How to watch football

“Chances are you’ve watched a football match or two in your life. Sophisticated and stunningly handsome subscriber to The Athletic that you are, you’re probably pretty good at it. There’s no wrong way for anyone to enjoy the sport. But when it comes to understanding what you’re looking at, it turns out that trying to follow 22 people all doing a hundred different things to influence which way a ball bounces around the pitch is really hard. Coaches and players (and, in our own dumb way, even journalists) spend whole lifetimes learning to watch games better. Maybe you want to, too. …”
The Athletic (Video)


Inter’s use of a strike partnership under Simone Inzaghi is old-fashioned but highly effective

“At the start of Pep Guardiola’s managerial career, he seemed intent on creating the type of team that would have suited him as a player. A slender, technical midfielder who lacked physicality but could spread play calmly, Guardiola’s playing career ended prematurely because football no longer suited his type of player; defensive midfielders at the turn of the century were supposed to be about power and ball-winning ability. …”
The Athletic – Michael Cox (Video)

England (including Wales) – map of all football clubs

“… The map shows all clubs in the English football system which drew above 1,000 per game in 2022-23 (home domestic league matches): 143 clubs, including 51 non-League clubs. Also, there is an inset-map for all the clubs drawing above 1-K-per-game from Greater London-plus-the-immediate surrounding area (18 clubs from Greater London + 4 clubs from surrounding areas of the Home Counties). … On the right-hand side of the map-page are 2 charts showing the English football league system, aka the Pyramid. …”

Fitting celebrities into systems is the challenge for modern, elite managers – Jonathan Wilson

“Football is dominated now as it never has been before by a handful of superclubs. For many of them, winning their domestic title has come to be regarded almost as a formality. There are vast imbalances within leagues and that, of course, conditions the tactical approach teams take. If you expect to win most games comfortably, everything becomes focused on attacking – which can cause problems for the superclubs on the rare occasions they come up against a team at around their level: they forget not merely how to defend, but also how to fight. …”

‘We didn’t ever get a chance to say goodbye’: The football clubs on the fault line

“… He wasn’t here when the earthquakes struck on February 6. He was with his football team, third-tier Adiyaman FK — in his role of technical director — two hours away to the east. In Adiyaman, the city’s clock tower remains frozen at 4.17am, the time of the first of two earthquakes that day; when everything changed. An estimated 9,000 people died in Adiyaman, and a further 18,000 were injured. Bozkurt’s family members were among at least 13,000 people who died in Kahramanmaras, with another 10,000 injured. Three amateur footballers who played for the city’s non-league team — Kahramanmaras Istiklalspor — perished. Fourth-tier side Kahramanmaraspor stopped playing, as did Bozkurt’s Adiyaman FK. …”
The Athletic

Explaining La Liga’s Red Card Conundrum

“La Liga have changed their criteria for what merits a red card. That goes some way to explaining the explosion of dismissals we’ve seen this season in Spain. The league’s own corporate account released a video when the media picked up on this phenomenon to explain what’s happening. In the clip, they said La Liga players had not become more aggressive but that the referees had changed their criteria for what a red card is, thus leading to more red cards in La Liga. They stopped short of explaining what the change was. …”
The Analyst

Ange Postecoglou, Tottenham’s new manager: The history, the track record, the philosophy

“Things could go spectacularly well for Ange Postecoglou at Tottenham Hotspur. They could also go spectacularly badly. Where some managers can be considered the safe option, Postecoglou is the opposite. He is extremely talented, a visionary, and can be deeply empathetic. But he is also completely uncompromising. He has an almost evangelical commitment to his principles — mainly that his teams play exciting, attacking football. …”
The Athletic (Video)
W – Ange Postecoglou

The Worst Premier League Team to Survive

For a long time, 40 points was assumed to be enough for a team to avoid Premier League relegation. In reality, it’s nearly always possible to survive with fewer. But which team has won the least points and still managed to survive? Who is the worst team not to have been relegated? Seb Stafford-Bloor explains, Craig Silcock illustrates.

‘The emptiness makes it more painful’ – Christian Atsu’s club after Turkey’s devastating earthquakes

“In the centre of Antakya, the capital of Hatay province in south-eastern Turkey, there is an eery silence where a bustling city once stood. The only sound is the rubble and broken glass crunching underfoot. It is a picture of brutal destruction on a mass scale. Buildings turned into piles of their component parts, twisted and distorted. Odours float uncomfortably on the breeze, suggesting the bodies of the dead remain entombed. All around is terror: a roof tightly pressed onto a ceiling, onto a bed frame, onto a floor. Compacted, soundless concertinas. Crumpled cars shoulder the weight of bricks. Shoes, clothes and toys woven into concrete. …”
The Athletic

One more, Manchester City. One more

“… It is as simple as that for Manchester City now: one more match to win, one more trophy to lift. Do that, and they will be treble winners. Their joy at beating Manchester United in the FA Cup final yesterday was there for all to see. Pep Guardiola in tears, the players bouncing up and down arm in arm, physios lifted onto shoulders, turned upside down and spun around. Had this been the last game of their season, it would have meant the world, but with it setting up a shot at history next Saturday in Istanbul, it must mean even more. It feels like their time. …”
The Athletic (Video)
The Athletic – Manchester City 2-1 Manchester United: Analysing FA Cup final’s Gundogan opener, treble talk, ‘keeper comparison’ (Video)
The Athletic – Welcome to Manchester City 3.0: The latest great Guardiola team

Football must finally take a stand against antisemitism

“Football is rooted in love. As kids, we love the simple joy of the game, and as we grow alongside it we love how it melds with what we love – community, family and friends. Football is who we are. But where there are in-groups there are out-groups, and while as fans our antipathy to everyone who is not ‘us’ mainly constitutes harmless fun … sometimes it doesn’t. The WhatsApp conversations of the Ashburton Army, a prominent Arsenal supporter group, were riddled with antisemitism that included references to Israel, the Holocaust and circumcision. …”
The Athletic: Marching with Arsenal’s Ashburton Army as they build Emirates noise (March 2023)

Forget Premier League relegation battles. Welcome to the Bundesliga’s perilous play-off

“On Thursday night, the Bundesliga’s relegation play-off began. It likely ended, too. Contested between the team finishing 16th in the first division and third in the second, it is a two-legged tie packed into four days of the early summer. This season, it has brought together the 2 Bundesliga’s Hamburger SV, from Germany’s north, and the Bundesliga’s Stuttgart, from its south west. And, as has become semi-tradition, the side from the higher division looks almost certain to retain their place. Stuttgart scored their first goal within a minute of the game beginning. By full time, they had missed a penalty, spurned a whole buffet of good chances, and yet still comfortably won 3-0. …”
The Athletic (Video)

The Murky History of Foosball

A group of young Parisians playing foosball at a cafe in 1958.
Jan. 2013: “In the best tradition of skulduggery, claim and counterclaim, foosball (or table football), that simple game of bouncing little wooden soccer players back and forth on springy metal bars across something that looks like a mini pool table, has the roots of its conception mired in confusion. Some say that in a sort of spontaneous combustion of ideas, the game erupted in various parts of Europe simultaneously sometime during the 1880s or ’90s as a parlor game. Others say that it was the brainchild of Lucien Rosengart, a dabbler in the inventive and engineering arts who had various patents, including ones for railway parts, bicycle parts, the seat belt and a rocket that allowed artillery shells to be exploded while airborne. …”

Elland Road – 20 years a political pawn in the chaotic life of Leeds United

“… They give it to you straight around here and when you get to Elland Road, the home of Leeds United, it has that vibe about it: visitors welcome and might be slaughtered. There’s no cheese club in this corner of English football, no stadium skywalk tour or adjoining sports village. Ninety minutes in the West Stand feels more and more like a dare. It is one of the best stadiums in England, in the sense that you don’t get this any more, not at the top of the game. It is Leeds’ comfort zone and no one else’s. …”
The Athletic

All 20 Premier League clubs’ 2022-23 season summed up in just 10 games

“Did the Premier League season pass you by? Can you barely remember what took place before the World Cup? Are you a bit unsure of what happened with Bournemouth? It’s difficult to describe a 380-game campaign concisely. But here is an attempt: all 20 Premier League teams’ seasons summarised in 10 choice matches… ”
The Athletic – Michael Cox

Derby days, Barcelona: El Clasico

Barcelona fans during the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid at Nou Camp in April 2002
March 2023. “It is close to midnight on the Travessera de les Corts and there is a reluctance to let go of the day. Thousands remain under the glow of Camp Nou’s floodlights and opportunists sell cans of Estrella, the local beer, out of rucksacks to meet the demand of those unwilling to head home. There is a hum of happiness. A new working week can wait. The drama of an hour before had seen to that. Franck Kessie’s match-winning goal in the second minute of injury time had triggered a noise to wake the dead at the vast cemetery next door. Not only had Barcelona taken a giant leap towards the title in La Liga, they had done so by leaving Real Madrid, their despised rivals, crestfallen at their feet. …”
The Athletic

Premier League Team of the Season: OptaJoe’s 2022-23 XI

“The 2022-23 season has come to an end, with Manchester City winning the Premier League title for the seventh time in the last 12 seasons – five of those coming in the last six campaigns. Pep Guardiola has now won the title in 11 of his 14 seasons as a top-flight manager across spells in charge of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Man City, with Arsenal forced to contend with second place despite spending 248 days atop the Premier League table – the most by a side not to win the title in English top flight history. With the curtain fully closed on the campaign, our data experts at OptaJoe have picked their Premier League Team of the Season for 2022-23 based on the data. …”
The Analyst

Stop worrying about time-wasting – every team does it and it’s not getting (much) worse

“Time-wasting. By all accounts, a massive waste of time… or a means to an end by which a football team can win a match. There have been several high-profile examples this season of what has felt like inexorably painful bouts of time-wasting. Players dropping to the ground one, two, even three at a time in the closing stages of matches, ‘keepers taking an age with goal kicks… it’s felt extremely common. Because it is common. It basically happens in every single match — and that’s nothing new. …”
The Athletic

USMNT transfer outlook: Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and more likely on the move

“In the lead-up to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, discussions around the U.S. men’s national team centered on potential. The squad that qualified for the World Cup was the youngest in the world, by average age. They were the second-youngest team at November’s tournament. Over the next three years, however, that narrative will shift and the team will no longer be judged on potential. Many young stars will enter their primes. A home World Cup will increase expectations. …”
The Athletic

When the Bubble Bursts: Football’s Post-Apocalypse

“Football has a money problem. Rather than being shaded by money trees, the health of the modern game is being antagonised by the very fabric of its ecosystem. Footballers, fans and clubs are all pawns in the money plays of billionaires and nation-states, attracted by the cash flow of the industry. Without them, without their money, this sport which we schedule our lives around looks like a stranger. …”
Football Paradise

Welcome to Kenilworth Road: Is Luton’s ground ready for the Premier League?

“Kenilworth Road is easy to miss when walking along Dunstable Road, a hub of shops and restaurants to the west of Luton’s town centre. It shows itself at the top of the adjoining streets but is soon hidden again by the houses that man-mark three of its four sides. Luton Town’s home is small enough to be concealed by houses, yet with just one more Luton win, in the Championship play-off final against Coventry City at Wembley this weekend, it will be staging Premier League football. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic: How much is the Championship play-off final worth? Coventry and Luton battle for ‘biggest financial prize in football’

A footballing tour of Barcelona – the city of Messi, the Camp Nou and a club celebrating again

“When Barcelona won their first La Liga title in four years earlier this month, it led to an outpouring of joy at the Canaletes fountain, where fans gather to celebrate the team’s successes. Red flares were lit, scarves were waved in the air and thousands of supporters chanted about Barca manager Xavi, the team’s players — and, of course, Lionel Messi. …”
The Athletic

Tactical Analysis: How Coventry City Reached the Playoff Final

“Coventry City is a win away from a return to the Premier League after beating Middlesborough 1-0 on aggregate in the EFL Championship playoff semi-final. A win against Luton, who were promoted to League One in the 2017/18 season alongside Coventry, in the final dubbed as ‘one for the romantics’ by Coventry manager Mark Robins, would see his team reach England’s top division just 5 years on from promotion out of League Two. Reaching the final is an incredible achievement in its own right, and these are the tactics that got them there. …”
Breaking the Lines

Dortmund agony, Bayern joy – and a rogue sprinkler: How Bundesliga drama unfolded

“On the Bundesliga regular season’s final day, Borussia Dortmund suffered a catastrophe for the ages to hand Bayern Munich their 11th straight title. Heading into the 34th and last game of a league campaign that began in the first week of August, Dortmund simply needed to beat mid-table Mainz at home to become champions, or hope second-placed Bayern failed to win away to Cologne, another side with little to play for. …”
The Athletic
NY Times: Dortmund, Bayern and the Chance of a Lifetime

From Wolfsburg misfit to immortality in Naples: the rise, blip, and rise of Victor Osimhen

“In Naples, football is more than a sport. This southern city, famous for its natural beauties and rich history, is a place where men who become heroes are immortalized. They are worshipped. Take, for instance, the reverential adoration inspired by the late Diego Maradona after leading I Partenopei to their first two Scudetti, in 1987 and 1990—establishing Napoli as a force to be reckoned with in Italy, in a league the wealthier northern clubs have a history of dominating. This city of mostly working-class people quickly embraced a Maradona who himself came from humble beginnings, growing up in Villa Fiorito, an overcrowded shantytown in the Buenos Aires suburbs. …”
Football Paradise

Cholismo 2.0: This Time It’s Possession-Based

“… It has taken years to finally land on a coherent and convincing style of play. After several false starts, failed launches and beta testing malfunctions, Cholismo 2.0 is here and it looks nothing like it’s predecessor. We are still not even sure if the current iteration of Atlético — post-World Cup Atlético — is the real deal. The tactical change is evident and the results have been promising, but the caveat is they have had nothing to play for since after the World Cup. They were eliminated from the group stage of the Champions League, finishing last in a group made up of Bayer Leverkusen, Club Brugge and Porto. Any whispers of a title challenge were hushed with losses to Villarreal, Real Madrid, Cádiz and Mallorca. …”
The Analyst

PSG’s 11th Ligue 1 title is historic. It just doesn’t feel that way

“The job is done. It has proven to be more stressful than anticipated but what many regarded as a foregone conclusion has belatedly been reached: Paris Saint-Germain are the champions of France for a record 11th time, courtesy of a rather underwhelming 1-1 draw away to Strasbourg. This is a landmark moment. French football has become accustomed to PSG title triumphs but this latest success puts that dominance on a new footing. …”
The Athletic

Myth-busting the 2022-23 Premier League storylines – what is true and what isn’t?

“Not only was a World Cup parked midway through this football season but — more importantly — it was a campaign of great change in social-media algorithms. The hunt for engagement has never been so furious. Some of the likes-gathering community have reacted in a dishonest way, shifting to a not-exactly-true model, an impressions-first economy. Given the fact that many millions have consumed this content it feels almost ungracious to confirm that, no, Arsenal were not 11 points clear with a game in hand when they signed Jorginho. And, yes, Ederson has conceded a direct free-kick goal in his career. And no, Trent Alexander-Arnold does not have the second-highest number of goals from direct free kicks in Premier League history. …”
The Athletic

The Footballer Who Was Cancelled

Hakan Şükür should be written into Turkish footballing history. He scored the fastest goal in FIFA World Cup history, and he is the all-time leading scorer in the Turkish Süper Lig. However, in Turkey, his accomplishments have been deleted from public record. Why? Because of his apparent political position, and his subsequent exile. This is the story of how Hakan Şükür lost his place in the history books, how his close relationship with the leaders of Turkey put him in an uncompromising position, and how he had to rebuild his life in the USA.

Dortmund have Bundesliga in their grasp, Thomas Tuchel’s road safety, and trouble for Hertha

“It’s happening, isn’t it? As Borussia Dortmund and their supporters were celebrating the recapture of first spot at WWK Arena on Sunday, Edin Terzic knew that eternity was within their grasp. … We’ll hear plenty of warnings from BVB officials in the next few days to keep focus, that it’s not over yet and so forth, but in the aftermath of an utterly convincing 3-0 win away to bogey team FC Augsburg — whom they hadn’t beaten in Bavaria in three years — it felt very much as if the party had already started. …”
The Athletic

How Manchester City ‘switched on’ to win the Premier League

“The year was just a few days old but word of disharmony in the Manchester City camp had spread far and wide. It was even being discussed at other clubs. The start of 2023 was rough for City. Yet they have emerged from that period emphatically, storming to a third straight Premier League title thanks to 11 victories in a row — even if they had Arsenal’s defeat away to Nottingham Forest to thank for getting them over the line. Such has been their resurgence, powered by Erling Haaland’s 36 goals in 33 Premier League appearances, they could lay claim to being the best of manager Pep Guardiola’s great City teams. If they go on to win the treble — Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League — in June, they will go down as one of the best sides in history. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic: The Guardiola gear change – why nobody can match Manchester City in the spring (Video)
The Athletic: Manchester City, Premier League champions*? (Video)
NY Times: At Manchester City, Clinical Success Leaves Outsiders Cold
Guardian: Player ratings for Manchester City’s 2022-23 Premier League title winners

Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior has faced persistent racist abuse. What’s being done?

“Spanish football has a racism problem. It’s clear to see. There is the persistent abuse suffered by Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior. There is the ignorant attitude of fans who believe calling a black player a monkey is no different to any other abuse they might direct at the opposition. Then there is the slow, incomplete or often insufficient reaction from those with a responsibility to help stamp it out. It’s clear to Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti, who said as much on Tuesday, speaking two days after Sunday afternoon saw yet more racist abuse directed at the club’s Brazilian forward. …”
The Athletic (Video)
NY Times: Vinícius Júnior Says Racism Is ‘Normal’ in Spanish Soccer (Video)


““In the aftermath of SSC Napoli’s league victory, Nigerians descended on the official Serie A Twitter account to protest what they considered to be an unfair (and ‘racist’) attempt to acknowledge someone other than Victor Osimhen as the hero of the club’s successful campaign. And, while other players no doubt played a part in a team’s success, few would argue against Osimhen, born in Lagos, being the standout star of Napoli this season. His composure in front of goal and his dynamic presence leading the line has earned him accolades and has unified a country desperately in need of a rallying point after a contentious election cycle. …”
Africa Is a Country
W – Victor Osimhen

Serendipity of De Zerbi and Brighton underlines football’s great complexities – Jonathan Wilson

“Imagine that Thomas Tuchel had not been sacked by Chelsea at the beginning of September and that Graham Potter had not been lured from Brighton to replace him. Potter, presumably, would still be in charge at the Amex. Would Brighton’s situation now be better or worse? Would they be heading into Sunday’s game against Southampton sixth in the Premier League table and likely to qualify for the Europa League? …”

How Russia is creeping back into football Tifo Football

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, firstly in 2014, but in far greater and deadlier numbers on February 24th 2022 the country has been isolated politically, economically and culturally. And Russia has been suspended from UEFA and FIFA. But they want to qualify for the 2026 World Cup. How could they do that? Would they have to move federations? Well, it has been done before. James Montague explains. Philippe Fenner illustrates.

Aston Villa have become a team to be feared – and are one game from Europe

“When Aston Villa’s push for Europe started to gain serious momentum six weeks ago, the only question was which competition could they qualify for. Somehow, finishing in a top-four spot and playing Champions League football in September was still on. The difficulty was that however slender the six points between themselves in sixth and Newcastle United in fourth place felt, what was to come — a brutal set of remaining fixtures as well as rivals catching up on their games owed — was always likely to leave Villa lagging behind. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Tales from the Anfield Road: Magical memories from Liverpool’s ‘other’ end

“It may lack the storied glamour of the Kop or the soaring splendour of the new Main Stand, but Liverpool’s Anfield Road end has a history and atmosphere all of its own. The bulldozers will move in after Saturday’s final home game of the season, replacing the current structure with a new stand that will lift Anfield’s capacity to 61,000 at a cost of £80million ($101million) in time for the start of next season. To mark the end of the stand in its current form, we asked those who have watched from or played in front of the ‘Annie Road End’ for their standout memories. …”
The Athletic (Video)

‘There’s a cognitive dissonance for me as a fan’: readers on Manchester City

“… ‘I’m a lifelong supporter of Man City and have had a season ticket since 2011. Obviously, City’s many successes over recent years have brought me great joy. But there’s a cognitive dissonance for me as a supporter. There are ethical issues with contributing financially to a project that is in part serving as the PR wing of an objectionable regime. It really hit me when the Uefa charges first came out against the club and I saw a lot of Man City fans blindly defending the club and its owners. …’ – Michael, 27, programmer in Manchester …”

Paris Saint-Germain Finances 2021/22

“Paris Saint-Germain are seemingly a club in crisis, even though they are currently on top of Ligue 1, as their results this season have been disappointing by their high standards, while rivals like Lens and Marseille are too close for comfort. Fans have recently called for the board to resign, criticising the club’s management for a lack of a sporting vision and poor recruitment, including many over-rated talents and mercenaries. They say that too many players are only in Paris for the money. …”
Swiss Ramble

2022/23 Bundesliga relegation battle: VfB Stuttgart, Schalke, Bochum and Augsburg in four-way fight for survival

“… Schalke had nine points on the board after 17 matches, but have claimed 22 from a possible 48 in the second half of the season. Although hammered 6-0 at Bayern Munich on Matchday 32, previous wins over the likes of Hertha, Stuttgart and Werder Bremen have given them every chance of securing a second successive season of Bundesliga football. A 2-2 draw against Eintracht Frankfurt during Matchday 33 means they could still need a point against RB Leipzig on the final day of the season to avoid automatic relegation. …”
Bundesliga (Video)

Fear, suspicion, awe: How Manchester City are viewed in Europe’s football citadels

“For Manchester City and their Abu Dhabi owners, the realisation of their grand footballing project is tantalisingly within reach. Domestic dominance has already been achieved, with City just one win away from securing a fifth Premier League title in six seasons, and now the club are closing in on a first-ever Champions League triumph after they progressed to next month’s final against Inter Milan with a semi-final victory over holders Real Madrid. …”
The Athletic (Video)
The Athletic: Gravity – the inescapable force behind Man City’s push for the treble (Video)
Manchester City were utterly superb, but we should worry
SI: Man City Shows the Real Money Is in Charge Now in the Champions League – Jonathan Wilson
BBC – Manchester City 4-0 Real Madrid (5-1 agg): Pep Guardiola says win banishes ‘pain’ of last year
NY Times: Manchester City Dethrones Real Madrid in a Dominant Champions League Performance

Inter have gone from the brink to the jackpot — reaching final matters for so many reasons

Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez celebrates after scoring his side’s opening goal during the Champions League semifinal second leg soccer match between Inter Milan and AC Milan at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, Tuesday, May 16, 2023.
“Rippling down the Curva Nord, the choreography unfurled by Inter Milan’s ultras before their Champions League semi-final second leg showed a knight in shining armour, his shield pock-marked with arrows, a depiction of Inter’s quest for the holiest of grails. If the knight were to have suddenly animated and taken off his helmet, it would not have come as a surprise to see the face of Simone Inzaghi revealed. He may as well have ridden in on a white charger when he joined Inter two years ago. They were champions of Italy at the time. But they did not look like a club who were going to dominate Serie A in the way Inter did between 2006 and 2010, when five domestic titles in a row culminated in an unprecedented treble. …”
The Athletic (Video)
Guardian: Inter’s Champions League progress built on depth and defensive resilience
Guardian: Lautaro Martínez finishes off Milan to put Inter in Champions League final

Luton’s Kenilworth Road is basic, boisterous and brilliant – Premier League fans should embrace it

“This is a defence of Kenilworth Road, not that it really needs it. Scarcely has the home of a football club needed additional defences less than the fortress-like stadium belonging to Luton Town. A trip there always promises a rowdy atmosphere, character in spades and a healthy dose of fear for the opposition. Following their 3-2 win on aggregate over Sunderland in the Championship play-off semi-finals this week, a tie where the Kenilworth Road faithful played their part dutifully in the second leg, Luton are one win away from the Premier League after a 31-year top-flight absence. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Fabinho: Liverpool’s new system is giving ‘the Lighthouse’ new foundations

“It was not too long ago that Fabinho’s Liverpool career looked like it was drifting towards an unhappy ending. The Brazilian has barely resembled a shadow of himself during parts of this season and, while being far from the only player struggling, his decline was significant and one of the roots of Liverpool’s collective problems. For years, Fabinho was able to patrol the centre of the pitch from touchline to touchline in front of his team’s defence. The lighthouse, the Dyson — pick your nickname and it explains his responsibilities in Liverpool’s 4-3-3 system. …”
The Athletic (Video)

As Lionel Messi leaves PSG, an opportunity arises for Luis Campos

“Neither of PSG’s two most recent marquee signings has worked out as hoped. Both could even be classed as outright mistakes in hindsight. However, as one’s Parisian journey looks set to end in acrimony, the other may yet deserve a second chance. As PSG beat Ajaccio 5-0 on Saturday to move within one win of another underwhelming league title, hopes of revolution again returned to the Parc des Princes. …”

How Barcelona won La Liga: Old-school rules, new hunger and a changing of the guard

“When Xavi was made Barcelona manager in November 2021, he found a squad that was lacking in confidence. Barca had not won the league title in two and half years, and there were few signs they would be truly ready to challenge for one again soon. Tough losses in the Champions League had left their mark on a group whose ambition was to compete among the European elite. There was still a sense of trauma around the comeback defeats suffered against Roma and Liverpool, in 2018 and 2019. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Leicester’s relegation battle is a harsh maths lesson for all mid-table clubs – Jonathan Wilson

“All life, Valeriy Lobanovskyi once said, is a number. Which might have made sense for the groundbreaking Dynamo Kyiv manager, with his high-school medal for mathematics, but for most people who follow sport is a little disconcerting. We want to believe in heroes and glory, in imagination and genius, in fate and curses. Even if we acknowledge it probably is quite important, the thought of football as a series of vast interlocking spreadsheets feels a little dry. …”

The grim reality of being a Premier League fourth official: ‘It’s 90 minutes of hell’

“It has to be one of the worst jobs in football. The lucky few are fortunate enough to be called by their first name. The majority are just known as ‘fourth’. One or two, spelt out in reports submitted to the Football Association, are called c***s. Either way, the job description should come with a warning that you are pretty much guaranteed to spend an hour and a half being harangued for decisions which almost always have nothing to do with you. …”
The Athletic

Union Berlin’s Champions League dream nears, and Bayern stay on top thanks to Muller

“They can’t quite see nor taste it yet. But the unlikely sounds of big-time football could already be heard at Alte Forsterei on Saturday. Union Berlin supporters were heartily chanting ‘So ne Scheisse, so ne Scheisse, Champions League’ to the tune of Rod Stewart’s ‘Sailing’ during the 4-2 win over SC Freiburg. They like their witticisms a little rough in Kopenick, just like their football. …”
The Athletic

Arsenal losing the league does not have to be a collapse of character

“In the moment of full operatic collapse, the pain of a season of dashed and throttled glory reaching its narrative end point, the Emirates Stadium was treated to the sight of Roberto De Zerbi doing a knee slide. A slightly creaky one but with sufficient momentum to get a little purchase on the lime green early summer turf, fist pumping, head up sedately. Brighton had just gone 3-0 up in this game, playing a lovely, breezy, light kind of pass‑and-run football. …”
The Athletic – Roberto De Zerbi’s anti-Arsenal blueprint for Brighton: Be direct, be disruptive

Trabzonspor’s Recovery Mission Begins

“After losing just three league games in last season’s title-winning campaign, Trabzonspor have endured a dismal and disappointing defence of their first Super Lig title in 38 years. In the ten months separating their league title win with the eventual departure of manager Abdullah Avci, Trabzonspor lost nine league games – more than Avci lost in both the 2020/21 and 2021/22 seasons. This run was made to look all the worse with Galatasaray racing ahead with a record winning streak in the Turkish Super Lig and leaving the likes of Trabzonspor in the dust. …”
Breaking the Lines

The Premier League Crucible Produces Something New: Ideas

“Manchester City had been in possession of the ball for a minute, no more, but to the denizens of the Santiago Bernabéu, it felt like an hour or more. Pep Guardiola’s team moved it backward and forward and then backward again. It switched it from side to side, sometimes via the scenic route, stopping off to admire the view from midfield, and sometimes taking the express. Real Madrid’s players did not seem especially concerned about this state of affairs. …”
NY Times

The Premier League xG table: Evaluating the attacking performance of every club

“In case anyone needed reminding, scoring goals helps you win games of football. For those who like to dig a little deeper, it is interesting to see how often a team scores goals relative to the opportunities they create. Yes, your team might rocket a 40-yard strike into the top corner from time to time, but how sustainable is that method of attack across a season? That’s right, we’re talking about expected goals (xG). …”
The Athletic

Milan haven’t learned from derby defeats – Inter were far superior with and without the ball

“… Inter may well have learned, but Milan did not. Their first half looked almost identical to the 3-0 Supercoppa loss to Inter in Riyadh in January. They were 2-0 down after 21 minutes that night to goals from Edin Dzeko and Federico Dimarco, as their 4-2-3-1 struggled to cope with Inter’s advancing wing-backs and combative front two. …”
The Athletic (Video)
SI: Inter Dominates Milan Champions League Derby But Fails to Finish the Job – Jonathan Wilson

Mohamed Salah has a secret skill for Liverpool which makes him truly special

“If there was a list detailing everything Mohamed Salah brings to Liverpool, it would be a very long one. His goals and remarkable consistency would of course be at the top and, with that, all the records that come his way. The assists he provides would be on there, too, along with his speed and ingenuity. …”
The Athletic

Real Madrid 1-1 Manchester City: Vinicius and De Bruyne strike but Haaland was kept quiet

“A stunning strike from Kevin De Bruyne earned Manchester City a 1-1 draw against Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final first leg, after Vinicius Junior had scored from nearly the exact same spot on the Bernabeu pitch before the break. City dominated possession in the first half but it was Real who went in ahead after Vinicius linked well with Eduardo Camavinga and Luka Modric. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic: Stones, Camavinga and why Man City and Real Madrid pushed defenders into midfield – Michael Cox
Guardian – Real Madrid v Manchester City: beauty and parity living on the razor’s edge
The Athletic: Vinicius Jr, De Bruyne and the visceral thrill of kicking a football really hard
The Athletic: The important things for Man City in the Bernabeu were the things that did not happen
BBC: Real Madrid 1 – Manchester City 1
YouTube: Real Madrid vs Manchester City 1-1 | 2023 Champions League | Match Highlights

The New A.C. Milan Picks Up Where the Old One Left Off

“Stefano Pioli could feel it, even if he could not quite define it. In the nicest possible way, Pioli has made several journeys around the block as a soccer manager. At 57, he has been coaching in the volatile, capricious world of the Italian game for two decades. His current job, at A.C. Milan, is the 13th of his career. There is very little, these days, that counts as new to him. The couple of weeks leading up to and surrounding Milan’s Champions League quarterfinal against Napoli last month, though, were different. …”
NY Times

Liverpool fans and the national anthem: A history of hostility

“The message from the Kop could not have been clearer. ‘You can stick your coronation up your arse,’ came the cry from the most vocal section of Liverpool’s crowd during Wednesday’s home win over Fulham, an echo of the sentiment that had reverberated around Hampden Park in Glasgow a few days earlier courtesy of Celtic fans. It was the latest iteration of Anfield’s long-standing antipathy for the British establishment, and which manifests itself most obviously when Liverpool supporters routinely boo the playing of the country’s national anthem, God Save the King. …”
The Athletic (Video)
The Athletic: Liverpool fans and Jurgen Klopp: Is the love affair as strong as ever? (Video)
The Athletic: Why Liverpool want Jorg Schmadtke as their new sporting director
The Athletic: What would make managers improve behaviour towards officials? We asked some
The Athletic: Virgil van Dijk hails Alisson after Liverpool clean sheet century: ‘I’m very glad he’s my goalkeeper’

Do football managers matter?

“Managers can’t perform magic, although some people seem to think they can. They’re not David Copperfield or Harry Potter. They can’t work miracles or sprinkle some magical dust to make players know how to play football. Spending hours on analysis isn’t very useful. It doesn’t put you in better conditions to win the game. The tactics, the schemes, they’re all bull***t. Of course tactics matter, but players win the game. For 45 minutes at a time, players make their own decisions. Football is a continuous sport in which the coach has barely any influence, less than in any other sport. …”
The Athletic