Show Me The Money

April 30, 2013

Kagawa joins celebrations as Man Utd clinch league title
“In the past few years there has been tremendous progress in football fans’ knowledge of their clubs’ finances. Some might say that this is not a good thing and we should focus on matters on the pitch. That’s perfectly fair, indeed I would also personally much prefer to watch a great game, such as Borussia Dortmund’s recent demolition of Real Madrid, rather than investigate the minutiae of their balance sheets. However, it is important that fans are aware of what is going on at their club, so that they understand the board’s strategy and any constraints that impact their activities, e.g. why a club might sell its best players every summer or why a club does not splash out on the world-class striker that might take them to the next level.” Swiss Ramble

Real Sociedad 4-2 Valencia: superb counter-attacking seals the win

April 30, 2013

“Real Sociedad opened up a five-point gap in the race for fourth place. Philippe Montanier brought in Alberto de la Bella for the injured Liassine Cadamuro at left-back, Asier Illarramendi returned after suspension, but Antoine Griezmann was banned so Gonzalo Castro played on the left. From the side that thrashed Malaga 5-1, Ernesto Valverde brought Ricardo Costa back into the centre of his defence, while Sofiane Feghouli started on the right, as Canales was injured again. Jonas switched to the left. The key feature of this game was not about formations, individual positioning or possession dominance – but instead about Real Sociedad’s brilliant quick counter-attacks that repeatedly carved Valencia open.” Zonal Marking

Statistical Analysis: Do Chelsea need more from Demba Ba in the Premier League?

April 30, 2013

“Demba Ba was signed from Newcastle in January to increase the competition up front for Chelsea given that Daniel Sturridge was set to be sold to Liverpool and that Fernando Torres was not firing in the league. On joining the club many expected him to provide goals to ensure Chelsea a top three finish and he did not initially disappoint scoring twice against Southampton on his debut in the FA Cup. In total Ba has managed to score six goals, but worryingly he has only scored twice in 11 league appearances for Chelsea.” Think Football

A Wales of Two Cities: South Wales Derby (Part One)

April 30, 2013

“It’s a fairly warm September night on the South-West coast of Wales. All eyes in South Wales are turned towards one place: a football match at the Liberty Stadium. It is 0-0. It is the 56th minute and Swansea’s midfield maestro Ferrie Bodde is lining up a freekick. From my seat near the halfway line I feel myself shaking with excitement as I’m certain Bodde can score from here. He’s certainly more than capable of it. Bodde steps up, feints and suddenly Jordi Gomez runs at the ball instead and hits a powerful left-footed drive. It ricochets off the studs off an opposition player and glides into the far corner past the desperate stretch of the goalkeeper. Swansea are 1-0 up and I can literally feel the Liberty Stadium shake.” Outside of the Boot – Part 1, Part 2

Arsenal 1-1 Manchester United: Arsenal start strongly but are unable to maintain early tempo

April 30, 2013

“Despite having little to play for, Manchester United collected a point at the Emirates. Without Olivier Giroud, Arsene Wenger used Lukas Podolski as his main forward. Jack Wilshere was only on the bench. Sir Alex Ferguson named a strong starting line-up, with Rio Ferdinand returning to the defence alongside Jonny Evans. This was all about Arsenal’s strategy – Manchester United weren’t as uninterested as some predicted, but one suspects Ferguson didn’t spend too long working on specific tactics for a relatively meaningless game.” Zonal Marking

Saving Filadelfia

April 30, 2013

“In its heyday it stood majestically as the home of Torino. It housed ‘Il Grande Torino’, arguably the greatest side calcio has ever witnessed. It presented a wall of noise in an intimate atmosphere. It was where Torino claimed six of their seven Scudetti. Today the Stadio Filadelfia is a desolate, crumbling shadow of its former glory. The spiritual home of the Granata – claret reds – has few sections remaining. Like an Ancient Roman ruin, pieces of edifice linger to offer a haunting reminder of its majesty. Torino haven’t played a League match at the stadium since May 19, 1963. On that occasion 1982 World Cup winning Coach Enzo Bearzot was on target in a 1-1 draw against Napoli.” In Bed With Maradona

Analysis: Gotze, Guardiola & Bayern Munich

April 27, 2013

“Bayern Munich, hours before their European Cup semi-final triumph over Barcelona, dropped a bomb-shell on the footballing world. German newspaper, Bild, ran the incredible story of Gotze to Bayern; which most fans took with a pinch of salt. Dortmund revealed the deal later through their social media platforms, that sent shivers across Europe.” Ge

How to ruin a party

April 27, 2013

“I was there when Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 won the Champions League and the UEFA Cup only seven days apart, back in 1997. And I was desperately trying to meet deadlines in late October 2000, when the Christoph Daum cocaine scandal blew wide open, plunging the domestic game into a major crisis and triggering an absurd media frenzy. Finally, I still remember the howls of protest that went up (in either camp) when Manuel Neuer, a Gelsenkirchen boy and Schalke’s brightest hope for the future, announced his move to Bayern Munich in 2011. But somehow it all pales in comparison. There’s never been a week like this in German football. Not least because this one condensed almost all of the aspects listed above – and then some – in a mere handful of days. It also proved once more that there is a vast discrepancy between the view from the inside and how you are viewed from the outside.” ESPN

Yordy Reyna leading Peru’s next generation

April 27, 2013

“The South American Youth Championship is always a good opportunity to spot rising stars of the world game. After all, in 2011, the likes of Neymar, Lucas Moura and Oscar all featured in Brazil’s squad alone, while in 2009, Eduardo Salvio, Sandro and Salomon Rondon were just some of those who announced their arrival as potential forces in world football. There can be little doubt, then, that some of the many stars of the 2013 tournament will also go on to achieve much greater things, and there are several players already well on their way to doing so.” ESPN

Dortmund 4-1 Real Madrid: Dortmund enforce high-tempo spells at the start of both halves

April 25, 2013

“Robert Lewandowski scored all four goals as Dortmund thrashed Real Madrid. Jurgen Klopp used right-winger Jakub Blaszczykowski rather than left-winger Kevin Grosskreutz, so Marco Reus started from the left. Jose Mourinho decided to play Luka Modric, with Angel Di Maria on the bench. The birth of Di Maria’s baby girl was supposedly a factor, but considering how Real lost last year’s semi-final to Bayern – which was part of the reason for recruiting Modric – the selection made sense tactically too. Mesut Ozil moved right. Dortmund were dominant for the majority of the game, constantly winning the ball quickly and putting pressure upon the Real back four.” Zonal Marking

Borussia Dortmund 4-1 Real Madrid:Tactical Analysis
“Following Bayern’s mauling of the Catalan giants the previous day, it was the turn of their respective rivals Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid to lock horns against each other in what was Round 2 in the battle between the Bundesliga and Liga BBVA. Both teams had endured disappointing defences of their domestic league titles and were looking at Champions League glory as the season draws to a close. Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park is a daunting prospect for most and football fans everywhere were anticipating an enthralling and close European knockout tie. Well they were half right. Dortmund put on a scintillating display in front of their fans and completely outplayed and literally outran Real in a game that finished with a jaw dropping final score of Dortmund 4-1 Real Madrid.” Outside of the Boot

Lewandowski, Dortmund set likely all-German Champions League final
“Real Madrid’s ‘Decima’ dream, to win a 10th European Cup, is almost over after Robert Lewandowski scored four sensational goals to give Borussia Dortmund a 4-1 win in a stunning game in the Ruhr. Lewandowski provided a master-class in finishing as Dortmund took a giant step to setting up the first all-German Champions League final against Bayern Munich next month. And while all the pre-match buildup focused on Dortmund’s Mario Götze, whose €37 million move to Bayern Munich this summer was announced yesterday, it was Polish forward Lewandowski who stole the show with four magnificent strikes.” SI

Robert Lewandowski, Dortmund beat Real Madrid in Champions League
“Robert Lewandowski scored four goals as Borussia Dortmund swept to an emphatic 4-1 victory over Real Madrid on Wednesday and took a huge step toward reaching the Champions League final. Dortmund’s triumph in the first leg of the semifinal also lined up the prospect of an all-German final at Wembley Stadium on May 25, following Bayern Munich’s 4-0 rout of Barcelona on Tuesday. The second leg matches will be played next week.” SI

Borussia Dortmund 4 – 1 Real Madrid: Lewandowski Leads Dortmund towards the Promised Land
“Borussia Dortmund forward Robert Lewandowski produced the game of a lifetime, scoring four goals for the home side as they handed Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid a harsh 4-1 loss Wednesday evening. A day after Bayern Munich had spanked mighty Barcelona in the other Champions League semifinal, Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund side have proven, after previously unsuccessful forays into European competition the last two seasons, that they have matured to the point that they are only a game away from promised land of the Champions League final.” Bundesliga Fanatic

Are Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund the Next Step in The Evolution of Football?

April 25, 2013

“Have we witnessed the birth of the German version of ‘Total Football’? ‘German Football Machines’ are a term from the 1970′s but it seems Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich today are a lot more creative – almost ‘Dutch’ in the way they play. It’s still too early to say that this is ‘the end of an era’. Eras are measured in years, and Barcelona’s Tiki-Taka might still provide them with some success. It’s also possible that things would have gone differently if Leo Messi was 100% fit to play.” Soccer Issue

Bayern Munich 4-0 Barcelona: Bayern produce an astonishingly dominant performance

April 24, 2013

“Bayern Munich didn’t try to outpass Barcelona, and instead ruthlessly exposed their traditional weaknesses. Jupp Heynckes selected Mario Gomez rather than Claudio Pizarro as Mario Mandzukic’s replacement, and decided Jerome Boateng was a better option than Daniel van Buyten because of his extra speed. Tito Vilanova’s side was as expected: Lionel Messi was fit, and Alexis Sanchez started as wide forward on the left, with Pedro Rodriguez on the right. Barcelona enjoyed a decent opening ten minutes, but Bayern were strategically perfect and fully deserved to win by such a convincing scoreline.” Zonal Marking

Will the football world now follow Bayern’s method rather than Barça’s?
“The sun has set on the age of Barcelona and dawn has broken on the bright new age of Bayern Munich. Bayern’s demolition of Barça last night certainly had the sense of a game that changed the order of things – even in advance it felt like an era-defining game. It crystallised the sense that Barça are not quite what they were, a weary shadow of the team that won the Champions League in 2011, and that Bayern are rising, inspired by a crop of fine young players and German economic might.” Jonathan Wilson

Are Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez the perfect midfield pivot?
“Bayern Munich have been majestic this season, winning the Bundesliga with ease and making headlines in the Champions League also. The imminent arrival of Pep Guardiola next season has also been much anticipated by fans and pundits. Guardiola will inherit a team who have not only recently announced the signing of Dortmund’s Gotze, but possess two of the best midfielders in world football in Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez. So many sides are now opting for a 4-2-3-1 formation which makes that pivot an integral part to the side and in these two midfielders Bayern arguably possess the best combination around.” Think Football

Bayern Munich 4-0 Barcelona: Tactical Analysis
“Hours after announcing the unexpected signing of Mario Gotze from rivals Dortmund, Bayern Munich went ahead and shocked the footballing world again. It was uncharted territory for Barcelona. Rarely do opposition so significantly humiliate the Catalan giants. Some may say Barca got lucky in the previous rounds, overturning disappointing results in the 2nd leg. But after Bayern’s 4-0 thrashing at the Allianz Arena, it seems unlikely that Barcelona will get a shot at a 5th Champions League crown. Bayern Munich have put the disappointment of last season behind them as they displayed a sensational performance in front of their home fans. Incredible organisation, constant pressing, effective counter-attack play & a refreshing change in European football.” Outside of Boot

Barcelona no longer Europe’s dominant force
” Gerard Piqué summed it up. ‘They gave us a repaso, a going-over,’ he said, ‘they were quicker than us and better than us. That’s all there is to it, there is no excuse.’ In its simplicity, his analysis was eloquent: this was a hammering that brokered no argument and left no room for hope. Bayern Munich won 4-0, Barcelona’s worst European defeat in 16 years. All over the pitch, Barcelona’s players looked shell-shocked, dazed and confused, ragged, like they’d been hit by an entire fleet of buses. The front cover of the Catalan sports daily El Mundo Deportivo summed it up: ‘Nightmare’.” SI

Good outweighs the bad for Liverpool’s biting Luis Suarez

April 24, 2013

“Seven minutes into the second half of Liverpool’s Premier League match against Chelsea on Sunday, Luis Suarez sent a cross into the path of Daniel Sturridge, who cushioned a volley into the bottom corner of the net to equalize. It was a fine finish but a truly stunning pass — conceived in a fraction of a second and played with an astonishingly precise level of accuracy, in terms of weight, angle and height. It was a moment of extraordinary skill, and yet it will barely be mentioned this week because of what happened 14 minutes later.” SI – Jonathan Wilson (Video)

Luis Suarez appears to bite opponent

April 21, 2013

“The spotlight was supposed to have been reserved for former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez on his first appearance back at Anfield but Reds striker Luis Suarez upstaged him with an apparent bizarre biting incident and the latest of late equalizers. Benitez was denied a victorious return to the scene of many of his former glories by player of the year candidate Suarez, who ensured the focus was all on him — again.” ESPN

Things looking up for Peru

April 21, 2013

“Some have cruised through, some had to sweat to the end, but one way or another the big guns of South American football have made it to the knock out stage of the Copa Libertadores, the continent’s equivalent of the UEFA Champions League. Of the 16 remaining teams, half of them are former champions, sharing 20 titles between them. The highlight of the second round is a replay of last year’s final, Corinthians of Brazil against Argentina’s Boca Juniors. There is a fascinating all-Brazilian tie between in-form Atletico Mineiro and Sao Paulo, which may have a psychological advantage after managing to save itself in its last group game. Velez Sarsfield against Newell’s Old Boys is an intriguing all-Argentine clash. Another great Libertadores name is Nacional of Uruguay; three times winner, 39 times competitor, the Montevideo giant has taken part in every version of the tournament since 1997.” The World Game – Tim Vickery (Video)

Malaga faces troubling reality after dream run in Champions League

April 21, 2013

“Joaquín Sánchez said that he and his teammates had never experienced anything like it. It was four days after Málaga had been cruelly denied a Champions League semifinal with two late goals by Borussia Dortmund, the second of them offside, and as the team bus arrived at La Rosaleda it was greeted by thousands of fans singing and chanting, letting off fireworks and applauding the players. Inside, the stadium was packed, the atmosphere better than ever before, a real sense of communion between pitch and stands.” SI

Fürth-est from the Top: Relegation looms for Die Kleeblätter

April 21, 2013

“Greuther Fürth’s inaugural season in Germany’s top flight has definitely been one to remember, albeit for all the wrong reasons. The Franconian side sits firmly rooted at the bottom of the Bundesliga table, a spot they’ve had all to themselves since the 15th match day and will likely continue to occupy for the remainder of the season, barring some form of divine intervention. With 5 matches to go the goal now must be to both save a little face and avoid setting a record for Bundesliga futility. While not yet mathematically relegated, Fürth are currently 15 points back of 15th place Fortuna Düsseldorf with a vastly inferior goals for and against record, -33 to Fortuna’s -10. Suffice to say automatic safety is pretty much out of the question.” Bundesliga Fanatic

Cesc fires Barcelona closer to Liga title

April 21, 2013

“Barcelona achieved a valuable 1-0 win against Levante at the Camp Nou in Matchday 32 of La Liga. Cesc Fabregas scored the goal for the Blaugrana, who enjoyed 78 percent of possession, created 18 goalscoring chances and attempted 13 shots, nine of them on target. This result helps the Catalan side maintain their 13 point lead at the top of the table over Real Madrid.” ESPN

The Afterlife of Brian

April 21, 2013

“Barry Plapp is someone you’ve probably never heard of, but if you’re a football fan you will likely be familiar with his work. In 2008 he was hired by Brian Clough’s widow Barbara to write fresh anecdotes about the formerly-witty, now-dead football management personality. Plapp has played a key role in rejuvenating interest in Clough by creating fresh stories about the forthright blowhard’s life, sustaining the image of Old Big ‘Ead and preserving the posthumous cottage industry which makes a tidy profit from Clough-centric paraphernalia such as books, mouse mats and green jumpers. He got the job after an appropriately brazen interview.” Fisted Away

England enamoured with manager role

April 18, 2013

Bill shankly-1734775
Bill Shankly
“So here is a quiz question: what have 18 men done at Juventus, 16 at Real Madrid and just three at Manchester United? The clue, if one is needed, lies in the last detail. The only managers to lead United to a domestic league title are Ernest Mangnall, Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson. They are hugely outnumbered by their counterparts at the most successful clubs in the history of Serie A and La Liga respectively.” ESPN

Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Seleção – An Analysis

April 18, 2013

“It’s all happening in Brazil. We’re just two months away from the start of a three-year sporting bonanza beginning with the 2013 Confederations Cup and ending with the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. In the middle of that is the 2014 World Cup, a tournament that has belonged to Brazil more than any other country in international history. And the pressure is on for Seleção boss Luiz Felipe Scolari.” Outside of the Boot

How not to write about football

April 18, 2013

“A reaction to the Champions League draw last Friday saw commentator Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger write about fears of a German hegemony in Europe. It is correct, 2 German clubs in the semi-final of Europe’s premier football competition is a Novum. However, there is no reason to bring hegemony into play. Hegemony is described as indirect rule by the means of cultural and political ideas in order to maintain a status quo. The Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci used the term ‘Cultural Hegemony’ to describe how the ruling class dominate the working class by setting an agenda of ideas and beliefs.” Do not mention the war

AC Milan 1-1 Napoli: Tactical Analysis

April 18, 2013

“The fight for Europe continued in the Serie A as 3rd placed Milan faced 2nd place Napoli. Juventus have a clear path through to the Serie A crown but its the teams below them than are competing for places. Games like this one at the San Siro can be crucial for teams who have aspirations for the Champions League next season. Milan were without Balotelli who was suspended for 3 games while El Sharaawy started (surprisingly) on the bench. Allegri opted to go with Robinho and Boateng either side of Pazzini in place of Niang and Sharaawy. The game was a closely fought affair. Napoli should feel disappointed at not taking advantage of Flamini’s red card. Milan however continued to look to get the victory despite being down to 10 men for the last 20 minutes.” Outside of the Boot

AC Milan 1-1 Napoli: Tactical Analysis
“The fight for Europe continued in the Serie A as 3rd placed Milan faced 2nd place Napoli. Juventus have a clear path through to the Serie A crown but it’s the teams below them that are competing for places. Games like this one at the San Siro can be crucial for teams who have aspirations for the Champions League next season. Milan were without Balotelli who was suspended for 3 games, while El Sharaawy started (surprisingly) on the bench. Allegri opted to go with Robinho and Boateng either side of Pazzini, in place of Niang and Sharaawy.” SportsKeeda

Everton can survive without Marouane Fellaini

April 18, 2013

“After an obscenely cold beginning to 2013, the great British summer is finally approaching, which means Britons will be subjected to various familiar treats in the coming months — rain-soaked barbecues, miserable family trips to uninspiring wind-swept beaches and, with no domestic football to discuss for two months, the same old transfer rumours splashed across the tabloids. One of the summer’s main targets will be Everton’s Marouane Fellaini. After significant speculation over the past two years, it seems that he’ll finally bid farewell to Goodison Park this summer.” ESPN

Defending Your League Title: Analyzing Failure

April 18, 2013

“Historically it’s been said, in football, getting to the top of the league is one thing but staying there is a whole different ball game. More often than not teams fail to defend the league title that they had worked so hard to gain in the first place. Over the past 20 years in some of Europe’s biggest leagues, only a handful of sides have managed to successfully defend their league titles. The question remains what, if any trends, exist between the sides that have managed to win back to back titles and whether there are lessons to be learned by new-be champions from their predecessors who had failed to defend their titles.” Not Just the Bottom Line…

Political football: how Brazil’s military hijacked the beautiful game

April 16, 2013

“As five-time World Cup champion, the Brazilian national team has become known the world over not just for winning, but for winning with a joyous panache that has become synonymous with the beautiful game. However, behind every one of Ronaldinho’s toothy grins and camouflaged by the color-shocked mohawk clinging to Neymar’s head lies an intensely complicated relationship between nation and sport.” World Soccer

“Brazil is a country commonly associated with the highest level of soccer. The world has grown used to Brazil winning, but the Brazilians themselves seem to have an insatiable appetite for world football dominance. Their nation has produced soccer players that have come to represent spontaneity, creativity and skill on the playing field. The bandy-legged Garincha, a walking paradox, the goal scoring machines Friedenreich and Ronaldo, the modern hope Kaká, and, of course, the eternally great Pelé – all these players have left their indelible marks on football’s canon.” Soccer Politics

Zero Dark Thirteen – Brazilian football wallows in the mire of corruption
“If the 2014 World Cup is to signal the arrival of Brazilian football’s brave new world, a desperately needed fresh start for the game in a country where on-field majesty is usually matched by administrative skulduggery, it can’t come soon enough. The year is not yet four months old but it feels, to misquote autocratic former president Getúlio Vargas, as though Brazilian football is standing in a sea of mud. Worse, it often appears as though chaos has become the norm.” Independent

Socrates and the Corinthians’ Democracy
“As the global sporting world faces one corruption scandal after another, former Manchester United star Eric Cantona presents the stories of five football heroes whose social conscience led them to challenge unjust regimes, join opposition movements and lead the fight for democracy and human rights. Football Rebels looks at a side of football that does not always make the headlines.” Aljazeera (Video)

All the President’s Torturers
“Chosen to host both the 2014 football World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games and with abundant natural resources and one of the fastest growing economies in the world, one way or another Brazil is set to become a major player in the affairs of the 21st century. With an ambitious, progressive government, a population of around 193 million, now well established federal democratic structures and apparent political stability, many even see it as a global superpower in the making, perhaps even deserving of a permanent seat on the UN Security Council in the not too distant future. But its solid international reputation has not always been so glossy.” Aljazeera (Video)

The Copa Libertadores and differing stories for Ronaldinho and Riquelme
“The Copa Libertadores this season has been the story of two brilliant players in the twilights of their careers: one having immense fun as though he can’t quite believe he’s still getting away with it, the other grumpily raging against his waning powers. For Ronaldinho and Atlético Mineiro, this has been, so far, a tournament of glee, of great goals and big wins; for Juan Román Riquelme and Boca Juniors, it has been all about suffering. Both will be in the last 16, but their journeys could hardly have been more different. It’s also been the story of the continuing development of Ecuadorean football.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Neymar! Reducing Brazil’s Football ‘Trade Surplus’
“It’s time for another sporting feature since we haven’t had one for quite some time now. Fortunately, there’s interesting stuff courtesy of TIME Magazine about the changing complexion of ‘the beautiful game.’ Even if the Brazilian economy has cooled off markedly in recent times, it has had a strong run-up and most folks remain optimistic about its economy’s future. Contrast its fate with that of the European football powerhouses that traditionally import South American players in droves–especially Portugal, Spain,and the United Kingdom–and you begin to understand the reduced “trade surplus” of Brazil sending away its best footballers time and again…” International Political Economy Zone

Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea: City start brightly but Chelsea rally late on

April 16, 2013

“Manchester City won a surprisingly attack-minded game at Wembley. Roberto Mancini was without David Silva, so started Sergio Aguero after his excellent goal at Old Trafford on Monday. Costel Pantilimon continued as City’s dedicated FA Cup goalkeeper. Rafael Benitez used his three creators behind Demba Ba – Frank Lampard and John Terry continue to be left out. City played better football over the 90 minutes, although frequently made the wrong decisions in the final third.” Zonal Marking

Statistical Analysis: Do Chelsea need to sign a ball-playing centre-back?
“Of the top fourty passers in Europe in terms of passes played, 8 players are central defenders. Not one of these players though is a Premier League centre-back. Chico, of Swansea, is the only Premier League centre-back in the top 50 passers. That being said, there is still a growing emphasis on ball playing defenders in England, particularly at Swansea but also now at Liverpool. Nine of the top 50 passers in the Premier League are centre-backs, but not one of these defenders is a Chelsea player.” Think Football

FA Cup violence unlikely to revive hooliganism

April 16, 2013

“There will be those who insist the violence that broke out toward the end of Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal between Millwall and Wigan Athletic was an isolated incident; it’s the usual way of downplaying such things. But it wasn’t. I saw three separate scuffles in the Millwall end before the brawl that was shown on T. I saw around 30 men going toe-to-toe, swinging punches at each other and then turning on police when, belatedly, an effort was made to stop them. Other journalists spoke of at least two other incidents, and there had been an unpleasant edge to the atmosphere all day.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

The Return of Matt Le Tissier

April 16, 2013

“Matt Le Tissier is coming out of retirement, and I’m going to type that again, because it contains words that deserve to be repeated. Matt Le Tissier is coming out of retirement. If you don’t know who that is — and there’s a good chance you don’t, if you’re American, not a soccer fan, or under 25 — watch the YouTube clip of him scoring against Newcastle on October 24, 1993. This is the second season of the Premier League, all lunging tackles and signboards for Street Fighter II. Le Tissier’s playing midfield for Southampton, the team in red-and-white stripes. The ball comes flying over the left flank to the Southampton striker, Iain Dowie, who heads it down toward the middle of the pitch, where Le Tissier’s running forward at a smooth trot. It’s a bad header; the ball scuds directly behind him. The move should be over. But watch what Le Tissier does.” Grantland – Brian Phillips

Hristo all mighty!

April 16, 2013

“In the middle of the 4th century B.C., the all-conquering army of Philip II of Macedon swept southwards through the Balkans, thus setting into motion an enduring legacy that would be continued and expanded upon by Philip’s more renowned son; the famous, infamous, and glorious Colin Farrell.” World Soccer

Reading 0 Liverpool 0: In-Depth Tactical Analysis

April 16, 2013

“Neither manager opted for a surprising selection in terms of personnel, yet both managers surprised with their choice of starting formation. Both teams used a shape unfamiliar to them in recent games. Adkins used 4-4-2, with Pogrebnyak and Hunt up front. The latter was told to play deeper and often drop on Lucas when out of possession. Rodgers selected his ‘lopsided’ variant of the 4-2-3-1 shape with Henderson tucked inside from the left flank. Surprisingly, Coutinho was handed his first start playing centrally between the lines. With Suarez as the centre-forward, it meant Sturridge had to play on the right flank.” Tomkins Times

PSV 2-3 Ajax: Eriksen’s influence helps Ajax attack down the wings

April 16, 2013

“Ajax recorded a crucial victory over their major rivals for the league title. Frank De Boer brought Christian Poulsen into the side in the holding role, meaning Lasse Schone moved out to the right in place of Derk Boerrigter, who was on the bench. Dick Advocaat left out Tim Matavz, with Dries Mertens returning to the side on the left flank, and Jeremain Lens playing as the primary striker. In terms of quality, this match was underwhelming – neither played their best football.” Zonal Marking

Juventus 0-2 Bayern Munich: Bayern initially struggle with the tempo, then close out the tie

April 13, 2013

Juventus v FC Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final
“This was expected to be the closest tie of the Champions League quarter-final stage, but was actually won by the biggest margin. Antonio Conte was without the suspended duo of Arturo Vidal and Stephane Lichtsteiner, so he played Paul Pogba and Federico Peluso. Mirko Vucinic returned to the side upfront. Jupp Heynckes welcomed back Javi Martinez from suspension, but otherwise continued with the side that played the majority of the first leg, after Toni Kroos’ injury. Juventus started the game brightly, but Bayern eventually took command and calmed the tempo of the game.” Zonal Marking

Juventus 0-2 Bayern Munich- Tactical Analysis
“Juventus welcomed Bayern Munich to the Juventus arena on a night where they needed a minor miracle to turn around a 2-0 deficit from the first leg. The feat had only been replicated once before, by Barcelona in the previous round against AC Milan. The home side made two mandatory changes, Lichtsteiner and Vidal, sitting out through suspension, were replaced by Padoin and Pogba respectively. The rest of the team was familiar, as they started in their 3-5-2 formation, with Kwadwo Asamoah returning on the left wing. Up front, Vucinic started along side Fabio Quagliarella. The back 3 remained the same, along with Pirlo and Marchisio, who along with Pogba completed the midfield.” Outside of the Boot

Scramble Tactics – How Borussia Dortmund came back against Malaga
“You see this scenario all too often in football. A team trails or needs goals in the dying minutes of a game. Coaches throw on the additional striker or instruct their center-backs to play in the opponent’s box and wait for long balls or crosses to come in, hoping for the right bounce or opportunity to strike. What Jürgen Klopp and Borussia Dortmund did in the Champions League quarterfinal second leg against Malaga was similar of course with a very interesting variation worth deconstructing.” Bundesliga Fanatic

Barcelona, Real Madrid could meet in Champions League final

April 13, 2013

“Teams from the same country were kept apart in the Champions League semifinal draw Friday, with the intriguing prospect of a Wembley final featuring the two best teams in Spain or their equivalent from Germany. Here is the draw breakdown …” SI

Lavezzi’s energy picks its spots on the pitch

April 13, 2013

“Barcelona’s narrow away-goals victory over PSG was a fantastic tie, the type of contest European Cup football is all about. There were a variety of subplots: Zlatan Ibrahimovic against his former side, David Beckham’s surprise start in Paris, Lionel Messi’s fitness in the second leg. Barca emerged victorious, but the French league leaders enhanced their reputation and strengthened Carlo Ancelotti’s chances of remaining in his job next season.” ESPN

Optimism For the Benna Boyz

April 13, 2013

“As a previous visitor to the small group of islands known as Antigua & Barbuda I was pleasantly surprised to see the media coverage their national side received in the UK in the summer of 2012 and for the few months afterwards. This coverage came in light of the appointment of Englishman and former Chesterfield midfielder Tom Curtis. His first venture into management Curtis’ appointment certainly helped raised the profile of the national side within England and there was a good degree of optimism going into their World Cup Qualifying clashes with Guatemala.” In Bed With Maradona

Extreme violence in Millwall end has football fading into irrelevance

April 13, 2013

“What a strange, and indeed disturbing, occasion this was. Wigan are in the FA Cup final for the first time in their history after beating Millwall 2-0, but this Wembley semi-final will be remembered instead for the extreme, concentrated outbreak of violence among spectators at the end behind Millwall’s goal – the Millwall end – during the final 10 minutes of the match, apparently a continuation of two smaller second-half flare-ups in the same area.” Guardian

Tactical Analysis: What went wrong for Spurs against Basel?

April 13, 2013

“Tottenham Hotspurs’ European dreams were shattered on Thursday night as Swiss club FC Basel got the better of the North Londoners in an enthralling penalty shoot-out after 120 minutes of torrid football were unable to separate the two teams on aggregate. Frankly, Spurs were far from their best and it was surprising to see Andres Villas-Boas’ troops even hang on to a 2-2 stalemate.” Think Football

Barcelona 1-1 PSG: Ancelotti replicates first leg tactics, but Messi fit enough to have an impact

April 11, 2013

“PSG were elimintated on the away goals rule following a good counter-attacking display. Tito Vilanova named Lionel Messi on the bench, with Cesc Fabregas deployed upfront after his weekend hattrick. Adriano played alongside Gerard Pique at the back. Carlo Ancelotti was without the suspended Blaise Matudi, so used Marco Verratti alongside Thiago Motta, with David Beckham on the bench. This was similar to the first leg – both sides used broadly the same strategy, and while Barcelona dominated possession, PSG threatened on the break.” Zonal Marking

Barcelona, Bayern complete Champions League semifinals
“The two favorites may have progressed into the Champions League semifinals, but it was not easy for either team. Barcelona came from a goal down against Paris Saint-Germain to draw 1-1 to get through on away goals, while Bayern Munich needed to weather some early Juventus pressure before winning 2-0 in Italy. Here is the breakdown …” SI

Hajduk Split Torcida: trailblazers across Europe

April 11, 2013

“Astronauts looking down on earth in February 2011 would’ve been greeted with an unusual sight. Alongside the Great Wall of China and Felix Baumgartner on practice missions, thousands of flares lit up the night sky as the Torcida celebrated the 100th year of their beloved club Hajduk Split. Their slogan, ‘Hajduk lives forever’, appears apt.” World Soccer

Tactics for Beginners – No. 8

April 11, 2013

“Through, over or around? The more we talk the more I have become interested in what seems like a key patch of grass. It is the strip between the edge of the box and the start of the final third. In terms of lines of play it is the patch between the deep sitting back line and the midfield and will include the ‘hole’. We’ve talked about how everything that happens everywhere on the pitch has importance, but this seems to be a key place, where attacking teams seek penetration, and defending teams seek preservation. The penetration/preservation zone.” Tomkins Times

Galatasaray 3-2 Real Madrid: Terim’s half-time switch gives Galatasaray hope

April 11, 2013

“Cristiano Ronaldo’s early strike left Galatasaray needing five – and they created enough chances to give Real a fright. Without Burak Yilmaz, Fatih Terim brought in Umut Bulut and stuck to his diamond system, rather than switching to a 4-4-1-1, as rumoured. Jose Mourinho was without Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos – he named the expected outfield side with Gonzalo Higuain upfront. Diego Lopez continued in goal. Real’s early goal suggested the tie was over – but Galatasaray stormed back.” Zonal Marking

Dortmund 3-2 Malaga: Pellegrini’s side defend well, but are unable to cope with late pressure

April 11, 2013

“An astonishing stoppage time turnaround means Dortmund to progress to the semi-finals. Jurgen Klopp used Jakub Blaszczykowski as his winger, rather than left-sided Kevin Grosskreutz, so Marco Reus started from the left. Sven Bender returned, but Mats Hummels was only on the bench. With a couple of suspensions to cope with, Manuel Pellegrini brought in Sergio Sanchez and Ignacio Camacho. He pushed Julio Baptista upfront, dropping Javier Saviola, with Duda coming into the side. Malaga coped well for most of the game – and two goals should have been enough to see them through.” Zonal Marking

Drama drips in Dortmund as favorites advance in Champions League

April 9, 2013

“What a night of Champions League action. A night that provided us with the semifinalists our heads told us to expect — Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund — as well as the kind of thrilling narrative that our hearts hoped might be possible.” SI

Manchester United 1-2 Manchester City: City’s attackers combine well throughout

April 9, 2013

“Manchester City produced a fine performance to record a rare victory at Old Trafford. Sir Alex Ferguson played two attack-minded wide players, with Ryan Giggs in the centre and Tom Cleverley only on the bench. Phil Jones continued alongside Rio Ferdinand in the centre of defence. Roberto Mancini left out Sergio Aguero, favouring Carlos Tevez as a lone striker with David Silva just behind. City were significantly better here – they dominated the first half, took the lead in the second, and Mancini used his bench better too.” Zonal Marking

Man City has formula for countering powerful Manchester United
“Even if Manchester City wins its seven remaining games this season, Manchester United needs only to take 10 points from its last seven games to clinch a 20th league title. As Roberto Mancini said, “It’s finished.” And yet for all that, there is a strange feeling of City ending the season on a high after winning the Manchester derby 2-1, while United has questions to answer. In a sense, the league this season has almost been so easy for United that it’s hard for it to derive any great satisfaction from its (almost certain) success.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Tottenham 2-2 Everton: Spurs go ahead very early, then equalise very late
“An interesting battle between two sides both without their key attacking player. Gareth Bale was injured – as were Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon. Andre Villas-Boas was forced to select a ‘mezzala’ on either side – Clint Dempsey and Gylfi Sigurdsson – in the absence of natural wide players. Jan Vertonghen was at left-back. David Moyes was without Steven Pienaar and Marouane Fellaini. He handed a rare start to Ross Barkley, and used Leon Osman behind Victor Anichebe, rather than selecting two strikers. This was an interesting but disjointed game, where both sides had spells of dominance. There were lots of small tactical features, rather than a clear overall pattern.” Zonal Marking

Fiorentina 2-2 Milan: Montella reacts calmly to Fiorentina’s first-half setbacks

April 9, 2013

“Despite a numerical disadvantage and two men injured early on, Fiorentina came back from 2-0 down to keep their Champions League hopes alive. Vincenzo Montella was surprisingly able to call upon Stevan Jovetic – although he didn’t look 100% fit, and didn’t make it to the second half. Gonzalo Rodriguez was unavailable, so Nenad Tomovic started at the back. Max Allegri used Riccardo Montolivo in the deep-lying role against his old club, while Cristian Zapata returned in place of Daniele Bonera. Milan took control in the first hour, but the way Fiorentina responded was highly impressive.” Zonol Marking (Video)

For well-traveled Freddy Adu, next stop is Brazil

April 7, 2013

“Last month, Freddy Adu arrived in Salvador, Brazil, to meet with officials of what is now his latest club, Bahia. He had worn out his welcome in Philadelphia after two troubled seasons with the Union; the team’s management was just unwilling to keep paying him a star’s wage (rumored to be upward of $500,000) to play like a journeyman. Whether Adu was misused by his coaches, bored by the competition or weighed down by the city’s excellent cheesesteaks, he delivered a total of seven goals and two assists in 35 league appearances, hardly the kind of résumé you expect from a guy who dated pop singer JoJo and had a $1 million contract at 14. So, in a now very familiar scene, Adu packed his soft-sided suitcase of promise and headed to the airport.” ESPN

Room for improvement

April 7, 2013

“Of all the great football rivalries, my favourite is the one between the national teams of Brazil and Argentina. There is nothing to get in the way – no real military history between the two countries, as is the case with the Netherlands and Germany, for example, of England and Germany, and even England and Argentina. When Brazil meets Argentina the rivalry is one of pure football, a battle for supremacy on the pitch between two neighbours vying to be considered the number one nation of the global game.” The World Game – Tim Vickery

Improved second half display gives Schalke win over Werder Bremen

April 7, 2013

“Jens Keller lined his side up in a 4-2-3-1 with Ciprian Marica leading the line. Julian Draxler, Michel Bastos and Jefferson Farfán played behind Ciprian Marica, while Marco Höger and Roman Neustädter played in the midfield. Thomas Schaaf opted for a 4-3-3, which saw Nils Petersen, Elijero Elia and Marko Arnautovic upfront. Kevin De Bruyne, Aaron Hunt and Tom Trybull formed the midfield three. Werder Bremen were looking to snap their six game winless streak, and they started the match in fine fashion. Schaaf’s men pressed high up the pitch and forced Schalke’s centrebacks Benedikt Höwedes and Joël Matip to play passes from the back. By applying pressure on the Schalke fullbacks, who were looking to get the balls to their wingers, Matip and Höwedes had no passing options available due to Bremen’s pressing, which often forced them to concede possession.” Bundesliga Fanatic

Sunderland gambles on former self-proclaimed ‘fascist’ Di Canio

April 7, 2013

Paolo Di Canio Swindon City
“It’s quiz time! Your club is one point outside of the relegation zone and sinking fast. Do you: a) call your players and coaching staff together for an energetic pep talk, b) sit in the dark and allow a few tears to roll down your cheeks and into your single malt, c) sack the manager and appoint a man of whom the newspapers have plenty of stock images — you know, the ones in which he is giving a straight-armed salute. Sunderland’s move this week — sacking Martin O’Neill and his coaching team and replacing them with former Swindon Town manager (and until-very-recently self-proclaimed ‘fascist’) Paolo di Canio and his backroom staff — is either one of the worst ideas ever, or a masterstroke.” SI

A Gamble, Wrapped Up In A Gamble, Inside A Gamble: Di Canio To Sunderland
“Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the kerfuffle that has blown up surrounding the appointment of Paolo Di Canio as the manager of Sunderland is how much of a surprise certain aspects of his past seem to have been to so many people. After all, he was hired as the manager of Swindon Town almost two years ago, and the “Roman Salute” business at Lazio happened eight years ago. You might not have thought this had you opened a newspaper this morning, though. It was screaming from the front page of The Sun, whilst other newspapers weren’t far behind with their opinions on the matter. On a week that might be otherwise characterised by a distinct lack of English clubs in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, though, this is a story that the press can really sink its teeth into.” twohundredpercent

Liverpool stutter to stalemate

April 7, 2013

“It is an unwanted Anfield tradition, dating back many a year. The damaging draw was a feature of the reigns of Rafa Benitez and Kenny Dalglish and, while Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool have tended to deal in boom or bust, veering between emphatic wins and hurtful defeats with no half-way house, a stalemate nonetheless conformed to a familiar theme.” ESPN

Brian Clough Television Interview From 1969-70: Cocky And Confident As Always

April 7, 2013

“I came across a new TV documentary this evening that I hadn’t seen before about Brian Clough. It’s from 1969-70. Uniquely, the TV documentary starts off by asking then Derby County manager Brian Clough what his expectations are for the season. He goes through his entire squad and offers his critique of each player, what they can contribute and how he thinks his just-promoted side will do. Then in the second half of the interview, the same interviewer goes back to Brian Clough at Derby and reviews how well (or not) his predictions did, as well as discussing how the season went.” EPL Talk (Video)

PSG 2-2 Barcelona: Ancelotti justified in using a brave starting line-up

April 4, 2013

“Barcelona twice took the lead, PSG twice equalised. Carlo Ancelotti surprisingly named David Beckham as part of a midfield two, with four outright attacking players used in a 4-4-1-1 system. Tito Vilanova played Alexis Sanchez, rather than Cristian Tello, as part of his front three. Barcelona dominated in terms of possession and territory, and there was an element of fortune for both PSG’s goals – but overall Ancelotti’s side defended solidly and counter-attacked effectively.” Zonal Marking

Messi expected to return soon, but Mascherano loss leaves Barca weak
” They say that the secret to great comedy is great timing, so it was hard not to giggle when just after 1pm on Wednesday FC Barcelona announced the launch of a new App called “Barcelona fitness.” Not that Barcelona’s fans would have seen the funny side of course. Not while they anxiously awaited news of Lionel Messi’s injury. Minor scare or total disaster? Muscle tear or muscle pull? Three weeks? Six? Or just ten days? And nor is it just Leo Messi. Soon after he departed, so did Javier Mascherano, the latest victim of a defensive injury crisis. A fitness app? Oh, the irony.” SI

The Question: How is interpretation of the playmaker role changing?

April 4, 2013

“Perhaps no position is undergoing such evolution so rapidly as the playmaker – or, as it is probably more accurate to call him in his present guise, the creative midfielder. This week, the Champions League quarter-finals seemed almost to showcase the changing interpretations of the position – albeit in the most modern case in unfortunately truncated form.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Bayern 2-0 Juve: Bayern’s pressing prevents Juve bringing their strike duo into play

April 4, 2013

“Bayern take a commanding lead into the second leg, after a dominant first leg performance. Jupp Heynckes named his expected side – Luiz Gustavo came in for the suspended Javi Martinez – although Toni Kroos’ early injury pushed Thomas Muller inside, with Arjen Robben introduced on the right. Despite strong rumours Antonio Conte would select a 3-5-1-1 formation, he went for the usual 3-5-2 with Alessandro Matri and Fabio Quagliarella (his least favoured strike duo this season) upfront. This was all about Bayern – they pressed excellently and Juventus struggled to put together good attacking moves, or bring their strike duo into play.” Zonal Marking

Bayern 2-0 Juventus: Tactical Analysis
“Former champions Juventus traveled to Munich to take on German giants, Bayern Munich at the Allianz arena in the first leg of their Champions League quarter final which eventually finished Bayern 2-0 Juventus. The home side started as expected, with Lahm, van Buyten, Dante and Alaba in defence. Luiz Gustavo played in midfield alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger. The wide areas were patrolled by Ribery and Thomas Muller, while Toni Kroos played behind the lone frontman Mario Mandzukic. The Bianconeri had veteran keeper Buffon in goal, and played their usual 3-5-2 formation. At the back, Chiellini, Barzagli and Bonucci were selected. The midfield trio of Marchisio, Pirlo and Vidal were handed the unenviable task of stopping Bayern’s midfield. Out wide, Lichtsteiner started on the right, and Peluso on the left. The front line consisted of Matri and Quagliarella to start with.” Outside of the Boot

Forward Brazil

April 4, 2013

“As five-time World Cup champion, the Brazilian national team has become known the world over not just for winning, but for winning with a joyous panache that has become synonymous with the beautiful game. However, behind every one of Ronaldinho’s toothy grins and camouflaged by the color-shocked mohawk clinging to Neymar’s head lies an intensely complicated relationship between nation and sport. Over the course of the 20th century, the average Brazilian’s rabid devotion to football allowed the game to be manipulated – serving as an opiate to anesthetize the Brazilian people toward the actions of their government. This wicked transformation has never been more apparent than during the 1970’s. Then, the military dictatorship under Emílio Médici spared no expense to ensure that its brutal totalitarian measures were shaded by the blinding brilliance of joga bonito.” In Bed With Maradona

Tactical Analysis: How important is the ball-playing centre-back?

April 4, 2013

“‘In the modern game, you don’t need tacklers the same way you used to. There’s no call for it. It’s about anticipation and reading the game.’ Which moron said that? The most successful manager in the history of English football, that’s who. Sir Alex Ferguson has a point – a well-founded, deep-rooted one. Football is incontrovertibly becoming a more technically-reliant sport. A refined, thinking game.” Think Football

Özil shines for Madrid, while Dortmund does everything but score

April 4, 2013

“Jose Mourinho managed to neutralize his former players Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder as Real Madrid ran out comfortable 3-0 winners over Galatasaray in its Champions League quarterfinal first leg. Meanwhile Borussia Dortmund remains the only unbeaten team left in the competition after drawing 0-0 with Malaga, even though it created more chances. Here is the rundown of tonight’s action…” SI

Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United: Mata’s ball to Ba bypasses the zone United kept secure

April 2, 2013

Demba Ba
“Juan Mata and Demba Ba combined for a brilliant goal in an otherwise quiet match. Rafael Benitez made various changes from the side that lost at Southampton on Saturday – he fielded his three exciting creators together behind Demba Ba. Sir Alex Ferguson left out Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa, while Wayne Rooney was injured, so Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck were upfront. A terrible first half was followed by a much more open second.” Zonal Marking

Chelsea beat Manchester United thanks to Demba Ba’s touch of brilliance
“It will probably register as the most satisfying result of Rafael Benítez’s short and difficult time in office and not just because it was possibly the first time he was spared the condemnation of Chelsea’s supporters. His team can look forward to an FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City and, after all the personal indignities Benítez has suffered, he will probably not care too much that it was such a scruffy game to get them to Wembley.” Guardian

Deconstructing the Plovdiv Pistolero

April 2, 2013

“In the middle of the 4th century B.C., the all-conquering army of Philip II of Macedon swept southwards through the Balkans, thus setting into motion an enduring legacy that would be continued and expanded upon by Philip’s more renowned son; the famous, infamous, and glorious Colin Farrell. In the course of that marauding charge – in 342 B.C., to be precise – Philip passed through the now-Bulgarian city of Plovdiv, renaming it after himself as he did so (Philippopolis). The arrival of Philip preceded centuries – millennia, even – of invading forces pitching their tents at the walls of Plovdiv, attempting to make the city their own. 72 B.C. saw the Romans give it a shot, under the leadership of Marcus Lucullus. More than a hundred years later, in 46 A.D., Plovdiv finally ceded to the Romans and their Emperor Claudius.” In Bed With Maradona