Naveen Maliakkal | Resident Writer

Writer for The Hard Tackle from the United States. Pieces often focus on Arsenal and the English Premier League, with the occasional emphasis on tactics and the principles of economics.

WEST BROM V ARSENAL The Hawthornes, West Bromwich, England November 29th, 2014; 12:45 GMT *** For both West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal, the beginning of the season has represented disappointment. West Brom find themselves only three points above relegation. They have struggled to scored goals. They have only won one match in their last six. Arsenal have had their difficulties earning points as well. While most of their dropped points were due to poor performances, their last performance in the English Premier League did provide some encouragement. While they did lose, they dominated their match against Manchester United, particularly in the first half. It could be that Arsenal are set to go on a run of results that is more in line with the amount of chances they are creating. Team New and Tactics West Brom For the Baggies, Jonas Olsson, Silvestre Varela, and Sebastian Pocognoli all seem set to miss this match due to injury. Claudio Yacob will also […]

For the first time in a long time, Manchester United and Arsenal meet in a match where neither side have a real chance at winning the English Premier League. Instead, this fixture features two teams in transition, still trying to figure out how to execute their manager’s vision (Manchester United) or trying to figure out how they want to play (Arsenal). With these two big English clubs in the positions that they are in, going into this match, it seemed appropriate for an Arsenal fan and a Manchester United fan to discuss the two clubs. Here, we have Naveen Maliakkal (@njm1211), an Arsenal fan, and Girish Nerkar (@NerkarGirish), a Manchester United fan, ask and answer some important questions about the two teams that dominated the English Premier League at the beginning of the millennium. Naveen will start the question-asking, looking to gain some insight on Manchester United from Girish. NM: What do you think of Louis van Gaal as a manager? […]

CHILE V VENEZUELA Estadio Regional de Antofagasta, Antofagasta, Chile November 14th; 23:00 GMT        *** Chile have an unbeaten streak in international friendlies to protect as they face off against Venezuela, who have not won in their last four matches, at the Estadio Regional de Antofagasta in Antofagasta Chile. Team News and Tactics Chile With this being an international friendly, Chile may give players, like Jorge Valdivia, a reintroduction into the starting XI or give a young player, like Igor Lichnovsky, a chance to make his debut for the senior national team. Regardless of the line-up or the formation, Chile will still play like they always have, with a sense of risk, energy, tenacity, creativity, and multi-functionality. With their high pressing game and their tenacious work rate, Chile look to dominate their opposition physically, when they do not have the ball. This pressing allows them to win the ball closer to their own goal, making it easier to […]

Arsenal made five signings this summer, and it probably surprised many that Calum Chambers represents on those moves. While it initially seemed that Arsenal have signed a right-back for the future, it appears that Chambers future should involve him playing at right center back, as Arsenal’s heir to Per Metresacker’s position. A Modern Center Back The attribute that stands out for Chambers, more than any other, is his intelligence. Unlike many English players, Chambers game revolves around his ability to read the game and make good decisions. With this ability to understand the state of play and anticipate what will happen, it allows him to make use of his other attributes to greater effect. These include excellent athleticism and technical ability for a center back. However, an underrated aspect of his ability as a defender, at the center back position, is his education as a right back. For a side like Arsenal, who often play a possession-based style of football, […]

Saturday’s match at the Stadium of Light pits two teams coming off disappointing results in their last English Premier League matches. Sunderland got destroyed by Southampton, suffering an 8-0 defeat. Arsenal played poorly against Hull City, with about 20 minutes of good play being sufficient to get a point out of a match where they should have expected to get all three. For Arsenal fans, this match against Sunderland should not feel too different to many of Arsenal’s encounters this season. The question will be whether Arsenal have found some new ways to attack these all too familiar strategies and tactics.

Arsenal have started this English Premier League season disappointingly with respect points, only grabbing 11 points from a possible 24. Given that Chelsea look like a 90 point team, dropping 13 points means that the Gunners have little chance at winning the title. Looking at their squad, the lack of a solution at holding midfielder appears to have played a significant role in Arsenal’s underwhelming performances. Relying More on the Holder in a 4-1-4-1 Arsenal have played a 4-1-4-1 this season, in an effort to exert greater control over their matches. However, such a system demands quite a bit from the holding midfielder. Unlike the 4-2-3-1, where two players play at the base of midfield, the 4-1-4-1 relies on a lone holder. A team relies on their holding midfielder to operate as a key player defensively and in possession. The holder probably has to be the most intelligent player on the pitch, as his positioning in both attack and defense […]

While Chile did not win World Cup 2014; however, they may have played the best football at the tournament. So even though they were eliminated by Brazil, they certainly earned their place as one of the biggest positives of World Cup 2014. Now, Chile has shifted their focus to hosting a tournament. More importantly, the 2015 Copa America represents Chile’s best opportunity to win a major international competition in decades. Given the ages of the players, their familiarity with one another and the system, and a system that can cause problems for even the best teams; they should go into the tournament as one of the favorites along with Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia. However, with so many players currently at the peak of their powers, the 2015 Copa America could represent the last time that this group of players truly contends on the international stage. The Competition It seems like a strange time for South American football in that the […]

Going into Saturday’s North London Derby, both Arsenal and Tottenham find themselves in the middle of acclimating to new circumstances. Arsenal have to build cohesion in a side with new players like Alexis Sanchez and gain an understanding of how to best operate in 4-1-4-1 system that Wenger has decided to go with this season. Tottenham have to understand how to execute the game plan of a new manager (again). This time they must adjust to the high lines, high pressing, counter pressing, quick passing, and direct style of Mauricio Pochettino. It seems a shame that a derby match must occur with these two teams not close to reaching their potential. While that may lead to a match of a lower caliber, with respect to footballing quality, it makes this match a bit more unpredictable.