Monthly Archives: November 2012

AC Milan’s ultimate anti-hero

Riccardo Montolivo
“At no other point in the previous two decades would a player like Riccardo Montolivo be captaining AC Milan. This is the club of Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini, among the most celebrated captains in the history of European football. Montolivo leading out Milan for the match against Juventus on Sunday felt like a perfect example of Milan’s decline in quality and character.” ESPN – Michael Cox


The Question: is Cristiano Ronaldo a strength or a weakness to a team?

“Real Madrid stand 11 points behind Barcelona in the league only 13 games into the season. They looked distinctly second best in taking just one point from two games in the Champions League against Borussia Dortmund. Pressure is mounting, it seems, on José Mourinho: six previous Real Madrid managers have found themselves more than six points off the lead at this stage of the season; none have made it until May. Yet it may be that the criticism is being directed at the wrong Portuguese.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Mourinho’s future at center of coaching issues spanning Europe

“Coaches have been dominating the agenda across Europe this week, whether they are under pressure, like Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti, or on sabbatical, like Pep Guardiola. Two Premier League clubs sacked their coaches last week, with their replacements receiving markedly different reactions. Here is a round-up of the latest from the managerial merry-go-round.” SI

Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea, plus more Premier League thoughts

“1. It’s all about Chelsea. This was a lively weekend in the Premier League. Manchester United came from behind to win again, beating Queens Park Rangers, 3-1, to regain first place. In another entertaining game, West Brom won 4-2 at Sunderland to climb to the oxygen-deprived heights of third. Arsenal followed emphatic victories over Tottenham and Montpellier with an utterly insipid performance at Aston Villa. The Gunners managed just one shot on target in a 0-0 draw. On Sunday, Clint Dempsey finally began to look comfortable with his new teammates, helping to set up two goals as Spurs rediscovered their mojo with a 3-1 home victory over a woeful West Ham. But none of these matches can alter the fact that this week has been all about one club: Chelsea.” SI

The Role of a Central Midfielder in a Possession Based Team

“Researching or studying football tactics can seem like an overwhelming task, simply because aside from the basic framework provided by the rulebook, so much else is left fluid. Formations, player roles, player positions, they all mean something different depending on the context and meaning of the speaker. Is a striker always a striker? What about when he’s a false nine? Is a midfielder always a midfielder? If his main job is to tackle and shield, wouldn’t that make him a defender? Football’s most loved characters and teams have been the ones that transcended the duties of their positions, rising to a higher plane. Franz Beckenbauer scoffed at the idea that a defender should be confined to a third of the pitch. Total Football placed players anywhere they could be useful. Positions are changing constantly, and by extension so are the players that fill them.” EPL Talk

Cameroon’s Théophile Abega was so intelligent they called him the doctor

“Some time towards the end of January, Théophile Abega stopped replying to my calls. I was in Equatorial Guinea, heading on to Cameroon, and was keen to meet him, partly to talk about the rivalry between Thomas N’kono and Joseph-Antoine Bell for my book on goalkeeping but mainly because, well, because he was Théophile Abega, one of the most skilful African midfielders of all time, the man who led Cameroon in 1984 to their first Cup of Nations triumph, scoring a brilliant goal in the final.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Tactical Analysis: What is going wrong at Newcastle?

“Newcastle finished in a very impressive fifth place finish last season, drawing plaudits from across the footballing World. After a recent dip in form and expectations, Pardew appeared to have brought Newcastle back to the upper echelons of the footballing elites, with one eye on potential Champions League spot. Memorable victories last season included an impressive 2-0 victory at Stamford Bridge as well as a big 3-0 win at home to United.” Think Football

Milan 1-0 Juventus: Milan sit deep, then break quickly through their front three

“Juventus lost in Serie A for the second time under Antonio Conte. Max Allegri continued with the 4-3-3 shape he used away at Napoli last week – Mario Yepes replaced Francesco Acerbi at the back, while Marco Amelia started in goal. Antonio Conte picked Martin Caceres on the left side of defence in place of the injured Giorgio Chiellini – previously, Caceres has played to the right of the back three, with Andrea Barzagli moving across, but Barzagli remained in his usual position. Ahead of him, Mauricio Isla started rather than Stephane Lichtsteiner, who must have been more badly injured than was reported before the game. Milan were a shade fortunate to win the game – it was universally agreed that the ball didn’t strike Isla’s arm for Robinho’s penalty – but overall they were the better side, as Gigi Buffon agreed. They defended solidly and attacked at great speed.” Zonal Marking

Ruch Chorzów standard bearers for Upper Silesia

We’re not German; We’re not Polish; We’re Silesian. This is a common refrain from members of the Silesian minority in the industrial region of Upper Silesia in southern Poland. With a population of around 2,000,000, the Upper Silesian Metropolitan Union (GZM), whose largest city is Katowice, is one of the biggest urban agglomerations in Europe. For many years, this densely populated region straddled the border between Germany and Poland, with Katowice (Kattowitz) part of the German Empire and neighbouring Sosnowiec part of Congress Poland.” World Soccer

50 Football Blogs/Sites You Must Look At!

“I always think its nice to share. The worldwide web is full of great things… No not just porn! We have some fantastic, diverse and unique footballing websites out there. So I have taken it upon myself to let you all know which sites I like and why. Its like free advertising but hopefully you can find one, two or even a whole host of new blogs or websites that grab your attention. I have kept away from the mainstream media. For me if you want general football news and views you can’t beat the Guardian’s coverage. For Scottish Football checkout STV. So here is my list, in no particular order.” The Footy Blog

Predictable Arsenal lose midfield battle

“Recent Arsenal teams are damned by comparisons with their predecessors. Arguably Arsene Wenger’s greatest side were endearingly revolutionary in their movement. As Villa halted the modern-day outfit, perhaps they were too predictable in their shape. Wenger’s finest front four contained Thierry Henry, a striker who drifted to the left wing; Dennis Bergkamp, the No. 10 who would wander deeper into midfield; and ostensible wide men in Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg who avoided the touchline to veer infield. As neither was a winger, they can’t be called inverted wingers, but Pires was a right-footed left-sided player who headed for the penalty box. Even last season, Robin van Persie called himself a nine-and-a-half; neither a No. 9 nor a No. 10, but a hybrid, who could lead the line and drop off.” ESPN

Rodgers, Rafa and Revolutions

“So, what’s been happening lately? Not much? It’s obviously something of a shock to see a recent Liverpool manager in charge of Chelsea, especially as he wasn’t even considered for a return to the Anfield dugout this summer. As was their prerogative, FSG chose Brendan Rodgers, and it’s up to the young Irishman to prove he is in the same class; hopefully he will. Rodgers has my full support in that I want him to do as well as is humanly possible; but as yet, not necessarily my total trust that he’s the perfect solution.” Tomkins Times

Swansea City 0-0 Liverpool

“Brendan Rodgers secured a point on his return to the Liberty Stadium but will feel his Liverpool side deserved more at the home of his former employers. The Reds had Jose Enrique’s first-half strike ruled out for a marginal offside decision, while teenage prodigy Raheem Sterling rattled the bar and Jonjo Shelvey’s late strike was beaten out by Gerhard Tremmel. Man of the match Pablo Hernandez had Swansea’s best chances. The Spain winger curled narrowly wide in the first half before having his low-free-kick brilliantly tipped wide by Jose Reina.” ESPN

Di Matteo another victim of Chelsea’s strange politics

“The first intimation that something was amiss came in Roberto Di Matteo’s late arrival for the press conference after Chelsea’s 3-0 defeat to Juventus. Usually he arrives half an hour or so after the final whistle; this time it took him 75 minutes. He didn’t seem particularly upset or resigned but it later emerged he’d told the players not to come in on Wednesday for their usual post-game warm-downs as he had ‘meetings’ to attend. By 3am as he trudged through the south terminal of Gatwick airport, he was struggling to raise a smile for the small gaggle of fans seeking photographs.” SI

More than a club: FC Barcelona and Catalonia’s road to independence

“As Catalonia votes in an election that could lead to a referendum on independence from Spain, Sid Lowe looks at one of the region’s great cultural sporting icons, FC Barcelona, and its role in Catalan identity. Key figures in the club’s history, including Johan Cruyff, Joan Laporta and current vice-president Carles Vilarrubí explore Barça’s motto ‘more than a club’ and its role in today’s political landscape” Guardian (Video)

Champions League group stage approaching a climactic finish

“This has been one of the most memorable Champions League group stages in history, and Matchday Five will be a pivotal moment for several big clubs. It could see the elimination of champions from England, Holland, Russia, Portugal, and Italy, while reigning champion Chelsea has a nerve-wracking away game to negotiate too. The previous Matchdays have provided late drama, superb goals, surprising shocks and stars of the future. Here are some storylines to watch from Matchday Five…” SI

Champions League Team of the Week

“Much was decided in the last round of Champions League fixtures, with as many as 13 of the 16 knockout round qualification places now filled. The fact that one of them was not taken by Chelsea on Tuesday night following a defeat in Turin ultimately cost Roberto Di Matteo his job, despite the fact that the Blues look likely to end the group on 10 points. However, as the Italian looked set to become the first ever manager to exit the competition at the group stage having been victorious the previous season, Abramovich wielded the axe yet again.” ESPN

Tactical Analysis: Should Rafa Benitez switch Chelsea to a 4-3-3?

“Having failed to win a game in their last four Premier League games, some may say that Chelsea are experiencing a mini-crisis. Having been purring up until their controversial defeat to United, everything looked rosy, but now there is talk of dressing room unrest and people are doubting the viability of Roberto di Matteo’s 4-2-3-1 formation. With this in mind it may be worth exploring a plan B, such as a move to a 4-3-3. A new manager may wish to come in and alter this, but do Chelsea have the personnel for a 4-3-3?” Think Football

Madness, Or Something More Calculated? The Inevitable Early Departure Of Roberto Di Matteo

“If there is one aspect of the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo that actually does retain the capacity to startle, it’s the numbers. Di Matteo is the ninth Chelsea manager to have left Stamford Bridge in the nine years to since Roman Abramovich bought the club. This is a higher managerial turnover than the club had in the first seventy years of its existence, a stark figure, even if we factor in the fact that clubs generally have a higher turnover of managers than they used to have and, while it is clear that the club has won more trophies over these last nine years than it did during those first seventy, we could counter-argue that this may have had more to do with with the vast amounts of money that have been lavished on the first team than the clubs appointment policy with regard to its managerial staff has.” twohundredpercent

Manchester City 1-1 Real Madrid: City out

“Roberto Mancini started with a back three, then moved to a back four, but Manchester City couldn’t find a second goal. Mancini decided to start with a similar XI to the second half shape against Tottenham, when they looked good with a back three. Nine of the 11 players were the same, with the exception of Matija Nastasic coming in for the injured Gael Clichy, and Samir Nasri (ill for the Spurs game) starting in the centre alongside Yaya Toure, an extremely attack-minded midfield.” Zonal Marking

Galatasaray – Manchester United: 1993-2012 Whats Changed?

“Galatasaray welcome Manchester United to hell… well not quite, the famous chants and Welcome To Hell banners may be the same but the city has gone through a major transformation since the early 90’s when the giants of English football met the titans of the Turkish game. United fans looking around for the Ali Sami Yen Stadium will probably be glad to know it doesn’t exist anymore. The stadium renowned for unbelievably passionate supporters and an atmosphere which was off the richter scale has been reduced to the history books. The ramshackle stadium in Mecidiyeköy, right in the middle of one of the busiest urban residential areas of the city has moved uptown and upscale to the beautiful surroundings of the Belgrade forest in the northern suburbs of the city.” Turkish Football

Leverkusen 2-0 Schalke: Schurrle stays in a position to counter-attack

“Leverkusen comfortably won a very simple game of football. Sami Hyypia selected a 4-1-4-1 / 4-3-3 shape with roughly his first-choice XI this season, although left-back Michal Kadlec is out injured, so versatile Japanese international Hajime Hosogai filled in. Huub Stevens was without Ibrahim Afellay, so Julian Draxler started on the left of midfield. Otherwise, they were unchanged from the win over Werder Bremen. Leverkusen were by far the better side throughout the game, with Stevens furious at the performance of his side.” Zonal Marking

Harry Redknapp the preferred candidate to be Ukraine manager

“Five months after leaving Tottenham Hotspur, Harry Redknapp could be making an extraordinary return to football as manager of Ukraine. The Ukrainian Football Federation has been seeking a new manager since Oleh Blokhin resigned last month to take charge of Dynamo Kyiv, and announced on Tuesday that it will open negotiations with Redknapp’s representatives. Redknapp is known to be keen to return to management and has been strongly linked with QPR, whose manager Mark Hughes is under pressure after taking only four points from the opening 12 games of the season.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Freedom for Pavlychenko

“For those who have been paying attention to Eastern European football over the past couple of weeks, you may well have noticed a name gradually becoming increasingly prominent across the region. ‘Pavlychenko ‘ is the name that has become more and more apparent, donning the often provocative banners that line the masses of football fans who take to the stands on any given matchday. It is difficult to truly grasp the manner in which football is perilously divided across the entire region of Eastern Europe. The tribalistic mentality in which fresh generations of fans are brought up within means that time has only ever served to make rivalries between specific clubs, cities and nations even more bitter and twisted than previously.” SF Union

Lamela evokes memories of Roma greats

“French philosophy, in particular the work of Rene Descartes, is unlikely to have had any great appeal to the Roma legend Rodolfo Volk. ‘I think therefore I am’ isn’t how he approached football. ‘I don’t think,’ he said. ‘I shoot.’ And Volk rarely missed, scoring 103 goals in 157 games for the club. He was one of the great strikers of the Fascist era in Italy and joined Roma soon after their formation in 1927. ‘Sciabbolone’ as Volk became known or ‘the Big Sabre’ was one of the club’s pioneers. Left foot. Right foot. He slashed away as Roma broke new ground.” Eurosport

Suarez reiterates his value to Liverpool

“For Liverpool and Roberto Martinez alike, this was the footballing equivalent of the wilfully cruel part of gameshows where prizes are paraded and contestants taunted with a message: look what you could have won. For the Anfield public, the answer was apparent: a manager with distinct similarities to the one they appointed. Along with Brendan Rodgers, Martinez was interviewed in June. These are two stylists with a past at Swansea, precocious evangelists for the passing game. Meet the new boss, same as the other boss.” ESPN

I’m Sick of Manchester United

“I’m sick of Manchester United. In many ways, this is a compliment to Manchester United. When your emperor is cruel and merciless and rules from his twisted iron throne for like a million consecutive years, your pathetic longing for revolution is just proof that he’s great at oppressing you. If Manchester United weren’t permanently welded to the top or near-top of the Premier League table like the star on a Christmas tree no one throws out till May, I wouldn’t have had all this leisure time to accrue malevolent emotions toward their consistency and their stock prices and their players and their stupid face. Great job, Manchester United!” Grantland

Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham: Villas-Boas goes for two strikers, but loses Adebayor early on

“For the third consecutive season, this fixture saw plenty of goals and featured an impressive comeback. With Wojciech Szszesny back in goal, Arsene Wenger played his expected side – Theo Walcott was fielded on the right, while Thomas Vermaelen continued at left-back. Andre Villas-Boas was without Steven Caulker, so shifted Jan Vetonghen into the middle and used Kyle Naughton at left-back. Upfront, he started Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor together for the first time in the Premier League, in a 4-4-2. There were three separate tactical battles here. Stage one was the opening formation battle, stage two was Spurs’ reaction to Adebayor’s dmissal, and stage three was when Villas-Boas switched to a 3-4-1-1ish formation at half-time.” Zonal Marking

Hoffenheim 1-3 Wolfsburg

“LORENZ Günther-Köstner’s temporary spell as Wolfsburg coach continues to get better and better, as his side registered their fourth win from the five games they’ve had under the 60-year-old’s control. Crucially, the result also lifted Wolfsburg out of the relegation zone and above Hoffenheim, who paid the price for their woeful first-half performance (and an improved, if not much better, second-half showing). Markus Babbel’s side, coming into this game with their spirits buoyed after learning on Friday that popular, talented midfielder Boris Vukčević – involved in a nasty car crash in September – had finally woken up from his coma, just never got going, and played like a side who have only won one of their last seven games.” Defensive Midfielder

Welcome to Estadios de Fútbol en España

“If this is your first visit to Estadios de Fútbol en España or you are simply returning, can I offer you a very warm welcome to the only English language site dedicated to the history of Spanish stadiums. I appreciate that it is a slightly obscure subject, but no doubt your interest in La Liga and/or football stadiums drew you here. That, or you’re lost! ” Estadios de Fútbol en España

The Question: why are more goals being scored?

Athletic Bilbao coach Marcelo Bielsa
“A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of goals. They’re everywhere – in every competition, in every country, in every stadium (apart from games involving Sunderland). Four-goal leads are regularly obliterated (Angola v Mali, Newcastle v Arsenal, Germany v Sweden, Arsenal v Reading). Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Radamel Falcao break goalscoring records every week. Everybody attacks, all the time. In the top flights of England, France and Spain, there has been a clear upward trend in the numbers of goals scored per game over the past decade. Last season, for the first time ever, the knockout stage of the Champions League yielded more than three goals per game and that has continued into this season’s group stage, with 3.03 goals per game. And even in Italy and Germany, where goals per game have remained relatively constant for 10 years, this season is showing above average numbers of goals.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

How English game of pace and power benefits from European precision
“More passes, less ‘hoofs’ from back to front, and a slicker goalscoring rate: the Premier League has become a more technical “continental” competition that is a fusion of English pace and power and European subtlety. These are the implications of statistics from Opta that chart a shift over the past five years from a direct approach to a more patient game that now features greater precision in passing and finishing. The national team continue to see little benefit from this evolution, with experts citing the prime factors as the influx of foreign players and coaches, better club pitches and training facilities, a clampdown on tackling and the influence of a Champions League dominated by Barcelona’s carousel-passing style.” Guardian

Are Liverpool Taking the Wrong Type of Shots?

“When Brendan Rodgers got the Liverpool job, he brought in a very Spanish-Dutch style of play. Possession is everything. All offensive and defensive work starts with the ball. When you are without the ball you need to win it back as quickly as possible. Rodgers has already spoken about his desire to see Liverpool play and win through domination of the playing zone. ‘Death by football’ was his direct quote. The Spanish style popularized by Barcelona and La Roja also accepts the Total Football idea of only requiring one strategy. When Barcelona are losing, they don’t throw balls into the box without thinking. They continue their strategy of passing around the opponent.” EPL Talk

Rise of La Viola

“Glance at the Serie A table, and you’d be forgiven for wondering what has changed at Fiorentina. From 13th place at the end of a difficult 2011/12, they’re now riding high in fourth position, having won five of their last six games. Inspect their squad list, and it’s obvious what has changed. Of the 21 players Vincenzo Montella has used in Serie A this season, 16 were signed in the summer. As a club that went bankrupt a decade ago, then had to continually evolve their side as they climbed from Serie C2 to the Champions League, Fiorentina are used to transformations – but a 75% playing staff turnover remains extraordinary.” ESPN – Michael Cox

Dictators and Soccer: Mobutu Sésé Seko of Zaïre

Mobutu (right) with Pelé in 1968 – Zaïre – 1974 World Cup
“In 1974 the ex-colonial and newly named Zaïre played its first World Cup in West Germany. The country’s diminutive strongman Mobutu Sésé Seko, famous for his trademark leopard-print pillbox hat, had rechristened the Lions the Leopards. (Consistency is key in propaganda.) He had convinced himself that Zaïrean soccer could further elevate his own stature. He liked elevating himself and he liked renaming things. He’d re-minted the country from Congo Crisis First Republic (formerly The Belgian Congo) to Zaïre, which translated to, ‘The river that swallows other rivers.’ He fully intended to hoover up every power and exploit every possibility. He’d already outlawed all political parties except his own, and outlawed all wearing of leopard-print hats, except of course his own.” Cult Football

Dictators and Soccer: Nicolae Ceaușescu, Genius of the Carpathians
“Up until Christmas 1989 when a three-man firing squad executed Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife Elena after a quickie two hour tribunal, the archetypal Iron Curtain strongman ruled Romania with an iron fist. After getting strafed with bullets, however, the iron fist swiftly went limp, then rigor mortis. And as the title up top suggests, soccer most definitely played its part in the image engine of the autocratic regime.” Cult Football

Hamilton Academical: The Future Of Scottish Football Is Here

“Craig Levein. Judging by how the post-game talk was dominated by whether the Scottish FA should replace him or not when Scotland lost to Belgium in the World Cup qualifying stage, a defeat that left them bottom of their group with just two points, you would think that pointing at the manager was all that was needed to identify the reasons behind this dire situation. Yet, for all Levein’s defects and mistakes, the fault lines of Scottish football lie much deeper than the manager’s role. For a nation that once produced world class players like Kenny Dalglish and Dennis Law, Scotland now struggles to produce players who are even remotely close to that level. There are many reasons for that, yet one of them has to be the lack of vision shown by clubs. Few have dared to be innovative; fewer still have been brave enough to build their teams around the players coming through their system.” In Bed With Maradona

Bundesliga 50: The 1960′s – The Rise of Professionalism and the Anglo-German Rivalry

“The 1960′s were characterized by Germany’s gradual rise as a force in international football again. The success in 1954 had been a one off but from the late 1960′s Germany was an established force in international football and the rewards paid off in European Cups as well as triumphs at the European Championship in 1972 and the World Cup in 1974. More importantly, the 1960′s saw the formation of the Bundesliga, which became an instant success story. This is the first piece in a series covering the last 5 decades of the Bundesliga, commencing with the 1960′s.” Bundesliga Fanatic

Who will win the Pep Guardiola sweepstakes?

“For a guy who stands short of 6 feet and has spent the past few months holed up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Pep Guardiola casts a huge shadow. In fact, you struggle to remember the last time a manager’s absence from the big time caused so much buzz around the game. Conventional wisdom has it that he can write his own ticket. And, in fact, he just about can. He could phone up just about any club in the world, say, ‘Hey, I’d like to be in charge there next year, what do you reckon?’ and you could probably count on one hand the clubs that would not return his call.” ESPN

Diskerud goal in injury time gives Americans draw at Russia

“Mix Diskerud scored his first international goal in the third minute of injury time, giving the United States a 2-2 draw against Russia on Wednesday in a friendly at Krasnodar. Michael Bradley, who scored in the 76th minute, sent a long ball into the penalty area toward Terrence Boyd, who was marked by defender Sergei Ignashevich. The ball rebounded off Ignashevich to Diskerud, and the 87th-minute substitute sent a 20-yard, right-foot shot in off a hand of goalkeeper Vladimir Gabulov.” SI

U.S. fortunate to escape Russia with draw in final match of 2012
“The U.S. got a tie despite being largely outplayed. This was just a friendly, so there’s little reason to make much of the result, just as there was little reason to do so when the U.S. won at Italy and Mexico in friendlies earlier this year. That said, there’s still some value in bagging a tie even when you weren’t the better team on the day, and the U.S. managed to do so thanks to Mix Diskerud’s injury-time equalizer. Goalkeeper Tim Howard made several key saves that kept the U.S. in the game, and give some credit to subs Juan Agudelo and Terrence Boyd, who had knockdown header assists on the U.S. goals. It’s fair to ask if Michael Bradley may now be making The Leap. The Roma starter was the best player on the U.S. squad, continuing an upward trend in his play over the past year, and his opening strike from distance was a thing of beauty.” SI

Milan 1-3 Fiorentina: Allegri’s Milan outplayed across the pitch

“Fiorentina produced an excellent display, particularly in the first half, while Milan looked completely uncomfortable in their system. Max Allegri continued with the 4-2-3-1 system he’d successfully used in the 5-1 win over Cheivo, but brought back Philippe Mexes, Mattia De Sciglio and Kevin-Prince Boateng into the side. Vincenzo Montella was without Stevan Jovetic, so used Luca Toni as his primary striker. Fiorentina’s system seemed to cause Milan problems across the pitch – they were unable to win the ball quickly and didn’t exploit their numerical advantage on the flanks.” Zonal Marking

Brazil milestone evokes memories of Pele and Moore

“‘One of the biggest blasts of hot air, which I’ve been hearing ever since I was an adolescent, is the idea that top level sport is a good place to learn and develop ethical and moral values. It never was. Ambition, the desire to be a hero and to make lots of money are usually much stronger.’ So wrote 1970 Brazil great Tostao in Sunday’s version of his always interesting column, a twice weekly space where football is analysed by someone of great knowledge and intelligence who loves the game but is even more fascinated by the subtleties and contradictions of the human being.” BBC – Tim Vickery

Horncastle: Borussia Dortmund and the need for speed

“Mustafa Amini stands in the middle of a cage. Rest assured, this isn’t what it seems. Contrary to appearances, the Borussia Dortmund youngster isn’t the club’s captive. This isn’t some draconian punishment for a poor performance, ill discipline or threatening to grow back that outrageous auburn afro. No, this here is an experiment and Amini is a willing guinea pig. Why? Because, with time, he might leave the cage a Footbonaut. That’s the name of the new state-of-the-art training machine Dortmund unveiled at their Brackel training ground back in late September.” The Score (Video)

In Argentina, Martino follows line of Bielsa disciples to success

Gerardo Martino
“He has a fluffy demi-mullet. He wears big, slightly academic glasses (although without a cord). He paces the technical area nervously during games (although without ensuring each perambulation takes 13 steps). Even without watching his side play, it’s not hard to work out who Gerardo Martino’s main influence as a coach is. Given he also preaches hard-pressing, ball-retention and verticality, it’s obvious that Martino is another follower of Marcelo Bielsa.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Tactical Analysis: Can playing Hazard up front solve Chelsea’s striking problems?

“With Lukaku loaned out, as well as releasing Champions League hero Didier Drogba, Chelsea have been left incredibly light up front. Sturridge has missed large chunks of the season out injured and di Matteo seems to have little faith in using him as a sole striker. Chelsea have persisted with Torres as their main striker, but despite scoring goals he does not look quite comfortable in the system and still appears short on confidence. This has led to Chelsea being linked with a wide array of Europe’s finest strikers such as Cavani and Falcao, however, until January Chelsea may have an answer closer to home in Eden Hazard, who has played in the lone striker role for Lillie and for Belgium.” Think Football

Manchester City 2-1 Tottenham: Mancini’s three-man defence shows first positive signs

“Manchester City turned the game around with a strong second half performance, helped by Roberto Mancini’s mid-game formation switch. Mancini named Aleksandar Kolarov on the left of midfield, with Samir Nasri ill. David Silva returned on the right, while Matija Nastasic was again at centre-back. Javi Garcia was on the bench, and Mario Balotelli left out completely. Andre Villas-Boas decided to use Emmanuel Adebayor upfront instead of Jermain Defoe, and Brad Friedel was picked ahead of Hugo Lloris. This was an interesting tactical contest – Mancini’s switch wasn’t the only key feature, and it wasn’t the sole reason City won, but it was certainly an important factor.” Zonal Marking

Video – Remembering Robert Enke

“The Hannover and Germany keeper committed suicide on November 10th 2009, leaving a massive hole in the heart of those who loved him, both family and friends as well as the football community. We revisit the tragic moment and pay tribute to the great man and player on the three year anniversary of his passing. The news of Enke’s depature sent shockwaves through the German football world and united the German public in a sobering manner. The national team cancelled a planned friendly against Chile after the team had spoken to the DFB officials. Team manager Oliver Bierhoff had trouble holding back his tears when he had to explain the decision to the German media.” Bundesliga Fanatic (Video)

Attack the best form of defence

“If Manchester United’s comebacks are a tradition, the formation for many a fightback is old-fashioned. The system Sir Alex Ferguson is most associated with is 4-4-2 or, he would argue with reference to split strikers, 4-4-1-1. But when United need goals and have nothing to lose, it becomes 4-2-4, the shape Brazil brought to prominence in the 1958 World Cup. It is a risky formation but when United have to gamble, they push both wingers right up against the opposition defence, with both full-backs advancing in their slipstream. It can leave the two centre-backs isolated and the two central midfielders outnumbered – and as United’s pair usually aren’t tacklers by trade, it means they effectively only have two defenders.” ESPN

Chelsea 1-1 Liverpool

“Luis Suarez dealt a huge double blow to Chelsea’s Barclays Premier League title hopes today after inadvertently ending John Terry’s comeback and snatching a deserved draw for Liverpool at Stamford Bridge. Terry looked set to enjoy a dream return to action after his domestic four-match racism ban when he powered the European champions ahead from a corner at Stamford Bridge. But the Blues captain then collided accidentally with the man at the centre of football’s other race scandal, forcing him off on a stretcher, with Suarez going on to equalise for Liverpool and almost steal victory.” ESPN

Steve Zungul: the Lord of all Indoors

“Here’s a perfectly geeky question for your pub quiz night: which player was the top goalscorer for two different teams within the same season, both champions of their respective countries? Help: it was on two different continents. And in two different sports. Of course, posing that question would only make sense if you’re somewhere in what was once Yugoslavia. Maybe also in certain places in the US, such as Long Island and Manhattan’s Upper East Side – the old stomping grounds of Steve Zungul. The rest of the football World has forgotten about the player who had variously been nicknamed the ‘Yugoslav Gerd Müller’, ‘The Nureyev of soccer’ and, perhaps most famously, ‘The Lord of all Indoors’. The forward whom the legendary Giorgio Chinaglia, famous for his bad-mouthing of Beckenbauer, Cruyff and even Pelé, once described as ‘almost perfect’.” World Soccer

A Game Without Rules

London’s Wembley Stadium, 1954
“In 1904, three years after the first Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to the French poet Sully Prudhomme, the English Football Association chose not to participate in the formation of an International Football Federation (FIFA). They could not see the point. Nor in 1930, the year in which Sinclair Lewis won the Nobel, did England participate in the first World Cup: the English objected to the prospect of a ten-day ocean crossing to Uruguay to play teams that meant nothing to them. The first international football game, they pointed out, had been between England and Scotland, in 1872—a time when Alfred Nobel was still focused on improving his dynamite. Who needs Argentina or Brazil when you have Scotland to play?” NYBooks

Hoof for the Sky: Crystal Palace 1990-1

“Our Great Teams series of posts, soon to be augmented with its fortieth episode, has occasionally been joined by an occasional look back to those top flight seasons where it all came together in wondrous fashion for clubs more accustomed to life in less exalted company. In February, Adam Orton recalled Norwich City’s valiant heroes of the early nineties while just a couple of years before, Crystal Palace were the ones defying gravity. Here, we are delighted to welcome Terry Duffelen for his first post for us. many of you will know Terry as co-pundit on the always listenable Sound of Football podcast and he also devotes considerable time to analysis of the Bundesliga, both via the Bundesliga Show pod and the Bundesliga Lounge blog.” thetwounfortunates

Schalke 2-1 Werder Bremen

“Schalke fought back after a lacklustre first half performance to beat Werder Bremen 2-1 and keep pace with 1. Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich. An Aaron Hunt-inspired Bremen deserved the 1-0 lead they took into the break after executing an effective gameplan and capitalising on some lethargic play by the home side (with Hunt himself putting the ball in the net). But after being allowed to equalize a little too easily shortly after the hour mark (Roman Neustädter’s headed goal was pretty defendable, and came at a time when Bremen were still exerting a degree of control), Schalke took charge, with 18-year-old substitute Julian Draxler showing great composure – amid erratic defending by the visitors – to score the winner with just under 20 minutes to play.” Defensive Midfielder

Celtic 2-1 Barcelona: a famous victory

“Little possession for long periods – then a set-piece opener followed by a second on the break – a classic underdog victory. Neil Lennon was forced into a few changes from the side he used at the weekend, but kept to a 4-4-1-1ish formation. Adam Matthews played at left-back despite being right-sided, Kris Commons moved to the right of midfield, and Miku linked up with Georgios Samaras upfront. Tito Vilanova picked roughly his expected side – Cesc Fabregas was only on the bench (he’s been a regular this season) and Marc Bartra started at the back. Alex Song was in the holding role. Yes, Celtic spent most of the game in their own half, and rode their luck at times – but they didn’t simply park the bus. They retained an attacking threat throughout the game, while changing their usual strategy to suit the task at hand.” Zonal Marking

CL (mini) review: Celtic 2 – 1 FC Barcelona: Same scoreline as before, wrong way ’round…
“Due to circumstances on my end, this review will be on the shorter side. I apologise. But please don’t leave yet! Barça lost…trolls, come out from your hiding place! So Barça finally lost a match – but all winning streaks come to an end. Even Barça’s! Tito started the match with the following players: VV – Alves, Bartra, Mascherano, Alba – Song, Xavi, Iniesta – Messi, Alexis and Pedro. No Busquets, as he was suspended, but he’s still the best DM in the world and I rate him a 12 for this match!” The Offside (Video)

Celtic’s big win a reminder of the Euro gap
“Celtic’s 2-1 upset win over Barcelona on Wednesday prompted some to describe it as the ‘second greatest night in the history of the club’ after — presumably — that night in 1967 when 11 men born within a few miles of Parkhead went out and became champions of Europe.” ESPN

Shakhtar Donetsk have learned lessons and again stand in Chelsea’s way

“And so it goes on. Shakhtar Donetsk beat Metalurh Zaporizhzhya 2-0 on Saturday – Douglas Costa converted a penalty before a late goal from Luiz Adriano sealed it – to take their winning streak in the Ukrainian league to 23 games, 14 of them this season. They lead the table by 12 points and, already, with the season one game from its halfway point, it seems inconceivable that they will not lift a seventh title in nine years. The focus, understandably, is all on the Champions League and Wednesday’s game against Chelsea.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Chelsea 3-2 Shakhtar Donetsk
“Victor Moses came off the bench to score an incredible last-gasp winner tonight as Chelsea somehow survived a Shakhtar Donetsk onslaught to keep their Champions League fate in their own hands. The Blues were in danger of being the first holders to crash out of the competition before Christmas as former target Willian twice cancelled out almighty howlers from goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov which gifted goals to Fernando Torres and Oscar, the latter’s fourth in as many Champions League games.” ESPN

Concern for Arsenal after night of comebacks, controversies, draws

“It has been an incredible Champions League so far this season and, once again, the first round of Matchday Four games did not disappoint. There were two dramatic comebacks from two goals down as well as controversial — and significant — decisions made in the last minutes. Dinamo Zagreb and Montpellier were eliminated, Porto and Malaga reached the next round, while things are looking bleak for Zenit St. Petersburg and Manchester City.” SI

Champions League permutations
“A look at the qualification situation in each group with two rounds of fixtures still to be played before the make-up of the Champions League last-16 is confirmed.” ESPN

Hat Tricks for Sale: Ranking Europe’s Top Strikers

“January is nearly upon us! Or at least it feels that way if you spend any time reading the words of the soothsayers who try to predict what will happen when European football’s transfer window reopens on January 1, 2013. Speculation is particularly rife in England, and it mainly centers on two clubs: Chelsea and Liverpool. Both teams find themselves low on firepower, and as a result, they’ve been linked with every available forward in European club football. Two players in particular have been singled out as possible signings in the new year: Athletico Madrid’s Radamel Falcao, and Schalke’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.” Grantland

Palmeiras appeal could decide club’s destiny

“All’s fair in love, war and relegation battles – or Palmeiras seem to think so. The Sao Paulo giants, the team of the city’s Italian community, are in trouble. Back in July they won the Brazilian Cup, guaranteeing a place in next year’s Copa Libertadores, South America’s Champions League. However, results have since suffered in the domestic league and they now need to make up a seven-point gap with just four rounds of the season left. Their hopes could perhaps rest on the outcome of a hearing to be held in the next couple of days. The focus of their appeal is a disallowed goal from Argentine centre-forward Hernan Barcos against Internacional on October 27.” BBC – Tim Vickery

How Liverpool FC became one of football’s biggest sleeping giants

“Liverpool FC, are know throughout the game, as one of the most successful teams, in Europe having been a formidable side during the seventies and eighties, a club which is built on great football history; five European Cups, 18 league titles, seven FA Cups, eight League Cups and three UEFA Cups. That was the Liverpool we all came to know, in football history, but what has been the reason behind their staggering fall from grace that Liverpool have suffered over the past few seasons?” Think Football

Liverpool 1 Newcastle 1: In-Depth Tactical Analysis

“As expected Reina and Johnson were injured, so Jones and Enrique started instead for Liverpool. Everyone else who featured in the past several league matches started, and even Sterling and Suso reverted to their usual positions on the left and right flank respectively. For Newcastle there were no major surprises either, except for the fact that Anita started on the right and Simpson on the bench. Ba was fit to feature and Steven Taylor was restored alongside Coloccini.” Tomkins Times

New Messi Or Barn Door Luis? Suarez Deconstructed
“He definitely doesn’t score when he wants or he’d be on 30 goals by now, but to deride Suarez as a poor finisher shows a complete lack of understanding of the situation. Here’s a look both at and behind the stats of the man everyone bar reds loves to hate…” Sabotage Times

Mousa Dembele – breaking the mould

“Football is becoming increasingly universal when it comes to tactics: the best defenders can start attacks; top-level attackers are expected to defend. Classic number tens have declined in popularity, but then so have traditional wingers — there are more multi-faceted, versatile players. Because of the convergence of player styles, it’s rare that a player’s unusual technique grabs your attention. When witnessing a talented player for the first time, you can generally crudely compare him to a more established player; Argentina has had plenty of “new Maradonas” — primarily because of the overwhelming desire to create another superstar in his mould, something eventually achieved with the ascent of Lionel Messi into the world’s greatest player, but also because it’s easy. Why spend a minute explaining a player’s characteristics when you can accurately summarise it with a quick comparison?” ESPN – Michael Cox

Blogging as an Historian

“In an increasingly open sourced world where libraries and archives are accessible from everywhere and in which working and writing in a cloud has become state of the art, where do we place history and historians? This is an attempt to describe the work as an aspiring historian of sport and as a blogger and how to combine these two.” Do not mention the war – Jonathan Wilson