Monthly Archives: September 2010

Why CONCACAF is killing the best rivalry in North America

Oguchi Onyewu
“They’re killing the most important rivalry in American soccer. That’s my unavoidable conclusion after speaking to Chuck Blazer, the general secretary of CONCACAF, who confirmed that he expects FIFA to approve a new regional qualifying format for World Cup 2014. Under the new format, which has already been approved by CONCACAF, the U.S. and archrival Mexico — the two soccer giants in this part of the world — would almost certainly not meet during any of the qualifying games for Brazil 2014. Not even once.” (SI)


Valencia 0-1 Manchester United: 4-5-1 v 4-5-1 becomes 4-4-2 v 4-4-2, and United nick it late on

“Smash and grab – Javier Hernandez’s late goal settled a tight contest. Valencia were without Joaquin, so fielded a fluid Mata-Pablo-Dominguez trio behind Roberto Soldado, who started ahead of Aritz Aduriz. Jeremy Mathieu was preferred to Jordi Alba at left-back. Manchester United were without Wayne Rooney, which made it an easy decision to start with a 4-5-1 (indeed, it would have been interesting what Sir Alex Ferguson would have done if Rooney had been available. Michael Carrick and Anderson’s returns from injury were timed well in the absence of Paul Scholes, whilst Rio Ferdinand replaced Jonny Evans.” (Zonal Marking)

How Mainz stopped Bayern – in ten steps

“Mainz are THE story of the European season so far – top of the Bundesliga with six wins from six. Five wins from five was good enough, but few expected the run to continue, since they faced a trip to last season’s champions. But Mainz triumphed 2-1 over Bayern, using a 4-3-1-2 formation and pressing all over the pitch.” (Zonal Marking)

Internazionale 4 – 0 Werder Bremen

Samuel Eto’o
“Samuel Eto’o put Werder Bremen to the sword as Inter Milan delivered a lesson in clinical finishing at the San Siro tonight. The Cameroon striker scored a hat-trick and the influential Wesley Sneijder was also on target as the Champions League holders showed they are still a force to be reckoned with despite the departure of Jose Mourinho.” (ESPN)

Thoughts from the weekend: River Plate 1 – 1 Quilmes

“River Plate only managed a draw in the final match of the eighth round of the Torneo Clausura. They were playing Quilmes, a newly-promoted side and as such key opponents in River’s own battle against the relegation promedio as well as supposedly easy targets for three points in the chase for the title. River were dominant throughout the match, and it was difficult to recall more than a couple of chances for Quilmes, but the visitors came away with the result thanks to a healthy dose of good fortune, as much as anything. I was there, and here’s my attempt at making some sense of it.” (Hasta El Gol Siempre)

Should Spain`s Footballers Have Struck?

“At times it seemed that the players during Manchester United’s Champions League clash at Valencia were on some kind of pre-planned go-slow. It could have been a lot worse, though. Some of them could have actually been on strike. Wednesday was General Strike day in Spain, 24 hours of action called by the country’s main unions in protest over the government’s austerity measures and planned changes to the employment laws, which it claims are required to tackle the country’s debt and improve the crippling 22% unemployment rate.” (Football 365)

Tactics: Pass master Van der Vaart central to Spurs’ redevelopment

“Having essentially admitted that the purchase of Rafael van der Vaart was a transfer deadline day whim, it has been interesting to see how Harry Redknapp has tried to accommodate the Dutchman in his team. Spurs’ success last season was built on a fairly classic 4-4-2 formation, with dashing wingers on either side and a big-man-little-man combination in attack. Redknapp conceded over the summer that the same system would likely prove too naïve and inflexible for the demands of the Champions League, so van der Vaart’s arrival can also be seen as a recognition of the need for greater subtlety and sophistication in Tottenham’s attacking approach.” (Football Further)

Ajax 1-1 Milan: neither plays their best football

“An entertaining first half, a much less interesting second half, and a point apiece. Ajax maintained the 4-3-3 shape they used in the 2-2 draw with Twente, making one change – Demy de Zeeuw replaced the ineffectual Rasmus Lindgren, with Eyong Enoh dropping into a deeper midfield position.” (Zonal Marking)

Chelsea 2-0 Marseille: Chelsea win relatively comfortably without playing well

Cornelis van Poelenburgh, Landscape with Roman Ruins
“Chelsea are onto six points after a victory over Marseille that was in doubt for longer than it should have been.
Carlo Ancelotti made two changes from the side that lost to Manchester City at the weekend. Ramires, who had a poor game, was left out in favour of Yuri Zhirkov, whilst Gael Kakuta was in for Didier Drogba, who is serving his traditional start-of-season Champions League suspension.” (Zonal Marking)

How Would Paul Gascoignes Appointment Garforth Not Be A Publicity Stunt?

“Football management is an extraordinarily harsh business. Managers are judged in the harsh glare of the public eye, with debate over their shortcomings often being led by those that shout the loudest, regardless of whether those doing the shouting are right or not. Many people that we might have expected to be very effective managers have fallen at the first hurdle, and many of them have not been given a second chance. It feels extremely doubtful that the position of manager of a football club could be beneficial in any way for the wellbeing of an individual that has suffered from alcoholism or is understood to have mental health issues.” (twohundredpercent)

Cash City Rockers

The Clash
“Last week was going so well for Arsenal fans. First, their youthful team thrashed North London neighbours, Spurs, in a glorious performance at White Hart Lane, driven forward by an inspirational display from young tyro Jack Wilshere, the poster boy for Arsenal’s strategy of developing players from their academy. Then, away from the pitch, the board announced a sparkling set of financial results that confirmed their status as the best-run club in the Premier League.” (The Swiss Ramble)

On the Road to Uniformity

“As the Champions League grows and grows, must it follow that domestic leagues sacrifice their native characteristics? Leave aside Spain, where Barcelona breeds its own, inimitable style, and the answer might be that we are rushing toward uniformity. The top matches in England, Germany and Italy over the weekend were all of a type. Manchester City, bankrolled by Abu Dhabi sheiks, beat Chelsea, owned by a Russian oligarch, by a solitary goal.” (NYT)

Video of the Week: Match of the 80s

“Good evening. If you’re reading this in Internet Explorer 7 (or the beta version of IE9, as it goes), there’s a good chance that everything looks a little bit wonky on the site this evening. It’s being sorted, and should be back to normal in the next couple of days or so. Please bear with us while we get it sorted out. Shouldn’t be long. In the mean-time, it’s time for this week’s Video Of The Week, and another peer back into the BBC’s magnificent football archive with the first of six episodes of “Match Of The 80s”, a bit of pre-season filler from the mid-1990s, starting with the 1980/81 season.” (twohundredpercent)

Sandro keen to ignore talk of home

“Millions of people every year move to live in a new country and struggle to make sense of their new surroundings as they deal with a different climate, new language and unfamiliar culture. The fascinating thing about footballers is that they go through this process in public. Everything they do is geared towards their performance on the pitch, where their work (i.e. the success of their adaptation) is viewed and judged by thousands in the stadium and millions watching on television.” (BBC – Tim Vickery)

Twente 2-2 Ajax: thrilling contest, fair result

“Last year’s Eredivisie top two share the points in an open, attacking game. Michel Preud’homme played a 4-3-3 system that was basically similar in nature to the formation Steve McClaren used at the club last year, even if there have been numerous changes in personnel. Luuk de Jong started upfront in the absence of Mark Janko, and Nacer Chadli returned on the left wing.” (Zonal Marking)

Arsenal given a taste of their own medicine as West Brom cruise to win

“Arsène Wenger remains puzzled. Just how did a well drilled but not entirely spectacular West Bromwich Albion side manage to score three goals past them? And his team, he says, were ‘unrecognisable’ in attack as well as Arsenal failed to close the gap on leaders Chelsea who similarly succumbed to a loss at the weekend.” (Arsenal Column)

Werder Bremen 3-2 Hamburger SV

“The Saturday evening tie for Round 6 in the Bundesliga saw Northern rivals Bremen and Hamburger SV face off. Coming seventh in the list of the nine fixtures that comprise the round, Hamburger SV began the clash in 7th place on 8 points, while Bremen found themselves in penultimate place on a mere three points.” (Defensive Midfielder)

Argentines Abroad: 25th & 26th September 2010

“There were Argentine goals in seven European leagues this weekend, as well as plenty in Mexico from players both old and new to that league. Carlos Tevez’s strike for Manchester City against Chelsea was the highest-profile one of the weekend, but Fernando Cavenaghi also got on the scoresheet, getting his first two since his move to Real Mallorca, and also among the goals were Ezequiel Lavezzi, Christian Giménez and more. There was also an early retirement, as Luciano Galletti was forced to call time on his career on Monday. All this and more is right here…” (Hasta El Gol Siempre)

What Is Wrong With Hungarian Football?

Ferenc Puskas
“Let’s go back to 1956. Hungary had, arguably, the best football team that had ever lived, the ‘Mighty Magyars’. They lost narrowly in the World Cup final 3-2 to West Germany two years earlier after leading 2-0 inside the first 10 minutes, won the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki and famously beat England 6-3 at Wembley in 1953, to strike fear into countries around the World. The Hungarian club sides weren’t bad either, Honvéd, made up mostly of the Hungarian national team, were one of the best teams in Europe, losing narrowly on two occasions to the English champions Wolves in a competitive friendly before the European Cup had been introduced, and two years later to Atlético Bilbao in the 2nd ever European Cup. However, October 1956 changed everything.” (In Bed with Maradona)

Manchester City 1-0 Chelsea: Tevez wins it

“Chelsea’s 100% run ends with a third consecutive defeat to Manchester City. Roberto Mancini chose Dedryck Boyata at right-back to ease his defensive worries, with Pablo Zabaleta at left-back. David Silva got the nod over Adam Johnson, and started on the right.” (Zonal Marking)

Werder Bremen 3-2: Hamburg: Wesley-inspired Bremen make Hamburg pay for wasted chances

“A thoroughly entertaining battle ended with a win for the home side thanks to a late Hugo Almeida goal. Bremen lined up with an attack-minded system which was vaguely a 4-2-3-1, with the front four players allowed to drift across the pitch, with the understanding that two of them would cover the wide positions and defend with two banks of four when they lost the ball. Generally this resulted in Marko Marin on the left and Aaron Hunt on the right, although sometimes Hunt ended up in the centre and one of the strikers provided right-wing width.” (Zonal Marking)

Sevilla Finally Get Big-Time Boss…

“The first managerial firing in la Primera wasn’t José Aurelio Gay, coach of bottom-of-the-table Zaragoza who are still without a win in the new campaign. Nor was it the mournful figure of Miguel Angel Lotina, whose unabashed love of a 5-5-0 formation now sees his Deportivo team failing to score a single goal from open play in six league games, with just two wins in 18, and so brain-shatteringly dull to watch you’d think you’d chosen Alan Shearer’s dream-state as the location for an ‘inception’ attempt.” (Football 365)

Twente 2 – 2 Ajax: Clash of the top sides living up to expectations

“This weekend saw the first clash of last year’s Eredivisie’s top two sides. Both clubs managed to win an impressive 16 out of 17 home games last season . Ajax’ only draw was, ironically against to-be-relegated Sparta (0-0), in the second home game of the season and Twente’s against PSV in their first home game of the season. Ajax managed to win their final 14 games of the season, scoring a magnificent 50 goals while conceding only 4 in these series. In spite of that, Twente managed to just hold on to their early season lead, keeping a one point margin intact over the final six matches, ensuring a thrilling end to the 2009/10 Eredivisie season and claiming their first ever title.” (11 tegen 11)

Roma 1-0 Inter: Roma win it from the bench

“Substitute Mirko Vucinic scored a superb last minute header to record a crucial win for Roma. Claudio Ranieri lined up with a 4-4-2 / 4-2-3-1 formation that saw Francesco Totti playing off Marco Borriello. Simone Perrotta was naturally more defensive on the left than Jeremy Menez was on the right. Rafael Benitez played the usual 4-2-3-1 system. Their side was also slightly lopsided, as Goran Pandev was both deeper and more central than Samuel Eto’o. Dejan Stankovic played as a deep-lying regista.” (Zonal Marking)

Marx, Engels, Mao, Castro, & now…Vucinic
“You saw the well-timed run. You saw the diving header. And you saw the fiery celebration. But what you didn’t see was…. The simmering tensions amid the eternal struggle between proletariat and owner. First, read John Foot’s excellent piece at Goal on the history of the infamous ‘Sindacato Miliardari’, the Serie A players’ union. Up to speed on the current crisis? (futfanatico)

English Premier League Match Of The Day (MOTD) Video Highlights For Saturday, September 25, 2010

“It was a busy day in the EPL with a few surprises including West Brom upsetting Arsenal at the Emirates. Other interesting results were Man City’s win over Chelsea and West Ham’s home victory over Tottenham.” (The 90th Minute)

Excelsior 0 – 2 Vitesse: Half-time words of wisdom win the game for Vitesse

“Seven games into the new season and not a word spent on Vitesse yet in 11tegen11. And yet, in some regards Vitesse has been one of the most dynamic teams so far. Disappointingly, however, this only held true for the off-pitch events so far. A change of ownership last August meant that Vitesse is the first, and so far only, foreign owned club in Holland. Georgian Merab Jordania took over the club, speaking of title challenges within three years and building the club into a stable force in European club football. Not the smallest of ambitions for last year’s number 14 of the Eredivisie, is it?” (11 tegen 11)

Estudiantes beat Boca and Argentinos win at last

“After last week’s contrasting results, in which Estudiantes lost to All Boys and Boca convincingly beat Colón, the celebrations switched on Saturday when Estudiantes beat Boca 1-0 thanks to a Marcos Rojo strike in only the first minute of a lively game. Earlier in the day, champions Argentinos Juniors had claimed their first win of the season by the same scoreline against Banfield. Elsewhere Lanús beat All Boys to bring them back down to earth after last week’s brilliant win, and after Independiente’s win yesterday, another of the sides who lost their manager earlier in the week won; Colón, who broke San Lorenzo’s unbeaten streak so far this season thanks partly to a controversially disallowed goal for the visitors. All the goals are right here.” (Hasta El Gol Siempre)

Manchester City 1-0 Chelsea: Tevez wins it

“Chelsea’s 100% run ends with a third consecutive defeat to Manchester City. Roberto Mancini chose Dedryck Boyata at right-back to ease his defensive worries, with Pablo Zabaleta at left-back. David Silva got the nod over Adam Johnson, and started on the right. Carlo Ancelotti named his side on Friday afternoon, and stuck to it. Indeed, with injury problems, there were few other options for him, and Chelsea lined up in the 4-3-3 shape they’ve favoured so far this season.” (Zonal Marking)

Manchester City 1-0 Chelsea – Video Highlights, Recap, and Match Stats – EPL
(The 90th Minute)

Liverpool 2 – 2 Sunderland

“Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard once again came to his side’s rescue but it was referee Stuart Attwell at the centre of attention with an erratic display in Sunderland’s 2-2 draw at Anfield. The official, who awarded the infamous ‘ghost goal” in the Championship two years ago, allowed Dirk Kuyt’s opening strike to count after ruling Michael Turner had taken a free-kick when he appeared to roll it back to goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.” (ESPN)

Thickening Plots And Guns

“It’s been an interesting week in the Argentine football world, and several clubs will be eagerly waiting for the weekend’s football action to start, so they can put behind them some of the developments of the past few days. Estudiantes, who a year ago stood with the continent at their feet after winning the 2009 Copa Libertadores, were humbled last weekend by newly promoted All Boys (who added a second big scalp to their defeat of Boca Juniors a few weeks earlier), and on Wednesday night exited the Copa Sudamericana – the continent’s second-string tournament – to Newell’s Old Boys.” (In Bed with Maradona)

A practical proposal for penalties

“When you watch football you hope that the game flows, the referee knows what he/she is doing and there’s nothing really hideously unfair going on. That’s what FIFA are there for – to make the game better; like stopping the keeper picking up back passes or allowing a player who’s offside not to be offside, if you know what I mean. So why then haven’t they sorted out penalties? If ever there was a case of the punishment not fitting the crime, this is it. Something barely discernible happens and before you know it the game’s turned on its head.” (WSC)

FIFA SOCCER 11: “We Are 11″ Series, Episode 1 – “Vuvuzela Saddam”

“Let us present to you ‘We Are 11.’ It’s being produced by VBS in conjunction with the release of EA Sports’ FIFA Soccer 11. The first installment of the series profiles the Flavor Flav of the soccer world, a man that transcends employment. Meet the man they call Vuvuzela Saddam.” (The Original Winger)

Neymar’s behavior a worrying sign

“A month ago, 18-year-old Brazilian sensation Neymar was hailed as a patriotic hero for resisting the temptation of Chelsea and staying at home with Santos. The truth was a little less glorious. In return for his loyalty, Neymar was awarded a huge pay rise. Also, the player was convinced by many in the game that it was advisable to show some patience — his chances of succeeding in Europe would be increased by delaying the move for a couple of years.” (SI – Tim Vickery)

Liverpool desperate for win against Sunderland

“Liverpool needs a morale-boosting home win over Sunderland on Saturday to relieve the pressure on manager Roy Hodgson at the end of a depressing week for the 18-time Premier League champions. After losing to rival Manchester United 3-2 at Old Trafford last weekend, Liverpool went down to an embarrassing League Cup third-round defeat on Wednesday to Northampton, a team struggling near the bottom of England’s fourth tier.” (Yahoo)

Football transfer rumours: Fernando Torres to Manchester City?
“Over the past few weeks the Mill has been ruminating on the tabloids’ attempts to coin a nickname for Liverpool’s manager Roy Hodgson. ‘Uncle Roy’ has done the rounds as have ‘Hodgy’ and ‘Hodgo’ but none have stuck. But today’s Mirror backpage splash of Steven Gerrard under the headline ‘Don’t panic’ has opened up a whole Dad’s Army world to explore and makes Hodgson perfect casting as ARP Warden Hodges, the officious bane of Captain Mainwaring’s life who has a tendency to undermine his authority by falling into rivers.” (Guardian)

Liverpool’s Gerrard sets target of top four finish
“Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has set a target of a top-four finish at the end of the season, maintaining that the 18-time champions will be happy to settle for fourth place. Liverpool have picked up just five points from as many games in the Premier League so far and suffered the humiliation of being dumped out of the Carling Cup by League Two Northampton Town on Wednesday. But while Gerrard stopped short of writing off their title challenge, he has set some realistic targets for the club this season.” (ESPN)

Reflecting on Northampton: Time is Running out for LFC’s Disappointing Squad Players
“The word will become etched into our collective consciousness in the same way Worcester, and to a certain extent, Burnley, and Wimbledon are. I can almost see the tortured faces of Babel, Lucas, Kyrgiakos et al as they travel past Northampton during future coach journeys to away games in London. (Assuming they remain Liverpool players and that they really care enough to be as humiliated as they should be.)” (Micro LFC)

Dig deep enough, you can find beauty in the most ugliest of things: West Germany, 1990.

“The 2010 World Cup was a World Cup that brought twenty-five year old men and above together for one reason – to collectively preach about how dismal the 1990 World Cup was. Such derision implanted an idea in this writer’s head that they need to watch the thing to let them know what they were missing out on. It is this apparent self-tortury that is all part of footballing character building, just what you know what boring, bland and characterless football is really like, or so I thought.” (Talking about Football)

Thoughts from the weekend: All Boys 2 – 1 Estudiantes

“I’m a bit late with this, but here it is at last. Last weekend saw a lot of goals scored in the first division, but in some ways perhaps the most important ones were scored in Floresta at the clash between newly-promoted All Boys and title-chasing Estudiantes de La Plata. Estudiantes’ defeat in that match has handed the impetus in the title race, for the moment, to San Lorenzo, and the victory for All Boys has given the club confidence that they could pull off an amazing survival this season. There were dramatic scenes before the match as well, when Estudiantes’ barra brava almost pulled guns on a group of All Boys fans (not the Albo barra, I feel compelled to point out).” (Hasta El Gol Siempre)

Arsenal Win 1988-89 League Title In Injury Time: Friday Flashback Videos

“Twenty one years ago, Arsenal won the League title in the most unbelievable way by scoring an injury-time goal at Anfield. Arsenal was leading 1-0, but if the score had remained the same, Liverpool would have won the 1988-89 League title. Instead, the ball fell to Arsenal’s Michael Thomas who knocked the ball past Bruce Grobbelaar to win the match 2-0 to the Gunners and to crown Arsenal champions based on the same goal difference, but the Gunners scored one more goal than Liverpool.” (EPL Talk)

Rolling out of control

Pierre Henri Revoil, Jeanne d’Arc in Prison in Rouen
“Real Madrid is broke. It was broke before completing the two most expensive transfers ever in 2009, bringing in Kaka for $86 million and Cristiano Ronaldo for $123 million. And it was broke when setting the previous transfer records, buying Luis Figo for $57 million in 2000 and Zinedine Zidane for $71 million in 2001.” (ESPN)

Reds crash out to League Two side

“Liverpool blew one of their best chances of winning a trophy this season after suffering an embarrassing penalty shoot-out Carling Cup defeat against League Two side Northampton at Anfield. Having taken a ninth-minute lead through Milan Jovanovic, his first goal since joining the club from Standard Liege in the summer, the hosts should have wrapped up the third-round tie.” (ESPN)

Hodgson position not under threat
“Roy Hodgson’s future at Liverpool does not appear to be under any threat following the Carling Cup defeat to Northampton. Hodgson took charge of Liverpool under difficult circumstances this summer, having to work with limited transfer funds after last season’s seventh-place finish.” (ESPN)

Under-fire Ranieri faces tough Inter test

“After Claudio Ranieri was handed a vote of confidence, Roma could not have asked for a more difficult opponent than Serie A leaders and European champions Inter. Roma dropped into the relegation zone with just two points in four league games after Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat to Brescia, while the Nerazzurri claimed their third straight win with a 4-0 thumping of Bari. The result lifted them to the top of the standings, one point clear of Chievo and Brescia.” (ESPN)

Inter Milan (Internazionale) 4-0 Bari – Video Highlights, Recap, and Match Stats – Serie A
(The 90th Minute)

Lazio 1-1 AC Milan – Video Highlights, Recap, and Match Stats – Serie A
(The 90th Mniute)

Football made in Nigeria | A short story by Uzor Maxim Uzoatu

Umuchu Lagos, 1989 Christmas tournament. The author stands in the rear, third from right.
“Editor’s note: Obi Nwakanma in a Vanguard essay in 2008 notes the achievement of Chinua Achebe‘s Things Fall Apart. Achebe, according to Nwakanma, a Nigerian poet born in 1966—eight years after publication of a novel since translated into 50 languages—helped a continent claim its memories and helped restore a people. Achebe’s father was an early agent of the Church Missionary Society, founded in London in 1799. He was, in Nwakanma’s words, a ‘native informer’.” (The Global Game)

Barcelona 1 – 0 Sporting Gijon

“David Villa’s goal just after half-time was enough to see off Sporting Gijon as Barcelona lumbered through another lethargic display in front of their home fans to win 1-0. The Catalans lost their home opener 2-0 to newly-promoted Hercules last time out at the Nou Camp and failed to inspire again against a second-string Sporting side.” (ESPN)

FC Barcelona 1-0 Sporting Gijon – Video Highlights, Recap, and Match Stats – La Liga
(The 90th Minute)

From Bad To Worse For Liverpool

“The early rounds of the League Cup have built up something of a reputation for low attendances in recent years. With season ticket prices being the price that they are these days, the majority of people have to pick and choose what games they go to over and above their pre-allocated league fixtures, and the League Cup is usually somewhere near the bottom of the list of priorities, somewhere between the Johnstones Paint Trophy or Europa League Qualifying Round Qualifiers and pre-season friendlies against Greenland or Freddie Starr’s All-Starr XI. The modern football ground isn’t designed for such scenes.” (twohundredpercent)

The EPLtalk Beginner’s Guide to Tactics

“Following on from the Gaffer’s suggestion for articles to use as resources one of the key elements of a Football match are the Tactics each team employs. Unfortunately for converts the terminology can be impenetrable – 4-4-2 & 4-3-3 are just random numbers and with two teams lining up it can be hard to understand how it all works.” (EPL Talk)

Clubs In Crisis: How Time Flies (Part One)

“I take a month off to deal with some personal business (successfully, thanks for asking) and look what happens in the world of football. When I last looked, Liverpool’s ownership situation was one of utter chaos, with the current owners insisting on handsome reward for their failures – just like any other bankers. Blackburn Rovers were about to be taken over by an Indian businessman about which little was known.” (twohundredpercent)

Potato fields and a prickly Pep

“Those who suggest – often quite forcibly – that LLL has absolutely no clue about anything are probably quite right. The blog went to bed (extremely late thanks to evil Spanish TV bosses) having watched an unspectacular but perfunctory 3-0 win for Real Madrid against Espanyol. ‘No story here,’ thought LLL. ‘Ten points from 12. Team still gelling but winning nonetheless. Benzema scoring. Higuaín scoring. Ronaldo scoring. And passing, too. Nothing to see. Move along, now.’” (FourFourTwo)

Bordeaux 2-0 Lyon: a tight game won in the second half thanks to three factors

“Yoann Gourcuff’s return to Bordeaux was an unhappy one, as the home side won a good contest. Bordeaux made significant changes to the side which lost 2-1 to Nice the previous weekend, with Moussa Maazou being given his first start of the season in a lone striking role. Jussie also came into the side, meaning Jaroslav Plasil started in a deeper role.” (Zonal Miarking)

Out of the frying pan and into the fire
“Half-a-season is a long time in football. At the winter break last year Yoann Gourcuff, French football’s long-awaited successor to Zinedine Zidane, was leading Laurent Blanc’s Bordeaux on an imperious march to retaining their title. Everybody knew he would leave the Chaban-Delmas sooner or later, but he was meant to return as part of one of the world’s finest sides. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.” (ESPN)

America’s smorgasbord of televised soccer

“For the few remaining stragglers in Europe who still see the United States as a footballing backwater, the country’s television schedules make for an instructive read. With relatively cheap subscriptions to the appropriate channels this past weekend, you could have watched eight Premier League games, another eight from the Mexican League, four Bundesliga match-ups, six from La Liga, five from Serie A, two from Brazil and two from Major League Soccer (and another four if you subscribe to the league’s bargain Direct Kick package at around 50 quid a season).” (WSC)

Are Liverpool Using The Correct Formation?

“Argent a Cormorant in the beak a Branch of Seaweed called Laver all proper.”
“Watching Liverpool thus far this season, it’s apparent that things are not how they are supposed to be. They are not scoring as they should and they are not really that convincing at the back. Roy Hodgson admitted that his transfer activity was a bit limited, but as they say, the show must go on. Until January or even the summer, Hodgson’s managerial credentials and experience would be put to the ultimate test. He is going to have to make the best out of the club’s current plight. His playing staff, although threadbare, is by no means hopeless. How can he get the best out of them and thus stop the club from it’s ignominious free-fall into oblivion?” (Flix and Trix)

The Myth of the Meaningless Friendly

“A funny thing happens during international friendlies, particualrly when a team loses. Invariably, cries that “this game doesn’t matter” eminate from supporters, conveying a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of international friendlies. In many ways, it’s self-delusion at its finest. It’s like a jaded boyfriend saying, “I didn’t like her anyway,” after a girlfriend breaks up with him. These are defense mechanisms signifying denial and/or hurt, which is why you rarely hear this refrain after an emphatic victory.” (Nutmeg Radio)