There Was a Crooked Man …

“The world is not divided in its opinion of Sepp Blatter. Few public figures attract as much loathing as the 79-year-old Machiavelli of football, an über-politician whose name recalls the Latin moniker of that creature that would, goes the story, survive a nuclear armageddon: blatta, the cockroach. He has sat contentedly at football’s top table for four terms and was elected for a fifth on May 29. Swatting away would-be usurpers, presiding over the growth of FIFA from a fusty, nearly bankrupt organization into a behemoth that turns well over $1 billion a year—and is now seen as a hotbed of corruption, a nest of thieves whom he allowed to steal and steal again, so long as they enabled him to stay in power. He did not encourage them (they needed no encouragement); he did not condone them; but he looked the other way far too often for us to believe in his innocence.” 8by8


Reconstruction of Olympique Lyonnais

“No one, and I repeat, no one could have expected what came from Olympique Lyonnais last season. Lyon were still at a point financially where they had to solely rely on their famous youth academy to get them by as their new stadium was still being constructed. It’s been that way for the last few years with Lyon as player transfer spending was cut dramatically. After having a seven year peak of dominating French football and being a relevant power in Europe, Lyon went through an awkward transition period that saw them significantly drop.” Stats Bomb

Madrid, Messi and Moyes: An Early Season Report On La Liga

“We are six games into the season in Spain. Villarreal lead, Messi’s out for two months, there’s a logjam at the top, Sevilla just climbed off the bottom, and we finally have a day off without a league game. I think it’s time to take a quick look at some of the early stats and stories.” Stats Bomb

Direct football: The Benefits of playing the Long Ball

“When playing against a team that sits behind the ball and focuses on maintaining a compact defensive unit, using a target player has its benefits. Many teams will concede that they have inferior levels of playing ability to their opposition and so will see fit to ‘park the bus’. In a compact team, the gaps between each player will be small and so their opponents will find it difficult, not only to play penetrative passes between these gaps but will also struggle to find space to receive the ball between the defensive blocks, i.e between the defensive line and midfield line. One way in which the side in possession can break these lines, however, is by utilizing a target man.” Outside of the Boot

Long ball
In association football (soccer), a long ball is an attempt to move the ball a long distance down the field via a cross, without the intention to pass it to the feet of the receiving player. In Continental Europe the style is called kick and rush. It is a technique that can be especially effective for a team with either fast or tall strikers.[2] The long ball technique is also a through pass from distance in an effort to get the ball by the defensive line and create a foot race between striker and defender. While often derided as either boring or primitive, it can prove effective where players or weather conditions suit this style; in particular, it is an effective counter-attacking style of play in which some defenders can be caught off-guard. …” Wikipedia

Tactical Analysis: Liverpool 3 Aston Villa 2

“Both teams lined-up largely as expected. For Liverpool the main question was whether Rodgers would prefer the 3-4-2-1 or continue with the 3-4-1-2/3-1-4-2 hybrid used in the Norwich game. As it was, Ings partnered Sturridge in the latter shape. Sherwood was boosted by the news that his influential box-to-box midfield Gana was fit to start, which logically saw Villa go back to the 4-1-2-3 shape used before he got injured and an introduction of the 4-2-3-1 followed.” Tomkins Times

Bastian Schweinsteiger: A Machiavellian Prince

“It had to be under the sweltering Rio de Janeiro heat in the Maracana with nerves frayed to a twang, hearts in mouth and tension gripping every single body in that soulful old stadium that Bastian Schweinsteiger was defined most clearly as a man and as a player. Bloodied, bandaged, cramped he was at the wars and spectacularly looked like a doped up Tutankhamun running around upending Argentina players when need dictated, such as his yellow card suffered in the twenty ninth minute for clattering into Ezequiel Lavezzi. He was not in a jolly let’s-have-tea-in the-garden mood, he was zipping around the pitch with absolutely no anxiety and even when Germany faltered, he was often the last bastion of defense. Being man of the match on the biggest stage of all was typical of the man many in Bavaria had christened ‘football God’, a term reserved only for the most charismatic and enigmatic players- indeed the only players that come to mind are Matt Le God Tissier, the king of the Dell and the original Eric Cantona, impressive company.” Outside of the Boot

Manchester United – What Difference Does It Make?

“Sir Alex Ferguson was always going to be a tough act to follow at Manchester United and so it proved as David Moyes’ brief reign ended with him being sacked after a poor season and the club failing to qualify for European competition for the first time since 1990. He was in turn replaced by Louis van Gaal, whose side also struggled at times, but the Dutchman has a great track record, not to mention a larger-than-life personality, and did ultimately lead United back into Europe by finishing fourth in the Premier League in 2014/15. So what difference has the absence of the Champions League made to United’s financial results?” The Swiss Ramble

How Will Barcelona Replace Lionel Messi’s Omnipotence?

“When you’ve been as good as Barcelona over the past decade, you don’t get any sympathy — not even when Lionel Messi tears a knee ligament and is set to miss seven to eight weeks. Fair or not, that’s how the sliding scale of club-related compassion works: For one of the biggest and best teams in the world, every setback should only be a speed bump — even if it’s shaped like the best player in the world. So, if you’ll allow us, it’s time to ask the un-ask-able …” Grantland

A UEFA Champions League underdog you can hate: Meet FC Astana

“The team is funded by income from oil and natural gas interests. Its players have been seduced by high salaries to join the squad. Part of the team’s reason for being is to attract visitors to its country. In fact, the country’s president founded the club’s umbrella organization.” Fusion

FIFA’s Captain Clings to the Helm of His Sinking Ship

“When Sepp Blatter was re-elected president of FIFA this spring, he trotted out one of his favorite metaphors. In his 17th year in charge of the organization, and brushing aside a raging corruption scandal, Mr. Blatter boasted that he would navigate FIFA’s rocky waters and guide world soccer’s governing body safely to the shore. But here is the latest snapshot of the bang-up job this captain has been doing: On Friday, he was huddled deep inside his ship’s hull, meeting in the bilge with top FIFA crew members, as his ship continued to take on water. When Captain Blatter returned to the upper deck later that day, he was greeted by investigators representing Switzerland’s attorney general. They had come aboard with the news that Mr. Blatter was the target of a criminal investigation.” NY Times

Talent Radar Young Defender Rankings: Jordan Amavi, John Stones & Samuel Umtiti impress

“Judging the calibre of a young player is often a tricky task. Perceived potential has an important bearing in any consideration and is just one of the many parameters to consider when trying to quantify the ability of football’s young stars. To add a basis to what may be a leap of faith, it is useful to look back and trace the growth, or indeed lack thereof, in young players. Our Talent Radar Player Rankings, along-with our Talent Radar Team of the Weekdocuments the progress of youngsters across Europe, with those featuring in these regular pieces, eventually being recognised in our end of season Talent Radar Young Player Awards and 100 Best Young Players to Watch list. Read this document for all your queries on Talent Radar and explanation of the features under it.” Outside of the Boot

Crystal Palace, Leicester, West Ham using counter-attack to great effect

“Manchester City and Manchester United are occupying the top two positions in the Premier League table, but the real story is the over-achievement of some exciting underdogs. West Ham United, Leicester City and Crystal Palace have been among the most impressive teams in the division and are all sitting pretty towards the top. Interestingly, the trio have something very obvious in common: they’ve all been excellent on the counter-attack. The statistics summarise the situation. These three sides are among the worst teams in terms of possession: West Ham with 45 percent, Crystal Palace and Leicester with 44. Only Tony Pulis’ West Brom (42 percent) are beneath them.” ESPN – Michael Cox

Football Manager 2016 New Features Revealed

“After weeks of patiently waiting for new information we are now aware of some of the Football Manager 2016 New Features with the game due for release on November 13th. For the first time ever, you will be able to customise the appearance of your manager and see him on the touchline. This will include being able to alter height, clothing colours and upload a profile picture to get an image that looks like you or the real life manager/player that you are looking to emulate.” Squawka

Football Manager 2016 Features, Screenshots & FM16 Videos
“Finally some of the new Football Manager 2016 features have been announced throught out the last day, something I have been eagerly anticipating for a 3 month time. While Football Manager 2016 will be available for PC, MAC and Linux, Sports Interactive have not forgotten about the tablet and mobile users by introducing an all new line up of different Football Manager 2016 versions giving you the chance to play FM16 wherever and whenever – building on the mantra of FM15. New this year is Football Manager Touch 2016 and Football Manager Mobile 2016.” Passion4 (Video)

Goal Analysis: How Spurs came from behind and put four past Man City

“Sam Polak has a look at how Tottenham Hotspur defeated league leaders Manchester City at White Hart Lane, after having gone a goal down but managing to score four. With both team’s most recent games resulting in a loss, each looked hungry to get 3 points. But it was Pochettino’s side who emerged on the better side of a match that featured five total goals.” Outside of the Boot

Prejudice and curiosity: Football’s first black African touring party

“In early September 1899, 111 years before South Africa’s World Cup and with the Boers and Britain manoeuvring back towards war, 16 black footballers – captained by a grocer and accompanied by four officials from the whites-only Orange Free State FA – arrived by steamship at Southampton for the start of a 49-game continental tour. Just two years after the Corinthians had won 21 and drawn two of 23 fixtures against the likes of Cape Town Civilians, Military and the Orange Free State, the inaugural South African squad to play in Europe were greeted with open ridicule, prejudice and unabashed racial stereotyping.” Football Pink

Breisgau Bulletin: Strong Start to SC Freiburg’s Season

“When I wrote my season preview I said that Freiburg’s critical stretch of the season would be the five matches out of the gate. Admittedly this was partly due to an admitted unfamiliarity of the relative strength and weakness of the 2. Bundesliga opposition. The other part however stemmed from a legitimate need for the team to get off on the right foot so as to try to avoid getting drawn into the mire of a promotion dogfight – which of course could still very well happen. In an ideal situation, I said, the Sport-Club would go and run the table but tempered that optimistic prognostication by noting that a 3-1-1 record would be nothing to turn one’s nose up at.” Bundesliga Fanatic

Play our Premier League Predictor

“Map out the road to Premier League glory by predicting the scores for all the games this season. See how your guesses fare against other supporters and pundit Mark Lawrenson, plus get feedback from BBC Sport’s team including Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer.” BBC

In light of Lewandowski, five most dominant performances of all time

“At halftime on Tuesday night, Wolfsburg led Bayern Munich 1-0. It had defended well, looked dangerous on the counterattack and seemed that it might, for the first time in its history, win at Bayern. Pep Guardiola made two changes at the break, bringing on Javi Martinez for Juan Bernat and Robert Lewandowski for Thiago Alcantara. Six minutes later, Lewandowski equalized, rolling in a half-blocked shot at the back post. A minute later, surging through the middle, he dispatched a fierce low shot into the bottom corner from just outside the box. Three minutes after that, he hit the post, then drew a save from Diego Benaglio and then, at the third attempt, completed his hat trick. Two minutes after that, he rammed in a volley at slightly higher than waist height, contorting superbly to keep his weight over the ball. And two minutes after that, hooking the ball from behind him, he lashed in a side volley from the edge of the box. Five goals, three of them in stunning quality, in the space of nine minutes.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Four Incredible Things That Happened in Bayern Munich–Wolfsburg BESIDES Robert Lewandowski’s Five Goals
“Yesterday, in the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich found themselves in an unfamiliar position: They were losing. This usually isn’t the end of the world for a team, especially one as good as the defending champions, but Bayern happen to be locked in what will likely be the most entertaining title race in club football this season. Bayern and their rivals Borussia Dortmund — who might be playing the most effervescent version of the sport right now — are steamrolling the competition, winning their matches and winning them big. Every game counts. Every goal counts. The entire league might be decided by the two matches that Dortmund and Bayern play against one another and how many goals they score throughout the season. Bayern losing to Wolfsburg, at home no less, was not on the menu.” Grantland (Video)

Barcelona beaten 4-1, Juve problems continue

“Barcelona suffered a big shock and Juventus stuttered again while Real Madrid and Lyon impressed. We round up how the group stage contenders got on in Wednesday’s action.” UEFA

Brendan Rodgers running out of time as air of resignation engulfs Liverpool

“Transition, transition, transition. It is the curse of modern football and also its great excuse. Whenever a club are underperforming, it is because they are in transition. To which it is tempting to reply, “Well, stop signing so many players then.” It is not, of course, as easy as that, partly because the club that are not in transition tend to be perceived as in stagnation (and that leads to boredom, which is the worst crime of all in the soap opera morality of the Premier League), and partly because, if you’re not one of the absolute elite, other clubs keep buying your players.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Tactical Analysis: Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal | Pressing, overloads and half-spaces

“Even though there was a gap of six points separating Chelsea and Arsenal, both the teams were in slightly similar circumstances. An unimaginable start to the season for Chelsea, and regular ups and downs in terms of the results for Arsenal forced both the teams into a “must-win” situation in a match that was more than just a derby.” Outside of the Boot

Living on the edge – footballers under threat in Russia

“… One of the last half-dozen straws that broke my back in the day-to-day grind of sports was what happened to another player with whom I went through the same process. He signed for a D2 Central team and received 20,000rbs on his contract and another 20,000rbs black. As a favour to his Dad I helped him negotiate the deal. He got a break alright, as well as cuts and bruises which left him in a regional hospital for three days. I was in Voronezh and visited him. His story was nothing uncommon. No pay from November and a showdown with the Sports Director in April.” backpagefootball

Reuniting Palestine

“From the Palestinian national team’s debut at the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia to this summer’s diplomatic effort to suspend Israel from FIFA, football has become an important instrument for the Palestinians to reach an international audience and gain recognition. During this summer, football has emphasised the division between Gaza and the West Bank. The Palestine Cup, a two-legged match between Itthiad Shajaiya from Gaza and Ahli Al-Khalil from Hebron, the Cup winners in both Palestinian territories determined which team would qualify for the AFC Cup and represent Palestine internationally. For the first time in 15 years, a club from the Gaza Strip could travel to the West Bank for a match, and vice versa. This game was to become an instrument for internal healing and reunification of a politically divided Palestinian people.” Football Pink

What is Our Best XI?

“… So many of our players are unknown quantities right now. Someone like Firmino was clearly bought to be in the XI but on performances to date, you wouldn’t pick him. You would assume Sturridge would be the first name on the teamsheet and yet we don’t yet know if he can re-become the player he was in 2013/14. And then there’s Jon Flanagan who became first choice left-back during 2013/14 and hasn’t kicked a ball for the first team since. Is a solitary campaign the season before last sufficient evidence to assess his credentials for a first team place? I feel we have to play 3-5-2. The 3 is because we don’t have a left-back at the club. Moreno is clearly better as a wing-back. Gomez is a centre-back. Even Flanagan is right-footed. And Enrique is in purgatory. Also the 3 because I don’t want to see Can in midfield or right-back (ever) but I rate him in a back 3.” Tomkins Times

An insight into Data Analysis in Football: Interview with Dustin Bottger

Global Soccer Network‘s main target is it to revolutionize the modern day scouting in soccer. Influenced by ‘Moneyball’, Michael Lewis’ international bestseller, they have considered possibilities of how scouting in professional football could become more effective and created their unique rating system, the GSN-Index. We thank Dustin Bottger, CEO of Global Soccer Network, for his time and valuable insight.” Outside of the Boot

Arsenal – Searching For The Hows And Whys

“What to make of Arsenal? On the one hand, they are once again adding to their trophy cabinet, winning the FA Cup for the past two seasons, and continue to qualify for the Champions League, a feat that most clubs can only dream about. On the other hand, the feeling remains that Arsenal are not making the most of their (abundant) financial resources. 2015 was meant to be different, but the lack of signings this summer has once again sent many fans into a tailspin, as the same old failings continue to be exposed. This is particularly disappointing, as manager Arsene Wenger himself believes that Arsenal should now genuinely be able to compete for the Premier League title, as the club no longer has to sell its best players.” The Swiss Ramble

The partition of Irish football – why we don’t have a single island team

“Sporting website have published a selection of interesting insights, garnered from a discussion between Paul Fennessy and Cormac Moore about the latter’s new book The Irish Soccer Split, in a piece entitled, ‘Why don’t we have an all-Ireland soccer team and will we ever see one?’  The Irish Football Association (IFA), founded in Belfast in 1880, was, of course, the original football association in Ireland and was, at that time, officially representative of the entire island. It remained the sole national governing body for a period of over forty years.” backpagefootball

Euro 2016: A minnow’s tale?

“The Euros always make for fantastic viewing and can often spring a surprise on football fans when they see the likes of Greece and Denmark upstaging Europe’s biggest nations to win the competition. And with this year being the first in which the tournament shall contain 24 teams, there’s a bigger chance than ever of a ‘lesser’ nation claiming victory in France. If qualification is anything to go by, football is indeed coming home. The only side to have currently won 100% of their games is England, taking maximum points thus far from Switzerland, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania and San Marino. In qualifying for Euro 2012, just two teams won all of their games, Germany and Spain, semi-finalists and champions. In qualifying for Euro 2008, no teams took maximum points. So we’ve established England will, at the worst, be eliminated semi-finalists.”

20 years since the Bosman ruling

“The transfer system in football wasn’t always the way it is today – a free market in the true sense of the phrase. In fact, for most of the 20th century, it was quite the opposite. Admittedly, we still retain some core features of the old transfer system. For example, contracts generally lasted anywhere between one and five years back then, and would normally expire on June 30th of any given year, which is more or less how it works today.” backpagefootball – Part 1, Part 2

Celtic 6 – Dundee 0

“Celtic delivered a timely reminder of their commanding nature with an impressive sweeping aside of Dundee. The visitors could not suppress Celtic’s cutting edge or endeavour, and were quickly two goals behind thanks to Tom Rogic and Leigh Griffiths. Emilio Izaguirre took over the scoring after the break, striking twice and also missing a penalty. That was a rare moment of relief for a subdued Dundee, who conceded further goals to Scott Brown and Nadir Ciftci. Soon after this game kicked off, Aberdeen scored to lead 3-0 at Tynecastle. The Celtic players would have been unaware of that fact – although plenty of the home fans were following events on the other side of the country – but they are alert enough to the pressure being applied by Derek McInnes’s side.” BBC

Time’s up for Venezuela’s own ‘Captain Socceroo’

“After 129 matches and 23 goals, Juan Arango retired from international football after the midweek 1-1 draw with Panama. He leaves the field with football in his country on a very different footing from the one it was in January 1999, when the 18 year-old Arango climbed off the bench to make his debut against Denmark. Johnny Warren’s mission was to plant and grow the seed of football in terrain that many said would not prove fertile. Arango has done something similar. Unlike the rest of the continent, Venezuela appeared unable to catch the footballbug. It was a land of baseball and beauty contests. Football existed, but it was a flame kept alive by European immigrants, often from Spain, Italy or Portugal. Some in Venezuela even saw it as a middle-class sport. The popular passion was not for goals but to score a ‘jonron’ – the local translation of a baseball home run.” The World Game – Tim Vickery

Top FIFA Executive Jérôme Valcke Placed on Leave Amid Corruption Investigation

“Jérôme Valcke, the second-ranking official at FIFA, was placed on immediate leave and will be investigated for allegations of corruption involving the black-market sale of World Cup tickets, the association announced Thursday. FIFA, global soccer’s governing body, announced Mr. Valcke’s departure in a brief statement posted on its website. It said that Mr. Valcke had been relieved of his duties effective immediately and that FIFA had been ‘made aware of a series of allegations involving the secretary general and has requested a formal investigation by the FIFA Ethics Committee.’” NY Times

Christian Streich – “We all used to be refugees”

“This week, the headlines in the German football press have been all about St. Pauli’s refusal to take part in the “Wir helfen, #refugeeswelcome” project which has been created by Germany’s biggest tabloid Bild. After the paper’s editor in chief started to attack the Buccaneers viciously on Twitter, several other clubs decided to pull out of the event, among them SC Freiburg. The issue was brought up in the club’s pre match press conference, and after Freiburg’s press officer rendered an explanation for the club’s refusal, Christian Streich delivered a monologue for 8 minutes laying out his thoughts about the current crisis. Once again, Freiburg’s coach showed why he’s one of the most outspoken and intelligent men in football.” Bundesliga Fanatic

Tactical Analysis: Manchester City 1-2 Juventus | Pressing traps and central overloads

“Manchester City, still undefeated and yet to concede a goal prior to Juventus match, had nothing to change in its strategy and Manuel Pellegrini approached the game with a 4-4-2 formation. Juventus, who have not yet tasted victory in Serie A this term, focused more or the defensive structure. Massimiliano Allegri adopted a 4-3-3 formation and Juventus were changing regularly to 4-5-1 when out of possession.” Outside of the Boot

Florenzi boosts Roma; Bayern shines, Arsenal flops in Champions League

“A brilliant goal from Alessandro Florenzi earned Roma a 1-1 draw against Barcelona in the highest-profile clash on the second half of Matchday One of the Champions League, while there was further disappointment for the Premier League as Arsenal was beaten away to Dinamo Zagreb, 2-1. Chelsea, though, did record a comfortable victory, 4-0 over Maccabi Tel Aviv to relieve some of the mounting pressure on Jose Mourinho, while there were a pair of comfortable wins for the two Bundesliga sides in action: Bayern Munich winning 3-0 away to Olympiakos and Bayer Leverkusen thumping BATE Borisov 4-1 at home.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Five-Game Superstars: Just How Good Are Riyad Mahrez and Andre Ayew?

“How to hang around the top of the Premier League while grabbing plenty of neutral support along the way? Five games into the season, the answer appears to be: ‘Get yourself a tricky winger.’ So far, Swansea and Leicester City have combined for five wins, four draws, and one loss — all while playing some of the most fun-to-watch soccer in England. Riyad Mahrez has led Leicester, a team that came into the season looking like possible relegation fodder (oops), to the only undefeated record outside of Manchester City. Eleven points from five games is one heck of a haul, and it’s probably enough to permanently remove them from relegation talk. Meanwhile, Andre Ayew has helped propel Swansea to a draw against Chelsea and a win against Manchester United.” Grantland (Video)

Analysis: Juventus’ struggles in midfield and the build-up phase

“Last season Juventus had one of the best seasons in their history, winning a fourth consecutive Serie A title, the Coppa Italia and coming only a step away from Champions League glory. The Bianconeri midfield was pivotal in their success: Andrea Pirlo led the likes of Pogba, Marchisio and Vidal, all definitively consecrated as world-class midfielders.” Outside of the Boot

Goal Analysis: How PSV Eindhoven defeated Manchester United in the Champions League

“In a game with several plot lines— Memphis’ return to PSV, Luke Shaw’s injury, Martial getting his first start after a great debut, Wayne Rooney’s injury prohibiting him from playing, as well as PSV’s coach, Phillip Cocu, a former player under Van Gaal, the three goals all being scored between the 40th and 60th minutes were just another piece of an already interesting game.” Outside of the Boot

Style & substance: How Liverpool’s five teen talents got on against Bordeaux

“Liverpool kicked off their Europa League campaign on Thursday night with a tricky trip to Bordeaux and it was an evening that had plenty of positives, as well as a few negatives. It was clear to see from earlier in the week that Brendan Rodgers was going to use the competition to give some of his youngsters some game time, whilst also ensuring the right experience was moulded into the squad. The Northern Irishman left out a whole host of stars ahead of the trip, with Christian Benteke, Nathaniel Clyne, Dejan Lovren, James Milner, Lucas Leiva and Martin Skrtel all staying put on Merseyside.” Squawka

European Ennui: Surveying the Early-Season Worries of Juventus, Chelsea, Sevilla, and Gladbach

“The Champions League is here! And we’re so excited we’ll say it again: The Champions League is here! Starting today, the best of Europe’s best will square off every few weeks until the final on May 28 in Milan. Well, at least, that’s what is supposed to happen: For a quartet of qualifiers from the continent’s top four leagues, the first month and a half of the season has gone just about as poorly as anyone could’ve imagined. And as if to prove the validity of the cliché ‘misery loves company,’ three of them are in the same group. Let’s take a look at how worried each team should be.” Grantland

Homage to Murcia – A Season of Football Anarchy

“Whilst the book is principally about travelling around Murcia ,with the fans CAP Ciudad de Murcia, I mixed with the ultras and hinchas of Cadiz, Athletic Club, Seville and SD Eibar as well meeting many British and Irish fans who get their kicks from following the Spanish games not so glamourous clubs. I went to over 50 matches in the 2013-14 and travelled to places as diverse as Bilbao, Gibraltar, Soria, Madrid and every nook and cranny of Murcia, searching for what makes the football sub-culture of Spain tick. I also discovered some of the lesser known football pioneers that brought football to Murcia and Spain in general including the Spanish Geordie Manny Pelegin who brought football to Lorca in the 1890s.” Homage to Murcia

Book review: Homage to Murcia – A Season of Football Anarchy by Tony Higgins
“Tony Higgins, long time friend of The Football Pink, has just released his first self-published e-book, Homage to Murcia: A Season of Football Anarchy, the title largely borrowed from George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia and chronicles Tony’s experiences of following Spanish lower league club Ciudad de Murcia, home and away, through the 2013/14 season. Immediately apparent in this book is his sense of disillusionment with modern football, something an ever-growing number of weary devotees are experiencing as corporate avarice continue its rampage across the values of the supposed game of the people.” Football Pink

Can Marco Verratti progress at PSG?

“Sometimes it is easy to forget that Marco Verratti is merely 22 years old. During his stay at Paris Saint-Germain, the Italian youngster has drawn constant comparisons with none other than Andrea Pirlo, and is widely expected to take over from ‘Il Architetto’ as the chief orchestrator in the Italian midfield. The diminutive Verratti has a unique skill-set. Blessed with a sharp footballing brain and equally nimble footwork, he usually uses these strengths to weave out of trouble in defensive areas. His ability to find wingers in advanced positions with 50-yard passes is exceptional, but he is equally adept at playing pass-and-move. Even more remarkably, he does his fair share of the dirty work and possesses a mean sliding tackle which can take an opposition player by surprise, given his 5 foot 5 inch frame.” Outside of the Boot

Death By Football?

“‘We’ve nothing to fear but fear itself’ – Franklin D’s great rallying call to the American people in the depths of the Great Depression. It’s a line that’s been on my mind since the horrible West Ham defeat. Naturally, it was amplified on Saturday evening as Liverpool played fear football again, lost again, and Twitter burned. Brendan Rodgers has the fear and it’s eating him and his Liverpool legacy game by game. And it’s sad. Remember ‘death by football’? Poor old Brendan is suffering death by football – but not his football. Instead, a football that goes against his blood.” Tomkins Times

Ten Great Italian Goalkeepers Under the Shadow of Gigi Buffon

“It seems that foggy, snowy afternoon in Moscow was yesterday, when a 19-year-old Gianluigi Buffon made his national team debut, substituting an injured Pagliuca and valiantly protecting the Italian goal; a responsibility he would assume at the highest level in the subsequent two decades. Keeping a clean sheet for Italy again in last week’s Euro 2016 qualifier match in which the Azzurri beat Bulgaria, the 37-year-old veteran has completed his 150th international appearance, an endeavor spanning over 18 years.” backpagefootball

Manchester United players’ row with Louis van Gaal may not be a crisis

“When Bobby Robson took over at PSV Eindhoven in 1990, he was shocked by the culture he found there. ‘An English professional,’ he said, ‘accepts the manager’s decision, but after every match here the substitutes come and visit me.’ Debate has been part of Dutch football from at least the days of Rinus Michels and his ‘conflict principle’ by which players were encouraged to critique one another’s performances, seemingly on the logic that every pearl begins with a little grit of irritation.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Kevin De Bruyne helps Man City revert to Plan A to beat Crystal Palace

“On Saturday at Selhurst Park, Manchester City squeezed past Crystal Palace to seal an 11th straight league win, thanks to a stoppage-time winner from 18-year-old striker Kelechi Iheanacho. Though City were good value for the 1-0 scoreline, the leaders had been troubled in the opening exchanges: Palace started well and attacked quickly, with Yannick Bolasie threatening down the channels as a roaming centre-forward. At the other end, Manuel Pellegrini’s switch to 4-4-2 hampered City’s usual fluency. The services of David Silva and Raheem Sterling were clearly missed, while new signing Kevin De Bruyne started on the bench.” ESPN

The spirit of ’96 – When Tommy Burns’ heroes revived Celtic

“If Celtic’s great teams are measured in terms of trophies won, the 1995-96 side should have quickly become a distant memory. It is difficult to imagine parents and grandparents regaling children with tales from the season when Tommy Burns’ Celtic lost just one league game but still failed to win the league or any, in fact, any other trophy. Jock Stein’s 1967 Lisbon Lions, Billy McNeil’s 1988 Centenary double winners and Martin O’Neill’s 2001 treble winners feature more often when looking back at the great Celtic sides of the past 50 years.” backpagefootball

No need for Liverpool to panic, says Danny Murphy

“Liverpool’s approach in their defeat by Manchester United on Saturday has been criticised because of their lack of attacking threat. Whether you call it a 4-2-3-1 or 4-5-1 formation, there were question marks over the tactics that Reds boss Brendan Rodgers went with at Old Trafford because they left Christian Benteke so isolated up front.” BBC

In Germany, Migrant Aid Is a Team Effort

“Ibrahim Ismail decided to make a placard for each of his five Syrian and Iraqi friends the moment he heard they would receive free tickets for the soccer match on Tuesday. … The six men proudly displayed their signs to thousands of German fans streaming into Millerntor-Stadion here. Almost all of the fans who passed them were wearing black T-shirts with the image of a skull and crossbones on the front, the emblem widely used by supporters of F.C. St. Pauli, a team in the second tier of German soccer. A few days earlier, St. Pauli, known for its punk-rock ethos and social conscience, had offered 1,000 free tickets for an exhibition this week against Borussia Dortmund to recently arrived migrants, including Ismail and his friends.” NY Times

City on Fire: How Manchester City Became the Best Team in the Premier League … Again

“Just a couple of months ago, Manchester City were a team hovering underneath the cloud of long-term decline. Yaya Touré couldn’t do it all anymore, Vincent Kompany no longer looked like a rock in central defense, and even David Silva, the team’s creative hub, was pushing 30. A year after winning the tile, City finished eight points back of first-place Chelsea — and were it not for a late-season winning streak and bunch of games in which Chelsea had nothing to play for, the gap could’ve been even larger.” Grantland

De Gea, Martial facing different kinds of pressure at Manchester United

“All in all, last week was a pretty big week for Anthony Martial. He made his debut for France as a second-half substitute against Portugal on Saturday, four days after becoming the most expensive teenager in the history of football. This Saturday, it’s possible (but unlikely) that he’ll make his debut for Manchester United–the most successful club in English history in terms of league titles won–against Liverpool, the second most successful. But while his life has been hurtling along–from being, in the wider consciousness of English football, some promising French kid who played against Arsenal for Monaco last season to full-on celebrity with the potential to define a manager’s reign–for the other key figure in United’s deadline day, everything has stalled.” SI -Jonathan Wilson

Talent Radar: Atletico Madrid – Barcelona young players’ combined XI

“Barcelona La Masia has established it’s name as world football’s perennial academy, constantly developing talent and pushing stars through the conveyor belt. But the academy seems to have hit a snag, with many questioning it’s current predicament and future. Barcelona are now competing as any modern club would, by making big money signings. Atletico Madrid have always championed their excellent scouting and recruiting policy, particularly from South America, and the effects of this are more than apparent on the side.” Outside of the Boot

This is Zlatan Ibrahimovic: A story about the marriage of order and disorder

Covering the 2014 World Cup this past summer allowed me to spend some time writing about some of the game’s best players. But one player in particular was missing. The World Cup left a small hole in my soul for there was no Zlatan Ibrahimović. Pensive and growing perhaps too self-aware, like Beckett’s Vladimir, I was waiting for Zlatan to show. And now that I have the chance to write a little bit about him, I’ve found that I can’t help but close my eyes and drift.” Fusion (Video)

Ratings: Man Utd 3-1 Liverpool: Martial steals show with thrilling debut

“Manchester United came out victors in a fairly turgid game against Liverpool thanks to second half goals from Daley Blind and Ander Herrera. The first half was one of the poorest of the season so far with neither side managing to register a shot on target. United dominated the possession but they were unable to really test Simon Mignolet, with most of the problems for the Belgian caused by himself.” Squawka (Video)

The Conversion of St. Pauli

“There are two reasons the young man on the bicycle doesn’t register with me. The first is that I don’t expect him to arrive on a bike. The second is that I’m craning my neck to look at the roof of St. Pauli’s clubhouse. Three flags are flying atop the building. The middle one carries the FC St. Pauli crest and club colors, brown and white. The one on the left advertises a crowdfunding project to raise money for underprivileged residents of St. Pauli, the working-class quarter of Hamburg. The one on the right is the gay pride flag. While I’m squinting against the bright sun, the young man gets off his bicycle.” 8 by 8

Iceland’s place at Euro 2016 a result of calculated development, growth

“Iceland’s ascent as a footballing nation, falling at the final hurdle of 2014 World Cup qualification before become one of the first to qualify for Euro 2016, has been one of the big surprises in recent years. However, looking at the infrastructure the tiny island nation has built, it seems like less of a mystery and more of an inevitability. Despite an average daily temperature hovering around freezing for nearly half the year, Iceland has been slowly creeping toward the upper echelons of European football since the new millennium. Seven of the squad that pulled off a historic double against the Netherlands, winning 1-0 away from home on Sept. 3 after a 2-0 victory in Reykjavík in October, also qualified for the 2011 UEFA Under-21 Championship.” SI (Video)

FC Astana – The Kazakhstani minnows who are taking on Europe’s elite

“In beating APOEL Nicosia 2-1 on aggregate, FC Astana have become the first team from the former Soviet Union state of Kazakhstan to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League. The Kazakhstanis beat Maribor of Solvenia, HJK Helsinki of Finland and Cypriots APOEL on their way to the group stages for their maiden season with Europe’s elite after being drawn against Atlético Madrid, Galatasaray and Benfica in an almost impossible Group C.” backpagefootball

How will Liverpool shape up after the return of Daniel Sturridge

“The 2014-15 season for Liverpool felt like some kind of nightmare hallucination brought on by the euphoric rush that was experienced the year prior. A large part of this nightmare hallucination was that despite all the willing of the fans, and the support of medical staff between two continents and indeed two sports (football and baseball) Daniel Sturridge could not find his way back onto a pitch in playing condition. The argument that was put forth by Liverpool fans in pubs, offices, schools and streets worldwide was, ‘If Sturridge were healthy, this season would be completely different.’ This mentality has bled over into the current campaign, with Liverpool failing to make any kind of statement offensively in its first four games. However, this nightmare appears to be ending and so we will look at how Liverpool’s front line will line up with Sturridge in the lineup.” Outside of the Boot