Weighing in on the Price of Football

“Politicians like to talk about the squeezed middle – a concept that focus groups tell them plays well to a hard-working and hard-pressed often middle class demographic who have done nothing wrong financially but find the costs of living creeping ever further up so, through no fault of their own, fall towards the poverty line. It may make for a catchy soundbite at party conferences but said squeeze is also an apt description for a very real growing issue of financing for lower league football clubs, specifically from the exact middle messrs Cameron, Clegg and Miliband are pitching for votes from.” thetwounfortunates


Deportivo La Coruna 4 – 5 FC Barcelona: Boom Goes the Dynamite

“Wow. What a game. First things first, we came out on top, and deservedly so, but boy, was that a roller coaster. After Barca’s three quick unanswered goals, naturally assumed this one would be in cruise control until the end. That notion was quickly dashed when Depor scored a dubious penalty then got another past Valdes. Fabressi calmed the nerves a bit right before the half combining to give us another, but the floor dropped out again when play resumed as Depor scored immediately off a free kick.” The Offside

Juventus 2-0 Napoli: substitutes settle a tight encounter

“First versus second in Serie A – Juventus eventually got the breakthrough, and now lead Napoli by three points. Antonio Conte’s main decision was about which forward combination to select – he went with Fabio Quagliarella and Sebastian Giovinco, the same duo he selected at Fiorentina, last time ZM covered Juventus. Marco Storari played, as Gigi Buffon was injured. Walter Mazzarri rarely makes any surprise selection decisions, and his XI was as expected, with Alessandro Gamberini starting on the left of the back three. Tight, tense and tactical. These sides have played each other so frequently in the past twelve months – with Conte choosing a system that deliberately mirrors Napoli’s – that it rather felt like the sides knew each other too well, and both needed a surprise element.” Zonal Marking

Henrik Mkhitaryan orchestrates Shakhtar Donetsk’s great leap forward

“Henrik Mkhitaryan is only 23 but this year he will almost certainly win his third Armenian player of the year award. So consistent has his excellence been that the surprising thing now is not that he was won so much so young, but that he did not win the award in 2010. The Metalurh Donetsk midfielder Karlen Mkrtchyan had better have made the most of that success, because there’s little chance of Mkhitaryan relinquishing the award any time soon.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Brazil look on target without a number nine

“‘I was too busy scoring goals to learn how to play football,’ says Dario, a legendary figure in Brazilian football from the 1960s and 70s. A charismatic character, Dario invents phrases as easily as he used to put the ball in the net. ‘There’s no such thing as an ugly goal,’ he once said. ‘Ugly is not scoring goals.’ If both remarks sound a little defensive, it is easy enough to explain. Brazilian football has been gifted with so many artists – players capable of snapping their marker in two with a sway of the hips, wrong-footing the keeper and then sliding home – that a little prejudice sometimes persists about the centre forward. The target man number nine whose game is restricted to getting the ball over the line can be seen, at best, as the exponent of a minor art.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Tottenham 2-4 Chelsea: Mata stars in an eventful game

“Tottenham had a strong spell either side of half-time, but Chelsea were the better side. Andre Villas-Boas was unable to select either Moussa Dembele or Gareth Bale, so used Clint Dempsey on the left and Tom Huddlestone came into the centre of midfield. Brad Friedel started, with Hugo Lloris on the bench. Roberto Di Matteo left Frank Lampard on the bench and persevered with three rotating attackers behind Fernando Torres. John Terry was banned. This was a strange game – it was open and enjoyable, yet lacked a defining tactical feature.” Zonal Marking

Eight Tactical Points from Valencia v Athletic Bilbao

Mathieu struggled at left-back. The understanding between Jordi Alba and Jérémy Mathieu over the last few seasons has been sublime, combining well and covering for whoever was furthest forward. Mathieu appeared more vulnerable with a more natural winger in-front of him, Markel Susaeta and Óscar de Marcos both gave him a torrid time in the first half, crossing the ball early when he wasn’t tight enough, beating him individually and looking to overload him with 2 v 1situations. It was no surprise the opening goal came from his side as he was caught out positionally, as Iker Muniain’spass got in behind him, though the Frenchman was unfortunate that his last-gasp sliding challenge fell to Aritz Aduriz. Who opened out his body and executed a curling effort into the back of the net.” La Liga UK