Football and cryptocurrency sponsorship: is the free-for-all over?

January 22, 2022


“Up until now, football’s relationship with cryptocurrency sponsorship has felt like a complete and utter free-for-all, with no rules whatsoever. Slowly but surely that is starting to change. This week the UK government announced plans to crackdown on misleading ads for cryptocurrency companies, which would treat them like ads for other financial products, a move that could have far-reaching implications in the world of football which is increasingly dependent on the booming sector. Meanwhile Spain is leading a similar charge in the EU. …”
The Athletic


Mourinho, Benítez and the Pursuit of the Past

January 22, 2022


“In the sudden flood of spare time he had after departing Manchester United, José Mourinho filmed a commercial for a bookmaker. A couple of years and a couple of jobs on, it is still running on British television. It still works, after all. Mourinho is still a household name in Britain. The ad’s central concept holds up. Mourinho’s acting might be just a little hammy — as you might expect — but it is quite deft, too. Looking as tanned and healthy and relaxed as we all did in 2019, he earnestly walks viewers through what it takes to be ‘special.’ The joke is that he should know: He is the Special One, after all. Get it? …”
NY Times


Liverpool’s post-Jurgen Klopp problem: Why they need to start planning now

January 22, 2022


“‘I still have three years at Liverpool!’ Jurgen Klopp was keen to point out when FourFourTwo asked him last autumn about what he’ll eventually do in his life after football. … Now, six months on and into 2022, the summer of 2024 looks a whole lot closer for Liverpool supporters. A summer when the man who ended the 30-year title drought and brought home European Cup number six is set to depart the club. …”
FourFourTwo


Africa Cup of Nations: Pépé caps Ivory Coast win to send dismal Algeria home

January 21, 2022


“Ivory Coast thumped Algeria 3-1 to send the defending champions crashing out of the Africa Cup of Nations finals following a disastrous Group E campaign. Nicolas Pépé’s fine solo goal early in the second half put the game out of sight, the Arsenal winger advancing into the penalty area and curling the ball into the far corner with his left foot. The Elephants led 2-0 at half-time thanks to Franck Kessié’s opener and an Ibrahim Sangaré header from Serge Aurier’s free-kick. …”
Guardian
Guardian: Africa Cup of Nations Group A,B,C,D,E,F


Players to Watch in 2021-22: The Analyst 50 (Part I)

January 21, 2022


“After a summer of frantic international football tournaments across the globe, the new domestic league season is now on the horizon. Ninety-eight teams will battle it out across the top five European leagues, with titles to be won, European football to be secured and relegation to be avoided and we wanted to give you a guide on some of the players to watch in 2021-22. We recruited the very best of Stats Perform’s data editors to give us a list of 50 players. These players aren’t who they think are the greatest – you’ve all read that. This is a selection of 50 players that we think will make an impact in 2021-22. Some are obvious, some less so. Let’s dive in to The Analyst 50, with the first 25 players. …”
The Analyst (July 2021) Part I (Video), Part II (Video)


Case Study: Carlos Queiroz’s Egypt

January 20, 2022


“Egypt is one of the most successful teams in Africa, a country known for its attacking-first style of football (especially under Hassan Shehata’s leadership) and that has won the Africa Cup of Nations a record seven times. … Taking over from former manager Hossam El Badry, whose period witnessed a great fluctuation in performance, this heightened pressure on Queiroz has proven to be successful. The technical staff includes Diyaa El Sayed, Mohamed Shawky, Essam El-Hadry, and Wael Gomaa, as well as performance analyst Mahmoud Seleem. This piece will look to investigate all aspects of Egypt’s play, including how players fit the game model and training sessions used in the process. …”
Breaking the Lines
W – Carlos Queiroz


Other clubs could afford Salah. Liverpool need to sort out his future soon

January 20, 2022


“Agents call it ‘crunch time’. It is the point in a contract negotiation when an agreement feels reasonably close, but nothing like close enough as the clock keeps ticking and the power dynamic threatens to shift dramatically. Jurgen Klopp said this week that he feels ‘very positive’ about Liverpool’s contract talks with Mohammed Salah. …”
The Athletic


Spain: 2021-22 La Liga – Location-map, with Seasons-in-1st-Division for the current 20 clubs & Spanish titles list.

January 20, 2022


“The map shows the twenty clubs in the current season of the Spanish La Liga [2021-22]. The map features the locations and crests of the 20 current La Liga clubs. Plus, the recently-promoted and -relegated teams are noted. (Promoted in 2021: Espanyol, Mallorca, Rayo Vallecano; relegated in 2021: Eibar, Valladolid, Huesca). …”
billsportsmaps
Guardian: Sid Lowe


What the Afcon means for Ethiopia

January 19, 2022


“Ethiopia might have had a miserable showing in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), but nevertheless their playing in the continental showpiece is a massive win for the country. The Walia Ibex, as the men’s national team is known, returned to the Afcon after a nine-year absence. The team’s participation comes at a crucial time as the country seems to be moving towards peace from a conflict that has dragged on for more than a year. … Since November 2020, the Ethiopian National Defence Force has been battling with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which the government has classified as a terrorist group. The conflict has had a devastating impact. …”
New Frame
New Frame: Is Ethiopia moving towards peace?


Cliques in football dressing rooms: The good, the bad and the ugly

January 19, 2022


“‘When it comes to dressing-room dynamics, one of the major issues you’ve got is that there’s no other industry in the world where, on the most important day of the week, over 50 per cent of the workforce isn’t used for the big moment,’ a Premier League coach tells The Athletic. … We are talking about dressing-room cliques: why they form, what damage they can do, and how managers can try to prevent divides and schisms from creating bigger problems. …”
The Athletic


Is This Stadium in England or Wales? The Team Needs to Know.

January 18, 2022


Deva Stadium’s parking lot is in England and its field is in Wales. In a pandemic, that’s a problem.
“… The answer to all three, Sumner knew, was Chester F.C., a one-time stalwart of English soccer’s professional divisions but currently residing in its sixth tier. For 30 years, Chester, the team he served as official historian, had played at a stadium that straddled the largely nominal line separating England from Wales. Not that it seemed especially important to anyone. The stadium’s location was nothing more than a minor claim to fame and occasional inconvenience: two countries sometimes meant paperwork for two local authorities. Other than that, Sumner said, nobody even knew exactly where the border was.’ …”
NY Times
W – Chester F.C.


AFCON 2021: The Stats So Far No.2

January 18, 2022


“Each team have played two games at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations – some have already qualified for the last 16, some have very little hope of going any further. What have we learnt from the opening two matchdays so far? …”
The Analyst


Everton and Its Identity Crisis

January 18, 2022


“In retrospect, Rafa Benítez was probably never going to work as manager of Everton. Certainly by the end, as he was sacked on Sunday after 200 days in charge, following a run of just one win in the club’s last 13 Premier League games, there was a feeling of inevitability about his departure. When you have been a successful manager of Liverpool, when you have been so closely identified with that half of the city, when you have made comments about Everton perceived as disparaging, the window for error is extremely small. And there was plenty of error. …”
SI: Jonathan Wilson (Video)


When Two Champions Leagues Titles in Eight Months Don’t Count

January 17, 2022



“Pitso Mosimane has done enough winning in the last year, plus change, to talk about nothing else. In November 2020, only three months after he was appointed manager of the Egyptian club Al Ahly, he won the African Champions League title. He did so by beating Zamalek, Al Ahly’s fiercest rival. The final was cast as the derby of the century. Nobody in Egypt thought it was an exaggeration. Eight months later, he repeated the trick. The calendar contracted and concentrated by the pandemic, Al Ahly returned to the Champions League final in July to face Kaizer Chiefs, the team Mosimane had supported as a child in South Africa. He won again. He was showered with golden ticker tape on the field, then presented with bouquets of roses by government grandees when he returned to Cairo. …”
NY Times


Paul Wanner becomes Bayern’s youngest-ever Bundesliga player

January 17, 2022


“Paul Wanner made his professional debut for FC Bayern in the second half of the Bundesliga restart fixture against Borussia Mönchengladbach. The attacking midfielder was substituted on for Marc Roca in the 75th minute. At just 16 years and 15 days, Wanner usurped Jamal Musiala (17 years, 115 days) as the youngest player to ever play in the Bundesliga for FC Bayern. In Bundesliga history, only Dortmund’s Youssoufa Moukoko (16 years, 1 day) was younger on his debut. …”
FC Bayern
W – Paul Wanner
YouTube: Paul Wanner – Youngest Bundesliga player in FC Bayern history, Youngest Player Ever For FC Bayern | 16 Years Old Paul Wanner Bundesliga Debut


‘How Liverpool can climb Everest again’ – Danny Murphy on why title race is not over yet

January 17, 2022


“With Manchester City’s brilliance and the way they are so relentless and clinical when it comes to winning games, it looks like Liverpool are climbing Everest with their title bid this season. It’s worth remembering they have done it before, though. Right now, catching City looks extremely unlikely but then Jurgen Klopp’s side have already beaten the odds to triumph a few times in recent years. So, although it is going to take an absolutely unbelievable effort for them to stop City retaining their Premier League crown from here, there are a few reasons I would not write the Reds off yet. …”
BBC (Video)


How do you value a football club?

January 16, 2022


“Imagine you are looking for a new house. You want something modern and you know what part of town you would like to live in — somewhere central and with growth potential. You are not quite ready to start traipsing around places yet, so you start your search online and you quickly find something that looks right up your street and is just about within budget. Hold on, what’s this? The same place on a different website for 15 per cent more? Oh no, it’s on this other website for 70 per cent more? Woah, here is something saying the owner will only listen to offers of twice as much as the first price! How much does this place cost? Can I choose the price I like? …”
The Athletic


Manchester City, Chelsea and Competing With Perfection

January 16, 2022


“For a few weeks, around this time last year, English soccer found itself in a heartfelt, sincere discussion over whether the time had come for Éderson, Manchester City’s goalkeeper, to start taking penalties. Questions were asked on television. The subject was weighed in newspapers. Soccer’s commentariat chewed over the idea’s merits. It had all started with a joke. Some time in 2019, the otherwise all-conquering Manchester City had developed a curious tick. Suddenly, Pep Guardiola’s team just could not score penalties. …”
NY Times


When football’s laws are so inflexible, referees’ gaffes are harder to swallow

January 16, 2022


Tunisia’s coach Mondher Kebaier remonstrates with the referee Janny Sikazwe at Africa Cup of Nations
Janny Sikazwe made a mistake and ended up blowing for full time after 85 minutes of Wednesday’s Africa Cup of Nations meeting between Mali and Tunisia. Forgetting to stop the watch during a water break (if that is what happened) is an understandable error – particularly given he was subsequently taken to hospital suffering from heatstroke – and one that could easily have been rectified. As it was, though, Sikazwe, an experienced referee who took charge of the 2017 Cup of Nations final as well as Belgium v Panama and Japan v Poland at the 2018 World Cup, looked rattled. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson
The Athletic: Three final whistles, two penalties, a dubious red card and a potential replay – the AFCON game mired in controversy (Audio)


Coutinho’s downward spiral: how it went wrong for Barcelona’s record signing

January 14, 2022


“‘All Barcelona fans, all around the world, are very excited about getting to know Coutinho,’ said Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu, as the Catalan club’s new record signing was presented at the Nou Camp in early January 2018. … That welcome has not aged well. Flush with the money from selling Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain for a world-record €222 million the previous summer, Barcelona could have targeted any player they wanted. They fixed their gaze on Coutinho, and would not let go until Liverpool had haggled the fee up to €120 million, plus another €40 million in add-ons. For all that money, Barcelona have so far got 106 games, 25 goals, and 14 assists. … But the move has actually been a disaster, for the club and the player. …”
The Athletic


Eredivisie Gems 2021-22: Stars of the Future

January 14, 2022


“Ever since the emergence of professional football in the Netherlands, Dutch top-flight players have proven to be in demand. From Johan Cruyff – the first player to have been worth more than a million – to Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Ronaldo, Romario, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Luis Suárez, Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong: the list of Eredivisie gems to make their way to the widely recognised stronger leagues in Europe grows longer every year. Who might be the next players in the Eredivisie to make the move away from the Netherlands and into the big five European leagues? We look at six talented players and the data that underpins their impressive careers so far. …”
The Analyst (Video)


Roma 3 Juventus 4 – unpicking the chaos and fallout from an instant classic

January 13, 2022


“It was a match to savour before new restrictions come into effect in Italy which will limit attendances at Serie A games to 5,000 fans for the next fortnight. Either the Italian Football Federation consented to it or prime minister Mario Draghi was prepared to shut down the league until the international break at the end of the month as cases of COVID-19 continue to spike. Roma supporters have been turning out in droves for games at the Stadio Olimpico this season. …”
The Athletic


André Onana Just Wants to Play

January 13, 2022


“For a goalkeeper of Andre Onana’s experience, the passage of play midway through the first half of Cameroon’s Africa Cup of Nations opener should have been routine. Instead, it was anything but. Not once but twice, Onana misjudged the flight of the ball as it was crossed from one side of the field to the other. The second flap at thin air allowed Burkina Faso to take the lead, and left Onana with his head in the turf, acutely aware of his role in the chaos. …”
NY Times (Video)
W – André Onana


Valverde’s extra-time strike sends Real Madrid into Spanish Super Cup final

January 13, 2022


“By the time this was over, it was way after midnight in Riyadh, they were barely able to walk any more let alone run, and they were 6,500km from home but Real Madrid had made it. The last ball had been caught by Thibaut Courtois and he lay on the turf, clutching their place in the final of the Spanish Super Cup, Fede Valverde’s extra-time goal having settled a match that ultimately had the winner everyone expected but did not play out as anticipated. A fun night could have gone either way, from 1-0 to 1-1, 2-1 to 2-2 and ultimately 3-2. …”
Guardian
El Clasico score: Real Madrid edge Barcelona in extra time with Fede Valverde’s goal to reach Supercopa final


Conor Gallagher is a throwback to old-fashioned No 8s – and that could be what England are missing

January 12, 2022


“At a time when the England national side is blessed with several quality attacking midfielders excelling for clubs in the Champions League, Conor Gallagher probably isn’t the best of the bunch. He is, however, surely the most typically English. Gallagher has been the standout player for a rejuvenated Crystal Palace side, featured in many people’s select XI from the first half of the Premier League season, and has been one of the revelations of the season for Fantasy Football players. Palace fans want him to stay, Chelsea fans would like him to return from his loan, and England supporters were delighted to see him make his international debut in November against San Marino. …”
The Athletic – Michael Cox


Sensible Transfers: Tottenham Hotspur

January 12, 2022


“In this Sensible Transfers series, In this series, we will analyse teams, identify problem areas, and suggest solutions in the form of incoming players. With Antonio Conte Tottenham Hotspur have already shown signs of improvement. But with Conte comes an expectation to sign players that fit his way of playing. Spurs have players in certain positions of genuine top class ability (for example, in attack), but have inefficiencies in defence and centre midfield. So who would Tifo sign? Seb Stafford-Bloor suggests solutions. Illustrated by Craig Silcock.”
YouTube


AFCON is decolonization

January 11, 2022


“The 33rd edition of the African Cup of Nations began today, Sunday, 9 January, in Cameroon. AIAC founder and editor Sean Jacobs joins Will to talk about the history of the tournament, its contemporary politics, and its relationship to the hegemony of European football. The most important question of all, of course, is who will win this year’s showpiece? Listen below for some predictions.”
Africa Is a Country 1:11:15 (Audio)


Roger De Sá is already looking beyond the Afcon

January 11, 2022


24 September 2013: Orlando Pirates coach Roger De Sá reacts during an MTN 8 semifinal match against Kaizer Chiefs at Orlando Stadium in Soweto.
“Roger De Sá is not giving too much thought to the possibility of setting a South African record of sorts at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), which kicked off on 9 January and runs until 6 February. An Afcon winner with Bafana Bafana back in 1996, albeit as an unused substitution, the former goalkeeper could become the first South African to win a second gold in Africa’s premier competition should he help Egypt become champions for an eighth time.  De Sá is coach of the Pharaohs. …”
New Frame
W – Roger De Sá


Monaco’s decision to sack Niko Kovac looks like an unforced error

January 11, 2022


“Monaco’s shock removal of Niko Kovac over Christmas fell somewhere between eye-wateringly ruthless and bafflingly naive. Before Kovac was appointed in the summer of 2020, relegation was Monaco’s greatest concern. Thierry Henry’s disastrous reign was followed by the ill-advised re-appointment of Leonardo Jardim, who had won the title with the club in 2017, before he was sacked for the second time in 14 months in December 2019. Spanish coach Robert Moreno then lasted just 13 games before Kovac arrived. Monaco barely survived, finishing 17th in the 2018-19 season before struggling to ninth in the following campaign. Nevertheless, Kovac’s team entered the final day of last season with a chance of winning the title. …”
Guardian


Afcon 2021: Cameroon beat Burkina Faso 2-1 before Cape Verde see off Ethiopia

January 10, 2022


Vincent Aboubakar is looking to lead Cameroon to a sixth Nations Cup title
“Cameroon came from behind to beat Burkina Faso 2-1 in an incident-packed opener at the Africa Cup of Nations. An acrobatic volley from Gustavo Sangare put the Burkinabe ahead midway through the first half in Yaounde. But two unerring penalties from captain Vincent Aboubakar turned the game around for the hosts before half-time. Indomitable Lions keeper Andre Onana made two crucial second-half saves as Toni Conceicao’s side opened their Group A campaign with victory. …”
BBC>
Guardian: Relief and atmosphere as Cameroon open Africa Cup of Nations in style – Jonathan Wilson


AFCON 2021 guide: The storylines, the underdogs and the games you won’t want to miss

January 9, 2022


“The latest Africa Cup of Nations is just around the corner. It’s been a long road to get here for a competition that has been moved around the calendar multiple times and, in the style of Euro 2020 last summer has the ‘wrong’ year in its official title, but 24 teams are now finally set to duke it out in Cameroon to become the next champions of Africa, with the tournament getting underway on Sunday, and finishing on Sunday, February 6. Here’s everything you need to know. …”
The Athletic (Audio)
NY Times: The Joy in Embracing the Unknown (Video)
New Frame: Behind concerns over Afcon is a culture of disdain
Predicting the Africa Cup of Nations 2021 Winner
GOAL – Afcon 2021 predictions: The contenders and the pretenders (Video)


The Importance of Speed in Modern Center Backs

January 9, 2022


“The hardest thing in life to live up to is expectations. In football, expectations on clubs, managers and players have never been higher. As fans, on top of expecting players to give their all-in games, we want them to be the epitome of perfection in their position. We expect strikers to be as equally proficient outside the box as they are inside of it. We expect midfielders to thread Xavi like through balls, cover the midfield like N’Golo Kante, and score goals like Frank Lampard. Now, these wild expectations have turned to centre backs. Beforehand, there was no requirement on centre backs to be fast; or even bring the ball out of defence. Reading the game well, putting in strong challenges, and winning aerial duels was enough. However, that has all changed. …”
Breaking The Lines


UEFA Champions League round of 16 classics

January 8, 2022


“Taking in José Mourinho’s touchline charge, La Remontada and plenty more besides, UEFA.com picks out a classic last-16 tie from each of the last 18 seasons. The 2021/22 UEFA Champions League is the 19th edition since the knockout round of 16 replaced the second group stage. UEFA.com picks out a classic tie from each of the past 18 seasons – all headline scores are aggregate. …”
UEFA (Video)


Freiburg Are This Season’s Fitting Bundesliga Darling

January 8, 2022


“This weekend, the Bundesliga returns from its winter break. It’s fair to say it hasn’t been a vintage season in Germany’s top flight. At the start of the season, there was some hopeful anticipation for a more competitive title race after each of last season’s top-six finishers changed head coaches. But when the league entered the break a few weeks ago, Bayern Munich held an all-too-familiar lead atop the table with a nine-point advantage over second-place Borussia Dortmund. It’s not a hugely surprising scenario. After all, Bayern have won the past nine Bundesliga titles. …’
The Ringer (Audio)


Afcon 2021: Everything you need to know about tournament in Cameroon

January 7, 2022


“First scheduled to start in June 2021 but subsequently brought forward to January last year to avoid Cameroon’s rainy season, the tournament has been delayed to 2022 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Confederation of African Football (Caf) has faced criticism over the timing of its continental showpiece, and last month had to address rumours the tournament would be further delayed or moved following the emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. Former Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright said some of the negative media coverage has been ‘disrespectful’ and ‘tinged with racism’. …”
BBC (Video)


Sensible Transfers: Barcelona

January 7, 2022


“In this Sensible Transfers series, In this series, we will analyse teams, identify problem areas, and suggest solutions in the form of incoming players. Barcelona are still riddled with huge debt, and whilst they want to look dominant in the transfer market, the reality is they need to be selective with who they bring in. Xavi has returned as manager and promised a return to a ‘Barcelona-style’. So which players would fit into a ‘Barcelona-style’? Alex Stewart suggests solutions for an attacker and a left-back. Illustrated by Henry Cooke.”
YouTube


League Focus: Portugal on the rise

January 6, 2022


“The Portuguese Primeira Liga could be one of the most interested title chases in Europe this season. It’s no surprise that the contenders are Porto, Sporting and Benfica, but there’s been something of a shift in the balance of power in Portugal and the club we always associate with the Iberian nation, Benfica, is struggling to keep pace with the other members of the ‘big three’. …”
Game of the People


Analysing Mendy and Kelleher’s wonder saves and the importance of not backpedalling

January 6, 2022


“Chelsea came from behind to draw 2-2 with Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Sunday as two of the outsiders for this year’s Premier League title kicked off 2022 with one of the most entertaining matches of the season. After an action-packed first 45 minutes resulted in all four goals, it was the goalkeepers that stole the show in the second half. Edouard Mendy was first called into action in the 57th minute, denying Mohamed Salah’s daring effort from range with a superb leap to his right. A minute later, Mendy made another big save to his right, to keep out a stinging attempt from Sadio Mane after a wonderful interchange between Mane and Salah found the Liverpool attacker free on goal. …”
The Athletic (Video)


Getafe roll over Real Madrid in great escape bid inspired by Crystal Palace

January 5, 2022


“Giovanni Trapattoni carried a bottle of holy water with him, blessed by the sister who actually was his sister. In 2009 the Espanyol manager Mauricio Pochettino hiked to Montserrat to visit the black virgin, enlisting her help in avoiding relegation, salvation delivered soon after. And Raúl Madero, the Argentinian national team doctor, twice visited the wailing wall. The first time, before the 1986 World Cup, he asked for them to be champions; when he went back four years later, he thought that would be pushing it, so requested runners-up. True story, and when it comes to football you’ll try anything. Sometimes it even works. …”
Guardian


Freiburg head coach Christian Streich: 10 years a Bundesliga treasure

January 5, 2022


“Freiburg head coach Christian Streich says football ‘never gets boring’ for him as he celebrates a decade in charge of the Black Forest side. That’s right, the Bundesliga’s longest-serving current tactician brought up 10 years in the job on 29 December, a remarkable achievement in what is famously a results-oriented and subsequently often a transitional role. There was a certain poetic elegance then, when the 56-year-old recorded his 100th Bundesliga victory as head coach in his team’s final game of 2021, the last-gasp 2-1 triumph over Bayer Leverkusen on Matchday 17 a fitting way of ushering in the anniversary of his appointment. …”
Bundesliga (Video)
NY Times: The Teachings of the Philosopher of the Black Forest (June 2020)
W – Christian Streich


The Five Kingdoms of Football

January 4, 2022


“… The Counter Kingdom. A week’s march leads your squad across a frozen tundra dotted with igloos. You show the locals your leopard ball and they kick it around clumsily on the ice. No one appears to know how to put it in the mixer, if they even understand what you’re asking about — it’s hard to tell. They speak in inscrutable tongues: Italian, Spanish, Broad Norfolk, Black Country. Frankly, these people seem less interested in playing with the ball than in keeping you from kicking it, which is a little weird, but as long as you don’t get too close they’re a pretty peaceful bunch. Farther up the snowy coast you meet a druid. …”
The Athletic
****The Athletic: Who never fouls? Who presses? Who hoofs it? What our data experiment says about your team
****The Athletic’s football analytics glossary: explaining xG, PPDA, field tilt and how to use them (July 2021)


Africa Cup of Nations: Which Premier League players are going?

January 3, 2022


Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Edouard Mendy, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Maxwel Cornet and more will be gone for several weeks
“The Africa Cup of Nations begins next month, with over 30 Premier League players set to miss several weeks of the season as they head to Cameroon. Arsenal, Leicester City and Watford are each set to lose a league-high four players. Liverpool will lose three – including forwards Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane – as will Crystal Palace. Chelsea are going to be without keeper Edouard Mendy, who could miss the Fifa Club World Cup and league games against Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham, among others. …”
BBC


Ultra: The Underworld of Italian Football – Tobias Jones

January 3, 2022


“… In Ultra: The Underworld of Italian Football, Tobias Jones charts a way of life reviled by polite society. Although football hooliganism and ultra culture can be found in many societies, it takes a distinctive form in Italy. As a previous author of fiction and non-fiction with Italian themes, and a devoted fan of calcio, Jones is an expert and sympathetic guide to this strange and tenebrous world. Although helpful, an interest in and knowledge of football is not required to profit from reading the book, because it is about a bigger subject: what the author describes as the ‘vanishing grail of modern life: belonging’. The book traces the genealogy of ultra culture, which originated in the anni di piombo (‘years of lead’) marked by political violence from the far-left and the fascist right and by Mafia murders. …”
Book Review: Ultra: The Underworld of Italian Football by Tobias Jones
FT – Ultra: The Underworld of Italian Football — fandom and the far-right
amazon


Overperforming Real Madrid? Underperforming Barca? Analysing how La Liga season could unfold

January 2, 2022


“There are many ways to win in football — but scoring more goals than you really should have, while conceding fewer than would have been expected, is a pretty good mix. Real Madrid have definitely been outperforming their numbers over the first half of this La Liga season, both in attack and defence. These are two big reasons why Carlo Ancelotti’s team have been able to open up what already looks a potentially decisive lead over their challengers — eight points over second-placed Sevilla, an astonishing 17 to champions Atletico Madrid in fifth, and 18 to Barcelona in seventh (albeit with Real Madrid having played a game more). …”
The Athletic (Video)


Whistle unhappy: referee shortage as endless abuse causes recruitment crisis

January 1, 2022


December 23 ~ In the past five years, the UK has lost almost one in seven of its HGV drivers. While this supply of labour has dropped, the demand for the haulage hasn’t, causing queues at pumps, fuel shortages, problems with imports and deliveries, among all the other issues that we have seen over recent months. In a similar vein, it is estimated that registrations of referees in England dropped by between 20 and 30 per cent in 2021. While this supply of labour has reduced, the demand for referees hasn’t. This has already led to thousands of matches so far this season either being postponed or going ahead without a qualified match official in charge, with volunteers or substitutes taking the whistle instead. …”
WSC


Can Antonio Conte’s Tottenham spend in January?

January 1, 2022


“Tottenham announced their financial results recently and whilst the headline figures may have seemed depressing, can new manager Antonio Conte spend to improve the club’s chances of winning a trophy? Kieran Maguire explains why. Illustrated by Philippe Fenner.”
YouTube
ESPN – Tottenham’s Antonio Conte calls for January signings: We need to improve squad (Video)


Scotland v England and the peculiarly divergent stance on football crowds

December 31, 2021


“At is not the case that followers of Scottish football gaze enviously at the Premier League. Camera phones capturing goal celebrations and public investment funds bearing gifts mean Scots revel in their own authenticity. It may be thud and blunder but it is our thud and blunder. In recent days, though, there have been wistful glances across the border. After Nicola Sturgeon, the Scotland first minister, implemented a limit of 500 people at outdoor sporting events the Scottish Professional Football League’s board took the unusually smart decision to expedite its top-flight winter break. At what traditionally is a hectic, joyous time it was deemed better to close the gates. …”
Guardian


It’s Too Soon to Panic for Manchester United and Ralf Rangnick

December 30, 2021


“Earlier this month, in the 54th minute of a Champions League draw against Young Boys, Manchester United fans serenaded Ole Gunnar Solskjaer—and not for the first time since he was sacked. This was strange for two reasons: First, it offered a loving kiss goodbye that no Premier League manager really gets to have—particularly one who was posted to the position for less than five years, and whose only contribution to the trophy cabinet in that time was a Europa League runners-up medal. Second, the future without Solskjaer looks brighter than it has on the Red side of Manchester in eight years, since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. For real this time. …”
The Ringer (Audio/Video)
The Athletic: What made Sir Alex Ferguson so successful? (Audio/Video)
The Athletic: ‘You win nothing without kids’ – Alex Ferguson’s obsession with youth
Guardian – ‘Not a problem of formation’: Rangnick bemoans Manchester United physicality
YouTune: Alex Ferguson: The Man, The Myth, The Manager


Tactical Theory: Analysis on marking systems

December 30, 2021


“With the constant evolvement of football tactics and with the defensive systems becoming more and more structured and organised, any football fan needs to understand the basics of defending in football. Defending is applying pressure, both as a player and as a whole team, on the opponent to prevent him from progressing forward to your own goal. A team can mark and press every player, but then there will be no room for error because when the marker gets passed, the team is immediately outnumbered. Then you can defend zonally, but you can’t let the opposition have all the time they want on the ball too. So there are a lot of defensive strategies applied by any team and for any particular match, according to the current circumstances. Football teams in the modern era defend as a unit, and every player is getting a particular defensive task in every game. …”
Total Football Analysis (April 2020)


Explained: How and when the Premier League will reschedule its postponed fixtures

December 29, 2021


“The Premier League postponements just keep on coming. After gameweek 18 on December 18 and 19 was decimated by COVID-19 outbreaks at several clubs, with six of the round’s 10 fixtures being pushed back, the Premier League’s Boxing Day programme was also hit by a further three postponements among the nine scheduled games. Further disruption is inevitable as the highly transmissible Omicron variant continues to spread. Gameweek 20, on December 28 to 30, already shorn of two fixtures and increased uncertainty over Everton’s home match against Newcastle United on Thursday. The postponements present the Premier League officials with a problem. …”
The Athletic


Africa Cup of Nations to Go on Despite Virus, Club Concerns

December 29, 2021


“African Cup of Nations organizers insist the tournament will begin as planned in Cameroon despite the fast-spreading omicron variant adding to an extensive list of concerns. Perhaps the biggest doubts now are when national teams will have their full 28-man squads to prepare for Africa’s biggest football event early next month. European clubs have been threatening not to send any players at all after raising doubts about coronavirus health protocols put in place by the Confederation of African Football….”
SI


Ademola Lookman steals in to give depleted Leicester win over Liverpool

December 29, 2021


“For the second time in three days Manchester City could savour the result in a Leicester game. A title race that threatened to go down to the tape could now have a runaway favourite. Liverpool’s defeat, only their second in the league since March, means they might be 12 points behind Pep Guardiola’s team by the time they play again. And yet, as the euphoric scenes at the final whistle showed, the real winners were Leicester. In a year when they belatedly lifted the FA Cup for the first time, this will not be their most famous victory. Yet the lap of honour illustrated that 2021 concluded with an extraordinary triumph. …”
Guardian
BBC: Leicester City 1 – 0 Liverpool (Video)


Introducing the no-touch All-Stars

December 28, 2021


“For a minute this weekend against Chelsea, it looked like Conor Coady might have to come off. He had just made what could have been a game-saving tackle, reaching a perfectly timed toe around Christian Pulisic to snuff out an open shot from the top of the box, but Coady twisted his ankle while going to ground and had to be helped off the pitch. As play restarted without him, the TV crew talked about how rare it was to see Wolves without their captain. Since the start of this season, Coady has played 1,788 out of a possible 1,800 minutes for his club, plus three World Cup qualifiers for England. …”
The Athletic


2021 was the year when football’s silent majority finally found its voice

December 27, 2021


A mural in Rome depicting Juventus president Andrea Agnelli puncturing a football with a knife. Juve backed the doomed European Super League breakaway.
“Remarkably, the website is still live. Eight months after the European Super League disintegrated in an embarrassing fireball, you might think its founders would be minded to erase all trace of their hubris and humiliation. But perhaps that would be to credit them with too much competence. And so there it remains to this day: ‘The Super League is a new European competition between 20 top clubs comprised of 15 founders and five annual qualifiers.’ Well, good luck with that. There is, of course, an alternative theory. After all, the Super League is still not quite dead in a legislative sense; certainly not if you believe the loud and persistent avowals of Andrea Agnelli at Juventus, Joan Laporta at Barcelona and Florentino Pérez at Real Madrid, the three remaining hoarse men of the apocalypse. …”
Guardian


How Atlas FC broke a 70-year title drought and completed its ‘transformación’

December 27, 2021


“When Atlas FC striker Julio Furch stepped up to the penalty spot in the Liga MX final against Club León last Sunday, he was poised to end 120 minutes of intense football and 70 years of anguish for the Guadalajara-based club. The capacity crowd at Atlas Estadio Jalisco were in the beginning stages of celebratory fervor. Atlas’ Colombian international goalkeeper Camilo Vargas, who joined the club in 2019, had just saved León’s fifth penalty in a shootout. A make from Furch would seal the title for Atlas. …”
The Athletic (Video)


The Premier League’s Influence Extends to Title Races Abroad

December 27, 2021



“That first meeting told Alex Muzio all he needed to know. Not long after he and his business partner, the gambling tycoon Tony Bloom, bought Royale Union Saint-Gilloise, a Belgian soccer team, Muzio sat down with the club’s coach. He wanted to discuss potential recruits. Muzio had never been a soccer player. He had never been a scout. He had spent his career working for Bloom’s Starlizard consultancy, the firm many consider to be the largest betting syndicate in Britain. Starlizard’s business model is using data to find an edge. It has information on tens of thousands of players from across the world. …”
NY Times


Tifo video: A guide to 3-4-3

December 26, 2021


“… Using a 3–4–3, the midfielders are expected to split their time between attacking and defending. Having only three dedicated defenders means that if the opposing team breaks through the midfield, they will have a greater chance to score than with a more conventional defensive configuration, such as 4–5–1 or 4–4–2. However, the three forwards allow for a greater concentration on attack. This formation is used by more offensive-minded teams. The formation was famously used by Liverpool under Rafael Benítez during the second half of the 2005 UEFA Champions League Final to come back from a three-goal deficit. It was also notably used by Chelsea when they won the Premier League under manager Antonio Conte in the 2016–17 season and when they won the 2021 UEFA Champions League Final under Thomas Tuchel. …”
W – 3–4–3
YouTube: Tifo video: A guide to 3-4-3
YouTube: Why is Germany’s 3-4-3 working so well? (June 2021)


Fear and Falsehoods Fill the Premier League’s Vaccination Gap

December 24, 2021


For athletes sensitive about anything they put into their bodies, even the debunked claims can still seem persuasive.
“The report spread like wildfire. Premier League players shared the link among their peers. Some passed it to their family members and closest confidantes. A handful were sufficiently troubled by what it seemed to suggest that they presented it to their clubs’ in-house medical teams, seeking advice. It had been produced by a website that says it tracks the number of ‘young athletes who had major medical issues in 2021 after receiving one or more Covid vaccines.’ The report claimed to list 19 ‘athletes’ — mostly in the United States — who it said had experienced heart attacks after being inoculated. Some of the attacks, the site noted ominously, had been fatal. …”
NY Times


Nutmeg Magazine – The Scottish Football Periodical

December 24, 2021


Central Park, home of Cowdenbeath FC. It is one hour before kick off and the turnstiles have just opened for the new season.
“Published every three months, it is a high-class home for quality articles about Scottish football’s past, present and future. It offers opinion, reflection, interviews, insight, illustration, photography and poetry. It is a unique blend between 196 uniquely elegant pages. …”
Nutmeg Magazine


The Premier League Chose Festive Fixtures Over Safe Fixtures

December 23, 2021


“So, things are a bit of a mess in the Premier League: On Monday, Tottenham were bounced from the Europa Conference League by the governing body itself, UEFA, which awarded a 3-0 win to French side Rennes in the final game of the group phase. The match was supposed to be played on December 9, but a COVID outbreak among Tottenham’s players and coaching staff forced Spurs to postpone—the team’s third such postponement in just over a week. …”
The Ringer