Monthly Archives: August 2014

Dynamo Moscow looking to rise again in the Russian Premier League

“As the characteristic cold air engulfs the stadium and snow relentlessly falls onto the names on the back of shirts, the hazardous weather continuously threatens to disrupt the natural flow of a game. The severity of the climate change is a stark reality check for those who bravely attempt to forge out a footballing career in the unforgiving terrain of Eastern Europe. The difficulties involved in adapting to this harsh footballing environment pertain to more than just the extremities of the weather conditions. Political imbalances and power struggles have long been associated with sport in this corner of the earth. Despite these negative perceptions the potential ceiling is relatively high.” Outside of the Boot


Why is Louis van Gaal so hell-bent on using 3-5-2 at Manchester United?

“The question, often, is not the what or the how but the why. On Sunday, after Manchester United had staggered to a 1-1 draw against Sunderland and Queens Park Rangers had been hammered 4-0 by Tottenham, there was much carping about 3-5-2, the formation United had used in taking one point from their first two Premier League games of the season, and QPR in losing both their opening matches.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

The smallest team in the Bundesliga employs an ex-con and plays in a tin box and you should root for them

“Of all the storylines poised to develop during the 2014-15 Bundesliga season — Is Dortmund’s spending spree enough to bring them level with Bayern? (No.) Will Robert Lewandowski come back to haunt his former team? (Yes.) Can Borussia Mönchengladbach or VfL Wolfsburg push for the Champions League? (No.) Will Hamburger SV remain terrible? (Yes.) — the one I’m most excited about is the promotion of little SC Paderborn 07. Can the mouse roar? (Maybe!)” Fusion

Brits or Foreigners: Who Are Better Buys?

“A couple of years ago, with the aid of Graeme Riley’s immense database, I devised the Transfer Price Index Coefficient (TPIC), as a means of measuring transfer success rates. Our work together with TPI – which converts all transfer fees to ‘current day money’ with an index-based inflation model – led to so many possibilities beyond its initial aim, as it evens up the most expensive signings of, say, 1994 with 2003 and 2014; so that rather than £5m – which was the transfer record 20 years ago – you can ‘see’ it as a value that makes sense in today’s market. (Chris Sutton’s move to Blackburn now equates to £28.7m.)” Tomkins Times

Serie A preview: Juventus face new challenges for fourth straight title

“Last season, Juventus won Serie A by 17 points. The season before, Juventus won Serie A by nine points. The season before that, Juventus won Serie A by four points. Juventus is the best-placed Italian club (ninth overall) in the 2014 Deloitte Money League, a ranking of Europe’s top-earning clubs. It’s Italy’s biggest club and recent record suggests it has the best squad. The only question in Serie A is whether anybody can prevent Juve making it four in a row.” SI – Jonathan Wilson (Video)

Season of firsts lays ahead for Gibraltar

“Since May 24th, 2013, the Gibraltar national football team have achieved many firsts, and have written their names into the history books. On November 19th of that year, Allen Bula’s squad represented the British colony in their first official UEFA fixture against Slovakia, earning a commendable 0-0 draw. Against the Faroe Islands in March of the following year, Roy Chipolina scored their first official goal in a 4-1 loss and three months later a strike from Kyle Casciaro earned Gibraltar a first official win against Malta. Next month, the national team will reach another milestone when they line up against Poland for their first official qualifier for Euro 2016 in France.” backpagefootball

The end of the Rafa Benitez revolution at Napoli?

“At the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao there’s an olive tree. Tourists write down their wishes on pieces of paper and tie them to its branches. Before the second leg of his team’s Champions League play-off on Wednesday night, Napoli owner Aurelio de Laurentiis made one of his own. His wish? ‘That Napoli win against Athletic.’ No Italian team had ever claimed victory at San Mames but Napoli coach Rafa Benitez was defiant before the game: ‘We aren’t here to be the victim,’ he said on the eve of the game, which began with the two sides level 1-1 on aggregate.” ESPN

Florentino Perez sold the two players who held Real Madrid together, is an idiot

“Florentino Perez is an idiot. In a span of two days Real Madrid sold Angel Di Maria and Xabi Alonso, arguably the two most important players (outside of Cristiano Ronaldo, of course) in last year’s historic Champions League and Copa del Rey double. It’s just the latest depressing sign that, at the Bernabeu and especially in President Florentino Perez’s mind, splashy headlines and #marketing always trump the on-the-field necessities of the team. If you took a time machine way back to Oct. 26, 2013 you would be surprised to see that as Real Madrid visited Barcelona for the first Clasico of the season, the team was mired in doubts and confusion.” Fusion

Five things we learned from Manchester City v Liverpool

“A fully fit Stevan Jovetic will be exciting to watch. Those who knew Stevan Jovetic before he joined Manchester City in the summer of 2013 would have been fully aware of the reasons why he commanded a fee of £22 million. However, his first season at the Etihad Stadium was badly interrupted by injury with the Montenegrin forward playing just 16 times in all competitions, mostly as a substitute. It didn’t take long for the gutter press to label Jovetic a flop but the 24-year-old worked hard to get back to full fitness and was arguably City’s standout performer during preseason. With Sergio Aguero still overcoming his own niggles, Jovetic has been given the nod to play alongside Edin Dzeko up front to start the season and, after a strong showing against Newcastle United in City’s opening game, he showed exactly what he is capable of against Liverpool.” backpagefootball

Tactical Analysis: Manchester City 3-1 Liverpool | Efficient champions pounce on errors
“Manchester City 3-1 Liverpool | The top two from the previous campaign met for the first time this season. The two fixtures between them in 2013/14 were at crucial moments of the season. This result doesn’t mean much at the moment, but could be a potential 6 point winner for City come the end of the season.” Outside of the Boot

Get Familiar: Manchester City Crush Liverpool With Continuity
“Big games this early are weird. Does anybody remember last year, when José Mourinho went into Old Trafford and turned the game into mud in Week 2? He was happy to walk away with a road point against mighty Manchester United. A month later, United lost to West Bromwich Albion at home, and the wheels started to come off. It’s August. The transfer window is still open, pieces are still coming together, or falling apart. Mario Balotelli is still sitting in the stands showing off his scarf game.” Grantland

Van Gaal’s tactical evolution

“Louis van Gaal has begun his time in charge of Manchester United by playing a 3-4-1-2 formation, an alignment with which he enjoyed success as Netherlands manager at the World Cup. ‘Success’ must be qualified, of course — the Netherlands came third. However, it was a dramatically better performance than was expected, as many tipped them to finish behind Chile and Spain in the group stage. In the end, only a defeat to Argentina on penalties denied them a second consecutive appearance in the final.” ESPN – Michael Cox

Commercialisation, PR stunts & bullying. Are Barcelona still ‘more than a club’?

“Translated to English to mean ‘more than a club’, Mes Que Un Club is a phrase proudly printed across the seats in the middle tier of the Nou Camp stadium, and one that has become globally renowned as Barcelona’s mantra. In the era of modern football where money has become an increasingly key factor in whether a team is successful, Barcelona certainly were deserving of this ‘more than a club’ tag.” Outside of the Boot

10 Potential Olivier Giroud Replacements – It Ain’t Pretty

“Olivier Giroud is likely out for three months with a hairline fracture. Yaya Sanogo has often been injured in his short spell at the club, but might just be healthy enough to participate in the midweek Champions League Qualifier. The entire world is on the fence about whether or not Alexis Sanchez can succeed playing through the middle in the Premier League. This leaves Arsene Wenger in a huge bind. He has zero healthy, recognized center forwards in his squad right now, Olivier Giroud is probably out for a minimum of three months, and the transfer window closes in under a week. This is a better situation than if the transfer window had already closed, but there is some desperate shopping to be done.” Statsbomb

Eight Talking Points from Match Day 1

“The Bundesliga is back for a new season and there was already plenty to talk about after the first round of matches. Bayern München unsurprisingly started the season off with a tricky victory against Wolfsburg while Borussia Dortmund disappointed after losing at home to a promising Leverkusen side. Meanwhile, SC Paderborn recorded their first ever Bundesliga point with a draw against Mainz. Here are eight talking points from match day One. The Bundesliga is back!” Bundesliga Fanatic

Five things we learned from Ligue 1 this week

“Sagnol’s Bordeaux make it three wins out of three. It appears that a complete turnaround is on the cards at Girondins de Bordeaux, thanks to the changes ex-France under-21 coach Willy Sagnol has brought to the club since his appointment. The 2013-2014 season was at times completely dismal for the six-time French league champions, with the club winning just over a third of their matches and suffering the most embarrassing of Coupe de France exits when they went out on penalties against CFA 2 (French football’s fifth tier) side FB Île-Rousse on penalties after a stalemate.” backpagefootball

Dortmund building Arsenal-like empire

“It would be an exaggeration to describe 2014-15 as a genuinely new era for Borussia Dortmund, but they’re set to embark upon another phase in their exciting adventure as one of Europe’s most revered sides. To be specific, this is the third phase — and potentially the most interesting so far. The first phase was simple — it was Dortmund’s sudden transformation into Germany’s most complete side. In 2010-11, Dortmund took a huge leap from fifth the previous campaign and become the Bundesliga’s best team almost overnight, without much warning or a significant intermediary step.” ESPN – Michael Cox

Tactical Analysis: Everton 2-2 Arsenal | Giroud adds final third efficiency

“Everton 2-2 Arsenal | Everton have had the edge against the North Londoners in recent times, with their last meeting at Goodison ending in a comfortable 3-0 win for the Toffees. Martinez and co. looked for an encore, but Arsene Wenger and his team showed a new resolve to claw back from 2 down, and rescue a point.” Outside of the Boot

Borussia Dortmund, Atlético Madrid, and the Art of Talent Scavenging

“Spain and Germany kick off their seasons this weekend. The two leagues have a tremendous amount in common. They’re both top-heavy, frequently dominated by clubs with deep pockets (Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spain, Bayern Munich in Germany). But in both La Liga and the Bundesliga, two teams have emerged from the middle class to consistently challenge the hierarchy.” Grantland

The Racist, Homophobic, Xenophobic Text-Message Scandal Rocking English Football

“A few days ago, the contents of two letters sent to the English Football Association — detailing offensive text messages between Malcolm ‘Malky’ Mackay and Crystal Palace executive Iain Moody — hit the news. The inflammatory nature of the texts throws Crystal Palace’s already rocky season into a chaotic jumble and threatens the future employment prospects of Mackay and Moody. It is a ragged and roiling shit show. So, let’s talk about it.” Grantland

Optimism springs eternal as club football rolls back into town

SV Werder Bremen v FC Chelsea - Pre Season Friendly
“I confess that it has not been easy to put the 2014 World Cup behind me and focus once more on club football. Part of that, of course, is that the party happened on my (adopted) doorstep, and I had a grandstand view. But there is something else. Nationalism can be a dangerous force. But in the heat of a giant tournament there is so much to celebrate in national team football. It is not so much ‘my country is always right.’ It is more a case of ‘my country fitting into a global context’ – a much more healthy way of looking at the world. I enjoy the power of representation that national team football engenders, and love the fact that this is a forum where the likes of Uruguay and Costa Rica can be competitive. It is striking how in the world of national teams the playing field is levelled. True, the last two World Cups were won by Germany and Spain, countries with powerful domestic leagues. The same, though, is not really true of Algeria, which pushed the Germans hard in that second round match in Porto Alegre. Many of the Algerian squad, though, have grown up in France, where they have benefited from a welfare state and from local facilities and coaching.” The World Game – Tim Vickery

A new team taking on their manager’s identity

“With a host of new managers getting ready to lead their charges into a new Premier League season with new signings, the memories of departed players and plenty of new tactics and ambition, the hope is that each club selected their new leader wisely. From Ronald Koeman at Southampton to Louis van Gaal at Manchester United, these coaches will be looking to stamp their authority as soon as possible, and some already have.” backpagefootball

In Belo Horizonte, Cruzeiro fans turn to their club to forget World Cup rout

No other graveyard in the world could be this festive, this crowded, this loud. The Estádio Mineirão, where Brazil’s World Cup hopes were cut to pieces—seven, to be precise, one for each German goal—and buried without honor, is ablaze with life. A crowd that will swell to 42,000 is on its feet, waving huge blue-and-white flags and chanting to the insistent beat of bass drums. And the game hasn’t even started. Barely five weeks after the most humiliating home loss ever suffered by a World Cup contender, soccer fans here are again finding hope and joy in the game. That’s partly because, in a fine bit of redemptive irony, the Mineirão is the home pitch of Brazil’s best football club: Cruzeiro, the defending first-division champion and a favorite to repeat. And on this overcast Sunday afternoon it’s hosting a solid side from Santos, Pelé’s old team, newly fortified by the return to Brazil of Robinho.” SI

Has Rojo fixed Man United’s defensive woes?

“In the lull between the World Cup and the new Premier League season, Manchester United were linked with moves for centre-backs Mats Hummels and Mehdi Benatia. On Wednesday evening, however, the former champions secured the signature of Marcos Rojo from Sporting Club, but some may feel he was not quite the household name supporters were pining for.” Pitchside Europe

Celtic manager Ronny Deila urges authorities to look at Scandinavian model when scheduling league calendar

“As Ronny Deila prepares his Celtic side for Tuesday’s crucial return leg of the Champions League play-off against Maribor – at stake is a place in the group stage for the third successive season – the Parkhead manager called for Scottish football to give itself a better chance of European success by moving the domestic season into line with the Scandinavian leagues. Deila has made plain his concern about Celtic’s pre-season commitments – he claimed that they contributed to player fatigue in the 6-1 qualifying defeat against Legia Warsaw, which was overturned because the Poles fielded an ineligible player – and he expanded the theme when musing upon the implications of success against Maribor.” Telegraph

Balotelli: A Bold Move, Or Virtual Insanity?

“Wow, I genuinely didn’t see this coming. The first word I associate with Mario Balotelli is bargepole. As in, don’t go near him with one. That said, £16m for his talent is a steal. But why are AC Milan letting him go quite so cheaply? Once penalties are excluded he has a very good goalscoring record there in a poor team (with penalties it’s an excellent record, but Steven Gerrard still takes Liverpool’s spot-kicks). Why do people keep offloading him? Why always him? Obviously he may now be starting to grow up; but frankly, he needs to.” Tomkins Times

Balotelli is good business for Liverpool
“Few things polarize social media like the terms “Liverpool” and “Mario Balotelli.” So when news broke Thursday that the Italy striker appeared to be on his way to Anfield, the subsequent Twitterstorm was predictable. On Monday, I made the point that Liverpool didn’t need another high-profile striker, that Brendan Rodgers likely felt he’d be best served with the one-forward system he used for most of his managerial career and that, if he were going to add an option up front, it made sense for it to be a youngster or a mid-range squad player, rather than someone in the Edinson Cavani/Radamel Falcao bracket.” ESPN

PSG’s weakness: Ligue 1 champions have a thin squad & lack of options

“After the dismal draw at Reims, the Cavani-Ibrahimovic debate rages on. Cavani’s somewhat quiet performance adds further evidence to the debate, can PSG really fit two of World football’s heavyweights into their team? With Blanc’s 4-3-3 formation one of the superstars has had to budge out to the wing. The real question is whether Edison Cavani can produce his best form on the wing rather than through the centre. His performances seem to show this, likewise his goal tallies too- 16 goals last season on the wing for PSG; compared to a staggering 38 in his last season in Naples.” Outside of the Boot

La Liga Preview: Barcelona, Real Madrid spend big to combat Atletico

“James Rodriguez, to Gareth Bale, to Cristiano Ronaldo: Goal. It took less than 10 minutes for three of Real Madrid’s world-class stars to combine for the first goal in the European champion’s 2-0 UEFA SuperCup win over Europa League winner Sevilla last week while sending out a clear message. Real Madrid’s summer showings, in which fellow new signing Toni Kroos has also been outstanding in a midfield three, announced to its La Liga rivals that the reigning Champions League winner is not taking the upcoming campaign lightly. But if you were expecting, after last season’s dramatic title triumph by Atletico Madrid, normal service in La Liga to resume and that the league would return to a two-horse race between Real and Barcelona, you may be surprised. Let’s look at the contenders ahead of this weekend’s season-opening matches…” SI

Borussia Dortmund Tactical Preview: How will Jurgen Klopp’s side set up in the 2014-15 season?

“Formation | How will they set-up? The structure, which does look like a 4-4-2 at times, is actually the same 4-2-3-1 set on a more asymmetrical base. The formation seems to lean towards an attacking outlet (which was Aubameyang through most of pre-season). The more advanced placement of one of the wide players gives the appearance of a second man alongside the striker.” Outside of the Boot

Match of the Day: 50 years of broadcasting celebration

Match of the Day’s five main presenters from 1964 to the present day
“The BBC will celebrate 50 years of its iconic football television show Match of the Day with a special programme on Friday at 22:35 BST on BBC One. Packed with classic archive material, it charts the evolution of football’s most famous programme and features new contributions from a host of footballing glitterati, including Jose Mourinho, Ryan Giggs, Thierry Henry, Gary Lineker, Wayne Rooney, Des Lynam and Alan Hansen. As part of the celebrations, legendary commentator Barry Davies will make a one-off special return for the Crystal Palace v West Ham match.” BBC

The Case Against Bayern

“Two seasons ago, Bayern won the Bundesliga by 25 points. Last season: by March. Bayern blamed its late season failure versus Real Madrid on an uncompetitive league season. Other Bundesliga clubs will hope the statement ‘Be careful what you wish for’ rings true. Bayern have not won the last two Bundesliga seasons after the World Cup (2007 – Stuttgart, 2011 – Dortmund). Bayern is rightly favorites but if this trend were to hold true, what would be the causes of Bayern’s failure? There is currently an injury crisis in Bayern. Thiago, Javi Martinez, Mitchell Weiser, and Rafinha have injuries ranging from multiple weeks to multiple months. Javi Martinez is the strongest defensive midfielder and also moonlights as a central back. Losing Javi Martinez is essentially losing two players.” Bundesliga Fanatic

Barcelona v Elche: With Luis Suarez absent, defence will be key

“Barcelona’s signing of Luis Suarez from Liverpool was arguably the biggest deal of the summer. But, given the Uruguayan cannot play until late October, it could be Luis Enrique’s defensive reinforcements that make the difference as they look to win back the Liga title. The club’s first trophyless season in six years has sparked an overhaul with new coach Enrique bringing in fresh faces for many positions ahead of a campaign that kicks off on Saturday; Barca’s opener against Elche is on Sunday night.” Yahoo

The Navigator Finds His Way

“There are times when interviewing footballers feels like trying to squeeze blood out of a stone. They bombard you with meaningless clichés about taking things one game at a time – as if it’s possible to take it two games at a time. A Mamelodi Sundowns player, caught up in this robotic speak, once declared he was happy that his team got the three points they were looking for after they had won a cup game. That player wasn’t Teko Modise. In fact, the two-time PSL footballer of the year is a pleasure to interview with his candid nature, insight and engaging personality. It’s a skill the 31-year-old honed at a young age.” The Con

Sound the Alarm? Which Premier League Teams Need to Worry, After One Week

“One weekend of Premier League action is in the books. The most important word in that sentence is ‘one.’ It’s easy to get so amped up for the first week that even the smallest hiccups can loom large in the fan’s imagination. It can be difficult to tell the difference between an insignificant blip and the beginning of a long-term problem. To help, here’s a handy Week 1 alarm-o-meter, to help keep things in proper perspective.” Grantland (Video)

Crimean cup teams could cost Russia the right to host 2018 World Cup

“Last Tuesday SKChF Sevastopol won 2-0 away at TSK Simferopol while Zhemchuzhina Yalta went down 2-0 at home to Sochi in the first round of the Russian Cup. On Saturday the winners of the two ties met, SKChF advancing to the third round on penalties after a goalless draw. Their reward is a home tie against Taganrog to be played on Friday. In themselves there is nothing particularly remarkable about those results, although SkChF were fined 30,000 roubles (£500) after their fans invaded the pitch at TSK (who were fined 10,000 roubles for failing to keep spectators off the pitch). But context is everything: SKChF Sevastopol, TSK Simferopol and Zhemchuzhina Yalta are clubs based in Crimea.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Man Utd 1 – Swans 2 Stats and Chalkboards

“As Gylfi Sigurdsson stroked in what turned out to be the winner, the commentator called it a ‘Smash and Grab’ which was an enormous exaggeration. Yes, Man Utd might have outshot the Swans by 14-5 but in terms of decent chances there were only 3 and all of them ended up as goals.” We Are Premier League

Plenty on the line in Napoli’s UCL playoff tie

“‘It’s not long now until we hear that tune again,’ tweeted Napoli’s stadium announcer, an excited Decibel Bellini. The emcee known throughout the world for his spine-tingling call and response routines when the likes of GON-ZA-LO HI-GUA-IN sgonfia la rete [make the net bulge] wasn’t referring to the latest summer hit to emerge from the city’s flourishing rap scene. Nothing from the likes of CoSang’s Luche, nor Rocco Hunt. Instead, Bellini was alluding to a piece of classical music — George Frideric Handel’s ‘Zadok the Priest,’ the Champions League anthem.” ESPN – James Horncastle

Where are Africa’s next generation of stars?

Fraser Forster
“With Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto’o – for so long the icons of African football – now meandering through the twilight phases of their respective careers, there are growing concerns regarding a lack viable candidates to take over the responsibility as Continental flag bearers. YaYa Toure is undoubtedly now Africa’s gold standard – as three consecutive African footballer of the year titles vindicate – and arguably his specific achievements earn him a pedestal beside Drogba and Eto’o, however now the wrong side of 30 the Manchester City man is not getting any younger – which only heightens anxiety relating to who will take up the mantle.” backpagefootball

Player Focus: Can Ancelotti Maintain Midfield Balance With Kroos’ Arrival?

“Last January, after a routine 2-0 home win over Granada sent Real Madrid top of La Liga while keeping a club record seventh consecutive clean sheet, coach Carlo Ancelotti was beaming. ‘The most important thing is the balance we have at the moment,” Ancelotti said. “That is the key. I have said it too many times, now the team defends really well and attacks really well.’ The Italian coach did talk a lot about balance (‘equilibrio in Spanish) throughout the 2013/14 campaign, especially after games such as the 7-3 win over Sevilla in October, and 2-2 draw at Osasuna before Christmas. Once it was eventually put in place this ‘equilibrio’ saw Madrid go 31 games without defeat in all competitions, and of course end the season holding aloft the long awaited ‘Decima’ European Cup trophy.” Who Scored

How much practice is enough practice?

“When Rafa Benitez was the manager of Liverpool, he had a chart on his wall that showed how many minutes each player had played. He was obsessive about it, substituting key players even in tight games to ensure they didn’t suffer burnout. Last week, the Irish journalist Ken Early suggested that one of the reasons the Uruguay striker Luis Suarez had been injured so rarely in his career was that he kept getting bans that allowed him to rest. Ensuring players arrive at matches not merely fit but fresh has become a central preoccupation of modern sport, and one that will become an increasing issue for cricket next year as England face up to a schedule of 17 Tests in about 10 months.” ESPN – Jonathan Wilson

Rafa Benitez and Napoli Need to Hit the Ground Running in Champions League

“It is the day that the dress rehearsal becomes the gala performance. A full 12 days before Napoli’s Serie A campaign starts with an away trip to Genoa, Rafa Benitez’s side begin to shape their destiny of their fledgling season as Athletic Bilbao arrive at the Stadio San Paolo for a Champions League play-off. Such a high stakes tie is probably not what the former Liverpool boss would ideally want at this stage of preparation, with transfers still in the pipeline and peak form yet to be attained. Yet Napoli and Benitez have no choice. They have to be ready, knowing a false step could put a hugely negative spin on their season before it has really begun.” Bleacher Report

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal discovers harsh reality after Swansea loss – and there’s no quick fix

“It risked being lost in all the debris of an opening-day defeat for Louis van Gaal, and amid the understandable calls for urgent reinforcements, but Manchester United’s new manager kept returning to a vital theme, namely the need for players to be ‘not only running, but also to use your brain’. Welcome to England, where physics is still one of the main sciences. Van Gaal spoke after this deserved 2-1 loss to Swansea City about players making poor choices in their decision-making, especially in the first half. He also wrote in the programme about ‘I always train in the brains and not in the legs,’ adding, most pertinently, about an issue he had noted in training that ‘a lot of players are playing intuitively but they have to think’.” Telegraph – Henry Winter

Louis van Gaal endures Manchester United debut to forget
“It is a new season with a new manager but for Manchester United fans the 2014-15 campaign began in all-too familiar fashion – a depressing home defeat. ‘Things can only get better’ and ‘King Louis is here – United are back’ was the message on some of the many scarves and T-shirts on sale outside Old Trafford on Saturday showing United’s new boss Louis van Gaal’s face as their main design feature. Sadly for the United supporters who saw their side suffer seven home league defeats last season, Swansea would prove those statements to be mostly inaccurate, for now at least.” BBC

Van Gaal needs reinforcements
“Over to you, Ed Woodward. Time is slipping away; there are 16 days left of the transfer window. Manchester United’s opening defeat to Swansea City offered almost indelible proof that the club no longer has the personnel to compete to win the Premier League. Louis van Gaal had warned that these things will take time. David Moyes, watching in a Doha TV studio, ought to have allowed himself some schadenfreude towards the executive vice-chairman who sacked him in April. Indeed, the former Old Trafford boss urged time for his successor.” ESPN

Managers Provide Drama as English Fans Lament Talent Drain

“The most popular soccer league in the world began its season on Saturday, and along with the excitement and exhilaration about the games themselves — not to mention the sheer wonderment over the eye-crossing suit that the golfer Rory McIlroy chose to wear while parading his British Open trophy around Old Trafford in Manchester — there was a fair bit of hand-wringing from many longtime observers of England’s Premier League.” NY Times

Your Team-by-Team Guide to the 2014/15 Bundesliga Season

“The 52nd Bundesliga season starts on August 22nd in Munich when the defending champs Bayern take on VfL Wolfsburg in the season opener. Are you ready for the season? Maybe die Nationalmannschaft winning the World Cup in Brazil this summer makes you hungry for more deutsch Fußball, but you don’t know where to start. Sure, you recognize Bayern’s name, and probably those of Dortmund, Schalke or even Leverkusen, but Paderborn? Freiburg? Augsburg?” Soccer Pro

Daniel Sturridge strikes to give Liverpool lift-off against Southampton

“The winning goal brought Brendan Rodgers bounding on to the pitch for the first time since Liverpool’s victory over Manchester City during last season’s title run-in. Relief, not delirium, sparked the Liverpool manager’s invasion on this occasion but the over-exuberance was understandable. Here was a reminder of how that title challenge began. For Southampton at Anfield in August 2014, read Stoke City at Anfield in August 2013. Twelve months ago Liverpool laboured to three points against a team under new management courtesy of a Daniel Sturridge goal and an 89th minute penalty save from Simon Mignolet. The script remained the same for Ronald Koeman’s first day as a Premier League manager. A poacher’s goal from Sturridge plus a sublime 88th-minute stop from Mignolet, who tipped Morgan Schneiderlin’s goal-bound volley on to the bar to preserve a slender lead, left Southampton lamenting undeserved defeat.” Guardian

Tactical Analysis: Borussia Dortmund 2-0 Bayern Munich | Dortmund draw first blood through the Super Cup

“Both teams missed plenty of key players, but Borussia Dortmund looked in better shape and made a bold statement with a 2-0 victory over Bayern Munich at the German Super Cup. The traditional Super Cup match-up, league champions against cup winners, was impossible. As runners-up in both competitions, Dortmund were drafted in to face Bayern. Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the goals for Dortmund. Dortmund dominated the game from the 15th minute to finish, like a year ago when they triumphed 4-2.” Outside of the Boot

Premier League Preview: Changes at the Top of the Table

“Real, competitive European soccer kicks off this weekend. And while Spidermayang and Germany’s Bundesliga, La Liga, and Serie A may still be a bit off, the Premier League starts on Saturday. We can stop pretending that things like the International Champions Cup, the Emirates Cup, or even the David Moyes Memorial Community Shield matter. So, let’s get to the preview, shall we? While we were all distracted by the World Cup this summer, the makeup of some of the top teams in England’s top division has shifted, in some cases drastically. Here’s a look at what’s changed in the upper tier of the league. I’ve ranked the sides by how I think they’ll finish.” Grantland

English Premier League 2014-2015 Season Preview
“The 2014-2015 English Premier League season kicks off this weekend, with Manchester City beginning its title defense, Manchester United beginning life under Louis van Gaal, Liverpool beginning life after Luis Suarez and a host of other challengers vying for the trophy. Can Jose Mourinho lead a new-look Chelsea back to the promised land? Has Arsenal strengthened its squad enough to make a run at the title? Is Roberto Martinez’s Everton top-four quality after falling just short last season? How will U.S. national team standouts Jozy Altidore, Tim Howard, Brad Guzan and Geoff Cameron fare during another year overseas? These questions and more will be answered over the next nine months. In the meantime, read our experts’ 20 in-depth team-by-team previews here, detailing everything from player movement, offseason storylines, players to watch, stadium info and much more…” SI

San Lorenzo finally put their Copa Libertadores misery behind them

“Néstor Ortigoza took a long run, so long that you feared a player of his girth might not actually make it to the ball. He stuttered twice on his way into the box, waited for Ignacio Don to commit himself and then slipped the penalty low into the right-hand side of the goal. And with that, Club Atlético Sin Libertadores de América, one of the oldest jokes in Argentinian football, had ceased to be. Ramón Coronel’s handball had proved decisive.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Liverpool Tactical Preview: How will Brendan Rodgers’ side set-up in the 2014/15 season?

“Brendan Rodgers has got his Liverpool side playing some enthralling football, fueling the imagination of the Anfield faithful. Qualification for the Champions League is the bare minimum objective once again, something they surpassed last season, and while the side may not tempt those looking for pure ‘names’ on paper, the potential his side possess for the next few seasons, and the ability to click into Rodgers’ system in the present day, is quite remarkable. It’s clear that Rodgers has a tactical system in mind, and an overall outlook for the club. There is no ‘marquee’ player (against the wishes of the loud voices on Social Media), but one must ask is that even important when you can rather have a set of players to fit into a clear system?” Outside of the Boot

TTU Go Predicting: a Club-by-Club Premier League Preview 2014-5

“Our divisional previews of a year ago were so well received that we decided to go one better and offer a full set for 2014-5 even if bloggers enjoy the luxury of not being obliged to cover irrelevances such as the Community Shield. TTU staffer Ben Woolhead has a little extra time on his hands now after the masterful Newcastle United blog Black & White & Read All Over finally closed its doors after a decade. Here, Ben gives a club-by-club lowdown on the top echelon of English football.” thetwounfortunates

Defenders becoming scarcer, costlier

“Because it was David Luiz, everybody laughed. Because it was Paris Saint-Germain, everybody sneered, just a little. And because it was Jose Mourinho, everybody had to stand back and admire, too, watching in wonderment at his alchemist’s touch, turning the basest of materials into wads and wads of notes. These were all understandable reactions to the fact someone had decided to spend 50 million pounds on a central defender as clearly and as abundantly flawed as David Luiz, to make the Brazilian the costliest defensive player in history ostensibly as part of a master-plan designed to win the Champions League. It was funny, and it was crazy.” ESPN

A Symbol Of Power: Hungarian Football and the Long Wait For Reignition

‘We have one of the best academies in Europe,’ Prime Minister Viktor Orban boasted about his local club Puskas Akademia just last year. Well, sorry Viktor but I’ve got some news. You don’t even ‘ave the best academy in Hungary. Actually, worse than that, your academy is the 9th best in the country. Puskas Akademia of Felcsut are a bit of a bizarre football club. Named after the greatest Hungarian footballer of all time, Ferenc Puskas has no affiliation with the club whatsoever, and it’d be surprising if he even knew Felcsut existed. Around 45 KM away from Budapest, Felcsut boasts a population of about 1500, which makes the construction of their recently built Pancho Arena (Pancho was Puskas’s nickname in Spain) even more ludicrous. Even more ludicrous until you find out it was funded by the government and their buddies. And then you find out that it’s the hometown of the semi-dictatorial Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the club where the PM used to ply his trade before the rebrand.” In Bed With Maradoma

Manchester United will finish above Liverpool in Premier League, predicts Michael Owen

“Ahead of the start of the Premier League this weekend former Manchester United and Liverpool striker, Michael Owen, gives his predictions for how he thinks the table will look at the end of the season and analyses where he thinks the strengths and weaknesses of each squad lie. Writing on his blog on Sportlobster, Owen says it’ll be a victorious Chelsea lifting the silverware come May and that former clubs, Manchester United and Liverpool, are likely to finish third and fourth respectively. Here’s how Owen’s full top ten looks…” Independent

Coaching’s greatest seminar: how Louis van Gaal shaped five top managers

Barcelona manager composite
“In 1997, Louis van Gaal arrived at Barcelona. He had initially been approached to be youth coordinator but with Bobby Robson’s side struggling in the league – despite winning both the Copa del Rey and the Cup Winners’ Cup – he was asked to take over as manager, with Robson taking on an ambassadorial role, becoming, as he put it ‘the world’s highest-paid scout’. On Robson’s recommendation, Van Gaal took on José Mourinho, who had become far more than a translator, to be his ‘third assistant’. In his midfield, he had Pep Guardiola and Luís Enrique.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Premier League Preview: What now for Southampton after mass exodus?

“There is a danger that Southampton will come to stand as a fable for modern football: this is what happens if you dare to dream. Fly too close to the sun, start talking – even in private as Nicola Cortese, the former executive chairman apparently did – of qualifying for the Champions League, and your best players will be plucked away, leaving you to plummet to earth. Perhaps the money Southampton has raised from its summer of sales will be wisely reinvested, perhaps in five years the sense of panic this offseason has induced will seem absurd, but even if that is the case, there is a horrible feeling of loss. Clubs have held fire sales in the past, of course, offloading players to stay afloat after relegation, the departure of a sugar daddy or some other financial catastrophe.” SI

Premier League Shot Location Analysis

“Before the World Cup I wrote a quick post on Shot Segmentation with the aim to classify the 10,000 or so shots taken during the 2013/14 season into a smaller number of groups to try and quantify the ‘quality’ of opportunities each side has (and concedes). The full background is here, but basically is a case of using a mix of Opta’s big chance metric to get beyond just using location data, combined with location and shot type (e.g., was the attempt a header).  It’s not as good as having the full video of every shot but is an improvement on just knowing shot volume.” We Are Premier League

UEFA Super Cup: James Rodriguez’s workload reflects the fact that he will not be the main man at Real Madrid

“If Radamel Falcao’s absence from Colombia’s World Cup squad had created a star vacuum to allow James Rodriguez to assume greater responsibility, it looks a very different story at Real Madrid – the world’s self-styled biggest football club. At the UEFA Super Cup in Cardiff, on a night when Gareth Bale’s homecoming saw him centre stage only for Cristiano Ronaldo to steal the show, there was a reminder that being the summer’s Golden Boot winner only gets you onto the cast list at Real – a lead role is some way away.” Sky Sports

When the Circus Came To Nottingham

“We all remember where we were when the circus came to town. That is, when Sven-Göran Eriksson came to Notts County, his long Swedish overcoat swishing through the corridors of Meadow Lane, lured by the promise of cash that was never actually there. I was at a pre-season friendly in Arnold as Notts beat a local non-league team 7-0, with Chinese whispers buzzing around the huge crowd that stood below a beautiful summer sunset. The strangest month of our lives was becoming even more of an intoxicating dream. A few weeks earlier I’d become the editor of Notts County Mad, a club website and messageboard that held the same quirkiness of any other lower league forum. I wasn’t up to much, having spent the previous few months largely asleep after quitting sixth form because they seemed to expect that I might actually do the odd piece of work. When the former editor offered me the chance to take on the role I was pretty grateful for just having something to whittle away the hours.” In Bed With Maradina

Tactical Analysis: Arsenal 3-0 Manchester City | Gunners emphatically triumph in the Community Shield

“Many regard it as just an over-hyped friendly, and many think of it as the first official game of the season, but one way or another, the Community Shield is an occasion that always gets us excited about the new season. A lot of players were working their way towards fitness, and a lot were missing through injury; Manuel Pellegrini was without some key members especially in defence while Arsene Wenger on the other hand was crucially without his World Cup winning German contingent. He did however, pick a strong side featuring 3 of his new signings including Alexis, and Debuchy, who both started on the right, and formed an impressive combination through the game.” Outside of the Boot

The Anfield Wrap #11

“WHATEVER the issue – wrong owners, rip-off ticket prices, reduced allocations, travel issues, kick-off times, the manager, Luis Suarez; whatever it is, the question is always the same: ‘What do Liverpool fans think about…’. For about five years now I’ve been involved in Liverpool fanzines and websites, like Well Red Magazine, and later this here, The Anfield Wrap. During that time I’ve spoken to all kinds of journalists about all kinds of issues surrounding Liverpool and Liverpool fans.” The Anfield Wrap

Barcelona – Camp Nou

“‘There are stadiums great by reputation and association which, when first encountered, disappoint. The Nou Camp is not among them’. So said Simon Inglis, the doyen of all things ‘stadium’. I must admit that I was, from a distance, a little underwhelmed by the Camp Nou. Then I paid a visit and I got it loud and clear. In the couple of hours I spent wandering around the stadium, the museum and the whole complex, I started to comprehend the size, the history, the symbolism and above all the fact that it is ‘Més que un club’. Back in the early fifties when the Camp Nou was first conceived, there was something of a “Stadium War” being conducted by the big clubs in Iberia.” Estadios de España

Why the world should know about a Palestinian football club called Bnei Sakhnin

“They play in the Israeli league, but they’re not exactly Israelis. Fourteen miles north of Acre, where three hills lush with olive trees form an uneven valley, lies the sloping Arab town of Sakhnin. It is this small town of only 25,000 people that FC Bnei Sakhnin call home. Israelis are allowed to play for the club, and their manager is even an Israeli Jew, but most of their players are Arab Muslims, and they are currently the only Arab team playing in the Israeli Premier League.” Outside of the Boot