Monthly Archives: May 2013

C is for Cosmos

“Take a deep breathe, it’s going to be alright. It has to be alright. Sure, things didn’t begin so well, but you learned. You learned from the handful of fans who watched you play at Yankee Stadium, and you learned from the scattering who followed you to Hofstra. You learned not to be average. You couldn’t be average. Not in New York. Not in Andy Warhol’s New York.” futbolintellect


The great European Cup teams: Ajax 1971-73

“It’s difficult now, given the city’s reputation for liberalism and excess to imagine Amsterdam in the years following the second world war. It was a dull, staid place where, as Albert Camus wrote in the Fall, published in 1955, ‘for centuries, pipe smokers have been watching the same rain falling on the same canal’.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


“Maybe he needed to work more, meditate less. Or maybe the gray had finally started to show, taking years off his expiration date. But he still had the spark, or at least the kindling; he was sure of that. He still squared himself in front of defenders. He still lifted his head to survey the field. He still left a trail of pointed fingers and agitation every time he dropped his defender. Dip the shoulder. Accelerate. No-look pass. Keep pace. Bring it down. Chip it back. Goal. His game had never been about misdirection; the words of his coaches still rang in his head: ‘focus on fundamentals.’ Sure, the gap was smaller than the days when bleached hair and cut-off shorts were all you needed to turn pro, but he could still tug the string and leave defenders in knots.” futbolintellect

Benfica Review – A Bittersweet Season

“For all the religious anecdotes (inappropriate or otherwise) one could make about Jorge Jesus, Benfica’s coach, one thing is certain. He would be the first person wishing he could work a miracle or two given the last few weeks for his club. In the space of 5 days, Benfica, fresh off an incredible unbeaten streak domestically (their last defeat coming over a year ago on the 9 April 2012 to local rivals Sporting) suddenly saw the incredible foundations of a promising season crushed with back to back defeats to Porto and Chelsea in domestic and European competition. Any Benfiquistas seeing trebles in their eyes came straight back to Earth with a devastating halt.” Outside of the Boot

Is Neymar really what FC Barcelona need?

“It has this week revealed what has been in the pipeline for around 18 months now, Neymar will join Barcelona. On the surface this move is incredibly exciting. A 21 year old wonder kid that has been on the radar of Europe’s elite for years, signing up to play with the new La Liga champions alongside the likes of Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta. The move however has raised a few eyebrows. It doesn’t feel as exciting as it was a year ago. Barça’s season has a cloud of doubt and negativity hanging over it. This is despite Barca being on course to equal Real Madrid’s record league total of 100 points (they will if they beat Malaga on Saturday). This negativity is mostly down to their demolition at the hands of Bayern in the semi-finals of the Champions League and in particular what it means: Barça are no longer the best, in fact, they look quite far from it.” Think Football

Bayern Munich 2-1 Borussia Dortmund: Dortmund take control with good pressing, but Robben moves upfront to make the difference

“Bayern initially struggled to get into the game, but eventually emerged victorious after a strong second half performance. Jupp Heynckes selected Jerome Boateng rather than Daniel van Buyten at the back – the only real selection decision either manager had to make. Jurgen Klopp named his expected XI. Dortmund started the game excellently, pinning Bayern back and attempting six shots before Bayern had managed one – but eventually their pressing dropped, and Bayern continually exploited the space in behind the Dortmund defence.” Zonal Marking

Champion Bayern Munich sets magnificent yet troubling standard
“For Bayern as a whole, this was a story of redemption. For Arjen Robben, in particular, it was a story of redemption. And for Jupp Heynckes it was, a story of vindication, of proving his point so that he can leave, having been forcibly retired, having proved he is a winner and having become only the fourth coach — after Ernst Happel, Ottmar Hitzfeld and Jose Mourinho — to win the European Cup with two different teams. Bayern had lost in the final in 2010 and 2012. It had been defeated at the last in 1999. It had lost surprisingly in 1987 and 1982. It had come to look guilty of that least German of attributes: choking. There was a moment at Wembley when it looked as though it might once again falter at the last: after an awkward opening half hour it had dominated and had taken the lead, before conceding an equalizer with a wholly needless penalty.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich: Thomas Müller simply refused to be denied in Champions League final
” On the eve of this visit to Wembley, and reflecting on chastening nights in Madrid and Munich, Müller had observed: “If you lose three finals in four years, you are going to be labelled chokers.’’ Not here. Not on Müller’s watch. He would not let it happen. Bayern would not be called chokers. Müller and his team-mates wanted this too much. They were too fit, a reminder of the exceptional medical conditioning of the celebrated physician Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt. Bayern were too hungry, particularly as a compelling game wore on and the lactic acid ganged up on Borussia Dortmund.” Telegraph – Henry Winter

Dortmund 1-2 Bayern- Tactical Analysis
“A full house and an electric atmosphere greeted the two top teams of Germany and Europe in the UEFA Champions League Final. Bayern came into the game as favourites to win the game,and won a wonderful end-to-end contest. A weakened Dortmund team started without their talisman and future Bayern player, Mario Gotze. Weidenfeller started at the back, with the usual back 4 of Pisczcek, Schmelzer, Subotic and Hummels in front of him. In midfield, Bender and Gundogan were the deeper pair, and Grosskreutz, Reus and Kuba were in the advanced roles. Up front, it was the Pole, Robert Lewandowski.” Outside of the Boot

Robben gets redemption as Bayern Munich wins Champions League
“… Arjen Robben, a winger but always in the center of things. We saw by turns the worst, the best, the worst and finally the best again of the brilliant Dutch midfielder. It is ever thus with Robben. In the first half, he had golden chances on two occasions but failed to convert as Dortmund keeper Roman Weidenfeller stoned Robben twice, bringing back memories of similar Robben chances in the 2010 World Cup final.” SI

Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund: Tactical analysis

Jerseys of German football clubs Bayern
“The key to Bayern Munich’s success throughout 2012-13 has been their adaptability. On their way to a record points total in the Bundesliga, Bayern’s ball retention was consistently remarkable, while in the Champions League victories over Arsenal, Juventus and Barcelona they have been equally impressive when using a physical approach designed to overpower the opposition.” Guardian

The Champions League Final: Fünf brennende Fragen
“… So it’s disconcerting that the Oxford-Duden German Dictionary appears to contain not a single entry corresponding to ‘the strange curiosity one feels regarding the 2013 Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, the first all-German European Cup final in history, which will be played Saturday at 2:45 p.m. ET at Wembley Stadium in London, and which feels oddly compelling despite the fact that the teams involved have played one another approximately 345 times in the Bundesliga this season.’ I mean, you’d think they’d be all over that, right?” Grantland – Brian Phillips

What’s on the line for Bayern, Dortmund, all of Germany in CL final
“1. This doesn’t mean the Bundesliga is the best league in the world. What constitutes “the best” football league? If it’s affordability, sustainability, indigenous talent on pitches and benches and a decent stadium experience you’re after, the Bundesliga is your bag. Most of these factors, while commendable, are only of real concern to German fans, however. As an international entertainment “product,” the Bundesliga is still miles behind the Premier League and will continue to be so unless there are three or four Bayern Munichs, competing for the best international players and entering the Champions League with a realistic view to winning it. That will take a lot of time and even more hard, smart work, even if dormant giants like Hamburger SC, 1.FC Köln or VfB Stuttgart will begin to wake up.” SI

Bayern and Dortmund bring Bundesliga battle royale to Wembley
“Saturday’s Champions League final between German powers Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund could be the greatest clash between good and evil since the Book of Mormon. Bayern are Germany’s superclub, a possession-hungry, passing, pressing powerhouse that are loved or loathed, but always feared. Dortmund, the resurgent underdogs, prefer to thrill with movement and speed — a fearless young team that run hard and attempt to overwhelm opponents with a vicious transition game.” ESPN (Video)

What David Moyes and Sir Alex really do

“Sometimes as a journalist you get lucky. In March I spent a day at Everton Football Club’s training ground at Finch Farm. I didn’t meet the manager, David Moyes, but his aura hung over the place. I talked to several of his staff members, who spoke of him with awe, and on May 4 I published an article that tried to describe how Moyes works. Four days later, to my surprise, Moyes was given perhaps the biggest job in football management: successor to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.” FT – Simon Kuper

The great European Cup teams: Barcelona 2009-2011

“Barcelona completed the circle on 28 May 2011. Wembley again, back where it all began. The perfect expression of a team that some considered the finest there has been and at the perfect location too. When Barcelona defeated Manchester United 3-1 in London to win their second European Cup in three years under Pep Guardiola, and their third in six, Sir Alex Ferguson called the Catalans the best team he had ever faced. ‘No one,’ he said, ‘has ever given us a hiding like that.’ But it was about more than just the performance; it was about the symmetry and symbolism too.” Guardian

The Beavers and the Champions League

“As the Portuguese Primeira Liga drew to a close at the weekend, all eyes were understandably on Benfica and Porto as they battled it out for the League Championship and, for the latter, the enviable record of enduring the season without defeat. Slipping underneath the radar, however, there has been another big story in Portuguese football this year: that of the relatively unknown Pacos De Ferreira and their qualification for the Champions League. Pacos secured the third and final Champions League qualification spot in the Primeira Liga with a game to spare, and now find themselves only a two-legged playoff tie away from the elusive and lucrative group stages of Europe’s premier club competition.” In Bed With Maradona

The Bundesliga’s True “White Brazilian” – Part I

“‘I’m not in right now… If you want to reach me you can find me down my local pub from five in the evening to five in the morning – Beeeeeeeeeeep.’ It’s not an answer phone message you would want your mum to hear. And it’s certainly not a message you would expect from a professional footballer. But then Ansgar Brinkmann was never a professional footballer in the true sense of the word. He drank, he fought and he womanized. He had run-in’s with the police. And he had a reputation for arguing with his teammates and managers. With Ansgar, you never knew what to expect. And therein lay his appeal, both on and off the pitch.” Bundesliga Fanatic – Part 1, Part 2

Premier League report card

“We kick off our Premier League report card with the top of the table. Click here for our evaluations of the bottom half. How did the season play out for the bottom half of the Premier League table? Our club-by-club reviews below tell the story of clubs that put in a consistent shift and clubs that barely stayed up. And then, of course, there was the train wreck that was QPR. Sorry, ‘Arry.” ESPN

Drama-lacking Premier League season sets up compelling 2013-14
“It was not a vintage season. By the final day, all that remained to be settled was whether Arsenal or Tottenham would finish in the top four and although there was drama at White Hart Lane, with Spurs battering on the Sunderland door for 88 minutes before it found a breakthrough, it was rendered largely irrelevant by the fact that Arsenal was 1-0 up at Newcastle. For the 18th season in a row, Arsenal finished above its north London rivals. Elsewhere, it was a day of goodbyes.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Ronaldinho’s time looks to have passed

“Is this the end? Has the door slammed shut on Ronaldinho’s chance of redemption? That must surely be the likely conclusion of Brazil’s Confederations Cup call up. Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari read out his 23 names. When he had got to the end and the assembled journalists realised that Ronaldinho had not been included, the room became a hornets’ nest of buzzing voices, as excited radio reporters reached for their microphones to spread the news. They had every right – it is important news. For some nations the Confederations Cup might be a collection of friendlies with a trophy at the end – but not for Brazil. There is too much at stake. As 2014 World Cup host it has suffered from a lack of competitive games, and ever since the last World Cup neither results nor performances have been convincing.” The World Game – Tim Vickery (Video)

Real Madrid 1-2 Atletico Madrid: Tactical Analysis

“The Final of the Copa del Rey ended up being everything you may expect from a Madrid derby. Atleti came into the final not having beaten their crosstown rivals for 14 years, and the last time it happened for them was when their current coach was in the 18. Diego Simeone deserves loud praise for what he’s done with this team in the last 17 months – 3 trophies and Champions League Qualification.” Outside of the Boot

What next for Kenny Jackett and Millwall?

“While the rest of the country was distracted by events at Old Trafford, a corner of south-east London focused on the departure of another long-serving gaffer. Though Kenny Jackett’s departure as Millwall manager probably cause any palpitations on Wall Street, it was no less a surprise to supporters than Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement was to Manchester United. A mere six years in charge doesn’t even come close to matching the reign of Govan’s most famous son. Such is the nature of English professional football, however, that by the time of his exit, Jackett had been in post longer than all but five of his peers.” thetwounfortunates

La Liga: FC Barcelona 2-1 Real Valladolid: Match Review

“Barcelona secured their 30th victory of the La Liga season on Sunday, seeing off the threat of Miroslav Ðukić’s Real Valladolid at the Camp Nou. Pedro Rodriguez put the Blaugrana ahead on 21 minutes, slotting the ball under Jaime after a delightful through ball from Xavi, and Marc Valiente (own goal) doubled Barcelona’s lead with a little under five minutes remaining in the first half. Despite creating a number of chances, Barcelona couldn’t find a third and conceded a late consolation from the penalty spot after Martin Montoya’s foul on Manucho.” Barca Blaugranes

We all dream of a team of Carraghers!

“… Carragher epitomized Liverpool Football Club. He formed a bond between the supporters and the playing staff. A model professional who spent 23 years of his life devoted to one club, putting his body on the line, bleeding red throughout his career. The above quote was taken from his interview with the BBC; it shows what an individual he is. A no nonsense man, no emotional stories, no self praise, but a humble supporter of the club. He gets into training every week, puts in a performance, a day’s rest, and it’s back to the training ground again.” Outside of the Boot

Chelsea’s indomitable will to win nets it another title

“There has been a lack of logic about Chelsea from the moment in 2003 when Roman Abramovich bought the club. First it had unthinkable amounts of money, and then unthinkable amounts of chaos as manager followed manager and planning became shorter and shorter term. Everybody agrees — probably even Abramovich himself — that it is no way to run a football club, and yet what has emerged amid all the flux is a side with an astonishing spirit, a team that seemingly has the ability at times just to decide it will win and shrug off anything that might prevent that happening. Winning the Europa League may essentially be a consolation prize, but what a consolation.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Rafa Benítez speaks about his time at Chelsea, zonal marking and more
“Chelsea’s remarkably busy 69-game season ends on Sunday against Everton (Fox Soccer Plus, 11 a.m. ET), and you could forgive Chelsea interim manager Rafa Benítez if he’d decided to take a short nap on the couch late Friday afternoon after winning the Europa League title on Wednesday and ensuring that Chelsea will finish in the Premier League top four to qualify for next season’s Champions League.” SI

Freak goal and moment of Draxler brilliance wreck Freiburg’s Champions League dream

“So near but yet so far. Freiburg’s dream of playing Champions League football next year was quashed by Schalke 04 after the away side took a 2-1 away victory at the MAGE-SOLAR Stadion. Goals by Julian Draxler and an own goal by Julian Schuster were enough to give die Königsblauen the result they needed to secure 4th place. Jonathan Schmid scored for Freiburg but it was not enough as Freiburg will have to ‘settle’ for Europa League football next year.” Bundesliga Fanatic

Take Five with Paul Tomkins

“1. What do you think has been BR’s most positive influence on Liverpool this season and what has been his main ‘failure’? I think he has forged an exciting attacking unit, but at the expense of overall solidity. It’s very hard to perfect the defence, midfield and attack in any given side. Some managers start at the back, whereas Rodgers appears to have started further forward.” TheTravellingKop

Performance Analysis – Bundesliga Top 20 Goalscorers

“829 goals have been scored in the Bundesliga so far this season. That is an average of almost three goals a game in another season of high octane attacking football and goals galore. Last year was a prolific season for many of the league’s top strikers and it is no different this time around. 356 of those 829 goals have been scored by strikers, a little under 50% of the total. Of course, in today’s game, the line between striker and midfielder is blurrier than ever before and many of the league’s outstanding players and biggest goal threats are players usually classified as midfielders. In fact, more goals were scored by midfielders this season than by strikers. 360 goals to be exact.” Bundesliga Fanatic

We Are The Champions?

“The prospect of an all-German Champions League final provided material for Germany’s tabloid Bild-Zeitung for some crude reporting. Under the headline ‘We Are The Champions’ the sub-heading reads: but not every one likes it. In fact, level-minded Germans are aware of the fact that Germany’s image throughout this current crisis in Europe has suffered severely, yet the article is a reminder of some dark thoughts from the not so distant past.” Do not mention the war

Chelsea 2-1 Benfica: Chelsea outplayed in the first half, but improve after the break

“Chelsea won the Europa League thanks to Branislav Ivanovic’s stoppage time header. From the side that lost to Porto at the weekend, Jorge Jesus left out Lima and Ola John, bringing back Oscar Cardozo and Rodrigo to the starting line-up. Lorenzo Malgarejo replaced for the suspended Maxi Pereira, with Andre Almeida switching flanks. Rafael Benitez was without Eden Hazard, so used Ramires in a wide position, with Frank Lampard and David Luiz in the centre of midfield. Benfica were better in terms of pressing and passing, outplaying Chelsea for long periods – but they wasted some excellent first-half opportunities.” Zonal Marking

We All Dream Of A Team Of Carraghers

“On the 8th of January 1997, Liverpool went out of the League Cup with a whimper, losing 2-1 away at Middlesbrough. Three weeks before his 19th birthday, Jamie Carragher made his Liverpool debut as a substitute that night, ensuring that a largely forgettable match has subsequently had a sheen of importance added to it in the context of the history of Liverpool Football Club.” Tomkins Times

Should Manchester United simply sever ties with Wayne Rooney?

“For many, Wayne Rooney is already a Manchester United legend. Since joining the club in 2004, the England international has scored 177 goals for the Red Devils in 400 appearances, a glancing feat for any modern-day footballer. In his time at the club he has also enjoyed an incredible trophy haul winning five league titles as well as the Champions League. However, according the retiring Sir Alex Ferguson, Rooney has asked for a second transfer request in three years and although United are reluctant to sell their prized asset, they might have to give in to the 27-year-old’s demands eventually. His first transfer request was met with a bumper new contract, angering many fans who questioned his loyalty. The second request has led to a divergence of opinions amongst United fans about whether he is worth the hassle.” Think Football

Sepp Blatter’s World Cup plans show no respect for logic – or football

The Fifa president, Sepp Blatter
“Sepp Blatter, it may not come as a complete surprise to learn, talks nonsense at times. He was at it again last week, speaking at the Asian Football Confederation conference in Kuala Lumpur, urging Asia to press for more places at the World Cup. It was wrong, he said, that Europe and Conmebol could have 19 of the 32 slots at the next World Cup. ‘We have to get a better balance,’ he told delegates. ‘You are a powerhouse. You must be aware that you are a powerhouse … If you have the same number of participants from all continents then there is a balance of strength and a balance of forces … There is no chance to kick them [Europeans or South Americans] out before one of them is in the semi-finals.'” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Wigan 1-0 Manchester City: Wigan stifle City and attack with tremendous width

“Ben Watson headed a stoppage time winner as Wigan lifted the FA Cup for the first time. Roberto Martinez was able to call upon Antolin Alcaraz in the centre of his three-man defence, and he used James McArthur as a right-wing-back and Jordi Gomez in central midfield. Roberto Mancini picked Joe Hart despite having used Costel Pantilimon as his FA Cup goalkeeper throughout the competition. James Milner was only on the bench, as Mancini went with two ‘interiors’ and two forwards. The nature of the result might suggest a ’smash and grab’ – but Martinez’s tactics outfoxed Mancini, and Wigan fully deserved their victory.” Zonal Marking

Porto 2-1 Benfica: late Kelvin winner puts Porto on the verge of the title

“A draw would have kept Benfica at the top – but a dramatic goal from substitute Kelvin means Porto go into the final day as favourites for the title. Vitor Pereira used his expected starting XI, although midfielders Joao Moutinho and Lucho Gonzalez often played the other way around to their normal format. Jorge Jesus used Andre Almeida instead of Lorenzo Malgarejo at left-back, while Ola John returned with Oscar Cardozo on the bench. This was a very scrappy game with relatively little technical quality or tactical surprises.” Zonal Marking

Altidore has found his form at AZ, but is he headed for another move?

“Jozy Altidore’s European club season is over, and the final eye-popping numbers are in: 31 goals in all competitions for AZ Alkmaar, including 23 league strikes and eight in the Dutch Cup, which AZ won last week with Altidore scoring the game-winner. AZ did struggle in the Dutch league, finishing a disappointing 10th, but the 23-year-old Altidore’s 31 goals broke Clint Dempsey’s year-old record for goals scored in a European club season by a U.S. national team player.” SI

How life (and death) change Egyptian soccer and its American coach

“Bob Bradley wasn’t looking for an adventure as much as he was looking for a job after being fired as coach of the U.S. soccer team two years ago. But in Egypt he found both. When Bradley arrived in the fall of 2011 to take over Egypt’s national soccer program, the country was teetering between revolution and rebellion. The Arab Spring uprising had already unseated longtime leader Hosni Mubarak, and five months after Bradley began work a deadly riot broke out at an Egyptian Premier League match, killing 74.” LA Times

Fulham 1 Liverpool 3: In-Depth Tactical Analysis

“After last week’s debacle against Reading, Martin Jol refreshed the team with a couple of changes. Hughes replaced Senderos at the back, with Richardson stepping in to replace Riise at left back. After his impressive cameo, Kacaniklic was handed a start here, with Emanuelson benched. Karagounis was fit, so he continued in midfield. With Agger and Gerrard allowed to start their rehabilitation early, changes were bound to happen. Coates and Shelvey came in, with Wisdom replacing Enrique. But instead of reshuffling the pack within the usual 4-2-3-1 shape, Rodgers went back to experimenting with a sort of 3-5-2 (which, to be specific, was more like a 3-1-4-1-1).” Tomkins Times

Why Real Madrid Need Zlatan to Make Great Leap Forward

“Winning the Spanish League used to be a significant achievement. It used to be tough. But ever since Real Madrid and Barcelona’s financial superiority ruled everyone else out of the running, La Primera title race has become a bit of a snore-fest. In 2010, when Barcelona reached the 99-point barrier to win the title, we gasped. Two years later, their rivals in the Spanish capital beat it by one point to reach the century mark, and we applauded. Barcelona are on track to repeat the feat this season, and in all honesty we have yawned and moved on.” Bleacher Report

The Bringer Of Famine

“Today, the goalkeeper seems eternal. It feels natural that a team should be made of ten plus one, that behind the outfielders scurrying in their or striker less there should be an unspoken other, his place so taken for granted that nobody even bothers to refer to it when discussing formations. That, though, is a relatively modern phenomenon. When the game that would evolve into football began with the foundation of the Football Association in 1863, there was no such thing as a goalkeeper in the modern sense.” [PDF] The Outsider

Ten Scenes From The FA Cup Final

1932 FA Cup Final
“This afternoon at the mildly absurd time of 5.15, Manchester City and Wigan Athletic will kick off in the one hundred and thirty-second FA Cup final and, much as the old trophy has frequently been debased in recent years, it still has a rich history upon which we can draw. What follows is listed chronologically (partly out of a mild degree of Saturday morning laziness, and partly because, well, how do you compare a middle-aged man running onto a football pitch and evading his would-be captors with a penalty save or a match that would prove pivotal in the entire history of the game?), and we should also take a moment anybody with any complaints about this list should bear in mind that this list was plucked almost at random, with a hangover, at ten o’clock on Saturday morning.” twohundredpercent

Sunderland, Stokoe, Montgomery: football would never be the same again

“At a little before quarter to five on 5 May 1973, Ken Burns raised his left hand into the air, lifted his whistle to his lips and blew. Across Wearside, there was a scream of relief. At Wembley, Bob Stokoe got uncertainly to his feet, adjusted his trilby on his head and set off on an uneasy jog towards Jim Montgomery. On the terraces, fans who had been whistling desperately for the end for at least 10 minutes could at last celebrate. And amid it all, my dad always said, he felt a shaft of sadness as the realisation struck that football could never be this good again.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

The Beautiful Game behind the Iron Curtain

“If I were to walk into a bar in England, Spain or any of the ‘big’ football nations of the world, and tried to start a conversation about Russian football, the dialogue would most likely sway towards one of three topics: 1) Racist fans 2) ‘The team that Eto’o plays for’ (Anzhi Makhachkala 3) Roman Abramovich. Perhaps past images of communism, dictatorship and war prelude the fine standard of football Russians are treated to week in, week out. Or perhaps maybe people just don’t care much for football that isn’t shown on prime time television. Whatever the reason, millions are missing out on the superb action taking place in the former USSR.” Outside of the Boot

What should we make of Barcelona’s La Liga title?

“The past few weeks have been full of Barcelona’s players and staff emphasising that any feeling that the title victory isn’t all that impressive, that it doesn’t need to be properly celebrated or appreciated is false. They have taken turns, Andres Iniesta, Jordi Roura, Gerard Pique and a handful of other voices, to dispel the idea that because the second half of the season hasn’t been nearly as impressive as the first, and because the Champions League semifinal was humiliating, the initial work is in any way undermined. Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. To me, this title — won Saturday after Real Madrid drew 1-1 with Espanyol — will potentially become an acquired taste, like fish, gorgonzola or coffee when you are a kid. Not necessarily easy to understand but richer the older you get.” ESPN

Liverpool 0 Everton 0: In-Depth Tactical Analysis

“Neither manager made big changes either in terms of formation or personnel, based on their previous games. Liverpool were unchanged from the last game at Newcastle. For the visitors, Moyes made only one change, welcoming back Gibson to play alongside Osman in midfield. With Fellaini pushed forward, Jelavic had to make way and was benched. The formation was the usual 4-4-1-1, having played with 4-4-2 last week against Fulham.” Tomkins Times

Chelsea 2-2 Tottenham: Villas-Boas uses subs well, Benitez doesn’t react decisively

“Tottenham twice came back from behind in an exciting, open game at Stamford Bridge. Rafael Benitez selected Fernando Torres upfront, and David Luiz as a deep-lying midfielder, so Branislav Ivanovic partnered Gary Cahill in the centre. Andre Villas-Boas was without Mousa Dembele, so Scott Parker played alongside Tom Huddlestone. Upfront, Emmanuel Adebayor got the nod over Jermain Defoe. Tottenham dominated possession, but in terms of creativity Chelsea had the upper hand in midfield, and Tottenham needed Villas-Boas’ substitutions to snatch a point.” Zonal Marking

Alex Ferguson was as adept at evolving tactically as any manager in history

“Perhaps Sir Alex Ferguson’s greatest gift, certainly the one that has maintained him at the top of the British game for 35 years, has been his ability to evolve. No side he has managed has ever been good enough to satisfy him; he has always been willing to cut and adapt. Probably the most shocking change came in 2000. United had won the Treble the previous season and they were 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League when they met Real Madrid in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. No game since the Premier League came into being has arguably had such tactical ramifications.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson (Video)

End of an era as Ferguson calls it quits
“One of the most momentous eras in world club football is about to draw to a close with the retirement, in 11 days’ time, of Sir Alex Ferguson as manager of Manchester United. United confirmed his departure – to become a director and club ambassador – after a rush of sudden overnight speculation.” World Soccer

Alex Ferguson retires: Manchester United prepare for life with David Moyes but aura of a ‘mad man’ will remain
” All that drive, all that competitiveness, all those early starts to get on with plotting campaigns and all those late nights to keep on plotting triumphant campaigns. All the teams built and rebuilt, all those rivals seen off and trophies claimed. Ferguson slept little and won loads. Year after year, season after season. And now it is over. English football will seem so different in the post-Ferguson era. It will feel like Trafalgar Square without Nelson. As a manager, Ferguson was inimitable. David Moyes, a sound appointment as his successor, must be himself when assuming control of Manchester United, not seeking to replicate his more illustrious compatriot.” Telegraph – Henry Winter

A Few Thoughts on Ferguson
“We’ve been preoccupied with term papers the last few weeks, but this is important. Alex Ferguson retired this morning, meaning that the long summer we’ve grown accustomed to slipped into Winter before we even had a chance to catch up on Doomsday Preppers. Ferguson, austerity embodied, was never the type to arouse any sort of intense passion. Besides a few Chicharito-induced flirtations, notable for being as fervent as they were fleeting, I had no relationship with Manchester United, nor any practical concern for their well-being. To a certain extent, that’s a result of the indifference that follows unattached fans, but perhaps more so, evidence of my casual disdain for successful clubs.” Futbol Intellect

Sir Alex Ferguson’s highs and lows
“Even when reaching the standards that Sir Alex Ferguson has maintained at Manchester United, there have been moments of crashing disappointment that match the crazed highs. Ferguson, though, has used the failures as fuel to fire his successes.” ESPN (Video)

David Moyes a safe choice for Manchester United but comes with risk
“There is a paradox in the employment market, something anybody who has ever applied for a first job, or tried to step up to the next level in their chosen career will have experienced — and that is the issue of experience. It’s understandable that employers want employees who have experience, but if you haven’t got it, how are you supposed to get it if nobody will give you a job without it?” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Man United Alex Ferguson retiring at end of season
“Alex Ferguson is retiring at the end of the season, bringing a close to a trophy-filled career of more than 26 years at Manchester United that established him as the most successful coach in British football history.” SI (Video)

Dortmund: The Class of 97

“Football Hipsters rejoice! Borussia Dortmund are into the Champions League final! Even more brilliantly for those ‘Bundesliga-philes’ out there, they are taking on league rivals Bayern Munich, a team many are tipping to claim Barcelona’s throne as the most exciting and dominant team in European football for the foreseeable future. ‘FC Hollywood’, as Bayern are known by many fans are exactly that – a team of stars to rival the great.” Outside of the Boot

What has happened to Mainz?

“After looking to be heading towards a European spot before the winter break, 1. FSV Mainz have become one of the most inconsistent team in the Bundesliga and have slipped to tenth in the League with two matches remaining, winning just once since January. Coach Thomas Tuchel’s Mainz ended the Hinrunde on a high note, beating VfB Stuttgart 3-1 in December and held the sixth position going into winter break with an 8-2-7 mark (albeit only by a point over Schalke, Borussia Mönchengladbach and the Swabians). Thus, the question is; where did it all go wrong?” Bundesliga Fanatic

UEFA Prize Money – Rhapsody In Blue

Chelsea's Juan Mata celebrates scoring during his side's 4-2 Premier League win at Tottenham Hotspur
“The Europa League has long been regarded by leading clubs as a poor relation to the far more lucrative Champions League, but Chelsea’s prodigious efforts after parachuting in to the junior competition might just give pause for thought, as they will end up earning more from Europe this season than any other English club. Although they earned €5 million less than Manchester United from the Champions League after exiting at the group stage, they will receive at least €6.5 million from the Europa League, even if they lose the final. If they repeat last season’s victory in the Champions League, the sum earned will rise to around €9 million.” The Swiss Ramble

An Andalusian Summer Of Magico

“While South Americans have dominated Spanish soccer for decades, much rarer is the successful player from the Northern half of the hemisphere. For every successful Mexican like Hugo Sanchez and Rafa Marquez, a disappointing Omar Bravo returns home with his tail firmly tucked between his legs. For Central Americans, the numbers are even sparser. And that’s why Jorge Alberto “Magico” Gonzalez’s 1983 season at Cadiz was so unforgettable.” In Bed With Maradona

Tactical Analysis: Do Chelsea need to play with more width?

“There have been a number of issues with Chelsea this season which saw them go from league contenders to trying to ensure a top four finish in the space of half a season. Chelsea have a lot of quality in their squad as they have shown by taking 16 points from a possible 24 in their 8 fixtures against top 6 opposition this season. But, one lingering weakness has been a consistent lack of width in their side.” Think Football

Manchester United 0-1 Chelsea : Tactical Analysis

“On Sunday, the 5th of May, Chelsea traveled to Old Trafford, in what was a crucial game for the Blues, as the pressure was on them to produce a result. The freshly crowned champions of England had a point to prove to Chelsea, who had dumped them out of both domestic cup competitions earlier in the season. The home side lined up in a 4-2-3-1 with Lindegaard given a go in goal. The back 4 consisted of Evans, Vidic, Rafael and Patrice Evra. Tom Cleverly and Phil Jones were played in midfield, with Anderson pushed slightly higher up the pitch. van Persie was the striker, and Giggs and Valencia started on the wings.” Outside of the Boot

Football needs a moral vision

“Corruption is an unpleasant crime, and its widespread effects are invariably socially corrosive. Then again, until recently European firms almost had an incentive to pay bribes in order to secure contracts in the developing world; they could write off such payments against tax. Joao Havelange resigned last week as honorary president of FIFA, in the wake of irrefutable evidence that his hand was in the cookie jar, helping itself to bribes from collapsed sports marketing company ISL. The British press have led an aggressive anti-FIFA campaign and hence might be disappointed then to see the low key way the news of Havelange’s resignation was been treated in many parts of the world.” Tim Vickery

Manchester United – Higher Than The Sun

“The week after they clinched the Premier League title, Manchester United announced record third quarter turnover of £91.7 million, more than 13 clubs in England’s top flight achieved in the whole of the 2011/12 season. To further place United’s incredible ability to generate revenue into context, this quarterly result was about the same as Newcastle United’s revenue last season – and Newcastle have the seventh highest revenue in England.” Swiss Ramble

Hi Xavi :)

“Hello old friend, Now and then I say to myself that time is the wind that blows the seeds of a dandelion. We begin in one place, in a golden flower, but the months and years carry us where they will. Perhaps we land in the sidewalk crack beneath the giant poster for Iron Man 3 near the bench where I am sitting in Manhattan, across from the Qdoba, in the sun, where we put down new roots and flourish. Or perhaps we are blown into an industrial intake fan and chopped into 500 pieces. A lot of things can happen, in time. 🙂 Wenger, Xavi — Wenger never understood this. … Yours affectionately, Pep :)” Grantland – Brian Phillips

Would Neymar be a success at Barcelona or should he move elsewhere?

“What a turnaround 2 years can make. The all conquering Catalans, having previously been hailed ‘the best team ever to grace the football pitch’ are no longer as dominant as we were so used to seeing. Despite their continued success in their domestic league (on the verge of claiming their 4th La Liga crown in 5 seasons), there are still so many questions which are being raised, particularly in light of their humiliating defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League. This season they looked unstoppable, at least at the beginning winning 22 games out of their first 23. However, things have since unraveled somewhat. Dumped out of the Champions League in such a humiliating fashion and losing to Madrid in the Copa Del Rey, things don’t look quite as comfortable anymore.” Think Football

Barcelona 0-3 Bayern: Bayern untroubled at the back & consistently dangerous down the flanks

“Bayern produced another highly impressive performance to qualify for the Champions League final with ease. Tito Vilanova decided not to risk the half-fit Lionel Messi, so Cesc Fabregas played as the false nine. David Villa replaced Alexis Sanchez, while Alex Song was in for the injured Sergio Busquets, and Adriano for the suspended Jordi Alba. Jupp Heynckes brought back Mario Mandzukic for Mario Gomez, and Daniel van Buyten played rather than Dante. Bayern replicated last week’s second half performance – they pressed before retreating into a solid defensive shape, then counter-attacked expertly.” Zonal Marking

Bayern Munich outclasses Barcelona en route to Champions League final
” Arjen Robben finished the tie off three minutes after halftime at Camp Nou, but in truth, it was finished a week ago at Allianz Arena. Bayern Munich completed the task, a 3-0 win and 7-0 aggregate, with rather less alarm than Borussia Dortmund had against Real Madrid the previous night, and so there will be, as had always seemed likely after the first legs, an all-German Champions League final. The astonishing thing about this Barcelona side is how far it has fallen and how fast. With Lionel Messi consigned to the bench by his hamstring injury, Barca was flat and, essentially, devoid of hope. What was startling in Munich last week was not that it lost; this is, after all, an exceptional Bayern team, but how it lost discipline, how it allowed the tie to be ended in the first leg.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Early look at what to watch in all-German Champions League final

“1. The (future) ex-factor. Mario Götze, Dortmund’s playmaker, is off to Bayern in the summer. Robert Lewandowski, Dortmund’s center forward, has (off the record) agreed to join Bayern, either this summer (should Dortmund release him) or next. Götze is in a race to recover from a hamstring tear in time for the showdown in North London, but conspiracy theorists will have a field day if any of the two take the pitch. Will they have divided loyalties, can they be relied upon to give their all for their old team against their new ones?” SI

Real Madrid 2-0 Dortmund: Modric finds his role and Real’s Plan B increases the pressure

“Real Madrid created enough chances to get back in the tie, but Dortmund progress to the final. Jose Mourinho left out Sami Khedira to field a very technical midfield trio, while Angel Di Maria and Michael Essien returned, and Sergio Ramos was back in the centre of defence. Jurgen Klopp unsurprisingly named an unchanged starting XI from the first leg, although was forced to replace the injured Mario Gotze with Kevin Grosskreutz early on, with Marco Reus moving to a central role. Real’s starting shape resulted in an early spell of pressure – and their Plan B caused problems too.” Zonal Marking

When Rachid Mekhloufi took the struggle for Algerian independence to the pitch

“In April 1958, Rachid Mekhloufi, the great St. Etienne striker was 21 years old. Mekhloufi along with nine other players, left their careers in France and returned to Tunis to comprise the first FLN squad. They were playing for a country that did not yet exist. Algeria was in the beginnings of an uprising against its’ colonizer France. Their move would be analyzed, critiqued and applauded by many.” A Football Report

“From Meghni to Yebda, the French academy system has produced many players who have represented Algeria. Long before Algeria’s independence, though, it wasn’t quite so easy. Juliet Jacques looks at early French-Algerian relations in football. In April 1958, Rachid Mekhloufi stood on the brink of international superstardom. Having scored 25 goals in thirty games to help AS SaintÉtienne win their first Championnat the year before, Mekhloufi was about to win his fifth France cap in a friendly against Switzerland, with coach Paul Nicolas including him in the forty-man preselection for Les Bleus’ highly fancied World Cup squad.”
Spiel Magazine

Football Rebels: Mekhloufi and the FLN team
“The FLN football team raised the profile of Algeria’s independence movement. And Rachid Mekhloufi was one of the brave men who refused to play for France. French footballing legend Eric Cantona presents the next part of Al Jazeera’s Football Rebels series.” Aljazeera (Video)

Serie A’s battle for third down to Milan, Fiorentina

“OK, hands up, who remembers Serie A? After a fortnight where the major talking point has been the Bundesliga’s dominance over La Liga — with the Premier League chipping in with some end-of-season awards — Italian football has taken a backseat. It’s a position Italy has increasingly become accustomed to. Once revered as the finest league in Europe, there’s still much to recommend Serie A — but the UEFA coefficients now firmly rank it as the fourth-best league in Europe. Serie A boasts no semifinalists in either the Champions League or the Europa League, and it has featured an exciting title fight. Juventus have been on course for the title throughout the campaign, effectively ending the contest with their 1-1 draw away at closest challengers Napoli, who will finish second. Attention has turned to the battle for third.” ESPN – Michael Cox

Should Liverpool Sell Suarez?

“With his bags of skills and sheer quality on the pitch, it is hardly of any surprise that Luis Suarez is attracting so much attention from the top dogs of the European Football fraternity. Liverpool managed to repel off buyers only as recently as last summer, but their failure in qualifying for the Champions League this season too poses the stern question that will they manage to pull that off again this time? On Suarez’s part, will he give in to the lucrative offers of the Champions League clubs or stay back trying to help Liverpool in the pursuit of that elusive top 4 finish? Not to mention his perceived mistreatment in England by the authorities and media.” Outside of the Boot