Arsenal’s Mystery Dance

February 29, 2012


“So North London remains red after Arsenal put Spurs to the sword with a scintillating comeback in a memorable derby. This was a performance to give hope to the club’s long-suffering supporters, who have endured a troubled season to date, as the Gunners have misfired on all too many occasions. There is still much to play for, as the victory over their neighbours took Arsenal back into the top four, so they still have a chance of maintaining their remarkable record of qualifying for the Champions League for 14 consecutive seasons.” Swiss Ramble


Link between Premier League goalfests and poor European progress of English clubs?

February 29, 2012

“The top English clubs continue to perform poorly in Europe, and serve up amazingly open games at the top of the Premier League. Many have drawn a link between the two. I wrote a column for the Guardian yesterday along these lines…” Zonal Marking

Defending becoming a forgotten art for Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal
“After a fortnight that demonstrated English clubs’ inability to control football matches in Europe, Arsenal’s 5-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur was a perfect demonstration of the utterly anarchic football favoured by Premier League sides this season.” Guardian


The Reducer: Week 26, Ghosts of the Carling Cup

February 29, 2012

“I’m fairly certain that, while Kenny Dalglish may not exchange Christmas cards with Arsene Wenger … … they can both agree on this: It is more important to not lose the Carling Cup than it is to win it. On Sunday, Liverpool narrowly defeated championship side Cardiff City, winning 3-2 (technically 2-2) after a comical, watch-through-your-fingers shootout that seemed to encapsulate 40 years of English penalty-taking in a matter of minutes.” Grantland (YouTube)


Liverpool hopes Carling Cup triumph is springboard for success

February 29, 2012

“As Cup final victories go, Liverpool’s Carling Cup final success (3-2 in a penalty shootout) over Cardiff City on Sunday was particularly unconvincing. When a Premier League team plays a side from a lower division, even if it plays a team from lower down the same division, anticlimax is probably the best it can hope for; to win by a comfortable two- or three-goal margin.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Famous Children of Russia’s Forgotten Town

February 29, 2012


Pathways to Russia
“In a country with a history as rich as Russia’s, it is little surprise that there are some stories which go largely untold, sitting below the surface of popular biography and kept alive only by the communities directly descended from, or affected by, the event in question. On the south-eastern railway out of Moscow, somewhere between the capital and the war memorial which is now Volgograd, lies Tambov, a small city of now more than 300,000 inhabitants, the setting for a part of Soviet history which the authorities were keen to keep quiet.” In Bed With Maradona


For Spain, no time for nostalgia

February 29, 2012

“If there is one thing in football that not only sells stories but also gives off very nearly the same degree of endorphins as a brilliant live match, it is nostalgia. We drink to it, we daydream of it, and like a life belt in a sea of mediocrity, it can salvage something beautiful from the stormiest of times for your club or country.” ESPN


Laurent Blanc’s France side are still searching for an identity

February 29, 2012

“For a team protecting an unbeaten record that now stretches to 543 days, France will approach Wednesday night’s friendly against Germany in Bremen with a surprising degree of uncertainty. Since going down 1-0 at home to Belarus in Laurent Blanc’s first competitive game in charge, in September 2010, France have qualified for Euro 2012 – without recourse to the play-offs – and enjoyed friendly wins over England, Brazil and the US (as well as some forgettable draws against Croatia, Chile and Belgium).” Guardian


Reds win Carling Cup on penalties

February 27, 2012


“Liverpool overcame conceding a 118th-minute equaliser to win the Carling Cup on penalties against Cardiff City on Sunday. Steven Gerrard saw the Reds’ first penalty of the shoutout saved by Tom Heaton, but cousin Anthony missed Cardiff’s decisive final spot-kick to hand the Merseyside club their first significant piece of silverware since 2006. Gerrard, on as a substitute, was consoled by his relative at the final whistle – as Kenny Dalglish and his side were finally able to celebrate their success after a rollercoaster afternoon that had numerous twists and turns.” ESPN

Liverpool hopes Carling Cup triumph is springboard for success
“As Cup final victories go, Liverpool’s Carling Cup final success (3-2 in a penalty shootout) over Cardiff City on Sunday was particularly unconvincing. When a Premier League team plays a side from a lower division, even if it plays a team from lower down the same division, anticlimax is probably the best it can hope for; to win by a comfortable two- or three-goal margin.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher Ruins Sky’s Andy Burton
“After yesterday’s Carling Cup Final Sky stooge Adam Burton asked Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher if his celebrations were part of a long farewell. As you can see, Carra enquires if ‘he’s the coach’ then tells him he was ‘lucky to keep his job after that Wolves game.’ Legend.” Sabotage Times (Video)


floodlight fancy

February 27, 2012

“Everyone loves football floodlights. They do. Don’t look at me like that, it’s true. Too often dispensed with in modern stadia design floodlights are a metal lattice-work of nostalgia, a reminder of a simpler game; a floodlight would never issue a ‘come and get me plea’, a floodlight will never be lamented for taking a club as far as it can. Floodlights not only illuminate the game we love, but have often served as a beacon as well, guiding us to the fixtures we seek to attend, beckoning us like Gatsby’s green light on the end of the dock. Sure, we’ve ended up at the occasional goods yard, but is the thrill not often in the chase?” floodlight fancy


Ghost Goals That Haunt Soccer

February 27, 2012

“It’s one of the great mysteries of soccer: In a sport where the objective is to score goals, why do we put up with needless uncertainty about whether the ball has actually crossed the line? Why doesn’t soccer use the technological tools at its disposal to objectively determine whether the very raison d’être of the game has actually taken place? Soccer has a long history of so-called ghost goals.” WSJ


Milan 1-1 Juventus: Emanuelson nullifies Pirlo and robs Juve of their spare man too

February 27, 2012


“1st v 2nd in Serie A – Milan remain a point ahead, but Juve have a game in hand. Max Allegri still has big selection problems – Kevin-Prince Boateng joined the injury list, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic was suspended. Antonio Conte’s first nine names on the teamsheet were as expected – but Marco Borriello and Fabio Quagliarella upfront was a big surprise. The game finished level, but Milan were the better side here – Conte made mistakes, and Milan played well. The Juve coach seemed to accept this, saying, ‘First of all we must praise Milan, as they played for an hour at the highest level and put us under pressure with our own weapons. Where I see that we went wrong, it’s also because they made us go wrong.’ Accordingly, the majority of the report will be looking at how Milan outwitted Juve.” Zonal Marking

Milan’s ‘ghost goal’ against Juventus leaves Serie A on a knife-edge
“The Milan supporters behind the press box in the Tribuna Rossa craned their necks, trying to catch a replay on the journalists’ TV screens. Others reached for their phones to demand answers from friends sat watching at home. But most of the 50,000 in attendance at San Siro didn’t bother. They needed no confirmation of what they had already seen: Sulley Muntari’s header entering the Juventus goal before being pushed back out by Gigi Buffon.” Guardian

AC Milan 1-1 Juventus: Serie A Highlights
Caught Offside (Video)


Players strike in Peru points way forward

February 27, 2012

“Professional football walks an uneasy line between business and culture. As businesses go, football is unorthodox. Success is measured in trophies, not profits, and the relationship between the clubs is more like partners than true competitors. Clubs need each other and without enough opponents to sustain a season-long calendar there is no professional football.” BBC – Tim Vickery


Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham: Arsenal complete an amazing comeback

February 27, 2012

“Tottenham went 2-0 up but then lost their shape completely and conceded five. Arsene Wenger had something approaching his first-choice back four available. He used Tomas Rosicky in the Aaron Ramsey role in midfield, and Yossi Benayoun getting a start on the left. Harry Redknapp picked two out-and-out strikers upfront, with Rafael van der Vaart and Aaron Lennon only on the bench and Niko Kranjcar making a surprise start on the right of midfield.” Zonal Marking


The Coolest Soccer Team in Europe

February 25, 2012


“Napoli’s startling 3-1 upset of Chelsea in the Champions League last Tuesday accomplished three important things. It put a formal timestamp on the moment everyone realized that Serie A had caught up to the Premier League. It launched a thousand ‘Andre Villas-Boas DeathWatch’ columns, to the point that hasandrevillasboasbeensackedyet.com became a vital resource for soccer journalists. And it cemented Napoli’s status as the coolest club in Europe and the default answer to the question, ‘If you’re an American looking to get into European soccer, which team should you support?’” Grantland – Run of Play

Napoli 3-1 Chelsea: Ivanovic plays high up and Napoli exploit the space in behind him
“Napoli played their classic counter-attacking game to put themselves in a strong position going into the second leg. Walter Mazzarri was suspended from the touchline, so assistant Nicolo Frustalupi took charge. Morgan De Sanctis returned in goal, Hugo Campagnaro was fit to start, and Juan Zuniga was picked rather than Andrea Dossena on the left. Andre Villas-Boas left out Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole, though the latter replaced Jose Bosingwa early on at left-back. Florent Malouda got a surprise start (though he has played the majority) of games in Europe this season. As expected, Didier Drogba played rather than Fernando Torres, while John Terry was out.” Zonal Marking

The Question: Why is the back three resurgent in Italy?
“Given everything in football – tactically speaking – is relative, perhaps nothing can ever truly be dead. Systems and styles of play that have seemed to have outlived their usefulness drift away, fade from consciousness and lie dormant, waiting for the game to forget about them so they can be triumphantly reintroduced. For a long time, playing three at the back seemed finished, but Napoli’s victory over Chelsea on Tuesday night was just part of a wider resurgence.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Marseille 1-0 Inter: Marseille finally get the breakthrough with their 44th cross of the match

February 25, 2012

“Andre Ayew pounced in stoppage time, and Marseille will take a one goal lead to Inter. Didier Deschamps was without top scorer Loic Remy, so Brandao was upfront. In midfield, Benoit Cheyrou started rather than Charles Kaboré. Claudio Ranieri made the fitness-related decision to omit Diego Milito, and instead play Diego Forlan and Mauro Zarate – otherwise, the side was as expected. A strange game here – Inter looked in control midway through the second half, but then increasingly invited pressure. 0-0 was probably a better reflection of the balance of play.” Zonal Marking


On Thomas Müller

February 25, 2012

“There are a lot of reasons to be happy about Germany right now. Comparatively, things are really great there. More importantly, they have an excellent soccer team. As James Tyler wrote at The Classical, they’re a really good soccer team because they’ve decided to stop being German.” Run of Play


Great Football League Teams 31: Liverpool 1961-2

February 25, 2012


“I grew up during a period of near total domination for Liverpool Football Club but one thing I shall always remember is a notebook my Dad had stored away in which he had kept a record of all the FA Cup results for several seasons in the early 1950s.” thetwounfortunates


Racing look for a to return to the glory years

February 25, 2012

“There was a time, before being relegated to the second division in the 1980s, before ‘ceasing to exist’ in 1999, before bankruptcy threatened their existence yet again in 2008, Racing Club de Avellaneda was unofficially the best team in the world after winning three trophies in the space of a year: the 1966 Primera División title, the 1967 Copa Libertadores, and the 1967 Intercontinental Cup, all while breaking several records in the process.” World Soccer


Stuttgart 4-1 Freiburg

February 25, 2012

“Stuttgart comfortably defeated near-ish neighbours Freiburg in the Bundesliga’s Baden-Württemberg derby by four goals to one, with Martin Harnik bagging his tenth and 11th goals of the season. Although question marks over the Swabian outfit’s ability to defend set-pieces remain, with Stuttgart having conceded a needless goal from a corner in the first half, thereby allowing Freiburg to temporarily enjoy a spell on top, Bruno Labbadia’s side simply had far too much attacking quality for the visiting defence here, whose inexperience was plain for all to see. Added to that, Christian Streich’s side showed at the Mercedes-Benz Arena this afternoon that they are severely lacking in quality and invention in the final-third, although the coach may point to last weekend’s 0-0 draw against Bayern Munich, which might conceivably have taken a lot out of his young side both mentally and physically.” Defensive Midfielder


Non-League Videos Of The Week: 19/02/2012

February 25, 2012

“After a couple of weeks off, we can finally get back to some matches from this weekend’s football and we have a variety of competitions for you today. First up, we have a match from this weekend’s FA Vase between Whitley Bay, who have won the tournament for the last three years in a row, and West Auckland. Next up, we have the match between Wrexham, who are chasing the title in the Blue Square Bet Premier, and Hayes & Yeading United, who are fighting to keep their heads above water at the other end of the table. After this is a match from the Premier Division of the Evostik Northern Premier League between FC United of Manchester and Frickley Athletic, and finally we have a match from the Premier Division of the Ryman League, between Bury Town, who are chasing a play-off place, and another team struggling to avoid relegation, Harrow Borough. Our thanks go to all of those that record, edit and upload these videos.” twohundredpercent (Video)


Tactics: winning ways with Universidad de Chile

February 23, 2012


“You wonder what Marcelo Bielsa must think of it all. In 2011 the two most successful club sides in the world have been Barcelona and Universidad de Chile. Both play hard pressing, attacking football, often going with three at the back. In other words, they both play Bielsista football – which raises the question of why the man himself is leading Athletic Bilbao to upper mid-table in Spain rather than managing one of the continent’s giants.” World Soccer – Jonathan Wilson (YouTube)


Gerrard On The Right – A Short Term Fix?

February 23, 2012

“Our tactical expert Mihail takes an in-depth look at our options on the right flank – and comes up with some interesting possibilities for the short-and medium term.” Tomkins Times


Marseille 1-0 Inter: Marseille finally get the breakthrough with their 44th cross of the match

February 23, 2012

“Andre Ayew pounced in stoppage time, and Marseille will take a one goal lead to Inter. Didier Deschamps was without top scorer Loic Remy, so Brandao was upfront. In midfield, Benoit Cheyrou started rather than Charles Kaboré. Claudio Ranieri made the fitness-related decision to omit Diego Milito, and instead play Diego Forlan and Mauro Zarate – otherwise, the side was as expected. A strange game here – Inter looked in control midway through the second half, but then increasingly invited pressure. 0-0 was probably a better reflection of the balance of play.” Zonal Marking


Good old Sussex by the Sea

February 23, 2012

“Danny Last may have put away the computer keyboard from European Football Weekends but that doesn’t mean he has also filed the old Polaroid in the bin too. Yesterday he was part of the Sussex Army who descended on Anfield for the FA Cup 5th Round tie. We all know the score but his outstanding pictures tell a different story.” The Ball is Round


Suarez/Evra: The Poem

February 23, 2012


Eugene Delacroix, Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople on 12 April 1204
“Suárez, enemy of Ghana,
incensed by slur on his hermana,
started this whole ugly din.
Muttered something, pinched the skin. …” Run of Play


My Dreams About Jose Mourinho

February 23, 2012

“I have recurring dreams about Jose Mourinho. The circumstances change — there are different places, different story lines — but each time we exchange a surprised glance, and one of us begins to talk in a strange language. And then something horrible happens. The last one I had came the night I was doing research for the next day’s Athletic Bilbao-RDC Mallorca game in La Palma.” Run of Play


Napoli 3-1 Chelsea: Ivanovic plays high up and Napoli exploit the space in behind him

February 23, 2012

“Napoli played their classic counter-attacking game to put themselves in a strong position going into the second leg. Walter Mazzarri was suspended from the touchline, so assistant Nicolo Frustalupi took charge. Morgan De Sanctis returned in goal, Hugo Campagnaro was fit to start, and Juan Zuniga was picked rather than Andrea Dossena on the left. Andre Villas-Boas left out Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole, though the latter replaced Jose Bosingwa early on at left-back. Florent Malouda got a surprise start (though he has played the majority) of games in Europe this season. As expected, Didier Drogba played rather than Fernando Torres, while John Terry was out.” Zonal Marking


Cardiff claim cup glory

February 23, 2012

“As Cardiff prepare for the Carling Cup final against Liverpool this weekend, the Welsh side know that they have the chance to make history. The club have brought home few major trophies in their 113-year history, but winning the FA Cup final in 1927 against Herbert Chapman’s Arsenal was the culmination of a decade in which the Bluebirds were seen as one of the top clubs in the English league.” ESPN


Wenger and Arsenal’s decline due to idealism or fundamentalism?

February 23, 2012

“There is probably no better account of a leader in decline than the depiction Gabriel Garcia Marquez gives of the final days of Simon Bolivar in The General in his Labyrinth. The great liberator is seen as exhausted and paranoid, clinging ever more desperately to the doctrines that made him great even as he drifts down the Magdalena toward death. Soccer managers tend not to have sufficient longevity for their decline to achieve such an epic feel, but the protracted misery of Arsene Wenger does. All great men, perhaps, are doomed to slide into self-parody.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


The Reducer: Week 26, Money, Power, Respect

February 21, 2012


“I want Andre Villas-Boas to succeed. It could be because he and I are the same age and I’d like to think I’m at the point in my life where I, too, could manage a Premier League club. (Hey, I’m keeping my options open.) Or it could be that I am mildly charmed by his roughly translated, vaguely post-structural declarations about time and space. For instance: ‘Players compete, in the end, for their place and for their place towards the future in the team. So if you want to be in the team in the future, you are competing to win something against your colleague. I would put it exactly like that: performance to have reward … reward in terms of results and reward in terms of future continuity.’ Slow your roll, Roland Barthes. John Terry has not quite finished Elements of Semiology.” Grantland (YouTube)


Arsene Wenger and the Whale’s Back

February 21, 2012

“Arsene Wenger is like Schrödinger’s cat, or one of those particles that are supposed to be able to exist in two places at once: it’s impossible to measure him accurately because we don’t know enough about the constraints he’s under at Arsenal. If the board is pleading with him to spend money and he’s responding by humming loudly and composing an oil painting about youth development, then he’s a dogmatist who should probably be fired. If the board is counting out bills in ones and scowling when it hands them over, then he’s doing a miraculous job adapting to a difficult situation.” Run Of Play


PSG 2-2 Montpellier: narrowness versus width

February 21, 2012

“First played second in Ligue 1, and PSG maintain their one-point lead. PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti was unable to use Javier Pastore from the start – he was fit only for the bench. The only change from the 0-0 draw with Nice was Blaise Matuidi coming in for Mathieu Bodmer on the left of midfield. Rene Girard made three changes, bringing in Hilton at the back, Souleymane Camara on the right, and Jamel Saihi in the centre of midfield, in a 4-2-3-1 formation.” Zonal Marking


Madrid-Barca dispute over Spanish Cup final venue a divisive saga

February 20, 2012


“Even when it’s not about them it’s about them. The big issue in Spain over the last week or so has been the final of the Copa del Rey: wherever you look, they’re indulged in the same, familiar argument. Seeped in the same hatred and the same suspicion, it follows familiar lines — the constant search to feel offended, to demonstrate the other side’s moral inferiority. A playground argument: You started it, no you did. You’re the bad guys, no you are. Everyone everywhere seems to be talking about the rivalry between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona and how that will play out at the Spanish Cup final.” SI, W – Copa del Rey

Barcelona 5-1 Valencia: Valencia do their Nou Camp usual – start well, then tire in second half February 19, 2012
“Lionel Messi hit four goals as 2nd-placed Barcelona thrashed 3rd-placed Valencia. Pep Guardiola was without the suspended Daniel Alves, so Martin Montoya played at right-back. Xavi Hernandez was only fit enough for the bench. At the back, Gerard Pique returned after being left out in the 3-1 Champions League win over Leverkusen in the week. Unai Emery was without Jordi Alba from the start, so played Jeremy Mathieu at left-back, rather than in the left wing position he’s thrived in against Barcelona in the past. Ever Banega’s strange injury ruled him out.” Zonal Marking


A Most Unusual English Season

February 20, 2012

“All in all, this has been a very strange season at the summit of English football. Very little has felt normal. After Liverpool’s slip from the top four slots a couple of seasons back, the Reds have found themselves in a catch-22: needing better players to get into the Champions League, but better players want to already be in the Champions League. It’s an odd situation.” Tomkins Times


Bayern Munich – Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money)

February 20, 2012

“Despite a couple of below par performances in the new year, this season still holds a lot of promise for Bayern Munich. They currently sit in second place in the Bundesliga just two points behind reigning champions Borussia Dortmund, have reached the semi finals of the DFB-Pokal (German Cup) and comfortably won their Champions League group.” Swiss Ramble


The importance of potent partnerships

February 20, 2012


“Of the many images football has left in my mind, one of the most intriguing comes from a pre-match warm up more than 15 years ago. Flamengo were about to play Internacional in the Brazilian Championship. Reunited for the first time since winning the World Cup just over two years earlier, Romario and Bebeto were exchanging passes. Bebeto was sleek and somehow vulnerable, like a cheetah. Romario was stocky and merciless, a perfect hyena. The two made natural hunting partners. It is inconceivable that Brazil would have won USA 94 without them.” BBC – Tim Vickery


Bayern’s capture of Shaqiri a coup

February 20, 2012

“FC Bayern Munich has been following Xherdan Shaqiri’s progress keenly since September 2010, when the Swiss winger’s raw ability was noticed in two Champions League meetings with FC Basel at the age of 18. ‘If Bayern was to call, I wouldn’t have to think too long,’ Shaqiri said at the time, in response to Swiss media speculation that the Germans were interested to secure his services. Bayern kept tabs on the player and asked Basel keep the lines of communication open.” SI


Three own goals aid Liverpool

February 20, 2012

“Brighton contributed an amazing three own goals to Liverpool’s biggest win since September 2009 as the Reds booked an FA Cup sixth round meeting with Stoke. Liam Bridcutt twice turned the ball into his own net, the first, just before half-time after Kazenga Lua Lua had levelled Martin Skrtel’s early header proving crucial. Lewis Dunk also scored an own goal, although Reds boss Kenny Dalglish will be more pleased that man-of-the-match Andy Carroll was also on target before setting up Luis Suarez, who had already missed a penalty as he hunted for his first goal since completing his eight-match ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra.” ESPN

Match Of The Week: Liverpool 6-1 Brighton & Hove Albion
“There’s history here, you know. When Liverpool were the kings of English and European football, Brighton & Hove Albion had a curious habit of being able to dump them out of the FA Cup. They did it at Anfield on the way to Wembley in 1983, and then again at The Goldstone Ground the following year. Times have changed since then, of course. It’s more than two decades since the league championship last ventured to Merseyside, and over that time Brighton have been to hell and back. As of today, however, they remain on upward trajectory. The new ground is completed and ready for expansion, if or when required, and the team sits in ninth place in the Championship table – still well in touch with a play-off place.” twohundredpercent


The tragedy of Fernando Torres

February 18, 2012


“Chelsea’s £50m striker has fallen prey to the malaise that every sportsman dreads: a catastrophic and inexplicable loss of form. But why does this happen to top athletes and how can they recover?” FT Magazine


Nationalities of managers in European leagues

February 18, 2012

“England are without a manager, and the FA are known to favour an English candidate for the job. Harry Redknapp is the overwhelming favourite, but the problem with favouring an English candidate is that there are so few English managers working in the Premier League. How does this situation compare to other major footballing countries in Europe?” ZonaL Marking


Rangers’ Nightmare Week

February 18, 2012

“This week, Alex Salmond held discussions with David Cameron about the terms of a referendum on independence, and Cameron launched his own pleas in defence of the Union. It’s a story that has been dominating the headlines for weeks in Scotland – not unreasonably – but this week, Cameron was unlucky with his timing. His speech got some cursory coverage, and the rest of the news, as it has been since Monday afternoon, has been wall-to-wall Rangers.” twohundredpercent


What To Watch This Weekend: La Liga Beyond the Big Two

February 18, 2012

“There’s a whole slate of FA Cup matches in England, including Sunderland-Arsenal (see PoliticalFootballs’ most recent post for a full list of those fixtures), and domestic matches in Germany, Italy, etc. But we’re finding ourselves getting increasingly fascinated by Spanish football beyond the big two.” Cult Football


Tevez is proof of player power

February 18, 2012

“There were no fine robes, no rings, and the fatted calves of Manchester survived the night untroubled. But the prodigal son is back at the Etihad, and give or take a few weeks of fitness work, it seems that we will once again be treated to the sight of Carlos Tevez seated on the bench he famously refused to disembark four months ago. The possibilities are fascinating, and it can only be hoped that his sense of humor has survived the intense golfing holiday.” ESPN


Milan 4-0 Arsenal: Milan make their strength count and win comfortably

February 16, 2012


Robinho
“Milan thrashed Arsenal in an amazingly dominant performance. Max Allegri went for the usual diamond in midfield. Clarence Seedorf started on the left but went off injured quickly, and was replaced by Urby Emanuelson. Philippe Mexes started at centre-back, rather than Alessandro Nesta. Arsene Wenger picked two natural full-backs, with Kieran Gibbs fit enough to start, but not fit enough to complete the game. Tomas Rosicky was a surprising choice on the left of midfield.” Zonal Marking

Arsenal’s Champions League hopes shattered as Robinho scores twice for AC Milan
“Good players have not been properly replaced. Mikel Arteta for Cesc Fabregas? Not good enough. Wenger’s failure to invest properly last summer finally caught up with his team on Wednesday night. This was men against boys, heavyweights battering lightweights, a ruthless Serie A side ripping apart naive, nervous visitors from the Premier League. Arsenal were outpaced, out-thought and out-fought. There was no leadership, no energy, no boldness.” Telegraph – Henry Winter

Zlatan Ibrahimovic inspires Milan to the perfect game
“If there was a football equivalent of a “perfect game” then AC Milan might have executed it. Unlike baseball though, it’d be qualitative because Milan didn’t overwhelmingly dominate in any of the main statistics – except shots – but their game-plan went perfectly according to plan to emphatically defeat Arsenal 4-0 in the 1st leg of the Champions League knock-out stage.” The Arsenal Column


Sánchez and Messi put Barcelona in control

February 16, 2012

“Alexis Sánchez scored twice as holders FC Barcelona took a giant step towards a place in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals with victory at Bayer 04 Leverkusen. Though they spent much of the opening period trying in vain to prise open their obdurate hosts, Josep Guardiola’s men went in at half-time ahead courtesy of Alexis Sánchez’s 41st-minute strike, his maiden goal in UEFA club competition. The Chilean international doubled his team’s tally ten minutes after the restart, nipping in the bud a Leverkusen rally sparked by Michal Kadlec’s 52nd-minute header. Lionel Messi’s seventh of the competition late on left Barcelona in control going into the second leg on 7 March.” UEFA (Video)


Nine points on Zenit 3-2 Benfica

February 16, 2012

“An eventful match with lots of attacking and rather too many goalkeeping mistakes. 1. Zenit are now without Danny after his sad injury. He was their technical leader, brilliant on the counter-attack and wonderfully creative. Zenit are predominantly a counter-attacking side – their approach in Europe this year has been to sit back, soak up pressure and then hit sides on the break. Here, however, they were much more proactive without the ball – the front players closed down, the fluid midfield triangle tried to press Benfica’s holders quickly. It created an open game, but Zenit allowed Benfica far too many opportunities to counter. …” Zonal Marking


Zambia gain redemption to stun Ivory Coast in Africa Cup of Nations

February 14, 2012


“Zambia 0-0 Ivory Coast (Zambia win 8-7 on pens). Stopila Sunzu began Sunday as an unheralded centre-back for the Congolese side TP Mazembe. He ended it as the unlikely hero of one of the greatest stories of redemption football has ever known. As Kalusha Bwalya, the greatest Zambian footballer of all time, was engulfed by the Zambia players after their victory in a penalty shoot-out, there were tears of joy but also tears born of the knowledge that this should have been his team-mates celebrating with him.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Zambia 0-0 Ivory Coast: Zambia win the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations on penalties
“Zambia completed an astonishing victory on penalties after a tight final. Hervé Renard made the predictable but astute decision to switch to the team which ended the semi-final win over Ghana. That meant Emmanuel Mayuka starting upfront, Chisamba Lungu on the wing, and Isaac Chansa back in the centre. After plenty of rotation throughout the competition, François Zahoui went for an unchanged side from the XI which beat Mali in the semi-final. However, there was an early change for Zambia when left-back Joseph Musonda went down injured, and was replaced by Nyambe Mulenga, shown on the diagram.” Zonal Marking

Zambia’s triumph heals 19-year-old rift with Gabon over plane disaster
“Of all the extraordinary memories of the Africa Cup of Nations final, perhaps the most remarkable was the reaction of the crowd. In the aftermath of the 1993 plane crash that killed 18 Zambia players just after take-off after refuelling at Libreville, relations between Zambia and Gabon sunk to ugly lows.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

The 2012 African Cup Of Nations: The Final
“Cote D’Ivoire never had a chance. Whatever the multi-talents of their squad, the Elephants were going to struggle in this African Cup of Nations final…up against two teams. As if the Zambian side at this competition wasn’t good enough, there was the memory of their 1993 predecessors with which to contend, and the current squad’s hugely admirable determination to do justice to that memory. Arguably Zambia’s most-talented, all-but-one of the 1993 squad lost their lives in a plane crash off the Gabonese coast near capital Libreville – the venue for this year’s final – as they journeyed to a World Cup qualifier in Senegal.” twohundredpercent

Best and worst moments from the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations
“From the disappointment of Senegal, to Kily Alvarez’s goal and Ali Bongo’s wild celebration…” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Spot-kick drama secures fairytale title
“Zambia clinched their first African Nations Cup crown with a poignant penalty shoot-out win over Ivory Coast. Nineteen years after a plane crash which killed 18 members of their squad in Libreville, the Chipolopolo returned to the Gabon capital to record the most famous victory in the country’s history. A dramatic shoot-out at the end of 120 minutes of largely underwhelming football went the way of Zambia when Gervinho shot wide and Stophira Sunzu stepped up to slot home.” ESPN


Time To Draw A Line Under The Suarez Incidents

February 14, 2012

“The football was always going to be overshadowed on Saturday lunchtime. It has been that sort of a season. At least, though, another gut-wrenching weekend of tribalism and mud-slinging, some good finally seems to have come from the poisonous atmosphere between Liverpool and Manchester United, and perhaps now we can get back to focussing on what continues to be a fascinating season in the Premier League.” twohundredpercent


La Scottish Masia?

February 14, 2012

“Falkirk is a small town located in the Central Lowlands of Scotland, populated by just over 30,000 people it is renowned for many attractions like the Falkirk Wheel, the remnants of the Antonine Wall and for being the town where John Logie Baird was born – the legendary inventor of the Television. One thing the small town isn’t renowned for though is its football, but due to the talented emerging youth in its biggest local team, Falkirk is being put on the map.” In Bed With Maradina


All managers great and small

February 14, 2012


Gregorio Manzano
“During a podcast I did for the US a few months ago, I was asked who my three favourite managers were in La Liga, aside from the famous few. I replied with Marcelino, Manolo Preciado and Gregorio Manzano. The perceptive ones among you will realise that they have all been subsequently sacked – a fact that was pointed out to me by the interviewer, a few days ago in an e-mail entitled ‘The kiss of death’.” ESPN


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