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Paulinho’s Spurs switch a sign of Villas-Boas’ desire to look to Porto past?

With the Fantasy Premier League getting back up and running this week we have already had people asking about the potential of some of the new summer signings as viable options for your Fantasy squad. Players such as Jesus Navas, Wilfried Bony and the wonderfully named Ricky van Wolfswinkel have all been mentioned as potential fantasy selections in recent weeks.

In addition to this the recent Confederations Cup gave us the opportunity to look at Paulinho up close. The 24-year-old collected the Bronze Ball as Brazil won the tournament on their own patch and impressed onlookers with his performances.

With this in mind we have a great guest post from the @FootballButler  who goes into detail over the role he expects Paulinho to play for Spurs and how this may lead to a change in tactics.

A great football insight and also invaluable research when scouting for your fantasy team!


Paulinho’s Spurs switch a sign of Villas-Boas’ desire to reinstate successful Porto tactics


Another Brazilian midfielder is heading east to ply his trade in the Premier League, and the tactical implications of Paulinho’s North London arrival could be indicative of a stark change in Andre Villas Boas’ Tottenham Hotspur tactics.

Villas Boas’ time in England has seen him predominately switch between a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-3-3, the former utilized this season at Spurs and the latter used at Chelsea.

His premature sacking from Chelsea and his switch to a 4-2-3-1 this year at Spurs might suggest that his old 4-3-3, most effectively used during his tenure at Porto, was a striking failure. Regardless of how you interpret the reasons for that tactical change, a £17m investment in a defensive midfielder is a huge statement of intent from a team playing in Europe’s second string competition, especially when a number of Spurs fans would have unanimously agreed that Clint Dempsey and Gylfi Sigurdsson’s underwhelming performances might have warranted a substantial investment in the attacking midfield role instead.

Paulinho will now become Spurs’ third high class defensive-minded midfielder, and it seems highly unlikely that if he, Moussa Dembele and Sandro are all fit Villas Boas would omit any of them from his starting XI. With that in mind, it’s not unreasonable to think that a switch to the 4-3-3- as so effectively used at his time at Porto- could be the framework for Spurs’ 2013/14 campaign.

Rewind two years and that Porto team was quite something, full of flair and individual excellence, exceeding all expectations when it claimed 2 domestic cups, an unbeaten season (by a record breaking 20 points) and the Europa league. It would be naive to assume that Villas Boas’ Porto side was just a team of good players- there were many tactical features to that side, a credit to his managerial ability.

Attacking full backs are by no means a tactical revolution, but Alvaro Pereira and Cristian Săpunaru bombed forward relentlessly. Hulk used his sheer power to cut in from the right to support the superb Radamal Falcao, while Silvestre Varela played a more withdrawn wide role on the opposite flank.
AVBs Porto

But the tactical highlight of that team was midfield rotation, an uncommon British tactical theme. The system primarily revolved around Porto’s no.6, the excellent Fernando, who tended to bomb forward despite being a pure holding midfielder, switching places with Freddy Guarin who usually had license to get forward, but would drop deep himself if Fernando advanced. With Joao Moutinho fulfilling an archetypal box to box role, Porto’s midfield had incredible variety, with opposition teams completely unable to track forward runs from anyone of those 3 midfield players.

Alas, midfield rotation- when it works- is hugely effective. Unfortunately, Villas Boas’ time at Chelsea proved that the Premier League was better suited with coping with such a system.

Villas Boas confessed his difficulties of applying that system to his unsuccessful Chelsea side:

“Our No 6 [at Porto, usually Fernando] sometimes became a more attacking midfielder and we tried to do that here [at Chelsea]. We decided it doesn’t work here, so that’s one of the things I have adapted. You lose a little bit of balance in the Premier League if you play that way. Transitions here are much more direct, making the importance of the No 6 to stay in position most decisive.”

Fast forward another 18 months and Villas Boas has yet to reinstate this tactic. But that could- could– be about to change with the signing of Paulinho. Whether Villas Boas is directly looking to reassert midfield rotation amongst his team is difficult to know, but Spurs now have the perfect players to carry out the system.

Moussa Dembele is a fantastically mobile player, and is perhaps one of the finest box-to-box midfield players in Europe- the role that Moutinho played in that Porto team. Sandro is perhaps a finer version of Fernando, an intricately intelligent player who almost certainly is able to rotate with Paulinho- should Paulinho operate the advanced Guarin role.

England currently seems obsessed with the midfield variety of a holder, box-to-box player and a playmaker in a 4-2-3-1, with each midfield player playing a well defined role. The genius of midfield rotation is that it creates a far more fluid midfield, and omits having certain ‘specialists’ within the team. Villas Boas might just about be ready to play his trump card again.

paulinho at spurs

On a final, more general note, the 2012/13 season seems to have accentuated the use of the 4-2-3-1. Bar Barcelona and Juventus, 6 of Europe’s 8 Champions League quarter finalists (Galatasaray, Malaga, Dortmund, Madrid, Bayern, PSG), and 5 of England’s top 7 (Arsenal, Liverpool, City, Chelsea, and Spurs) stuck to the system.

Granted, Barca (4-3-3), Juventus (3-5-2) and United (Ferguson played something like a 4-4-2 that looked like a 4-2-3-1) stuck to their own unique systems and found domestic success, but all three teams struggled in Europe.

If not playing the 4-2-3-1 is a path to domestic success by that rational, then perhaps Villas Boas’ acquisition of Paulinho could be a masterstroke in elevating to Spurs to Europe’s elite tournament. It’s still early days in this highly active transfer window, but Paulinho’s arrival could be the first major clue of changing tactical trends in the 2013/14 season.

How do you think Tottenham will do this season?? Drop a comment below


Follow the Football Butler on Twitter: @footballbutler

Many thanks to @footballbutler for the guest post. You can read more from them at


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To Know The Game: The Story So Far (Part 3)

Having already looked at the best signings of the summer and the top three surprises of the Premier League season so far, the guys from To Know The Game are back with the third and final part of their trilogy for Yirma.

Here, they look at who they believe are the contenders for both a top four finish and for the Premier League title.



The Race for 4th

4 wins in a row for Spurs;  an impressive defensive start for Arsenal; a team from Merseyside that usually finishes strong has started brightly (Everton) and the chance that Newcastle will build on their impressive finish from last year – the race for 4th spot already looks like it will be a close call.

Fans of all 4 teams can truly say that their team will only get better.

Spurs will look forward to Adebayor regaining full fitness and competing with Defoe while the new signings of Dempsey, Sigurdsson and Dembele will settle in and get better. Ekotto should return soon meaning Vertonghen can play in his preferred role as CB and the team will adapt to AVB’s methods. TKTG has already covered Spurs chances for success this season and fans can be excited about their chances to finish in the top 4.

Arsenal will point to the fact that they look a better defensive unit this season – their biggest issue last year. Against Chelsea (their first loss) they conceded 2 set piece goals against an attacking unit (Torres, Mata, Hazard, Oscar) that was assembled at a cost of over £100 million. Szczesny and Sagna will return soon adding more defensive steel and of course there is the return of Jack Wilshere. A decent defence; a midfield of Santi, Arteta, Wilshere and Podolski, Giroud, Gervinhio, Walcott and The Ox…. top 4 or higher?

Everton are notoriously slow starters. Not this season! With 4 wins in 7, Everton seem like an outside bet for the top 4. Usually lacking a decent, fit striker, this year David Moyes has 3 attackers to share the load – Jelavic, Mirallas and Naismith and along with their impressive midfield and solid defenders they can certainly make a run for the top 4. Also, they usually finish strong….

Newcastle finished in 5th spot last year and their fans will be thinking “Why not one better?”. Players should be more familiar with the premiership and their team mates and they have stability with their coach who signed an 8 year deal.  If they can put forward a solid run of results in the next 3 months they could be looking to improve on last years’ position. Just don’t mention Mike Ashley to any of their fans.

Current odds make Arsenal favourites at 1/2; followed by Spurs 2/1, Everton 11/2 and then Liverpool 15/2. Newcastle are 25/1 finish in the top 4. (Odds taken from



Who will be Champions?

Chelsea have collected 19 points from a possible 21. Not only are they the best defensive team in the premiership so far (only 4 goals conceded) but as we have written in the past their forward line looks very promising. 

Their biggest problem besides John Terry and Ashley Cole will be their lack of squad depth in the striker department. How will they cope with a suspension (or worse an injury) to Fernando Toress? Sturridge and the unproven Lucas Piazon are the only options or perhaps play the Spanish formation of 4-6-0? Can Sturridge really be the main man of a Premiership winning team? Expect them to buy in the January window but by then it may be too late…

Manchester United’s problems in midfield are well documented. Could Wayne Rooney playing in midfield solve their problems? Along with their injury plagued defenders and lack of defensive cover, can United aim to win another title or are 2 defeats in the league already an issue? Money seems to be short at United so don’t expect any major signings in Jan – United fans hope that we are wrong and that they can acquire a world class CB, LB and CM soon! Is Rooney the answer to United’s midfield and 20th title?

Manchester City were champions last year but this time around they look slightly confused. It’s never easy winning back-to-back titles and not having a settled 11 does not help. Supporters may say that flexibility is key to City this year which in theory seems great but it is not translating to results. Currently on 15 points (same as United), City seem to have another issue – Is Mario Balotelli this year’s Tevez? Seven games into the season and “Super” Mario has already thrown a tantrum – a few more and will Tevez join in as well?

We have the rest of the season to find out… In the meantime, share your thoughts with us


For more great articles like this one visit the guys at, whilst you can follow them on Twitter at @toknowthegame.

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