A Sardinian Summer: The Forgotten Story Of the Chicago Mustangs

August 25, 2013

“Cagliari Calcio are an altogether unremarkable football club. For much of their existence they have been a yo-yo team, alternating between promotion and relegation and oftentimes languishing in the rustic depths of the Serie C, the third tier of Italian football. In their 93 years of existence they have conquered just one piece of silverware, a lone Scudetto won in 1970. In those brief glory years they were led by the inspirational Gigi Riva, the all-time leading goalscorer of the Italian National team. Since their latest promotion to the top flight in 2004 they have managed to stave off relegation but have been in a perpetual state of purgatory; too far off the top to the table to harbor realistic European ambitions, yet too far from the bottom to risk a return to Serie B. Their record is, for the most part, unexceptional. Yet in a curious episode long forgotten in the annals of football history, for a brief period of time they were known as the Chicago Mustangs. For one fleeting summer, Cagliari Calcio, the team from the picturesque Mediterranean island of Sardinia, used Comiskey Park on the South Side of Chicago as their home ground. This is their story.” In Bed With Maradona

Marek Hamsik’s creativity ideal for Rafa Benitez’s Napoli revolution

August 22, 2013

“It has been an exciting summer of coaching changes across Europe: The top seven favourites for the Champions League, the top three in England, the top two in Spain, plus the champions of France, Germany and Portugal all started 2013-14 with a new manager. In Italy, somewhat surprisingly, it’s been quieter. Of last season’s top four, Juventus’ Antonio Conte, Milan’s Max Allegri and Fiorentina’s Vincenzo Montella remain in their positions having performed extremely impressively, albeit in different ways, last season.” ESPN – Michael Cox (Video)

Bilbao Tactics: Post Bielsa Era

August 22, 2013

“It was just over a year ago that Marcelo Bielsa’s Athletic Bilbao were the envy of most European clubs. With a squad assembled mostly of youth products and clever signings in-keeping with their Basque region-only philosophy, Bilbao reached the finals of both the Copa Del Rey and the Europa League by virtue of their high-pressing, slick passing football that saw Bielsa become one of the in-demand coaches on the continent. They lost both finals but after finishing a solid tenth in La Liga and disposing both Manchester United and Schalke with a young squad drilled brilliantly into Bielsa’s meticulous approach, there was high optimism that Bilbao could push on to challenge the higher reaches of the Primera.” Outside of the Boot

No more bickering as Supercoppa awaits

August 17, 2013

“The Italian Supercoppa is traditionally a competitive curtain-raiser to the Italian season, although the actual scheduling of the event this year roused more resentment between its two protagonists than can be expected at the Stadio Olimpico this Sunday. When Juventus and Lazio take to the field in Rome, most of the battle will have already been won and lost after months of off-field debating. The Italian Football League, Lega Calcio, stipulated an agreement with China in 2010 that formalised plans for three of the subsequent four editions of the Supercoppa to be staged in Beijing.” ESPN

They Are They, We Are We: The Forgotten Genius Of Vujadin Boskov

August 14, 2013

“If during the eighties you followed Italian football with any degree of interest, then those words (that, incidentally, mean ‘penalty is when referee gives it’) should sound familiar. As should ‘se vinciamo siamo vincitori se perdiamo siamo perditori’ (if we win we are winners, if we lose we are losers) and ‘loro sono loro, noi siamo noi’ (they are they, we are we). Those were the words of Vujadin Boskov and those were the kind of soundbites that made him popular with the waiting journalists after games. It was through such aphorisms that Vujadin Boskov entered Italian society’s public consciousness and it is for them that he remains most widely known.” In Bed With Maradona

Grazie Ambro: A Tribute

August 12, 2013

“And so it ends. After 18 seasons of running around, snarling and tackling all whilst sporting a flurry of long blonde hair with a band, come August, MASSIMO AMBROSINI will be a Milan player no more. Football has changed over the years and with changing times, even the clubs have changed their systems and policies. Milan too has changed its approach as they have decided to take a different path now, focusing on youth and ‘building stars instead of buying them’. The new campaign was labelled as ‘Year Zero’ as they wanted to start a fresh cycle and concentrate on youth. This year, once again the Rossoneri fans bid farewell to another long lasting servant, Massimo Ambrosini. After the mass exodus last season when Alessandro Nesta, Pippo Inzaghi, Clarence Seedorf, Rino Gattuso ,Gianluca Zambrotta and Flavio Roma decided to jump off the Milanese train, this year it’s the club captain who will not be with the side in the coming campaign.” Outside of the Boot

Can Neymar and Messi co-exist? and four other things to look out for this season

August 6, 2013

“Every one of Europe’s top five leagues has the potential to have a thrilling title race this season. Sam Thompson, of TTTFootball, takes a closer look at who will be challenging at the top in England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France…” Think Football

Top 10 Young Football Managers

July 22, 2013

“Football, over the last couple of seasons, has been witnessing a ‘change of guard’. Players who we adored in their prime have retired, managers that headed some of the greatest sides in history have resigned. All this has given rise to the next generation of football personnel ranging from talented young footballers to talented young tacticians. In this piece we will be focusing on the Top 10 Young Football Managers, that could be at the helm of some of the biggest clubs in World Football, in the not-so-distant future.” Outside of the Boot – Part 1, Outside of the Boot – Part 2

Are we witnessing an Italian footballing renaissance?

July 20, 2013

“… There’s a land far, far away – a mystical place filled with romantic and footballing sensibilities. Actually, it’s called Italy. Home to some of the greatest players, birth place of the most revolutionary tactical innovations. Seen as a place of fraud and feuds to those unwilling to look beyond the distinctive ‘defensive’ approach. The Italians have ruled and been ruled. The tides are turning; tumultuous Turin and melodramatic Milan are gathering an army and they’re planning a renaissance.” Think Football

After a productive transfer season are Fiorentina now real Serie A title contenders?

July 16, 2013

“Finishing in a lowly 13th place in the 2011/12 season, Vincenzo Montella made a huge turnaround last season leading Fiorentina to challenge Milan for the final slot Champions League slot, with Fiorentina narrowly missing out after a controversial Milan win against already relegated Siena in the last week. The owners’ decision to replace former sporting director Pantaleo Corvino with the dynamic duo of Daniele Prade and Eduardo Macía had impact on Fiorentina’s change in fortune. The new management sold troubled players such as Juan Vargas and replaced them with new, fresh, young and hungry faces, more suited to the tiki-taka style of football Montella wanted to install at Artemio Franchi. Last season has seen Fiorentina bringing in midfielder Borja Valero and centre-backs Gonzalo Rodriguez and Facundo Roncaglia from relegated Villarreal, where they also pick up Giuseppe Rossi, a dynamic, yet injury prone 25 year old.” Think Football

In Mario Gomez Fiorentina have seen something the rest of Europe did not

July 13, 2013

“Mario Gomez scores lots of goals: 75 in 115 league appearances for Bayern Munich, 63 in 121 for Stuttgart and 25 in 58 games for Germany. Even last season, when he had been relegated to second choice behind Mario Mandzukic, Gomez rattled in 12 goals in 11 starts. When he joined Bayern in 2009, he was the most expensive transfer in Bundesliga history. If various add-on clauses end up being triggered, he will surpass Nuno Gomes as Fiorentina’s record signing.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Visionary Luis Enrique looking back at the long-term with Celta Vigo

June 23, 2013

“Abel Resino left Celta Vigo with the remit of his four months in charge complete— to avoid relegation. The Galicia club avoided the drop by just one point on the final day after the 53 year old Resino came in as a fire-fighter, with Celta third from bottom upon the departure of Paco Herrera back in February. Resino was very much a short term choice, a stop-gap to lead the team to safety so President Carlos Mourino could implement a long-term vision that will be spearheaded by Luis Enrique, returning to La Liga after an ill-fated spell with Roma.” Outside of the Boot

Serie A’s battle for third down to Milan, Fiorentina

May 3, 2013

“OK, hands up, who remembers Serie A? After a fortnight where the major talking point has been the Bundesliga’s dominance over La Liga — with the Premier League chipping in with some end-of-season awards — Italian football has taken a backseat. It’s a position Italy has increasingly become accustomed to. Once revered as the finest league in Europe, there’s still much to recommend Serie A — but the UEFA coefficients now firmly rank it as the fourth-best league in Europe. Serie A boasts no semifinalists in either the Champions League or the Europa League, and it has featured an exciting title fight. Juventus have been on course for the title throughout the campaign, effectively ending the contest with their 1-1 draw away at closest challengers Napoli, who will finish second. Attention has turned to the battle for third.” ESPN – Michael Cox

Real Sociedad 4-2 Valencia: superb counter-attacking seals the win

April 30, 2013

“Real Sociedad opened up a five-point gap in the race for fourth place. Philippe Montanier brought in Alberto de la Bella for the injured Liassine Cadamuro at left-back, Asier Illarramendi returned after suspension, but Antoine Griezmann was banned so Gonzalo Castro played on the left. From the side that thrashed Malaga 5-1, Ernesto Valverde brought Ricardo Costa back into the centre of his defence, while Sofiane Feghouli started on the right, as Canales was injured again. Jonas switched to the left. The key feature of this game was not about formations, individual positioning or possession dominance – but instead about Real Sociedad’s brilliant quick counter-attacks that repeatedly carved Valencia open.” Zonal Marking

Saving Filadelfia

April 30, 2013

“In its heyday it stood majestically as the home of Torino. It housed ‘Il Grande Torino’, arguably the greatest side calcio has ever witnessed. It presented a wall of noise in an intimate atmosphere. It was where Torino claimed six of their seven Scudetti. Today the Stadio Filadelfia is a desolate, crumbling shadow of its former glory. The spiritual home of the Granata – claret reds – has few sections remaining. Like an Ancient Roman ruin, pieces of edifice linger to offer a haunting reminder of its majesty. Torino haven’t played a League match at the stadium since May 19, 1963. On that occasion 1982 World Cup winning Coach Enzo Bearzot was on target in a 1-1 draw against Napoli.” In Bed With Maradona

How not to write about football

April 18, 2013

“A reaction to the Champions League draw last Friday saw commentator Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger write about fears of a German hegemony in Europe. It is correct, 2 German clubs in the semi-final of Europe’s premier football competition is a Novum. However, there is no reason to bring hegemony into play. Hegemony is described as indirect rule by the means of cultural and political ideas in order to maintain a status quo. The Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci used the term ‘Cultural Hegemony’ to describe how the ruling class dominate the working class by setting an agenda of ideas and beliefs.” Do not mention the war

AC Milan 1-1 Napoli: Tactical Analysis

April 18, 2013

“The fight for Europe continued in the Serie A as 3rd placed Milan faced 2nd place Napoli. Juventus have a clear path through to the Serie A crown but its the teams below them than are competing for places. Games like this one at the San Siro can be crucial for teams who have aspirations for the Champions League next season. Milan were without Balotelli who was suspended for 3 games while El Sharaawy started (surprisingly) on the bench. Allegri opted to go with Robinho and Boateng either side of Pazzini in place of Niang and Sharaawy. The game was a closely fought affair. Napoli should feel disappointed at not taking advantage of Flamini’s red card. Milan however continued to look to get the victory despite being down to 10 men for the last 20 minutes.” Outside of the Boot

AC Milan 1-1 Napoli: Tactical Analysis
“The fight for Europe continued in the Serie A as 3rd placed Milan faced 2nd place Napoli. Juventus have a clear path through to the Serie A crown but it’s the teams below them that are competing for places. Games like this one at the San Siro can be crucial for teams who have aspirations for the Champions League next season. Milan were without Balotelli who was suspended for 3 games, while El Sharaawy started (surprisingly) on the bench. Allegri opted to go with Robinho and Boateng either side of Pazzini, in place of Niang and Sharaawy.” SportsKeeda

Juventus 0-2 Bayern Munich: Bayern initially struggle with the tempo, then close out the tie

April 13, 2013

Juventus v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final
“This was expected to be the closest tie of the Champions League quarter-final stage, but was actually won by the biggest margin. Antonio Conte was without the suspended duo of Arturo Vidal and Stephane Lichtsteiner, so he played Paul Pogba and Federico Peluso. Mirko Vucinic returned to the side upfront. Jupp Heynckes welcomed back Javi Martinez from suspension, but otherwise continued with the side that played the majority of the first leg, after Toni Kroos’ injury. Juventus started the game brightly, but Bayern eventually took command and calmed the tempo of the game.” Zonal Marking

Juventus 0-2 Bayern Munich- Tactical Analysis
“Juventus welcomed Bayern Munich to the Juventus arena on a night where they needed a minor miracle to turn around a 2-0 deficit from the first leg. The feat had only been replicated once before, by Barcelona in the previous round against AC Milan. The home side made two mandatory changes, Lichtsteiner and Vidal, sitting out through suspension, were replaced by Padoin and Pogba respectively. The rest of the team was familiar, as they started in their 3-5-2 formation, with Kwadwo Asamoah returning on the left wing. Up front, Vucinic started along side Fabio Quagliarella. The back 3 remained the same, along with Pirlo and Marchisio, who along with Pogba completed the midfield.” Outside of the Boot

Scramble Tactics – How Borussia Dortmund came back against Malaga
“You see this scenario all too often in football. A team trails or needs goals in the dying minutes of a game. Coaches throw on the additional striker or instruct their center-backs to play in the opponent’s box and wait for long balls or crosses to come in, hoping for the right bounce or opportunity to strike. What Jürgen Klopp and Borussia Dortmund did in the Champions League quarterfinal second leg against Malaga was similar of course with a very interesting variation worth deconstructing.” Bundesliga Fanatic

Fiorentina 2-2 Milan: Montella reacts calmly to Fiorentina’s first-half setbacks

April 9, 2013

“Despite a numerical disadvantage and two men injured early on, Fiorentina came back from 2-0 down to keep their Champions League hopes alive. Vincenzo Montella was surprisingly able to call upon Stevan Jovetic – although he didn’t look 100% fit, and didn’t make it to the second half. Gonzalo Rodriguez was unavailable, so Nenad Tomovic started at the back. Max Allegri used Riccardo Montolivo in the deep-lying role against his old club, while Cristian Zapata returned in place of Daniele Bonera. Milan took control in the first hour, but the way Fiorentina responded was highly impressive.” Zonol Marking (Video)

Bayern 2-0 Juve: Bayern’s pressing prevents Juve bringing their strike duo into play

April 4, 2013

“Bayern take a commanding lead into the second leg, after a dominant first leg performance. Jupp Heynckes named his expected side – Luiz Gustavo came in for the suspended Javi Martinez – although Toni Kroos’ early injury pushed Thomas Muller inside, with Arjen Robben introduced on the right. Despite strong rumours Antonio Conte would select a 3-5-1-1 formation, he went for the usual 3-5-2 with Alessandro Matri and Fabio Quagliarella (his least favoured strike duo this season) upfront. This was all about Bayern – they pressed excellently and Juventus struggled to put together good attacking moves, or bring their strike duo into play.” Zonal Marking

Bayern 2-0 Juventus: Tactical Analysis
“Former champions Juventus traveled to Munich to take on German giants, Bayern Munich at the Allianz arena in the first leg of their Champions League quarter final which eventually finished Bayern 2-0 Juventus. The home side started as expected, with Lahm, van Buyten, Dante and Alaba in defence. Luiz Gustavo played in midfield alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger. The wide areas were patrolled by Ribery and Thomas Muller, while Toni Kroos played behind the lone frontman Mario Mandzukic. The Bianconeri had veteran keeper Buffon in goal, and played their usual 3-5-2 formation. At the back, Chiellini, Barzagli and Bonucci were selected. The midfield trio of Marchisio, Pirlo and Vidal were handed the unenviable task of stopping Bayern’s midfield. Out wide, Lichtsteiner started on the right, and Peluso on the left. The front line consisted of Matri and Quagliarella to start with.” Outside of the Boot

Atlético Madrid 1-1 Valencia

April 2, 2013

“A wet evening at the Vicente Calderón stadium, Atlético Madrid failed to capitalize on the opportunity to go 2nd following Real Madrid’s draw with Real Zaragoza on Saturday. Valencia had the chance to leapfrog Málaga and go level on points with La Real, but both teams had to settle for a point each – a game full of overloads provided a stalemate.” Outside of the Boot

Reunions, stars clashing lead Champions League quarterfinal draw

March 17, 2013

“The Champions League quarterfinal draw took place Friday morning in Nyon, Switzerland, with the competition harder than ever to call. If Bayern Munich was the dominant side after its round of 16 first-leg win at Arsenal, the performances of Barcelona and Real Madrid in their second legs reminded everyone of the talent of the La Liga sides. Here is the rundown of the draw for the last eight …” SI

Manuel Pellegrini and Fatih Terim back where they belong

March 15, 2013

Fatih Terim
“By common consent, five of the eight remaining sides in the Champions League have a good chance of lifting the European Cup at Wembley in May. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich and Juventus — current league champions, imminent league champions or, in Juve’s case, both. The dark horse? Paris St Germain have performed well in Europe under Champions League specialist Carlo Ancelotti, and following their recruitment of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and Ezequiel Lavezzi, their presence is no great surprise.” ESPN – Michael Cox

The story behind the ups at downs at ‘crazy’ Inter

March 15, 2013

“Andrea Stramaccioni’s phone is vibrating. The Inter coach fumbles around his pockets for it. Caller ID reveals that club president Massimo Moratti is on the line. You’d maybe expect there to be some trepidation. All week, Stramaccioni had read in the papers, seen on the TV and heard on the radio that Moratti was apparently considering sacking him if Inter didn’t improve in the second leg of their Europa League tie with Tottenham on Thursday and their trip to Sampdoria on Sunday.” ESPN (Video)

Lazio 0-2 Fiorentina: Ledesma shows how not to play the holding midfield role – again role

March 13, 2013

“A familiar, assured passing performance from Fiorentina – but a rare away victory. They leapfrog Lazio into fourth. Vladimir Petkovic was without right-winger Antonio Candreva after his red card against Milan last week, so moved Alvaro Gonzales to the flank and used Ederson in the middle. Lorik Cana started at the back, in place of Giuseppe Biava. Vincenzo Montella selected his 4-3-3 formation. Alberto Aquilani was unavailable in the centre of the pitch, so Giulio Migliaccio started in his position, while Nenad Tomovic played at right-back. Fiorentina were clinical here – dominating the opening period with clever passing triangles, then playing possession football in the second half to seal a relatively comfortable victory.” Zonal Marking

Schalke 2-1 Dortmund: squeezed game allows full-backs forward on the overlap
“Schalke won the Revierderby with an excellent first-half display. Atsuto Uchida came back into Jens Keller’s side, with Marco Hoger moving forward into midfield in place of Jermaine Jones. Jurgen Klopp recalled Mats Hummels – although he didn’t seem 100% fit and only lasted half the game. Klopp left out Marco Reus, presumably because of rotation after a busy couple of weeks for Dortmund. This game was amazingly attack-minded in the opening stages, and almost solely about the flanks, with all four full-backs playing attack-minded roles.” Zonal Marking

Napoli 1-1 Juventus: Juve hold on

March 2, 2013

“Second-placed Napoli performed well after the break, but a draw puts Juve in a great position to retain their title. Walter Mazzarri continued with Miguel Britos on the left of his back three, and favoured the experience of Goran Pandev rather than Lorenzo Insigne’s directness. Antonio Conte selected Federico Peluso as his left-wing-back rather than Kwadwo Asamoah, while Giorgio Chiellini was fit to return just behind him. Sebastian Giovinco and Mirko Vucinic continued upfront. Juventus looked stronger in the first half, before Mazzarri’s half-time switch changed the pattern of the game in the second period.” Zonal Marking

What Mario Balotelli Means For Italy (and Italy)

March 2, 2013

“In August 1990, just weeks after Totò Schillaci’s exploits at that summer’s World Cup, a shared place of birth would have seemed the only connection between the newborn Mario Balotelli and Italy’s Golden Boot winner. Born in Palermo to two Ghanaian immigrants, Thomas and Rose Barwuah, young Mario had a difficult first few years, undergoing a series of intestinal operations as a toddler. Even after being placed in foster care with the Balotelli family in the northern town of Brescia, the idea that Mario would one day wear the blue of Italy, let alone become a national icon, would have seemed unthinkable. Fast-forward to last summer and Mario Balotelli’s two-goal demolition of Germany in the semi-final of Euro 2012 cemented his fame and sealed his reputation as an explosive yet unpredictable talent. While a highly welcome addition to the Italian national team, his success is especially significant in a country that has often struggled with the concept of national identity as it attempts to reconcile its mixed feelings towards immigration.” In Bed With Maradona

Juventus silences Celtic’s rowdy audience, Zlatan red carded

February 13, 2013

“The Champions League returned to action Tuesday and despite two early goals scored by the away teams, both matches were compelling encounters. The games threw up some unlikely heroes and, as always, plenty of talking points. Here are a few: Marchisio breaks Celtic hearts: Celtic coach Neil Lennon said pre-match that his side did not play old-fashioned kick and rush football, and that much was true. In fact, it was Juventus who played the first long ball of the night, Andrea Pirlo’s third-minute pass from deep catching Efe Ambrose half-asleep and allowing Alessandro Matri to slot the ball past Fraser Forster.” SI

All Italian eyes rest on Balotelli

February 5, 2013

“Do spare a thought for Giampaolo Pazzini. After scoring twice in a 2-1 win against Bologna on January 20, 2013, the Milan striker was promised by chief executive Adriano Galliani that there were no plans to bring in a rival in the transfer window. One can only imagine then his reaction to La Gazzetta dello Sport’s front page last Wednesday, which declared that ‘Balo is back,’ the Photoshopped red of his ‘crest’ haircut signifying he’d joined Milan from Manchester City.” Eurosport

Putting Latina on the map

February 3, 2013

“A short drive south of Rome is a rather curious city, so very Italian and yet in all of Italy there exists no other city like it. It is a city whose football club has never before gone beyond the third division and yet which has produced one of Italy’s greatest ever goalscorers and one of the jewels in Maradona’s Napoli. But if you haven’t heard of Latina and its blue and black lions, perhaps you soon will. The team is within touching distance of playing in Serie B for the very first time.” World Soccer

Tactical Analysis: Zeman needs to be given time at Roma

February 1, 2013

“It was a surprise appointment. He was a forgotten offensive guru when Pescara appointed him before 2011/12 Serie B season. Roma wanted him because of his background, because of the footballing culture and attractive offensive philosophy that comes from his Foggia days during the early ‘90s. Now, Roma admitted sacking the him was an option. That would be the sign of a failed revolution. History teaches us a lot about failed revolutions. When Roma appointed Czech manager Zdenek Zeman for his second stint with Giallorossi, they hope to bring on a new football idea in the mouldy Italian football. The idea was to run the succesfull Zeman’s 4-3-3 in the Catenaccio land. An attacking football based on speed, quickness and veticality. Not all worked during this first half of the season as Roma had up and downs.” Think Football

The Soaring Blue and Black Lions

January 26, 2013

“A short drive south of Rome is a rather curious city, so very Italian and yet in all of Italy there exists no other city like it. It is a city whose football club has never before gone beyond the third division and yet which has produced one of Italy’s greatest ever goalscorers and one of the jewels in Maradona’s Napoli. But if you haven’t heard of Latina and its blue and black lions, perhaps you soon will. The team is within touching distance of playing in Serie B for the very first time. Latina lies less than an hour south of Rome along the historic Via Appia and is a very atypical city; rich in history and yet less than 100 years old. Founded by the Benito Mussolini-led Fascist regime in 1932, it was first named Littoria (after the fascio littorio) and was a grand symbol of the regime’s nation building program.” In Bed With Maradona

Roma 1-1 Inter: Bradley & Guarin sum up Serie A’s obsession drivers rather than creators

January 23, 2013

“A match that started strongly before fading in the second half. Zdenek Zeman didn’t feel Miralem Pjanic was 100% fit, so went for Alessandro Florenzi in the centre of midfield. Inter coach Andrea Stramaccioni was without both Antonio Cassano and Diego Milito, so selected youngster Marko Livaja upfront. Juan Jesus, Yuto Nagatomo and Walter Gargano also returned to the side. The game was all about tempo – Roma looked very good in a frantic first 20 minutes, but as the game calmed down, it became more balanced.” Zonal Marking

Why Serie A has fallen out of love with the number ten

January 23, 2013

“Sunday night’s meeting between Roma and Inter was an underwhelming match. Despite being the most enticing fixture on paper of the Serie A weekend, the match drifted away after an exciting first 20 minutes, and ended as a scrappy 1-1 draw. However, the pattern of the game was interesting — it was played at a relatively slow tempo, interrupted by the occasional burst of sudden, end-to-end attacking. As both sides attempted to bypass the opposition defence quickly after half-time, the linesmen played as crucial a role as some of the players — there were 11 second-half offsides.” ESPN – Michael Cox

Valencia 2-0 Sevilla: two Soldado goals from corners

January 15, 2013

“A disappointing game between two sides that have regressed over the past couple of seasons. Ernesto Valverde named an unchanged side from the XI that won at Granada last time out, which meant Andres Guardado continued at left-back. Michel also selected an unchanged side, from the 1-0 win over Osasuna. Valencia dominated the ball and eventually broke through – but really, this was a good demonstration of why the two sides have underachieved this season.” Zonal Marking

Venezia and Happy Endings?

December 23, 2012

“As with any city whose economy is reliant on tourism, Venice has a strange relationship with its visitors. The money that these bring is welcome but their presence – especially the noise and chaos they create – isn’t. Given that it once was a seat of power that controlled large parts of Europe, its current status as a piece of antiquity to be gawked at perhaps renders the tourists all the more irritating to the locals. Not all tourists are the same, however. Certainly not those who come with promises of restoring some of the city’s glory even if this comes through a football pitch.” In Bed With Maradona

The re-invention of Catenaccio: The evolution of defensive tactics

December 21, 2012

“Attack, Attack, Attack. As the tireless cliché goes: football is an art form – creative and elegant. That’s what we want it to be, anyway. Never have football teams been so heavily criticised if they didn’t exhibit The Beautiful Game in its glorious entirety. It seems passes are being praised more than goals. And as for the appreciation for a solid tackle? – You may just earn yourself a yellow card for applauding it. Football is a changed sport. A more frantic, frenzied game. Complete reverence to forward play, along with, what seems almost like, a disregard to the defensive side. In 2009 only two, of the thirty two teams in the Champions League group stages, managed to keep their average number of shots conceded per game below 10. Disregard.” Think Football

Horncastle: Udinese’s dedicated lone away supporter against Sampdoria reveals turnout issues in Serie A

December 12, 2012

“Arrigo Brovedani walked alone so that his team Udinese didn’t have to when they played Sampdoria in Genova on Monday night. ‘Walked’ is used in a figurative sense here. Because Brovedani actually drove. ‘I just got in the car and went,’ he said, as if a 500km, five-hour trip from his home in Spilimbergo in the northeast corner of Italy near the Slovenian border, all the way across to Genoa in the northwest was like venturing out to the corner shop to get a carton of milk. In truth, Brovedani had to be there on business. He works for a wine company and had meetings to attend to in the area. That they just happened to coincide with an Udinese game couldn’t have turned out any better. As an away fan, obtaining a ticket without the much-maligned and controversial tessera del tifoso identity card wasn’t easy. Many would rather not go and watch football than get one and forego their civil liberties and be treated with suspicion. Yet Brovedani was undaunted.” The Score

Inter 2-1 Napoli: Cassano & Insigne the key men but Guarin provides the most important contributions

December 12, 2012

“Inter leapfrogged Napoli and into second place in Serie A. Andrea Stramaccioni was without Walter Samuel, so moved Esteban Cambiasso into the centre of defence. Walter Mazzarri brought Christian Maggio back into the starting line-up, but otherwise named an unchanged side. This was a good, open game of football – Inter stormed into a 2-0 lead and although Napoli fought back, they couldn’t quite find an equaliser, partly thanks to some fine Inter defending.” Zonal Marking

Roma 4-2 Fiorentina: Roma attack three v three

December 12, 2012

“An extraordinarily open game at the Stadio Olimpico. Zdenek Zeman named an unchanged side from the XI which defeated Siena 3-1, which meant Daniele De Rossi was only on the bench after his return from suspension. Vincenzo Montella was without two key players – Stevan Jovetic and David Pizarro. Adem Ljajic was also out, so Montella surprisingly named Juan Cuadrado as a support striker behind Luca Toni, bringing in Mattia Cassano on the right. Ruben Oliveira replaced Pizarro at the bottom of the midfield. 4-2 wasn’t unfair, but a better reflection of the match would have been 7-4…” Zonal Marking

Shakhtar 0-1 Juventus: Juve’s bravery pays off

December 7, 2012

“Juventus were the better side, and won to secure their place in the knockout stages, at the expense of Chelsea. Mircea Lucescu was without two key players, Luiz Adriano and Tomas Hubschmann. He selected Eduardo upfront. Antonio Conte was without the suspended Claudio Marchisio so played Paul Pogba in midfield, while Sebastian Giovinco was chosen alongside Mirko Vucinic upfront. Of course, the interesting factor here was that a draw was a satisfactory result for both. Shakhtar had already confirmed their qualification for the knockout stages, but a draw would ensure them topping the group. Juventus were at risk of going out (with Chelsea winning, as expected, against Nordsjaelland) but a draw would confirm qualification.” Zonal Marking

Real Madrid 2-0 Atletico Madrid: Simeone goes 4-4-2, Real score through a set-piece and a break

December 3, 2012

“Real Madrid triumphed in a hugely disappointing match. Jose Mourinho named a familiar side, basically the 2011/12 Real Madrid team. Fabio Coentrao was at left-back, while Luka Modric was only on the bench with Mesut Ozil starting in the hole. Diego Simeone named a 4-4-2 side, which meant Diego Costa playing upfront with Falcao, and Koke on the right side of midfield. Cata Diaz came into the side very late, at left-back. There was little to recommend this game, which lacked rhythm, tempo, shape and genuine attacking quality.” Zonal Marking

Milan 1-0 Juventus: Milan sit deep, then break quickly through their front three

November 27, 2012

“Juventus lost in Serie A for the second time under Antonio Conte. Max Allegri continued with the 4-3-3 shape he used away at Napoli last week – Mario Yepes replaced Francesco Acerbi at the back, while Marco Amelia started in goal. Antonio Conte picked Martin Caceres on the left side of defence in place of the injured Giorgio Chiellini – previously, Caceres has played to the right of the back three, with Andrea Barzagli moving across, but Barzagli remained in his usual position. Ahead of him, Mauricio Isla started rather than Stephane Lichtsteiner, who must have been more badly injured than was reported before the game. Milan were a shade fortunate to win the game – it was universally agreed that the ball didn’t strike Isla’s arm for Robinho’s penalty – but overall they were the better side, as Gigi Buffon agreed. They defended solidly and attacked at great speed.” Zonal Marking

Lamela evokes memories of Roma greats

November 20, 2012

“French philosophy, in particular the work of Rene Descartes, is unlikely to have had any great appeal to the Roma legend Rodolfo Volk. ‘I think therefore I am’ isn’t how he approached football. ‘I don’t think,’ he said. ‘I shoot.’ And Volk rarely missed, scoring 103 goals in 157 games for the club. He was one of the great strikers of the Fascist era in Italy and joined Roma soon after their formation in 1927. ‘Sciabbolone’ as Volk became known or ‘the Big Sabre’ was one of the club’s pioneers. Left foot. Right foot. He slashed away as Roma broke new ground.” Eurosport

Rise of La Viola

November 16, 2012

“Glance at the Serie A table, and you’d be forgiven for wondering what has changed at Fiorentina. From 13th place at the end of a difficult 2011/12, they’re now riding high in fourth position, having won five of their last six games. Inspect their squad list, and it’s obvious what has changed. Of the 21 players Vincenzo Montella has used in Serie A this season, 16 were signed in the summer. As a club that went bankrupt a decade ago, then had to continually evolve their side as they climbed from Serie C2 to the Champions League, Fiorentina are used to transformations – but a 75% playing staff turnover remains extraordinary.” ESPN – Michael Cox

Milan 1-3 Fiorentina: Allegri’s Milan outplayed across the pitch

November 14, 2012

“Fiorentina produced an excellent display, particularly in the first half, while Milan looked completely uncomfortable in their system. Max Allegri continued with the 4-2-3-1 system he’d successfully used in the 5-1 win over Cheivo, but brought back Philippe Mexes, Mattia De Sciglio and Kevin-Prince Boateng into the side. Vincenzo Montella was without Stevan Jovetic, so used Luca Toni as his primary striker. Fiorentina’s system seemed to cause Milan problems across the pitch – they were unable to win the ball quickly and didn’t exploit their numerical advantage on the flanks.” Zonal Marking

Hat Tricks for Sale: Ranking Europe’s Top Strikers

November 9, 2012

“January is nearly upon us! Or at least it feels that way if you spend any time reading the words of the soothsayers who try to predict what will happen when European football’s transfer window reopens on January 1, 2013. Speculation is particularly rife in England, and it mainly centers on two clubs: Chelsea and Liverpool. Both teams find themselves low on firepower, and as a result, they’ve been linked with every available forward in European club football. Two players in particular have been singled out as possible signings in the new year: Athletico Madrid’s Radamel Falcao, and Schalke’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.” Grantland

Valencia 2-0 Atletico: neither side at their best as Simeone’s midfield selection backfires

November 6, 2012

“Valencia won 2-0 in a disappointingly tame contest. Mauricio Pellegrino changed his two wide players, bringing in Andres Guardado and Sofiane Feghouli, and also introduced Jonas behind Roberto Soldado. Diego Simeone made a few changes, bringing back Tiago, Arda Turan and Adrian Lopez and moving to a different midfield format. Neither side played particularly sparkling football in this match – the only interesting tactical feature was in the centre of midfield.” Zonal Marking

Juventus tops Bologna; Serie A unbeaten streak at 49

November 1, 2012

“Defending champion Juventus scored a stoppage-time winner to beat Bologna 2-1 on Wednesday and extend its unbeaten Serie A run to 49 games. Paul Pogba headed in the winner to cap an excellent game from the young midfielder, who showed exactly why Manchester United was so desperate to keep him before his move to Italy in the offseason. Fabio Quagliarella put Juventus in front in the 54th minute, but Bologna midfielder Saphir Taider leveled in the 71st.” SI

Ultras bring fresh shame on not-so-fair Verona

October 24, 2012

“Livorno captain Andrea Luci was disgusted. ‘Hellas Verona deserve to be banned for life,’ he told local paper Il Tirreno. “There’s nothing more to add.” Luci was of course reacting to what he had heard during Saturday’s big match in Serie B, when second met third at the Stadio Armando Picchi. Half an hour in, something truly disgraceful happened. A chant had gone up among a small section of the 700 Hellas ultras hosted in the away end. Four words that don’t bear repeating were said six times. Enough to provoke shock and anger among the Livorno fans. A number of their own ultras would respond in kind with a distasteful song of their own. But for now, members of the home crowd couldn’t believe their ears.” EuroSport UK – James Horncastle


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 127 other followers