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Matthew Boulden

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Joined July 2013

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Is it sporting and Basque? Yeah, I probably support it. Unless it is Real Sociedad, then my liking for Athletic Club Bilbao says "No!".

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Semantics time, so what is the difference between a three-at-the-back and a five-at-the-back system in the modern game? Jose Mourinho would argue that every three-at-the-back system is actually five-at-the-back, because if you pin the wingbacks back then every nominal three-at-the-back system becomes a five-at-the-back system. Because very few modern teams defend with a true back three during the defensive phase, or when made to respond to being stretched apart by the opposition wide forwards/wingers during the transitional phases.

The delineation between three-at-the-back and five-at-the-back is arbitrary. Most people denoted Antonio Conte’s league winning Chelsea team as a 3-4-3, but the two wingbacks were part of the defensive line in terms of organisation despite their freedom to get forwards. So you could just as accurately call it a 5-2-3, or any other number of nominations (e.g. 3-2-2-2-1) depending on how many strata you want to use, the phase of play, and any number of other factors.

The art of the overlapping centre-back

It would certainly be interesting to observe how some extra after-hours one-on-one coaching targeting his finishing might effect Hoffman’s chance conversion rate. Would depend on Hoffman’s willingness and the quality of the coaching though, the quality of the feedback and how much active learning time there is in the session affects skill acquisition. Because arguably the tougher and harder to teach component of being a forward is actually being able to make the right runs and be in the right spot to even create those chances.

Shame his age profile isn’t a bit younger if he could improve the chance conversion, Newcastle would be set for the future.

This season's A-League shows that the table does lie

I can’t get the line breaks to work for me even on my unedited comments at the moment. Tried it across two different devices too, so no idea if I’m just double cursed or what. 😂

This season's A-League shows that the table does lie

As annoying as it might be to admit, achieving buy in from people typically requires a bit more than just some evidence. You need to be able to sell people on it with a good pitch, which requires being a good marketer/salesperson too.

In sport nothing causes widespread interest, acceptance and adoption quite like quantifiable results (e.g. table position). So the challenge is to convincingly sell the link between the method and helping to achieve positive results; such as incorporating resistance training into a marathon runner’s training program improving running economy (and therefore their race results).

This season's A-League shows that the table does lie

Oof, sorry for any lack of linebreaks in there. They show up when I edit the comment but aren’t displaying for me in the published post.

This season's A-League shows that the table does lie

To be fair, at least in the case of the big European leagues (those being the data points that I have examined so far) players that someone might consider a lethal, clinical goalscorer regularly: 1) Typically only outperform their xG tally by no more than one to three goals across a season, and 2) Struggle to consistently outperform their xG tally over multiple seasons, often reverting to the mean (their xG) the season after if they did outperform it the season before.
So for all the weaknesses in methodology that one could debate with some of the current predictive modelling being used, the xG model not taking into account a player’s finishing ability is something I am less concerned about currently. A bigger issue for example would be the definition of what equals a ‘Clear Cut Chance’, since you can end up with three different figures for the same EPL game depending on which provider you use due to differences in their methodology for defining a ‘Clear Cut Chance’. Along that same note, those differences in methodology mean that you can end up with variances in assigned xG totals for the same EPL game across the different providers (Opta, Wyscout, etc), so Inter-rater Reliability can still have some issues. Which at the end of the day means that the magnitude of Syndey’s overperformance against the predictive modelling for the season so far would be open to some variance if we had more than one data provider for the A-League currently (Alas Opta doesn’t do A-League currently).
Having not looked extensively into how players rated as poor finishers perform against their xG tally for one, or multiple seasons, I’ll pass up offering an informed opinion on that subject for now. Based on the methodology though the hypothesis would be that a player like Hoffman shouldn’t be massively under-performing in actual goals scored versus their xG tally season upon season, but he certainly could have a season where he achieves such a feat. That is one weakness with the predictive (expected) modelling used at the moment though; an individual or team that is underperforming/outperforming the predicted modelling typically will revert to the mean eventually but giving an actual accurate timeline for when it will happen is a much harder feat. Which can throw things out a bit when a Goalkeeper outperforms their expected ‘Goals Saved’ statistic for the season and helps earns their team a bunch of extra points (David de Gea went on one such run for Manchester United during a previous EPL season).

This season's A-League shows that the table does lie

Switched to using the MyFootball app (had to be some perk to being on Telstra) this season since Foxtel is just absurd not value for money. So that is a view a game not being reported in the Fox figures these days. Often watch every match of the gameweek live (otherwise on delay/on-demand) even via streaming. So there’s one lost viewer for you.

Personally, I think the methodology behind the OzTam figures in general is a bit flawed anyway, but that’s a different argument unrelated to football.

How much trouble is the A-League seriously in?

While simplifying defensive responsibilities by matching the opposition structure can be very helpful it can come with the potential drawback of turning games into a contest of which team wins the majority of their individual duels across the pitch. You can often see this happen during games between two opposing 4-4-2s, or when Marcelo Bielsa decides to aggressively tightly mark each opposition player on the pitch.

Those kind of contests are often eventually decided in the end by the differences in individual player skill and fitness across the pitch. Sure can be fun to watch though when Bielsa decides to boldly go at stronger opponents. Bielsa’s strangulation of Arsenal during the first half of their FA Cup tie was intriguing to witness, couldn’t survive the whole game though unfortunately for Leeds and eventually Arsenal started breaking through.

Three at the back is the new black

That varies depending on the positioning and movement of the players within the overall structure of the team. While typically the wingbacks are the players designated with providing attacking width that is not always the case. Disregarding that formations often change shape depending on the area of the pitch and the phase of the game, attacking width can also be achieved through the two wide forwards\wingers in the 3-4-3. Depending on the movement and structure the coach wants to see in the attacking phase you might even have the left wingback and right wide forward\winger provide the width.

The less utilised concept of “inverting” your wingback and playing them as auxiliary midfielder within your structure is an option when your attacking width is supplied via the wide foward\winger. You see Marcelo Bielsa commonly attributed with popularising this during the modern era with Chile and several club teams, often having the wide foward\winger create the width while the wingback supplements the midfield by playing narrower. Depending on the instructions given to the ‘inverted wingback’ they can either hold position to help protect the middle against counter-attacks and recycle possession or act aggressively by making “underlapping” runs beyond the wide foward\winger.

In terms of physical characteristics the demands of playing as a wingback and as a “box-to-box” midfielder aren’t that dissimilar, as both have to cover a lot of ground. Which is one of the multitude of reasons why you often saw Arturo Vidal listed at left wingback, deployed as an “inverted wingback”, for Chile when they lined up in the 3-4-3. What really matters for the player is do they have the necessary characteristics to play the role being asked of them. Again, Marcelo Bielsa’s teams can offer countless examples for this, such as redeploying Javi Martinez from midfield to centreback while managing Athletic Bilbao due to Bielsa desiring his central defenders to be mobile, have a 360-degree awareness of the game, comfortable on the ball, and able to play out from the back.

The salary cap and squad restrictions of the A-League are what they are, a creative challenge to work around when assembling a squad but nothing more. For all the talk of Antonio Conte popularising three at the back in the Premier League, it is oft forgotten that Roberto Martinez regularly successfully employed a hybrid 3-4-3/3-5-2 at Wigan Athletic to help them avoid relegation from the Premier League. All this several years before Conte was even managing in the Premier League and was forced to try changing things after that disastrous result against Arsenal in the league. Wigan Athletic are hardly a financial powerhouse of English football yet they still managed to shrewdly assemble a squad suited to that playstyle despite the financial disparities the club faced.

The most interesting, and maybe scariest, recent development for opposition clubs is just how savvy many of the Bundesliga squads are at adapting their tactical structures from game to game. While the formations may change to counter the opposition the underpinning principles and instructions remain consistent. They are some incredible tactically versatile players graduating from those club academies, to go along with the tactically astute coaches gracing the Bundesliga.

Three at the back is the new black

Agreed. Plus we (Glory) still have some unfinished business with Wollongong Wolves to resolve if we were ever to face off in an A-League Grand Final.

Ten teams named on A-League expansion shortlist

That concludes The Roar‘s live coverage of a thrilling tenth stage in the 2016 Vuelta a Espana. Thank you for joining me for tonight’s nail-bitter to Lagos de Covadonga.

Tomorrow is the first rest day of the race so remember to rejoin me on Wednesday for Stage 11 as the Vuelta a Espana continues to throw challenging summit finishes at the riders.

Vuelta a Espana 2016: Stage 10 live race updates, blog

Nairo Quintana moves back into the red jersey after ‘loaning” the jersey to Etixx – Quick-Step’s David de la Cruz for a day. After regaining the red jersey can the Colombian now hold it all the way through to Madrid? History may be in Quintana’s favour as Alberto Contador did just that in 2014 after winning the stage to Lagos de Covadonga.

Vuelta a Espana 2016: Stage 10 live race updates, blog

So that is two riders in the top 10 of the General Classification now for Australian team Orica BikeExchange with Esteban Chaves sitting in fourth, two minutes and nine seconds adrift of race leader Nairo Quintana, and Simon Yates in eighth, three minutes and six seconds adrift.

Vuelta a Espana 2016: Stage 10 live race updates, blog

[Provisional Result] 2016 Vuelta a Espana – General Classification after Stage 10
01. Nairo Quintana of Movistar Team… 38:37:07″
02. Alejandro Valverde of Movistar Team… +0:57″
03. Chris Froome of Team Sky… +0:58″
04. Esteban Chaves of Orica BikeExchange… +2:09″
05. Alberto Contador of Tinkoff… +2:54″
06. Leopold Konig of Team Sky… +2:57″
07. David de la Cruz of Etixx – Quick-Step… +3:03″
08. Simon Yates of Orica BikeExchange… +3:06″
09. Michele Scarponi of Astana Pro Team… +3:14″
10. Samuel Sanchez of BMC Racing Team… +3:20″

Vuelta a Espana 2016: Stage 10 live race updates, blog

[Provisional Result] 2016 Vuelta a Espana – Stage 10
01. Nairo Quintana of Movistar Team…. 04:50:31″
02. Robert Gesink of Team LottoNL – Jumbo… +0:24″
03. Chris Froome of Team Sky… +0:25″
04. Omar Fraile of Dimension Data… +0:28″
05. Alejandro Valverde of Movistar Team… +0:28″
06. Michele Scarponi of Astana Pro Team… +0:28″
07. Esteban Chaves of Orica BikeExchange… +1:02″
08. Alberto Contador of Tinkoff… +1:05″
09. Simon Yates of Orica BikeExchange… +1:09″
10. Fabio Felline of Trek – Segafredo… +1:11″

Vuelta a Espana 2016: Stage 10 live race updates, blog

Omar Fraile from today’s breakaway of the day and Alejandro Valverde round out the top five on today’s stage.

Vuelta a Espana 2016: Stage 10 live race updates, blog

So Nairo Quintana provisionally puts 25 seconds into Chris Froome in the General Classification, growing to 31 seconds after the addition of the six bonus seconds Quintana also gained over Froome.

Vuelta a Espana 2016: Stage 10 live race updates, blog

Riders continue to cross the finishing line on what has proved to be an entertaining stage. There will be some big changes in time in the General Classification by the conclusion of the stage.

Vuelta a Espana 2016: Stage 10 live race updates, blog

Orica BikeExchange’s Esteban Chaves crosses the line just head of Alberto Contador, who crosses the line 1’05” down on stage winner Nairo Quintana.

Vuelta a Espana 2016: Stage 10 live race updates, blog

Robert Gesink opens up the sprint for second and beats Chris Froome to the line! The Dutchman will rob the Brit of two extra bonus seconds, Froome will have to settle for just the four bonus seconds on offer for third.

Vuelta a Espana 2016: Stage 10 live race updates, blog

Movistar’s Nairo Quintana takes the stage victory on Stage 10 of the 2016 Vuelta a Espana!

He will move back into red tonight!

Vuelta a Espana 2016: Stage 10 live race updates, blog

Just 900 metres for Nairo Quintana and the Colombian looks assured to win the stage. Meanwhile, Froome has caught Robert Gesink and will be fighting to finish second behind Quintana.

Vuelta a Espana 2016: Stage 10 live race updates, blog

Alejandro Valverde is unable to follow the tempo set by Froome and is dropped!

Vuelta a Espana 2016: Stage 10 live race updates, blog

Under 2000 metres to go for Nairo Quintana and the Colombian has a lead of about 30 seconds over Group Froome\Valverde.

Vuelta a Espana 2016: Stage 10 live race updates, blog

Alberto Contador has been dropped now by Alejandro Valverde and Chris Froome now!

Vuelta a Espana 2016: Stage 10 live race updates, blog