Roberto Baggio

Roberto Baggio
Il Divin Codino

Sunday, 9 September 2012

10 Europeans Ready to Shine

Étienne Capoue - France

For the last couple of years, the Toulouse midfielder has managed to fly under the radar of many fans due to the prominence of Yann M'Vila, but with the Rennes' man's fall from grace, the more defensively astute player can now step into the spotlight. Boasting plenty of Ligue 1 experience from his time with les Violets, he is a more physically imposing player than his compatriot, smarter positionally and stronger in the air. Technically he is strong too, and now is his time to shine in the national team. His pedigree is well known among the top clubs, and the likes of Barcelona and Arsenal have been following him for several seasons now.  

Thibaut Courtois - Belgium


Having joined Atletico Madrid on loan from Chelsea to replace David de Gea, the 20-year-old Courtois put in a number of fine displays last season. Despite De Gea's critics since moving to the Premier League, the Belgium international certainly had big gloves to fill at the Vicente Calderon, and fill them he did. Producing some scarcely-believable saves to complement his commanding performances, he picked up where the Spaniard left off. If this promising Belgium side are to live up to the hype, then they are going to need a solid base on which to build. Fortunately, Courtois can be that very cornerstone for the next two decades.  

Leroy Fer - Netherlands


The versatile midfielder made his Oranje debut in the friendly against Ukraine in August 2010, but had not been called up since. However, due to his excellent start to the Eredivisie season with Twente, national team coach Louis van Gaal had no other option but to recall the 22-year-old for Netherlands' first World Cup qualifier against Turkey. Fer, nicknamed 'The Bouncer' for his impressive physique, is a typical modern midfielder, who not only does plenty of work defensively, but brings something to the table in attack. He has shown over the years that he has an eye for goal, and his well-timed runs forward can trouble any defence. 

Lorenzo Insigne - Italy


At 21 years old, Lorenzo Insigne received his first international call-up on Sunday evening. The diminutive forward has spent the last two seasons away from parent club Napoli, but impressed while at Foggia and Pescara with his eye for goal. The departure of Ezequiel Lavezzi has opened the door for him at the San Paolo, and his frightening dribbling ability in one-on-one situations and from set-pieces marks him out as a notable prospect. He has scored twice in three Under-21 appearances for his country, and the 2014 World Cup qualification campaign could be the perfect platform for him to burst into football's global conscience.

Javi Martínez - Spain

The curious case of Javi Martinez. At the age of 23, he has already won the World Cup and the European Championship, but he has been little more than a squad player in both of Spain's most recent successes. Fresh from his €40 million move from Athletic Bilbao to Bayern Munich, he will be keen to show that he has what it takes to thrive at one of Europe's biggest clubs. And with La Roja coach Vicente del Bosque likely to need defensive or midfield reinforcements along the road to Brazil, the Basque midfielder will have ample opportunity to cement a first-team place for himself. 

Pablo Osvaldo - Italy

Pablo Osvaldo has been threatening to explode for a couple of seasons now after two promising terms at Espanyol and Roma, but the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign could be when he really hits his peak internationally. The 26-year-old has enjoyed a stunning start to the Serie A season, scoring a brilliant acrobatic bicycle kick against Catania and a delightful chip at San Siro to down Inter. Blessed with power, pace, technique and a bullet header, Osvaldo is expected to start for Italy in Bulgaria and has set his sights on a long-term partnership in the Azzurri attack with the currently injured Mario Balotelli. 

Marco Reus - Germany

From keeping Borussia Monchengladbach in the Bundesliga to firing them into the Champions League, Marco Reus has been making quite the name for himself. His progress on the international scene, however, has been stunted. Blighted by injuries, he was unable to make his Germany debut until October 2011, some five months after receiving his first call-up to Joachim Low's squad. Since then, though, he hasn't looked back, and now looks set to be an automatic pick at the expense of either Thomas Muller or Lukas Podolski. Now with champions Borussia Dortmund, he has all the ability to star not just in qualifying, but in Brazil itself. 

Axel Witsel - Belgium

One year on from joining Benfica, Witsel is on the move again, this time to Zenit St Petersburg in the Russian Premier League for a whopping €40m. He has been in and around the Belgium set-up for around four years now and, like many of his undoubtedly talented team-mates, he has yet to make a significant impact in the international arena. He gained notoriety for his unedifying stamp on Marcin Wasilewski in a Belgian league game between Standard Liege and Anderlecht in 2009 but, the occasional red flash aside, he is undoubtedly one of the key figures in this most promising of Belgian outfits.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Nomads and Icons

Daniele De Rossi recently reaffirmed his commitment to home-town club AS Roma, citing the affection shown to him the previous weekend when the Giallorossi played their first friendly of the new season at their Stadio Olimpico home. The 29-year-old midfielder spoke in reverential tones of his love for everything Roman and the deep-seated loyalty he feels for the club and its famous colours.

In rejecting the sustained approaches from Manchester City, De Rossi proved once again that, for footballers, the old 'there's no place like home' adage can resonate as loudly as it does in any other walk of life. Even without home-field advantage, the comfort of familiar surroundings or the adoration of local fans afforded to De Rossi, most players quickly become accustomed to what they forever refer to as 'their' club.

Perhaps the most encompassing example of this in today's game is to be found at Barcelona, where more than half of the current first-team squad are products of the club's famed academy at La Masia. Players may leave for other clubs but, as Gerard Pique, Cesc Fàbregas and Jordi Alba proved over the last few years, the lure of the Blaugrana never really leaves.

This shows a sense of belonging that seems to hold true throughout Spain, a country where it is difficult to imagine home-grown players crossing the Clásico divide. Neither Barcelona nor Real Madrid currently have any player on their books who has represented the other, and it is hard to envision anyone on either side changing allegiance in the current climate, just as it seems impossible we could see Atleti icon Fernando Torres join Real Madrid later in his career.

Even in England, Torres' move from Liverpool to Chelsea is a rarity, with moves between the so-called 'Big Four' - the two Manchester clubs, Arsenal and Chelsea - seldom happening.
In Italy, however, the story is quite different, with no fewer than 24 players among the squads of Milan, Roma, Inter and Juventus who have, at some point in their careers, made an appearance at one or more of the other top four clubs. There are many reasons for this, not least of which is the aftermath of the 2006 Calciopoli trials, which saw Inter take full advantage of the situation.
Not only did the Nerazzurri bring in two players from the then relegated Juventus - Patrick Vieira and Zlatan Ibrahimovic - as well as former Roma players Walter Samuel and Cristian Chivu, but their signings displaced several talented players to other clubs. The presence of Nicolas Burdisso in today's Roma squad can be directly attributed to the fallout of those match-fixing punishments, and the same can be said for Gianluca Zambrotta's arrival at Milan via Barcelona.

Luciano Moggi's transfer policy while in charge of current champions Juventus also played a key role as his desire to build a team to win instantly was at the expense of the future. It may have worked brilliantly at the time but, by using products of Juve's hugely successful Primavera and Youth Sector as leverage to sign other players, there are now many ex-Juventini at other clubs, including both Simone Perrotta and Federico Balzaretti at Roma.

The mismanagement and a lack of a coherent transfer policy at Inter prior to 2006 is another reason for the shuffling of players at the top. Is there any other top club across Europe who has released players as talented as Adriano, Fabio Grosso, Leonardo Bonucci, Mattia Destro, Clarence Seedorf and Andrea Pirlo over the last ten years only to see them enjoy the best years of their careers elsewhere? Unlikely.

Prior to the takeover led by Thomas DiBenedetto, the financial difficulties of AS Roma were also a major factor and the sale of Alberto Aquilani to Liverpool - as well as the expiration of Philippe Mexès' contract - were almost exclusively allowed in order to permit the Giallorossi to survive and compete in an ever decreasing calcio elite.

Above all, however, it has been Italian football's lack of faith in young players that sees so many talented players switch clubs with increasing regularity. Of those 24 players to have lined up for more than one of Serie A's big four, 14 grew up in the youth ranks of another top club. This is a percentage unparalleled almost anywhere in world football.

While some have taken a longer route back to the top after being discarded, others - like former Milan striker Marco Borriello, now at Roma - were sent directly from one to the other. Milan's signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic undoubtedly played its part but Borriello could have given some much needed depth to an attack that at times last season looked bereft of ideas and short on goals.
Before the crazy swap deal that saw Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini change sides and Andrea Pirlo join Juventus on a free transfer following his release by Milan, Alessandro Matri was the latest player to cross the boundaries of Serie A's top clubs. Despite spending ten years on the books of the Rossoneri, he made just two appearances for the club.

Yet again Juve used the rights to one of their own youth products, Lorenzo Ariaudo, to secure the player while fielding ex-Inter defender Leo Bonucci in Ariaudo's position. It would be no surprise to see the latter, now owned wholly by Cagliari, spend three or four years in the provinces only to surface at another big club later in his career.

This is no new trend in Italy, where Giuseppe Meazza played for Inter during the 1930s and then Milan, Juventus and - eventually - Inter again in the 1940s. Roberto Baggio repeated this Triple Crown in the 1990s, as did Edgar Davids and Christian Vieri. Gunnar Nordahl moved directly from Milan to Roma, Jose Altafini and Kurt Hamrin played for both Juventus and Milan while John Charles may have made his name at Juve but also played ten matches during a brief stint at Roma.
Perhaps the strangest aspect of this phenomenon, however, is that Italy also boasts the greatest number of one club icons, both now and in the past. De Rossi's decision places him alongside team-mate Francesco Totti, the evergreen Inter captain Javier Zanetti and Udinese forward Antonio Di Natale as the latest high-profile examples of a pattern that flows from Gianpiero Combi, Valentino Mazzola and Giampiero Boniperti through Gigi Riva, Giancarlo Antognoni and Gianni Rivera to Beppe Bergomi, Franco Baresi and the recently departed Alessandro Del Piero.

Like many aspects of Italian life, there is a stark juxtaposition between this intense loyalty and its total absence. From prodigies to failed youth, mercenaries and bandiera, Italian football truly has it all.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Spain's Quick-Passing Game Lacks Football's Greatest Skill

Since the World Cup of 1994 I have always been extolling the virtues of Spain - though, in the past, they looked like a team that was never going to win anything. That's to let you know that I can claim a long-time adherence to the Spanish style. And that is also by the way of unloading some of the guilt I feel as I now pick fault with it.
The Spanish have most beautifully reminded us that football is a game that is best played with the ball on the ground. That is where it can be coaxed and cajoled by the skilled players. The intricacy and artistry of such a game exposes the sheer crudity of a style based on aerial play in which the ball spends long periods in the air, uncontrolled by anyone.
My problem with Spain now is that, having got the ball back where it belongs, they fail to make much use of what is surely the sport's supreme skill: dribbling. The supreme skill, the unique skill, the most exciting and the most entertaining skill, going back to the days when the sport was known as "the dribbling game".

The atrophy of dribbling in sport is not blamed on Spain. A thoroughly unpleasant anti-dribbling culture has been allowed to grow up within football which sees dribbling as nothing more than a circus act, hot-dogging performed simply to show off and make fools of defenders.
A few tears back the anti-dribbling mentality came to the surface in, of all places, Brazil. In 2002 a player was yellow-carded for performing a series of step-overs on front of an opponent, with the referee judging him guilty of trying to provoke the opponent.
Under this mentality, the defenders feel entitled to retaliate, to foul and kick the dribblers.
Dribbling has become a dangerous, and therefore an endangered skill.
Robinho's early dribbling exploits for Santos in Brazil were met with hostility and veiled threats.
"He could end up having his leg broken," said Grêmio goalkeeper Danrlei. Muricy Ramalho, at the time the coach of São Paulo, regretted: "It seems that today you can't do a nice dribble any more."
Some players still try. Cristiano Ronaldo certainly does, and he in turn has been threatened. "After two minutes we will normally have to attack Ronaldo so much that he will have to leave the field," was Belgium goalkeeper Stijn Stijnen's matter-of-fact comment.
But it is of course Lionel Messi who currently personifies the magic of dribbling. It is Messi who makes Barcelona so much more complete a team than Spain. More complete, more dangerous and certainly more exciting. The brilliance of Messi's curling left-footed shot that scored the winning goal for Argentina in a recent 4-3 win over Brazil was unmistakable. But the quick surging dribble that led up to it, those few moments of thrilling suspense, made this goal so much more than the shot itself. Just as the final shot with which Diego Maradona scored in 1986 against England was totally eclipsed by the brilliance of the dribbling that preceded it.
Wonderful goals, complete football, goals. We don't get much dribbling from Spain. Why is that? Have the anti-dribbling forces won this battle? Have they made their view that dribbling is a provocation, the orthodox view? Is the cynicism of "he had to take him down, what else could he do?" now so widely accepted that it's OK to ignore the rules of the game in order to stop a dribbler?
Spain, with their quick-passing, on-the-ground possession game have found a superb answer to the curse of defensive play. But have they also found it necessary to sacrifice football's most precious skill, only because it might cause them to lose hold of the ball?

Wide Boys with Connections

Wingers and full-backs are often the key to success but their central midfield links are crucial

A football team is a holistic entity. Nothing exists independently of anything else; a change in one part of the pitch can have a profound impact elsewhere. It can often appear the the key contest in a game is between a vaunted wide man and an attacking full-back, but often the battle on the flank ends up being either a sideshow or a function of what is going on elsewhere on the pitch.
The full-back versus winger interaction is fascinating because there is no "right" way to approach it. Everything is relative. When Real Madrid beat Manchester United 3-1 in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final in 2003, for instance, Roberto Carlos played as though David Beckham didn't exist, constantly surging past him. Beckham was a diligent wide midfielder, but his lack of pace meant he couldn't track the Brazilian without starting deeper, and he had clear instructions to start hight up the pitch, presumably to try to discourage Roberto Carlos from getting forward as he did.

This was a classic example of the trait that Jack Charlton highlighted after the 1994 World Cup, noting that, tactically, full-back had become the most important position on the pitch. His point was that when 4-4-2 meets 4-4-2, or when one side plays narrow, the full-backs are the only players with space in front of them and they are the only players who can realistically expect to be moving at pace when engaging an opponent. Beckham couldn't cope with Roberto Carlos by sitting deep because Madrid's left back would already have accelerated by the time he met him. The logic therefore said that he should play high. But Roberto Carlos ignored him, leaving Beckham a lonely figure waiting for a pass that never came. United would probably have been better off either with Beckham sitting very deep, almost as an auxiliary right-back in front of Gary Neville, or sacrificing Beckham for a pacier player.
But that doesn't mean that when facing an attacking full-back retreat is always the best policy. In a World Cup qualifier in Zagerb in 2008, for instance, England manager Fabio Capello's response to the retreat of Danijel Pranjić, whose link up on Croatia's left flank with Ivan Rakitić had looked so potent, was to play Theo Walcott high on the England right. Pranjić ignored him, as Roberto Carlos had ignored Beckham, but found that when England worked the ball behind him, Walcott's pace was such that he couldn't recover. Walcott scored a hat-trick as England won 4-1 and became the first side to beat Croatia in a competitive game at the Maksimir.
This season's Manchester derby at City's Etihad Stadium offered a similar winger-on-full-back narrative. Nani had torn Gaël Clichy apart in one particular game between Manchester United and Arsenal and it was, presumably, memories of that which prompted Alex Ferguson to prefer the Portuguese winger to Antonio Valencia, who had been in superb form over the past two months, against City. As it turned out, Nani was a peripheral figure and Clichy not only handled him comfortably from a defensive point of view but also went charging past him to link up with the midfield on a couple of occasions.

Individual Battles

Last season's Champions League semi-final between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich looked as though it would feature two similar battles on the Madrid left, where Cristina Ronaldo was taking on Phillip Lahm, and Arjen Robben was up against Fábio Coentrão in the first leg and Marcelo in the second. Because neither winger tracks back, these were individual battles.

In the first game, in Munich, Coentrão had a dismal time, left isolated as Lahm was able to get forward to support Robben, and it was precisely that overlap that led to Bayern's second goal. In the second leg, Bayern, while on the back foot, were able to contain Ronaldo and Marcelo relatively comfortably. This was largely because Lahm got forward to support Robben occasionally while Marcelo was rarely able to link up with Ronaldo.
So what exactly was happening in these four games?

In Munich, Bayern controlled midfield despite Bastian Schweinsteiger having a poor game by his standards. Toni Kroos - a far more intelligent and adaptable footballer than Thomas Müller, whose place he effectively took - dropped deep from a position behind Mario Gómez to link with Schweinsteiger and Luiz Gustavo, effectively giving Bayern an extra half man than Madrid, for whom Mesut Özil - Kroos' counterpart in the respective 4-2-3-1s - remained high. That gave Bayern control of the centre, which they capitalised on by driving Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira deeper and deeper, never giving either time on the ball. That encouraged Lahm to push up the pitch, which in turn enhanced their control of midfield.

Defensive Role

Chelsea's response in the Final was simply to cede midfield. They attempted to frustrate Bayern's full-backs by lining up a double curtain in front of them; Ryan Bertrand operating as an auxiliary left-back in front of Ashley Cole, while Solomon Kalou played a more defensive role than usual, supporting José Bosingwa.

On the left the policy was a success, with Philip Lahm rarely getting forward to support Arjen Robben - which perhaps explains why Robben so often cut inside and shot from range. On the right, Bosingwa struggled at times with Diego Contento overlapping and it was from that flank that both the Bayern goal and the penalty stemmed. Bayern still dominated, and it would be absurd to suggest a team that ceded 35 chances wasn't fortunate in some way. But, equally, Petr Cech only had to make two saves, which suggests that Chelsea, up to a point, at least restricted the type of chance Bayern created.

At the Etihad, the issue was less tactical than physical. United midfield three of Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes and Park Ji-Sung were simply overwhelmed by the power and drive of Gareth Barry and Yaya Touré, supported by the occasional retreat of David Silva, Carlos Tévez or Samir Nasri. That meant that the isolated figure was not the full-back, but rather the winger, which explains why Pablo Zabaleta had such success driving past Ryan Giggs.
The Bernabéu in 2003 offers a similar lesson, as United's midfield three of Roy Keane, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes found themselves pinned back by Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane and Flávio Conceição, making Beckham merely an adornment as Roberto Carlos effectively joined Claude Makélélé in ball-winning.
In the Maksimir in 2008, it was more that England sat deep, defending territory, and then picked out Walcott with long through-passes.
In all four games what happened on the flank was conditioned by what happened in the middle and, in at least two of the cases, control of the centre brought control of the flank, which in turn enhanced control of the centre.
In football everything is connected and everything is relative.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Football Tactics: Emergence of ‘Micro Tactics’ and the Changing Face of Football

Football is evolving, and how...gone are the days when teams used to line up with a default formation of 4-4-2 or a 5-3-2 and collide against each other in a game of skill and physicality. Great managers like Helenio Herrera, Arrigo Sacchi, Rinus Michels, Bob Paisley and Sir Matt Busby always played the same formations, and almost always, the same tactics. Managers like Paisley, Brian Clough, Johann Cruyff and Telê Santana always stuck to an ideology which formed the basis to their tactics and gameplay. And they were successful in creating some of the greatest teams in the history of the game.
A fast forward to the modern day game would see the likes of Jürgen Klopp, André Villas-Boas and Joachim Löw no longer sticking to a simple game plan. In fact, not many managers are ideology-driven today, as they are success-driven. Their tactics are evolving with time, and more importantly, self-evolving. To put things in perspective, on one hand you have a Pep Guardiola, who devotionally follows the time-tested ways of Barcelona, and on the other, a José Mourinho, who carves success out of outsmarting the opposition. In the former’s case, the ideology is more important, and drives the tactical aspect of the game, whereas in the latter’s case, there is no ideology, and the tactics are more dependent on the opposition.

It would be futile to argue on which is a better approach, and I will leave it to the readers to decide for themselves, as that is not the subject of this article in itself. I would only like to hint at how football is progressing, and how the modern game of football is evolving. It is rather interesting to see what Raphael Honigstein of ‘The Guardian’ stated after Bayern’s defeat to Dortmund:
“After a decade in which having a strong “footballing identity” was seen as a must, Klopp’s approach tantalisingly hints at a post-ideological future when there will only be micro-tactics left”
What does this mean to the game? And more importantly, what does it mean to the common fan? There must be a lot of questions that arise in the readers’ minds.
But before all that, what is ‘micro-tactics‘?
To put it simply, micro-tactics is management at its highest level of complexity. Micro-tactics refers to defining each player’s role in a team to the last detail possible. But micro-tactics in football needn’t mean the same, as strategising need not mean telling others what to do. A large part of success comes from drawing a line as to where not to tell them what to do. No player would like to be bogged down with limitations imposed on him, even though a level of control is necessary. Micro-tactics also gives rise to tactics and formations that play best to the abilities of the players available, as opposed to asking the players to play according to an ideology. This allows the coach to extract the most out of the group of players, and thereby perform best to their abilities.
Football, as a game has evolved so much commercially and strategically, that it is no more just a game. Back in old days, it was played for pride and passion for the game. Money, and more importantly success has taken over as the prime motivation today. Head coaches today don’t have the luxury of building a team over 3 or 4 years and then trying to win something. Players want to play at the highest level and add to their silver collection right from the time when they are teens. Post-ideological football will be very different from what we have witnessed over the past decade or two. For a start, new player positions like “defensive targetman” and “fantasista” have evolved recently, which were not in use before.
What has been central to the gradual shift towards micro-tactics has been the rise of young managers like André Villas-Boas, Joachim Löw, Jürgen Klopp, Slaven Bilić, Ciro Ferrara and the likes. José Mourinho opened the floodgates by winning the league and the Champions League with an inexperienced Porto side at a very young age, and since then, we have had many young managers achieving various degrees of success with mostly young sides.
Mourinho has always been known for his tactical display on the field. He would shut the opposition out, and play from the back of the formation, with the striker expected to play more than one role. The midfielders and defenders are on strict instructions on how to play on the pitch. Most of his success comes from loading his own box with defending players and playing long balls up front. It is more probable that he would be remembered as the coach who killed the flair, rather than an advocate of the beautiful game. What an average fan forgets to notice is the kind of discipline and groundwork that goes into it. The manager has to convey to the last bit of instruction, to the players in order for such a tactic to work, as opposed to a free flowing game.
For a team that doesn’t train to a particular philosophy, it is all the more difficult to adjust and readjust themselves every week as the opposition changes. A manager needs to take into account the mentality of the players, and the trust they have on each other while devising tactics, apart from intensive scouting of the opposition. Here is where a manager’s intelligence and astuteness comes into play. It is believed that the German coach Joachim Löw scouts his opposition so thoroughly that he comes up with a list of five formations they play, and prepares his side intensively to play three of them. All with a single formation they play, that is a 4-2-3-1. What changes is the individual instructions. Broadly, there are two versions of the formation that Löw employs. One is a regular 4-2-3-1, which plays by retaining the ball and moving it quickly from one player to the other, while retaining the shape. The other, which is played against attacking teams, is a deep 4-2-3-1, which works more on counters, and mostly through the wide men, while Özil plays as a shadow striker. But Löw is able to play any formation that is put in front of him, just by tweaking how individual players are supposed to play on the field.

It is a similar case with Jürgen Klopp, whose team Borussia Dortmund primarily employs a 4-2-3-1, but there are broadly at least three ways in which they operate – an attacking version which involves quick and short passes, building up from the back, a deep variant which relies more on long passes and use of width, and an asymmetric version, which seeks to expose weaknesses in the opposition. Dortmund have performed so well, that they have been crowned the German champions this season. A lot of credit goes to the coach for identifying players that suit his tactics, and the players themselves for executing the plan on the pitch.
No amount of writing would suffice to stress upon the importance of scouting in the modern game. Every game is scouted, every move is dissected, and every weakness is laid exposed by the shrewdest of the managers. A case in point is Andre Villas-Boas, head coach of Porto, who are the new Portuguese champions and Europa League finalists. Villas-Boas, who grew up strategising and performing background work for great managers like Bobby Robson and José Mourinho. He is so good with his scouting of the opposition, that a picture from Chelsea tactic boards revealed that he scouted oppositions for Mourinho down to details like the average jump height of opposition players during set piece defending. By analysing the opposition to that deep a level, there is little that one could do wrong.  In his first season at Porto, he is undefeated in the league, winning 46 out of the 53 matches he has been in charge of, losing just 3. Stupendous indeed!
While there is a definite shift towards micro-tactics, it would be wrong to say that a definite football philosophy does not win you anything. Guardiola’s Barcelona have been winning almost every competition that they participated in, ever since he took charge. There are managers like Manuel Pellegrini and Carlo Ancelotti who involve micro-tactics within a philosophy, and there are managers who are gradually shifting from a definite philosophy to open-ended modern game.
Whatever may be the reason – may it be success or lure of fame and recognition, or the fear of losing or obsession with winning, or plain outsmarting the opposition, the game is changing. It is drifting towards a post-ideological era, where only micro-tactics will remain. And football will all be about numbers, stats and figures. That is not to say that the beautiful game will lose all its flair and magic. For there will always be a Messi in an Argentine team playing to a plan, a Zidane in a disjoint French team, and a Del Piero in Juventus shirt playing their hearts out, for the love of the game more than anything else.

Signings, departures & possible starting XIs for the 2012-13 Serie A season

N.B - Only official transfers have been included

P: Permanent transfer - C: Co-ownership - L: Loan - EL: End of Loan - R: Released  *Completed in 11/12

Denis (Att, Udinese, P)*
Masiello (Def, Bari, P)*
Cazzola (Mid, Juve Stabia, P)*
Cigarini (Mid, Napoli, L)*
Radovanovic (Mid, Novara, EL)
Kone (Mid, Pescara, EL)
Ardemagni (Att, Modena, EL)
Pettinari (Mid, Varese, EL)
Brivio (Def, Lecce, P)
Tonon (Mid, Pavia, P)
Parra (Att, San Felipe, L)
Matheu (Def, San Felipe, P)
Doni (Mid, R)
Mutarelli (Mid, R)
Tiribocchi (Att, R)
Basha (Mid, Torino, C)

Bellini - Lucchini - Manfredini - Peluso

Schelotto - Cigarini - Carmona - Bonaventura


Rickler (Def, Chievo, P)*
Acquafresca (Att, Genoa, P)*
Taider (Mid, Juventus, P)*
Diamanti (Mid, Brescia, P)*
Paponi (Att, Parma, P)*
Marchi (Def, Piacenza, P)*
Rodriguez (Att, Piacenza, EL)
Gavilan (Att, Piacenza, EL)
Riverola (Mid, Barcelona, P)
Pasquato (Att, Udinese, L)
Curci (GK, Roma, L)
De Carvalho (Def, Tombense, P)
Motta (Def, Juventus, L)
Abero (Def, Nacional, P)
Guarente (Mid, Sevilla, L)
Natali (Def, Fiorentina, R)
Umunegbu (Att, AC Milan, R)
Di Vaio (Att, Montreal, R)
Raggi (Def, Monaco, R)
Loria (Def, R)
Bernacci (Att, R)
Gillet (GK, Torino, P)
Mudingayi (Mid, Inter, L)

Antonsson - Portanova - Cherubin

Motta - Guarente - Perez - Morleo

Ramirez - Diamanti

Perico (Def, Albinoleffe, P)*
Dessena (Mid, Sampdoria, P)*
Ekdal (Mid, Juventus, P)*
Pinilla (Att, Palermo, P)*
Thiago Ribeiro (Att, Cruzeiro, P)*
Cocco (Att, Albinoleffe, EL)
Ragatzu (Att, Gubbio, EL)
Sau (Att, Juve Stabia, EL)
Vigorito (GK, Triestina, EL)
Rossettini (Def, Siena, P)
Avelar (Mif, Karpaty Lviv, L)
Camilleri (Def, Reggina, L)
Agostini (Def, R)
Lazzari (Cen, Fiorentina, P)
Canini (Def, Genoa, P)

Pisano - Rossettini - Astori - Perico

Ekdal - Conti - Nainggolan

Pinilla - Sau
Lanzafame (Att, Palermo, P)*
Andujar (GK, Estudiantes, EL)
Alvarez (Def, Saragozza, EL)
Augustyn (Def, Vicenza, EL)
Martinho (Mid, Cesena, EL)
Moretti (Mid, Grosseto, EL)
Sciacca (Mid, Grosseto, EL)
Keko (Att, Grosseto, EL)
Maxi Lopez (Att, Milan, EL)
Morimoto (Att, Novara, P)
Antenucci (Att, Torino, P)
Salifu (Mid, Fiorentina, L)
Frison (GK, Vicenza, C)
Barisic (Att, Koper, L)
Castro (Mid, Racing Club, P)
Provenzano (Att, Cosenza, Undisclosed)
Suazo (Att, R)
Campagnolo (GK, R)
Kosicky (GK, Novara, P)
Lopez (Att, Sampdoria, L)

Bellusci - Legrottaglie - Spolli - Marchese

Izco - Lodi - Almiron - Gomez

Barrientos - Bergessio
Hetemaj (Mid, Brescia, P)*
Fatic (Mid, Empoli, EL)
Bentivoglio (Mid, Sampdoria, EL)
De Paula (Att, Bari, EL)
Granoche (Att, Varese, EL)
Iunco (Att, Spezia, P)
Farias (Att, Nocerina, P)
Papp (Def, Vaslui, P)
Farkas (Def, Vaslui, P)
Guana (Mid, Cesena, P)
Cofie (Mid, Genoa, C)
Paloschi (Att, AC Milan, L)
Bonato (GK, Sambonifacese, R)
Santini (Def, Carpi, P)
Stoian (Def, Roma, C)
Di Michele (Att, Lecce, P)
Pavanello (GK, Giacomense, P)
Scolaro (GK, Sambonifacese, P)
Virdis (Att, Progetto Calcio, R)
Memushaj (Att, Carpi, P)
Confente (GK, Sambonifacese, L)
Acerbi (Def, Genoa, P)
Rickler (Def, Bologna, P)
Hanine (Mid, Ascoli, C)
Mandelli (Def, R)
Squizzi (Def, R)
Iori (Mid, Cesena, L)
Bradley (Mid, Roma, P)

Frey - Andreolli - Cesar - Drame

Guana - Rigoni - Hetemaj


Pellissier - Thereau
Lazzari (Mid, Cagliari, P)*
Cassani (Def, Palermo, P)*
Seferovic (Att, Neuchatel, EL)
Babacar (Att, Santander, EL)
Hegazy (Def, Ismaily, P)
Roncaglia (Def, Fenix, P)
El Hamdaoui (Att, Ajax, P)
Lupatelli (GK, Genoa, R)
Boruc (GK, R)
Montolivo (Mid, Milan, R)
Amauri (Att, Parma, R)
Marchionni (Mid, R)
Natali (Def, R)
Kroldrup (Def, R)
Salifu (Mid, Catania, L)
Kharja (Mid, Al Arabi, P)
Gamberini (Def, Napoli, P)
Behrami (Mid, Napoli, P)
De Silvestri (Def, Sampdoria, L)

Cassani - Roncaglia - Nastasic - Pasqual

Cerci - Lazzari - Olivera - Vargas

Jovetic - El Hamdaoui
Kucka (Mid, Inter, P)*
Perin (GK Padova, EL)
Dainelli (Def, Chievo, EL)
Polenta (Def, Bari, EL)
Tomovic (Def, Lecce, EL)
Seymour (Mid, Catania, EL)
Tachtsidis (Mid, Verona, EL)
Boakye (Att, Sassuolo, EL)
Ribas (Att, Sporting, EL)
Rudolf (Att, Panathinaikos, EL)
Hallenius (Att, Padova, EL)
Rennella (Att, Cesena, EL)
Von Bergen (Def, Cesena, R)
Tozser (Mid, Genk, R)
Immobile (Att, Juventus, C)
Merkel (Mid, Milan, P)
Lazarevic (Mid, Padova, P)
Donaggio (Mid, Savona, P)
Fenoglio (Def, Savona, P)
Figone (Mid, Savona, P)
Canini (Def, Cagliari, P)
Bertolacci (Mid, Roma, C)
Piscitella (Mid, Roma, C)
Verre (Mid, Roma, C)
Kaladze (Def, R)
Palacio (Att, Inter, P)
Acerbi (Def, Milan, C)
El Shaarawy (Att, Milan, P)
Constant (Mid, Milan, L)
Caracciolo (Att, Brescia, P)
Bolzoni (Mid, Siena, P)
Destro (Att, Siena, C; Roma, L)
Acquafresca (Att, Bologna, P)
Troest (Def, Varese, P)
Eduardo (GK, Istanbul BB, P)
Meggiorini (Att, Torino, P)
Esposito (Def, Lecce, P)
Veloso (Mid, Dinamo Kiev, P)
Lupatelli (GK, Fiorentina, R)
Tachtsidis (MF, Roma, C)
Destro (Att, Roma, L)
Lamanna (GK, Siena, C)
Verre (Mid, Siena, L)

Mesto - Granqvist - Von Bergen - Moretti

Rossi - Biondini - Kucka - Jankovic

Immobile - Gilardino
Guarin (Mid, Porto, P)*
Jonathan (Def, Parma, EL)
Mariga (Mid, Parma, EL)
Coutinho (Att, Espanyol, EL)
Palacio (Att, Genoa, P)
Bardi (GK, Livorno, P)
Handanovic (GK, Udinese, P)
Silvestre (Def, Palermo, L)
Cossa (Mid, Novara, P)
Mudingayi (Mid, Bologna, L)
Zaro (Def, Aurora Pro Patria, P)
Granziera (Def, Liventinagoghense, P)
Cordoba (Def, R)
Orlandoni (GK, R)
Lucio (Def, Juventus, R)
Muntari (Mid, Milan, R)
Forlan (Att, Internacional, R)
Pandev (Att, Napoli, P)
Kucka (Mid, Genoa, P)
Lucio (Def, Juventus, P)

Maicon - Silvestre - Samuel - Nagatomo

Zanetti - Mudingayi - Guarin


- Milito
Caceres (Def, Siviglia, P)*
Giaccherini (Mid, Cesena, P)*
Motta (Def, Catania, EL)
Pazienza (Mid, Udinese, EL)
Felipe Melo (Mid, Galatasaray, EL)
Giandonato (Mid, Lecce, EL)
Martinez (Att, Cesena, EL)
Iaquinta (Att, Cesena, EL)
Giovinco (Att, Parma, P)
Asamoah (Mid, Udinese, C)
Isla (Mid, Udinese, C)
Leali (GK, Brescia, P)
Lucio (Def, Inter, P)
Boakye (Att, Genoa, C)
Laursen (Mid, Aalborg, P)
Slivka (Mid, Futbolo Klubas Ekranas, L)
Mattelli (Def, Foligno Calcio, L)
Del Piero (Att, R)
Grosso (Def, R)
Manninger (GK, R)
Immobile (Att, Genoa, C)
Taider (Mid, Bologna, P)
Ekdal (Mid, Cagliari, P)
Pasquato (Att, Udinese, C)
Motta (Def, Bologna, L)
Boakye (Att, Genoa, C)

Lichtsteiner - Barzagli - Chiellini - De Ceglie

Vidal - Pirlo - Asamoah

Isla - Matri - Giovinco
Candreva (Mid, Udinese, C)*
Carrizo (GK, Catania, EL)
Stendardo (Def, Atalanta, EL)
Cavanda (Def, Bari, EL)
Foggia (Mid, Sampdoria, EL)
Sculli (Att, Genoa, EL)
Zarate (Att, Inter, EL)
Floccari (Att, Parma, EL)
Ederson (Mid, Lione, P)
Falasca (Mid, Inter, R)
Del Nero (Mid, R)
Makinwa (Att, R)

Konko - Biava - Dias - Radu

Candreva - Ledesma - Lulic

Ederson - Hernanes

El Shaarawy (Att, Genoa, P)*
Muntari (Mid, Inter, R)*
Albertazzi (Def, Varese, EL)
Taiwo (Def, QPR, EL)
Didac (Def, Espanyol, EL)
Paloschi (Att, Chievo, EL)
Traore (Mid, Nancy, R)
Montolivo (Mid, Fiorentina, R)
Gabriel (GK, Cruzeiro, P)
Acerbi (Def, Genoa, C)
Constant (Mid, Genoa, L)
Maresi (Att, Olginatese, P)
Melello (Att, Novara, P)
Pacifico (Def, Novara, C)
Bortoli (Mid, Novara, L)
Raviotta (Mid, Monza Brianza, L)
Roma (GK, R)
Nesta (Def, Montreal Impact, R)
Zambrotta (Def, R)
Oddo (Def, R)
Van Bommel (Mid, PSV, R)
Gattuso (Mid, Sion, R)
Seedorf (Mid, Botafogo, R)
Inzaghi (Att, R)
Merkel (Mid, Genoa, P)
Umunegbu (Att, Bologna, R)
Paloschi (Att, Chievo, L)
Thiago Silva (Def, Paris Saint-Germain, P)
Ibrahimovic (Att, Paris Saint-Germain, P)
Taiwo (Def, Dynamo Kiev, L)

Abate - Mexes - Acerbi - Antonini

Montolivo - Ambrosini -


Cassano - Pato
Dezi (Mid, Giulianova, P)*
Pandev (Att, Inter, P)*
Vitale (Def, Bologna, EL)
Rinaudo (Def, Novara, EL)
Maiello (Mid, Crotone, EL)
Santana (Mid, Cesena, EL)
Insigne (Att, Pescara, EL)
Gamberini (Def, Fiorentina, P)
Behrami (Mid, Fiorentina, P)
Santacroce (Def, Parma, C)
Lavezzi (Att, Paris Saint-Germain, P)
Cigarini (Mid, Atalanta, L)
Fideleff (Def, Parma, L)
Santana (Att, Torino, L)
De Sanctis

Campagnaro - Cannavaro - Britos

Maggio - Inler - Behrami - Zuniga

Hamsik - Pandev

Benussi (GK, Torino, EL)
Garcia (Def, Novara, EL)
Di Matteo (Def, Lecce, EL)
Cetto (Def, Palermo, EL)
Andjelkovic (Def, Ascoli, EL)
Simon (Mid, Bari, EL)
Viola (Mid, Reggina, C)
Kurtic (Mid, Varese, P)
Morganella (Def, Novara, P)
Ujkani (GK, Novara, P)
Brienza (Att, Siena, P)
Goldaniga (Def, Pergolettese, P)
Dybala (Att, Atletico Central de Cordoba, P)
Arevalo (Mid, Tijuana, P)
Gonzalez (Att, Novara, P)
Cassani (Def, Fiorentina, P)
Lanzafame (Att, Catania, P)
Pinilla (Att, Cagliari, P)
Misuraca (Att, Vicenza, P)
Darmian (Def, Torino, C)
Struna (Def, Varese, L)
Silvestre (Def, Inter, L)
Joao Pedro (Mid, Santos, P)
Succi (Att, Cesena, P)
Acquah (Mid, Parma, L)

Pisano - Migliaccio - Mantovani - Balzaretti

Brienza - Barreto - Donati - Ilicic

Miccoli - Hernandez
Santacroce (Def, Napoli, C)*
Castellini (Def, Sampdoria, EL)
Lofqvist (Mid, Gubbio, EL)
Jadid (Mid, Grosseto, EL)
Pelle (Att, Sampdoria, EL)
Paonessa (Mid, Bologna, P)
Ninis (Att, Panathinaikos, R)
Rossi (Def, Siena, C)
Belfodil (Att, Lyon, P)
Pabon (Att, Nac. Medellin, P)
Amauri (Att, Fiorentina, R)
Parolo (Mid, Cesena, L)
Biabiany (Mid, Sampdoria, C)
Mario Rui (Def, Gubbio, P)
Guadiano (Def, Fondi, P)
Brandao (Def, Siena, C)
Pigliacelli (GK, Roma, P)
Dallaglio (Att, Fidenza, P)
Acquah (Mid, Palermo, L)
Musacci (Mid, Empoli, C)
Fideleff (Def, Napoli, L)
Mungo (Mid, Piacenza, P)
Musi (Mid, Piacanza, P)
Parolo (Mid, Cesena, L)
Rossetto (GK, Montebelluna, P)
Mazzocco (Mid, Montebelluna, P)
Traore (Def, Foggia, P)
Margaglio (Mid, Valenza, P)
Tozzi (Att, Monterotondo,P)
Giovinco (Att, Juventus, P)
Borini (Att, Roma, P)
Coppola (Mid, Siena, C)
Schiavi (Def, Spezia, L)
Paponi (Att, Bologna, P)
Feltscher (Def, Padova, L)
Rispoli (Def, Padova, L)
Ze Eduardo (Mid, Padova, L)
Nwankwo (Mid, Padova, L)
Danilo Pereira (Mid, Roda, L)
Brandao (Def, Cesena, L)
Dellafiore (Def, Siena, C)


Zaccardo - Paletta - Lucarelli

Biabiany - Parolo - Valdes - Galloppa - Gobbi

Ninis - Amauri
Caprari (Mid, Roma, C)*
Abbruscato (Att, Vicenza, P)
Colucci (Mid, Cesena, P)
Di Pentima (Def, Vicenza, L)
Cosic (Def, CSKA Moscow, L)
Quintero (Mid, Atletico Nacional, L)
Chiaretti (Att, Taranto, R)
Celik (Mid, Gais, P)
Ariatti (Mid, R)
Sansovini (Att, Spezia, P)
Verratti (Mid, Paris Saint-Germain, P)

Zanon - Romagnoli - Capuano - Bocchetti

Nielsen - Quintero - Cascione

Caprari - Abbruscato - Soddimo

Borini (Att, Parma, P)*
Marquinho (Mid, Fluminense, P)*
Julio Sergio (GK, Lecce, EL)
Crescenzi (Def, Bari, EL)
Bertolacci (Mid, Lecce, EL)
Guberti (Mid, Torino, EL)
Brighi (Mid, Atalanta, EL)
Pizarro (Mid, Manchester City, EL)
Borriello (Att, Juventus, EL)
Okaka (Att, Parma, EL)
Stoian (Att, Bari, P)
Florenzi (Def, Crotone, P)
Dodo (Mid, Corinthians, R)
Lucca (Mid, Internacional, P)
Bradley (Mid, Chievo, P)
Castan (Def, Corinthians, P)
Tachtsidis (Mid, Genoa, C)
Destro (Att, Genoa, L)
Cassetti (Def, R)
Cicinho (Def, Recife, R)
Barusso (Mid, R)
Antunes (Def, R)
Caprari (Mid, Pescara, C)
Viviani (Mid, Padova, L)
Curci (GK, Bologna, L)
Stoian (Def, Chievo, C)
Bertolacci (MId, Genoa, C)
Piscitella (Mid, Genoa, C)
Verre (Mid, Genoa, C)
Pigliacelli (GK, Parma, P)
Borini (Att, Liverpool, P)
Juan (Def, Internacional, R)

Rosi - Castan - Burdisso - Jose Angel

Bradley - De Rossi - Pjanic

Lamela - Destro - Totti
Costa (Def, Reggina, P)*
Renan (Mid, Cluj, P)*
Eder (Att, Empoli, P)*
Cacciatore (Def, Varese, EL)
Palombo (Mid, Inter, EL)
Poli (Mid, Inter, EL)
Sammarco (Mid, Chievo, EL)
Maccarone (Att, Empoli, EL)
Piovaccari (Att, Brescia, EL)
Tissone (Mid, Udinese, P)
Lopez (Att, Catania, L)
De Silvestri (Def, Fiorentina, L)
Dessena (Mid, Cagliari, P)
Regini (Def, Empoli, L)
Biabiany (Mid, Parma, C)

Cacciatore - Gastaldello - Rossini - Costa

Munari - Obiang - Poli

Eder - Pozzi - Juan Antonio
Destro (Att, Genoa, J)*
Bolzoni (Mid, Genoa, P)*
Contini (Def, Saragozza, P)*
D'Agostino (Mid, Udinese, P)
Paolucci (Att, Vicenza, EL)
Dellafiore (Def, Parma, C)
Rubin (Def, Torino, C)
Paci (Def, Novara, P)
Farelli (GK, Siena, R)
Lamanna (GK, Genoa, C)
Verre (Mid, Genoa, L)
Codrea (Def, R)
Carobbio (Mid, R)
Brienza (Att, Palermo, P)
Troianiello (Mid, Sassuolo, P)
Sansone (Att, Sassuolo, P)
Rossettini (Def, Cagliari, P)
Garofalo (Mid, Spezia, L)
Grossi (Mid, Verona, L)
Brandao (Def, Parma, C)
Gazzi (Mid, Torino, P)

Terzi - Dellafiore - Contini

Mannini - Vergassola - Bolzoni - D'Agostino - Del Grosso

Calaio - Bogdani
Darmian (Def, Palermo, C)*
Basha (Mid, Atalanta, C)*
Meggiorini (Att, Genoa, P)*
Gorobsov (Mid, Timisoara, EL)
Rubin (Def, Bologna, EL)
Gillet (GK, Bologna, P)
Migliorini (Def, Chieti, P)
Sansone (Att, Sassuolo, C)
Gazzi (Mid, Siena, P)
Santana (Att, Napoli, L)
Ferronetti (Def, Udinese, R)
Morello (GK, R)
Pratali (Def, R)
Zavagno (Def, R)
Gasbarroni (Att, R)
Antenucci (Att, Catania, P)
Ebagua (Att, Varese, P)
Rubin (Def, Siena, C)

Darmian - Glik - Ogbonna - Parisi

Sgrigna - Basha - Vives - Stefanovic

Bianchi - Meggiorini
Brkic (GK, Siena, EL)
Angella (Def, Reggina, EL)
Gabriel Silva (Def, Novara, P)
Mazzarani (Mid, Novara, EL)
Obodo (Mid, Lecce, EL)
Cuadrado (Mid, Lecce, EL)
Muriel (Att, Lecce, EL)
Beleck (Att, AEK, EL)
Forestieri (Att, Bari, EL)
Chara (Def, Empoli, P)
Heurtaux (Def, Caen, P)
Willians (Mid, Flamengo, P)
Allan (Mid, Vasco, P)
Pawlowski (GK, Lechia, P)
Faraoni (Def, Inter, C)
Villalba (Att, Huesca, P)
Ferronetti (Def, R)
Denis (Att, Atalanta, P)
D'Agostino (Mid, Siena, P)
Tissone (Mid, Sampdoria, P)
Asamoah (Mid, Juventus, C)
Isla (Mid, Juventus, C)
Doubai (Mid, Sochaux, P)
Sissoko (Mid, Brest, L)
Koprivec (GK, Perugia, C)
Torje (Att, Granada, L)
Floro Flores (Att, Granada, L)
Pasquato (Att, Bologna, L)
Candreva (Mid, Lazio, C)
Handanovic (GK, Inter, P)
Ferronetti (Def, Torino, R)

Benatia - Danilo - Domizzi

Basta - Pereyra - Pinzi - Willians - Armero

Di Natale - Muriel

Friday, 27 July 2012

Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 - Demo 1 Impressions

The Good
  • Goalkeepers are reworked and redone, and while you still see the old strange behaviours every now and then, it can be said that goalkeepers meet the standards you expect from a football game. One particular issue that was observed consistently however was goalkeepers seemingly going down far too easily when an attacker performs a fake shot. Here's hope this is toned down in future releases.
  • (Manual) switching system is modified and improved, giving you total freedom in choosing the player you want to take control of.
  • Long balls offer more variety, more types of lofted balls and curved crosses. Shots are also improved to offer more variety and freedom.
  • Full manual passing, shooting and crossing takes the freedom to a new level.
  • First touch control - while a subtle addition, gives players new weapon to outsmart the opponent defenders with.
  • Konami have perfected the defending system. With the contain button held, the analogue sticks give you the freedom to adjust your distance as well as your position as you contain a player to hold them up, as well as giving you the chance to time your tackle by pressing the same contain button twice - do it at the right time and you have successfully dispossessed the opponent. This is done perfectly to take player individuality into account, where better defenders perform lunging tackle and stretch far better. Overall, the most balanced defending system in a football video game thus far.
  • Aerial battles, while still quite lacklustre, are very exciting and have a real sense of randomness associated with them.

The Bad
  • Animations still lack a lot variety. There are new animations added and they are an improvement compared to PES 2012, however the game still needs a lot more variety in animations.
  • Taking set-pieces offers neither excitement nor variety. The system is also plagued with bugs, fro example where tall defenders don't join the attackers when a corner is taken while short midfielders are in the penalty area. It is time to rework the old gameplay. Oh, and penalties!
  • Game speed feels inconsistent on 0 (zero). Player movements and actions seem unrealistically fast and ball movement can be unrealistically slow at times.
  • Collision detection requires more tweaking, especially slide tackles often result in a foul (and usually a booking) even when clearly the ball is hit (first).
  • In the sound department, PES is still lacking a lot. The sound effects, for example the ball hitting the bar, are quite bad. Also quality of sounds and effects are not as good the competitors. And what's up with Italian/Brazilian fans roaring 'Yeaaaah!' when their team scores?!
  • Automatic switching system still needs a lot of work to be a viable option.

The Ugly
  •  One of my biggest concerns about PES 2012 was player personality/individuality which was not as pronounced as previous titles. With PES 2013, quite a few players get signature animations and abilities but this is only true to a handful of players, not to mention the results are mainly aesthetic. While I have never been a fan of elephant touches and the like, the majority of players are now too good at ball control, passing, crossing and shooting. These abilities and actions should be exclusive to special players with high ratings in the respective stats. For example, pretty much everyone on the game has the same first touch and ball control, regardless of their stat.
  • Passing is just too good. This was a major concern for me in 2011 and 2012, and unfortunately you can still see FIFA 10-esque ping-pong passing in PES 2013. It might get better in longer matches, but that should not be used as an excuse since online matches aren't that long anyway. Flair passing also exists in abundance. This should be exclusive to certain players only.
  • Shooting is also a bit too good to be true. It almost feels as if you can shoot very quickly as soon as your receive the ball. There is no 'putting your body' behind the ball. You get the ball, you can shoot instantly. I had the same issue with PES 2012's shooting system which was way too easy to pull off and unfortunately it is here to stay in the 2013 edition. You can almost shoot from any situation with a lot of them ending up at least on target, regardless of your balance, being pressured or surrounded by opposition defenders. Sure, the improvements to goalkeepers cause fewer goals to be scored unlike 2012 where every shot on target resulted in a goal, but it still doesn't mean it is realistic.
  • Stamina system is old, unrealistic and abusable. No team can pressure another team for 90 minutes without suffering any sort of fatigue or injury but it is completely doable and 'rewarding' in PES 2013.
  • Some first touch options, such as flicking the ball up are simply way over the top. Honestly, you can see that sort of skill being performed in 0.5% of matches and only once in real football. It's addition is not necessarily a bad thing, for it gives more freedom to the player, however I can already see it being abused to it's limits.
  • Playing against the CPU, the AI seems reluctant to attack and pressure when without the ball and always prefers to sit back and work on the counter, regardless of tactics.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

6 of the Best: Libertadores Cup Stars

Martínez was a member of the Ecuador team that won the 2007 Pan-American Games gold medal in Rio de Janiero. Cruzeiro of Belo Horizonte liked what they saw and kept him in Brazil but the move did not work out and, in 2010, he went home and joined Deportivo, taking him with a Brazilian box of tricks.

Martínez proved to be a key player in last year's domestic title-winning campaign. Deportivo's first option in the Libertadores was always to play the ball out wide to him on the left flank, where he was capable of tearing defences apart.
Given space he could surge past his man with sustained pace and a burst of acceleration; marked tightly he could roll his man or free a team-mate with a cleverly angled pass. He was most effective pulling back left-footed crosses for advancing team-mates - he played a huge part in Matías Alustiza's eight goals - but could also get into the box and score himself.
The last of his three goals in the campaign was the clear highlight, racing on from the halfway line against Universidad de Chile to blast in a unstoppable left-footed shot. In celebration of that goal, Alustiza pretended to be a photographer taking a shot of Martínez - and European scouts would be well advised to keep him in their sights.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

6 of the Best: Libertadores Cup Stars

Leandro Damião - Internacional (Brazil)

Although he came off the bench to score a vital goal in the Final of the 2010 Libertadores, Damião was only a bit-part player that year for Inter. He didn't really make his name until last term, when a flurry of goals put him into contention for Brazil's number 9 shirt.

The news from the 2012 Libertadores is that his form last season was no fluke and he found the target six times before Inter were narrowly beaten by their compatriots Fluminese.

Even more encouraging was the evidence of his all-round improvement as a player. Very much a finisher, he was proficient in the air and with both feet but not especially comfortable linking the play. This year, however, his back-to-goal game has show massive improvement and a highlight of the competition for Inter was the relationship formed with attacking midfielder Oscar.

The quick, skilful exchanges between the pair give rise to the hope that the duo could form an important part of Brazil's Olympic side.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

6 of the Best: Libertadores Cup Stars

Sebastián Jaime - Unión Española (Chile)

One of the themes of recent Libertadores has been the success of Argentinian players who had been overlooked at home - and that has continued in 2012 by two strikers with Unión Española. But while centre-forward Emanuel Herrera may have been the Chilean side's cutting edge with five goals, even more impressive for one of this year's surprise sides was the contribution of 25-year-old Jaime.

With coach José Luis Sierra going with a front three, Jaime began the campaign on the right flank before witching to the left once Sierra had seen the value of left-footed Fernando Cordero cutting in from that side.

If Cordero was in the team to supply the crosses and Herrera there to finish, Haime did both. A winger and a penalty area predator, he scored three times in the competition, proving himself to be quick and dynamic outside the box, yet dangerous in the air and on the ground in sight of goal.

He has also shone brightest at the most important moments. Unión Española were expected to fall to Tigers of Mexico in the qualifying round, but Jaime came up with an excellent cross for Gonzalo Barriga to score in the first leg, and then clinched his side's place in the group phase with a fine header as Barriga returned the favour in the second leg. Jaime was also on target with smart finishes in both legs of the knockout round when Union went down fighting against Argentina's Boca Juniors.

Jaime played only a single top-flight game for Argentinos Juniors in 2009 before kick-starting his career the following year with La Serena in Chile. He then moved to the capital to join Unión Española in 2011, and this year's Libertadores will surely have given him a more prominent place in the shop window.