Monthly Archives: July 2010

What does a central midfielder do in 2010?

“It’s this year’s must-have for any side looking to finish near the top of the Premier League: a player who prompts the question, ‘What does he do?’ This man is a central midfielder. He’s not a tackler, nor is he a creator. He doesn’t score many goals – in fact, he rarely looks to get into the box. So what does he do? It’s a question asked by Arsenal fans about Denilson. It’s a question by Manchester United fans, about Michael Carrick. And it’s not just the fans who ask. Britain’s most famous football pundit, Alan Hansen, has the same question about Jon Obi Mikel, who started the majority of games at the heart of Chelsea’s midfield as they won the Premier League lastseason. ‘What does John Obi Mikel do?’, asks Hansen. So there we have it. The best three teams in one of the world’s best leagues all field a player in the centre of their team who apparently has no specific purpose.” (Zonal Marking)


The Ball Day 49 – Mali, The world’s largest Mud Mosque

“Yes you read it right, The Ball visits a beautiful mud mosque in Djenne, Mali, one of the largest of its kind in the world. You can find out more about this amazing building right here. Music in this EP is from Ghanaian Quabena Philip with ‘Wadaada Me,’ find the track from Akwaaba Music right here on Fairtizler. Also in this EP the second track you hear is from a favorite artist of us here, Iba Diabate with ‘N’nah.’ Find his latest album and the track featured right here at Bandcamp.” (The Ball 2010)

The Monday Miscellany

“So. England have won the World Cup. (In case you haven’t got it yet, I’m asking you to imagine a hypothetical scenario. Try harder.) Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Ashley Cole and Aaron Lennon have all fulfilled their potential and England have pulled off the greatest feat in the nation’s sporting history. Gerrard, looking slightly less miserable than usual, lifts the trophy aloft in Soccer City. But is it a good thing?” (Footballing World)

Defending the Defensive Midfielder

“During the excellent world cup coverage on my home channel RTÉ, two ex-footballers decried the rise in the defensive midfielder. Johnny Giles and Liam Brady are two certified legends of Irish football both won multiple trophies at club level and Brady is currently the director of Arsenal’s famed youth system. Both were also midfielders who played at an elite level for most of their careers and have commented on football and have provided genuine insight into the game.” (EPL Talk)

Euro results underline need for change in Scotland

“It’s never too early to panic say some sceptics and in the case of our European results this week they may have a point. With Celtic and Hibs both hammered, and only Motherwell managing a creditable draw, all against teams coming from small countries, the alarm bells must finally ring the complacency out of our game’s rulers. These results come in the week that new SFA chief executive Stewart Regan correctly told Scots to forget past glories and look to the future.” (BBC)

Football transfer rumours: Bentley, Jenas and Keane to Villa in exchange for Ashley Young?

“Having made front-page news earlier this week for offering to find a nice sanctuary for para-sailing Russian donkey Anapka, Harry Redknapp is showing no such compassion to David Bentley, Jermaine Jenas and Robbie Keane, who he appears ready to ship out to Aston Villa in exchange for Ashley Young.” (Guardian)

To Asia, Taking La Liga Beyond Real Madrid and Barcelona

Philips Wouwerman, Battle scene, ca. 1655-60
“In July last year, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez made a major push to get at least one La Liga game a week played earlier in the day to attract Asian audiences and support: ‘The change is vital if the Spanish league is to compete with the English,’ he said. ‘The revenue figures for our clubs this year will be around the €1.55bn mark, in England the figure is closer to €2.4bn. It is not just the TV deals themselves but the potential repercussions that being shown prime time in Japan can have on marketing revenues.’ A year on, and it looks like this change to La Liga kick-off times will actually happen, following an offseason that has revealed just how parlous Spanish finances are, Barcelona’s debt and Mallorca’s financial troubles only the most obvious examples.” (Pitch Invasion)

Premier League Transfer Talk

Stiliyan Petrov
“Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson wants Aston Villa midfield general Stiliyan Petrov as the shock replacement for transfer-seeking Javier Mascherano. (Mirror) Chelsea want to wrap up the £17m signing of ­Benfica star Ramires in time for their pre-season tour of Germany. (Star) With Sol Campbell heading to Newcastle, Arsenal are ready to turn to Per Mertesacker to solve their defensive crisis. Arsene Wenger will offer Werder Bremen £10m for the German international centre-back. (Mirror)…” (Telegraph)

World Cup 2010: Tests ahead as focus turns to Brazil

“Since the start of the tournament, delegations from the South American country’s federal and local governments, plus several other different institutions, have been in South Africa trying to learn lessons about staging the world’s biggest sporting event. That’s because, in four years, it will be Brazil’s turn to play host.” (BBC)

The Premier League 2010/11 Previews 3 – Birmingham City: Second Season Blues?

“Between the battle at the top of the table and the chaos at the bottom of it, the achievement of Birmingham City in finishing in ninth place in the Premier League last season feels as if it was rather overlooked. It was their first season back after promotion the year before and, significantly, it was their highest league position since 1959. Those that continue to look back at the 1970s as being somehow the halcyon days of the club (which, one rather suspects, may at least in part have entered into local folklore because of the club’s dominance of their cross-city rivals Aston Villa) would do well to look at last season’s final Premier League.” (twohundredpercent)

There’s no escaping sports

“Since I withdrew, game-worn, from full-time sportswriting in 2007, the question I’ve gotten most is: ‘Do you miss sports?’ I wonder if these same people ask retired weathermen if they miss weather, or ex-food critics if they miss food, or recovering nudists if they miss nudity. Because missing sports is not an option. I couldn’t miss them if I tried. And I have tried. But sports, it turns out, are always there. Even when I think they’re not, they’re present — silent and odorless and invisible but emphatically present, like radon gas.” (SI)

The 2010/11 Premier League Previews 1 – Arsenal: How Long Is Too Long?

“It’s that time of the season again, and we have time this year for a pre-season piece on all twenty of the clubs in this season’s Premier League. First of all, since we’re doing this in alphabetical order, Arsenal, where the big question over the next nine months may turn out to be what they can do to end their run without a trophy and how long supporters’ patience with M. Wenger will last.” (twohundredpercent)

Newcomers boost Arsenal’s hopes
“By the time defender Thomas Vermaelen had played just four games for Arsenal after last year’s $13 million move from the Dutch club Ajax, coach Arsene Wenger already knew he had a bargain on his hands. It was after that fourth game, a Champions League-qualifying victory against Celtic, that Wenger spoke of the Belgian’s “football intelligence,” an intangible quality he had also spotted in Alex Song, the young midfielder written off by many who had his breakout season the previous year. Against Celtic, Vermaelen was marshaling the defense, even telling the more experienced William Gallas where to position himself on corner kicks.” (SI)

The Premier League 2010/11 Previews 2 – Aston Villa: Becoming A Single Issue Party
“Aston Villa’s summer thus far can be neatly condensed into two words, and the second of those is “Milner”. Their own supporters will be thoroughly sick to the stomach of the constant pas de deux that has been going on over the last couple of months between their most-prized asset and a team which they last season regarded as rivals for the final Champions League place, and it is starting to become a little wearing for the rest of us, too. Consider, for example, the front page of The Guardian’s section on Villa. At the time of writing, eleven of the fifteen main articles on the site concern the long, drawn-out saga. Aston Villa Football Club are at the point of becoming a single issue party.” (twohundredpercent)

Celtic and Rangers – Life in the Glasgow Goldfish Bowl

“Ask anyone in Glasgow who they support and 99% of the time you will get one of two answers – Celtic or Rangers. Everything separates the pair. Their foundations, with Rangers formed in 1872 by an English rugby club and Celtic in 1888 to raise funds for Brother Walfrid’s Charity whom fed the poor Irish Catholic section of Glasgow. Religion, with Rangers’ support predominantly Protestant and Celtic’s support Catholic. Also on-field matters, with Celtic being the more multi-national side while Rangers possess a more Scottish based team. For all their differences though, they have one thing in common. They both have to win at all costs.” (Just Football)

Diego Maradona pays for his controversial tactics

Diego Maradona
“Late on Tuesday afternoon, the Asociación de Fútbol Argentino (AFA) finally announced, as we all knew they were going to, that Diego Maradona’s contract as national team head coach wasn’t going to be renewed. When a small child falls over quite softly in the street, you can count under your breath to three or four before they start bawling. To anyone in Argentina, this was as predictable as that.” (WSC)

Maradona Loses Showdown With Grondona Over Argentina’s Future
“Diego Maradona is out as coach of Argentina, according to the Associated Press. The Argentina Football Association announced it would not renew his contract after almost two erratic years in charge. Ernesto Cherquis Bialo, spokesman for the team, said that differences between Maradona and Julio Grondona, the A.F.A. president, ‘were impossible to resolve’.” (NYT)

An End To Things

“I’ve searched online for the 31st minute of the U.S. versus Ghana game, the moment Ricardo Clark is pulled and then held by his coach. I do not know precisely why I was searching, but standing in a bar in Hoboken witnessing the scene live I felt something, and, post-World Cup, I’d like to try to feel it again. I’m dangling the scene, or maybe the recollection or recreation of the scene. I should have TiVO. I should just have a friend replay the damn thing for me. I should give this up. But I remember it like this: Rico plays defectively, commits an egregious error, is yanked. The unremitting game even stops for his error. Slumping off the field he looks at the least like a boy ready for admonishment.” (This Is American Soccer)

The king is dead. Long live Ronaldo!

“It’s a fairly testing task for the folks at Marca to hold just one coherent thought in their tiny little minds at any one time, never mind two. But that’s the contorting conundrum in the complex realm of Raúl that has been on the paper’s journalistic agenda ever since Florentino Pérez came back to the club last summer.” (Four Four Two)

2010/11 – An appointment with the oracle

David Villa
“With a new European season fast approaching, we got in touch with various bloggers, prolific members of the footballing twitterati and friends of The Equaliser to make a few pre-season predictions that will undoubtedly make us all look very silly in ten months’ time. So, here are the results of our collective FIFA-approved crystal ball gazing…” (The Equaliser)

The dark arts of sticker collecting

“Never mind Mesut Ozil. Forget Thomas Mueller. And as for Keisuke Honda … pah! The discovery of the World Cup was Danny Shittu. Maybe not in South Africa, but certainly in Spain. He might not have made much of an impact on the football field but, boy, has he made an impact off it. Even if he doesn’t realize it himself. Nothing can match the joy of laying your eyes on the Nigeria defender. Danny Shittu / Lagos, 2-9-1980 / 1,88m / 81 kg / Bolton Wanderers (ENG) … No. 133 in the Panini sticker album for the 2010 World Cup. It’s confession time: I am over 30 and I am collecting soccer stickers.” (SI)

Football transfer rumours: Carlton Cole or Emmanuel Adebayor to Real Madrid?

“The Mill knows that many a hack suffers from the Tetris effect. People who play Tetris over a sustained period of time find themselves thinking about ways that objects can fit together in the real world so, for example, when they see a book they instinctively imagine slotting it into a space on a shelf or if they catch sight of their fist they envisage placing it perfectly into Jeremy Kyle’s provocative face. What this means for hacks who spend their summer days scribbling transfer yarns is that when they see a footballer they instinctively link him with a club where the fit seems plausible.” (Guardian)

France Suspends Entire World Cup Squad

“This may just be the best thing France has done since ‘98 (or ‘00 if you prefer). In the wake of that massive mental and behavioral meltdown that was their World Cup 2010 campaign, a show of bad football and even worse insubordination, the French Football Federation has suspended the entire World Cup squad for their next game at the request of new head honcho Laurent Blanc.” (World Cup Blog)

MLS All-Stars will be keen to impress against Manchester United

“The smaller-market Kansas City Wizards found a way to sneak a little influence into this week’s MLS All-Star game after all. The Wizards felt slighted last week when no member of the club was selected for All-Star duty. But they kicked up a hornets nest around the Manchester United camp by laying a highly public lick on the global soccer heavyweights, who are currently touring North America. Even though it’s just preseason for Sir Alex Ferguson’s proud men, Sunday’s 2-1 loss to 10-man Kansas City must surely sting.” (SI)

Why Talk Of Tottenham And The Olympic Stadium Feels Wide Of The Mark

“Supporters of both Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United could have been forgiven for choking a little if they happened to see this article on the BBC’s website today. On the front page of the site was a story that would certainly leave both sets of supporters with a feeling that their hearts were beating in their throats – that Spurs were looking at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford as a possible alternative to redeveloping White Hart Lane.” (twohundredpercent)

Fergie’s Conundrum: Opt for the 4-4-2 formation or stick with 4-5-1?

“Much of Wayne Rooney’s good form last season was put down to his role as lone striker. The 4-5-1 formation deployed by Sir Alex Ferguson saw Rooney enjoying the freedom to roam in the final third, with the majority of his 32 goals being scored in that position. Fergie still has a decision to make, however. Does he stick with the 4-5-1* going into the new season or does he turn his back on that and opt once again for the 4-4-2, a system in which United were consistently inconsistent with last year.” (ManUtd24)

Fans prefer skilful play over English virtues

“What do football fans enjoy seeing most, aside from goals for their team? The couple of pre-season friendlies I’ve been to this summer were fairly typical of what I usually witness during a season, in that moments that drew most applause involved skill – a player in possession beating an opponent, quick interchanges of passing, accurate shots forcing goalkeepers to make diving saves. The physical engagement that is reckoned to be one of the essential characteristics of English football – players getting stuck into tackles and visibly expending energy throughout the game – rarely stirs spectators in quite the same way.” (WSC)

So who is accountable then?

“England are out – finished, end of story. We did not go out on penalties, nor were we ‘very unlucky’. We were well beaten by a team that were man for man better than us. The Media may cry foul about Lampard’s goal, or the fact our pampered players play too much football, but isn’t it time we simply faced up to the fact that actually we are not as good as we like to believe?” (The Ball Is Round)

Raul and Real Madrid Move On Without Each Other

Raul Gonzalez
“Raul Gonzalez, the captain and leader of Real Madrid for more than a decade, will only see Jose Mourinho, the Spanish club’s new manager, in passing. Raul, 33, will leave the club where he has spent his entire career as Mourinho comes in to remake Real Madrid in the new ‘Galácticos’ era.” (NYT)

TP Mazembe and the Congolese regeneration

“Ever since enjoying a golden period of success during the late sixties Congolese football has struggled to become an established and consistent force on the international stage, the national side only ever having qualified for one World Cup – a humiliating experience in the country’s former guise as Zaire in 1974 – and producing little in the way of top-class talent.” (The Equaliser)

Let’s Hear It For… Barry Davies

“The most elegant and cultured midfielder England has ever produced? Glenn Hoddle, of course. It’s absurd that Hoddle won 53 caps for his country, especially when considering that a vastly inferior player such as David Beckham has more than twice that amount. But such was – is – the English mistrust of mercury. We never have figured out how to integrate brilliant individuals into a team.” (Who ate all the pies)

Brazil job will test Menezes’ inner calm

Mano Menezes
“When Brazil shine, the players get the credit for their flair and brilliance. When they fall short of expectations, the coach gets the blame. Being in charge of Brazilian team is like sitting in a coconut shy – plenty of things are thrown in your direction. And the bombardment could be especially fierce in the case of new boss Mano Menezes, who is taking over with everyone knowing that he was not the first choice for the job.” (BBC – Tim Vickery)

Low Expectations in the International Arena

“Given that the pay gap between footballers in Scotland and Scots on average earnings is less than that between Premier League players and the English general public, Levein is saying something here that’s more interesting than a repeat of that old English control-freak canard about overpaid primadonnas. This is about low expectations.” (More Than Mind Games)

Guti – Adios Au Revoir Word Association

“Guti leaves Real Madrid. For the casual fan, the question is: so what? Guti played the part of supersub for 15 years but little more. His record – most sub appearances in La Liga history – does not place him on the same pantheon as Di Stefano. But in a club that routinely ships their cantera players to mid-tier clubs, Guti was the exception. His leaving is a loss more in emotional terms than futboling concerns. So indulge us in some word-association games to commemorate the occasion.” (futfanatico)

The Rebuilding Job That Faces Roy Hodgson at Liverpool

Roy Hodgson
“With the departure of longtime club favourite Rafael Benitez, a lack of Champions League football and a hard rebuilding job with minimum cash influx in front of Roy Hodgson, it’s indeed a tough time to be a Liverpool fan as the decisions taken by Hodgson, Purslow and Broughton might go on to define the club for the foreseeable future. But looking back, the circumstances in which Rafael Benitez had taken up the reigns of the club seem to have a striking similarity to the ones Roy Hodgson now faces, and which ultimately led to the sacking of Houllier and Benitez.” (EPL Talk)

Blurring the Lines

“I’ve started tweeting in earnest over the past few days, and while I can’t deny that it has plenty of shortcomings, I have definitely come across some interesting things that would have otherwise passed me by. I’ve learnt that Mark Kennedy won’t miss the smell of monster munch on the Cardiff team bus after he leaves South Wales and, perhaps more constructively, that European Football Weekends is an absolute cracker of a blog.” (thetwounfortunates)

We Are All Made Of Stars

“The failure of established ‘Stars’ to shine, certainly in the manner which they had in much of the promotional material issued by sponsors in the run-up to the tournament, seemed a defining feature of the 2010 World Cup. There were many debates around this on Minus the Shooting and Loki posted a piece questioning the ability of the Premier League to create stars. There’s a huge amount of interesting tangents here to me and one is the nature of determining a Premier League star.” (Vieiras Weary One)

Is the sweeper set for a return to prominence?

Matthias Sammer
“Jonathan Wilson recently wrote in his excellent ‘The Question’ series about the possibility of the return of the sweeper to football. The sweeper prospered as the ’spare man’ in a three-man central defence up against a two-man attack, so now we have two-man central defences up against one-man attacks, should one centre-back not become a sweeper?” (Zonal Marking)

Could the sweeper be on his way back?
“The history of tactics is the history of the manipulation of space. Space is created – or emerges – for one player, and he begins to have a disproportionate influence on the game. Then a way is found to block him, and in turn space will appear somewhere else on the pitch.” (Guardian – 22 September 2009)

Time to Introduce Technology to Football?

“The debate about the implementation of the various technologies in football such as the Hawkeye system used in tennis to determine whether the tennis ball falls into or outside of the court has been raging for quite some-time. It has died down in recent times due to the persistent unwillingness of FIFA, the world’s football governing body to implement such technologies in football.” (Beopedia)

Vive la Blanc revolution

“The French have a history of doing revolutionary things, and Laurent Blanc’s decision not to call up any of the players that were on ‘the bus of shame’ when les Bleus refused to train at the World Cup is almost up there with lopping the head off Louis XVI. It was the hapless king’s dilettante wife, Marie Antoinette, who declared, ‘Let them eat cake’, and it seems Blanc has taken a leaf out of the Queen’s book with a devil-may-care ditching of every single player who rebelled in South Africa.” (ESPN)

How pre-season jollies got turned into serious money-makers

“Judy Garland’s Dorothy followed the yellow brick road to Kansas; Manchester United believe their path to play the city’s Wizards tomorrow is paved with gold. Whether it is the ideal preparation for a 10-month English season remains to be seen. Last weekend United played in Toronto. Next weekend they play in Guadalajara. Besides Canada, Mexico and the American Midwest they will have also fitted in matches in Philadelphia and Houston before returning to England, via a game in Ireland, for the Community Shield.” (Independent)

Diagnosis: Merthyr

“One of the perceived anomalies in European club football is the presence of the six Welsh clubs in the English league system. What a lot of people don’t realise, however, is that historically the Football League was the pinnacle of a system that encompassed both England and Wales, and that prior to the launch of the Football Conference in 1979, Welsh football clubs mainly competed in regional leagues that were the pinnacle of non-league football in England and Wales.” (twohundredpercent)

The Ball

“Alive & Kicking balls are hand stitched out of local leather. They are tougher than imported synthetic balls, last far longer on rough ground and therefore give children in Africa lasting fun. Every ball carries a message about HIV/AIDS and malaria which can be used by teachers and sports coaches to broach discussions with children on deadly disease.” (Alive and Kicking)

For Hodgson, success won’t come easy in his step up to Liverpool

“Roy Hodgson arrived at Fulham in 2007 without much fanfare. He was regarded, probably largely because of an unhappy spell at Blackburn Rovers, as a mediocre manager who’d had reasonable success abroad with a string of mid-ranked countries — Finland, Switzerland, Sweden — but who couldn’t really cut it at the highest level. His two years of rebuilding work at Internazionale in the 1990s, in which the Italian club finished seventh and third and reached the final of the UEFA Cup, was broadly ignored.” (SI)

Liverpool’s New Era: The Beginning

“So it’s come to this, a once-great European side reduced to selling their best players and bringing in a crocked creative midfielder? This isn’t going to be Inter Milan’s best year. Wait, that was last year, it’s Liverpool this time. When it comes to Liverpool you’re guaranteed two things; Drama and impassioned fans. Impassioned often about complete polar opposites (‘Benitez out’ Vs ‘In Rafa we trust’, ‘Joe Cole is the key’ Vs ‘Joe Cole is a crock’) and football is about these divisive issues. The thing about the beautiful game is that you never know what’s going to happen, however I’m still going to try to predict it.” (EPL Talk)

The National Football Centre: Is It Actually Worthwhile For English Youth Development?

“‘This can kick-start English football and it would, over time, move us forward with a huge leap. That would not, obviously, happen immediately, but given two or three years it would start making a clear difference.’ So says Howard Wilkinson, architect of the original plan for The Football Association to build a National Football Centre at Burton-on-Trent.” (Pitch Invasion)

The Physical Transformations Of Maradona & Dunga

“A Brazilian tech company doctored these transformations for our amusement. Something which may be very simple but to the technologically unevolved (present!) still stands in the end as wonderfully cool. At least in the case of Dunga. Diego’s (below), however, is artistic metaphor. Someone whose transformations have run the full spectrum of one human’s physical appearance capabilities; almost as though he suffered through a drug problem somewhere in the middle. A man aptly summed in roughly 30 seconds, with not a single word to be found.” (World Cup Blog)

Spartak Moscow 0-1 Rubin Kazan: Rubin’s early strike and brilliant defence gets them the win

“You thought football had stopped for a month, didn’t you? Well, not in the Russian Premier League, which has restarted after a brief break over the World Cup. This match between Spartak and Rubin is something of a glamour tie – 2nd v 1st from last season, and these two clubs have therefore both qualified for the group stages of the 2010/11 Champions League.” (Zonal Marking)

For The Good Of The Game, Stop Using These Disgraceful Plastic Footballs

“Ask your average football fan the one thing they would like to see changed about the game, and the majority will reply with the word ‘technology’. There is no doubt that following the infamous Frank Lampard goal that never was in World Cup 2010 that something needs to be done to avoid such injustices occurring again, and that’s something we absolutely need to work on.” (Goal)

The Horlicks That Is The Current Offside Law

Offside (association football)
“It’s a couple of months old now, but my attention was recently directed to this article by The Guardian’s Jonathan Wilson, eulogising the current offside law, or more to the point the current interpretation of it. Before I get down to the serious business of slagging it off let me acknowledge: it’s an interesting article, and most of Wilson’s historical analysis is probably fair. In particular, I agree with him on the benefit of the changes in the mid-90s when the interpretation of “interfering with play” was relaxed. These changes addressed that part of the issue to most peoples’ satisfaction, as well as stressing that benefit of the doubt should go to attackers, but still failed to relieve all the frustration that all football fans have with offside decisions much of the time. Wilson is right in noting that something further was required, but goes badly wrong in his analysis of what the actual problem was and thus ends up applauding a cackhanded solution.” (twohundredpercent)

The Question: Why is the modern offside law a work of genius?
“Nothing in football is so traduced as the offside law. Most seem to regard it as a piece of killjoy legislation, designed almost to prevent football producing too many goals and being too much fun, while for the punditocracy it has become the universal scapegoat, the thing that ‘nobody understands’. Just because Garth Crooks doesn’t get something, though, doesn’t make it a bad thing. The modern offside law may be the best thing that’s ever happened to football, and it is almost certainly the reason Barcelona have been so successful with a fleet of players whose obvious asset is their technique rather than their physique.” (Guardian – 13 April 2010 )

Angel or demon?

Mario Balotelli“If you are wondering what the fuss is all about over Mario Balotelli, you probably have not been paying too much attention to Italian soccer in the past three seasons. Despite being left out – no, make that ignored – by Marcello Lippi for the World Cup, Balotelli is probably Italy’s most exciting young talent at the moment and a certain member of new Azzurri coach Cesare Prandelli’s squads for the upcoming Euro 2012 qualifiers.” (ESPN)

Joe Cole to Liverpool – Good Business? Twitter Reacts..

“So in today’s news, one of the biggest transfer deals of a hitherto quite quiet summer has taken place. Joe Cole has signed for Liverpool. Cole signs on a free transfer after his release from Chelsea in June, a parting of the ways that Cole described as ‘political’ in nature rather than for any particular footballing reasons. As is increasingly becoming the case these days, Twitter has proved an interesting source for news, opinion and information on Cole’s move to Anfield.” (Just Football)

World Cup Technical Ecstasy

“Now that you know what Martin Samuel and Alan Shearer think, you might not be interested in any more expert views on the recently-finished World Cup. But amid the small print on the ‘past World Cups’ page of FIFA’s website is a link to a series of documents which provide a more fascinating insight into past tournaments than the title ‘Technical Study Group Report’ suggests. These reports were first commissioned after the 1966 finals in England, when national team coaches from the 16 finalists were interviewed to gauge their views on competition preparation and tactics.” (twohundredpercent)

Ready for its close-up? Bundesliga in good position to raise profile

“One prominent player agent in the Bundesliga has bought the domain He also loves sending out provocative letters with famous quotes from varied people — Karl Marx, Confucius and Lukas Podolski have all been featured in the past. His latest missive came this week, in a letter with a big “Steven Gerrard for England” sticker, and it carried a good line at the back of the envelope: ‘We don’t fear the competition, we are the competition.'” (SI)

The curious reluctance to love the Spanish: Part 1, Barca

“A debate is raging on the excellent Minus the Shooting regarding the dissatisfaction wrought by Spain’s performance at the World Cup so far. A lot of really interesting points are being made about the cognitive dissonance of the media’s framing of Spain and the difficulty to be excited by the virtuosity inherent in their performances.” (Vieira’s Weary One)

Soccer Empire: The World Cup and the Future of France

“It’s easy to be cynical about a book written by an American history professor which starts out describing the events of July 9, 2006. Oh shit, you think to yourself, it’s John Doyle with a doctorate; another football outsider thinking his fresh set of eyes can derive some deeper social meaning from ‘The Beautiful Game’ which the rest of us have somehow missed all these years. And there’s going to be more drivel about the head-butt. I mean, please. Spare us.” (Pitch Invasion)

Football Paves the Way to Masculinity Without Violence

“It’s Friday night, and in a ‘favela’ (shanty town) in this Brazilian city, a group of men relax with a beer after a hard week, while a song can be heard above the rowdy chatter. The lyrics, set to a samba rhythm, are about typical topics like football and women, but also about gender violence. They mingle with the smoke from an ‘asado,’ where meat is roasting over a makeshift grill on the pavement. This is Santa Marta, a favela in the south of Rio de Janeiro.” (IPS)

The Question: Is the World Cup too big?

“I wasn’t quite as down on this World Cup as most people seem to have been, but these things are relative. I’d place it high above 2002 and just above 2006, but behind every other tournament in my lifetime, and I don’t think that’s just down to the weariness of age. For once, in fact, I seem largely to agree with what Sean Ingle says in this piece.” (Guardian)

US World Cup Cycle Report Cards: Midfielders Edition

Michael Bradley
“This is the second of a four-part Series of Report Cards for the U.S. Men’s National Team’s Four Year World Cup Cycle, 2007-2010. While we are not issuing grades for all 92 players capped by Bob Bradley during the cycle, we will feature players not on the World Cup roster who figured prominently in the run-up to the 2010 World Cup. We will issue grades of A-F, rather than player-rankings style grades of 1-10. This edition is likely the longest, focusing on the American midfielders.” (Yanks are coming)