I think the trainer has to find a solution so that we can avoid such situations in future." World Cup whatsapp promo It's easy to be an armchair manager... There are hundreds of possibilities for this team and frustratingly for Belgium fans, most of them look sensible, defensively sound and rather obvious. Creative players tend to be selfish and don't like to defend, so need a safety net to flourish. The current system suits a counter-attack strategy but Belgium have heaps of attacking players on the pitch and are trying to keep possession... all of this looks and sounds like two conflicting ideals in one tactical setup. Martinez's possible starting XI A back four of Vertonghen (who has often played as a full-back) - Alderweireld/Vermaelen - Kompany and Meunier makes sense on paper, as does a midfield two of Witsel and the brilliant Mousa Dembele. A possible Belgium 4-2-3-1 Lukaku as striker, De Bruyne at 10, Hazard wide left and Mertens wide right with overlapping full-backs sounds... sensible. There's balance, excellent players in attacking positions and defensive cover. It would look more like this in possession: How Belgium's attacking shape could look in a 4-2-3-1 Perhaps this is what it's meant to look like in the 3-4-3 as it is. It certainly doesn't on the pitch. This 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 shape should be flexible in-game but there's not a lot of evidence the players sufficiently understand how to make such a fluid plan actually work, and De Bruyne's comments suggest they aren't fully behind the strategy either. When Belgium play against organised, quality opposition, they can look a little ordinary - Portugal played the reserves and really didn't struggle in that 0-0 friendly played earlier in the month. World Cup 2018 tactics | JJ Bull analyses formations, line-ups and more Belgium destroyed a group containing Greece, Estonia, Bosnia and Cyprus but with the quality of player available should probably be expected to do so and easy(ish) wins over Panama and Tunisia should be expected. For too long the problem has been coping against similarly matched opposition, when their defensive frailties become apparent. The dark horses need to make sure they aren't too top heavy if they are to progress beyond the first knock-out stage - assuming they get that far. They should manage this at least and the key to it is finding balance. The worry is that Martinez, even at this late stage, is still looking for that. World Cup whatsapp promo World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more
World Cup 2018 tactics: Roberto Martinez in danger of putting Belgium's star-shaped pegs in square holes
Roberto Martinez has been criticised by Belgium supporters for many of his tactical choices amid concerns this crop of superb talent might be in the hands of the wrong person. Martinez's exclusion of Radja Nainggolan - the third best player in Belgium, according to Martinez's predecessor Marc Wilmots - was... confusing. Nainggolan retired from international football as a direct result. But - and there is a but - Martinez won the FA Cup with Wigan once. So he must know what he's doing. Right? Why it might not work Belgium have some of the best individual players in their position in the world. Kevin De Bruyne is a star, Eden Hazard too, while Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Yannick Carrasco, Jan Vertonghen and Nainggolan (the one they left at home) are up there - but rather than fit the system to the players, Martinez is shunting as many excitingly shaped pegs as he can into 11 square holes. Against Costa Rica they were outstanding, blasting their way to a 4-1 win, while a 3-0 win over Egypt was another example of their firepower. But Portugal were able to hold Belgium to a 0-0 with what was essentially their reserve side - whenever this Belgium side comes up against a similarly talented group of players, that imbalance is really obvious. "Mexico were just tactically better," said De Bruyne after a 3-3 draw with Mexico in a friendly back in November. "Their system made our five defenders sit deep and we were swimming in midfield - it was five against seven." This what Belgium's 5-3-2/3-4-1-2 looks like on the pitch: a huge amount of space between midfield and defence. Martinez wants to play Lovely Football, control possession and score goals but has implemented the same 3-4-3 he used at Wigan and Everton with a group of players who it actually probably doesn't suit. Here's the lineup for a 1-0 friendly win over Japan in November 2017: It sort of makes sense. De Bruyne can play in central areas, Eden Hazard can attack from wide, as can Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku is in the right place and there are three defenders comfortable making passes. Going forward, this is great. However, playing attacking wingers as wing-backs is risky and although Thomas Meunier is fine, if a little attack-minded, Nacer Chadli is not an elite wing-back. He's not even a wing-back. Neither is inside-forward Yannick Carrasco, who often plays on that left side in this setup. World Cup rankings: Who looks good ahead of kick-off in Russia? Players can adjust to new positions over time - look at Victor Moses - but will make mistakes along the way. At international level there is no room for error and when things get hectic on the pitch, that lack of muscle memory and instinctive knowledge of where to be when, could be a real issue. As for the midfield, Alex Witsel can be left isolated. His job is to sit in midfield and keep things tidy, passing sideways or backwards, but with De Bruyne expected to join in attacks, Witsel is left protecting an enormous midfield area. It makes it look almost as if Belgium are divided into an attacking team and a defending one. Belgium goal gif This isn't great. Belgium's non-functioning press Below, the two strikers, Hazard and Lukaku, close down the man on the ball and block the passing lane. De Bruyne tries to get close to the player in the centre-circle to block that channel, the rest of the team sits behind halfway. They are neither pressing high, low or even in the middle of the park and don't really have coverage of the pitch. Mexico have plenty of passing options. Belgium are caught in two minds here, as though needing direction. This has the effect of making it too easy to bypass Belgium's lines of defence. In this same move, Lukaku closes down the man on the ball but Mexico have time and space to pass their way beyond the first line of Belgium's defence. Within seconds they are behind the midfield too. It's way too easy. With a three on three, this move eventually breaks down but that gap between defence and midfield is obvious. Too many players have gone on the attack too quickly and the back three is left exposed - is it a fault of the players or the team's shape? Mexico's third goal in that friendly revealed the same problems. Again, Belgium press with two strikers and an attacking midfielder, all wasting their energy since Mexico have options everywhere. To press effectively high up the pitch, the team really needs a high defensive line and players must be close together. Belgium sit deep with space between the lines of players, a rogue midfielder steps up to attack the man on the ball. With one pass, Mexico easily beat the first line of the press and within four seconds, that long ball over the top has given them a three on three attacking situation. The midfield chases back, the defence are in panic mode, and Hirving Lozano cuts inside to shoot. The goalkeeper parries, the defence are all over the place, Lozano thumps the loose ball into the back of the net. "As long as we don't have a good tactical system, we will have difficulties against countries like Mexico," De Bruyne continued. "It's a pity that we have not yet found a solution. "Of course we play with a system that is in principle very defensive, but it is filled with many attacking players who want the ball. "Then you have a bit of a problem, like against Mexico. It was a match in which we had very little possession and everyone in a system that doesn't really fit. "But eventually Martinez decides. I think the trainer has to find a solution so that we can avoid such situations in future." World Cup whatsapp promo It's easy to be an armchair manager... There are hundreds of possibilities for this team and frustratingly for Belgium fans, most of them look sensible, defensively sound and rather obvious. Creative players tend to be selfish and don't like to defend, so need a safety net to flourish. The current system suits a counter-attack strategy but Belgium have heaps of attacking players on the pitch and are trying to keep possession... all of this looks and sounds like two conflicting ideals in one tactical setup. Martinez's possible starting XI A back four of Vertonghen (who has often played as a full-back) - Alderweireld/Vermaelen - Kompany and Meunier makes sense on paper, as does a midfield two of Witsel and the brilliant Mousa Dembele. A possible Belgium 4-2-3-1 Lukaku as striker, De Bruyne at 10, Hazard wide left and Mertens wide right with overlapping full-backs sounds... sensible. There's balance, excellent players in attacking positions and defensive cover. It would look more like this in possession: How Belgium's attacking shape could look in a 4-2-3-1 Perhaps this is what it's meant to look like in the 3-4-3 as it is. It certainly doesn't on the pitch. This 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 shape should be flexible in-game but there's not a lot of evidence the players sufficiently understand how to make such a fluid plan actually work, and De Bruyne's comments suggest they aren't fully behind the strategy either. When Belgium play against organised, quality opposition, they can look a little ordinary - Portugal played the reserves and really didn't struggle in that 0-0 friendly played earlier in the month. World Cup 2018 tactics | JJ Bull analyses formations, line-ups and more Belgium destroyed a group containing Greece, Estonia, Bosnia and Cyprus but with the quality of player available should probably be expected to do so and easy(ish) wins over Panama and Tunisia should be expected. For too long the problem has been coping against similarly matched opposition, when their defensive frailties become apparent. The dark horses need to make sure they aren't too top heavy if they are to progress beyond the first knock-out stage - assuming they get that far. They should manage this at least and the key to it is finding balance. The worry is that Martinez, even at this late stage, is still looking for that. World Cup whatsapp promo World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more
Roberto Martinez has been criticised by Belgium supporters for many of his tactical choices amid concerns this crop of superb talent might be in the hands of the wrong person. Martinez's exclusion of Radja Nainggolan - the third best player in Belgium, according to Martinez's predecessor Marc Wilmots - was... confusing. Nainggolan retired from international football as a direct result. But - and there is a but - Martinez won the FA Cup with Wigan once. So he must know what he's doing. Right? Why it might not work Belgium have some of the best individual players in their position in the world. Kevin De Bruyne is a star, Eden Hazard too, while Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Yannick Carrasco, Jan Vertonghen and Nainggolan (the one they left at home) are up there - but rather than fit the system to the players, Martinez is shunting as many excitingly shaped pegs as he can into 11 square holes. Against Costa Rica they were outstanding, blasting their way to a 4-1 win, while a 3-0 win over Egypt was another example of their firepower. But Portugal were able to hold Belgium to a 0-0 with what was essentially their reserve side - whenever this Belgium side comes up against a similarly talented group of players, that imbalance is really obvious. "Mexico were just tactically better," said De Bruyne after a 3-3 draw with Mexico in a friendly back in November. "Their system made our five defenders sit deep and we were swimming in midfield - it was five against seven." This what Belgium's 5-3-2/3-4-1-2 looks like on the pitch: a huge amount of space between midfield and defence. Martinez wants to play Lovely Football, control possession and score goals but has implemented the same 3-4-3 he used at Wigan and Everton with a group of players who it actually probably doesn't suit. Here's the lineup for a 1-0 friendly win over Japan in November 2017: It sort of makes sense. De Bruyne can play in central areas, Eden Hazard can attack from wide, as can Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku is in the right place and there are three defenders comfortable making passes. Going forward, this is great. However, playing attacking wingers as wing-backs is risky and although Thomas Meunier is fine, if a little attack-minded, Nacer Chadli is not an elite wing-back. He's not even a wing-back. Neither is inside-forward Yannick Carrasco, who often plays on that left side in this setup. World Cup rankings: Who looks good ahead of kick-off in Russia? Players can adjust to new positions over time - look at Victor Moses - but will make mistakes along the way. At international level there is no room for error and when things get hectic on the pitch, that lack of muscle memory and instinctive knowledge of where to be when, could be a real issue. As for the midfield, Alex Witsel can be left isolated. His job is to sit in midfield and keep things tidy, passing sideways or backwards, but with De Bruyne expected to join in attacks, Witsel is left protecting an enormous midfield area. It makes it look almost as if Belgium are divided into an attacking team and a defending one. Belgium goal gif This isn't great. Belgium's non-functioning press Below, the two strikers, Hazard and Lukaku, close down the man on the ball and block the passing lane. De Bruyne tries to get close to the player in the centre-circle to block that channel, the rest of the team sits behind halfway. They are neither pressing high, low or even in the middle of the park and don't really have coverage of the pitch. Mexico have plenty of passing options. Belgium are caught in two minds here, as though needing direction. This has the effect of making it too easy to bypass Belgium's lines of defence. In this same move, Lukaku closes down the man on the ball but Mexico have time and space to pass their way beyond the first line of Belgium's defence. Within seconds they are behind the midfield too. It's way too easy. With a three on three, this move eventually breaks down but that gap between defence and midfield is obvious. Too many players have gone on the attack too quickly and the back three is left exposed - is it a fault of the players or the team's shape? Mexico's third goal in that friendly revealed the same problems. Again, Belgium press with two strikers and an attacking midfielder, all wasting their energy since Mexico have options everywhere. To press effectively high up the pitch, the team really needs a high defensive line and players must be close together. Belgium sit deep with space between the lines of players, a rogue midfielder steps up to attack the man on the ball. With one pass, Mexico easily beat the first line of the press and within four seconds, that long ball over the top has given them a three on three attacking situation. The midfield chases back, the defence are in panic mode, and Hirving Lozano cuts inside to shoot. The goalkeeper parries, the defence are all over the place, Lozano thumps the loose ball into the back of the net. "As long as we don't have a good tactical system, we will have difficulties against countries like Mexico," De Bruyne continued. "It's a pity that we have not yet found a solution. "Of course we play with a system that is in principle very defensive, but it is filled with many attacking players who want the ball. "Then you have a bit of a problem, like against Mexico. It was a match in which we had very little possession and everyone in a system that doesn't really fit. "But eventually Martinez decides. I think the trainer has to find a solution so that we can avoid such situations in future." World Cup whatsapp promo It's easy to be an armchair manager... There are hundreds of possibilities for this team and frustratingly for Belgium fans, most of them look sensible, defensively sound and rather obvious. Creative players tend to be selfish and don't like to defend, so need a safety net to flourish. The current system suits a counter-attack strategy but Belgium have heaps of attacking players on the pitch and are trying to keep possession... all of this looks and sounds like two conflicting ideals in one tactical setup. Martinez's possible starting XI A back four of Vertonghen (who has often played as a full-back) - Alderweireld/Vermaelen - Kompany and Meunier makes sense on paper, as does a midfield two of Witsel and the brilliant Mousa Dembele. A possible Belgium 4-2-3-1 Lukaku as striker, De Bruyne at 10, Hazard wide left and Mertens wide right with overlapping full-backs sounds... sensible. There's balance, excellent players in attacking positions and defensive cover. It would look more like this in possession: How Belgium's attacking shape could look in a 4-2-3-1 Perhaps this is what it's meant to look like in the 3-4-3 as it is. It certainly doesn't on the pitch. This 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 shape should be flexible in-game but there's not a lot of evidence the players sufficiently understand how to make such a fluid plan actually work, and De Bruyne's comments suggest they aren't fully behind the strategy either. When Belgium play against organised, quality opposition, they can look a little ordinary - Portugal played the reserves and really didn't struggle in that 0-0 friendly played earlier in the month. World Cup 2018 tactics | JJ Bull analyses formations, line-ups and more Belgium destroyed a group containing Greece, Estonia, Bosnia and Cyprus but with the quality of player available should probably be expected to do so and easy(ish) wins over Panama and Tunisia should be expected. For too long the problem has been coping against similarly matched opposition, when their defensive frailties become apparent. The dark horses need to make sure they aren't too top heavy if they are to progress beyond the first knock-out stage - assuming they get that far. They should manage this at least and the key to it is finding balance. The worry is that Martinez, even at this late stage, is still looking for that. World Cup whatsapp promo World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more
World Cup 2018 tactics: Roberto Martinez in danger of putting Belgium's star-shaped pegs in square holes
Roberto Martinez has been criticised by Belgium supporters for many of his tactical choices amid concerns this crop of superb talent might be in the hands of the wrong person. Martinez's exclusion of Radja Nainggolan - the third best player in Belgium, according to Martinez's predecessor Marc Wilmots - was... confusing. Nainggolan retired from international football as a direct result. But - and there is a but - Martinez won the FA Cup with Wigan once. So he must know what he's doing. Right? Why it might not work Belgium have some of the best individual players in their position in the world. Kevin De Bruyne is a star, Eden Hazard too, while Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Yannick Carrasco, Jan Vertonghen and Nainggolan (the one they left at home) are up there - but rather than fit the system to the players, Martinez is shunting as many excitingly shaped pegs as he can into 11 square holes. Against Costa Rica they were outstanding, blasting their way to a 4-1 win, while a 3-0 win over Egypt was another example of their firepower. But Portugal were able to hold Belgium to a 0-0 with what was essentially their reserve side - whenever this Belgium side comes up against a similarly talented group of players, that imbalance is really obvious. "Mexico were just tactically better," said De Bruyne after a 3-3 draw with Mexico in a friendly back in November. "Their system made our five defenders sit deep and we were swimming in midfield - it was five against seven." This what Belgium's 5-3-2/3-4-1-2 looks like on the pitch: a huge amount of space between midfield and defence. Martinez wants to play Lovely Football, control possession and score goals but has implemented the same 3-4-3 he used at Wigan and Everton with a group of players who it actually probably doesn't suit. Here's the lineup for a 1-0 friendly win over Japan in November 2017: It sort of makes sense. De Bruyne can play in central areas, Eden Hazard can attack from wide, as can Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku is in the right place and there are three defenders comfortable making passes. Going forward, this is great. However, playing attacking wingers as wing-backs is risky and although Thomas Meunier is fine, if a little attack-minded, Nacer Chadli is not an elite wing-back. He's not even a wing-back. Neither is inside-forward Yannick Carrasco, who often plays on that left side in this setup. World Cup rankings: Who looks good ahead of kick-off in Russia? Players can adjust to new positions over time - look at Victor Moses - but will make mistakes along the way. At international level there is no room for error and when things get hectic on the pitch, that lack of muscle memory and instinctive knowledge of where to be when, could be a real issue. As for the midfield, Alex Witsel can be left isolated. His job is to sit in midfield and keep things tidy, passing sideways or backwards, but with De Bruyne expected to join in attacks, Witsel is left protecting an enormous midfield area. It makes it look almost as if Belgium are divided into an attacking team and a defending one. Belgium goal gif This isn't great. Belgium's non-functioning press Below, the two strikers, Hazard and Lukaku, close down the man on the ball and block the passing lane. De Bruyne tries to get close to the player in the centre-circle to block that channel, the rest of the team sits behind halfway. They are neither pressing high, low or even in the middle of the park and don't really have coverage of the pitch. Mexico have plenty of passing options. Belgium are caught in two minds here, as though needing direction. This has the effect of making it too easy to bypass Belgium's lines of defence. In this same move, Lukaku closes down the man on the ball but Mexico have time and space to pass their way beyond the first line of Belgium's defence. Within seconds they are behind the midfield too. It's way too easy. With a three on three, this move eventually breaks down but that gap between defence and midfield is obvious. Too many players have gone on the attack too quickly and the back three is left exposed - is it a fault of the players or the team's shape? Mexico's third goal in that friendly revealed the same problems. Again, Belgium press with two strikers and an attacking midfielder, all wasting their energy since Mexico have options everywhere. To press effectively high up the pitch, the team really needs a high defensive line and players must be close together. Belgium sit deep with space between the lines of players, a rogue midfielder steps up to attack the man on the ball. With one pass, Mexico easily beat the first line of the press and within four seconds, that long ball over the top has given them a three on three attacking situation. The midfield chases back, the defence are in panic mode, and Hirving Lozano cuts inside to shoot. The goalkeeper parries, the defence are all over the place, Lozano thumps the loose ball into the back of the net. "As long as we don't have a good tactical system, we will have difficulties against countries like Mexico," De Bruyne continued. "It's a pity that we have not yet found a solution. "Of course we play with a system that is in principle very defensive, but it is filled with many attacking players who want the ball. "Then you have a bit of a problem, like against Mexico. It was a match in which we had very little possession and everyone in a system that doesn't really fit. "But eventually Martinez decides. I think the trainer has to find a solution so that we can avoid such situations in future." World Cup whatsapp promo It's easy to be an armchair manager... There are hundreds of possibilities for this team and frustratingly for Belgium fans, most of them look sensible, defensively sound and rather obvious. Creative players tend to be selfish and don't like to defend, so need a safety net to flourish. The current system suits a counter-attack strategy but Belgium have heaps of attacking players on the pitch and are trying to keep possession... all of this looks and sounds like two conflicting ideals in one tactical setup. Martinez's possible starting XI A back four of Vertonghen (who has often played as a full-back) - Alderweireld/Vermaelen - Kompany and Meunier makes sense on paper, as does a midfield two of Witsel and the brilliant Mousa Dembele. A possible Belgium 4-2-3-1 Lukaku as striker, De Bruyne at 10, Hazard wide left and Mertens wide right with overlapping full-backs sounds... sensible. There's balance, excellent players in attacking positions and defensive cover. It would look more like this in possession: How Belgium's attacking shape could look in a 4-2-3-1 Perhaps this is what it's meant to look like in the 3-4-3 as it is. It certainly doesn't on the pitch. This 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 shape should be flexible in-game but there's not a lot of evidence the players sufficiently understand how to make such a fluid plan actually work, and De Bruyne's comments suggest they aren't fully behind the strategy either. When Belgium play against organised, quality opposition, they can look a little ordinary - Portugal played the reserves and really didn't struggle in that 0-0 friendly played earlier in the month. World Cup 2018 tactics | JJ Bull analyses formations, line-ups and more Belgium destroyed a group containing Greece, Estonia, Bosnia and Cyprus but with the quality of player available should probably be expected to do so and easy(ish) wins over Panama and Tunisia should be expected. For too long the problem has been coping against similarly matched opposition, when their defensive frailties become apparent. The dark horses need to make sure they aren't too top heavy if they are to progress beyond the first knock-out stage - assuming they get that far. They should manage this at least and the key to it is finding balance. The worry is that Martinez, even at this late stage, is still looking for that. World Cup whatsapp promo World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more
Roberto Martinez has been criticised by Belgium supporters for many of his tactical choices amid concerns this crop of superb talent might be in the hands of the wrong person. Martinez's exclusion of Radja Nainggolan - the third best player in Belgium, according to Martinez's predecessor Marc Wilmots - was... confusing. Nainggolan retired from international football as a direct result. But - and there is a but - Martinez won the FA Cup with Wigan once. So he must know what he's doing. Right? Why it might not work Belgium have some of the best individual players in their position in the world. Kevin De Bruyne is a star, Eden Hazard too, while Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Yannick Carrasco, Jan Vertonghen and Nainggolan (the one they left at home) are up there - but rather than fit the system to the players, Martinez is shunting as many excitingly shaped pegs as he can into 11 square holes. Against Costa Rica they were outstanding, blasting their way to a 4-1 win, while a 3-0 win over Egypt was another example of their firepower. But Portugal were able to hold Belgium to a 0-0 with what was essentially their reserve side - whenever this Belgium side comes up against a similarly talented group of players, that imbalance is really obvious. "Mexico were just tactically better," said De Bruyne after a 3-3 draw with Mexico in a friendly back in November. "Their system made our five defenders sit deep and we were swimming in midfield - it was five against seven." This what Belgium's 5-3-2/3-4-1-2 looks like on the pitch: a huge amount of space between midfield and defence. Martinez wants to play Lovely Football, control possession and score goals but has implemented the same 3-4-3 he used at Wigan and Everton with a group of players who it actually probably doesn't suit. Here's the lineup for a 1-0 friendly win over Japan in November 2017: It sort of makes sense. De Bruyne can play in central areas, Eden Hazard can attack from wide, as can Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku is in the right place and there are three defenders comfortable making passes. Going forward, this is great. However, playing attacking wingers as wing-backs is risky and although Thomas Meunier is fine, if a little attack-minded, Nacer Chadli is not an elite wing-back. He's not even a wing-back. Neither is inside-forward Yannick Carrasco, who often plays on that left side in this setup. World Cup rankings: Who looks good ahead of kick-off in Russia? Players can adjust to new positions over time - look at Victor Moses - but will make mistakes along the way. At international level there is no room for error and when things get hectic on the pitch, that lack of muscle memory and instinctive knowledge of where to be when, could be a real issue. As for the midfield, Alex Witsel can be left isolated. His job is to sit in midfield and keep things tidy, passing sideways or backwards, but with De Bruyne expected to join in attacks, Witsel is left protecting an enormous midfield area. It makes it look almost as if Belgium are divided into an attacking team and a defending one. Belgium goal gif This isn't great. Belgium's non-functioning press Below, the two strikers, Hazard and Lukaku, close down the man on the ball and block the passing lane. De Bruyne tries to get close to the player in the centre-circle to block that channel, the rest of the team sits behind halfway. They are neither pressing high, low or even in the middle of the park and don't really have coverage of the pitch. Mexico have plenty of passing options. Belgium are caught in two minds here, as though needing direction. This has the effect of making it too easy to bypass Belgium's lines of defence. In this same move, Lukaku closes down the man on the ball but Mexico have time and space to pass their way beyond the first line of Belgium's defence. Within seconds they are behind the midfield too. It's way too easy. With a three on three, this move eventually breaks down but that gap between defence and midfield is obvious. Too many players have gone on the attack too quickly and the back three is left exposed - is it a fault of the players or the team's shape? Mexico's third goal in that friendly revealed the same problems. Again, Belgium press with two strikers and an attacking midfielder, all wasting their energy since Mexico have options everywhere. To press effectively high up the pitch, the team really needs a high defensive line and players must be close together. Belgium sit deep with space between the lines of players, a rogue midfielder steps up to attack the man on the ball. With one pass, Mexico easily beat the first line of the press and within four seconds, that long ball over the top has given them a three on three attacking situation. The midfield chases back, the defence are in panic mode, and Hirving Lozano cuts inside to shoot. The goalkeeper parries, the defence are all over the place, Lozano thumps the loose ball into the back of the net. "As long as we don't have a good tactical system, we will have difficulties against countries like Mexico," De Bruyne continued. "It's a pity that we have not yet found a solution. "Of course we play with a system that is in principle very defensive, but it is filled with many attacking players who want the ball. "Then you have a bit of a problem, like against Mexico. It was a match in which we had very little possession and everyone in a system that doesn't really fit. "But eventually Martinez decides. I think the trainer has to find a solution so that we can avoid such situations in future." World Cup whatsapp promo It's easy to be an armchair manager... There are hundreds of possibilities for this team and frustratingly for Belgium fans, most of them look sensible, defensively sound and rather obvious. Creative players tend to be selfish and don't like to defend, so need a safety net to flourish. The current system suits a counter-attack strategy but Belgium have heaps of attacking players on the pitch and are trying to keep possession... all of this looks and sounds like two conflicting ideals in one tactical setup. Martinez's possible starting XI A back four of Vertonghen (who has often played as a full-back) - Alderweireld/Vermaelen - Kompany and Meunier makes sense on paper, as does a midfield two of Witsel and the brilliant Mousa Dembele. A possible Belgium 4-2-3-1 Lukaku as striker, De Bruyne at 10, Hazard wide left and Mertens wide right with overlapping full-backs sounds... sensible. There's balance, excellent players in attacking positions and defensive cover. It would look more like this in possession: How Belgium's attacking shape could look in a 4-2-3-1 Perhaps this is what it's meant to look like in the 3-4-3 as it is. It certainly doesn't on the pitch. This 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 shape should be flexible in-game but there's not a lot of evidence the players sufficiently understand how to make such a fluid plan actually work, and De Bruyne's comments suggest they aren't fully behind the strategy either. When Belgium play against organised, quality opposition, they can look a little ordinary - Portugal played the reserves and really didn't struggle in that 0-0 friendly played earlier in the month. World Cup 2018 tactics | JJ Bull analyses formations, line-ups and more Belgium destroyed a group containing Greece, Estonia, Bosnia and Cyprus but with the quality of player available should probably be expected to do so and easy(ish) wins over Panama and Tunisia should be expected. For too long the problem has been coping against similarly matched opposition, when their defensive frailties become apparent. The dark horses need to make sure they aren't too top heavy if they are to progress beyond the first knock-out stage - assuming they get that far. They should manage this at least and the key to it is finding balance. The worry is that Martinez, even at this late stage, is still looking for that. World Cup whatsapp promo World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more
World Cup 2018 tactics: Roberto Martinez in danger of putting Belgium's star-shaped pegs in square holes
Roberto Martinez has been criticised by Belgium supporters for many of his tactical choices amid concerns this crop of superb talent might be in the hands of the wrong person. Martinez's exclusion of Radja Nainggolan - the third best player in Belgium, according to Martinez's predecessor Marc Wilmots - was... confusing. Nainggolan retired from international football as a direct result. But - and there is a but - Martinez won the FA Cup with Wigan once. So he must know what he's doing. Right? Why it might not work Belgium have some of the best individual players in their position in the world. Kevin De Bruyne is a star, Eden Hazard too, while Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Yannick Carrasco, Jan Vertonghen and Nainggolan (the one they left at home) are up there - but rather than fit the system to the players, Martinez is shunting as many excitingly shaped pegs as he can into 11 square holes. Against Costa Rica they were outstanding, blasting their way to a 4-1 win, while a 3-0 win over Egypt was another example of their firepower. But Portugal were able to hold Belgium to a 0-0 with what was essentially their reserve side - whenever this Belgium side comes up against a similarly talented group of players, that imbalance is really obvious. "Mexico were just tactically better," said De Bruyne after a 3-3 draw with Mexico in a friendly back in November. "Their system made our five defenders sit deep and we were swimming in midfield - it was five against seven." This what Belgium's 5-3-2/3-4-1-2 looks like on the pitch: a huge amount of space between midfield and defence. Martinez wants to play Lovely Football, control possession and score goals but has implemented the same 3-4-3 he used at Wigan and Everton with a group of players who it actually probably doesn't suit. Here's the lineup for a 1-0 friendly win over Japan in November 2017: It sort of makes sense. De Bruyne can play in central areas, Eden Hazard can attack from wide, as can Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku is in the right place and there are three defenders comfortable making passes. Going forward, this is great. However, playing attacking wingers as wing-backs is risky and although Thomas Meunier is fine, if a little attack-minded, Nacer Chadli is not an elite wing-back. He's not even a wing-back. Neither is inside-forward Yannick Carrasco, who often plays on that left side in this setup. World Cup rankings: Who looks good ahead of kick-off in Russia? Players can adjust to new positions over time - look at Victor Moses - but will make mistakes along the way. At international level there is no room for error and when things get hectic on the pitch, that lack of muscle memory and instinctive knowledge of where to be when, could be a real issue. As for the midfield, Alex Witsel can be left isolated. His job is to sit in midfield and keep things tidy, passing sideways or backwards, but with De Bruyne expected to join in attacks, Witsel is left protecting an enormous midfield area. It makes it look almost as if Belgium are divided into an attacking team and a defending one. Belgium goal gif This isn't great. Belgium's non-functioning press Below, the two strikers, Hazard and Lukaku, close down the man on the ball and block the passing lane. De Bruyne tries to get close to the player in the centre-circle to block that channel, the rest of the team sits behind halfway. They are neither pressing high, low or even in the middle of the park and don't really have coverage of the pitch. Mexico have plenty of passing options. Belgium are caught in two minds here, as though needing direction. This has the effect of making it too easy to bypass Belgium's lines of defence. In this same move, Lukaku closes down the man on the ball but Mexico have time and space to pass their way beyond the first line of Belgium's defence. Within seconds they are behind the midfield too. It's way too easy. With a three on three, this move eventually breaks down but that gap between defence and midfield is obvious. Too many players have gone on the attack too quickly and the back three is left exposed - is it a fault of the players or the team's shape? Mexico's third goal in that friendly revealed the same problems. Again, Belgium press with two strikers and an attacking midfielder, all wasting their energy since Mexico have options everywhere. To press effectively high up the pitch, the team really needs a high defensive line and players must be close together. Belgium sit deep with space between the lines of players, a rogue midfielder steps up to attack the man on the ball. With one pass, Mexico easily beat the first line of the press and within four seconds, that long ball over the top has given them a three on three attacking situation. The midfield chases back, the defence are in panic mode, and Hirving Lozano cuts inside to shoot. The goalkeeper parries, the defence are all over the place, Lozano thumps the loose ball into the back of the net. "As long as we don't have a good tactical system, we will have difficulties against countries like Mexico," De Bruyne continued. "It's a pity that we have not yet found a solution. "Of course we play with a system that is in principle very defensive, but it is filled with many attacking players who want the ball. "Then you have a bit of a problem, like against Mexico. It was a match in which we had very little possession and everyone in a system that doesn't really fit. "But eventually Martinez decides. I think the trainer has to find a solution so that we can avoid such situations in future." World Cup whatsapp promo It's easy to be an armchair manager... There are hundreds of possibilities for this team and frustratingly for Belgium fans, most of them look sensible, defensively sound and rather obvious. Creative players tend to be selfish and don't like to defend, so need a safety net to flourish. The current system suits a counter-attack strategy but Belgium have heaps of attacking players on the pitch and are trying to keep possession... all of this looks and sounds like two conflicting ideals in one tactical setup. Martinez's possible starting XI A back four of Vertonghen (who has often played as a full-back) - Alderweireld/Vermaelen - Kompany and Meunier makes sense on paper, as does a midfield two of Witsel and the brilliant Mousa Dembele. A possible Belgium 4-2-3-1 Lukaku as striker, De Bruyne at 10, Hazard wide left and Mertens wide right with overlapping full-backs sounds... sensible. There's balance, excellent players in attacking positions and defensive cover. It would look more like this in possession: How Belgium's attacking shape could look in a 4-2-3-1 Perhaps this is what it's meant to look like in the 3-4-3 as it is. It certainly doesn't on the pitch. This 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 shape should be flexible in-game but there's not a lot of evidence the players sufficiently understand how to make such a fluid plan actually work, and De Bruyne's comments suggest they aren't fully behind the strategy either. When Belgium play against organised, quality opposition, they can look a little ordinary - Portugal played the reserves and really didn't struggle in that 0-0 friendly played earlier in the month. World Cup 2018 tactics | JJ Bull analyses formations, line-ups and more Belgium destroyed a group containing Greece, Estonia, Bosnia and Cyprus but with the quality of player available should probably be expected to do so and easy(ish) wins over Panama and Tunisia should be expected. For too long the problem has been coping against similarly matched opposition, when their defensive frailties become apparent. The dark horses need to make sure they aren't too top heavy if they are to progress beyond the first knock-out stage - assuming they get that far. They should manage this at least and the key to it is finding balance. The worry is that Martinez, even at this late stage, is still looking for that. World Cup whatsapp promo World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more
Roberto Martinez has been criticised by Belgium supporters for many of his tactical choices amid concerns this crop of superb talent might be in the hands of the wrong person. Martinez's exclusion of Radja Nainggolan - the third best player in Belgium, according to Martinez's predecessor Marc Wilmots - was... confusing. Nainggolan retired from international football as a direct result. But - and there is a but - Martinez won the FA Cup with Wigan once. So he must know what he's doing. Right? Why it might not work Belgium have some of the best individual players in their position in the world. Kevin De Bruyne is a star, Eden Hazard too, while Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Yannick Carrasco, Jan Vertonghen and Nainggolan (the one they left at home) are up there - but rather than fit the system to the players, Martinez is shunting as many excitingly shaped pegs as he can into 11 square holes. Against Costa Rica they were outstanding, blasting their way to a 4-1 win, while a 3-0 win over Egypt was another example of their firepower. But Portugal were able to hold Belgium to a 0-0 with what was essentially their reserve side - whenever this Belgium side comes up against a similarly talented group of players, that imbalance is really obvious. "Mexico were just tactically better," said De Bruyne after a 3-3 draw with Mexico in a friendly back in November. "Their system made our five defenders sit deep and we were swimming in midfield - it was five against seven." This what Belgium's 5-3-2/3-4-1-2 looks like on the pitch: a huge amount of space between midfield and defence. Martinez wants to play Lovely Football, control possession and score goals but has implemented the same 3-4-3 he used at Wigan and Everton with a group of players who it actually probably doesn't suit. Here's the lineup for a 1-0 friendly win over Japan in November 2017: It sort of makes sense. De Bruyne can play in central areas, Eden Hazard can attack from wide, as can Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku is in the right place and there are three defenders comfortable making passes. Going forward, this is great. However, playing attacking wingers as wing-backs is risky and although Thomas Meunier is fine, if a little attack-minded, Nacer Chadli is not an elite wing-back. He's not even a wing-back. Neither is inside-forward Yannick Carrasco, who often plays on that left side in this setup. World Cup rankings: Who looks good ahead of kick-off in Russia? Players can adjust to new positions over time - look at Victor Moses - but will make mistakes along the way. At international level there is no room for error and when things get hectic on the pitch, that lack of muscle memory and instinctive knowledge of where to be when, could be a real issue. As for the midfield, Alex Witsel can be left isolated. His job is to sit in midfield and keep things tidy, passing sideways or backwards, but with De Bruyne expected to join in attacks, Witsel is left protecting an enormous midfield area. It makes it look almost as if Belgium are divided into an attacking team and a defending one. Belgium goal gif This isn't great. Belgium's non-functioning press Below, the two strikers, Hazard and Lukaku, close down the man on the ball and block the passing lane. De Bruyne tries to get close to the player in the centre-circle to block that channel, the rest of the team sits behind halfway. They are neither pressing high, low or even in the middle of the park and don't really have coverage of the pitch. Mexico have plenty of passing options. Belgium are caught in two minds here, as though needing direction. This has the effect of making it too easy to bypass Belgium's lines of defence. In this same move, Lukaku closes down the man on the ball but Mexico have time and space to pass their way beyond the first line of Belgium's defence. Within seconds they are behind the midfield too. It's way too easy. With a three on three, this move eventually breaks down but that gap between defence and midfield is obvious. Too many players have gone on the attack too quickly and the back three is left exposed - is it a fault of the players or the team's shape? Mexico's third goal in that friendly revealed the same problems. Again, Belgium press with two strikers and an attacking midfielder, all wasting their energy since Mexico have options everywhere. To press effectively high up the pitch, the team really needs a high defensive line and players must be close together. Belgium sit deep with space between the lines of players, a rogue midfielder steps up to attack the man on the ball. With one pass, Mexico easily beat the first line of the press and within four seconds, that long ball over the top has given them a three on three attacking situation. The midfield chases back, the defence are in panic mode, and Hirving Lozano cuts inside to shoot. The goalkeeper parries, the defence are all over the place, Lozano thumps the loose ball into the back of the net. "As long as we don't have a good tactical system, we will have difficulties against countries like Mexico," De Bruyne continued. "It's a pity that we have not yet found a solution. "Of course we play with a system that is in principle very defensive, but it is filled with many attacking players who want the ball. "Then you have a bit of a problem, like against Mexico. It was a match in which we had very little possession and everyone in a system that doesn't really fit. "But eventually Martinez decides. I think the trainer has to find a solution so that we can avoid such situations in future." World Cup whatsapp promo It's easy to be an armchair manager... There are hundreds of possibilities for this team and frustratingly for Belgium fans, most of them look sensible, defensively sound and rather obvious. Creative players tend to be selfish and don't like to defend, so need a safety net to flourish. The current system suits a counter-attack strategy but Belgium have heaps of attacking players on the pitch and are trying to keep possession... all of this looks and sounds like two conflicting ideals in one tactical setup. Martinez's possible starting XI A back four of Vertonghen (who has often played as a full-back) - Alderweireld/Vermaelen - Kompany and Meunier makes sense on paper, as does a midfield two of Witsel and the brilliant Mousa Dembele. A possible Belgium 4-2-3-1 Lukaku as striker, De Bruyne at 10, Hazard wide left and Mertens wide right with overlapping full-backs sounds... sensible. There's balance, excellent players in attacking positions and defensive cover. It would look more like this in possession: How Belgium's attacking shape could look in a 4-2-3-1 Perhaps this is what it's meant to look like in the 3-4-3 as it is. It certainly doesn't on the pitch. This 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 shape should be flexible in-game but there's not a lot of evidence the players sufficiently understand how to make such a fluid plan actually work, and De Bruyne's comments suggest they aren't fully behind the strategy either. When Belgium play against organised, quality opposition, they can look a little ordinary - Portugal played the reserves and really didn't struggle in that 0-0 friendly played earlier in the month. World Cup 2018 tactics | JJ Bull analyses formations, line-ups and more Belgium destroyed a group containing Greece, Estonia, Bosnia and Cyprus but with the quality of player available should probably be expected to do so and easy(ish) wins over Panama and Tunisia should be expected. For too long the problem has been coping against similarly matched opposition, when their defensive frailties become apparent. The dark horses need to make sure they aren't too top heavy if they are to progress beyond the first knock-out stage - assuming they get that far. They should manage this at least and the key to it is finding balance. The worry is that Martinez, even at this late stage, is still looking for that. World Cup whatsapp promo World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more
World Cup 2018 tactics: Roberto Martinez in danger of putting Belgium's star-shaped pegs in square holes
Roberto Martinez has been criticised by Belgium supporters for many of his tactical choices amid concerns this crop of superb talent might be in the hands of the wrong person. Martinez's exclusion of Radja Nainggolan - the third best player in Belgium, according to Martinez's predecessor Marc Wilmots - was... confusing. Nainggolan retired from international football as a direct result. But - and there is a but - Martinez won the FA Cup with Wigan once. So he must know what he's doing. Right? Why it might not work Belgium have some of the best individual players in their position in the world. Kevin De Bruyne is a star, Eden Hazard too, while Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Yannick Carrasco, Jan Vertonghen and Nainggolan (the one they left at home) are up there - but rather than fit the system to the players, Martinez is shunting as many excitingly shaped pegs as he can into 11 square holes. Against Costa Rica they were outstanding, blasting their way to a 4-1 win, while a 3-0 win over Egypt was another example of their firepower. But Portugal were able to hold Belgium to a 0-0 with what was essentially their reserve side - whenever this Belgium side comes up against a similarly talented group of players, that imbalance is really obvious. "Mexico were just tactically better," said De Bruyne after a 3-3 draw with Mexico in a friendly back in November. "Their system made our five defenders sit deep and we were swimming in midfield - it was five against seven." This what Belgium's 5-3-2/3-4-1-2 looks like on the pitch: a huge amount of space between midfield and defence. Martinez wants to play Lovely Football, control possession and score goals but has implemented the same 3-4-3 he used at Wigan and Everton with a group of players who it actually probably doesn't suit. Here's the lineup for a 1-0 friendly win over Japan in November 2017: It sort of makes sense. De Bruyne can play in central areas, Eden Hazard can attack from wide, as can Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku is in the right place and there are three defenders comfortable making passes. Going forward, this is great. However, playing attacking wingers as wing-backs is risky and although Thomas Meunier is fine, if a little attack-minded, Nacer Chadli is not an elite wing-back. He's not even a wing-back. Neither is inside-forward Yannick Carrasco, who often plays on that left side in this setup. World Cup rankings: Who looks good ahead of kick-off in Russia? Players can adjust to new positions over time - look at Victor Moses - but will make mistakes along the way. At international level there is no room for error and when things get hectic on the pitch, that lack of muscle memory and instinctive knowledge of where to be when, could be a real issue. As for the midfield, Alex Witsel can be left isolated. His job is to sit in midfield and keep things tidy, passing sideways or backwards, but with De Bruyne expected to join in attacks, Witsel is left protecting an enormous midfield area. It makes it look almost as if Belgium are divided into an attacking team and a defending one. Belgium goal gif This isn't great. Belgium's non-functioning press Below, the two strikers, Hazard and Lukaku, close down the man on the ball and block the passing lane. De Bruyne tries to get close to the player in the centre-circle to block that channel, the rest of the team sits behind halfway. They are neither pressing high, low or even in the middle of the park and don't really have coverage of the pitch. Mexico have plenty of passing options. Belgium are caught in two minds here, as though needing direction. This has the effect of making it too easy to bypass Belgium's lines of defence. In this same move, Lukaku closes down the man on the ball but Mexico have time and space to pass their way beyond the first line of Belgium's defence. Within seconds they are behind the midfield too. It's way too easy. With a three on three, this move eventually breaks down but that gap between defence and midfield is obvious. Too many players have gone on the attack too quickly and the back three is left exposed - is it a fault of the players or the team's shape? Mexico's third goal in that friendly revealed the same problems. Again, Belgium press with two strikers and an attacking midfielder, all wasting their energy since Mexico have options everywhere. To press effectively high up the pitch, the team really needs a high defensive line and players must be close together. Belgium sit deep with space between the lines of players, a rogue midfielder steps up to attack the man on the ball. With one pass, Mexico easily beat the first line of the press and within four seconds, that long ball over the top has given them a three on three attacking situation. The midfield chases back, the defence are in panic mode, and Hirving Lozano cuts inside to shoot. The goalkeeper parries, the defence are all over the place, Lozano thumps the loose ball into the back of the net. "As long as we don't have a good tactical system, we will have difficulties against countries like Mexico," De Bruyne continued. "It's a pity that we have not yet found a solution. "Of course we play with a system that is in principle very defensive, but it is filled with many attacking players who want the ball. "Then you have a bit of a problem, like against Mexico. It was a match in which we had very little possession and everyone in a system that doesn't really fit. "But eventually Martinez decides. I think the trainer has to find a solution so that we can avoid such situations in future." World Cup whatsapp promo It's easy to be an armchair manager... There are hundreds of possibilities for this team and frustratingly for Belgium fans, most of them look sensible, defensively sound and rather obvious. Creative players tend to be selfish and don't like to defend, so need a safety net to flourish. The current system suits a counter-attack strategy but Belgium have heaps of attacking players on the pitch and are trying to keep possession... all of this looks and sounds like two conflicting ideals in one tactical setup. Martinez's possible starting XI A back four of Vertonghen (who has often played as a full-back) - Alderweireld/Vermaelen - Kompany and Meunier makes sense on paper, as does a midfield two of Witsel and the brilliant Mousa Dembele. A possible Belgium 4-2-3-1 Lukaku as striker, De Bruyne at 10, Hazard wide left and Mertens wide right with overlapping full-backs sounds... sensible. There's balance, excellent players in attacking positions and defensive cover. It would look more like this in possession: How Belgium's attacking shape could look in a 4-2-3-1 Perhaps this is what it's meant to look like in the 3-4-3 as it is. It certainly doesn't on the pitch. This 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 shape should be flexible in-game but there's not a lot of evidence the players sufficiently understand how to make such a fluid plan actually work, and De Bruyne's comments suggest they aren't fully behind the strategy either. When Belgium play against organised, quality opposition, they can look a little ordinary - Portugal played the reserves and really didn't struggle in that 0-0 friendly played earlier in the month. World Cup 2018 tactics | JJ Bull analyses formations, line-ups and more Belgium destroyed a group containing Greece, Estonia, Bosnia and Cyprus but with the quality of player available should probably be expected to do so and easy(ish) wins over Panama and Tunisia should be expected. For too long the problem has been coping against similarly matched opposition, when their defensive frailties become apparent. The dark horses need to make sure they aren't too top heavy if they are to progress beyond the first knock-out stage - assuming they get that far. They should manage this at least and the key to it is finding balance. The worry is that Martinez, even at this late stage, is still looking for that. World Cup whatsapp promo World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more
Roberto Martinez has been criticised by Belgium supporters for many of his tactical choices amid concerns this crop of superb talent might be in the hands of the wrong person. Martinez's exclusion of Radja Nainggolan - the third best player in Belgium, according to Martinez's predecessor Marc Wilmots - was... confusing. Nainggolan retired from international football as a direct result. But - and there is a but - Martinez won the FA Cup with Wigan once. So he must know what he's doing. Right? Why it might not work Belgium have some of the best individual players in their position in the world. Kevin De Bruyne is a star, Eden Hazard too, while Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Yannick Carrasco, Jan Vertonghen and Nainggolan (the one they left at home) are up there - but rather than fit the system to the players, Martinez is shunting as many excitingly shaped pegs as he can into 11 square holes. Against Costa Rica they were outstanding, blasting their way to a 4-1 win, while a 3-0 win over Egypt was another example of their firepower. But Portugal were able to hold Belgium to a 0-0 with what was essentially their reserve side - whenever this Belgium side comes up against a similarly talented group of players, that imbalance is really obvious. "Mexico were just tactically better," said De Bruyne after a 3-3 draw with Mexico in a friendly back in November. "Their system made our five defenders sit deep and we were swimming in midfield - it was five against seven." This what Belgium's 5-3-2/3-4-1-2 looks like on the pitch: a huge amount of space between midfield and defence. Martinez wants to play Lovely Football, control possession and score goals but has implemented the same 3-4-3 he used at Wigan and Everton with a group of players who it actually probably doesn't suit. Here's the lineup for a 1-0 friendly win over Japan in November 2017: It sort of makes sense. De Bruyne can play in central areas, Eden Hazard can attack from wide, as can Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku is in the right place and there are three defenders comfortable making passes. Going forward, this is great. However, playing attacking wingers as wing-backs is risky and although Thomas Meunier is fine, if a little attack-minded, Nacer Chadli is not an elite wing-back. He's not even a wing-back. Neither is inside-forward Yannick Carrasco, who often plays on that left side in this setup. World Cup rankings: Who looks good ahead of kick-off in Russia? Players can adjust to new positions over time - look at Victor Moses - but will make mistakes along the way. At international level there is no room for error and when things get hectic on the pitch, that lack of muscle memory and instinctive knowledge of where to be when, could be a real issue. As for the midfield, Alex Witsel can be left isolated. His job is to sit in midfield and keep things tidy, passing sideways or backwards, but with De Bruyne expected to join in attacks, Witsel is left protecting an enormous midfield area. It makes it look almost as if Belgium are divided into an attacking team and a defending one. Belgium goal gif This isn't great. Belgium's non-functioning press Below, the two strikers, Hazard and Lukaku, close down the man on the ball and block the passing lane. De Bruyne tries to get close to the player in the centre-circle to block that channel, the rest of the team sits behind halfway. They are neither pressing high, low or even in the middle of the park and don't really have coverage of the pitch. Mexico have plenty of passing options. Belgium are caught in two minds here, as though needing direction. This has the effect of making it too easy to bypass Belgium's lines of defence. In this same move, Lukaku closes down the man on the ball but Mexico have time and space to pass their way beyond the first line of Belgium's defence. Within seconds they are behind the midfield too. It's way too easy. With a three on three, this move eventually breaks down but that gap between defence and midfield is obvious. Too many players have gone on the attack too quickly and the back three is left exposed - is it a fault of the players or the team's shape? Mexico's third goal in that friendly revealed the same problems. Again, Belgium press with two strikers and an attacking midfielder, all wasting their energy since Mexico have options everywhere. To press effectively high up the pitch, the team really needs a high defensive line and players must be close together. Belgium sit deep with space between the lines of players, a rogue midfielder steps up to attack the man on the ball. With one pass, Mexico easily beat the first line of the press and within four seconds, that long ball over the top has given them a three on three attacking situation. The midfield chases back, the defence are in panic mode, and Hirving Lozano cuts inside to shoot. The goalkeeper parries, the defence are all over the place, Lozano thumps the loose ball into the back of the net. "As long as we don't have a good tactical system, we will have difficulties against countries like Mexico," De Bruyne continued. "It's a pity that we have not yet found a solution. "Of course we play with a system that is in principle very defensive, but it is filled with many attacking players who want the ball. "Then you have a bit of a problem, like against Mexico. It was a match in which we had very little possession and everyone in a system that doesn't really fit. "But eventually Martinez decides. I think the trainer has to find a solution so that we can avoid such situations in future." World Cup whatsapp promo It's easy to be an armchair manager... There are hundreds of possibilities for this team and frustratingly for Belgium fans, most of them look sensible, defensively sound and rather obvious. Creative players tend to be selfish and don't like to defend, so need a safety net to flourish. The current system suits a counter-attack strategy but Belgium have heaps of attacking players on the pitch and are trying to keep possession... all of this looks and sounds like two conflicting ideals in one tactical setup. Martinez's possible starting XI A back four of Vertonghen (who has often played as a full-back) - Alderweireld/Vermaelen - Kompany and Meunier makes sense on paper, as does a midfield two of Witsel and the brilliant Mousa Dembele. A possible Belgium 4-2-3-1 Lukaku as striker, De Bruyne at 10, Hazard wide left and Mertens wide right with overlapping full-backs sounds... sensible. There's balance, excellent players in attacking positions and defensive cover. It would look more like this in possession: How Belgium's attacking shape could look in a 4-2-3-1 Perhaps this is what it's meant to look like in the 3-4-3 as it is. It certainly doesn't on the pitch. This 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 shape should be flexible in-game but there's not a lot of evidence the players sufficiently understand how to make such a fluid plan actually work, and De Bruyne's comments suggest they aren't fully behind the strategy either. When Belgium play against organised, quality opposition, they can look a little ordinary - Portugal played the reserves and really didn't struggle in that 0-0 friendly played earlier in the month. World Cup 2018 tactics | JJ Bull analyses formations, line-ups and more Belgium destroyed a group containing Greece, Estonia, Bosnia and Cyprus but with the quality of player available should probably be expected to do so and easy(ish) wins over Panama and Tunisia should be expected. For too long the problem has been coping against similarly matched opposition, when their defensive frailties become apparent. The dark horses need to make sure they aren't too top heavy if they are to progress beyond the first knock-out stage - assuming they get that far. They should manage this at least and the key to it is finding balance. The worry is that Martinez, even at this late stage, is still looking for that. World Cup whatsapp promo World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more
World Cup 2018 tactics: Roberto Martinez in danger of putting Belgium's star-shaped pegs in square holes
Roberto Martinez has been criticised by Belgium supporters for many of his tactical choices amid concerns this crop of superb talent might be in the hands of the wrong person. Martinez's exclusion of Radja Nainggolan - the third best player in Belgium, according to Martinez's predecessor Marc Wilmots - was... confusing. Nainggolan retired from international football as a direct result. But - and there is a but - Martinez won the FA Cup with Wigan once. So he must know what he's doing. Right? Why it might not work Belgium have some of the best individual players in their position in the world. Kevin De Bruyne is a star, Eden Hazard too, while Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Yannick Carrasco, Jan Vertonghen and Nainggolan (the one they left at home) are up there - but rather than fit the system to the players, Martinez is shunting as many excitingly shaped pegs as he can into 11 square holes. Against Costa Rica they were outstanding, blasting their way to a 4-1 win, while a 3-0 win over Egypt was another example of their firepower. But Portugal were able to hold Belgium to a 0-0 with what was essentially their reserve side - whenever this Belgium side comes up against a similarly talented group of players, that imbalance is really obvious. "Mexico were just tactically better," said De Bruyne after a 3-3 draw with Mexico in a friendly back in November. "Their system made our five defenders sit deep and we were swimming in midfield - it was five against seven." This what Belgium's 5-3-2/3-4-1-2 looks like on the pitch: a huge amount of space between midfield and defence. Martinez wants to play Lovely Football, control possession and score goals but has implemented the same 3-4-3 he used at Wigan and Everton with a group of players who it actually probably doesn't suit. Here's the lineup for a 1-0 friendly win over Japan in November 2017: It sort of makes sense. De Bruyne can play in central areas, Eden Hazard can attack from wide, as can Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku is in the right place and there are three defenders comfortable making passes. Going forward, this is great. However, playing attacking wingers as wing-backs is risky and although Thomas Meunier is fine, if a little attack-minded, Nacer Chadli is not an elite wing-back. He's not even a wing-back. Neither is inside-forward Yannick Carrasco, who often plays on that left side in this setup. World Cup rankings: Who looks good ahead of kick-off in Russia? Players can adjust to new positions over time - look at Victor Moses - but will make mistakes along the way. At international level there is no room for error and when things get hectic on the pitch, that lack of muscle memory and instinctive knowledge of where to be when, could be a real issue. As for the midfield, Alex Witsel can be left isolated. His job is to sit in midfield and keep things tidy, passing sideways or backwards, but with De Bruyne expected to join in attacks, Witsel is left protecting an enormous midfield area. It makes it look almost as if Belgium are divided into an attacking team and a defending one. Belgium goal gif This isn't great. Belgium's non-functioning press Below, the two strikers, Hazard and Lukaku, close down the man on the ball and block the passing lane. De Bruyne tries to get close to the player in the centre-circle to block that channel, the rest of the team sits behind halfway. They are neither pressing high, low or even in the middle of the park and don't really have coverage of the pitch. Mexico have plenty of passing options. Belgium are caught in two minds here, as though needing direction. This has the effect of making it too easy to bypass Belgium's lines of defence. In this same move, Lukaku closes down the man on the ball but Mexico have time and space to pass their way beyond the first line of Belgium's defence. Within seconds they are behind the midfield too. It's way too easy. With a three on three, this move eventually breaks down but that gap between defence and midfield is obvious. Too many players have gone on the attack too quickly and the back three is left exposed - is it a fault of the players or the team's shape? Mexico's third goal in that friendly revealed the same problems. Again, Belgium press with two strikers and an attacking midfielder, all wasting their energy since Mexico have options everywhere. To press effectively high up the pitch, the team really needs a high defensive line and players must be close together. Belgium sit deep with space between the lines of players, a rogue midfielder steps up to attack the man on the ball. With one pass, Mexico easily beat the first line of the press and within four seconds, that long ball over the top has given them a three on three attacking situation. The midfield chases back, the defence are in panic mode, and Hirving Lozano cuts inside to shoot. The goalkeeper parries, the defence are all over the place, Lozano thumps the loose ball into the back of the net. "As long as we don't have a good tactical system, we will have difficulties against countries like Mexico," De Bruyne continued. "It's a pity that we have not yet found a solution. "Of course we play with a system that is in principle very defensive, but it is filled with many attacking players who want the ball. "Then you have a bit of a problem, like against Mexico. It was a match in which we had very little possession and everyone in a system that doesn't really fit. "But eventually Martinez decides. I think the trainer has to find a solution so that we can avoid such situations in future." World Cup whatsapp promo It's easy to be an armchair manager... There are hundreds of possibilities for this team and frustratingly for Belgium fans, most of them look sensible, defensively sound and rather obvious. Creative players tend to be selfish and don't like to defend, so need a safety net to flourish. The current system suits a counter-attack strategy but Belgium have heaps of attacking players on the pitch and are trying to keep possession... all of this looks and sounds like two conflicting ideals in one tactical setup. Martinez's possible starting XI A back four of Vertonghen (who has often played as a full-back) - Alderweireld/Vermaelen - Kompany and Meunier makes sense on paper, as does a midfield two of Witsel and the brilliant Mousa Dembele. A possible Belgium 4-2-3-1 Lukaku as striker, De Bruyne at 10, Hazard wide left and Mertens wide right with overlapping full-backs sounds... sensible. There's balance, excellent players in attacking positions and defensive cover. It would look more like this in possession: How Belgium's attacking shape could look in a 4-2-3-1 Perhaps this is what it's meant to look like in the 3-4-3 as it is. It certainly doesn't on the pitch. This 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 shape should be flexible in-game but there's not a lot of evidence the players sufficiently understand how to make such a fluid plan actually work, and De Bruyne's comments suggest they aren't fully behind the strategy either. When Belgium play against organised, quality opposition, they can look a little ordinary - Portugal played the reserves and really didn't struggle in that 0-0 friendly played earlier in the month. World Cup 2018 tactics | JJ Bull analyses formations, line-ups and more Belgium destroyed a group containing Greece, Estonia, Bosnia and Cyprus but with the quality of player available should probably be expected to do so and easy(ish) wins over Panama and Tunisia should be expected. For too long the problem has been coping against similarly matched opposition, when their defensive frailties become apparent. The dark horses need to make sure they aren't too top heavy if they are to progress beyond the first knock-out stage - assuming they get that far. They should manage this at least and the key to it is finding balance. The worry is that Martinez, even at this late stage, is still looking for that. World Cup whatsapp promo World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more
Roberto Martinez has been criticised by Belgium supporters for many of his tactical choices amid concerns this crop of superb talent might be in the hands of the wrong person. Martinez's exclusion of Radja Nainggolan - the third best player in Belgium, according to Martinez's predecessor Marc Wilmots - was... confusing. Nainggolan retired from international football as a direct result. But - and there is a but - Martinez won the FA Cup with Wigan once. So he must know what he's doing. Right? Why it might not work Belgium have some of the best individual players in their position in the world. Kevin De Bruyne is a star, Eden Hazard too, while Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Yannick Carrasco, Jan Vertonghen and Nainggolan (the one they left at home) are up there - but rather than fit the system to the players, Martinez is shunting as many excitingly shaped pegs as he can into 11 square holes. Against Costa Rica they were outstanding, blasting their way to a 4-1 win, while a 3-0 win over Egypt was another example of their firepower. But Portugal were able to hold Belgium to a 0-0 with what was essentially their reserve side - whenever this Belgium side comes up against a similarly talented group of players, that imbalance is really obvious. "Mexico were just tactically better," said De Bruyne after a 3-3 draw with Mexico in a friendly back in November. "Their system made our five defenders sit deep and we were swimming in midfield - it was five against seven." This what Belgium's 5-3-2/3-4-1-2 looks like on the pitch: a huge amount of space between midfield and defence. Martinez wants to play Lovely Football, control possession and score goals but has implemented the same 3-4-3 he used at Wigan and Everton with a group of players who it actually probably doesn't suit. Here's the lineup for a 1-0 friendly win over Japan in November 2017: It sort of makes sense. De Bruyne can play in central areas, Eden Hazard can attack from wide, as can Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku is in the right place and there are three defenders comfortable making passes. Going forward, this is great. However, playing attacking wingers as wing-backs is risky and although Thomas Meunier is fine, if a little attack-minded, Nacer Chadli is not an elite wing-back. He's not even a wing-back. Neither is inside-forward Yannick Carrasco, who often plays on that left side in this setup. World Cup rankings: Who looks good ahead of kick-off in Russia? Players can adjust to new positions over time - look at Victor Moses - but will make mistakes along the way. At international level there is no room for error and when things get hectic on the pitch, that lack of muscle memory and instinctive knowledge of where to be when, could be a real issue. As for the midfield, Alex Witsel can be left isolated. His job is to sit in midfield and keep things tidy, passing sideways or backwards, but with De Bruyne expected to join in attacks, Witsel is left protecting an enormous midfield area. It makes it look almost as if Belgium are divided into an attacking team and a defending one. Belgium goal gif This isn't great. Belgium's non-functioning press Below, the two strikers, Hazard and Lukaku, close down the man on the ball and block the passing lane. De Bruyne tries to get close to the player in the centre-circle to block that channel, the rest of the team sits behind halfway. They are neither pressing high, low or even in the middle of the park and don't really have coverage of the pitch. Mexico have plenty of passing options. Belgium are caught in two minds here, as though needing direction. This has the effect of making it too easy to bypass Belgium's lines of defence. In this same move, Lukaku closes down the man on the ball but Mexico have time and space to pass their way beyond the first line of Belgium's defence. Within seconds they are behind the midfield too. It's way too easy. With a three on three, this move eventually breaks down but that gap between defence and midfield is obvious. Too many players have gone on the attack too quickly and the back three is left exposed - is it a fault of the players or the team's shape? Mexico's third goal in that friendly revealed the same problems. Again, Belgium press with two strikers and an attacking midfielder, all wasting their energy since Mexico have options everywhere. To press effectively high up the pitch, the team really needs a high defensive line and players must be close together. Belgium sit deep with space between the lines of players, a rogue midfielder steps up to attack the man on the ball. With one pass, Mexico easily beat the first line of the press and within four seconds, that long ball over the top has given them a three on three attacking situation. The midfield chases back, the defence are in panic mode, and Hirving Lozano cuts inside to shoot. The goalkeeper parries, the defence are all over the place, Lozano thumps the loose ball into the back of the net. "As long as we don't have a good tactical system, we will have difficulties against countries like Mexico," De Bruyne continued. "It's a pity that we have not yet found a solution. "Of course we play with a system that is in principle very defensive, but it is filled with many attacking players who want the ball. "Then you have a bit of a problem, like against Mexico. It was a match in which we had very little possession and everyone in a system that doesn't really fit. "But eventually Martinez decides. I think the trainer has to find a solution so that we can avoid such situations in future." World Cup whatsapp promo It's easy to be an armchair manager... There are hundreds of possibilities for this team and frustratingly for Belgium fans, most of them look sensible, defensively sound and rather obvious. Creative players tend to be selfish and don't like to defend, so need a safety net to flourish. The current system suits a counter-attack strategy but Belgium have heaps of attacking players on the pitch and are trying to keep possession... all of this looks and sounds like two conflicting ideals in one tactical setup. Martinez's possible starting XI A back four of Vertonghen (who has often played as a full-back) - Alderweireld/Vermaelen - Kompany and Meunier makes sense on paper, as does a midfield two of Witsel and the brilliant Mousa Dembele. A possible Belgium 4-2-3-1 Lukaku as striker, De Bruyne at 10, Hazard wide left and Mertens wide right with overlapping full-backs sounds... sensible. There's balance, excellent players in attacking positions and defensive cover. It would look more like this in possession: How Belgium's attacking shape could look in a 4-2-3-1 Perhaps this is what it's meant to look like in the 3-4-3 as it is. It certainly doesn't on the pitch. This 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 shape should be flexible in-game but there's not a lot of evidence the players sufficiently understand how to make such a fluid plan actually work, and De Bruyne's comments suggest they aren't fully behind the strategy either. When Belgium play against organised, quality opposition, they can look a little ordinary - Portugal played the reserves and really didn't struggle in that 0-0 friendly played earlier in the month. World Cup 2018 tactics | JJ Bull analyses formations, line-ups and more Belgium destroyed a group containing Greece, Estonia, Bosnia and Cyprus but with the quality of player available should probably be expected to do so and easy(ish) wins over Panama and Tunisia should be expected. For too long the problem has been coping against similarly matched opposition, when their defensive frailties become apparent. The dark horses need to make sure they aren't too top heavy if they are to progress beyond the first knock-out stage - assuming they get that far. They should manage this at least and the key to it is finding balance. The worry is that Martinez, even at this late stage, is still looking for that. World Cup whatsapp promo World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more
World Cup 2018 tactics: Roberto Martinez in danger of putting Belgium's star-shaped pegs in square holes
Roberto Martinez has been criticised by Belgium supporters for many of his tactical choices amid concerns this crop of superb talent might be in the hands of the wrong person. Martinez's exclusion of Radja Nainggolan - the third best player in Belgium, according to Martinez's predecessor Marc Wilmots - was... confusing. Nainggolan retired from international football as a direct result. But - and there is a but - Martinez won the FA Cup with Wigan once. So he must know what he's doing. Right? Why it might not work Belgium have some of the best individual players in their position in the world. Kevin De Bruyne is a star, Eden Hazard too, while Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Yannick Carrasco, Jan Vertonghen and Nainggolan (the one they left at home) are up there - but rather than fit the system to the players, Martinez is shunting as many excitingly shaped pegs as he can into 11 square holes. Against Costa Rica they were outstanding, blasting their way to a 4-1 win, while a 3-0 win over Egypt was another example of their firepower. But Portugal were able to hold Belgium to a 0-0 with what was essentially their reserve side - whenever this Belgium side comes up against a similarly talented group of players, that imbalance is really obvious. "Mexico were just tactically better," said De Bruyne after a 3-3 draw with Mexico in a friendly back in November. "Their system made our five defenders sit deep and we were swimming in midfield - it was five against seven." This what Belgium's 5-3-2/3-4-1-2 looks like on the pitch: a huge amount of space between midfield and defence. Martinez wants to play Lovely Football, control possession and score goals but has implemented the same 3-4-3 he used at Wigan and Everton with a group of players who it actually probably doesn't suit. Here's the lineup for a 1-0 friendly win over Japan in November 2017: It sort of makes sense. De Bruyne can play in central areas, Eden Hazard can attack from wide, as can Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku is in the right place and there are three defenders comfortable making passes. Going forward, this is great. However, playing attacking wingers as wing-backs is risky and although Thomas Meunier is fine, if a little attack-minded, Nacer Chadli is not an elite wing-back. He's not even a wing-back. Neither is inside-forward Yannick Carrasco, who often plays on that left side in this setup. World Cup rankings: Who looks good ahead of kick-off in Russia? Players can adjust to new positions over time - look at Victor Moses - but will make mistakes along the way. At international level there is no room for error and when things get hectic on the pitch, that lack of muscle memory and instinctive knowledge of where to be when, could be a real issue. As for the midfield, Alex Witsel can be left isolated. His job is to sit in midfield and keep things tidy, passing sideways or backwards, but with De Bruyne expected to join in attacks, Witsel is left protecting an enormous midfield area. It makes it look almost as if Belgium are divided into an attacking team and a defending one. Belgium goal gif This isn't great. Belgium's non-functioning press Below, the two strikers, Hazard and Lukaku, close down the man on the ball and block the passing lane. De Bruyne tries to get close to the player in the centre-circle to block that channel, the rest of the team sits behind halfway. They are neither pressing high, low or even in the middle of the park and don't really have coverage of the pitch. Mexico have plenty of passing options. Belgium are caught in two minds here, as though needing direction. This has the effect of making it too easy to bypass Belgium's lines of defence. In this same move, Lukaku closes down the man on the ball but Mexico have time and space to pass their way beyond the first line of Belgium's defence. Within seconds they are behind the midfield too. It's way too easy. With a three on three, this move eventually breaks down but that gap between defence and midfield is obvious. Too many players have gone on the attack too quickly and the back three is left exposed - is it a fault of the players or the team's shape? Mexico's third goal in that friendly revealed the same problems. Again, Belgium press with two strikers and an attacking midfielder, all wasting their energy since Mexico have options everywhere. To press effectively high up the pitch, the team really needs a high defensive line and players must be close together. Belgium sit deep with space between the lines of players, a rogue midfielder steps up to attack the man on the ball. With one pass, Mexico easily beat the first line of the press and within four seconds, that long ball over the top has given them a three on three attacking situation. The midfield chases back, the defence are in panic mode, and Hirving Lozano cuts inside to shoot. The goalkeeper parries, the defence are all over the place, Lozano thumps the loose ball into the back of the net. "As long as we don't have a good tactical system, we will have difficulties against countries like Mexico," De Bruyne continued. "It's a pity that we have not yet found a solution. "Of course we play with a system that is in principle very defensive, but it is filled with many attacking players who want the ball. "Then you have a bit of a problem, like against Mexico. It was a match in which we had very little possession and everyone in a system that doesn't really fit. "But eventually Martinez decides. I think the trainer has to find a solution so that we can avoid such situations in future." World Cup whatsapp promo It's easy to be an armchair manager... There are hundreds of possibilities for this team and frustratingly for Belgium fans, most of them look sensible, defensively sound and rather obvious. Creative players tend to be selfish and don't like to defend, so need a safety net to flourish. The current system suits a counter-attack strategy but Belgium have heaps of attacking players on the pitch and are trying to keep possession... all of this looks and sounds like two conflicting ideals in one tactical setup. Martinez's possible starting XI A back four of Vertonghen (who has often played as a full-back) - Alderweireld/Vermaelen - Kompany and Meunier makes sense on paper, as does a midfield two of Witsel and the brilliant Mousa Dembele. A possible Belgium 4-2-3-1 Lukaku as striker, De Bruyne at 10, Hazard wide left and Mertens wide right with overlapping full-backs sounds... sensible. There's balance, excellent players in attacking positions and defensive cover. It would look more like this in possession: How Belgium's attacking shape could look in a 4-2-3-1 Perhaps this is what it's meant to look like in the 3-4-3 as it is. It certainly doesn't on the pitch. This 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 shape should be flexible in-game but there's not a lot of evidence the players sufficiently understand how to make such a fluid plan actually work, and De Bruyne's comments suggest they aren't fully behind the strategy either. When Belgium play against organised, quality opposition, they can look a little ordinary - Portugal played the reserves and really didn't struggle in that 0-0 friendly played earlier in the month. World Cup 2018 tactics | JJ Bull analyses formations, line-ups and more Belgium destroyed a group containing Greece, Estonia, Bosnia and Cyprus but with the quality of player available should probably be expected to do so and easy(ish) wins over Panama and Tunisia should be expected. For too long the problem has been coping against similarly matched opposition, when their defensive frailties become apparent. The dark horses need to make sure they aren't too top heavy if they are to progress beyond the first knock-out stage - assuming they get that far. They should manage this at least and the key to it is finding balance. The worry is that Martinez, even at this late stage, is still looking for that. World Cup whatsapp promo World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more
Roberto Martinez has been criticised by Belgium supporters for many of his tactical choices amid concerns this crop of superb talent might be in the hands of the wrong person. Martinez's exclusion of Radja Nainggolan - the third best player in Belgium, according to Martinez's predecessor Marc Wilmots - was... confusing. Nainggolan retired from international football as a direct result. But - and there is a but - Martinez won the FA Cup with Wigan once. So he must know what he's doing. Right? Why it might not work Belgium have some of the best individual players in their position in the world. Kevin De Bruyne is a star, Eden Hazard too, while Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Yannick Carrasco, Jan Vertonghen and Nainggolan (the one they left at home) are up there - but rather than fit the system to the players, Martinez is shunting as many excitingly shaped pegs as he can into 11 square holes. Against Costa Rica they were outstanding, blasting their way to a 4-1 win, while a 3-0 win over Egypt was another example of their firepower. But Portugal were able to hold Belgium to a 0-0 with what was essentially their reserve side - whenever this Belgium side comes up against a similarly talented group of players, that imbalance is really obvious. "Mexico were just tactically better," said De Bruyne after a 3-3 draw with Mexico in a friendly back in November. "Their system made our five defenders sit deep and we were swimming in midfield - it was five against seven." This what Belgium's 5-3-2/3-4-1-2 looks like on the pitch: a huge amount of space between midfield and defence. Martinez wants to play Lovely Football, control possession and score goals but has implemented the same 3-4-3 he used at Wigan and Everton with a group of players who it actually probably doesn't suit. Here's the lineup for a 1-0 friendly win over Japan in November 2017: It sort of makes sense. De Bruyne can play in central areas, Eden Hazard can attack from wide, as can Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku is in the right place and there are three defenders comfortable making passes. Going forward, this is great. However, playing attacking wingers as wing-backs is risky and although Thomas Meunier is fine, if a little attack-minded, Nacer Chadli is not an elite wing-back. He's not even a wing-back. Neither is inside-forward Yannick Carrasco, who often plays on that left side in this setup. World Cup rankings: Who looks good ahead of kick-off in Russia? Players can adjust to new positions over time - look at Victor Moses - but will make mistakes along the way. At international level there is no room for error and when things get hectic on the pitch, that lack of muscle memory and instinctive knowledge of where to be when, could be a real issue. As for the midfield, Alex Witsel can be left isolated. His job is to sit in midfield and keep things tidy, passing sideways or backwards, but with De Bruyne expected to join in attacks, Witsel is left protecting an enormous midfield area. It makes it look almost as if Belgium are divided into an attacking team and a defending one. Belgium goal gif This isn't great. Belgium's non-functioning press Below, the two strikers, Hazard and Lukaku, close down the man on the ball and block the passing lane. De Bruyne tries to get close to the player in the centre-circle to block that channel, the rest of the team sits behind halfway. They are neither pressing high, low or even in the middle of the park and don't really have coverage of the pitch. Mexico have plenty of passing options. Belgium are caught in two minds here, as though needing direction. This has the effect of making it too easy to bypass Belgium's lines of defence. In this same move, Lukaku closes down the man on the ball but Mexico have time and space to pass their way beyond the first line of Belgium's defence. Within seconds they are behind the midfield too. It's way too easy. With a three on three, this move eventually breaks down but that gap between defence and midfield is obvious. Too many players have gone on the attack too quickly and the back three is left exposed - is it a fault of the players or the team's shape? Mexico's third goal in that friendly revealed the same problems. Again, Belgium press with two strikers and an attacking midfielder, all wasting their energy since Mexico have options everywhere. To press effectively high up the pitch, the team really needs a high defensive line and players must be close together. Belgium sit deep with space between the lines of players, a rogue midfielder steps up to attack the man on the ball. With one pass, Mexico easily beat the first line of the press and within four seconds, that long ball over the top has given them a three on three attacking situation. The midfield chases back, the defence are in panic mode, and Hirving Lozano cuts inside to shoot. The goalkeeper parries, the defence are all over the place, Lozano thumps the loose ball into the back of the net. "As long as we don't have a good tactical system, we will have difficulties against countries like Mexico," De Bruyne continued. "It's a pity that we have not yet found a solution. "Of course we play with a system that is in principle very defensive, but it is filled with many attacking players who want the ball. "Then you have a bit of a problem, like against Mexico. It was a match in which we had very little possession and everyone in a system that doesn't really fit. "But eventually Martinez decides. I think the trainer has to find a solution so that we can avoid such situations in future." World Cup whatsapp promo It's easy to be an armchair manager... There are hundreds of possibilities for this team and frustratingly for Belgium fans, most of them look sensible, defensively sound and rather obvious. Creative players tend to be selfish and don't like to defend, so need a safety net to flourish. The current system suits a counter-attack strategy but Belgium have heaps of attacking players on the pitch and are trying to keep possession... all of this looks and sounds like two conflicting ideals in one tactical setup. Martinez's possible starting XI A back four of Vertonghen (who has often played as a full-back) - Alderweireld/Vermaelen - Kompany and Meunier makes sense on paper, as does a midfield two of Witsel and the brilliant Mousa Dembele. A possible Belgium 4-2-3-1 Lukaku as striker, De Bruyne at 10, Hazard wide left and Mertens wide right with overlapping full-backs sounds... sensible. There's balance, excellent players in attacking positions and defensive cover. It would look more like this in possession: How Belgium's attacking shape could look in a 4-2-3-1 Perhaps this is what it's meant to look like in the 3-4-3 as it is. It certainly doesn't on the pitch. This 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 shape should be flexible in-game but there's not a lot of evidence the players sufficiently understand how to make such a fluid plan actually work, and De Bruyne's comments suggest they aren't fully behind the strategy either. When Belgium play against organised, quality opposition, they can look a little ordinary - Portugal played the reserves and really didn't struggle in that 0-0 friendly played earlier in the month. World Cup 2018 tactics | JJ Bull analyses formations, line-ups and more Belgium destroyed a group containing Greece, Estonia, Bosnia and Cyprus but with the quality of player available should probably be expected to do so and easy(ish) wins over Panama and Tunisia should be expected. For too long the problem has been coping against similarly matched opposition, when their defensive frailties become apparent. The dark horses need to make sure they aren't too top heavy if they are to progress beyond the first knock-out stage - assuming they get that far. They should manage this at least and the key to it is finding balance. The worry is that Martinez, even at this late stage, is still looking for that. World Cup whatsapp promo World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more
World Cup 2018 tactics: Roberto Martinez in danger of putting Belgium's star-shaped pegs in square holes
Roberto Martinez has been criticised by Belgium supporters for many of his tactical choices amid concerns this crop of superb talent might be in the hands of the wrong person. Martinez's exclusion of Radja Nainggolan - the third best player in Belgium, according to Martinez's predecessor Marc Wilmots - was... confusing. Nainggolan retired from international football as a direct result. But - and there is a but - Martinez won the FA Cup with Wigan once. So he must know what he's doing. Right? Why it might not work Belgium have some of the best individual players in their position in the world. Kevin De Bruyne is a star, Eden Hazard too, while Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Yannick Carrasco, Jan Vertonghen and Nainggolan (the one they left at home) are up there - but rather than fit the system to the players, Martinez is shunting as many excitingly shaped pegs as he can into 11 square holes. Against Costa Rica they were outstanding, blasting their way to a 4-1 win, while a 3-0 win over Egypt was another example of their firepower. But Portugal were able to hold Belgium to a 0-0 with what was essentially their reserve side - whenever this Belgium side comes up against a similarly talented group of players, that imbalance is really obvious. "Mexico were just tactically better," said De Bruyne after a 3-3 draw with Mexico in a friendly back in November. "Their system made our five defenders sit deep and we were swimming in midfield - it was five against seven." This what Belgium's 5-3-2/3-4-1-2 looks like on the pitch: a huge amount of space between midfield and defence. Martinez wants to play Lovely Football, control possession and score goals but has implemented the same 3-4-3 he used at Wigan and Everton with a group of players who it actually probably doesn't suit. Here's the lineup for a 1-0 friendly win over Japan in November 2017: It sort of makes sense. De Bruyne can play in central areas, Eden Hazard can attack from wide, as can Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku is in the right place and there are three defenders comfortable making passes. Going forward, this is great. However, playing attacking wingers as wing-backs is risky and although Thomas Meunier is fine, if a little attack-minded, Nacer Chadli is not an elite wing-back. He's not even a wing-back. Neither is inside-forward Yannick Carrasco, who often plays on that left side in this setup. World Cup rankings: Who looks good ahead of kick-off in Russia? Players can adjust to new positions over time - look at Victor Moses - but will make mistakes along the way. At international level there is no room for error and when things get hectic on the pitch, that lack of muscle memory and instinctive knowledge of where to be when, could be a real issue. As for the midfield, Alex Witsel can be left isolated. His job is to sit in midfield and keep things tidy, passing sideways or backwards, but with De Bruyne expected to join in attacks, Witsel is left protecting an enormous midfield area. It makes it look almost as if Belgium are divided into an attacking team and a defending one. Belgium goal gif This isn't great. Belgium's non-functioning press Below, the two strikers, Hazard and Lukaku, close down the man on the ball and block the passing lane. De Bruyne tries to get close to the player in the centre-circle to block that channel, the rest of the team sits behind halfway. They are neither pressing high, low or even in the middle of the park and don't really have coverage of the pitch. Mexico have plenty of passing options. Belgium are caught in two minds here, as though needing direction. This has the effect of making it too easy to bypass Belgium's lines of defence. In this same move, Lukaku closes down the man on the ball but Mexico have time and space to pass their way beyond the first line of Belgium's defence. Within seconds they are behind the midfield too. It's way too easy. With a three on three, this move eventually breaks down but that gap between defence and midfield is obvious. Too many players have gone on the attack too quickly and the back three is left exposed - is it a fault of the players or the team's shape? Mexico's third goal in that friendly revealed the same problems. Again, Belgium press with two strikers and an attacking midfielder, all wasting their energy since Mexico have options everywhere. To press effectively high up the pitch, the team really needs a high defensive line and players must be close together. Belgium sit deep with space between the lines of players, a rogue midfielder steps up to attack the man on the ball. With one pass, Mexico easily beat the first line of the press and within four seconds, that long ball over the top has given them a three on three attacking situation. The midfield chases back, the defence are in panic mode, and Hirving Lozano cuts inside to shoot. The goalkeeper parries, the defence are all over the place, Lozano thumps the loose ball into the back of the net. "As long as we don't have a good tactical system, we will have difficulties against countries like Mexico," De Bruyne continued. "It's a pity that we have not yet found a solution. "Of course we play with a system that is in principle very defensive, but it is filled with many attacking players who want the ball. "Then you have a bit of a problem, like against Mexico. It was a match in which we had very little possession and everyone in a system that doesn't really fit. "But eventually Martinez decides. I think the trainer has to find a solution so that we can avoid such situations in future." World Cup whatsapp promo It's easy to be an armchair manager... There are hundreds of possibilities for this team and frustratingly for Belgium fans, most of them look sensible, defensively sound and rather obvious. Creative players tend to be selfish and don't like to defend, so need a safety net to flourish. The current system suits a counter-attack strategy but Belgium have heaps of attacking players on the pitch and are trying to keep possession... all of this looks and sounds like two conflicting ideals in one tactical setup. Martinez's possible starting XI A back four of Vertonghen (who has often played as a full-back) - Alderweireld/Vermaelen - Kompany and Meunier makes sense on paper, as does a midfield two of Witsel and the brilliant Mousa Dembele. A possible Belgium 4-2-3-1 Lukaku as striker, De Bruyne at 10, Hazard wide left and Mertens wide right with overlapping full-backs sounds... sensible. There's balance, excellent players in attacking positions and defensive cover. It would look more like this in possession: How Belgium's attacking shape could look in a 4-2-3-1 Perhaps this is what it's meant to look like in the 3-4-3 as it is. It certainly doesn't on the pitch. This 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 shape should be flexible in-game but there's not a lot of evidence the players sufficiently understand how to make such a fluid plan actually work, and De Bruyne's comments suggest they aren't fully behind the strategy either. When Belgium play against organised, quality opposition, they can look a little ordinary - Portugal played the reserves and really didn't struggle in that 0-0 friendly played earlier in the month. World Cup 2018 tactics | JJ Bull analyses formations, line-ups and more Belgium destroyed a group containing Greece, Estonia, Bosnia and Cyprus but with the quality of player available should probably be expected to do so and easy(ish) wins over Panama and Tunisia should be expected. For too long the problem has been coping against similarly matched opposition, when their defensive frailties become apparent. The dark horses need to make sure they aren't too top heavy if they are to progress beyond the first knock-out stage - assuming they get that far. They should manage this at least and the key to it is finding balance. The worry is that Martinez, even at this late stage, is still looking for that. World Cup whatsapp promo World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more
Roberto Martinez has been criticised by Belgium supporters for many of his tactical choices amid concerns this crop of superb talent might be in the hands of the wrong person. Martinez's exclusion of Radja Nainggolan - the third best player in Belgium, according to Martinez's predecessor Marc Wilmots - was... confusing. Nainggolan retired from international football as a direct result. But - and there is a but - Martinez won the FA Cup with Wigan once. So he must know what he's doing. Right? Why it might not work Belgium have some of the best individual players in their position in the world. Kevin De Bruyne is a star, Eden Hazard too, while Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Yannick Carrasco, Jan Vertonghen and Nainggolan (the one they left at home) are up there - but rather than fit the system to the players, Martinez is shunting as many excitingly shaped pegs as he can into 11 square holes. Against Costa Rica they were outstanding, blasting their way to a 4-1 win, while a 3-0 win over Egypt was another example of their firepower. But Portugal were able to hold Belgium to a 0-0 with what was essentially their reserve side - whenever this Belgium side comes up against a similarly talented group of players, that imbalance is really obvious. "Mexico were just tactically better," said De Bruyne after a 3-3 draw with Mexico in a friendly back in November. "Their system made our five defenders sit deep and we were swimming in midfield - it was five against seven." This what Belgium's 5-3-2/3-4-1-2 looks like on the pitch: a huge amount of space between midfield and defence. Martinez wants to play Lovely Football, control possession and score goals but has implemented the same 3-4-3 he used at Wigan and Everton with a group of players who it actually probably doesn't suit. Here's the lineup for a 1-0 friendly win over Japan in November 2017: It sort of makes sense. De Bruyne can play in central areas, Eden Hazard can attack from wide, as can Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku is in the right place and there are three defenders comfortable making passes. Going forward, this is great. However, playing attacking wingers as wing-backs is risky and although Thomas Meunier is fine, if a little attack-minded, Nacer Chadli is not an elite wing-back. He's not even a wing-back. Neither is inside-forward Yannick Carrasco, who often plays on that left side in this setup. World Cup rankings: Who looks good ahead of kick-off in Russia? Players can adjust to new positions over time - look at Victor Moses - but will make mistakes along the way. At international level there is no room for error and when things get hectic on the pitch, that lack of muscle memory and instinctive knowledge of where to be when, could be a real issue. As for the midfield, Alex Witsel can be left isolated. His job is to sit in midfield and keep things tidy, passing sideways or backwards, but with De Bruyne expected to join in attacks, Witsel is left protecting an enormous midfield area. It makes it look almost as if Belgium are divided into an attacking team and a defending one. Belgium goal gif This isn't great. Belgium's non-functioning press Below, the two strikers, Hazard and Lukaku, close down the man on the ball and block the passing lane. De Bruyne tries to get close to the player in the centre-circle to block that channel, the rest of the team sits behind halfway. They are neither pressing high, low or even in the middle of the park and don't really have coverage of the pitch. Mexico have plenty of passing options. Belgium are caught in two minds here, as though needing direction. This has the effect of making it too easy to bypass Belgium's lines of defence. In this same move, Lukaku closes down the man on the ball but Mexico have time and space to pass their way beyond the first line of Belgium's defence. Within seconds they are behind the midfield too. It's way too easy. With a three on three, this move eventually breaks down but that gap between defence and midfield is obvious. Too many players have gone on the attack too quickly and the back three is left exposed - is it a fault of the players or the team's shape? Mexico's third goal in that friendly revealed the same problems. Again, Belgium press with two strikers and an attacking midfielder, all wasting their energy since Mexico have options everywhere. To press effectively high up the pitch, the team really needs a high defensive line and players must be close together. Belgium sit deep with space between the lines of players, a rogue midfielder steps up to attack the man on the ball. With one pass, Mexico easily beat the first line of the press and within four seconds, that long ball over the top has given them a three on three attacking situation. The midfield chases back, the defence are in panic mode, and Hirving Lozano cuts inside to shoot. The goalkeeper parries, the defence are all over the place, Lozano thumps the loose ball into the back of the net. "As long as we don't have a good tactical system, we will have difficulties against countries like Mexico," De Bruyne continued. "It's a pity that we have not yet found a solution. "Of course we play with a system that is in principle very defensive, but it is filled with many attacking players who want the ball. "Then you have a bit of a problem, like against Mexico. It was a match in which we had very little possession and everyone in a system that doesn't really fit. "But eventually Martinez decides. I think the trainer has to find a solution so that we can avoid such situations in future." World Cup whatsapp promo It's easy to be an armchair manager... There are hundreds of possibilities for this team and frustratingly for Belgium fans, most of them look sensible, defensively sound and rather obvious. Creative players tend to be selfish and don't like to defend, so need a safety net to flourish. The current system suits a counter-attack strategy but Belgium have heaps of attacking players on the pitch and are trying to keep possession... all of this looks and sounds like two conflicting ideals in one tactical setup. Martinez's possible starting XI A back four of Vertonghen (who has often played as a full-back) - Alderweireld/Vermaelen - Kompany and Meunier makes sense on paper, as does a midfield two of Witsel and the brilliant Mousa Dembele. A possible Belgium 4-2-3-1 Lukaku as striker, De Bruyne at 10, Hazard wide left and Mertens wide right with overlapping full-backs sounds... sensible. There's balance, excellent players in attacking positions and defensive cover. It would look more like this in possession: How Belgium's attacking shape could look in a 4-2-3-1 Perhaps this is what it's meant to look like in the 3-4-3 as it is. It certainly doesn't on the pitch. This 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 shape should be flexible in-game but there's not a lot of evidence the players sufficiently understand how to make such a fluid plan actually work, and De Bruyne's comments suggest they aren't fully behind the strategy either. When Belgium play against organised, quality opposition, they can look a little ordinary - Portugal played the reserves and really didn't struggle in that 0-0 friendly played earlier in the month. World Cup 2018 tactics | JJ Bull analyses formations, line-ups and more Belgium destroyed a group containing Greece, Estonia, Bosnia and Cyprus but with the quality of player available should probably be expected to do so and easy(ish) wins over Panama and Tunisia should be expected. For too long the problem has been coping against similarly matched opposition, when their defensive frailties become apparent. The dark horses need to make sure they aren't too top heavy if they are to progress beyond the first knock-out stage - assuming they get that far. They should manage this at least and the key to it is finding balance. The worry is that Martinez, even at this late stage, is still looking for that. World Cup whatsapp promo World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more
World Cup 2018 tactics: Roberto Martinez in danger of putting Belgium's star-shaped pegs in square holes
Roberto Martinez has been criticised by Belgium supporters for many of his tactical choices amid concerns this crop of superb talent might be in the hands of the wrong person. Martinez's exclusion of Radja Nainggolan - the third best player in Belgium, according to Martinez's predecessor Marc Wilmots - was... confusing. Nainggolan retired from international football as a direct result. But - and there is a but - Martinez won the FA Cup with Wigan once. So he must know what he's doing. Right? Why it might not work Belgium have some of the best individual players in their position in the world. Kevin De Bruyne is a star, Eden Hazard too, while Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Yannick Carrasco, Jan Vertonghen and Nainggolan (the one they left at home) are up there - but rather than fit the system to the players, Martinez is shunting as many excitingly shaped pegs as he can into 11 square holes. Against Costa Rica they were outstanding, blasting their way to a 4-1 win, while a 3-0 win over Egypt was another example of their firepower. But Portugal were able to hold Belgium to a 0-0 with what was essentially their reserve side - whenever this Belgium side comes up against a similarly talented group of players, that imbalance is really obvious. "Mexico were just tactically better," said De Bruyne after a 3-3 draw with Mexico in a friendly back in November. "Their system made our five defenders sit deep and we were swimming in midfield - it was five against seven." This what Belgium's 5-3-2/3-4-1-2 looks like on the pitch: a huge amount of space between midfield and defence. Martinez wants to play Lovely Football, control possession and score goals but has implemented the same 3-4-3 he used at Wigan and Everton with a group of players who it actually probably doesn't suit. Here's the lineup for a 1-0 friendly win over Japan in November 2017: It sort of makes sense. De Bruyne can play in central areas, Eden Hazard can attack from wide, as can Dries Mertens, Romelu Lukaku is in the right place and there are three defenders comfortable making passes. Going forward, this is great. However, playing attacking wingers as wing-backs is risky and although Thomas Meunier is fine, if a little attack-minded, Nacer Chadli is not an elite wing-back. He's not even a wing-back. Neither is inside-forward Yannick Carrasco, who often plays on that left side in this setup. World Cup rankings: Who looks good ahead of kick-off in Russia? Players can adjust to new positions over time - look at Victor Moses - but will make mistakes along the way. At international level there is no room for error and when things get hectic on the pitch, that lack of muscle memory and instinctive knowledge of where to be when, could be a real issue. As for the midfield, Alex Witsel can be left isolated. His job is to sit in midfield and keep things tidy, passing sideways or backwards, but with De Bruyne expected to join in attacks, Witsel is left protecting an enormous midfield area. It makes it look almost as if Belgium are divided into an attacking team and a defending one. Belgium goal gif This isn't great. Belgium's non-functioning press Below, the two strikers, Hazard and Lukaku, close down the man on the ball and block the passing lane. De Bruyne tries to get close to the player in the centre-circle to block that channel, the rest of the team sits behind halfway. They are neither pressing high, low or even in the middle of the park and don't really have coverage of the pitch. Mexico have plenty of passing options. Belgium are caught in two minds here, as though needing direction. This has the effect of making it too easy to bypass Belgium's lines of defence. In this same move, Lukaku closes down the man on the ball but Mexico have time and space to pass their way beyond the first line of Belgium's defence. Within seconds they are behind the midfield too. It's way too easy. With a three on three, this move eventually breaks down but that gap between defence and midfield is obvious. Too many players have gone on the attack too quickly and the back three is left exposed - is it a fault of the players or the team's shape? Mexico's third goal in that friendly revealed the same problems. Again, Belgium press with two strikers and an attacking midfielder, all wasting their energy since Mexico have options everywhere. To press effectively high up the pitch, the team really needs a high defensive line and players must be close together. Belgium sit deep with space between the lines of players, a rogue midfielder steps up to attack the man on the ball. With one pass, Mexico easily beat the first line of the press and within four seconds, that long ball over the top has given them a three on three attacking situation. The midfield chases back, the defence are in panic mode, and Hirving Lozano cuts inside to shoot. The goalkeeper parries, the defence are all over the place, Lozano thumps the loose ball into the back of the net. "As long as we don't have a good tactical system, we will have difficulties against countries like Mexico," De Bruyne continued. "It's a pity that we have not yet found a solution. "Of course we play with a system that is in principle very defensive, but it is filled with many attacking players who want the ball. "Then you have a bit of a problem, like against Mexico. It was a match in which we had very little possession and everyone in a system that doesn't really fit. "But eventually Martinez decides. I think the trainer has to find a solution so that we can avoid such situations in future." World Cup whatsapp promo It's easy to be an armchair manager... There are hundreds of possibilities for this team and frustratingly for Belgium fans, most of them look sensible, defensively sound and rather obvious. Creative players tend to be selfish and don't like to defend, so need a safety net to flourish. The current system suits a counter-attack strategy but Belgium have heaps of attacking players on the pitch and are trying to keep possession... all of this looks and sounds like two conflicting ideals in one tactical setup. Martinez's possible starting XI A back four of Vertonghen (who has often played as a full-back) - Alderweireld/Vermaelen - Kompany and Meunier makes sense on paper, as does a midfield two of Witsel and the brilliant Mousa Dembele. A possible Belgium 4-2-3-1 Lukaku as striker, De Bruyne at 10, Hazard wide left and Mertens wide right with overlapping full-backs sounds... sensible. There's balance, excellent players in attacking positions and defensive cover. It would look more like this in possession: How Belgium's attacking shape could look in a 4-2-3-1 Perhaps this is what it's meant to look like in the 3-4-3 as it is. It certainly doesn't on the pitch. This 3-4-3/3-4-1-2 shape should be flexible in-game but there's not a lot of evidence the players sufficiently understand how to make such a fluid plan actually work, and De Bruyne's comments suggest they aren't fully behind the strategy either. When Belgium play against organised, quality opposition, they can look a little ordinary - Portugal played the reserves and really didn't struggle in that 0-0 friendly played earlier in the month. World Cup 2018 tactics | JJ Bull analyses formations, line-ups and more Belgium destroyed a group containing Greece, Estonia, Bosnia and Cyprus but with the quality of player available should probably be expected to do so and easy(ish) wins over Panama and Tunisia should be expected. For too long the problem has been coping against similarly matched opposition, when their defensive frailties become apparent. The dark horses need to make sure they aren't too top heavy if they are to progress beyond the first knock-out stage - assuming they get that far. They should manage this at least and the key to it is finding balance. The worry is that Martinez, even at this late stage, is still looking for that. World Cup whatsapp promo World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more
A good portion of bass feeding activity takes place on or near the bottom; crawfish and all sorts of baitfish make use of the lower water column for cover, shade, cool water and feeding opportunities. A jig and swimbait are two lure categories that produce big-time results in this zone. California native Chris Zaldain has taken to fishing swimbaits like jigs. Baits like the Megabass Dark Sleeper bridge both lure categories, allowing for straight swimming retrieves, hopping jig maneuvers or a combination of both. The heavy weight-forward head and concealed dorsal hook allow the Dark Sleeper to efficiently comb mixed-cover bottom areas. The hook maintains an upright position and slides cleanly through grass without fouling. Consider this tactic for flipping and pitching applications in shallow water on out into deeper water bottom swimming and jigging. The body profile closely resembles round goby, sculpin and darter minnows and even crawfish when it's dragged and hopped along the bottom.
When and How to Fish Bottom-Hugging Swimbaits
A good portion of bass feeding activity takes place on or near the bottom; crawfish and all sorts of baitfish make use of the lower water column for cover, shade, cool water and feeding opportunities. A jig and swimbait are two lure categories that produce big-time results in this zone. California native Chris Zaldain has taken to fishing swimbaits like jigs. Baits like the Megabass Dark Sleeper bridge both lure categories, allowing for straight swimming retrieves, hopping jig maneuvers or a combination of both. The heavy weight-forward head and concealed dorsal hook allow the Dark Sleeper to efficiently comb mixed-cover bottom areas. The hook maintains an upright position and slides cleanly through grass without fouling. Consider this tactic for flipping and pitching applications in shallow water on out into deeper water bottom swimming and jigging. The body profile closely resembles round goby, sculpin and darter minnows and even crawfish when it's dragged and hopped along the bottom.
A good portion of bass feeding activity takes place on or near the bottom; crawfish and all sorts of baitfish make use of the lower water column for cover, shade, cool water and feeding opportunities. A jig and swimbait are two lure categories that produce big-time results in this zone. California native Chris Zaldain has taken to fishing swimbaits like jigs. Baits like the Megabass Dark Sleeper bridge both lure categories, allowing for straight swimming retrieves, hopping jig maneuvers or a combination of both. The heavy weight-forward head and concealed dorsal hook allow the Dark Sleeper to efficiently comb mixed-cover bottom areas. The hook maintains an upright position and slides cleanly through grass without fouling. Consider this tactic for flipping and pitching applications in shallow water on out into deeper water bottom swimming and jigging. The body profile closely resembles round goby, sculpin and darter minnows and even crawfish when it's dragged and hopped along the bottom.
When and How to Fish Bottom-Hugging Swimbaits
A good portion of bass feeding activity takes place on or near the bottom; crawfish and all sorts of baitfish make use of the lower water column for cover, shade, cool water and feeding opportunities. A jig and swimbait are two lure categories that produce big-time results in this zone. California native Chris Zaldain has taken to fishing swimbaits like jigs. Baits like the Megabass Dark Sleeper bridge both lure categories, allowing for straight swimming retrieves, hopping jig maneuvers or a combination of both. The heavy weight-forward head and concealed dorsal hook allow the Dark Sleeper to efficiently comb mixed-cover bottom areas. The hook maintains an upright position and slides cleanly through grass without fouling. Consider this tactic for flipping and pitching applications in shallow water on out into deeper water bottom swimming and jigging. The body profile closely resembles round goby, sculpin and darter minnows and even crawfish when it's dragged and hopped along the bottom.
A good portion of bass feeding activity takes place on or near the bottom; crawfish and all sorts of baitfish make use of the lower water column for cover, shade, cool water and feeding opportunities. A jig and swimbait are two lure categories that produce big-time results in this zone. California native Chris Zaldain has taken to fishing swimbaits like jigs. Baits like the Megabass Dark Sleeper bridge both lure categories, allowing for straight swimming retrieves, hopping jig maneuvers or a combination of both. The heavy weight-forward head and concealed dorsal hook allow the Dark Sleeper to efficiently comb mixed-cover bottom areas. The hook maintains an upright position and slides cleanly through grass without fouling. Consider this tactic for flipping and pitching applications in shallow water on out into deeper water bottom swimming and jigging. The body profile closely resembles round goby, sculpin and darter minnows and even crawfish when it's dragged and hopped along the bottom.
When and How to Fish Bottom-Hugging Swimbaits
A good portion of bass feeding activity takes place on or near the bottom; crawfish and all sorts of baitfish make use of the lower water column for cover, shade, cool water and feeding opportunities. A jig and swimbait are two lure categories that produce big-time results in this zone. California native Chris Zaldain has taken to fishing swimbaits like jigs. Baits like the Megabass Dark Sleeper bridge both lure categories, allowing for straight swimming retrieves, hopping jig maneuvers or a combination of both. The heavy weight-forward head and concealed dorsal hook allow the Dark Sleeper to efficiently comb mixed-cover bottom areas. The hook maintains an upright position and slides cleanly through grass without fouling. Consider this tactic for flipping and pitching applications in shallow water on out into deeper water bottom swimming and jigging. The body profile closely resembles round goby, sculpin and darter minnows and even crawfish when it's dragged and hopped along the bottom.
A good portion of bass feeding activity takes place on or near the bottom; crawfish and all sorts of baitfish make use of the lower water column for cover, shade, cool water and feeding opportunities. A jig and swimbait are two lure categories that produce big-time results in this zone. California native Chris Zaldain has taken to fishing swimbaits like jigs. Baits like the Megabass Dark Sleeper bridge both lure categories, allowing for straight swimming retrieves, hopping jig maneuvers or a combination of both. The heavy weight-forward head and concealed dorsal hook allow the Dark Sleeper to efficiently comb mixed-cover bottom areas. The hook maintains an upright position and slides cleanly through grass without fouling. Consider this tactic for flipping and pitching applications in shallow water on out into deeper water bottom swimming and jigging. The body profile closely resembles round goby, sculpin and darter minnows and even crawfish when it's dragged and hopped along the bottom.
When and How to Fish Bottom-Hugging Swimbaits
A good portion of bass feeding activity takes place on or near the bottom; crawfish and all sorts of baitfish make use of the lower water column for cover, shade, cool water and feeding opportunities. A jig and swimbait are two lure categories that produce big-time results in this zone. California native Chris Zaldain has taken to fishing swimbaits like jigs. Baits like the Megabass Dark Sleeper bridge both lure categories, allowing for straight swimming retrieves, hopping jig maneuvers or a combination of both. The heavy weight-forward head and concealed dorsal hook allow the Dark Sleeper to efficiently comb mixed-cover bottom areas. The hook maintains an upright position and slides cleanly through grass without fouling. Consider this tactic for flipping and pitching applications in shallow water on out into deeper water bottom swimming and jigging. The body profile closely resembles round goby, sculpin and darter minnows and even crawfish when it's dragged and hopped along the bottom.
A "No swimming" sign is seen at a beach on the Don River near Rostov Arena in Rostov-on-Don, Russia June 15, 2018. As well as shooting all the matches, Reuters photographers are producing pictures showing their own quirky view from the sidelines of the World Cup. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
A "No swimming" sign is seen at a beach on the Don River near Rostov Arena in Rostov-on-Don
A "No swimming" sign is seen at a beach on the Don River near Rostov Arena in Rostov-on-Don, Russia June 15, 2018. As well as shooting all the matches, Reuters photographers are producing pictures showing their own quirky view from the sidelines of the World Cup. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
<p>Who needs the World Cup when you could be saving ducklings?</p>
Aaron Ramsey saves ducklings from empty swimming pool

Who needs the World Cup when you could be saving ducklings?

<p>Who needs the World Cup when you could be saving ducklings?</p>
Aaron Ramsey saves ducklings from empty swimming pool

Who needs the World Cup when you could be saving ducklings?

<p>Who needs the World Cup when you could be saving ducklings?</p>
Aaron Ramsey saves ducklings from empty swimming pool

Who needs the World Cup when you could be saving ducklings?

FILE - In this Jan. 25, 2014 file photo, Bode Miller and his wife Morgan smile at the men's World Cup downhill in Kitzbuehel, Austria. Authorities reported Monday, June 11, 2018, that the couple's 19-month-old daughter Emeline Miller died Sunday after paramedics pulled her from a swimming pool in Coto de Caza, Calif., Saturday. Capt. Tony Bommarito of the Orange County Fire Authority Bommarito says they were unable to revive her and she was later pronounced dead. (AP Photo/Giovanni Auletta, File)
Call reveals frantic effort to save Bode Miller's daughter
FILE - In this Jan. 25, 2014 file photo, Bode Miller and his wife Morgan smile at the men's World Cup downhill in Kitzbuehel, Austria. Authorities reported Monday, June 11, 2018, that the couple's 19-month-old daughter Emeline Miller died Sunday after paramedics pulled her from a swimming pool in Coto de Caza, Calif., Saturday. Capt. Tony Bommarito of the Orange County Fire Authority Bommarito says they were unable to revive her and she was later pronounced dead. (AP Photo/Giovanni Auletta, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 2, 2015 file photo, USA men's ski team member Bode Miller participates in a news conference at the alpine skiing world championships in Beaver Creek, Colo. Authorities reported Monday, June 11, 2018, that Miller's 19-month-old daughter Emeline Miller died Sunday after paramedics pulled her from a swimming pool in Coto de Caza, Calif., Saturday. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)
Call reveals frantic effort to save Bode Miller's daughter
FILE - In this Feb. 2, 2015 file photo, USA men's ski team member Bode Miller participates in a news conference at the alpine skiing world championships in Beaver Creek, Colo. Authorities reported Monday, June 11, 2018, that Miller's 19-month-old daughter Emeline Miller died Sunday after paramedics pulled her from a swimming pool in Coto de Caza, Calif., Saturday. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 25, 2014 file photo, Bode Miller and his wife Morgan smile at the men's World Cup downhill in Kitzbuehel, Austria. Authorities reported Monday, June 11, 2018, that the couple's 19-month-old daughter Emeline Miller died Sunday after paramedics pulled her from a swimming pool in Coto de Caza, Calif., Saturday. Capt. Tony Bommarito of the Orange County Fire Authority Bommarito says they were unable to revive her and she was later pronounced dead. (AP Photo/Giovanni Auletta, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 25, 2014 file photo, Bode Miller and his wife Morgan smile at the men's World Cup downhill in Kitzbuehel, Austria. Authorities reported Monday, June 11, 2018, that the couple's 19-month-old daughter Emeline Miller died Sunday after paramedics pulled her from a swimming pool in Coto de Caza, Calif., Saturday. Capt. Tony Bommarito of the Orange County Fire Authority Bommarito says they were unable to revive her and she was later pronounced dead. (AP Photo/Giovanni Auletta, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 25, 2014 file photo, Bode Miller and his wife Morgan smile at the men's World Cup downhill in Kitzbuehel, Austria. Authorities reported Monday, June 11, 2018, that the couple's 19-month-old daughter Emeline Miller died Sunday after paramedics pulled her from a swimming pool in Coto de Caza, Calif., Saturday. Capt. Tony Bommarito of the Orange County Fire Authority Bommarito says they were unable to revive her and she was later pronounced dead. (AP Photo/Giovanni Auletta, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 2, 2015 file photo, USA men's ski team member Bode Miller participates in a news conference at the alpine skiing world championships in Beaver Creek, Colo. Authorities reported Monday, June 11, 2018, that Miller's 19-month-old daughter Emeline Miller died Sunday after paramedics pulled her from a swimming pool in Coto de Caza, Calif., Saturday. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 2, 2015 file photo, USA men's ski team member Bode Miller participates in a news conference at the alpine skiing world championships in Beaver Creek, Colo. Authorities reported Monday, June 11, 2018, that Miller's 19-month-old daughter Emeline Miller died Sunday after paramedics pulled her from a swimming pool in Coto de Caza, Calif., Saturday. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 2, 2015 file photo, USA men's ski team member Bode Miller participates in a news conference at the alpine skiing world championships in Beaver Creek, Colo. Authorities reported Monday, June 11, 2018, that Miller's 19-month-old daughter Emeline Miller died Sunday after paramedics pulled her from a swimming pool in Coto de Caza, Calif., Saturday. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)
FILE - This Feb. 6, 2014, file photo shows the United States' Bode Miller during the U.S. ski team's news conference at the Gorki media center at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. Authorities reported Monday, June 11, 2018, that the couple's 19-month-old daughter Emeline Miller died Sunday after paramedics pulled her from a swimming pool in Coto de Caza, Calif., Saturday. Capt. Tony Bommarito of the Orange County Fire Authority Bommarito says they were unable to revive her and she was later pronounced dead. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
FILE - This Feb. 6, 2014, file photo shows the United States' Bode Miller during the U.S. ski team's news conference at the Gorki media center at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. Authorities reported Monday, June 11, 2018, that the couple's 19-month-old daughter Emeline Miller died Sunday after paramedics pulled her from a swimming pool in Coto de Caza, Calif., Saturday. Capt. Tony Bommarito of the Orange County Fire Authority Bommarito says they were unable to revive her and she was later pronounced dead. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
FILE - This Feb. 6, 2014, file photo shows the United States' Bode Miller during the U.S. ski team's news conference at the Gorki media center at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. Authorities reported Monday, June 11, 2018, that the couple's 19-month-old daughter Emeline Miller died Sunday after paramedics pulled her from a swimming pool in Coto de Caza, Calif., Saturday. Capt. Tony Bommarito of the Orange County Fire Authority Bommarito says they were unable to revive her and she was later pronounced dead. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Emeline Miller, who was 19 months old, died Sunday after a swimming pool incident Saturday.
Former Olympic skier Bode Miller’s infant daughter drowns
Emeline Miller, who was 19 months old, died Sunday after a swimming pool incident Saturday.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban details what he enjoys doing in the summer, including swimming and bathing in the lake, which he admitted to doing.
Nick Saban enjoys bathing in the lake
Alabama head coach Nick Saban details what he enjoys doing in the summer, including swimming and bathing in the lake, which he admitted to doing.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban details what he enjoys doing in the summer, including swimming and bathing in the lake, which he admitted to doing.
Nick Saban enjoys bathing in the lake
Alabama head coach Nick Saban details what he enjoys doing in the summer, including swimming and bathing in the lake, which he admitted to doing.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban details what he enjoys doing in the summer, including swimming and bathing in the lake, which he admitted to doing.
Nick Saban enjoys bathing in the lake
Alabama head coach Nick Saban details what he enjoys doing in the summer, including swimming and bathing in the lake, which he admitted to doing.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban details what he enjoys doing in the summer, including swimming and bathing in the lake, which he admitted to doing.
Nick Saban enjoys bathing in the lake
Alabama head coach Nick Saban details what he enjoys doing in the summer, including swimming and bathing in the lake, which he admitted to doing.
FILE - In this Aug. 8, 2016 file photo, United States' Missy Franklin prepares for a women's 200-meter freestyle heat during the swimming competitions at the 2016 Summer Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Five-time Olympic swimming champion Missy Franklin is planning to return from double shoulder surgery at upcoming meets in France and Spain. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, files)
Missy Franklin to return to swimming at European meets
FILE - In this Aug. 8, 2016 file photo, United States' Missy Franklin prepares for a women's 200-meter freestyle heat during the swimming competitions at the 2016 Summer Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Five-time Olympic swimming champion Missy Franklin is planning to return from double shoulder surgery at upcoming meets in France and Spain. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, files)
'He powers through:' Music, swimming part of therapy for paralyzed hockey teen
'He powers through:' Music, swimming part of therapy for paralyzed hockey teen
'He powers through:' Music, swimming part of therapy for paralyzed hockey teen
Magnini, 36, who is retired, and Santucci, 29, were questioned last October over their relationship with nutritionist Guido Porcellini, who is being probed for allegedly distributing illegal drugs.
Former world swimming champion Filippo Magnini may face eight-year doping ban
Magnini, 36, who is retired, and Santucci, 29, were questioned last October over their relationship with nutritionist Guido Porcellini, who is being probed for allegedly distributing illegal drugs.
Italian swimming champion Filippo Magnini is reportedly facing an eight-year doping ban
SWI MAGNINI
Italian swimming champion Filippo Magnini is reportedly facing an eight-year doping ban
【體路專訊】香港飛魚在「謝菲爾德2018世界殘疾人游泳系列賽」傳來捷報,殘奧金牌好手鄧韋樂勇奪男子200米自由泳銀牌。 「謝菲爾德2018世界殘疾人游泳系列賽」是IPC世界殘疾人游泳系列賽的第7站賽事,同樣為所有殘疾組別一同作賽,並以他們的成績化為分數(WPS),總成績最高分者勝出。過往香港智障游泳隊多次參賽均取得佳績,此次陣容仍以哥本哈根站的人腳為主,與東道主英國、日本、荷蘭、冰島、泰國、新加坡及阿根廷等地泳手爭逐殊榮。 港隊今屆賽事仍以鄧韋樂表現最突出,他在強項200米自由泳初賽以2分00.84秒排第2名晉級,及至決賽再把時間推快至1分58.22秒,摘下銀牌。隊友黃漢彥、蔡華傑、許家俊及陳朗天分別位居第11、第12、第13及第19名。 女將陳睿琳在200米自由泳決賽雖排第8,無緣三甲,仍以2分22.52秒游出PB(個人最佳成績)。 資料來源:British Swimming/全球使者部落
英國殘疾人泳賽鄧韋樂200自摘銀
【體路專訊】香港飛魚在「謝菲爾德2018世界殘疾人游泳系列賽」傳來捷報,殘奧金牌好手鄧韋樂勇奪男子200米自由泳銀牌。 「謝菲爾德2018世界殘疾人游泳系列賽」是IPC世界殘疾人游泳系列賽的第7站賽事,同樣為所有殘疾組別一同作賽,並以他們的成績化為分數(WPS),總成績最高分者勝出。過往香港智障游泳隊多次參賽均取得佳績,此次陣容仍以哥本哈根站的人腳為主,與東道主英國、日本、荷蘭、冰島、泰國、新加坡及阿根廷等地泳手爭逐殊榮。 港隊今屆賽事仍以鄧韋樂表現最突出,他在強項200米自由泳初賽以2分00.84秒排第2名晉級,及至決賽再把時間推快至1分58.22秒,摘下銀牌。隊友黃漢彥、蔡華傑、許家俊及陳朗天分別位居第11、第12、第13及第19名。 女將陳睿琳在200米自由泳決賽雖排第8,無緣三甲,仍以2分22.52秒游出PB(個人最佳成績)。 資料來源:British Swimming/全球使者部落
【體路專訊】香港飛魚在「謝菲爾德2018世界殘疾人游泳系列賽」傳來捷報,殘奧金牌好手鄧韋樂勇奪男子200米自由泳銀牌。 「謝菲爾德2018世界殘疾人游泳系列賽」是IPC世界殘疾人游泳系列賽的第7站賽事,同樣為所有殘疾組別一同作賽,並以他們的成績化為分數(WPS),總成績最高分者勝出。過往香港智障游泳隊多次參賽均取得佳績,此次陣容仍以哥本哈根站的人腳為主,與東道主英國、日本、荷蘭、冰島、泰國、新加坡及阿根廷等地泳手爭逐殊榮。 港隊今屆賽事仍以鄧韋樂表現最突出,他在強項200米自由泳初賽以2分00.84秒排第2名晉級,及至決賽再把時間推快至1分58.22秒,摘下銀牌。隊友黃漢彥、蔡華傑、許家俊及陳朗天分別位居第11、第12、第13及第19名。 女將陳睿琳在200米自由泳決賽雖排第8,無緣三甲,仍以2分22.52秒游出PB(個人最佳成績)。 資料來源:British Swimming/全球使者部落
英國殘疾人泳賽鄧韋樂200自摘銀
【體路專訊】香港飛魚在「謝菲爾德2018世界殘疾人游泳系列賽」傳來捷報,殘奧金牌好手鄧韋樂勇奪男子200米自由泳銀牌。 「謝菲爾德2018世界殘疾人游泳系列賽」是IPC世界殘疾人游泳系列賽的第7站賽事,同樣為所有殘疾組別一同作賽,並以他們的成績化為分數(WPS),總成績最高分者勝出。過往香港智障游泳隊多次參賽均取得佳績,此次陣容仍以哥本哈根站的人腳為主,與東道主英國、日本、荷蘭、冰島、泰國、新加坡及阿根廷等地泳手爭逐殊榮。 港隊今屆賽事仍以鄧韋樂表現最突出,他在強項200米自由泳初賽以2分00.84秒排第2名晉級,及至決賽再把時間推快至1分58.22秒,摘下銀牌。隊友黃漢彥、蔡華傑、許家俊及陳朗天分別位居第11、第12、第13及第19名。 女將陳睿琳在200米自由泳決賽雖排第8,無緣三甲,仍以2分22.52秒游出PB(個人最佳成績)。 資料來源:British Swimming/全球使者部落
"I'm not going 1-15. No I'll be swimming in that lake over there somewhere," Jackson said in January 2017.
Watch: Hue Jackson keeps promise, jumps into Lake Erie after Browns go 0-16
"I'm not going 1-15. No I'll be swimming in that lake over there somewhere," Jackson said in January 2017.
The oversized Scrounger type swim head and big jerkbait style bass fishing soft plastics have made a big splash in ledge fishing in the last several years, especially on the TVA chain of lakes and down in Texas. There are several options on the market for heads and for plastics but we thought it would be interesting to take a look at one version to see what the bait looks like to the fish. The Jenko Tennessee River Tremor Head (https://goo.gl/UetNq3) and Tremor Shad (https://goo.gl/Hgf8v5) were specifically designed to be fished together to mimic a large forage like gizzard shad that are popular for big bass on the Tennessee River. The head features a rounded head with soft plastic bill and a snap clip to allow the head to pivot freely as water is forced round the cupped lip of the Tremor Head. The combination Tremor Shad and Tremor Head rolls and shimmies along giving it a nice vibrating swimming action. But we realized quickly that the appeal from this combination is the flash of the body sides. It's almost part crankbait and part spinnerbait but in an oversized soft plastic profile. The bait has to hit a sweet spot on speed to get the full effect. Too slow and the action is subtle and not much to it. Too fast and it will start to ride up and out of the target area. You can play with line size to keep it running deeper by using smaller diameter line. You can pull it and drop it and stutter it but its best flash and appearance seems to be on steady medium to medium fast retrieve. If you want to fish it faster in deep water, go up to 1 1/4 ounce size head and drop down to 12 or 14-pound fluorocarbon line. We usually like to fish it on a 7-foot to 7-foot, 6-inch medium-heavy rod with a 6.3:1 reel to give it a nice steady speed on the retrieve.
Jenko Tremor Shad and Tremor Head | What it Looks Like Underwater
The oversized Scrounger type swim head and big jerkbait style bass fishing soft plastics have made a big splash in ledge fishing in the last several years, especially on the TVA chain of lakes and down in Texas. There are several options on the market for heads and for plastics but we thought it would be interesting to take a look at one version to see what the bait looks like to the fish. The Jenko Tennessee River Tremor Head (https://goo.gl/UetNq3) and Tremor Shad (https://goo.gl/Hgf8v5) were specifically designed to be fished together to mimic a large forage like gizzard shad that are popular for big bass on the Tennessee River. The head features a rounded head with soft plastic bill and a snap clip to allow the head to pivot freely as water is forced round the cupped lip of the Tremor Head. The combination Tremor Shad and Tremor Head rolls and shimmies along giving it a nice vibrating swimming action. But we realized quickly that the appeal from this combination is the flash of the body sides. It's almost part crankbait and part spinnerbait but in an oversized soft plastic profile. The bait has to hit a sweet spot on speed to get the full effect. Too slow and the action is subtle and not much to it. Too fast and it will start to ride up and out of the target area. You can play with line size to keep it running deeper by using smaller diameter line. You can pull it and drop it and stutter it but its best flash and appearance seems to be on steady medium to medium fast retrieve. If you want to fish it faster in deep water, go up to 1 1/4 ounce size head and drop down to 12 or 14-pound fluorocarbon line. We usually like to fish it on a 7-foot to 7-foot, 6-inch medium-heavy rod with a 6.3:1 reel to give it a nice steady speed on the retrieve.
The oversized Scrounger type swim head and big jerkbait style bass fishing soft plastics have made a big splash in ledge fishing in the last several years, especially on the TVA chain of lakes and down in Texas. There are several options on the market for heads and for plastics but we thought it would be interesting to take a look at one version to see what the bait looks like to the fish. The Jenko Tennessee River Tremor Head (https://goo.gl/UetNq3) and Tremor Shad (https://goo.gl/Hgf8v5) were specifically designed to be fished together to mimic a large forage like gizzard shad that are popular for big bass on the Tennessee River. The head features a rounded head with soft plastic bill and a snap clip to allow the head to pivot freely as water is forced round the cupped lip of the Tremor Head. The combination Tremor Shad and Tremor Head rolls and shimmies along giving it a nice vibrating swimming action. But we realized quickly that the appeal from this combination is the flash of the body sides. It's almost part crankbait and part spinnerbait but in an oversized soft plastic profile. The bait has to hit a sweet spot on speed to get the full effect. Too slow and the action is subtle and not much to it. Too fast and it will start to ride up and out of the target area. You can play with line size to keep it running deeper by using smaller diameter line. You can pull it and drop it and stutter it but its best flash and appearance seems to be on steady medium to medium fast retrieve. If you want to fish it faster in deep water, go up to 1 1/4 ounce size head and drop down to 12 or 14-pound fluorocarbon line. We usually like to fish it on a 7-foot to 7-foot, 6-inch medium-heavy rod with a 6.3:1 reel to give it a nice steady speed on the retrieve.
Jenko Tremor Shad and Tremor Head | What it Looks Like Underwater
The oversized Scrounger type swim head and big jerkbait style bass fishing soft plastics have made a big splash in ledge fishing in the last several years, especially on the TVA chain of lakes and down in Texas. There are several options on the market for heads and for plastics but we thought it would be interesting to take a look at one version to see what the bait looks like to the fish. The Jenko Tennessee River Tremor Head (https://goo.gl/UetNq3) and Tremor Shad (https://goo.gl/Hgf8v5) were specifically designed to be fished together to mimic a large forage like gizzard shad that are popular for big bass on the Tennessee River. The head features a rounded head with soft plastic bill and a snap clip to allow the head to pivot freely as water is forced round the cupped lip of the Tremor Head. The combination Tremor Shad and Tremor Head rolls and shimmies along giving it a nice vibrating swimming action. But we realized quickly that the appeal from this combination is the flash of the body sides. It's almost part crankbait and part spinnerbait but in an oversized soft plastic profile. The bait has to hit a sweet spot on speed to get the full effect. Too slow and the action is subtle and not much to it. Too fast and it will start to ride up and out of the target area. You can play with line size to keep it running deeper by using smaller diameter line. You can pull it and drop it and stutter it but its best flash and appearance seems to be on steady medium to medium fast retrieve. If you want to fish it faster in deep water, go up to 1 1/4 ounce size head and drop down to 12 or 14-pound fluorocarbon line. We usually like to fish it on a 7-foot to 7-foot, 6-inch medium-heavy rod with a 6.3:1 reel to give it a nice steady speed on the retrieve.
The oversized Scrounger type swim head and big jerkbait style bass fishing soft plastics have made a big splash in ledge fishing in the last several years, especially on the TVA chain of lakes and down in Texas. There are several options on the market for heads and for plastics but we thought it would be interesting to take a look at one version to see what the bait looks like to the fish. The Jenko Tennessee River Tremor Head (https://goo.gl/UetNq3) and Tremor Shad (https://goo.gl/Hgf8v5) were specifically designed to be fished together to mimic a large forage like gizzard shad that are popular for big bass on the Tennessee River. The head features a rounded head with soft plastic bill and a snap clip to allow the head to pivot freely as water is forced round the cupped lip of the Tremor Head. The combination Tremor Shad and Tremor Head rolls and shimmies along giving it a nice vibrating swimming action. But we realized quickly that the appeal from this combination is the flash of the body sides. It's almost part crankbait and part spinnerbait but in an oversized soft plastic profile. The bait has to hit a sweet spot on speed to get the full effect. Too slow and the action is subtle and not much to it. Too fast and it will start to ride up and out of the target area. You can play with line size to keep it running deeper by using smaller diameter line. You can pull it and drop it and stutter it but its best flash and appearance seems to be on steady medium to medium fast retrieve. If you want to fish it faster in deep water, go up to 1 1/4 ounce size head and drop down to 12 or 14-pound fluorocarbon line. We usually like to fish it on a 7-foot to 7-foot, 6-inch medium-heavy rod with a 6.3:1 reel to give it a nice steady speed on the retrieve.
Jenko Tremor Shad and Tremor Head | What it Looks Like Underwater
The oversized Scrounger type swim head and big jerkbait style bass fishing soft plastics have made a big splash in ledge fishing in the last several years, especially on the TVA chain of lakes and down in Texas. There are several options on the market for heads and for plastics but we thought it would be interesting to take a look at one version to see what the bait looks like to the fish. The Jenko Tennessee River Tremor Head (https://goo.gl/UetNq3) and Tremor Shad (https://goo.gl/Hgf8v5) were specifically designed to be fished together to mimic a large forage like gizzard shad that are popular for big bass on the Tennessee River. The head features a rounded head with soft plastic bill and a snap clip to allow the head to pivot freely as water is forced round the cupped lip of the Tremor Head. The combination Tremor Shad and Tremor Head rolls and shimmies along giving it a nice vibrating swimming action. But we realized quickly that the appeal from this combination is the flash of the body sides. It's almost part crankbait and part spinnerbait but in an oversized soft plastic profile. The bait has to hit a sweet spot on speed to get the full effect. Too slow and the action is subtle and not much to it. Too fast and it will start to ride up and out of the target area. You can play with line size to keep it running deeper by using smaller diameter line. You can pull it and drop it and stutter it but its best flash and appearance seems to be on steady medium to medium fast retrieve. If you want to fish it faster in deep water, go up to 1 1/4 ounce size head and drop down to 12 or 14-pound fluorocarbon line. We usually like to fish it on a 7-foot to 7-foot, 6-inch medium-heavy rod with a 6.3:1 reel to give it a nice steady speed on the retrieve.
The oversized Scrounger type swim head and big jerkbait style bass fishing soft plastics have made a big splash in ledge fishing in the last several years, especially on the TVA chain of lakes and down in Texas. There are several options on the market for heads and for plastics but we thought it would be interesting to take a look at one version to see what the bait looks like to the fish. The Jenko Tennessee River Tremor Head (https://goo.gl/UetNq3) and Tremor Shad (https://goo.gl/Hgf8v5) were specifically designed to be fished together to mimic a large forage like gizzard shad that are popular for big bass on the Tennessee River. The head features a rounded head with soft plastic bill and a snap clip to allow the head to pivot freely as water is forced round the cupped lip of the Tremor Head. The combination Tremor Shad and Tremor Head rolls and shimmies along giving it a nice vibrating swimming action. But we realized quickly that the appeal from this combination is the flash of the body sides. It's almost part crankbait and part spinnerbait but in an oversized soft plastic profile. The bait has to hit a sweet spot on speed to get the full effect. Too slow and the action is subtle and not much to it. Too fast and it will start to ride up and out of the target area. You can play with line size to keep it running deeper by using smaller diameter line. You can pull it and drop it and stutter it but its best flash and appearance seems to be on steady medium to medium fast retrieve. If you want to fish it faster in deep water, go up to 1 1/4 ounce size head and drop down to 12 or 14-pound fluorocarbon line. We usually like to fish it on a 7-foot to 7-foot, 6-inch medium-heavy rod with a 6.3:1 reel to give it a nice steady speed on the retrieve.
Jenko Tremor Shad and Tremor Head | What it Looks Like Underwater
The oversized Scrounger type swim head and big jerkbait style bass fishing soft plastics have made a big splash in ledge fishing in the last several years, especially on the TVA chain of lakes and down in Texas. There are several options on the market for heads and for plastics but we thought it would be interesting to take a look at one version to see what the bait looks like to the fish. The Jenko Tennessee River Tremor Head (https://goo.gl/UetNq3) and Tremor Shad (https://goo.gl/Hgf8v5) were specifically designed to be fished together to mimic a large forage like gizzard shad that are popular for big bass on the Tennessee River. The head features a rounded head with soft plastic bill and a snap clip to allow the head to pivot freely as water is forced round the cupped lip of the Tremor Head. The combination Tremor Shad and Tremor Head rolls and shimmies along giving it a nice vibrating swimming action. But we realized quickly that the appeal from this combination is the flash of the body sides. It's almost part crankbait and part spinnerbait but in an oversized soft plastic profile. The bait has to hit a sweet spot on speed to get the full effect. Too slow and the action is subtle and not much to it. Too fast and it will start to ride up and out of the target area. You can play with line size to keep it running deeper by using smaller diameter line. You can pull it and drop it and stutter it but its best flash and appearance seems to be on steady medium to medium fast retrieve. If you want to fish it faster in deep water, go up to 1 1/4 ounce size head and drop down to 12 or 14-pound fluorocarbon line. We usually like to fish it on a 7-foot to 7-foot, 6-inch medium-heavy rod with a 6.3:1 reel to give it a nice steady speed on the retrieve.
Former Russian Olympic swimming champion and candidate for the Russian Olympic Committee presidency, Alexander Popov and Vladimir Lisin, chairman of the board of directors of Russian steelmaker NLMK, attend a meeting to vote for a new head of the committee at its headquarters in Moscow, Russia May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Candidate for the Russian Olympic Committee presidency Popov and chairman of the board of directors of NLMK Lisin attend a meeting to vote for a new head of the committee at its headquarters in Moscow
Former Russian Olympic swimming champion and candidate for the Russian Olympic Committee presidency, Alexander Popov and Vladimir Lisin, chairman of the board of directors of Russian steelmaker NLMK, attend a meeting to vote for a new head of the committee at its headquarters in Moscow, Russia May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Former Russian Olympic swimming champion and candidate for the Russian Olympic Committee presidency, Alexander Popov attends a meeting to vote for a new head of the committee at its headquarters in Moscow, Russia May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Former Russian Olympic swimming champion and candidate for the Russian Olympic Committee presidency, Popov attends a meeting to vote for a new head of the committee at its headquarters in Moscow
Former Russian Olympic swimming champion and candidate for the Russian Olympic Committee presidency, Alexander Popov attends a meeting to vote for a new head of the committee at its headquarters in Moscow, Russia May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Former Russian Olympic swimming champion and candidate for the Russian Olympic Committee presidency, Alexander Popov attends a meeting to vote for a new head of the committee at its headquarters in Moscow, Russia May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Former Russian Olympic swimming champion and candidate for the Russian Olympic Committee presidency, Popov attends a meeting to vote for a new head of the committee at its headquarters in Moscow
Former Russian Olympic swimming champion and candidate for the Russian Olympic Committee presidency, Alexander Popov attends a meeting to vote for a new head of the committee at its headquarters in Moscow, Russia May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Former Russian Olympic swimming champion and candidate for the Russian Olympic Committee presidency, Alexander Popov and Vladimir Lisin, chairman of the board of directors of Russian steelmaker NLMK, attend a meeting to vote for a new head of the committee at its headquarters in Moscow, Russia May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Candidate for the Russian Olympic Committee presidency Popov and chairman of the board of directors of NLMK Lisin attend a meeting to vote for a new head of the committee at its headquarters in Moscow
Former Russian Olympic swimming champion and candidate for the Russian Olympic Committee presidency, Alexander Popov and Vladimir Lisin, chairman of the board of directors of Russian steelmaker NLMK, attend a meeting to vote for a new head of the committee at its headquarters in Moscow, Russia May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Hungary's Katinka Hosszu, who added two more gold medals to her haul at the 2017 swimming World Championships in Budapest, said she has not been able to resolve personal issues with husband and coach Shane Tusup
Hungary's Katinka Hosszu, who added two more gold medals to her haul at the 2017 swimming World Championships in Budapest, said she has not been able to resolve personal issues with husband and coach Shane Tusup
Hungary's Katinka Hosszu, who added two more gold medals to her haul at the 2017 swimming World Championships in Budapest, said she has not been able to resolve personal issues with husband and coach Shane Tusup
Hungary's Katinka Hosszu, who added two more gold medals to her haul at the 2017 swimming World Championships in Budapest, said she has not been able to resolve personal issues with husband and coach Shane Tusup. (AFP Photo/Martin BUREAU)
Hungary's Katinka Hosszu, who added two more gold medals to her haul at the 2017 swimming World Championships in Budapest, said she has not been able to resolve personal issues with husband and coach Shane Tusup
Hungary's Katinka Hosszu, who added two more gold medals to her haul at the 2017 swimming World Championships in Budapest, said she has not been able to resolve personal issues with husband and coach Shane Tusup. (AFP Photo/Martin BUREAU)

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