Monthly Archives: December 2014

Lionel Messi’s complex legacy stays in crosshairs for everyone but himself

Roadside graffiti in Rio de Janeiro depicts a disappointed Lionel Messi, one with his head in his hands.
“Time was slipping away, yet Lionel Messi still had plenty. Germany’s Bastian Schweinsteiger, who committed the 120th-minute foul that offered Messi the opportunity for one last look at goal, was receiving treatment a few feet away. The Argentine maestro took advantage of the pause. He stood quietly for a moment then bent over and pressed his fingertips into the ball, testing the air pressure. Messi was calm and deliberate, as if he hoped the measured pace of his movement would help clear his mind and calm any nerves. He was about 25 yards away and to the left of Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. Argentina trailed, 1-0, in the dying seconds of the World Cup final at the Estádio do Maracanã and its fading hopes for a third title rested where they always had – at Messi’s feet.” SI


Tactical review of 2014: three at the back is back in fashion

“The reaction to the back three showed how fickle the representation and reception of tactical phenomena can be. At the World Cup, the back three, as used most eye-catchingly by Holland and Chile, but also by Mexico and Costa Rica, was presented as something exciting and new. And in a sense it was, or at least the return of a formation that had largely fallen out of fashion at international level. But really three at the back, in its reincarnated form, was never a single tactical movement in its own right; rather it was the result of other tactical decisions.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Chelsea: Is Jose Mourinho right about a campaign?

“Is Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho right when he says there is a campaign to influence referees’ decisions against his side? Following his team’s 1-1 draw at Southampton on Sunday, Mourinho said: ‘The media, commentators, other managers are all doing it [putting pressure on referees].’ BBC Sport looks at games in which the Portuguese has complained about refereeing decisions but also at matches where opposition managers have criticised those that have gone in Chelsea’s favour.” BBC (Video)

Analysis: Which academies and clubs develop the best players?

“Often the players playing for the biggest clubs in the world, are the ones that are ‘officially’ recognised as the best individuals in the sport. It might seem like a lazy bit of accreditation but it’s actually a fair assessment of the beautiful game. The best, play for the best. And while a lot of their development, and ability is honed at these clubs – given the top quality facilities and resources, it isn’t where their core football skills are established. Consult any coach or professional and they’ll explain how a footballers’ initial years can determine his future career path. Academies start it off, while the initial professional senior football years engrave skills and set the tone for the next decade or so.” Outside of the Boot

100 Best Young Players to Watch in 2015 | Forwards 10 – 1

“It’s hard to accurately predict future Ballon D’Or nominees based on a players current exploits in the early part of his career. But given the propensity of usual Ballon D’Or nominees bearing rather conspicuous goal-scoring traits, you wouldn’t go too wrong in betting Memphis Depay as a potential future nominee.” Outside of the Boot

Premier League Winners and Losers: Special Boxing Day Edition!

“It’s been a busy few days in the English Premier League, with every side — except for Liverpool and Swansea City, who face off later today — playing two matches since Christmas. Here’s a roundup of everything good, bad, and Ashley Young about the three-day weekend that was.” Grantland (Video)

Crystal Palace doesn’t have to recycle old blood after firing Neil Warnock

“It was the longest a Premier League season had gone without its first firing in 19 years, but that’s now done. Neil Warnock, the man whose return to Selhurst Park provided a small (for some, invisible) silver lining to Tony Pulis’s untimely departure, just experienced an early exit of his own. Two days after Christmas, the 66-year-old’s second tour in Croydon is done.” Soccer Gods

New Territory for Global Game

Marlon Peres Capotes, 11, takes a shot at a goal made of two rocks during a pick-up soccer game in the Zimba La Lisa neighborhood of Havana.
“Ronald Hernandez Vega did not come to see a game played with the hands. There was baseball Monday morning, one and a half innings to complete a rainout in Cuba’s national league. Hernandez Vega did not care. He sat outside the provincial stadium in languid daylight, wearing the jersey not of Yasiel Puig but of Lionel Messi. Baseball is the sport of Cuba’s revolution, but soccer is the sport of the arriving world. … Soccer is nonstop, frenetically creative, its passion building from its penury, the rarity of a goal bringing theatrical release to its players and screaming ecstasy to its announcers. Soccer now rivals baseball as the favorite sport of many young Cubans. They play on lumpy fields and streets dotted with potholes, rushing to fill empty spaces like water, improvising with goals made of fishing nets, bed frames and school desks.” NY Times

100 Best Young Players to Watch in 2015 | Midfielders 10 – 1

“Hakan Calhanoglu grew up in Mannheim of Germany, before moving on to Karlsruhe, Hamburg and Leverkusen while getting called up to the Turkish National team in 2013. An attacking midfielder by trade, Hakan’s style and elegance on the ball has seen him sought out by some of the world’s best. Mini-Analysis: Operating behind the striker or across the midfield, Calhanoglu’s style of play is easy on the eye. A mainstay in the Hamburg team that narrowly escaped relegation last season saw him bag 11 goals and assist 4 in 32 games.” Outside of the Boot

BBC Sport Scotland’s Scottish football review 2014

“The year in Scottish football saw corporate as well as competitive drama and upheaval, certainly, but also the usual doses of joy and sorrow. Individual stories abound, but there were prominent themes, too, not least some clubs shedding debt and others finding youth development and prudence to be worthwhile pursuits. Subjectivity applies to any review, but events can be judged on their own merits. Every club will, for instance, have seen significant moments, but those that linger tend to have generated a wider impact. There were familiar travails at Ibrox, both on and off the field, but also the growing success of the women’s game, as reflected in the progress of the Scottish national team and Glasgow City’s European exploits.” BBC

Zawisza Bydgoszcz, Radoslaw Osuch and the Rejection Of Success

“When the 2014/15 Europa League kicked off its preliminary stages back in June, 195 teams began a journey which comes to an end in May at Warsaw’s impressive Stadion Narodowy. Whoever emerges victorious will become only the third team to lift a trophy inside Poland’s centrepiece stadium, with this season’s Polish Cup winners being the second. The first – reigning holders of said competition, Zawisza Bydgoszcz – were in amongst those 195 original Europa League teams, beginning their first ever foray into continental competition with a trip to Belgian side Zulte Waregem. The Second Qualifying Round tie may have ultimately ended in defeat for Zawisza, however it had come on the back of the most successful twelve months in the club’s near-70-year history.” In Bed With Maradona

Diego Simeone gets his wish: a chance to resurrect Torres at Atlético

“Blame Diego Simeone the player for our one-track minds, but it’s hard to see el Cholo the coach as anything but an extension of the man on the field. As head coach with Atlético, he’s been an obstinate disbeliever — a person whose combination of dedication, optimism and talent leave him unconvinced that Spain’s established pecking order applies to his club. That same mentality that lead to 106 caps for Argentina is upending the duopoly in La Liga.Soccer Gods

Stocking up for the festive football season

“By now, Santa has already returned to the darkest depths of Lapland, so it’s a bit late for last-minute requests, but there are a few stocking fillers that would have been very much appreciated in the world of football. Chelsea – at the top of the table – appear to need nothing more than they have already. A couple of alarm clocks wouldn’t go amiss though in Manchester, in time for next season, because both City and United woke up late this season. City at least hold some chance of catching up. United, who probably have more than enough in their cabinet already, will just have to run down the clock, comfortably in the Champions League positions, and wait for next time around.” Football Pink

Twelve glimpses of soccer Christmas

“DEC25. CR7. Wake; put on my own-brand underwear and my own-brand t-shirt. Listen to commentary of the 61 goals I scored in 2014 on my own-brand headphones. Doubt: is my statue too small? Does Messi have a bigger one? Think about going to my museum to check, but I remember: It’s Christmas. It’s shut. But frustration passes. My online store is always open.” Soccer Gods

100 Best Young Players to Watch in 2015 | Defenders 10 – 1

“Following the huge success of our 2014 list, we have compiled a list of the 100 Best Young Players to Watch in 2015 under our Talent Radar feature after careful evaluation and consultation. For more details on how we went about this and any other questions you may have, read these FAQs.” Outside of the Boot

Real Madrid’s tactical flexibility allows for success in multiple ways

“Real Madrid’s recent dominance culminates in the club’s first chance to win the FIFA Club World Cup on Saturday. In brushing off Cruz Azul, 4-0, in the semifinals, Real again showed its versatility as likely the most complete team in the world. Club president Florentino Pérez and his philosophy of buying the best talent available fits with manager Carlo Ancelotti’s tactical flexibility. Ancelotti has a swath of individual talent at his disposal that ensures minimal need for overarching structure in attack. Of course, as a disciple of famous AC Milan tactician Arrigo Sacchi, Ancelotti would never be able to eschew defensive discipline. A staunch 4-4-2 in defense gives way to a 4-3-3 hybrid in possession that allows free rein for devastating combinations and individual play in the final third.” SI

FIFA Agrees to Release Redacted Ethics Report

“FIFA said on Friday that it would release a redacted version of the 430-page report compiled by Michael J. Garcia, the former chief investigator for the governing body of soccer’s ethics committee, who spent more than a year digging into allegations of corruption in the World Cup bidding process. Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA, announced the decision at a news conference in Morocco, at which he also said that the 2018 World Cup would take place in Russia as planned and that the 2022 event would remain in Qatar because there were no legal grounds for a revote.” NY Times

Martin Odegaard tries Bayern Munich but is it a case of too much, too young?

“In November 2003, Lionel Messi made his debut for Barcelona in a friendly to inaugurate Porto’s new stadium. He was 16 years and 145 days old, and the third youngest player to play for the club. The youngest had been Paulino Alcántara in 1912, the second-youngest Haruna Babangida in 1998. The contrasting fortunes of the three say much about the difficulties of predicting which players will make it. Messi has gone on to be one of the greatest payers in the history of the game. Alcántara was – until Messi came along – Barcelona’s record goalscorer (and he gave up the game at 31 to become a doctor). Babangida never played a competitive game for Barcelona, won only one cap for Nigeria and ended up drifting through Metalurh Donetsk, Olympiakos, Apollon Limassol, Kuban Krasnodar, Mainz, Vitesse and the Austrian second-tier side Kapfenberger before retiring in 2012.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Multi-club Ownerships: The Future of Football?

“With a new wave of businessmen looking to exploit football, the young talent in involved and the monetary benefit all within the rules of the game, we are witness to rising multi-club ownerships. Stuart Reid throws light in this comprehensive article on what he believes is the future of football. A multi-club ownership (or MCO for short) is when an individual, or a group of individuals working as a collaboration, own more than one club. The reasons behind owning more than one club vary chairman to chairman, but it ultimately all boils down to one thing – money.” Outside of the Boot

Who’s Going to Win the Club World Cup? Related: Who Cares?

“FIFA maintains a common design across all of its trophies: A globe in the style of a soccer ball is the dominant centerpiece. Its depiction illustrates — however ham-handedly — the universal resonance of soccer, and perhaps only the iconic World Cup trophy is as impressive as the prize handed to the winners of the Club World Cup. But despite all of that shimmering symbolism, club soccer’s world championship can’t escape irrelevance.” Grantland

Liverpool signings by Brendan Rodgers – hits or misses?

Brendan Rodgers Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur
“I am a fan of Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers and rate him highly as a coach, but he has spent £206.5m since taking over at Anfield and does not have much to show for it. Rodgers signs a lot of young players and keeps talking about improving them for the future. He has done that since he took charge in 2012 and he deserves credit for having that approach. Unfortunately for him, with Liverpool struggling for form, the bottom line is that he needs players for today, not tomorrow.” BBC

Why are the once invincible Arsenal now big-game chokers?

“Sometimes it truly is difficult to understand why those in charge are the ones that are standing on the bridge of the ship when it goes down under the same circumstances time and time again. It will never be up for debate if Arsene Wenger is one of the greatest managers in the history of English football, and despite the last eight or nine years of him masochistically shooting himself in his own foot, his place in the annals of the English game are all but assured. The question that so many continue to debate, right up to the current season no less, is why Arsenal are incapable of getting one over on their title rivals.” Outside of the Boot

Analysis: Emiliano Velazquez’s Exceptional Start to life in La Liga with Getafe

“Emiliano Velazquez continued his impressive form in La Liga this term by putting in another solid defensive showing against the inordinate talents of Barcelona’s frontline. In the driving rain, Velazquez and his side did an outstanding job keeping the score to 0-0. After the match, Velazquez spoke of his side’s terrific effort and how it was great to keep his compatriot Luis Suarez goalless.” Licence to Roam

Club World Cup: Real Madrid ahead for San Lorenzo

“Squeezed around domestic commitments, European champions Real Madrid arrived in Morocco this week for the Fifa Club World Cup – but their South American counterparts, San Lorenzo of Argentina, have been there in spirit for months. Ever since an emotional night in August when they won the Copa Libertadores, South America’s equivalent of the Champions League, San Lorenzo have found it impossible to forget about the Club World Cup.” BBC – Tim Vickery

The Search for Space

“New Labour had a difficult, unstable relationship with football. In the early days, there was a clear attempt to embrace the game. One of Tony Blair’s most memorable media moments in opposition was a bizarre photo-shoot with the then-Newcastle United manager Kevin Keegan. For Blair, not a football fan by any means (despite occasional attempts to suggest otherwise) 27 consecutive headers between the two was rather impressive. Labour swept to power on the coattails of the Cool Britannia mood of the mid 1990s, perhaps best epitomised culturally by Euro 96.” Blizzard

Tim Howard is taking Brad Friedel at his word, now

“When it came time to talk about Tim Howard’s recent bookThe Keeper, focus quickly turned to one of the book’s subplots, a conflict between the Everton goalkeeper and one of his former international teammates, Brad Friedel. According to the book, Friedel opposed Howard’s move from Major League Socer to Manchester United in 2003, declining to sign a recommendation as well as petitioning the Professional Footballer’s Association to deny Howard’s work permit appeal.” Soccer Gods

The Velvet Revolution

“‘This isn’t Ajax anymore,’ Johan Cruyff wrote in his De Telegraaf column in September 2010, venting his frustration after Ajax’s Champions League performance against Real Madrid – a desperate 2-0 defeat at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. ‘Let me get to the point: this Ajax is even worse than the team from before Rinus Michels’s arrival in 1965.’” Blizzard

Thierry Henry: The football fan who fulfilled his dreams

“There is nothing that quite prepares an elite sportsman for the moment when they wake up and don’t have a dressing room, a training ground, a life that revolves around preparation and competition to anchor them. Thierry Henry announced that he would not be staying on at New York Red Bulls on 1 December after his team went out of the MLS Cup, at the age of 37. It has taken the Premier League legend just over two weeks to firm up his future ambitions and opt for a career in the media.BBC

Qatar Hero

“… This friend will remain anonymous, for two reasons: firstly, while he won’t mind my re-telling the tale in question he would probably prefer not to see his own name in print; secondly, his name wouldn’t mean much to most readers anyway. This friend could adopt Descartes’s larvatus prodeo [masked, I proceed] as his motto, as the path he’s followed in football, which took him to very high places indeed, remains largely uncharted. He wouldn’t have it any other way.” Blizzard

The Great Betrayal

“Along Stowell Street and up to Gallowgate, hemmed in by the illicit, everything mam would scold you for; men weaving through traffic, a chuffing of tabs, the fucketty-twat, rat-a-tat swearing, pie-flecked gobs crooning mayhem. A half of orange squash at fart height outside the Strawberry and it is ten to three and tears are prickling and panic clenches and you cannot swallow but the rush is on and you bolt it.” Blizzard

Manchester United 3 Liverpool 0

Football - FA Premier League - Manchester United FC v Liverpool FC
Brad Jones
“I am drenched and broadly speaking lost, trying to get back from Manchester after having discussed Liverpool’s 3-0 defeat to Manchester United live to a nation who would prefer it if I didn’t swear or blaspheme. Bar one shout of ‘God in heaven’ (I became my dad when I was five) I did alright considering it could be the most frustrating football match I have ever seen. BBC Sport in Manchester is what the future looks like. You could set a phenomenal sci-fi there. Everyone was very nice, you’ll be pleased to learn.” TAW

There are pros to keeping Rodgers, but there are also a boatload of cons
“When in doubt, turn to science, and right now, my beloved Liverpool’s full of doubt. But since we’re not real scientists and the more numbers you bring to soccer, the more odious it becomes, the simple elegance of a pros-cons list is our best tool for figuring out Brendan Rodgers’ future. Unless you slept through the weekend, you know Young Brendan’s future is the subject of much doubt. Lose 3-0 to United, face the music. In this case, that will mean a week’s worth of hot takes on how hot his seat has become …” Soccer Gods

A Season of Failed Balance: Why Liverpool Can’t Have It All
“It took Manchester United all of 12 minutes to score against Liverpool. Goals change games no matter what, obviously, but conceding an early goal on Sunday was a particularly difficult pill for Liverpool to swallow. The Reds were desperately trying to reach some sort of equilibrium after being knocked out of the Champions League, and a match against their biggest rival would’ve been a good place to start.” Grantland (Video)

Tactical Analysis: Manchester United 3-0 Liverpool | Rodgers’ approach allows Van Gaal to use his wing-backs
“There were times where this fixtures involved two of the most in form teams in England, and there were occasions where the gulf in class was evident. But the first Manchester United-Liverpool clash of 2014/15, had a slightly altered flavour to it. Two sides fallen from their respective perches, some longer than others, looking to recover before the stagnation persists. Despite the score-line, neither side truly impressed but even if there’s a lack of performance, United showed they haven’t forgotten how to win football matches.” Outside of the Boot

Liverpool – from ruthless to toothless in nine months
“When Liverpool’s team coach pulled out of Old Trafford last March, it was fuelled by the growing belief that years of domination by Manchester United were finally coming to an end. Liverpool’s 3-0 win, built on the thrilling attacking strategy of manager Brendan Rodgers, hugely flattered a United side in disarray under David Moyes and cast adrift of their resurgent rivals by 14 points.” BBC

Mohamed’s departure and a sea of red cards come with Club América’s record title

“I’ve always wondered what would happen if the bears from Goldilocks sipped porridge and sat around watching a soccer game. Papa Bear, a Louis van Gaal disciple, would say ‘this team plays too defensively.’ Mama Bear, ever the optimistic moderate, would proclaim ‘this team plays just right.’ Baby Bear, exposed to José Mourinho at too young and impressionable age, would say ‘this team doesn’t play defensive enough.’ In the second leg of last night’s Liga MX final, Papa Bear would have been right. At least, in regard to Tigres. While the challengers boasted one of Liga MX’s best defenses this past season, as we noted earlier, goals win championships in Mexico, not clean sheets. Tigres beat Club América 1-0 on Thursday in leg one because rather than dropping deep, it advanced its lines and took the game to the Aguilas.” Soccer Gods

Juventus’s bestia nera returns to haunt them as Sampdoria seal a draw

“In Turin, the locals spoke fretfully of a bestia nera coming to pay Juventus a visit. Those words translate in English to black beast, although bête noire might sound more familiar. The expression has its origins in medieval times, when the devil would often be represented in works of art as an animal with black fur and burning eyes. These days it is applied mostly by Italians to sporting bogey teams. No demon had troubled Juventus as greatly over the last few seasons as Sampdoria – a side they had beaten just twice in their latest six attempts. The Blucerchiati were responsible for the Old Lady’s most recent home defeat, recovering from a goal and a man down to snatch an unlikely 2-1 victory in January 2013.” Guardian

Champions League: Holders Real Madrid draw Schalke 04 in last 16 stage

Champions League draw
“Champions League holders and arguably Europe’s most in-form team Real Madrid were drawn against German side Schalke 04 in the last 16 of Europe’s most prestigious competition. Real, which defeated city rival Atletico Madrid 4-1 in Lisbon last year to win ‘La Decima’ — it’s 10th title — is attempting to become the first team to successfully defend the Champions League. Two of England’s three clubs face tough ties, with Chelsea drawn against Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City paired with Spanish giants Barcelona.” CNN

Rematches, Wenger reunion headline Champions League knockout draw
“After a group stage in which the main lesson was that Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are still the teams to beat in this competition, the draw for the round of 16 took place Monday. The odds on the two favorites will have shortened considerably after decent draws, and two big guns will fall by the wayside after Paris Saint-Germain was drawn against Chelsea and Manchester City against Barcelona in a pair of repeat matchups from last season. There was also a moment of sentimentality in the draw, as Arsenal was drawn against AS Monaco, where coach Gunners coach Arsene Wenger was manager from 1987-1994. Here’s a breakdown of Monday’s draw…” SI

A bizarre halt in the rise of Martin Montoya

“With Spain’s success at youth level on the international stage, particularly over the past 5 years, one would naturally expect a lot from a player who featured heavily for La Rojita in their recent consecutive U21 Euro title wins. Comparing Spain’s starting XIs for both finals, against Switzerland in 2011 and Italy in 2013, there were 3 constants on the pitch. One of those players is now 1 of the best goalkeepers in the English Premier League and another was a key component in Bayern Munich’s successful defence of their Bundesliga title in his debut 2013/14 season. The 2 players in question? David de Gea and Thiago Alcântara respectively. And what of the third? Well, that was Martin Montoya.” Outside of the Boot

Rangers will miss Ally McCoist’s spirit not management

“Rangers’ losing performance at Queen of the South, live on BT Sport on Friday, was typical of Ally McCoist’s managerial reign. But in pre- and post-match interviews he wore the demeanour of someone calling a more important bluff. Only this morning have Rangers confirmed he’d handed in his notice hours before kick-off in Dumfries. McCoist, in the post since June 2011, bizarrely stated and restated “I am the Rangers manager”. His default chirpy setting was more sad than inappropriate but epitomised the club since 2012’s liquidation: a hollow impersonation of power.” WSC

Manchester City finds way through, Barca tops PSG in Champions League

“The final day of the Champions League group stage saw Manchester City produce probably the best Champions league performance in its history to book its place in the last 16 for only the second time. Barcelona outlasted PSG for first in their group behind goals from Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, and Schalke 04 also secured its place in the knockout phase on a night when John Obi Mikel broke a long-standing personal drought.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

History has become a burden for Germany’s struggling powers

“It’s no secret that the 2014-15 Bundesliga season has been a rough one for Borussia Dortmund. After a few seasons of success, the tradition-rich club has spent much of the fall slumming it in the table’s depths, at one stage bottoming out in dead last. It’s been a shock for everybody, especially considering the team’s good form in the Champions League, but a closer look at the standings reveals a wider truth: Many of German’s traditional powers are in terrible shape.” Soccer Gods

Bielsa’s tactics have Marseille competing for French glory again

“The revolutionary Marcelo Bielsa has Olympique de Marseille at the top of the Ligue 1 table just over half a calendar year after finishing sixth. Hired in May, he was tasked with restoring OM to the glory it hasn’t seen since winning the league in 2009-10. Bielsa, 59, brought with him his uncompromising style and unique philosophy that has influenced some of the world’s top tacticians, including Pep Guardiola, who called him “the best coach on the planet” in 2012. When Bielsa and Guardiola coached against each other in La Liga, Guardiola spoke of his intrigue at Athletic Bilbao’s almost militaristic sense of work rate.” SI

Late paychecks and job insecurity are now facts of life in Brazilian soccer

“It wasn’t long ago that we were watching the great and good of world soccer parade their talents here in Brazil. Fittingly, and in defiance of the naysaying that surrounded the country’s often shambolic World Cup preparations, Brazil provided an idyllic stage for talents like Neymar, Lionel Messi, and Toni Kroos to perform their magic – perfect playing surfaces, gleaming, modern stadiums, and packed stands filled with shiny-toothed fans. Brazil’s domestic season was never going to live up its Mundial, but at times, when the stadiums have been full and the country’s better sides have been on display, the splendor of the World Cup seems like more than a brief visitor from another soccer galaxy. A recent survey showed the country’s top flight players are the seventh best paid in the world, and the new World Cup arenas have given clubs an excuse to jack up prices to dizzying levels.” Soccer Gods

Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson backed by peers after fan with row: ‘You said what rest us want to say’

“Nigel Pearson is one of the most measured, thoughtful managers in the country so it was a warning sign of the pressures his profession is under when even he snapped at an abusive fan, an offence that brought a Football Association charge on Thursday. The Leicester City manager remained phlegmatic when being alerted of the FA’s decision in the afternoon, just as he stayed calm earlier in the day despite the deep frustration after one of his best players this season, Kasper Schmeichel, broke a metatarsal in training. Leicester’s goalkeeper undergoes an operation today and will be out for ‘four to six weeks’, according to his manager.” Telegraph – Henry Winter

Why Are You So Bad, Tottenham?

“Tottenham just seem like they should be a better team. The club has a ton of players who were very good before they came to North London, in addition to a manager who’s a proven commodity in England. Spurs aren’t Liverpool, who’ve lost their two best players since last season, or Arsenal, who are struggling with depth, injuries, and a gaping hole at the defensive midfield spot. Tottenham aren’t even Everton, a team fighting to match the overachieving levels it hit last year when everything possible went right.” Grantland

2014-15 Bundesliga Power Rankings: Match Day 14

“We are back with the 2014-15 Bundesliga Power Rankings – the post-Match Day 14 edition. Since our last edition, Bayern mocks the others, FC Augsburg reaches historic heights, Eintracht decides it might really want to challenge for Europe, darkness shrouds the middle table, while old faces revisit the relegation zone. Hold onto your butts, kids. The Power Rankings do not necessarily reflect the current table standings, since they account both for form and expectations, all the while acknowledging the fluctuation and random effects riddled through a single match day weekend, yet also acknowledging that the weekly randomness does something like work itself out over the long run. Thus, we proudly present our Match Day 14 Power Rankings. Debate. Discuss. Rinse and repeat. Huzzah! Bundesliga Fanatic

Three things we learned this week in Ligue 1

“After dropping what may prove to be a valuable two points at Lorient during the week, Marcelo Bielsa’s Olympique de Marseille side logically overcame Metz by three goals to one, with a victory which sees them extend their winning streak at home to eight games. Les Olympiens maintained their point advantage at the top of the table, thanks to goals from their influential trio of André-Pierre Gignac, André Ayew and their star of the season far, Dimitri Payet. Metz have impressed at home this season, losing just one game at home so far against Paris-Saint Germain, but Les Grenats’ form away from the Stade Saint-Symphorien has not been as impressive, as Albert Cartier’s side have picked up just four points out of a possible total of twenty-four.” backpagefootball

Novelty Mayhem: Why This Week’s Champions League Matches Are Unusually Important

“The boring truth about the Champions League group stages is that the big teams pretty much always move through. It’s briefly exciting when Champions League play starts up every September, but games don’t really get that tense until the knockout stages. Cinderellas from smaller leagues get a nice fat check, six group-stage games against Europe’s elite, and a patronizing pat on the head as they head back to Switzerland, Greece, or Slovenia. Well, usually, anyway. This year, the final day of the group stages offers something different: the chance for a whole bunch of minnows to overcome big-four giants and give the knockout rounds some geographic diversity that’s been missing the last few seasons.” Grantland

The price of super stardom

“On July 7th 1957, with little more than 30 senior games under his belt and still a few months short of his 17th birthday, Pele made his debut for Brazil, scoring his side’s goal in the 2-1 defeat to Argentina in Rio’s Maracana stadium. The previous day, at the church fete in Woolton, Liverpool, the 16 year old John Lennon met Paul McCartney, two years his junior, for the first time. The rest, of course, is history – until, hundreds of hits and a thousand goals later, their decade came to an end. In April 1970 McCartney announced the break up of The Beatles. A couple of months later Pele made a glorious farewell to the stage he had made his own, winning the World Cup for the third time with a team that still set the standard for Brazil sides. The closeness of the dates is uncanny.” The World Game – Tim Vickery

100 Best Young Players to Watch in 2015 | Goalkeepers 5 – 1

Simone Scuffet
“Following the huge success of our 2014 list, we have compiled a list of the 100 Best Young Players to Watch in 2015 under our Talent Radar feature after careful evaluation and consultation. For more details on how we went about this and any other questions you may have, read these FAQs.” Outside of the Boot

How Roberto Pereyra has played an important role at Juventus

“Udinese’s scouting network has been widely documented over the past couple of season; their latest gem to shine is one that is benefiting Juventus and could continue to do. Stephen Ganavas has a look at Robert Pereyra and how he has been an important component in Massimiliano Allegri’s set-up.” Outside of the Boot

Happy Birthday Paul McGrath: Reliving Giants Stadium

“To celebrate the 55th birthday of one of the greatest of them all, Paul McGrath, we’re reposting Reliving Giants Stadium. The 1994 World Cup in America was the first for Luke Constable of the brilliantly named RGSOAS (Ruud Gullit Sitting on a Shed). His native England hadn’t qualified but thanks to his Irish grandfather, Luke was rooting for the Republic. Having missed the full game with Italy, the myth around the match had grown. Houghton’s goal and McGrath’s performance became legendary as the years went on. Luke has never seen the game in its entirety…until now.” Póg Mo Goal

The Rise and Fall of Southampton

“Just a week ago, Southampton sat in second place, comfy on 26 points, six goals conceded, and a seven-point cushion from the non–Champions League wasteland of fifth place. Then they played Manchester City and Arsenal, and now they still have 26 points, sit in third place, and are a too-thin-to-sleep-on two points from dropping out of the Champions League. So …” Grantland

Video Analysis: Barcelona’s Build-up Play

“Guardiola’s Barcelona and its tiki-taka way of play dominated Europe but soon enough, teams got around to figuring a way to make them ineffective. Successive Barcelona squads have had to deal with this and have started to incorporate certain tactical elements which are noticeable from where we sit. Luis Enrique’s Barcelona have often had to vary these tactical elements and tailor them depending on the team they were facing. One such game was back in September when Barcelona played Athletic Bilbao. While Suarez was still prohibited from playing at this point, the other big name signing, Rakitic, was seen playing a crucial role in their build up play.” Outside of the Boot (Video)

Stylish play from “plastic” challengers can’t cure the Bundesliga’s fatalism

“So you’ve heard about Bayern Munich, and what the Bavarian titans are doing to the Bundesliga? Vacuuming up the league’s best players. Hiring the brainiest guy in soccer, then letting him pull all kinds of tactical stunts. The club’s paid off all it’s stadium debt and now is now stacking money higher than the Allianz itself. It’s as if Bayern’s tap-dancing in golf shoes on the Bundesliga’s helpless mug. Just think of the puncture wounds when Dortmund star Marco Reus arrives this summer.” Soccer Gods

Favourites Algeria dealt AFCON minefield

“The pot compilation of yesterday’s 2015 African Cup of Nations draw always meant a strong viability for a series of heavy weight assortments, yet for the majority of sides assigned a spot in Group C their hand represented the nightmare assignment. The inevitably dubbed group of death compiles the intimidating quintet of Algeria, Ghana, South Africa and Senegal. If Algeria – undoubtedly Africa’s standout outfit in Brazil last summer and the continent’s highest ranked side – are to clinch a first crown in 22 years they must now do it the hard way. That being said as arduous as Algeria’s examination might appear, for their three opponents the Fennec Foxes represent the worst case scenario.” backpagefootball

Ballon D’Or: The Argument for Manuel Neuer

“1 out of 58. To the uninitiated, these are simple numbers, but those who know better, realise that this is representative of the number of goalkeepers that have been honoured by being handed a tag that says, ‘World Player of the Year’, or any such variation. A look at the list of winners will reveal that a few defensive players have won it, few enough to count on one’s left hand. Moving away from the point, most of us believe, and understand that football is a game that consists of two functions; score goals, stop the opponent from scoring goals. Most will agree that each function is as important as the other.” Outside of the Boot

How football shaped Brazil

Brazil 1994
“England may have created football but Brazil made it an art form. Since the arrival of football in the South American country at the turn of the 20th century, Brazil have won eight Copa Americas and five World Cups. In doing so they have captured the hearts of millions of football fans and created a template for beautiful football. It’s impossible to dispute that as a nation Brazil has shaped football. What is often forgotten is how football helped shaped Brazil itself. Football’s beginnings in Brazil were humble. The game was first brought to the Samba Nation in the 1890s by British expatriates and returning Anglo-Brazilian students and at first it was played only amongst Brazilian elites.” backpagefootball

Why Mourinho smiled as Chelsea lost; more notes from Saturday’s EPL

“For Chelsea, there was a wry sideline smile in defeat. For Manchester City there were sideline tears in victory. After Chelsea lost 2-1 at Newcastle at lunchtime, City listlessly seized its chance with a dreary 1-0 home victory over Everton in Saturday’s evening game. Chelsea’s lead is now just three points. But as José Mourinho told BT Sports after his game ended: ‘We have to ask the other 19 teams in the Premier League if anyone wants to be in our position and I think they would all like to be. But leader there is only one and that is Chelsea.’” SI

Bored of Rodgers, Bored of Wenger

“In the future, managers will be given contracts on a game-by-game basis. Players will be voted off the pitch and out of the club, with new ones voted in and on. There has to reach a point where no one – players, managers, coaches – can withstand any bad form whatsoever. The quicker life gets, and the more disposable everything becomes, the less patience we can afford anything. Employment at a club will become ‘winner stays on’; fail just once and you’re gone.” Tomkins Times

The 1908 Olympics: When organised international football first kicked-off

“In 1896, the Modern Olympic games officially kicked off in Athens, Greece. It was a seminal moment in international sporting history and one that still affects us today. What if Pierre de Coubertin and his cohort of idealistic supporters had given up on the Olympic dream? What if stars such as Jesse Owens, Muhammad Ali and Usain Bolt were never given the opportunity to showcase their skills in front of the world? It’s a thought too unsettling to hold for too long. Yes the 1896 Olympics were a landmark moment in more ways than one…there is just one problem however. There was no football in 1896. In fact, football was most likely unheard of by many people in Greece in 1896. The beautiful game was still in its infancy in England and had not yet become the global phenomena it is today. By 1896 it had hardly become a regional phenomena.” Outside of the Boot

Africa Cup of Nations’ lop-sided draw promises intrigue if not high quality

Democratic Republic of Congo fan – African Nations Cup
“Given the seeding pots, the potential for an atrociously difficult group at next month’s Africa Cup of Nations was always there. The draw delivered, spectacularly and brutally. Algeria, the top-ranked team in Africa, the only one of the Cup of Nations qualifiers to reach the last 16 of the World Cup, were the danger lurking in Pot 2 and Ghana the unlucky seeds. But worse than that, Ghana had already been grouped with Senegal – by some distance the best team in Pot 4 – and, from Pot 3, the side that eliminated the champions Nigeria in qualifying, South Africa, resurgent under Shakes Mashaba.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson