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