2011: A tumultuous year for Brazilian football

December 30, 2011

“After a year of mixed fortunes in Brazilian football, what needs to change? In a year that was believed to herald a new dominance of Brazilian club football with higher quality players, partially from repatriated imports, and ever-growing revenue, one can perhaps feel a little disappointed at the outcome and sense a change in direction is needed.” Purple Patch

Conventional wingers: A dying breed?

December 30, 2011

“In the good old days, the rules of playing football were simple, and so were the tactics. The big and sturdy lads played in the centre of the park and upfront, the hard lads guarded the back, the bright ones played as inside forwards and the little, quick ones played on the wings. The left footed ones played on the left, and the right footed ones played on the right. And the one who had no partner to rely on, played in goal.” The False 9

Tactics: high defensive line costs Chelsea

December 30, 2011

“Chelsea’s Andre Villas-Boas may be a forward-thinking, progressive coach, but his attempts to impose a high line on players who seem reluctant, or unable, to adapt have resulted in defeats this season against Manchester United, Queens Park Rangers, Arsenal, Liverpool (twice) and Bayer Leverkusen.” World Soccer – Jonathan Wilson

2011: A Liverpool FC Year In Review

December 30, 2011

“The year 2011 began with Liverpool FC and its fans in the midst of a great depression, heading nowhere under Roy Hodgson. Before long we were losing our main goalscorer, and spending the £50m (plus the fee for Ryan Babel) on two new, young strikers. With Torres gone, and Steven Gerrard about to be sidelined for more-or-less the rest of the year, it was going to be no easy task for a new manager to drag the team from the bottom half of the table towards the top six. Kenny Dalglish did just that.” Tomkins Times

Non-League Videos Of The Week: The Blue Square South

December 30, 2011

“Refreshed and reposed after a break for Christmas, we’re back this morning with a double dose of Non-League Videos Of The Week. We have a couple of matches from the Blue Square Premier coming up a little later this morning, but we are starting off with five of Boxing Day’s matches from the Blue Square South. Leaders Woking have pulled clear at the top of the table, and they attracted a crowd of over three thousand people for their match against Farnborough, but the chasing pack were also in action and we have derby matches between Chelmsford City and Thurrock, Bromley and Tonbridge Angels, Dover Athletic and Eastbourne Borough and Welling United and Dartford. As ever, our thanks go to those that record, edit and upload these matches.” twohundredpercent (Video)

Non-League Videos Of The Week: The Blue Square Premier
“For the second part of our Non-League Videos Of The Week, we have two matches from the Blue Square Bet Premier Division. At the top of the table, Wrexham are continuing to hold Fleetwood Town at bay and, while Fleetwood had a Lancashire derby match at home against third placed Southport on Boxing Day, Wrexham, who are now owned by their supporters, made the relatively short trip to Shropshire to play another supporter-owned team, AFC Telford United, and over four thousand people turned out at New Bucks Head for the match. Our second match comes from the other end of the division. Ebbsfleet United recently announced that they need to find £50,000 to plug a gap in their finances. They are just above the relegation places at present and can sure up their position with three points from a home match against Hayes & Yeading United. Our thanks go to those that take the time to record, edit and upload these videos.” twohundredpercent (Video)

Celtic beat Rangers 1-0 in the second El Glasico of the season

December 30, 2011

“The second Glasgow derby of the season saw Neil Lennon’s Celtic side take all three points as they beat Rangers 1-0 to leapfrog them into top spot, after turning around a 15 point deficit from the 5th November to go two points clear. Welshman Joe Ledley scored the only goal of the game in what was a deserved win for the Parkhead side.” Scotzine

Football’s role in Algeria’s fight for independence from France

December 30, 2011

“In April 1958, Rachid Mekhloufi stood on the brink of international superstardom. Having scored 25 goals in thirty games to help Saint-Étienne win their first Championnat the year before, Mekhloufi was about to win his fifth France cap in a friendly against Switzerland, with coach Paul Nicolas including him in the forty-man pre-selection for Les Bleus’ highly fancied World Cup squad.” World Soccer

Suarez banned for Fulham gesture

December 30, 2011

“Liverpool will be without Luis Suarez for Friday’s home game with Newcastle United after the Football Association handed down a one-match ban and £20,000 fine for a gesture made towards Fulham fans. Suarez, who is also facing a seperate eight-match ban for the use of racist language towards Patrice Evra, was pictured apparently giving supporters a one-fingered gesture and admitted the charge.” ESPZN

Liverpool 1 Blackburn Rovers 1: In-Depth Tactical
“Blackburn’s recent record had been abysmal. They had won just one of their last 17 away league games, and had failed to keep a clean sheet in 20 matches. Liverpool, however, are having trouble putting teams away; they are unbeaten in their last eight home matches, but have drawn four of them. And they have the worst shot conversion rate in the league this season, a miserly 8.6%.” Tomkins Times

Liverpool 1 – 1 Blackburn Rovers
“Even the return of captain Steven Gerrard after a two-month absence failed to lift Liverpool out of their current Anfield malaise as the Barlcays Premier League’s bottom club Blackburn left with a point they barely deserved. The England international, sidelined since October with an ankle problem, played the final 21 minutes but could not inspire a change in fortunes. Kenny Dalglish’s side, although unbeaten at home this season, have now drawn six and won three and been held five times in the last six outings at Anfield.” ESPN


December 27, 2011

“During the 1990s, a golden generation propelled Colombia unexpectedly up the FIFA World Rankings as far as fourth. Fuelled by an influx of money into the domestic game, Colombia found themselves with several top-class players and went into the 1994 World Cup as one of the tournament favourites. However, less than three weeks after the opening of the tournament, twelve gunshots marked the virtual death knoll of Colombian football.” In Bed With Maradona

La U accomplishments unforgettable despite defeat

December 27, 2011

“It is finally over. After 36 games, the unbeaten run of Universidad de Chile came to an end last Thursday when they went down 2-1 to Santiago rivals Universidad Catolica (an interesting side themselves – look out for right-back Stefano Magnasco and left-footed striker Kevin Harbottle). The long awaited defeat of ‘La U’ (the previous one was in July) came in bizarre circumstances. At 1-1 and with the game in stoppage time, they looked in total control – until the usually excellent midfielder Marcelo Diaz misplaced a pass out of defence and Catolica’s Jose Luis Villanueva fired in a cross shot to win the game.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Boxing Day bonanza

December 27, 2011

“On Boxing Day 1963, in the midst of the ‘Big Freeze’, the English First Division saw a glut of goals unlike anything before. In total, 66 were scored in the ten matches in the top flight, while across all four divisions there were 160 netted, with seven players bagging hat-tricks and four men sent off.” ESPN

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish fears a Craig Bellamy agenda

December 27, 2011

“Dalglish believes that Bellamy did not deserve the bookings against Fulham, QPR, Aston Villa and Wigan Athletic. The Welshman, who faces his old club Blackburn Rovers at Anfield on Monday, has been in good form for Liverpool and the club would be loathe to lose him to suspension for a fifth caution. ‘He has been booked four times and he hasn’t deserved any of them,’ said Dalglish.” Telegraph – Henry Winter

All-Star Premier League Team So Far This Season (2011-12)

December 27, 2011

“It’s been scintillating six months of English football. We’ve had blow outs (8-2, 5-3, and 6-1 between some big guns) and some stunning individual performances (numerous hat-tricks and goal line saves). With half a season to go, it’s time to decide who has made the Team of the Season so far, settling in a traditional English 4-4-2 formation.” EPL Talk

The Team of Choice In the Windy City

December 23, 2011

“Across the road from Alexandra High School, where I spent five years of my childhood, is the Harry Gwala Stadium. Named after an African National Congress icon, it is the home of South African top flight club Maritzburg United. Not much more than a pitch, some stands, and some floodlights, it is an unprepossessing venue. Yet it has become something of a fortress in recent years, in keeping with Mr Gwala’s combative spirit. Had United played all their games at home last season, they would have ended snugly in the top half of the PSL log. By contrast, they were second from bottom in the ‘away table.’ The team’s home record owes much to passionate local supporters, who, unusually for South Africa, are drawn from all racial groups.” In Bed With Maradona

In Praise of: Attacking Full-Backs

December 23, 2011

“The modern full-back has many duties to perform. No longer is it enough to leave an opposition winger stud-pocked and bruised, a modern full-back must also present an attacking threat of his own. He must overlap his own winger, get to the byline and deliver a cross. A modern full-back must have pace, he must have discipline and positional sense, he must have good technique and great stamina.” The False 9

Illustrated Map of Argentina’s Primera División Stadiums and Clubs

December 23, 2011

“Bill’s Sports Maps returns to Pitch Invasion, with all the details you could possibly want on Argentina’s Primera División for the 2012 Clausura. Bill was assisted by our old friend Sam Kelly of Hasta El Gol Siempre, so you know the details should be spot-on. Click on the map for the full-size version!” Pitch Invasion

James Richardson’s European football papers review – video

December 23, 2011

“With a festive flourish, James rounds off the year in continental football with yet another match-fixing scandal in Italy ruining the recently optimistic mood of their press with regard to the Champions League; Dutch demolition on the pitch as a fan has an altercation with the AZ Alkmaar keeper; David Beckham rekindling Franco-British relations with his proposed move to PSG and shock in Spain as the Madrid press hails Barcelona as they get an early Christmas present from Santos in the Club World Cup” Guardian – James Richardson

Tottenham 1-1 Chelsea: both goals from left wing

December 23, 2011

“There were plenty of goalscoring chances at either end in an eventful London derby. Harry Redknapp was without Aaron Lennon, but Gareth Bale passed a late fitness test to give width on the left. Rafael van der Vaart started with Sandro also in the side, and Ledley King at the back. Andre Villas-Boas had David Luiz injured so started Jose Bosingwa and Branislav Ivanovic. Jon Obi Mikel started rather than Oriol Romeu, and Frank Lampard was again on the bench. This was a classic English football game, a classic London derby – end to end, plenty of chances and the game saved in the final minute by the England captain getting his backside in the way of a goalbound shot.” Zonal Marking

The greatest ever comeback

December 23, 2011

“The Saturday before Christmas in 1957 saw one of the greatest comebacks in football history as ten-man Charlton beat Bill Shankly’s Huddersfield 7-6 at the Valley, having been 5-1 down with only 30 minutes to go. The hero of the (half) hour was Charlton winger Johnny Summers, who scored five and set up the other two in the game. This is the story of that amazing match.” ESPN

Suarez ‘Is Not A Racist’

December 21, 2011

It is key to note that Patrice Evra himself in his written statement in this case said ‘I don’t think that Luis Suarez is racist’. The FA in their opening remarks accepted that Luis Suarez was not racist. So asserted Liverpool Football Club. It seems to me that one of the toughest things to prove in life is that you’re not a racist. So keen are we to clamp down on the vile nature of racism, we don’t really give a comeback to those accused of it; it’s an accusation that sticks. If it’s just your word against your accuser’s, what can you do? How do you prove you didn’t say something? – because the absence of evidence means nothing.” Tomkins Times

Luis Suarez: The verdict
“This is not a piece about whether the decision to ban Luis Suárez for eight games is correct or not. In the absence of the FA’s full reasons, I don’t know that, and nor do you. The only thing we can say with certainty is that a three-man independent panel, convened by the FA, considered the submissions from both parties, along with any other evidence they may or may not have had, and determined that Suárez racially abused Patrice Evra. They then decided that this warranted an eight-game ban and a £40,000 fine, an aspect of the thing I’m going to leave alone because it’s boring.” Surreal Football

Liverpool furious as Luis Suárez banned in Patrice Evra racism row
“Luis Suárez has been banned for eight matches and fined £40,000 for racially abusing Patrice Evra, prompting an extraordinary response from Liverpool accusing the Manchester United player of being “not credible” and alleging that the Football Association had deliberately set out to punish their player even before hearing the evidence. In a statement that also calls for the FA to press charges against Evra, Liverpool described themselves as ‘surprised and disappointed’ with the ‘extraordinary’ decision to find Suárez guilty of aiming racist abuse at the Senegal-born Frenchman during the 1-1 draw at Anfield on 15 October.” Guardian

Babbel suffers Hertha hurt

December 21, 2011

“A week ago, we drew attention to the mysterious falling out between Hertha Berlin’s coach Markus Babbel and the club’s general manager, Michael Preetz, and said the two might soon part ways. However, nobody could’ve expected that the matter would come to a head only a few days later and that Babbel would be fired less than 24 hours after his team snatched a point away at Hoffenheim.” ESPN

When Is It Okay Not To Care?

December 21, 2011

“There have been various times in my life when football results have taken a backseat; misunderstanding or misquoting Bill Shankly’s ironic words about ‘life and death’ is common, but when all is said and done, it’s unlikely that many people maintain the exact same interest in their team’s results, irrespective of the slings and arrows of daily life.” Tomkins Times

Inverting the Pyramid by Jonathan Wilson

December 21, 2011

“The opening words of Jonathan Wilson’s gripping book on the evolution of football and its tactics set the stage for his argument: that the game has not only become more organised and structured but, as the title suggests, progressively less reliant on a mass of forward players.” There Is No Original Name For This Sports Blog

Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics
“Whether it’s Terry Venables keeping his wife up late at night with diagrams on scraps of paper spread over the eiderdown, or the classic TV sitcom of moving the salt & pepper around the table top in the transport cafe, football tactics are now part of the fabric of everyday life. Steve McLaren’s recent switch to an untried 3-5-2 against Croatia will probably go down as the moment he lost his slim credibility gained from dropping David Beckham; Jose Mourinho, meanwhile, is often brought to task for trying to smuggle the long ball game back into English football (his defence being his need to ‘break the lines’ of banks of defenders and midfielders).” amazon

John Terry Meets The Crown Prosecution Service

December 21, 2011

“We all knew that an announcement was coming and, somehow or other, the decision reached would have been surprising, no matter what it was – a reflection, perhaps, of the fact that this particular story should have twisted and turned in the way that it has since it first became apparent that something happened at Loftus Road during his team’s match against Queens Park Rangers, two months ago.” twohundredpercent

Udinese 0-0 Juventus: Conte mirrors Guidolin’s tactics and creates a stalemate

December 21, 2011

“A draw between 3rd and 2nd means Milan will end 2011 top of Serie A. Francesco Guidolin was without the suspended Mehdi Benatia at the back, so played Damiano Ferronetti, while Almen Abdi played behind Antonio Di Natale. Antonio Conte played his expected line-up. There were rumours before the game that he would switch to 3-5-2, although the line-up suggested that it would be more of a 4-5-1.” Zonal Marking

What Brazil can learn from Barcelona

December 19, 2011

“In 1924, Uruguay arrived as unknowns at the Olympic football tournament in Paris, took everyone apart on the way to winning the gold medal and changed football forever. The enthusiasm they set off led to the birth of the World Cup six years later. And like so many significant events in football, it was not just because they won – it was because of the way they did it. Contemporary accounts raved about them. Influential journalist Gabriel Hanot praised their ‘marvellous virtuosity in receiving the ball, controlling it and using it,’ and drew attention to their ‘beautiful football, elegant but at the same time varied, rapid, powerful, effective.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Barcelona 4-0 Santos: Guardiola plays even more passers; Santos barely see the ball

December 19, 2011

“European champions Barcelona thrashed South American champions Santos in the World Club Cup final in Yokohama. Pep Guardiola was without David Villa – and probably will be for the rest of the season – and Alexis Sanchez wasn’t considered fit enough to start. Therefore, Guardiola played ‘traditional’ midfield three and pushed Cesc Fabregas and Thiago Alcantara forward. Muricy Ramalho dropped Elano from the side that overcame Kashiwa Reysol in the semi-final, bringing in Leo instead. Barcelona were dominant from the first whistle to the last, enjoying an even larger spell of possession than expected, and could have won by more.” Zonal Marking

Messi leads Barcelona to 4-0 win over Santos and Club World Cup
“Lionel Messi struck twice as Barcelona overwhelmed Brazil’s Santos 4-0 on Sunday to win its second Club World Cup in three years. Messi, Xavi and Cesc Fabregas scored in the first half as the European champions won its 13th trophy under coach Pep Guardiola, solidifying its stature as the best club team in the world.” SI

Aston Villa 0 – 2 Liverpool

December 19, 2011

“Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish celebrated his first league win as a manager at Villa Park as first-half goals from Craig Bellamy and Martin Skrtel ensured a comfortable victory over Alex McLeish’s side. Bellamy and Skrtel struck inside the first 15 minutes to seal the Reds’ fifth away win in the Premier League this season, but the star of the show was striker Luis Suarez, who tormented the Villa defence and hit the bar and the post.” ESPN

Plaudits rain down on Luis Suarez after inspiring Liverpool FC to win over Aston Villa
“KENNY DALGLISH praised Luis Suarez after the striker ignored the ongoing delay over his FA charge by inspiring Liverpool to victory at Aston Villa. Suarez earned plaudits from both managers as the Anfield outfit secured their seventh win in their last eight away games with a 2-0 triumph over the Midlanders yesterday.” Liverpool Daily Post

Manchester City 1-0 Arsenal: Both press early on, then tire, creating an open match

December 19, 2011

“David Silva scored the winner in a match that should have produced more goals. Roberto Mancini left out Edin Dzeko, which seems to be standard for big Premier League games. Gael Clichy was suspended so Pablo Zabaleta moved to the left with Micah Richards starting at right-back. Samir Nasri started in midfield over James Milner. Arsene Wenger was short of full-backs and named an unchanged side from the XI which beat Everton 1-0 last weekend. This was end-to-end and exciting – neither side ever had control of the game.” Zonal Marking

David Silva’s inside game creates tactical anarchy for Arsenal
“David Silva is quite a player, isn’t he? Shorn of many outstanding individuals, Silva has risen above the challengers to claim the crown as the Premier League’s top talent. But perhaps, therein lies the question. Manchester City-Arsenal was a great advert for the league, argues Michael Cox for ZonalMarking.net – it was played at a pulsating pace, full of trickery and cunning and not to mention great technical ability – but it lacked a certain control the best European counterparts, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona, are masters at. Indeed, is it that the hectic nature owes in part, to the failure of English sides in the Champions League and thus the extra space allowing David Silva to become the best in the league?” Arsenal Column

City deal blow to resurgent Gunners
“Exit Arsenal. A title challenge that appeared to have ended in ignominy on their last trip to Manchester is all but over after their return. But a departure in December, rather than during their awful August – and following an unfortunate 1-0 defeat, rather than the historic humiliation of an 8-2 thrashing – means they can take their leave rather more respectably. Another piece of silverware is set to elude them but, after seven wins and a draw in the eight preceding games, pride has been restored.” ESPN

Chelsea are being outpassed more regularly in recent matches

December 19, 2011

“One of the most interesting developments of the Premier League so far this season has been the strategy of Andre Villas-Boas. He took over on the back of a highly successful season at Porto where he had a very specific way of playing. He tried to recreate that at Chelsea and did so with some success, though he also encountered problems with his defensive line, particularly in the defeat to Arsenal.” Zonal Marking

L’Aquila Calcio: Rebuilding the Rossoblu

December 19, 2011

“L’Aquila, August 2006: The city, an hour-and-a-half drive from Rome, like many others around Italy was still buzzing from the recent World Cup triumph. Piazza Duomo, the central spot in the city, was packed with locals and tourists alike soaking in the atmosphere and aesthetic charm of the surrounds, just as I was doing. The Santa Maria del Suffragio Church, with its lovely dome from which the piazza takes its name, stood above the rest. On the football pitch, L’Aquila was preparing for another season in the regional divisions.” In Bed With Maradona

Universidad de Chile take the 2011 Copa Sudamericana crown in style

December 17, 2011

“The club of the moment? Universidad de Chile: sweeping up trophies in their domestic league, unbeaten in 35 games, and this week crowned Copa Sudamericana champions, their first ever continental title. More interesting than their success has been their style of play. Coming 18 months after Marcelo Bielsa took Chile to the World Cup having played dynamic, quick football with heavy pressing, usually in a 3-3-1-3 formation, his fellow Argentine Jorge Sampaoli is doing something similar.” Zonal Marking

Copa Sudamericana champions face uphill struggle to hold onto key players
“The best team in South America face an uphill struggle to hold onto their prize assets. With a crushing 4-0 aggregate victory over the formidable LDU Quito, Universidad de Chile secured their first ever continental title. The comprehensive victory ensures La U can be counted as one of the best teams on the continent. With Copa Libertadores football secured for 2012, they now face the task of holding on to their key players and push on to become one of the greatest teams in the recent history of South American club football.” Purple Patch

Paraguay’s hooligan problem is getting out of control
“Six games in 2011, four in just over a month, have been suspended in Paraguay due to crowd violence. The latest suspension came on last weekend’s crunch game between league leaders Libertad and title chasers Cerro Porteño, two points behind with three games to play. With Cerro Porteño leading one-nil at half time the players and officials came out ready for what was set to be a thrilling and potentially season-defining 45 minutes of football. But before the second half could begin a flare thrown from the Cerro Porteño end struck the linesman who had to leave the stadium in an ambulance.” World Soccer

Imaginary Enemies

December 17, 2011

“Nicolas Anelka will soon be playing professional soccer in China. This is surprising because Nicolas Anelka is still a talented, effective soccer player who would help all but about 10 teams in the world. This is not surprising because Nicolas Anelka is going to a place where they’ll pay him an exponent of a number it’d take me years to count to.” Run of Play

Wolfsburg 1-0 Stuttgart

December 17, 2011

Charles Le Brun, Horatius Cocles Defending the Bridge
“Stuttgart’s poor form at Wolfsburg continued as young Sebastian Polter’s goal handed the hosts a priceless 1-0 victory to end the first half of the season on a high. The striker came on as a sub to tap in a 74th minute winner, put on a plate for him by Wolfsburg’s scruff-of-the-neck-grabbing, swashbuckling and technically sound left-back Marcel Schäfer. Bruno Labbadia’s side actually enjoyed the best of the first half, and looked much the better team. However, even then it was Felix Magath’s team who were having most of the chances, with Stuttgart’s inability to test Diego Bengalio proving just as big a problem in the second half. Wolfsburg move up to 12th courtesy of this result, while Stuttgart stay in seventh sot (for now).” Defensive Midfielder

Liverpool without Lucas – a bleak prospect

December 17, 2011

“Hearts were in mouths and joy was on hold. In the 70th minute of Liverpool’s 2-0 Carling Cup win over Chelsea, Lucas Leiva was stretchered from the field, having tried in vain to hobble on, and the fans began to fear the worst. It was a sour end to an enjoyable night, the second time in nine days they had come to Stamford Bridge and tasted victory, but the news was to get worse. Within 48 hours it was confirmed that Lucas had suffered an injury to the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee which would require surgery to correct, ruling him out for the rest of the season.” The Football Project

Why Liverpool Should Consider Signing Steven Fletcher
“There are a lot of Liverpool fans talking about the need to purchase a striker in January, to bring some rain upon a very sun scorched and drought ridden chance conversion rate. In fact, 15 games into the season, Liverpool has the worst chance conversion rate into goals in the league: a feeble 8.9%.” EPL Talk

A – Partial – Defence Of The Club World Cup

December 17, 2011

“On Sunday morning – if you happen to be in Western Europe – the champions of world club football will be crowned, as the final of the 2011 Club World Cup is played at the International Stadium in Yokohama between Barcelona, the current champions of Europe, and Santos of Brazil, the current champions of South America. The Club World Cup has been running since 2004, but it has yet to engage a great deal of interest in Europe.” twohundredpercent

Tottenham – Grounds For Optimism Or Concern?

December 15, 2011

“In spite of their somewhat controversial defeat at Stoke City last weekend, Tottenham Hotspur have enjoyed a splendid season to date. Even though it did not get off to the most auspicious of starts with successive maulings at the hands of the two Manchester clubs, Spurs then embarked on a 12-match unbeaten run in the Premier League, comprising 11 victories and just one draw. The team has been in fine form, adding an unexpected consistency to their usual attacking flair.” Swiss Ramble

Quiet Revolutions

December 15, 2011

“In an era of Galácticos, oil ball, and 300,000-a-week wages, it’s easy to view football as a revolution. When something is wrong, blow it up and start over. Avram Grant not working out? Try Ancelotti. Ancelotti not the ticket? Go for AVB. If Ronaldo and Kaka aren’t enough to be beat Barcelona, maybe Ronaldo, Kaka and The Special One will be. If a group of mostly-academy grads isn’t enough to hold off Madrid, add Alexis Sanchez and academy washout Cesc Fabregas—even though you’re already millions in debt.” Run of Play


December 15, 2011

“It’s remarkable how varied soccer teams’ attitudes towards possession are. Obviously, no team is more deeply committed to possession in all situations than Barcelona, even though that commitment can cost them, as it did in the recent Clasíco, when easily-intercepted pass from Víctor Valdés.” Run of Play

The Reducer: Week 15, Let England Shake

December 15, 2011

“In this day and age, with the proliferation of Continental coaches and international players in the Premier League, with Nicolas Anelka going to China, Joey Barton listening to Bon Iver, and the league’s top team funded by the royal family of Abu Dhabi, led by an Italian manager and starring an Ivorian, an Argentinian, a Spaniard, and a Ghanaian-born Italian, the question needs to be asked … what is English football?” Grantland (Video)

David Villa’s injury blow for Barca, Spain

December 15, 2011

“After a week when David Villa found himself constantly linked with a move away from Barcelona in the upcoming January transfer window, the speculation can finally stop. No one wanted it to happen this way, though. Spain’s record goal scorer broke his left tibia during Barcelona’s easy win over Al-Sadd in the Club World Cup semifinal Thursday. He faces around six months on the sidelines.” ESPN

Americans Abroad: Whitbread back for Norwich, eyes chance with U.S.

December 14, 2011

Zak Whitbread
“It would be easy for Zak Whitbread to look back at the last nine months and think about what could have been.With better-timed good health, the 27-year-old Norwich City center back may already be on his way to the international career that has yet to materialize. In the midst of helping the Canaries earn promotion to the Premier League last spring, Whitbread was called in for the United States’ friendlies against Argentina and Paraguay in March, only to be forced to withdraw with a back injury. Not only did he miss a chance to acclimate himself with the U.S. setup for the first time on the senior level, but he missed what would’ve essentially been a tryout for the U.S. Gold Cup roster.” SI

How effectively is Luis Enrique implementing the Barcelona methods at Roma?

December 14, 2011

“One of the more eye-catching managerial appointments this summer was former Barcelona B coach Luis Enrique taking over at Roma. It was a surprise appointment. Though Enrique had enjoyed success with Barcelona’s second string, he had no top-level coaching experience. He wasn’t really that much more qualified than Vincenzo Montella, who took over at Roma last season having previously worked in the youth system at the club.” Zonal Marking

Conquering the world

December 14, 2011

“It has been a busy few months for Barcelona, the European champions, making sure of their place in the knockout stage of the Champions League and taking the field in all their domestic games knowing that every point they drop makes it harder for them to retain their Spanish title. Then, of course, Pep Guardiola’s side won their most important match of the season so far, beating Real Madrid 3-1 in the Clasico.” ESPN – Tim Vickery

Violence Reigns In Paraguay

December 14, 2011

“Six games in 2011, four in just over a month, have been suspended in Paraguay due to crowd violence. The latest suspension came on last weekend’s crunch game between league leaders Libertad and title chasers Cerro Porteño, two points behind with three games to play. With Cerro Porteño leading one-nil at half time the players and officials came out ready for what was set to be a thrilling and potentially season-defining 45 minutes of football. But before the second half could begin a flare thrown from the Cerro Porteño end struck the linesman who had to leave the stadium in an ambulance.” In Bed With Maradona

El Clásico:Luis Figo

December 14, 2011

“Even before arriving in Spain, Luis Figo was at the heart of transfer controversy. Having unwittingly entered an agreement with Juventus in 1995 due to the influence of his club, Sporting Lisbon, an angered Figo then attempted to sign a contract with Parma. As a result, Figo was banned from transferring to an Italian club for two years, something he attributes to the influence of corrupt Juventus director Luciano Moggi. However, Barcelona came to the rescue with a bid of £2.25 million for the Portugal international.” TheFalse9

Home About Links Reviews Arsenal 1-0 Everton: Robin van Persie’s bolt from the blue gives Arsenal the win

December 14, 2011

“Sometimes, the textbook way isn’t always the right way. That’s what David Moyes and Everton found out and in the end, they were outdone by a stunning volley from Robin van Persie. The goal didn’t look like coming in the second-half – while Robin van Persie had one of his most ineffective games yet this season – and that was due to the turnaround in tactics by Moyes.” Arsenal Column

Brian Glanville on Lyon’s improbable Champions League qualification

December 14, 2011

“Seven goals scored and consequent qualification in the European Cup for a Lyon team which until then had found scoring in the group so difficult. True, Dynamo did have a man sent off in the first half, but seven goals? Michel Platini, ever more controversial and disappointing President of UEFA, seems airily unconcerned, reassured it would seem, by the fact that there was no sign of unusual betting at the bookmakers.” World Soccer

Real Madrid 1-3 Barcelona: Real press early on, but tactical switch gives Barca the upper hand

December 12, 2011

“Jose Mourinho surprised many with his team selection, but Pep Guardiola adapted to guide Barcelona to victory. The surprise was with the use of Mesut Ozil, who most expected to be omitted in favour of an extra defensive midfielder. In fact, it was Real’s usual front four in a 4-2-3-1 system. Lassana Diarra did start, but in place of Khedira, whilst Fabio Coentrao played at right-back.” Zonal Marking

Guardiola’s tactical switch swings clásico in favor of Barcelona
“There are still those, remarkably, who ask whether tactics really matter, still those who persist with the Luddite insistence that the best players will win out come what may. No matter that Lionel Messi never produces his Barcelona form for Argentina or that Dani Alves regularly flounders for Brazil, Barcelona, these flat-earthers keep saying, win because they have the best players.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

5 Things We Learnt From Real Madrid vs Barcelona
“1) There is a reason why Valdes is Spain’s number three… It’s not rocket science, for the first 15 minutes of any big game the number one rule is do not take any risks, if your unsure always do the simple thing. Somebody forgot to inform Victor Valdes of this. 22 seconds had elapsed when the keeper was far too casual and gifted the ball to Real and Benzema punished him with a nicely taken vollied finish.” Sabotage Times

Bewitched, bothered and bewildered
“There are several ways of saying ‘bewitched’, or ‘under the spell’ in Spanish. I particularly like the words hechizado and embrujado. These words form part of the reason Real Madrid seem unable to function when they come to play Barcelona. Bewitched, bothered and bewildered.” ESPN

Barca ends Real’s winning streak
“Barcelona defeated Real Madrid 3-1 to move into a tie (on points) atop the league standings, although Madrid does have a game in hand. Barcelona is now undefeated (6-0-1) in seven straight league meetings with Madrid, including three in a row at the Bernabeu. Here are five more notes on Saturday’s Clasico — which marked an end to Real’s run of 10 straight victories in La Liga.” Five Aside (Video)

Real Madrid 1 – 3 Barcelona
“Barcelona recovered from conceding the quickest El Clasico goal in history to end Real Madrid’s 15-match winning run and strike a potentially decisive blow in the race for the Primera Division title. Despite having lifted the trophy for three years in a row and enjoying both domestic and European dominance over Madrid over recent times, Pep Guardiola’s men went into tonight’s match as the underdogs, trailing the capital club by three points and having played a game more.” ESPN

Capital punishment for Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid as Barcelona show they aren’t ready to be dethroned just yet
“Pep Guardiola remains unbeaten as a coach at the Bernabeu as the Catalans recorded what could turn out to be a hugely significant victory over their arch rivals in El Gran Clasico” Goal

France, the Front Liberation Nationale and Football

December 12, 2011

“In April 1958, Rachid Mekhloufi stood on the brink of international superstardom. Having scored 25 goals in thirty games to help AS Saint-Étienne win their first Championnat the year before, Mekhloufi was about to win his fifth France cap in a friendly against Switzerland, with coach Paul Nicolas including him in the forty-man pre-selection for Les Bleus’ highly fancied World Cup squad.” In Bed With Maradona

Universidad de Chile target Barca showdown

December 12, 2011

“Crunch time is approaching for this year’s two outstanding South American clubs.
Over the next few days both Santos of Brazil and Universidad de Chile are seeking to scale new heights. The Chileans, ‘la U’ for short, extended their unbeaten run to 34 games on Sunday, brushing aside Union Espanola to book their place in the semi-finals of the local championship. This, though, is hardly the priority. They already have 14 Chilean titles to their name, including the first of the two played this year.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Liverpool 1 QPR 0: In-Depth Tactical Analysis

December 12, 2011

“Queens Park Rangers had won just one of their previous 20 league games at Anfiled, and have won only one Premier League match at all against Liverpool. Liverpool themselves may have felt like they were due some luck having hit the woodwork 12 times this season – more than anyone else.” Tomkins Times

Liverpool 1 – 0 Queens Park Rangers
“Liverpool striker Luis Suarez showed just why he is prized and feared in equal amounts with an impressive all-round performance as he guided the Reds to a home victory over QPR. The Uruguay international, who has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons during a two-month lean spell in front of goal, was at his threatening best as he scored his first goal in the Premier League since October 1.” ESPN

Drawing Lodz

December 12, 2011

“‘Ella, Ella, Under my Umbrella’….just five days prior to our arrival in Poland’s third biggest city, those words has reverberated across the Stadion ŁKS as one of the most famous and sought after artists in the world, Rhianna played in front of a sell out crowd in the adjacent Atlas Area. One hundred and fifteen hours later, Danny Last and I were wrapped up like Michelin men outside the football stadium, huddled under a canopy, waiting to pick up our press passes from ŁKS Łódź . Now don’t get me wrong, I love Danny Last but he’s no Rhianna and so when he uttered the chorus line for the umpteenth time I told him exactly where he could stick his bloody ‘Ella’ and I wandered off in a huff to find some football socks for my collection.” The Ball is Round

The day that Samuel Pepys did not play football

December 9, 2011

“Four players (Orhan Pamuk, Naguib Mahfouz, Kenzaburo Oe, Barry Hines) on the New York Times writers’ XI violate FIFA statutes by wearing spectacles. Hines, Jorge Valdano and Eduardo Galeano press forward, treading lightly on a manicured wheat-grass surface embossed with words from Mahfouz: ‘We play to forget our sorrows.’ Nabokov studies lepidopterology texts when play switches to the other end.” The Global Game – March 2009

Real Madrid v Barcelona – El Clasico tactical preview

December 9, 2011

“Saturday night sees the seventh – and final – Clasico of 2011, and perhaps the one with the most tactical possibilities. There are reasons for that on both sides. Real have played a more attacking game this season, and there’s less certainty that they’ll defend deep, park the bus, and invite pressure. Barca, on the other hand, play the same style of football as ever, but they’ve experimented with a new formation – 3-4-3, which they’ve used in over half of their league games this season. With few injuries and squads stronger than last year, it’s surprisingly difficult to predict the 22 players that will start this match.” Zonal Marking

Money’s Too Tight To Mention At Inter

December 9, 2011

“It’s fair to say that Inter have had better starts to the season. Although they qualified from the Champions League group stage with a game to spare, they currently languish in 16th place in Serie A. Admittedly they have a game in hand, but they are still a colossal 14 points behind league leaders Juventus with a third of the season gone. The triumphant 2009/10 season when the nerazzurri became the first Italian team to win the treble of the scudetto, the Coppa Italia and the Champions League in a single year under the guidance of José Mourinho seems a distant memory. Inter fans have become accustomed to success, as that triumph meant that their team had won five league titles in a row (including the one awarded to them for 2005/06 by the courts after the calciopoli scandal).” Swiss Ramble

The Football Men

December 9, 2011

“As Barcelona’s Lionel Messi cruised by tens of million pounds’ worth of defensive talent and rolled the ball past Real Madrid’s sprawled goalkeeper last month, I found myself shouting, cavorting and – most important, this – demanding that the world should agree with me that the goal was pretty well as good as the one scored by another small Argentine, Diego Maradona, against England 25 years earlier. My companion that night did his duty and acceded. And that, I thought, was enough for a good evening’s football entertainment. But not a bit of it. Courtesy of Italian television, which is risible in all editorial matters except, predictably, football, I was able to listen to more or less all of Real Madrid manager José Mourinho’s press conference. (British television tends to cut quickly to the sludge of postmatch clichés masquerading as analysis.)” FT

The Football Men
“The great footballers and coaches are rarely glimpsed up close. They shield themselves from the tabloids, hide their personalities behind professionalism, and in the words of the cliche, ‘do their talking on the pitch’. This book gets up close to them. The Football Men is not a series of celebrity profiles, and it doesn’t attempt to unearth secrets in the players’ private lives. Rather, it portrays these men as three-dimensional human beings. It describes their upbringings, the football cultures they grew up in, the way they play, and the baggage that they bring to their relationships at work.” amazon

World Cup conspiracy theories won’t go away

December 9, 2011

“A throwback to an era of Cold War paranoia is the latest wave of conspiracy theories which will still be circulating long after the World Cups of 2018 and 2022 have been relegated to football’s history books.” World Soccer

Basel 2-1 Manchester United: United into the Europa League

December 9, 2011

“Manchester United are out of the Champions League after a 2-1 defeat away in Switzerland. Hieko Vogel was without his veteran central midfielder Benjamin Huggel because of a calf strain, so played Cabral instead. Sir Alex Ferguson played Wayne Rooney upfront, supported by Park Ji-Sung, with Ryan Giggs and Phil Jones in the midfield. United dominated possession and created more goalscoring chances – but Basel’s tactics were clever, and although they rode their luck on occasion, weren’t entirely flattered by the victory.” Zonal Marking

The Death of Sócrates

December 7, 2011

“Sócrates is dead. It’s hard to see how anyone could be surprised. It’s also hard not to think that he died because he wanted to, since Sócrates always seems to have done what he wanted to. He smoked incessantly because it gave him pleasure; he seems to have ingested vast amounts of alcohol for the same reason. When people die from alcoholic poisoning — which is in effect what killed Sócrates — it’s usual to speak of their ‘demons’: he could never escape his demons, he could never conquer his demons, in the end his demons destroyed him. Few will use that language about Sócrates, in part because, according to much testimony, drinking didn’t really change his personality. He drank because he liked it, probably.” Run of Play

Socrates so much more than a footballer
“Just over five years ago, when Brazil’s 1982 World Cup coach Tele Santana died, team captain Socrates recalled the scene in the dressing room after their elimination by Paolo Rossi’s Italy at the second group stage. As the media were searching for explanations, there were tears and tantrums, dejection and disappointment. Amid the chaos, Santana stood peacefully, proud of his team and the glorious football they had played – still remembered with extraordinary affection all over the world. They had given it their best shot.” BBC – Tim Vickery (Video)

Socrates Dead: Brazil Soccer Captain At 1982 World Cup Dies At 57
“On and off the field, former Brazil star Socrates stood out above the rest. His elegant style and his deep involvement with politics made him a unique figure in Brazilian soccer, setting him apart from the players of his time and even of today. He was mostly known for captaining Brazil at the 1982 World Cup, regarded by many as the best team ever not to win football’s showcase tournament.” Huffington Post (Video)