Liverpool: Why Brendan Rodgers Must Stay And Other Stories

April 29, 2015

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“A lot has been written about Liverpool in the aftermath of their meek cup exit to a Sherwood-charged Aston Villa, and a nil-nil draw, thwarted by the full Pulis has done little to ameliorate the prevailing fan mood. The reasons given for this season’s “failure” have been extensive and variable with transfers, a lack of Suarez and Sturridge, too much tinkering with formations and even the fact that the 5th biggest club in the league is likely to finish 5th all being cited. The Liverpool fan base is huge and vocal and many thinkers and writers from the same generation have been brought up on a diet of success and quality throughout the 1970s and 1980s.” Stats Bomb


What if they met? Brazil, Netherlands national teams in the early 1970s

April 29, 2015

“What if? It’s a question so often posed in the realm of sports. What if a certain player wasn’t suspended, traded or hurt? What if a controversial call went another way? What if a coach had called a different play? What if a certain matchup had occurred at a different time. That last question, above the others, has piqued our interest. In light of Floyd Mayweather finally facing Manny Pacquiao this Saturday in Las Vegas, years after both boxing greats were widely considered to be at their absolute best, it got us wondering: What if two soccer titans of their era who never got the chance to meet at their peaks actually did? All week in the build-up to Mayweather-Pacquiao, Planet Fútbol will take a historical deep dive into some of the greatest teams in soccer history, why they ultimately never got the chance to meet their equals and what might have happened if they had.” SI – Jonathan Wilson (Video)


Like everything in Spanish soccer, the relegation picture’s a complicated one

April 29, 2015

“When Las Palmas’ fans started rushing on to the pitch, there was no indication they would stop. Veteran midfielder Apoño had just given the club a lead that could have sent it into Spain’s top flight. The Basque folk from hilly Éibar had already purchased their seats next to Barcelona and Real Madrid, and so too had Deportivo de La Coruña, now a ghost of the team once hailed as SuperDepor. Only one spot remained in 2014-15’s Primera División.” Fusion


Who Needs Goals? Chelsea and Arsenal Turn a Scoreless Draw Into a Referendum on Head Injuries, Refereeing, and Philosophy

April 29, 2015

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“Realistically, even if Arsenal had beaten Chelsea on Sunday, they weren’t going to catch the presumptive champs. A seven-point lead with five matches remaining would’ve required a massive collapse from Chelsea. And as we saw yesterday, ‘collapses’ aren’t José Mourinho’s kind of thing. Still this is Mourinho’s Chelsea and Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal we’re talking about, so even a scoreless draw in a meaningless game can’t keep us from finding things to argue about. Here are the three biggest story lines from yesterday’s match.” Grantland


The persisting fall of English soccer’s Donald Sterling

April 29, 2015

“It would be an exaggeration to claim that for a few years, Wigan Athletic was English soccer’s favorite underdog tale. But it was certainly one of the nation’s favorite artificially-flavored upstarts. Dave Whelan was the kind of owner fans of small clubs fantasize about. Hartlepool, Grimsby, Exeter: they’d all have loved a man like him in charge. Because until he arrived, Wigan was smaller than even those microscopic specks on England’s soccer’s map.” Socccer Gods


This Is What Will Happen This Summer!

April 29, 2015

“Based on the law of averages, you will find that certain things happen more or less every summer, both in terms of transfers and squad evolution. And not all of them are good. While certain elements remain unpredictable, this very unpredictability is, in many ways, totally predictable. Mass clear-outs always seem like a necessity at times like these, but you then usually need to make mass purchases to compensate. And while that can sometimes work, it often doesn’t. The whole summer process is complicated, as I will now show, in what is a fairly long piece (think of it as a book chapter, if you’re allergic to long internet articles).” Tomkins Times


The heat is on in the Russian Premier League

April 27, 2015

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“The Russian weather warms, the Premier League clubs are feeling the heat of an end of season battle for Europe or survival. The fine performance by Zenit in the Europa League was a spring highlight and accompanied the club’s steady progress at home. While going out to reigning Champions Sevilla in two very good matches, the St. Petersburg side showed that it is possible to compete on two fronts, contrary to the English commentators.” backpagefootball


Bayern clinch title with win over stubborn Berlin (and a little help elsewhere)

April 27, 2015

“One expected a comedown after the midweek Champions’ League quarter-final heroics against FC Porton, and this was clear as FC Bayern took on strugglers Hertha BSC at a packed Allianz Arena. The tight 1-0 win was enough to send Bayern fifteen points clear of second-placed VfL Wolfsburg with four matches remaining, and the Wolves’ defeat by the same score in Mönchengladbach was enough to ensure a record-extending twenty-fifth Bundesliga crown (and twenty-sixth German championship in all) for Die Roten.Bundesliga Fanatic


Premier League and Football League: Ups and downs

April 27, 2015

“The top three teams qualify for the Champions League group stage, with the fourth-placed team entering the preceding play-off round. English clubs have three places in the Europa League – for the FA Cup winners, Capital One Cup winners and fifth-placed Premier League side.” BBC


Guardiola Returns to Same Camp Nou, But Different Barça

April 27, 2015

“Early Friday morning, the news that many wanted to hear (and some of us feared) was officially announced: FC Barcelona will face Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final. The two-leg match, which is set to be played in Barcelona on May 6th and in the Allianz Arena on May 12th, will be the most anticipated clash of the season, and will signal the return of Pep Guardiola, Barça’s most accomplished and prolific manager, the man who perfected Cruyff’s tiki-taka style of play, to the Camp Nou.” Barca Blaugranes


José Mourinho, the anti-Barcelona, stands alone in modern football

April 24, 2015

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“Todern football was invented in Barcelona in the mid-90s. Of this season’s Champions League quarter-finalists, four sides are managed by players who turned out for Barça in 1996: Pep Guardiola, Luis Enrique, Julen Lopetegui and Laurent Blanc. Within a couple of years, they had been joined by Frank de Boer and Phillip Cocu as well as the coach, Louis van Gaal, and his assistant, Ronald Koeman. In slightly differing ways, the eight are apostles for the Barcelona way – or, more accurately, given the influence of Ajax on that style, the Barçajax way. However, there was another presence there, initially as a translator and then as a coach. In the Barçocracy of modern football, there is a fallen angel.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Returns, rematches, powerhouses mark Champions League semifinals

April 24, 2015

“The Champions League semifinal draw was conducted Friday and while the names may be familiar, the opportunity for new storylines to arise is bountiful. There will be reunions for coaches and a chance to avenge previous defeats, and, with three teams still dreaming of clinching a European, league title and domestic cup treble, plenty at stake.” SI


Real Madrid 1-0 Atletico Madrid: poor Atletico transitions mean Real dominate the entire tie

April 24, 2015

“Javier Hernandez struck in the 178th of the 180 minutes in this European Cup quarter-final, but Real had been the better side throughout. Carlo Ancelotti had a mini-injury crisis, with Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Marcelo all out. This meant Javier Hernandez, Fabio Coentrao and Isco were all recalled, although the replacement for Modric was more surprising – Sergio Ramos was fielded in the middle alongside Toni Kroos, as Ancelotti’s system was more 4-4-2, or 4-2-2-2, than 4-3-3.” Zonal Marking

We Can Play Defense, Too: Real Madrid Bring a Katana to Atlético Madrid’s Knife Fight
“The eighth Madrid derby of the season was not for the faint of heart, but they never are. So what gave? While it took until the 87th minute, Carlo Ancelotti found a way to beat his crosstown rivals for the first time this year. Why was Real Madrid able to win a match that was less a soccer game and more a late ’90s brawl between the New York Knicks and Miami Heat? It probably has something to do with this: Real scrapped their pretty attacking approach and got down and dirty with some defense.” Grantland


Defending Is Hard: Porto Learn a Lesson Against Bayern Munich

April 24, 2015

“It’s one of the most pernicious myths in soccer: Defending is easy. Any manager can order his players to stay behind the halfway line, kick some shins, clear a few corners, and voilà: He’ll have a clean sheet. Fans lob this accusation against opposing teams all the time, but tune in to enough postgame interviews and you’ll see managers are often no different. After the infamous Steven Gerrard slip game last year, Brendan Rodgers said it about José Mourinho, and a week later, Mourinho himself dropped a similar bomb in response to Norwich’s tactics. Seemingly anybody who’s ever played against Tony Pulis or Sam Allardyce has lodged a comparable complaint: What’s so special about you? All you do is defend.Grantland


The rise and wane of the English-style manager (and what England will lose when they’re gone)

April 24, 2015

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“With a click of a remote, the modern soccer fan can flit effortlessly from Chelsea versus Man United in London to Juventus-Lazio in Turin or Bayern against Dortmund in Munich. As stars like Eden Hazard blur into Carlos Tévez then Thomas Müller, we stare groggily at the magnificent, endless, globalized spectacle being played out in front of us in gleaming stadiums by athletes from every continent, trying to remember what game we are watching, or where it is taking place. ‘If it’s Tuesday, it must be Munich,’ we think, our heads throbbing. It wasn’t always like this. No man is an island, wrote John Donne, but with its draughty, brutish terraces, muddy pitches, halftime pies laced with botulism, and Luddite-esque devotion to the long ball game, there was a time, not so long ago, when English soccer felt a world apart from its European cousins. The five-year club ban from European competition in the 1980s and `90s also added to the sense of not so splendid isolation. Even today, the relatively small number of English players keen to ply their trade abroad can give the national team a parochial air.” Fusion


Scout Report | Anwar El Ghazi: Ajax’s proficient winger

April 24, 2015

“It’s an undeniable fact that Ajax has one of the best football academies and youth teams in world football. The Dutch club has had many talented youngsters in the club’s academy who turned out to be some of the best players to graze the surface of the earth: the names of Dennis Bergkamp, Marco Van Basten, Johan Cruyff and many more. One of the recent academy graduates is now considered as an upcoming hot prospect in football. He is the 19 year-old wonderkid, Anwar El Ghazi.” Outside of the Boot


The title race that could have been

April 24, 2015

“Although most Aberdeen fans would agree that the thought of the Premiership trophy being held aloft at Pittodrie this year was far-fetched, I’m sure there will still be some wondering if this year was really their chance to do something a bit special. Aberdeen have had another fantastic season this year. While last year’s rampant revival under Derek McInnes brought them the League Cup and their highest league finish in seven years, this season the team and the club have gone a step further in taking second spot in the league. They have been consistent and ruthless in dispatching teams in the Premiership, racking up an unbelievable 19 clean sheets so far as well. This is definitely title-winning form but Celtic sit eight points ahead of the Dons with only five games to go. While nothing can be ruled out, it does appear that Aberdeen will need to settle for second place.” Scotzine


One Love

April 20, 2015

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“Bob Marley balancing and bouncing a football on his thighs; dribbling in a spray of dust through some anonymous Jamaican dirt yard; knocking a ball down with his chest, trapping it with his inside foot, hammering it into the net with a flick of the toe. Not the archetypal image of the reggae legend but apt nonetheless. Marley loved music and ganja and Rasta. And he loved football. As a boy in Nine Mile, in the central Jamaican highlands, he was content kicking a dried-up watermelon around the lopsided waste ground scraped out of the hillside. His passion for the game stayed with him throughout his life. Indeed, there were times he seriously considered forgoing a musician’s life for a professional footballer’s.” 8by8


The beautiful game gets ugly when fans turn against their own

April 20, 2015

“A footballer, says the great Argentine coach Cesar Luis Menotti, is ‘a privileged interpreter of the dreams of many people.’ It is a wise and beautiful line. Not so beautiful, though, are those situations when many of the crowd would rather not have their dreams interpreted by a particular player. One of the most ugly things in football is when fans turn against a member of their own team. In Brazil this is a depressingly common occurrence, and one that can follow bizarre criteria. Many, I’m sure, will remember the Belo Horizonte crowd turning against Fred – indeed forcing his substitution – during that crushing World Cup semi final defeat to Germany last year. One might have thought that, with the team losing 7-1, the defenders might be a more obvious target than the centre forward. I, for one, was delighted when Fred responded by finishing last year’s Brazilian Championship as top scorer.” The World Game  – Tim Vickery (Video)


Valencia heads to Barcelona ready to cement its place among Spain’s best

April 20, 2015

“History warns us to be skeptical of foreign ownership in Spanish soccer. One minute we’re being told Racing Santander ‘could compete with Real Madrid and Barcelona,’ and then the man that told us that, Ashan Ali Syed, disappears off the face of the earth, wanted by Interpol. Racing is now in the second division. Malaga’s tale isn’t as dramatic, but neither did it have the happy ending Sheikh Abdulla Al-Thani had promised us. Once in the Champions League, he decided to asset strip the squad, flogging the likes of Santi Cazorla and eventually Isco, and instead let the team rebuild itself through youth. At least it’s still in the top flight.” Fusion


Newcastle United – In A Rut

April 20, 2015

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“As Newcastle United’s passionate supporters endure yet another frustrating season, it all seems a far cry from the days when they were known as “The Entertainers”. Mid-table mediocrity appears to be the pinnacle of the club’s ambition, while a cup run is to be frowned on, as it might weaken the chances of remaining in the top flight, where they can continue to benefit from the lucrative Premier League TV deal. Most of the fans’ displeasure is aimed at owner Mike Ashley, a highly successful businessman who has turned around the club financially, but who clearly favours profit over performance. He has made a series of strange choices, such as hiring his mates Dennis Wise and Joe Kinnear, that have slowly drained the supporters’ spirits, leading to widespread protests and even an organised match boycott.’ The Swiss Ramble


Liverpool: Why have they struggled – and what is next?

April 20, 2015

“Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was close to landing the Premier League title this time last year, a 3-2 win at Norwich leaving the Reds five points clear at the top of the table with three games remaining. Fast forward 12 months and Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final defeat by Aston Villa means Rodgers has become the first Anfield boss since the 1950s not to win a trophy in his first three seasons in charge. So why have things gone so poorly after such a spirited challenge for the title last season? And as a result of this season’s labours, will Rodgers still be on Merseyside next season? Here, former Liverpool players, an ex-manager, fans and pundits tell BBC Sport what’s gone wrong – and what should happen next.” BBC


Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich and a wild week in the Bundesliga

April 20, 2015

“It was: The Week That Shook German Football (RealD 3D). First, late on Tuesday night, Bruno Labbadia was appointed manager of the bottom team, Hamburger SV. The former Kaiserslautern striker and inventor of the fist-pump goal celebration had already graced (?) the AOL/Nordbank/Imtech/Kühne-Palace/Whatever-Arena bench five years ago and the sporting director, Dietmar Beiersdorfer, had no choice but to go back to a familiar face in the club’s hour of need: HSV had run out of the German-speaking coaches that had not yet been hired at some point over the last two decades. Within a few hours, however, the new/old messiah’s wings – messiahs do have wings, don’t they? – were already clipped when Beiersdorfer involuntarily dispensed with the charade that the hot contender Thomas Tuchel had been turned down by the club the night before.” Guardian


Team Focus: Champions PSV Have Cocu to Thank For Eredivisie Success

April 20, 2015

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“It is often said a great player doesn’t always make a good manager, which neatly brings us to events in Eindhoven where Phillip Cocu – widely regarded as one of Europe’s brightest young coaching talents – is proving the old adage wrong and more importantly starting to realise his potential. Guiding PSV to their 22nd championship – their first since 2008 and secured with three games remaining – has been emphatic as any of those won during the halcyon days of Guus Hiddink, who must be proud of his protégé. Getting there, when you consider the resources at his disposal, was only a matter of time, however it shouldn’t reduce his coaching prowess to a mere afterthought. He is every part the reason behind their resurgence.” Who Scored?


Monk showing experience beyond his years in the Swansea dugout

April 20, 2015

“As we approach the penultimate month of the Premier League season, few would have expected Garry Monk to be in with a shout of collecting the Manager of the Year award when it is all said and done. In fact, the odds on Monk, who was appointed Swansea boss on a permanent basis in July, being one of the first managerial casualties this year stood pretty high. But, amidst all the derision and hindsight 20/20, there was good reason for Monk’s name to be falsely associated with managerial misery.” backpagefootball


Meet the Man City-tracked Italy international Bayern wished they hadn’t let go

April 20, 2015

“Roberto Soriano was born to Italian parents in the German city of Darmstadt in 1991. Having started out with local amateur teams in the region, his performances quickly attracted attention from scouts representing professional clubs. As is so often the case in Germany, Bayern Munich came out on top and Soriano joined the Bavarians’ youth setup aged 15 in 2006.” FourFourTwo (Video)


Berlin-Bound: Which Team Has the Best Chance of Winning the Champions League?

April 16, 2015

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“As we told you a few weeks ago, the drama’s all but gone from the major domestic leagues across Europe. Thankfully, the Champions League is here to save us. The quarterfinals of soccer’s greatest annual competition kick off today with Atlético Madrid hosting Real Madrid in a rematch of last year’s final and Monaco traveling to Juventus. Tomorrow, FC Porto welcomes Bayern Munich and Barcelona visits Paris Saint-Germain.” Grantland


Tactical Analysis: Atletico Madrid 0-0 Real Madrid | Battle of attrition in wide areas

April 16, 2015

“The two teams that met in the one of the most charged local derbies of all time in the Champions League final of last season clashed again on the European stage in the quarter final this time around. Last season was the breakout year for Atletico, as they won La Liga, and went all the way to the Champions League final. That, however, was where it ended for them, with their eternal rivals Real Madrid beating them in heart breaking fashion to lift La Decima. This season was a totally different story though, with the European champions failing to record a single victory over their rivals. Both sides came into the game pretty evenly matched, and left quite the same.” Outside of the Boot


Dynamo Kyiv soaring under Serhiy Rebrov and closing on slice of history

April 16, 2015

“Serhiy Rebrov scored only one goal for West Ham United, the winner in a 3-2 victory over Watford in November 2004. He was wearing an orange sweatband on his wrist when he did so, an indication of his support for the demonstrators who were occupying Independence Square in Kiev, protesting against irregularities in the presidential election run-off that had seen Viktor Yanukovych defeat Viktor Yushchenko. Yushchenko won a re-run election, but Yanukovych returned. A decade on, the demonstrators were back in Independence Square fighting him again, their success precipitating the Russian seizure of Crimea and the war in the Ukrainian east. Rebrov is an ethnic Russian who was born in Horlivka – or Gorlovka, if you prefer the Russian name – about 30 miles north-east of Donetsk.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Luis Suárez: another dimension for Barcelona

April 16, 2015

“‘Luis Suárez did what he does best,’ sighed Edinson Cavani, fresh from watching his Uruguay team-mate score a pair of magnificent goals at the Parc des Princes. The forwards had just experienced wildly contrasting evenings, but even the crestfallen Cavani had to admire the way his international colleague had put FC Barcelona on the brink of the UEFA Champions League semi-finals with a 3-1 win at Paris Saint-Germain.” UEFA (Video)


Despite Win, Juventus Need to be Wary of Monaco’s Speed in Transition

April 16, 2015

“As the full-time whistle sounded, the fans at Juventus Stadium were happy. Their beloved Bianconeri had just claimed a 1-0 win over Monaco, in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final, and as they gazed down from the steep stands to watch their idols shake hands with the opposition, there was a sense that the tie was theirs to lose. And that feeling was justified, too. Juventus probably shaded the contest on home soil, kept a clean sheet and head into the away leg knowing that, despite Monaco’s lofty third-place standing in Ligue 1, the club’s home form is only the ninth-best in France. It’s not a fantastic record, and Monaco’s six wins in 16 appearances at the Stade Louis II will hardly make Max Allegri’s men feel as though they’re visiting a fortress.” Licence to Roam


1927: A Look Back At Our Last Semi Final

April 16, 2015

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“How long ago was Reading’s last FA Cup semi final? So long ago that the name of the country we live in was still the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The acknowledgement that the Irish Free State was no longer part of the Kingdom was only to take place a month after our defeat to Cardiff. In January that year the BBC as we know it came into existence. Amazingly it was November 1927 when traffic lights first appeared on our streets. If you were looking for excitement in the 1920s then there was only one place you would head: Berlin. The German capital was enjoying its decedent vibrant heyday whilst Germany as a whole looked to be slowly rebuilding itself as a democracy having joined the League of Nations a year before.” SBN (Video)


Tottenham Hotspur – The Bottom Line

April 16, 2015

“Being a Tottenham supporter must be a pretty good test of whether you are a glass half-full or glass half-empty type of person. On the one hand, the club is consistently at the higher end of the Premier League, memorably qualifying for the Champions League in 2010 and only missing out on a technicality two years later (due to Chelsea’s European victory); but on the other hand, it’s often a case of ‘close, but no cigar’.” The Swiss Ramble


Tactical Analysis: Manchester United 4-2 Manchester City | Weakness down the channels exploited

April 16, 2015

“Manchester gathered its two giants once again at Old Trafford; a journey for the Citizens that was found more strenuous owning more to the weight this match held rather than the time spent traveled. Louis Van Gaal’s men had re-created in recent weeks the Manchester United magic of yester years and had gained significant momentum that resulted in plenty of turned heads to take notice. To balance every rise with a fall, we barely had to look beyond the territorial limits of Manchester, as Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City found themselves in a downward spiral ever since the turn of the year. City’s loss last Monday night against Crystal Palace meant that United finally surpassed their cross town rivals in the league.” Outside of the Boot


What do we mean when we talk about style?

April 16, 2015

“… Much of the buzz around American soccer circles lately is about the U.S. men’s national team’s style, or lack thereof, and it’s made me do some thinking. Well, at first I nodded my head in frustrated passion, part of the disgruntled mob. But then Jesse Marsch mentioned the issue, and I calmed down a little. Marsch is a smart guy, so when he made his observation about style out loud to SoccerByIves.com, it turned it from an angry plea to a rational assessment. We use this word all the time, and I’ve never really thought about it actually is. So I started to really think about what it means for a team to have a style, and why, or if, it matters.” Fuion


Jürgen Klopp to leave Borussia Dortmund at end of season

April 16, 2015

“Borussia Dortmund have announced the departure of their manager, Jürgen Klopp, at the end of the season. The BVB manager has asked the club to be released after enduring a difficult season and Dortmund called a press conference at 1.30pm (12.30pm BST) on Wednesday, where chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke confirmed that the club had agreed to release him early from his contract.” Guardian (Video)


Building Foundations: Football in Afghanistan — Part I

April 13, 2015

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“Part I: Crumbling Foundations. ‘LT! Did you see last night? Barcelona FOUR to ZERO against AC Milan! Messi with 2, Villa and Alba all scored. Iniesta said they would win and they did!’ This is what my interpreter, Johnny, said after Barcelona’s 4-0 win at the Nou Camp against AC Milan to overturn a 2-0 first leg deficit in the 2012-13 edition of the Champions League. Johnny isn’t his real name of course. He’s an Afghan national working for International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) soldiers in Afghanistan as a linguist. He was assigned to my platoon during my deployment to Operation Enduring Freedom 13. Champions League football can seem very distant from a Forward Operating Base in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, but for Johnny that night, he was in the Nou Camp. For him however, football, and in particular Barcelona, is his escape from the harsh realities of his home. And for many Afghans, the same is true. Football is their oasis.” Outside of the Boot – Part I, Part II, Part III


Manchester City’s downward spiral puts Manuel Pellegrini in crosshairs

April 13, 2015

“For Manchester City, there were worrying signs in Monday’s 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace. Ostensibly, the Premier League champion was unlucky. It had 69% possession and 22 shots to Palace’s five. It hit the post and should have had a penalty. Palace’s first goal was probably a fraction offside. Fundamentally, though, City lost because it was lazy–and it is that, more than anything else, that raises doubts about the future of Manuel Pellegrini. Defeat to United in the Manchester derby on Sunday would magnify them perhaps to a breaking point.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Lazio earned its fascist reputation, but it has since devolved into stereotypes

April 13, 2015

“The crest of S.S. Lazio depicts a golden eagle, wings outstretched, grasping a blue-and-white-striped club badge in its talons. The eagle looks a little ferocious, as many mascots are wont to do. Still, its steely glare shouldn’t provoke such loathing – yet this misunderstood avian has managed to become a perfect symbol of the much-maligned club. You see, an eagle was commonly used as a fascist symbol. It doesn’t matter that the eagles worn on Italian Fascist uniforms bear little resemblance to the Lazio eagle; for those seeking to make their cases against the side, the bird’s use gives further credence to the theory that Lazio is a fascist club, founded by army officers and doomed to be Mussolini’s team.” Fusion


English Entropy: Will the Best Premier League Teams Ever Match Madrid, Bayern, and Barcelona?

April 13, 2015

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“With seven games left in the campaign, the English soccer season is effectively over. Chelsea are seven points clear of second-place Arsenal with a game in hand. Manchester City are seven points clear of fifth-place Liverpool. And all the English clubs have been eliminated from the Champions League. Sure, there’s still a relegation battle to be fought, but among the Premier League’s elite, all the excitement has been sucked away less than two weeks into April. Financially, England’s top tier is doing great. Teams up and down the table have become profitable, and a massive new TV deal means the top division has a very bright future. So, with the Premier League in such apparently good shape, why has it become an afterthought as the soccer world heads into its home stretch?” Grantland


Louis van Gaal’s latest masterstroke: Fellaini as deep-lying target man

April 13, 2015

“Throughout his career as a coach, Louis van Gaal has been dogmatic, but perhaps the only thing he is dogmatic about is the fact that he is right. He came to the Premier League and, because he’s smarter than anybody else, he took the one surviving facet of the traditional English game, and showed how we could have been using it far more effectively all these years. Look, he said, I like this target man of yours, but why on earth haven’t you been using him in midfield?” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


“Torpedo-ed” Moscow

April 13, 2015

“Torpedo Moscow, in their latest incarnation, are a club with a whole heap of trouble. Fans warring with the owner, owner trying to placate investors, never-ending stream of bad media. One of the storied clubs of Russian football seems to want to curl up and die. Last weekend’s violence in Tula was another blow against soccer in Russia. Coming hot on the heels of the idiocy in Podgorica, the Arsenal and Torpedo fans seemed eager to grab headlines with a flare and firecracker display which presaged a full on riot.” backpagefootball


Why Italy’s top league wants to take its games beyond the peninsula

April 13, 2015

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“Once, not so long ago, the soccer world looked to Italy’s Serie A to lead the way. Now the league’s asking the rest of the planet for help. It’s considering playing the first round of matches in the 2015-16 season in cities such as London, New York, Paris, Jakarta, Shanghai and Beijing. It’s a desperate idea to drum up interest from a faltering league. We should caution that it’s Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis (below) who’s pitching the idea, and as you’d expect from a big-time film producer, he has a penchant for dramatic but unrealistic gestures – like threatening to send his players to some kind of training prison camp, and proposing suing the Italian government for $16 billion.” Fusion


United Take Back Manchester: How Louis van Gaal Finally Found His Best Team

April 13, 2015

“We’re 32 games into the season, and this much is now obvious: Manchester United are one of the four best teams in the Premier League. Yesterday’s 4-2 romp over Manchester City was United’s sixth league victory in a row and the team’s best performance of the season. Just a month removed from a heated battle for fourth place with Liverpool, United totally dominated their crosstown rival and now sit four points clear of City in third. Over the first half of the season, Louis van Gaal’s team strung together a host of ugly victories on the back of improbable goals and timely finishing. But now, with wins over Tottenham and Liverpool in addition to City, the manager has his team playing the kind of attacking soccer he warned that fans might have to wait until next season to see. So what finally clicked for United? Basically, van Gaal finally found the right starting lineup.” Grantland


La Liga’s top Spanish scorer may have played his way to Portugal

April 13, 2015

“The messages started arriving, and they didn’t stop. ‘There were more than 100,’ Rayo Vallecano attacker Alberto Bueno told El País. ‘And that’s not including Twitter. I couldn’t even keep track of the ones which were coming through on there.’ Manchester United’s Juan Mata wasn’t among those who sent a message, but he did phone Bueno, who he played with at Real Madrid many moons ago, to congratulate him on his 14-minute, four-goal haul in Rayo’s win over Levante at the end of February. And the goals didn’t stop there: One more came against Barcelona, two against Granada and another at Eibar.” Soccer Gods (Video)


From Prom Prog To Postcard: Scotland and the Shock Of Punk

April 8, 2015

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“When the popular story of punk is normally told, it can be a little London-centric. All too often the vibrancy of provincial music scenes and the sheer volume of bands that emerged are overlooked; their role only really appreciated by those who take the time to delve deeper into the scene’s history. Perhaps because of this trend and also its strength musically during the post-punk years, Scotland’s experience of punk barely gets a mention. Which is odd, because during the late-seventies Scotland was a bubbling cauldron of musical creativity; producing not just major punk bands, including the Skids and The Rezillos but also a plethora of well-regarded also-rans, such as Fire Exit, The Zips and The Freeze. Like other parts of Britain, the music scene in Scotland during this period also underwent a seismic shift, one that changed it permanently.” In Bed With Maradona


Manuel Pellegrini: Manchester City’s manager under pressure

April 8, 2015

“Manchester City are facing the sobering prospect of finishing fourth in what was meant to be a two-horse title race – a position they might even sign up for now after their latest damaging defeat at Crystal Palace. The reigning Premier League champions will surely forget any notions of retaining their trophy after the loss at Selhurst Park left a gap of nine points between City and leaders Chelsea, who have a game in hand and only eight matches to play.” BBC


Palestino – Getting shirty in Chile

April 8, 2015

“‘A win for Palestino is a joy for the suffering Palestinian people’ so believes Maurice Khamis Massu president of Chilean football team Palestino, a club founded by the sizeable Chilean Palestinian community and are defined by the ties that they proudly share with their homeland. The club does not hold back when it comes to displaying its identity and is not afraid of a little controversy or diplomatic incidents when it comes to representing Palestinian people both at home and abroad.” Football Pink


Pragmatic Pep learns lessons from defeat

April 8, 2015

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“Since his emergence, ascendancy and achievement with Barcelona, Pep Guardiola has carried the label of ‘purist’ with a penchant for high-pressing, short-passing football. His battle has seemingly always been to win and keep the ball, not the match. As far as his managerial career thus far is concerned, the former has always preceded the latter anyway. Yet, as his Bayern Munich side edged to victory away to Borussia Dortmund on Saturday afternoon, Guardiola showed signs of pragmatic adaptability previously thought of as asymmetric to his mentality.” backpagefootball


Clock Is Ticking on Xavi’s Storied Career at Barcelona

April 8, 2015

“Andrés Iniesta and Xavi Hernández have played tiki-taka since childhood. They have grown closer than brothers, can find one another with a pass in their sleep and have won every honor in the global game. Their days together are numbered. They do have unfinished business because Barcelona still might win, three more trophies this season to add to the 24 that they have won as integral parts of both their club and the national team, Spain.” NY Times


From Hero to Zero, The Manager Cauldron

April 8, 2015

“With the evolution of the English Premier league, expectations are at an all time high. Wealthy investors expect nothing but the best from their team and quite often fabricate erratic and instantneous decisions. The euphoria and prospects of garnering silverware can often cloud judgment and project a directors desires into a far from plausible stratosphere. The monumental stakes have also never been higher with next years’ mouth-watering £5.4bn TV deal up for grabs. An estimated £99million will be won by the last place team and £150million for the winners. However, it isn’t just the players who come and go, more often than not, it’s managers too. Managers often get blamed for the teams’ failings but the players take the honours of winning. The managers take the major brunt of their teams results and it seems they can never win. An owners’ fixation in elevating their reputation in this elite Billionaire Club means they have no qualms in paying for the extermination of a contract. To them it’s merely status and the team is just their toy to dissipate excess cash.” Soccer Politics


Tactical Analysis: Arsenal 4-1 Liverpool | Intensive high pressing and off-the-ball setup

April 6, 2015

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“Turn your calendars one year back, and you’ll be reminded of a Liverpool master-class, embarrassing an Arsenal side that seemingly had the title in their sights, being undone by intensive high pressing from Brendan Rodgers’ men. While revenge isn’t something an experienced man like Arsene Wenger would spend much time on, the Frenchman sent a message by doing to Liverpool exactly what they did, in a strikingly similar manner.” Outside of the Boot


Club América’s mini-crisis is over thanks to Rubens Sambueza

April 6, 2015

“Club América entered the weekend in crisis and exited with calm, though it didn’t take much to pull-off the turnaround. All it needed was well-timed 1-0 rivalry win over an inner-city rival, with Cruz Azul falling at Estadio Azteca in Saturday’s Clásico Joven. The derby’s name, meaning ‘young’ or ‘juvenile,’ is a bit of a misnomer, though it nods to the fact that Mexico’s two biggest teams, América and Chivas, have been battling each other longer, with Guadalajara rivals Chivas and Atlas at odds for even longer than that. Back in Mexico City, the Aguilas and La Maquina have played more than 150 times since first meeting in the summer of 1964, with América taking its 55th victory compared with 51 losses.” Soccer Gods


We’re All Gonna Live Forever!

April 6, 2015

“Last night’s piece, “We’re All Gonna Die!” provoked a lot of debate, much of which took place on Twitter. There were a lot of interesting comments, plus the usual complaints. (And of course, the usual excellent discussions in the comments on this site.) I figured it’d be easier to write a (fairly) short addendum on here, rather than reply to various queries in a medium not suited to getting across complex ideas. Obviously the original piece was fairly long, but it deals with a pretty big issue; it wasn’t 4,500 words on why Alberto Moreno chooses to have a stubbly beard.” Tomkins Times


Bielsa Burnout: Marseille’s Meltdown Against PSG Mirrors Their Manager’s Career

April 6, 2015

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“Marcelo Bielsa’s teams are just different. If you’re watching a game with the Argentine manning the sidelines, it’s obvious within minutes. His sides run more and they run differently than any other team in the world. With his unique approach, Bielsa has influenced managers from Bayern Munich’s Pep Guardiola to Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino. Chile’s current national team coach, Jorge Sampaoli, proudly counts himself as one of the most devout Bielsistas around, and his side was the most fun and most different team at last summer’s World Cup.” Grantland (Video)


Tactical Analysis : Borussia Dortmund 0-1 Bayern Munich | 2 man strike force undoes Dortmund again

April 6, 2015

“The 2014-15 season has been one of contrast for the two sides that were in action on Saturday night at the Signal Iduna Park. While the home side have been languishing near the bottom and the middle of the table for long periods of the season, the visitors, Bayern Munich, have been threatening to run away with the title throughout the season. The difference in their respective positions on the table didn’t really matter in the super charged atmosphere that greeted both sides. The noise level at the stadium was deafening, with the home fans looking to get behind their side.” Outside of the Boot


Kevin De Bruyne’s role as the heart of Wolfsburg

April 6, 2015

“Wolfsburg’s 4-1 demolition of Bayern Munich at the end of January sent shock waves through the football world, announcing Wolfsburg to the neutrals who hadn’t yet noticed their success this year. Despite a Bas Dost double, including a beautifully ambiguous intentional volley, one man stole the show – Kevin De Bruyne, his assist and brace exemplifying his role as the star man of the team.” Bundesliga Fanatic


Argentine referee uses replay to correct call, faces punishment

April 6, 2015

“Being a referee in a technology-soaked era is a no-win proposition, like being accused of witchcraft in the 1700s. Float when you’re throw into water? Guilty! Drown? Innocent! Right is wrong, wrong is right, and you’re screwed either way. Like leading Argentinian referee German Delfino, who is being investigated and faces a potential suspension for reversing an incorrect decision through the use of replay. Because, of course, the officials are the only people in any stadium not allowed to look at footage of matches. It’s like installing a GPS device in a car but placing the screen on the back seat, where the driver can’t see it.” Fusion


Reality has displaced rivalry between Bayern and Dortmund

April 3, 2015

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“It’s inconceivable. Less than three years ago, Borussia Dortmund was its second consecutive Bundesliga crown. A year later, it was a second place finish, both domestically and in the Champions League final. And last season, Dortmund came second yet again. It’s inconceivable, then, that Jürgen Klopp’s side, ahead of Saturday’s Klassiker, is now 10th, 31 points back of first. But that word, to evoke a famous cinematic trope, may not mean what you think it means.” Soccer Gods


Cape Verde’s win in Portugal will reverberate and be remembered

April 3, 2015

“Let’s start with the caveats. There was no Cristiano Ronaldo, João Moutinho, Nani, Fábio Coentrão or Bruno Alves. There wasn’t even José Bosingwa. This was a young, experimental Portugal side. It was only a friendly. It was windy. And Cape Verde have improved immeasurably over the past decade; they are ranked 38th in the world, not quite as good as Wales but better than Scotland, and were denied a play-off for World Cup qualification only after they were penalised for fielding an ineligible player. But still, this is a result that will reverberate and will be remembered – the night when Portugal, semi-finalists at the last European Championship, hosted their former colony and lost 2-0.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson