EPL Clubs 2013-14 Season Tactical Review : An array of styles in midfield
Manchester City were crowned the Champions of England after what could be called as probably the most exciting premier league season ever. Last time City won the league, it was branded the best finish to the league, but Pellegrini and Co. were in the driving seat and chose to steer clear of any sort of last minute drama. Liverpool had little luck in their hands, but they still managed to make it a hard fought win against a resilient Newcastle side who started with a 5 man back-line. Chelsea meanwhile, came back from a goal down to end the season with a win, and secured the 3rd place with ease.
It has been a season with many ups and downs and some uncharacteristic results all over the place. A lot of sackings and many new faces coming, both players and managers. In this tactical review, we will take a look at the top 10 teams in the table and analyze their performances, covering mainly the tactics and strategies employed by their managers over the course of the season. We start off with the 10th team in the final table, Newcastle United, and work our way up.
10. Newcastle United
In: Luuk De Jong[L], Loic Remy[L]
Out: Yohan Cabaye, James Perch, Danny Simpson
Player of the Season: Yohan Cabaye
After a flurry of transfer activity in the previous season which saw a huge influx of French players, and a relegation survival, Alan Pardew turned the fortunes of Newcastle around with an impressive first half of 2013-14 season. With all summer to work out his ideal squad, Pardew devised a plan to fit in his French recruits, giving more weightage to team play and keen opposition scouting.
Applying the 4-2-3-1 formation to the squad, built to be industrious and able to grind out results, the first half of the season until the new year saw 10 wins in 19 games. The burden of team’s creativity was vested in Yohan Cabaye, who marshaled the midfield along with Anita and Tiote.
Hard working wingers are a plus, but too much reliance on Cabaye: Sissokho and Gouffran were used more as wide midfielders, with Sissokho especially breaking forward quickly on counters. This strong wide midfield pair allowed the fullbacks Debuchy and Santon to play high up the pitch. But Newcastle eventually conceded space in between the lines, and almost 50% of the goals they conceded were from the edge of the box.
Remy proved a good goal machine, with Cabaye their best player of the season, even though he left in January. The second half of the season from January was pretty much a downslide, with only 5 wins and a draw in 19 games. This poor run can be solely attributed to the absence of Cabaye in midfield.
Pardew just didn’t have a similar replacement lined up for the Frenchman, and Luuk De Jong could manage only 8 starts. So, a creative No.10, a good center-back and a prolific striker should be on Alan Pardew’s shopping list in the summer.
9. Stoke City
In: Ireland, Assaidi[L], Arnautovic, Pieters, Odemwingie, Muniesa, Guidetti[L]
Out: Delap, Upson, Whitehead, Owen, Kenwyne Jones, Pennant
Player of the Season: Peter Crouch
Mark Hughes stepped into the shoes of Toni Pulis with a mission to topple the existing persona of the style of football Stoke City have been practicing over the last few years. It was evident right from the start of the season, with the kind of players departing the club, that Hughes wanted to infuse a new theory at the Britannia Stadium. The signings of Ireland, Arnautovic and Assaidi improved the creativity factor of the club, which was renowned for its hoof-ball approach.
Woeful away form, midfield is sub standard: The most used formation was the 4-2-3-1, with Crouch playing as the lone striker/center-forward. Stoke essentially didn’t run away too far from their long ball game this season, but they did divert their resources to playing more ground passes and creative football.
But they conceded a lot of goals, particularly away from home. The major problem was the lack of shape when defending counters, and surprisingly, when defending set pieces. Also, the midfield duo of N’zonzi and Whelan gave away too much space behind them, resulting in almost 54% of the goals conceded from outside the box.
For the next season, Mark Hughes will be needing a good holding midfielder, and a few attacking players to add to the squad depth.