The ethics of the terraces

October 31, 2014

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“Every day, it seems, something happens in the world of football that I find objectionable. A player is arrested or sent to prison; a manager becomes involved in some financial duplicity; a club is bought by some oligarch with a questionable record on worker safety or human rights. As I read these stories, or discuss them with friends around the Norwich City matches I attend, I ask myself: what would have to happen at my club before I stopped going? That bond with a club, and with the sport itself – the obsession with fixtures and standings, player transfers and managerial changes, and the rituals of watching on television or live – is incredibly hard to break, and I’ve never managed to detach myself, no matter how bad the quality of play at Norwich, or in the tournaments I follow, has become, let alone how much the culture is warped by money and the pressure to succeed.” New Humanist


Manchester derby A-Z: Backheels, noisy neighbours & X-rated

October 31, 2014

“It’s the derby which has everything – two sides with a simmering rivalry, rich histories and, in recent years, a similar appetite for trophies. When Manchester City and Manchester United meet on the football pitch, there’s generally plenty of goals, drama and even the odd ‘Why always me’ T-shirt. The two teams clash at Etihad Stadium on Sunday, and BBC Sport has compiled an A-Z of one of English football’s biggest games.” BBC


Analysis: Bayer Leverkusen’s pressing & structure under Roger Schmidt

October 31, 2014

“Bayer Leverkusen have impressed stylistically under new recruit Roger Schmidt from Red Bull Salzburg, using a form of pressing that has wowed German, European and worldwide fans alike. Pressing is a strategy that is used against teams by staying in close proximity to the player on the ball, pressuring him into giving the ball away to a certain zone or player who can easily be taken advantage of. The main aim is to win the ball back. Counter-pressing is the immediate pressing of the ball as soon as the ball is lost.” Outside of the Boot


Mario Balotelli and the Lessons of Liverpool Past

October 31, 2014

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“James Dutton looks at two lessons from Liverpool’s recent past for Mario Balotelli… Mario Balotelli is at a crossroads. In fact, Mario Balotelli is always at a crossroads. Every decision he makes, however crucial or anodyne, is analysed for its far-reaching consequences and wider meaning by somebody somewhere. Every pass, every run, every shot, every turn is scrutinised and pored over in minute detail like every dismissal suffered by Kevin Pietersen. The record-breaking batsman once famously said, ‘It’s tough being me in this dressing room’, and you imagine the Italian knows where he’s coming from.” The False Nine


Golden goal: Juninho Pernambucano for Lyon v Bayern Munich (2003)

October 31, 2014

“There was a jarring fragment of radio commentary during the Burnley v Everton game the other day. ‘Antolín Alacaraz does a Cruyff turn,’ said the man on TalkSport. It sounded wrong. But of course it was right, or at least correct. That is the gift that Cruyff gave us, a trick that nearly anyone can do but only a genius can patent. The best Panenka penalty will always be the one produced, to universal astonishment, by the Czechoslovakia captain in the 1976 European Championship final. Cruyff and Panenka are psychedelic footballers; they altered our perception of the game by expanding our imagination, leaving a permanent distortion. Juninho Pernambucano belongs in that company, except that his free-kicks remain head-wreckingly difficult to copy despite years of studious gerrymandering by boffins intent on making it easier.” Guardian


What’s in a name? Bundesliga stadiums making big money

October 31, 2014

“With Commerzbank’s current sponsorship deal with Eintracht Frankfurt over naming rights for their home ground since 1963 – formerly known as the Waldstadion – expiring at the end of the season, the practise of clubs selling parts of their identity – such as the name of their home ground – has become an important discussion of late. Understandably, all sorts of questions will be raised about any form of increased commercialism in German football; the changing relationship between money and German clubs is constantly debated and in many cases well documented.” Bundesliga Fanatic


Would Chelsea’s José Mourinho have been a good fit at Manchester United?

October 29, 2014

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“On Sunday, a little before four o’clock, José Mourinho will leave the tunnel at Old Trafford and walk along the front of the South Stand. He will see ahead of him the touchline along which he sprinted and slid in 2004 after his Porto side had beaten Manchester United in the Champions League with a late goal. And before the halfway line he will turn right, and take his place in the away dug-out. Given he is not a man who seems particularly to regret, he may not even cast a glance to the bench 15 yards in front of him and wonder what might have been but there is another reality, not that far removed from this one, in which he would have been sitting in the home dug-out.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Are West Ham for Real?

October 29, 2014

“What’s more strange: that the lead photo for this piece is of a “semi-robotic” mascot named Hammerhead basking in bubbles at West Ham’s Upton Park? Or that if the season ended today, West Ham would be in the Champions League? Usually the top of the Premier League table is pretty predictable. You have the usual mega-club suspects (you know who), a couple of perennial almost-theres (Spurs, Everton), and a surprise who starts strong and fades away down the stretch. That hasn’t been the case this season.” Grantland


Spanish football column: Real Madrid’s Clasico, managerial changes and more

October 29, 2014

“The season’s first Clasico was won by Real Madrid and their devastating counter-attacking that left Barcelona unable to deal with the scintillating football the home side produced in the Bernabeu on Saturday evening. Luis Enrique’s bold decision to hand Luis Suarez his competitive debut for the club, 2 days after his 3 month ban for biting concluded, first looked like it would pay off, but then it back-fired as the Uruguayan’s lack of match-fitness became palpable.” Outside of the Boot


10 Reasons Why LFC Are Struggling

October 29, 2014

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“Things are rarely as simple as they seem. And yet, over the weekend, I had people telling me they knew exactly what was going wrong at Liverpool. And it was often just one thing. (I was told I was ‘naive’ to think that it’s any more complex than that, by the archetypal Dunning-Kruger tweeter.) One comment – stated as a fact – was that last season was 99% down to Suarez, 1% down to Rodgers. I found this odd. Being pedantic, I noted that Suarez didn’t even play when 10 of the 84 points were won; meaning that, at the very most, it could only have been 88% down to Suarez. The Uruguayan scored 31% of the Reds’ league goals, and even adding assists, was still involved in fewer than half of them. Then there’s the assumption that Rodgers had nothing to do with the striker’s improved form, or the other 57 league goals that did not involve the now-departed superstar. It is, of course, a ludicrous suggestion, but stupid is as stupid does. Another blamed Balotelli for everything. Everything!” Tomkins Times


Tactical Analysis | Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea: Both sides opt for caution in midfield

October 29, 2014

“A lot of the big games in the Premier League are built up with their own little sub plots and storylines, and this one was no different, with Mourinho and van Gaal hogging the limelight in the build up to the game. The student, and his teacher, waxed lyrical about each other as we got close to kick off, but all the love was left behind in the press rooms as the two rivals took to the field for an intensely competitive encounter.” Outside of the Boot


Tactical Analysis | Real Madrid 3-1 Barcelona: El Clasico won by Marcelo & Isco’s partnership

October 29, 2014

“Experience in tactical decision making ultimately won the El Clasico as Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid proved to be better organised, more mature and adept at taking on this fixture, while Luis Enrique could be accused of a little naivety in his first managerial experience of this monumental game.” Outside of the Boot


FIFA may be threatening retaliation and taking World Cup 2015’s crazy to a whole new level

October 29, 2014

“The deranged run-up to the 2015 World Cup leapt over another ridiculous bar on Monday, with lawyers for a group of prominent players claiming FIFA has threatened retaliation over a lawsuit filed last month. That claim, one that seeks to keep next summer’s event from being played on artificial turf, is expected to be heard before the end of the year, giving both sides a few more weeks to ramp up their crazy ahead of a possible conclusion.” Soccer Gods


Player Ratings: Benzema the hero as Madrid crush Barcelona

October 27, 2014

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“Real Madrid put on a performance to match any seen in the history of the Clasico at the Bernabeu on Saturday. The home side went behind to Neymar’s early goal but rebounded to carve out a 3-1 win that should have been even more emphatic. Tactically, Carlo Ancelotti outdid his Barcelona counterpart Luis Enrique by deploying two wide men in Isco and James Rodriguez, who had the desired effect of pulling Barca’s back line out of shape. Luka Modric and Toni Kroos bossed the midfield contest — Enrique elected to leave Ivan Rakitic on the bench — and Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema were duly handed the freedom of the Bernabeu.” ESPN

RATINGS: Suarez impressed but Benzema has final say in El Clasico
“In a game that attracted a worldwide audience of around 400 million people, Real Madrid claimed El Clasico bragging rights with a 3-1 destruction of Barcelona. Luis Suarez impressed on his long-awaited debut but it was Neymar who silenced the Bernabeu by opening the scoring after only four minutes before Cristiano Ronaldo sent the teams in level with a penalty for his 16th league goal of the season. The second half belonged to the hosts who doubled their lead through a header from defender Pepe before Karim Benzema completed a beautiful passing move to slot home their third and final goal.” Daily Mail

La Liga El Clasico: Real Madrid 3-1 FC Barcelona: Player Ratings
“A detailed, player-by-player breakdown of Barcelona’s gut-wrenching La Liga loss in the El Clasico.” Barca Blaugranes


The big clubs get bigger leaving the rest to collect the stickers

October 27, 2014

“I received an interesting present as I made my way to Rio’s legendary Maracana stadium on Wednesday evening. Flamengo, the club with the biggest support base in the land, was playing Internacional, a big club in its own right with ambitions of winning this year’s title – ambitions which took a blow with its 2-0 defeat. The slightly disappointing crowd of just under 19,000 went home happy – the win would seem to remove the slightest risk of Flamengo being relegated. Many of them travelled back clutching the same thing I had been handed as I made my way out of the local underground station and down the ramp towards the stadium – a sticker album of the UEFA Champions League, with a few stickers to start off the collection.” The World Game – Tim Vicery


Angel Di Maria and Juan Mata set for reunion with Mourinho

October 27, 2014

“Manchester United have broken their record transfer fee twice in 2014, with vastly different levels of success. Juan Mata has rarely sparkled since his 37.1 million-pound move from Chelsea in January, but Angel Di Maria has been in impressive form, having been signed for 59.7 million pounds in the summer. Jose Mourinho, who visits Old Trafford with Chelsea this weekend, might have predicted how things would go. Mourinho, of course, has coached both, and his perception of the duo tallies closely with their Manchester United performances. He struggled to appreciate Mata in their half-season together at Chelsea, believing the Spaniard was incompatible with his favoured system, and was happy to sell him to United.” ESPN – Michael Cox


Mid-Group Stage Champions League Update

October 27, 2014

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“We’re halfway through the 2014-15 Champions League group stage. The UCL is one of the greatest tournaments in all of sports because we get a chance to catch our breath for a couple weeks after every matchday. So let’s do so. Some groups are mostly decided, others hang in the balance. Who will go through in each four-team sector? To the groups!” Center Circle


Gennaro Gattuso quits then returns as manager at OFI Crete

October 27, 2014

“The aggression, intensity, and general bearded shoutyness that made ex-AC Milan star Gennaro Gattuso one of the best defensive midfielders in the world during the 2000s aren’t serving him quite as well now he’s gone from tackler to tactician. First there was a 2013 spell as player-coach of Swiss club Sion, which lasted less than three months. To be fair, that’s actually a long time at Sion. Gattuso was their fifth manager of the season, because the club’s president is a testicle-kicking architect who’s incapable of designing solid foundations. Later that year, Gattuso moved on to another club where managers have shorter lifespans than mayflies – then Serie B’s Palermo. The Sicilians axed him after he steered them to only seven points in the first six games.” Soccer Gods


The tactics behind West Ham’s recent success

October 27, 2014

“West Ham beat Manchester City yesterday and are currently sitting in fourth position in the Barclay’s Premier League, one point behind the title holders. On top of this, they have completely changed the manner in which they attack. Having played nine games, they look like a force to be reckoned with and it looks like no team is ever going to get an easy three points off ‘The Hammers’ this season. By deploying a 4-4-2 diamond formation – which can be described as a 4-1-2-1-2 – they have made the most of what is available to them. West Ham’s team is built from back to front. This is definitely one of West Ham’s strong points. Despite impressing their own fans on an offensive front, West Ham’s priority has always been defence. So, who better to start with than Adrián?” backpagefootball


Six degrees of Louis van Gaal: How Jose Mourinho and Europe’s other top coaches descend from Manchester United’s Dutch coach

October 24, 2014

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“You will doubtless be familiar with the game ‘Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon’. The central premise runs thus: so formidable is Bacon’s influence on the last generation of American cinema that virtually any Hollywood actor, living or dead, can somehow be linked to Bacon in no more than six steps. If you were to play a similar game in the world of football, there are a number of names you could start with. You could look at Johan Cruyff or Rinus Michels, architects of the Dutch school in the 1970s.” Telegraph


Slovan Bratislava 0-3 Sparta Prague: Old rivalries return

October 24, 2014

“The last time Slovan Bratislava and Sparta Prague met in a competitive environment Czechoslovakia was at the end of the mutual and peaceful divorce known as ‘The Velvet Revolution’. Then it was a cold February day in 1993 when the Czech Republic and Slovakia had just formally broken ties, this time it was a slightly chilly October evening in 2014. During the days of the CSSR both Czech and Slovak clubs competed against each other on a weekly basis. Despite Sparta Prague having their Czech rivals and Slovan Bratislava their Slovak adversaries, there was always a special place reserved for meetings between the two clubs. Their contests would be known as the ‘Federal Derby’; a game which pitted the biggest clubs of Prague and Bratislava against each other and a fixture which took on some nationalist significance. Despite the peaceful divorce between the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and the dissolution of the First Czechoslovak League into the Gambrinus and Corgon Ligas, the events at the Stadion Pasienky tonight were anything but friendly.” CZEFootball


The Vagaries of Managerial Fashion

October 24, 2014

“Sat behind the dug out at Deep Dale recently my eye was constantly drawn, despite the entertaining football, to the sight of Paul Cook the Chesterfield Manager prowling the touchline. He was as animated and vocal as you’d expect from a former player-turned-manager, but what stood out most of all was his attire. Here was a 47-year old man whose job it is to inspire and direct his players, dressed in the kind of ridiculously baggy shorts more commonly seen on boxers, basketball players and hanging up on Nora Batty’s washing line.” The False Nine


Manchester United v Chelsea: Jonathan Wilson’s Tactical Preview

October 24, 2014

“Both sides have injury issues. Jose Mourinho has continued to maintain that Diego Costa will miss out with his mysterious hamstrings/groins and a bug, while Loic Remy is a major doubt after limping out of Tuesday’s 6-0 Champions League win over Maribor clutching his groin. That could mean Didier Drogba starting as the one forward – a concern, given how off the pace he looked against Schalke 04 in the Champions League, the only other game he has started this season – or Chelsea could perhaps go with a false nine. They did that last season in the stultifying 0-0 at Old Trafford last season, but Andre Schurrle, who occupied the role then, is a doubt with illness. Chelsea are also without Ramires and Mikel John Obi.” Bet – Jonathan Wilson


Luis Suarez: Do sporting suspensions work?

October 24, 2014

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“Although he’s vowed to keep his famous chops to himself, the world will soon find out if Luis Suarez can keep bagging goals without literally leaving his mark on defenders. This weekend, the 27-year-old forward will complete his four-month ban for a third on-pitch biting offense, and could make his Barcelona debut in the battle known as ‘El Clasico’ against Real Madrid on Saturday. ‘Don’t worry, I won’t do that again,’ the gifted Uruguayan promised, soon after arriving at his new club. But will he?” CNN


Angel Di Maria and Juan Mata set for reunion with Mourinho

October 24, 2014

“Manchester United have broken their record transfer fee twice in 2014, with vastly different levels of success. Juan Mata has rarely sparkled since his 37.1 million-pound move from Chelsea in January, but Angel Di Maria has been in impressive form, having been signed for 59.7 million pounds in the summer. Jose Mourinho, who visits Old Trafford with Chelsea this weekend, might have predicted how things would go.” ESPN – Michael Cox


Harry Catterick – the straight man

October 24, 2014

“They say one of the key ingredients to many great double acts is the combination of different stage personas; every Morecambe needs his Wise, every Costello needs his Abbott, every Ball needs his Cannon – OK, maybe not that last one. The same principal can easily be applied to footballing spheres; striking partnerships with one flamboyant, crowd-pleasing protagonist and the other who does the hard, thankless yards or the managerial duo who often assume the good cop/bad cop roles for their players and the media – the obvious example being Peter Taylor’s straight man complimenting the often volatile, always charismatic Brian Clough.” The Football Pink


How football got serious, or why Martin Keown talks as if a dog just died

October 24, 2014

“A while ago I came up with a theory known, by almost nobody, as the Baniesta principle. The basic idea is that if you were to take two footballers of similar skill levels but diverse development paths – for example, the World Cup winner Andrés Iniesta and the likable Scottish midfield ace Barry Bannan – and switch them at exactly the right age, inducting the 13-year‑old Bannan into La Masia while young Iniesta is forced to tough it out in the North Lanarkshire junior leagues, the end result would be a reversal of their future careers. By now Bannan would be globally revered as an A-list trophy magnet and all-round high spec skill gnome. Iniesta would occasionally do something good on Match of the Day, but otherwise find himself at the edge of things, a highly skilled footballer conditioned to explore only the inner limits of his talent by a youth spent in a culture of rush and hack.” Guardian


Champions League: Bayern Munich thrashes Roma amid goal bonanza

October 22, 2014

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“Tuesday’s Champions League action brought thumping wins for Chelsea, Shakhtar Donetsk and, perhaps most impressively, Bayern Munich, who hammered Roma 7-1 at Stadio Olimpico. Manchester City’s misery went on as it threw away a lead to draw in Moscow, while there was another defeat for Athletic Bilbao away to Porto. Here is what caught our eye from the day’s games, when a Champions-League-record 40 goals were scored…” SI – Jonathan Wilson

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“Arjen Robben, Bayern forward. Afterwards it’s always easy to talk. I’m still convinced Roma have a very good team – they’ve shown that this season – but we should pay a big compliment to us, to all the players, but also to the coaching staff who prepared this game in the way we played, the way we created chances and scored goals. There were some great goals tonight. We played a little different tonight. Everybody has seen it, but it’s not good to talk about our tactics and how we want to play. Everybody can see it and watch the match to analyse us. But a big compliment to the team and the tactics.” UEFA


Olympiakos-Panathinaikos: Europe’s maddest derby?

October 22, 2014

“Petrol bombs, flares, firecrackers and fights. And that’s just on the pitch. Welcome to derby day in Athens, where recent meetings between Olympiakos and Panathinaikos have also seen fans start fires in the stands and attempt to torch the team coach of their fierce rivals. The last time Greece’s two major powers met, in March, Panathinaikos manager Yannis Anastasiou was left sprawled on the touchline after being hit by an object thrown from the crowd.” BBC


Turkish football column: Wesley Sneijder’s brilliance, Fatih Terim’s issues & more

October 22, 2014

“With now 6 match days gone by, the Turkish league is still nowhere near promising by any means. The quality of football is low, the attendance average is the worst in history, the national team is yet to secure 3 points in the Euro 2016 qualifiers and out of all this, Beşiktaş, who won their last championship in the 2008-09 season, are in the driving seat.” Outside of the Boot


Goalkeepers: How repeatable are shot saving performances?

October 22, 2014

“Assessing the skills of goalkeepers is exceptionally difficult, and it’s why I have never attempted to do it. As well as the basic and fundamental skill of shot stopping, the best goalkeepers will be able to effectively assess situations and decide whether to advance or stay on their line. How they deal with a high ball is also important, as is their distribution and their communication and organisational skills. Combine those altogether and you have a range of skills that would be very difficult to measure using conventional statistics. Although I don’t think we are in the position of being able to rate goalkeepers in terms of their entire skillset we are in the position of being able to assess their shot stopping attributes. I’ve been told that the best way to eat an elephant is ‘one bit at a time’, and so we’ll take the same approach to rating goalkeepers. Let’s start the process by having a look at goalkeepers’ shot stopping numbers.” StatsBomb


Real Madrid has never beaten Liverpool, but that’s a stupid stat because they’ve only met three times

October 22, 2014

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“Some stats should come with small print, like financial ads: Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Like the fact that Real Madrid has never beaten Liverpool, and has never even scored against the club – quirks that are going to be consigned to history at Anfield on Wednesday in the Champions League, if current form is any guide. If the two teams had met 20 times, it would be notable. But surprisingly, considering the clubs’ pedigrees, the sides faced each other competitively only twice: a 1-0 Liverpool win in the 1981 European Cup final, and Liverpool’s 5-0, two-legged Champions League victory in 2008-09’s Round of 16, a high point of the Rafael Benítez era.” Soccer God (Video)


Roma Holiday: How the Italian Club Became a Champions League Contender

October 22, 2014

“Roma are a really good soccer team. This shouldn’t be surprising. They are, after all, the biggest team in the biggest city in Italy. It’s easy to shrug and say, ‘Of course Roma are the second-best team in Serie A. They are Roma.’ Except that, with the exception of two stretches — one in which they were managed by Fabio Capello and another under Luciano Spalletti — Roma have frequently been an average side. They have never been considered a perennial Champions League side. Yet here they are. On a superficial level, Roma’s approach isn’t all that special. They do all the things well that you’d expect good teams to do. They shoot more than their opponents, give up fewer shots, and, in general, create better chances.” Grantland (Video)


Analysis: Sergio Agüero as a lone striker and in a strike partnership

October 22, 2014

“Sergio Agüero became Manchester City’s all-time top Premier League goal-scorer this past weekend after scoring all four goals in his side’s 4-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur. But the terrific feat hardly came as a surprise to Manchester City supporters. The Etihad faithful adopted and mothered the Argentine like a Mancunian academy graduate the minute he landed in the North West during the summer of 2011, and he rewarded that affection with an impassioned strike against Queens Park Rangers that sprinkled glitter on 44 years of gloom in 2012. Two years on, and the £38.5m City spent on Agüero still seems like pennies.” Outside of the Boot


Team Focus: Ajax Should Look Back to Past Formations in Order to Move Forward

October 20, 2014

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“1984 is not only a great novel but also the year Johan Cruyff retired as a professional footballer. His decision to go into management forever altered the fortunes of his boyhood club Ajax and other love FC Barcelona – both competitively meeting for a third time on Tuesday – no individual has made a greater impact in both disciplines. Frank de Boer, with the way things are developing, ought to take a leaf out of Cruyff’s book and implement a 3-4-3 diamond or 3-1-2-1-3. Rinus Michels – whose ‘1-3-3-3’ system was the blueprint from which 3-1-2-1-3 derived – once described it as ‘spectacular but risky’. And that’s what’s missing from the Netherlands’ sole Champions League participant, a sense of vitality. The players seem to be just going through the motions, suffocated in the more rigid 4-3-3, when it is glaringly obvious – looking at the brand of football De Boer champions and the personnel at his disposal – that the Amsterdammers are better off going back to the future by deploying a 3-1-2-1-3.” Who Scored?


How have Southampton defied critics and survived the exodus?

October 20, 2014

“If you were to sit down with anyone after Southampton’s own version of The Exodus, you would have been hard pressed to find many that would have argued the club would be where they are currently. Though the season is still in it’s early days, the early signs are promising that Soton are going to be just fine. After seven matches, the Saints have logged four wins, a draw and a pair of defeats – said losses came by way of two away trips to Liverpool and Tottenham, both of which are expected to finish above them in the table in the first place.” Outside of the Boot


Team Focus: What Will Defeat at Southampton Mean for Sunderland’s Season?

October 20, 2014

“There aren’t many ways of looking at an 8-0 defeat that see anything other than an unmitigated disaster, which is right and logical. Sunderland were terrible in losing to Southampton on Saturday, a pitiful showing by a team who, by the second half, seemed to have given up. That is inexcusable and it’s entirely appropriate that the goalkeeper Vito Mannone – who was as much to blame as anybody – has suggested the players should club together to reimburse the 2500 Sunderland fans who made the trip to St Mary’s.” Who Scored? – Jonathan Wilson


Gareth Bale’s sore butt could cost him games against Liverpool and Barcelona

October 20, 2014

“Real Madrid released a statement on Monday saying that Gareth Bale has an injury in the right pyramidalis muscle. After consulting Internet, M.D., we think this means he has, in technical terms, a sore butt. He’s now set to sit out a couple of games, presumably on padded furniture. Bale didn’t play in the 5-0 win over Levante on Saturday , and he’s reportedly going to miss the opportunity to twist Martin Skrtel’s blood at Anfield on Wednesday when Real face Liverpool in the Champions League.” Soccer Gods (Video)


Editor’s Column: Is Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero the best in the Premier League?

October 20, 2014

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“The Premier League has undoubtedly lost a little of its stardust over the last two seasons. The departures of Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez to La Liga have shorn the country’s greatest export of its two most globally acclaimed star players. The summer arrivals of Angel di Maria, Radamel Falcao and Alexis Sanchez were welcome steps in the right direction for a league which prides itself on being The Best In The World. But perhaps the league’s shining light was already staring us in the face?” The False Nine


5 Misfiring Premier League Strikers

October 20, 2014

“The Premier League might be only seven games old, but a common theme amongst some of the top teams is the lack of goals from upfront – only Chelsea, and Diego Costa, can be entirely satisfied with their goal return so far. Here are 5 misfiring Premier League strikers, and how they might turn their season around…” FreeBets


Team of the week – Match Day 8

October 20, 2014

“Bayern are just cruising at the moment. In their latest match the Bavarians barely moved out of second gear, but nevertheless they managed to destroy Werder Bremen 6-0. Gladbach continue their good run of form and next week’s match between the Foals and Pep Guardiola’s team is a mouth-watering prospect. On the other hand side there is Dortmund, who are still not finding their form, as another loss for Klopp’s team means that they can kiss their chances to win the German championship good-bye at an earlier stage of the season than people had expected them to. There were many great individual performances in the Bundesliga this weekend, here is our top XI of the week…” Bundesliga Fanatic


The Guardian view on Labour’s football reforms: Fans 1, Big Money 0

October 20, 2014

“As fans streamed into football grounds at the weekend for the resumption of domestic fixtures, it wasn’t hard to argue that the national sport is booming. The Premier League points to stadiums filled to 95%-plus capacity. A new round of TV deals will top the £5.5bn raised last time. Football is omnipresent, seeping into every corner of life. And yet a paradox grips the game. As player wages have rocketed, fans feel increasingly disenfranchised. Ticket prices in the top flight have risen 16% since 2011 alone, and a season ticket at Arsenal can now cost more than £2,000. Supporters are beginning to doubt whether they can afford their passion. They gaze longingly at Germany’s Bundesliga.” Guardian


Serbia v Albania: Drones, flags and violence in abandoned match

October 17, 2014

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“Partizan Stadium was quiet, perhaps too quiet, as half-time approached. It was tempting to think Serbia’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Albania – the latter’s first visit to Belgrade since 1967 – was going to conclude without incident. Serbia had dominated a slow-paced game and looked favourites to win at 0-0. There had been little yet to rile a crowd that was bereft of away supporters after Uefa had stepped into a dispute over the terms under which travelling fans could attend the game.” BBC (Video)

Drone Stunt at Belgrade Soccer Match Stirs Ethnic Tensions
“On a region where ethnic nationalism is never far from the surface, a stunt at a soccer match between Albania and Serbia has escalated into a full-scale diplomatic incident, provoking suspected cyberattacks, violence and the lobbing of verbal insults with a fervor usually reserved for the field. What was expected to be a beautiful game overcoming historic enmities turned ugly Tuesday evening when a small drone trailing a nationalist Albanian flag helped set off a melee at a qualifying match in Belgrade, Serbia, for the 2016 European Championship. Video of the event showed some Serbian spectators — Albanian fans were barred from the stadium — shouting ‘Kill! Kill! Kill!’ Others ran onto the field, attacking Albanian players, sometimes with chairs, and forcing the Albanian team to escape through a tunnel at the end of the field. The game was abandoned while the score was still 0-0.” NY Times


Vincent Kompany and Jan Vertonghen epitomise Belgian school of defending

October 17, 2014

“Not all sports blend international and club competition as seamlessly as football, where it’s become extremely common for players to be teammates, then opponents, within the same week. How do you spend Sunday, Monday and Tuesday working on understanding and cohesion with a teammate, before setting out to overpower them the following weekend? This Saturday’s contest between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, the weekend’s opening Premier League game, is a perfect example. A match between two squads packed with international talent means a meeting between various compatriots who played alongside one another earlier this week.” ESPN – Michael Cox


Video Analysis: Atletico Madrid’s Defensive Discipline

October 17, 2014

“2013-14 finally saw a break from Barcelona and Real Madrid hogging the La Liga limelight. It was Simeone’s Atletico Madrid that stole all the headlines, taking the league all the way to the last match day. A massive part of that success was their discipline and organisation in defensive. Last season saw Atleti concede just 26 goals in the entire campaign, 7 fewer than the next best team, Barcelona. Certainly Simeone’s team will look to continue this impressive defensive display. Krzysztof Sierocki has done an in-depth analysis of Atleti’s defensive organisation against Real in their recent fixture.” Outside of the Boot (Video)


The Auteur of Säbener Straße: A Book Review of Perarnau’s Pep Confidential

October 17, 2014

“‘At 3.30am he bids the party goers goodnight and walks off with Valentina asleep, curled up in his arms like a baby.’ Thus ends Pep’s first year as coach of Bayern Munich: during the wee morning hours with his young daughter asleep in his arms. Intimate scenes such as this one fill Pep Confidential: The Inside Story of Pep Guardiola’s First Season at Bayern Munich (BackPage Books and Birlinn Limited, 488 pages), written by popular Spanish football journalist and former Olympian, Martí Perarnau, who chronicles Pep Guardiola’s first year as Bayern Munich’s coach.” Bundesliga Fanatic


Departing Stephen Keshi finally pays the price of chaos in Nigerian football

October 17, 2014

Stephen Keshi
“Stephen Keshi was sacked as coach of Nigeria late on Wednesday night, bringing to an end a protracted and tawdry departure that has dragged on since the end of the World Cup. It’s a saga that reflects well on nobody and has left the African champions struggling even to qualify for next January’s Cup of Nations and it’s telling of how little football has had to do with the decision that it should have been taken a few hours after an impressive 3-1 win over Sudan that restored hope.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Delicate balancing act facing Alexis Sanchez

October 17, 2014

“Chile’s hopes in the upcoming Copa America – which it is hosting – rest largely on the diminutive shoulders of the sublimely talented Alexis Sanchez, whose performances for the national team over the next few months may rest on how much gas is left in the tank from his work with English Premier League club Arsenal.” The World Game – Tim Vickery


Resting Sterling shows there is some common ground

October 17, 2014

“The most striking facet of the Hodgson Sterling kerfuffle of the last week is how what was essentially a matter between the two men was conflated into a club v country, England v Liverpool affair. Somewhere along the line, people seem to have confused the Sterling issue with Liverpool’s lingering displeasure at the handling of Daniel Sturridge by the England camp. The media must take a large part of the blame in this, being too quick to see it as an opportunity to stoke the enmity between Liverpool and Hodgson’s regime for the sake of some column inches and page views.” backpagefootball


Price of Football: 10 things we’ve learned from the BBC study

October 17, 2014

“BBC Sport’s fourth Price of Football study prompted a national debate about ticket prices, not to mention the sums clubs charge for pies and cups of tea. Football club owners, players, pundits and fans all had their say, but what did we learn? Here, we take a look at some of the key talking points.” BBC


After years of stagnation Italian football is finally fighting back

October 13, 2014

Roma-stadium
“Once upon a time English clubs envied the Italian model of renting municipal stadia and thus avoiding the financial weight of owning and running their own home. The giants of Serie A were thus ‘free’, from the 1950s to the 1970s, to pay the highest transfer fees and most lucrative wages. Then came the TV, sponsorship and new media explosion and England developed the Premier League model and cashed in on the new generation of stadia built and rebuild post-Hillsborough. With restaurants, conference facilities and even sometimes hotel built into the grounds new revenue streams opened up.” World Soccer


Poles Knock Off a Neighbor to Make History

October 13, 2014

“Sports can be a mirror to life, and sometimes it is better than that. In Warsaw on Saturday night, Poland beat Germany in soccer for the first time. For 93 years, since the Poles played their first international game, people have dreamed of this. And while its bigger neighbor has had three months to celebrate the fourth World Cup title in its history, the best Poland could do was celebrate that Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski, both born in Poland, were part of the German team that won the Cup in Brazil. Now, at least for one unforgettable night, the roles were reversed.” NY Times


The history of Polish contributions to the Bundesliga

October 13, 2014

“The marquee match of Group D’s Euro 2016 qualifiers takes place in Warsaw Saturday evening as Germany travel across their eastern border to play Poland. Germany are unbeaten in all 18 previous matches against Poland, holding a record of 12-6-0 in those matches. The last time the two met in a competitive match was in the EURO 2008 group stage where Germany, on the back of a Lukas Podolski brace, were 2-0 winners. The sides have met twice since in friendlies with both contests ending in draws. Only Luxembourg and the Czech Republic, of the nations that border Germany, have faced the current world champion fewer than has Poland. Luxembourg however do hold some bragging rights from their 13 battles with the neighbors, as they have actually beaten Germany once, while Poland still awaits their chance to say they’ve accomplished the same.” Bundesliga Fanatic


The state of the Portugal national team [Part 2] Second chances and the final squad

October 13, 2014

Carvalho-Tiago
“Now that we have settled in the last part exactly how Portugal arrived at the situation in which they find themselves, we take a look at the short term future of the Portuguese senior National Team. On October 3rd, new coach Fernando Santos revealed the list for the first call up of his tenure, which broke every taboo and controversy Paulo Bento had stirred in one way or another, by bringing back some very familiar names along with some new blood.” Outside of the Boot


DR Congo: Gunshots and shaking buses on international breaks

October 13, 2014

“His Peterborough team-mates are playing Crawley this weekend, but League One defender Gabriel Zakuani is making a much longer trip during the international break. The 28-year-old is a Democratic Republic of Congo international and will be aiming to stop Yaya Toure, Gervinho and Wilfried Bony when his country face Ivory Coast on Saturday and Wednesday in two crucial Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in Kinshasa and Abidjan. Zakuani was born in Kinshasa but grew up in London. He made his DR Congo debut in 2005 and was part of the squad at the Cup of Nations in South Africa in 2013.” BBC


Rest could benefit Mesut Ozil as he struggles to regain his form

October 13, 2014

“Over the course of Arsene Wenger’s 18-year reign, Arsenal have become accustomed to World Cup winners. In 1998, Patrick Vieira teed up Emmanuel Petit for the clinching goal in France’s 3-0 final victory over Brazil, prompting the Daily Mirror to famously lead with ‘Arsenal win the World Cup’ on their front page. Four years later, Wenger signed Gilberto Silva on the strength of his World Cup-winning displays for Brazil, while in 2010 Cesc Fabregas assisted Andres Iniesta’s winning goal against the Netherlands.” ESPN – Michael Cox


Romania have Satan on their side against arch rivals Hungary

October 10, 2014

Romania's coach, Victor Piturca, tends to wear black and has 666 on his car number plate.
“When the expected 2,800 Hungary fans arrive in Bucharest for their Euro 2016 qualifier against Romania on Saturday, they will be escorted directly to the stadium in an attempt to avoid the trouble that broke out when the sides met last year in a World Cup qualifier. The stadium will be sold out, with tickets given by the Romanian football federation (FRF) to ultras from each of the major Bucharest teams.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Six recent things I’ve done for other people

October 10, 2014

“Here is a quick list of six recent articles I’ve had published elsewhere. From the language of football to the First World War, with a healthy dose of Southampton and some very personal, gonzo-style pieces for a new and brilliant site based in Ireland. I will be contributing more ‘flash features’ to The Upright, largely because I enjoy doing them and I really admire the bold editorial stance taken by the site, allowing people to write personal, reflective pieces that are not your standard sort of sports writing (but maybe should be more widely represented?). The False Nine piece is part of a series I want to develop for them, looking irreverently at the use of language in football.” Put Niels In Goal


Analysis: Why Radamel Falcao is so Valuable to Man Utd

October 10, 2014

“When Daniel Passarella was Falcao’s coach during his time at River Plate he famously said: ‘He’s like Van Basten, he scores goals, he attacks on all sides and he heads like a god.’ While this was definitely lavish praise from the former World Cup winner, I’m sure he probably wouldn’t have imagined just how good a career his charge would go on to have. And against Everton, a game in which he opened his scoring account for his new club, he showed that his former manager was pretty spot on in his assessment.” Licence to Roam


Crisis? What crisis? Life in Leeds under Massimo Cellino

October 10, 2014

“Whilst chaos clings to everything around Leeds United – a chairman with “elusive intent”, accusations of breaking United Nations Security Council resolutions and player complaints to the PFA – the squad has quietly being making progress on the pitch, with Neil Redfearn and Darko Milanič rubbishing Dave Hockaday’s claim that he could get ‘more out of these players than anyone else could’. For the first time in a while, we actually look pretty good. Really good, even. Form has stuttered in the last few weeks since Milanič took the job yet this is no real cause for concern – it’s the first time he’s managed in England, and this is the first season in English football for seven of the starting XI.” The False Nine