Monthly Archives: January 2015

Chile vs. the United States: Five questions about the performance that we can answer before kickoff

Republic of Ireland v USA - International Friendly
“The United States’ men’s national team faces Chile tonight in what would be a rare out-of-FIFA-window friendly, if the U.S. didn’t do this every year. Tonight’s match against La Roja and next week’s affair with Panama mark the end to the team’s annual winter camp, affectionately if harshly known as ‘Camp Cupcake’ to fans and critics alike. Given that out-of-window nature of the game, it’s always difficult to discern lessons from these January affairs. Thankfully, our years of experience at being a website (that’s been up for less than a year) are here to help. Here are all the major questions that will be asked after tonight’s game, and their answers.” Soccer Gods


Borussia Dortmund’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Season

“Shit happens. As much as you scheme and plan, measure and predict, train and prepare, the games still have to be played — and balls will bounce the wrong way, key players will get hurt, and opposing keepers will make incredible saves. This season, nowhere has more shit happened than at the Westfalenstadion, the 80,000-seat home stadium of Borussia Dortmund. As the Bundesliga returns from its winter break this weekend, Dortmund sits in 17th place out of 18 teams. If the season ended today, the 2013 Champions League runners-up would be relegated. It’s a stunning fall for a team that finished second in both of the last two seasons and first in the two years before that. So, it’s time to ask …” Grantland (Video)

Upset Polish fans broke into their club’s stadium and left coffins for each player

“Angry fans and impromptu protests are all the rage this Major League Soccer offseason. Being the relative neophites we supposedly are (but actually aren’t) here in the United States, we can take a few notes on how to send a strong message from fellow supporters around the world. Bear witness to the work of the pissed off fans of Zawisza Bydgoszcz. The Polish first division club is dead last in the league, so bad that it’s eight points behind the next worst team. They haven’t won in 10 matches, and it lost a friendly to a second division team this weekend.” Soccer Gods (Video)

Brighton and Hove Albion – Love At The Pier

Lewis Dunk
“In many ways Brighton’s 2013/14 season was similar to their previous campaign, as they once again reached the Championship play-offs, only to fall at the semi-final stage this time to Derby County, leading to the resignation of Head Coach Oscar Garcia. In spite of this blow, the club’s finances still improved with their losses falling by nearly a third from £15.3 million to £10.6 million. Chief executive Paul Barber described this as “a significant improvement”, which seems a little strange, given that Brighton still reported a loss of nearly £11 million, but he’s sort of right, given the crazy finances in England’s second-tier as clubs strive to reach the highly lucrative Premier League. Furthermore, revenue rose 3% (£0.6 million) to £24 million, which is a record for the Albion, though the debt owed to chairman Tony Bloom also increased by £28 million to £131 million.” Swiss Ramble

SC Freiburg’s Football Factory

“It’s the first game of the 2012 Rückrunde and bottom side SC Freiburg are facing FC Augsburg at home and neither side have found a way to score as the clock ticks down to 90 minutes. Trainer Christian Streich decides on a final throw of the dice and sends on eighteen year old academy graduate Matthias Ginter for his debut. Two minutes from time the substitution pays off as Ginter heads home the winner from a Michael Lumb freekick. Fast forward to last summer and having just been a non-playing member of Germany’s World Cup winning squad, Ginter sealed a €10 million switch to Borussia Dortmund. Not a bad piece of business for the Breisgau club and absolutely fitting with the way the club is run.” Bundesliga Fanatic

Do Liverpool Need the Cups?

“Given that the role of momentum in sport may be overplayed, it’s difficult to know whether cup runs are important. It’s always nice to win silverware, but if that silverware has no great meaning – if it has been devalued (or never was of value) – then it becomes a question of resource management. That is why so many clubs who don’t have big squads are choosing to play it safe. Let’s be clear: Liverpool FC doesn’t exist to win trophies; it exists to win meaningful trophies. (There are plenty of lower league trophies if the club wants to drop down the divisions.) And it also exists to be part of the big occasions. Indeed, it exists to make people happy.” Tomkins Times

In Winter, It’s Time for a Stoppage

“F.C. Basel, the best soccer team in Switzerland, went to work one recent day on a glistening grass field set among chunky dirt mounds, overgrown vegetation and the construction site for what appeared to be a new Burger King. The circumstances seemed a bit incongruous: Basel, which leads the Swiss Super League standings, was preparing for a UEFA Champions League match, yet it was about 1,000 miles from home. On this particular afternoon, the team’s training consisted of a casual exhibition match on an unlikely field against a second-division team from Germany.” NY Times

Claude LeRoy: French coach is African legend

“Congo’s qualification for the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations was a remarkable achievement for an unfancied side, but also a personal triumph for coach Claude LeRoy – one of the grand old men of African football. Frenchman LeRoy, 66, has managed five different African national teams since first taking charge of Cameroon in 1985. He has coached at eight Cups of Nations and has now reached the quarter-finals on seven occasions, winning the trophy once. BBC Sport caught up with LeRoy to find out more about his extraordinary journey – and what continues to drive his passion for African football.” BBC

Russian football in crisis – part 1

“It was a typically Russian response, one that anybody who has worked here, or done business, with Russian companies will have experienced. Payday arrives, confidently you head out that evening and decide to remove some cash from the drinklink and you begin to boil. What was in your account the day before, hasn’t changed. It’s eight o’clock, so no good calling your boss or someone who can offer an explanation, worse, it’s a Friday and it dawns on you that your fridge is going to remain empty for another couple of days, at least. This is just the beginning. The end will be far more frustrating and depressing.” backpagefootball

What has happened to the Marseille attack?

“In the grand scheme of things, it’s very much been a successful season for Olympique Marseille. Short of a massive collapse in form, Marseille have a real solid opportunity to finish in the top three in Ligue 1 (either the two automatic Champions League spots or the third place Champions League playoff spot). Marseille have at times been the most intoxicating offense to watch in Ligue 1, led by Marcelo Bielsa. The manager has infused an eccentricity into Marseille whether it’s through the fluidity of his tactics (the free flowing nature of how the team play three at the back within their 4-2-3-1) or the type of cooler that Bielsa will sit on during the match. But lately the spark has simmered. Marseille for a chunk of the season were on top of the table in Ligue 1 but their flamboyant offense has fizzled out.” backpagefootball

Boro Beat City and the Bantams Take the Bridge: How the FA Cup Lost Its Damn Mind

“In theory, the FA Cup gives England’s minnows a chance to upset their big Premier League brethren, but that’s so rarely the case. In reality, small teams give their fans a chance to watch their favorite club play host to some of the world’s best players. Or if it’s an away game, the club scores a nice cash infusion with the shared gate money from a big-time team’s big-time stadium. And then they lose and go back to grim Saturdays in the third division. This weekend, though, reality was turned upside down — and Middlesbrough and Bradford City stuffed it into a rocket and kicked it into outer space.” Grantland (Video)

Riquelme’s reminder: There’ll always be a place for art in soccer

“Call me old fashioned, but Juan Román Riquelme is my favorite kind of player. Riquelme was never the fastest, strongest, or even remotely close to the most athletic player on the field. But somehow, the Argentine midfielder made a career out of the remaining scraps, relying exclusively on technique, awareness, and an ability to read the game with such precision that at times he came off as a master puppeteer. The other 21 players on the field frequently looked like extensions of Riquelme, only there to be manipulated by his thoughts and movements. Riquelme created exquisite art. Last night, Riquelme announced his career as an artist was over. Eight weeks after his final appearances, the Argentine virtuoso announced his retirement. His work is done.” Soccer Gods

Ghana’s loss to Senegal leaves Avram Grant in familiar territory

“Avram Grant has faced enough hostile press conferences in his career to know that he got away lightly. The Ghanaian media was clearly disappointed by the 2-1 defeat to Senegal on Monday but it was relatively restrained in the way it dealt with Grant, who sat in familiarly morose pose as a bat fluttered back and forth above his head. Perhaps the gentle approach was born of a recognition that this was Grant’s first competitive game in charge, or perhaps it was simply that the poor performance wasn’t unexpected.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Afcon 2015: Star players, prizes and stats from Equatorial Guinea
“The opening round of group games at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations has delivered penalty misses, last-gasp winners, no goalless draws and some man-of-the-match presentations with a twist. The Confederation of African Football (Caf) has given fans the chance to hand out awards to the chosen star man in fixtures, but have they gone to the right players? Here, we put forward the round-one stars chosen by you, our reporters on the ground in Equatorial Guinea and African football’s governing body.” BBC

Zambia 1 Tunisia
“Tunisia made the most of Zambia’s wastefulness in front of goal as they came from behind to win. Emmanuel Mayuka opened the scoring when he blasted home a cross from the impressive Rainford Kalaba. But Mayuka was injured when stretching for a chance to turn the ball into an empty net and moments later Tunisia scored against 10 men when Ahmed Akaichi scored from two yards out. Tunisia improved after that and Yasine Chikhaoui headed home a late winner.” BBC

French Football Column: Lyon Stay on Top, Raphael Guerreiro impresses and more

“Another round of Ligue 1 games has come and gone. It’s still tight at the top and tight at the bottom as we look at the talking points from week 21. Rampant Rhone Valley – Part One. Lyon consolidated their position at the top of Ligue 1 with a 2-0 victory away to Lens, who in turn were playing away in Amiens. After reaching the summit last week, it took a slightly comical own goal and Alexandre Lacazette with his 20th goal of the season via the penalty spot, to ensure Lyon came away with the points and guaranteed top spot at the end of week 21.” Outside of the Boot

Football Manager 2009 – Brian Phillips

“Pro Vercelli: The End, Or Is It. A new version of Football Manager is released today, which makes this, in my house at least, a time of hushed reflection. The old era is passing away, the new era is rising up before us. Everything we knew and loved is sliding into the sea, while before us, like a mountainous country, is thrust a terrifying and exhilarating possibility. Just like every day, really, but the arrival of a new FM makes it that much clearer. Here is the past, there is the future. Eurogamer gave it a 9, but wished more had been done to fix the press conferences. …” Run Of Play – Brian Phillips

A Different Kind of Business Model

“Over the past 20 years football has changed beyond recognition. The very identity of the football today is very different; the game has moved with society. Football was always a working class game in the 70s and 80s – it was a release for many of the everyday drudgery of life. But times have changed, and so has the working class identity of football. It is a difficult transition for many traditional football fans, money has poisoned the game in so many ways and the gap between players and supporters is now so wide that there is very little connection. A player will kiss his club’s badge one week, and the next he will be off kissing another club’s badge for an extra £10k a week. That’s how the game works these days.” Tomkins Times

Bojan: Stoke City’s Defense Against the Dark Arts

“No matter how accomplished, no matter how creative, a certain type of foreign player must answer a question when he crosses the English Channel. ‘Can you do it on a wet Tuesday night at Stoke?’ The fact that Spanish playmaker Bojan Krkic Perez is currently ‘doing it’ at Stoke—creating goals—tells us a lot about the state of English soccer. To explain: It is Stoke in this question and not, say, Newcastle or Aston Villa. Manager Tony Pulis led Stoke to the Premier League in 2008, but promotion didn’t mean Pulis suddenly had time for false nines and triple stepovers. Stoke had a strategy, and it worked.” 8by8

The story of Ernö Erbstein, who survived Hungary’s Holocaust to coach Torino

Ernö Erbstein, far right, lines up with his Torino team before the friendly against Benfica on 3 May 1949. Tragically the entire Torino team was killed the following day in the Superga air disaster.
“Ernö Egri Erbstein was a pioneering coach who created Il Grande Torino, the great side that won five successive Serie A titles. He was killed with the rest of his squad in the plane crash at Superga in 1949. Erbstein was part of the great Jewish Hungarian football tradition of the 20s and 30s and had begun to make a name for himself as a coach in Italy but when the Manifesto of Race was passed by Mussolini shortly before the second world war broke out, the newly appointed Torino coach was forced to flee the country where he had made his home. He eventually returned to Budapest with his wife, Jolàn, and his two daughters, Marta and Susanna, but their lives were devastated when, in March 1944, his homeland was occupied by Nazi Germany.” Guardian

Blood lust for power : The fascinating history of Inter Milan Ultras

“Even the most casual followers of Italian football are aware of the dark history of the rivalry between the Milan clubs. The peak of the violence associated with the fixture between the two may have been a long time ago but the Inter Milan Ultras are still very much in the forefront of matters. Joseph Solomon traces the origin and history of ‘organized groups’ of the Nerazzuri.” Outside of the Boot

Cabinet Of Curiosities: What Is Wrong With Borussia Dortmund?

“After having been perennial title challengers over the past three seasons, Borussia Dortmund find themselves in the horrible and unexpected position of ending the Hinrunde in the relegation spots. In a word, the campaign so far has been a catastrophe – Riddled with a number of false starts and illusions of a new hope that simply did not materialize. Manager Jürgen Klopp undoubtedly still has the complete support of everyone at BVB, but the question is whether the manager can steady a ship that has been punctured below the water-line through a number of factors, physical and mental.” Vavel

Eric Abidal: A Tribute to the Legend

“There are footballers retiring every year, from top professionals who will go down in history as some of the greatest we have seen – such as Thierry Henry, Paul Scholes and Alessandro Nesta in recent times – to the lower division journeymen who most football fans would never have heard of, with all due respect. There are a myriad of reasons for retirement, be it injury, to prepare for the apocalypse – hello, Carlos Roa – or after falling out of love with football like David Bentley. How we remember footballers would depend on the legacy that they leave behind, the lasting impression that they made on us. It is the memories that we as football fans hold onto most dearly; perhaps it was a last minute winner in a fiercely-contested derby, a coolly-taken penalty in a shootout or someone who played for only one club throughout his career. However, for all the memories, only a certain few can leave behind a legacy that touches us on a human level, away from the pitch. Eric Abidal is one such player.” Outside of the Boot

Ten intriguing Ligue 1 players this season

Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco (AS Monaco)
“The Ligue 1 season is over 50% completed this season, around the point where team and individual success at least for that particular season starts to lose out its novelty act, for both good performances and bad performances. With the financial restrictions that Ligue teams not named PSG have, more times than not Ligue 1 has gotten the reputation of being a league where the majority of their top players develop and leave at a young age to other European leagues. In a season where the goal scoring rate in Ligue 1 has increased from last season’s rate, it’s given way for numerous talents to show their work and in certain case, blossom under a much heavier workload. Let’s take a look at how the ten players have fared so far.” backpagefootball

Charlie Austin: Is it time England called on QPR striker?

“England manager Roy Hodgson’s focus has been on the defensive arts this week after his contentious nomination of Argentina’s Javier Mascherano for the Ballon d’Or – but he had a striker on his mind at Loftus Road on Saturday. Wayne Rooney may have captured his attention after Hodgson took his seat in the directors’ box to watch Manchester United beat Queens Park Rangers 2-0 but there is little new to learn about the man he made his captain. The object of Hodgson’s attentions was more likely to be QPR’s Charlie Austin, whose 13 Premier League goals in a struggling side leave him third behind 17-goal Diego Costa of Chelsea and Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero, who has 14, in the Premier League scoring charts.” BBC

The Catalan Roller Coaster

“It’s been a mad few weeks for F.C. Barcelona, turbulent and stressful in the extreme. Let’s break it down, shall we? It seems every season since Pep Guardiola left, rumors pop up suggesting Messi is fed up with the club and the board and is demanding a transfer. Obviously, these rumors have been false up until this point, and there’re several reasons why the greatest player to ever grace a football pitch will not leave the club for many years.” Soccer Pro

Tactical Analysis: Manchester City 0-2 Arsenal | Arsenal relinquish style in favour of substance

“Arsenal’s horrendously poor record against fellow top sides has long been a thorn in the North London club’s side. Many thought that the game against Manchester City would serve to be yet another instance in which Arsene Wenger’s men would be brushed aside. Indeed all indications ahead of the game pointed to a comfortable home victory and it was up to Arsenal to change the well worn narrative and show some fight at the home of the Champions. And they did just that as a refreshingly solid shape and resilient display ensured that they left Manchester with 3 points in the bag.” Outside of the Boot

Southampton Fill-Ins Continue to Be First-Rate

Eljero Elia
“The supply line of Dutch-Surinamese talent has not dried up — it just needs people to remember it, identify with it and take a chance on it. Eljero Elia, a winger whose parents were born in the former Dutch colony in South America, won the game for Southampton on Saturday. The quick-footed Elia was playing his second game for the Saints and scored both goals for Southampton in a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Newcastle United.” NY Times

Tactics: Is Bengaluru FC’s shift to a 4-4-2 vs Dempo a worry in Midfield?

“When Bengaluru FC let go of Johnny Menyongar, plenty of the supporters gasped in disappointment. It wasn’t that the Liberian was a popular fan favourite (comparatively), but the fluidity with which he controlled the midfield left most viewers starring in awe. Coach Ashley Westwood replaced the 34-year-old Menyongar with Joshua Walker, ex-England U-21 captain. And as displayed in the sides’ maiden Federation Cup triumph, the 25-year-old seemed to struggle in the opening games but quickly asserted himself in the side and evidently was a step ahead at reading the game. But that victory in the final over Dempo also saw Walker come off early with an injury concern, later displaying an ice pack on his thigh.” Outside of the Boot

Panning for gold – the Sudamericano Sub-20

“As a beaming Lionel Messi wheeled away from an ugly goalmouth scramble after putting Barcelona’s victory over Atletico Madrid beyond doubt, he was set upon by the evening’s two other scorers. Neymar, Luis Suarez and Messi made their way back to the back to their positions arm-in-arm having together lifted a slightly deflated mood around the club beset by managerial pressure and rumours of their favourite son’s discontent. The victory left Barca just a point behind Real Madrid in the Liga BBVA and three ahead of Atletico and it was these three South American stars, each arriving at the club via hugely different paths, that were its architects. There’s nothing quite as marketable as a South American football star. By now the image has become something of a cliché: the young pibe winding through cobbled, uneven streets from dawn to dusk, with nothing but a rudimentary ball and a dream; carrying that childlike exuberance into the professional game and becoming a star.” backpagefootball

Baby-faced Vietto is South America’s latest marksman to find his range in Europe

“Silence camouflaged Atlético Madrid’s Vicente Calderón stadium as Luciano Vietto dropped his shoulder and spun to his left. Propelling himself into the Atleti area, the Villarreal attacker thumped the ball beyond goalkeeper Miguel Ángel Moyà, ending the La Liga champion’s 18-month unbeaten home run in the league. He’d only been in Spain for four months. On the touchline, Atlético boss Diego Simeone was left conflicted. He’d just seen his star defender, Diego Godín, made to look like the Statue of Liberty, something very few players have been able to do over the last two years, as Villarreal robbed his side of key points in the race to retain the Primera División. Still, the man that was wearing the balaclava, Vietto, was someone he couldn’t help but be glad for.” Soccer Gods

Algeria favourites for an open Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea

Storm clouds gather over the Bata stadium in Equatorial Guinea, the host nation of the 2015 tournament.
“The still of early afternoon in Malabo was abruptly shattered. A pick-up screeched to a halt at a crossroads, a couple of dozen Malian fans clinging to the back, waving shirts and flags and blowing whistles. It was followed by another and then another and another until finally there were six in the convoy, all swaying dangerously from side to side, horns tooting. Workers on a nearby building site, grinning in bemusement, wandered to the kerb and waved. Spontaneous excitement of this nature, one suspects, is not a common sight in Equatorial Guinea.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Doesn’t Brendan Rodgers Deserve Some Credit?

“As Liverpool took on Newcastle United in the last match of the Premier League last season, everyone was sure that Manchester City would wrap things up and win the league. But in the facilities of Anfield, there was a Premier League trophy present, just in case West Ham United miraculously did one over the Citizens and Liverpool beat Newcastle. While the unexpected did not prevail, this was after a long, long time that the Reds came that close to the league trophy. It was credit to both the team and the manager that a squad of virtually 14 or 15 players managed to compete with the side that has been spending to win for a while now.” Outside of the Boot

5 Young Players to Watch at the African Cup of Nations 2015

“Often described as the hotbed of footballing talent, the AFCON represents an opportunity for the world to cast their views on the footballing talents of the vast African continent. Though plenty of the participants venture into Europe fairly early, many escape the popular views despite playing in some of the more established leagues. The African Cup of Nations provides a platform to see the beauty the continent has to present. The following five young players stand-out among the 16 participating nations who could make an impact in Equatorial Guinea.” Outside of the Boot

NBC created Tinder for soccer fans

“As you may know, soccer dating is a topic I find particularly funny, and potentially lucrative. Internet dating is as close to mainstream as its ever been, with a variety of options to help you find whatever it is you’re looking for in a prospective soul mate. Why can’t we apply this to soccer? There’s JDate and Christian Mingle for religiously inclined. Black People Meet and Latino People Meet for folks with a ‘type,’  too afraid to luxuriate in the racial deliciousness of our nation. Farmers Only for people who really aren’t down racial deliciousness, but prefer to say so in coded language, and Tinder, for people who want to pretend that the possibility of sex isn’t the only reason they’re leaving the house that night.” Soccer Gods

Copa del Rey’s lopsided draw has Spain’s underdogs dreaming of Cup glory

“One by one, Valencia’s players filtered through the mixed zone on Tuesday, each one looking as dejected as the next. Outside, beery-eyed Espanyol fans filled bars surrounding the club’s Cornellà El-Prat stadium on the outskirts of Barcelona, their faces wearing ear-to-ear smiles. Their team had just knocked Los Che out of the Copa del Rey, result that had them dreaming of reaching the final. Back in Valencia, a storm had begun. The newspaper Super Deporte said the club’s supporters felt ‘defrauded’ by professionals they expect much more from.” Soccer Gods

The story of Blyth Spartans’ epic FA Cup run

“Exaggeration seems to be common place in modern day football doesn’t it? For example saying Manchester City are a club in crisis after going two games without a win or calling Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard England greats after consistently failing to make an impact at a major tournament? Actually, throw hypocrisy into that opening line. Can the FA really blame grassroots football for underachievement at the top level when there is a serious lack of real investment in the game at that level? Or can top clubs really bemoan the attendances at FA Cup fixtures when they use the greatest domestic club competition in the world as a reason to play fringe players in their squad?” The Football Pink”>Football Pink

Burkinabe Rapper Art Melody’s Playlist For Les Étalons (Afcon 2013 Playlist N°3)

“Later today we play against Zambia for a place in the quarterfinals of the African Cup of Nations. We are first in our group, we just need to handle it well. Zambia has to win, we need at least a draw. I’m convinced we can qualify. Let’s just remember: ‘Ensemble soutenons les étalons à la conquête du ballon rond’ (together, let’s support the Etalons in their conquest of the round ball”). Here’s some songs to build morale ahead of the clash.  Black So Man’s ‘Les étalons’ was the anthem in the 1998 Afcon, but shortly after Black So Man had an accident, he passed away before attending the cup. To this day it remains the national soccer anthem, there are many other ones, but this is the best.” Africa Is A Country (Video)

Atletico Madrid: Simeone’s Tactical Development

“Diego Simeone is not out to eat humble pie. The 44-year-old Argentinian is hell bent on retaining the league title and going one step better than last season in the Champions League. Without having Real Madrid’s and Barcelona’s payrolls, Atlético have gained success with a combination of sly tactics, strong leadership from a go-getting persona like Simeone, and a matchless spirit. And the Rojiblancos, long known as the “other team” in the Spanish capital, are a title contender in La Liga again.” Outside of the Boot

Cameroon look better off without Alex Song for Africa Cup of Nations

“Last time Alex Song wore a Cameroon shirt, against Croatia at the World Cup, he was sent off five minutes before half-time for dragging his elbow down Mario Mandzukic’s back. That was the centre-piece of a general implosion from Cameroon that also included rows over bonuses, widespread rumours of dressing-room unrest, allegations of match-fixing and Benoît Assou-Ekotto seemingly trying to head-butt Benjamin Moukandjo after a row in injury time.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Arsenal: Unwilling Beyond Fourth

“Perhaps the timing of this is fitting, discussing just why, at least for me, Arsenal just do not have what it takes to finally achieve greater things in the Premier League more than the Arsene Wenger memorial fourth place trophy. After success in the FA Cup in May and another mad dash to the final Champions League birth, we were all promised more…we were promised progression – it hasn’t happened. What’s worse? It won’t happen this season either, but when will it? When will we finally be apart of the Premier League elite once more? So, why is the timing of this beyond perfect? Recent news has boiled to the surface that Le Prof is nearing the singing of 17-year old Krystian Bielik from Legia Warsaw. Who, you may ask? Well to be honest, I haven’t got a clue who that is, apart from our usual January spending that involves minimal financial resources being sacrificed, young player for the future being brought it, and MAYBE a loan-signing to add some semblance of added squad depth. The problem is, this is more than inadequate, and has been for quite sometime.” Outside of the Boot

With refined accuracy, Tottenham’s Kane emerges as EPL breakout star

“The emergence of Harry Kane as the latest Great English Hope at striker has been the fascinating lead story in the latest season in which Tottenham desperately and haltingly tries to break into the Premier League’s top four. You don’t often see a $45 million striker like Roberto Soldado take a backseat to a 21-year-old local kid, but that’s what’s happening as Kane has now bagged eight goals in 17 league appearances (11 starts) and 18 in all competitions this season.” SI

Simeone and Atlético are a perfect fit, but Cholo’s next step is on the horizon

“Long before he was introduced to hair gel, Diego Pablo Simeone was conducting an orchestra in Argentina. He was only 10 years old at the time, still in school and tasked with organizing children much older than him. But Bruno Amasino, the school’s music teacher and a ‘genius at playing the piano’ (Simeone’s words), disregarded his age. His leadership was far more important. Amasino clearly had a good eye. Thirty-four years later, the Atlético Madrid head coach is still leading, his restless patrol of Atleti’s technical area reminiscent of a highly-tuned jungle cat. Covered in black from head to toe and with that trademark gel swooping his hair back, he now appears to be auditioning for a part in a South American version of Goodfellas. On the contrary, Simeone’s too busy cementing his place as one of the elite coaches in world soccer.” Soccer Gods

Chelsea – Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)

“By the standards of most clubs, Chelsea’s 2013/14 season was pretty good, as they finished 3rd place in the Premier League and were semi-finalists in the Champions League, but it must have felt a little disappointing after capturing silverware in each of the previous two seasons: the Europa League in 2012/13 and, most memorably, the Champions League and FA Cup in 2011/12. However, this did not stop their progress off the pitch, as they reported record revenue of £320 million, up 25% on the prior year, and profit of £19 million (before tax), compared to a loss of £51 million in 2012/13. Equally importantly, given Chelsea’s history of being bankrolled by their owner Roman Abramovich, these results ensured that ‘UEFA’s break-even criteria under the Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations continue to be satisfied.’” The Swiss Ramble

Barça Bluster: How Can a Team With Neymar, Messi, and Suárez Consider Itself in Crisis?

“What do you call a team that’s one point out of first with 20 games to play? A side that’s conceded six fewer goals than the second-stingiest defense in the country? A club that’s breezed through the early stages of both its domestic cup and Champions League campaigns? A squad that just soundly defeated its second-biggest rival and the defending league champs? Read enough English-language coverage of Spanish soccer, and you’ll be able to convince yourself that the proper answer to all of those questions is a firm ‘in crisis.’ So let’s just get this out of the way right off the bat: Unless your definition of crisis is ‘title-contending team that isn’t quite as good as when it was maybe the best team in the history of the sport,’ Barcelona is not in crisis. Things in the north of Spain certainly are a-changing, though, so let’s take a deeper look at what all the fuss is about.” Grantland

In Defence of FSG’s Transfer Policy

“This article on the This Is Anfield website was brought to my attention (by, amongst other people, its author, Mark Pearson, via Twitter), and I wanted to respond, as I took exception to some of the points raised. I told Mark that I’d respond via an article, and he may respond in turn. (This may lead to an infinite loop, until one of us dies.) My problem with transfer articles like this is that they exist in the vacuum of a Liverpool’s fan’s perspectives on transfers, and come from a position of someone who seems to be a fine writer but who isn’t an expert on the subject of transfers. (See: Dunning-Kruger. Much of the work I do now is based on knowledge that other people don’t have, as they haven’t studied these things. Unless you also study transfers, I find it hard to accept that you’re not just guessing.)” Tomkins Times

Manchester City doesn’t care who you want to win the title

“As recently as a few weeks ago, you could hardly open a newspaper refresh a website without seeing a feature proclaiming Chelsea as champions-in-waiting. There was no shortage of premature comparisons to Arsenal’s Invincibles™ of 2003-2004, casting José Mourinho’s against history instead of the rest of the Premier League. Fast-forward to the start of 2015, and Manchester City have quietly crept up and caught the Blues. Ahead of both teams’ Saturday matches, City and Chelsea are level in ever category. If the season ended today, the two would head for a play-off.” Soccer Gods

The abandoned Stadion Za Luzankami in Brno

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“The Stadion Za Luzankami in Brno, Czech Republic, once held around 50,000 people. Opened in 1953, it was home to FC Zbrojovka Brno until 2001, and hosted the record attendance at a Czech First League match, when 44,120 watched the home team take on Slavia Prague in 1996-97. Brno were forced to move in 2001 as the stadium no longer met FIFA and Czech football association criteria. Plans to renovate or rebuild the stadium were put on hold in June 2012, and it currently stands dilapidated, with trees and weeds growing from the terraces.” WSC

West Ham – Stadium Arcadium

“Although West Ham had some trials and tribulations during the 2013/14 season, they finished up in a comfortable 13th position in the Premier League and also reached the semi-final of the Capital One Cup. In the process, the Hammers reported the highest revenue and profit in the club’s history, leading vice-chairman Karren Brady to comment, ‘2013/14 was a satisfactory year for the club both on and off the pitch.’ To add to the good news, the club also signed an agreement to sell their Boleyn Ground in preparation for the move to the Olympic Stadium for the 2016/17 season.” The Swiss Ramble

Klopp and Dortmund at a Crossroads

“The most charismatic manager in soccer is at a crucial crossroads. Borussia Dortmund’s Jurgen Klopp was once considered the hip, whip-smart up-and-comer, storming onto the European scene. His designer glasses, stylish stubble, enormous wry grin, and animated sideline behavior were all a heavy breath of fresh air in a managerial landscape filled with grey-haired curmudgeons, unsmiling and monotonously professional.” Soccer Pro

Arkan: From the Marakana to Vukovar

“On a spring afternoon in late March 1992, The Eternal Derby is about to take place between city rivals Partizan and Red Star Belgrade at Red Star’s Marakana stadium. Partizan are seen by their rivals as everything they stand against. They are the club of the Yugoslav state and the army whilst Red Star are the club of Serbia and it is they alone who hold Serb values and will protect Serb identity in the face of increasing self determination from Croatia and Bosnia. It is their fans who were at Maksimir on the day that they fought with Dinamo Zagreb ultras the Bad Blue Boys and it was their fans who followed the call to arms to protect fellow Serbs where they were threatened as war broke out in the rapidly disintegrating Yugoslavia.” The Football Pink

In Search Of Eusebio

“As one year ends and another begins, the football world looks back on the marvels of Atletico Madrid’s La Liga triumph and Germany’s 7-1 rout of Brazil. Here in southern Africa, the landmark event of 2014 was the death of our region’s greatest-ever player. I did not think about Eusebio when I used to go to Mozambique. In the mid-nineties the country, wearily emerging from years of civil war, seemed far removed from the world of football stars. Skull-and-crossbones signs, tacked to trees, marked the margins of the Beira Corridor, the Tête Corridor, and the spectacularly cratered road from Ressano Garcia to the capital. The signs declared, not a country devoted to Orlando Pirates, but one riddled with landmines. It is a short distance from South Africa to Maputo. Still, having reached the Indian Ocean, it could take a week to clear a load from the Frigo customs yard in the city. While one waited, there were chances for exploring. Much remained from the old LM, the place Eusebio knew in his childhood.” In Bed With Maradona

Here are the clubs that could win Liga MX’s Clausura (and why they won’t)

“Oh, hello there busy executive whose already short attention span has been fried further by the internet. Do you have five minutes? Did you once catch part of a Liga MX game while in a Mexican restaurant that actually served Tex-Mex? Good. Take a break from pounding your fist on mahogany desks and yelling at underlings to visually ingest these 700 or so words on the upcoming Clausura. I promise to be brief, scout’s honor.” Soccer Gods

How the Bottom Half Lives: Five Tales From the Depths of the Premier League Table

“Let us spare a thought for the little guys. These denizens of the bottom half of the Premier League table don’t get much pub. And when they do, it’s always as a foil for one the big boys. Burnley’s back-to-back draws against Manchester City and Newcastle haven’t spawned thousands of words of tactical analysis about their effective, underdog tactics, nor have they resulted in any glowing interviews with Danny Ings or George Boyd and his beautiful hair. No, they’re just the temporarily immovable object against the ultimately unstoppable force. What’s wrong with Manchester City always ends up being more important than what’s right with Burnley. But, well, stuff actually happens at the bottom; it’s a place where some people even carve out a reasonably comfortable existence. So, now that we’re just more than halfway into the season, let’s take a look at how the other half has been living.” Grantland

Plenty of Southampton threats in store for Manchester United on Sunday

“The last time Manchester United faced Southampton at Old Trafford, Adnan Januzaj had one of those days. So impressive in a wide playmaking role, the talented Belgian was instrumental in Robin van Persie’s opener, and the hosts should have been two or three ahead at halftime. The match ended 1-1, though, with Southampton slowly winning the arm-wrestle in central midfield and scoring a very late equaliser.” ESPN

The modern day “sweeper-keeper”

“Manuel Neuer, the Bayern Munich and Germany international shot-stopper, is currently the world’s best goalkeeper. Forget Spain’s Iker Casillas, Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon, Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois or even USA’s bearded Tim Howard: Neuer, the Germany number one, is in a whole bracket above his closest rivals. In fact, he was recently named on the final, three-man shortlist for the 2015 edition of FIFA’s Ballon D’Or alongside outfield players Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. This is no mean feat, particularly for a goalkeeper. But, you see, Neuer is so much more than just a goalkeeper. He is a footballer, too. Ever since he emerged from the youth setup of his hometown club, Schalke 04, in 2006, Neuer has adopted a unique playing style that has truly captivated fans, managers and pundits around the world.” backpagefootball (Video)

Three 2014 World Cup moments etched in my memory

“With South American football currently slumbering through its high summer siesta, I hope I might be forgiven for glancing backwards at what has just become last year’s World Cup. The tournament was well worth remembering – for the protests it engendered beforehand, for the spectacle it provided us with during and for the memories that linger afterwards. These are some of mine.” The World Game – Tim Vickery

Analysis: Intelligent Enzo Perez Impresses on Debut for Valencia

“In amongst a slew of yellow cards and all-action tackles from the likes of Lucas Orban and Nicolas Otamendi, not to mention the rampaging forward runs of wingbacks José Gaya and Antonio Barragan, you could be forgiven for viewing Enzo Perez’s Valencia debut as somewhat underwhelming. Indeed, in his first ever showing for the club, a famous 2-1 win over Real Madrid, the Argentine’s statistical output was decidedly ordinary. Playing at the base of midfield in Valencia’s 3-5-2 formation, Perez delivered only one tackle and one interception on the night, while simultaneously committing four fouls. In attack, too, his return was fairly meagre, and although he completed his passes with a solid 91% accuracy, not too many of them were overly significant.” Licence to Roam

Football fans need to stop expecting the unexpected in the FA Cup

“The FA Cup third round is frequently considered to be all about giant killing, whereas it’s actually all about the possibility of giants losing. It might be a pedantic distinction, but it explains a great deal about the negativity surrounding the competition in recent years. The ideal FA Cup tie is, inevitably, a nonleague side at home against a high-flying Premier League club. The third-round draw didn’t quite provide that this time around, although Yeovil (bottom of League One) and AFC Wimbledon (League Two) were handed ties against Manchester United and Liverpool, while nonleague Dover faced more modest Premier League opposition, in Crystal Palace.” ESPN – Michael Cox

Crisis brewing at Barcelona as club’s foundation is put to the test

“With each passing day, each passing season, FC Barcelona, perhaps the greatest passing team the world has known, moves further from the glories of the Pep Guardiola days. First there was drift, then there was decline, now a sense of chaos seems to be engulfing the club. These have been a turbulent few days at the club, bringing problems to such a head that there will be an emergency board meeting on Wednesday to discuss the future of coach Luis Enrique, although his position is not thought to be under immediate threat.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

The myth of the Crazy Gang is an entertaining story, but the truth is even better

“The former Manchester United and Aston Villa coach Ron Atkinson had a term for when a player put in a particularly vigorous tackle early in the match – ‘early doors’ as he put it – in order to let his opponent know what awaited him for the remainder of the game: A reducer. Roy Keane was a master of the art this side of the Irish sea, while Graham Kavanagh executed one particularly memorable example on Gilberto Silva in a friendly with Brazil at Lansdowne Road, but the undisputed king of the reducer in the late 80s was Wimbledon’s own Vinnie Jones.” backpagefootball (Video)

Football Manager meets the X-men

“There’s a fine little series of Marvel stories called The New X-men, written by the wonderful Grant Morrison and illustrated, among others but best, by Igor Kordey. In one of the episodes, #120, the X-men’s training school stands threatened by a host of mutant/human hybriuds who want to harvest the genetic material of the X-men and only the irascible, beautiful Jean Grey and a host of trainee, child X-ettes stand in their way. While it is Grey who finally dispatches the thugs, the little ones do a fine job along the way. Why do I mention this? Well, we all know the ‘You’ll Win Nothing With Kids’ saves on Football Manager, the ones where you cannot buy anyone and must make do with your youth system to build a team. It’s an engaging challenge, to be sure, and if you’re Atalanta or Barcelona, well worth doing. But, what if you assembled your own New X-men? Or, in Football Manager terms, bought as many wonderkids and super prospects as possible and then put them all in one team? I know, right?” Put Niels In Goal