Monthly Archives: October 2015

James and the Giant Poppy

“As we enter, once more, into the depressingly-inevitable annual period of more-widespread and focused moral outrage reserved for poppy-refusenik James McClean, it is refreshing to encounter a more considered contribution to the debate from a proponent of the Remembrance symbol, as opposed to the usual abusive, outraged, reactionary and knee-jerk bully-boyism we have come to expect in relation to the matter. The author of this contribution, ‘DowntheMannyRd’, offers sincerity and good will in encouraging James McClean to reconsider his refusal to wear a poppy this November.” backpagefootball


Premier League’s limitations shown by dull Manchester derby draw

“Everyone who watched Sunday’s Manchester derby agreed it was a largely terrible game of football. Well, almost everyone. The counter argument was launched by Gary Neville, Britain’s finest television pundit, who has genuinely helped change perceptions of football through his brilliant Monday Night Football slot. Neville was a fine defender during his playing days, the type of footballer who became top-class because his intelligence was built upon experience, rather than through incredible natural talent. It’s not surprising, therefore, that he’s a fine commentator and marvels at good defensive organisation.” ESPN – Michael Cox

Positives for both sides as Real Madrid topple Celta Vigo

“Sooner or later, reality bites in football – especially for football clubs like Celta Vigo. Unbeaten in La Liga up to last Saturday, the humble Galician outfit had found themselves sharing top spot on merit with visitors Real Madrid. But sooner or later, despite your dash, your verve, your high intensity pressing, reality bites.” backpagefootball

DFB Pokal 2nd Round Continues Tuesday and Wednesday

“Midweek German football action will see 32 clubs try to advance to the Round of 16 in the DFB Pokal. The 16 scheduled matches include some very tasty and intriguing draws for fans of German football to enjoy. The marquee match among the eight games played on Tuesday has to be the VfL Wolfsburg-Bayern Munich match, a contest between last year’s Pokal champion and the club that has dominated the competition, Bayern Munich, with 17 Pokal titles. Bayern lost their first game of the season last week in Champions League action when they were beaten in London by Arsenal, but they came back strong Saturday against 1.FC Koln, while Wolfsburg have won three in a row (including their CL win against PSV Tuesday) and will be set for revenge for their late September spanking administered by the Bavarians and also looking to prove that they are an elite club following the Kevin De Bruyne departure.” Bundesliga Fanatic

Tactical Analysis: Manchester United 0-0 Manchester City | Man-oriented defences on top

“Manchester United hosted City in the 170th Manchester derby. In this fixture last season United dominated the midfield battle with Mata’s central roaming creating an overload that was key to United’s victory. Furthermore Toure was played as one of City’s two deep midfield players despite his well-documented defensive shortcomings and this contributed to their resounding defeat.” Outside of the Boot

Russian football’s European performances suggest a new commitment to fitness foundations

“The English-speaking football world shone its semi-interested light on Russian football last week, yet, as is the norm, the subjects scrutinised were narrow – ‘The Normal One’, ‘LVG and Roly Poly Rooney’ and many other pressing subjects. The question as to why a league like the RFPL should see its teams be competitive in Europe wasn’t brought up. Rather the Sky-BT-Insert Sponsor Name here League was studiously studied. Wiki searches for players with funny names were de rigeur for pundits.” backpagefootball

Together and alone: Camus’ football philosophy

Albert Camus
“Camus’ aphorism, often misquoted as ‘what I know most surely about morality…I learned from football’, is a favourite of high-brow fans of sport and t-shirt printers everywhere. It is, of course, a reference to his experiences playing in goal for the RUA, the Algiers Racing University football team, and the Montpensier Sports Club. He started playing for them at the age of fifteen and quickly made a good impression. Jonathan Wilson’s beautiful book on ‘keeping, The Outsider, the title of which is surely a conscious echo of Camus’ novel, describes in detail some of his recollections of playing. He was praised for his bravery and his abilities in goal, and was even once knocked out taking a powerful shot straight to the chest, a forewarning of the tuberculosis that would force him to hang up his gloves and, from that point on, only participate in football as a spectator.” Put Niels In Goal

The Wonderful and Unsustainable OGC Nice Attack

“We all like free flowing football right? It’s fun seeing teams express themselves on the ball and do stuff that make your jaw drop; whether it be against a set defense and a team making intricate passes to bypass them (See: Arsenal, Bayern, Man City), or a wild counter attack that tattles the line of functional chaos and rips apart the souls of their opposition (See: Dortmund, Crystal Palace, PSV). Defense is fun and there’s a special place for defensive steel, but in the end we’re some form of degenerates on the inside that love bucket loads of goals. … Now what if I said that there was a team that was averaging a goal scoring rate better than the likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Manchester City and it’s not a traditional super power, and they play in France as well. No seriously, it’s OGC Nice from Ligue 1. They’re scoring goals for fun this season through a fun mixture of possession football and counter attacks focused on capitalizing individualistic moments. The form Nice are on is equivalent to playing FIFA online against an overmatched opponent and they’re scoring goals for the fun of it.” Stats Bomb (Video)

Talent Radar Young Goalkeeper Rankings: Jan Oblak surges to the top

“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.” Outside of the Boot

Around Europe: Sherwood axed; Suarez, Aubameyang net hat tricks

“Yet another dramatic week in Europe’s major leagues saw pressure increase on Jose Mourinho, while there were hat tricks for some of the continent’s big-name players, like Barcelona’s Luis Suarez and Borussia Dortmund’s in-form Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Bayern Munich might have found a successor to Pep Guardiola, while there was a dramatic return of the ex in Italy.” SI

The Middle Class Rising In The Premier League? Gary Lineker, Leicester City

“More than ever, the cold hard financial reality of dropping out of the Premier League is firmly at the forefront of club owners’ minds, so it is relatively unsurprising to see Tim Sherwood flung onto the managerial scrapheap alongside Dick Advocaat. Both men hit a simple goal after coming in late on last season- to survive- and both oversaw a terrible run of results at the start of 2015-16. That’s the crux here, throughout the history of the game results have been the fundamental currency for measuring success and underlying metrics and strategies run a distant second to losing six straight and eight of ten when gauging a manager’s survival chances. Sherwood’s season win percentage was closer to none than second to none and that was that.” Stats Bomb

Southampton (H) – Tactical Preview

“Klopp would have liked an easier opponent for his Premier League debut. Not that Southampton are one of the most in-form teams in the moment; but Koeman’s side have become one of the league’s most uncomfortable opponents. This clash has the potential to be much trickier for the Reds than it may appear on a first glance.” Tomkins Times

Goal Analysis: How Arsenal overcame the mighty Bayern Munich

“Arsenal have had a very indifferent start to their Champions League campaign, losing their opening two games. Doing that means that you need to pick up points against the third team, a simple enough task if the third team isn’t Bayern Munich. Having said that, Arsenal too came into this game in great form, with Sanchez and Ozil in great form. of course, Lewandowski and co. were looking intimidating as always, and that just set the stage for an epic clash.” Outside of the Boot.

Tactical Analysis: PSG 0-0 Real Madrid | Team effort from Real wins a good point

“Traditionally, one would never expect a match between Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain to end scoreless. Symbolizing tradition and the concept of the nouveaux riches in European football, neither have been goal-shy over the past four seasons, and when the group stage draw was made for this year’s Champions’ League, the pair’s clashes on Matchdays 3 and 4 looked to be among the most tantalizing encounters. While some (though likely not readers of this site) would see a 0-0 scoreline and dismiss the match as having been dull and workmanlike, those who would will have missed out on a transcendent meeting between two sides hungry for European success.” Outside of the Boot

Life After Messi & Ronaldo: The definitive search for the world’s third best player

“For all the complaints over how closed the title races of modern football have become, competitions such as the Premier League and La Liga are practically wide open to all-comers in comparison to the annual battle to be named the best footballer in the world. Historic seasons by a treble-winning Wesley Sneijder in 2010, Germany’s World Cup claiming, sweeper-keeper extraordinaire Manuel Neuer in 2014 and Franck Ribery, whose irresistible wing-play also inspired his club-mates to a treble in 2013, were not enough to overcome the incumbents who have swapped the honour since 2008.” Squawka

Atmosphere, the great myth of football

“Now without this being another cliché attack on the English game, whether it be grassroots or transfer fees, I’m talking about an issue much closer to home, and when I say home, I mean the hallowed turf, our homes away from home. Ticket prices have come under scrutiny a lot as of late, but my concern comes from another area. As a young child, most of us fall in love with football after that first step into a roaring stadium. Beyond the mist of cigarette smoke and smell of burgers, there lived some magic, something which engulfed all of us, but as the generations age and the game moves forward, so has the passion some fans share.” backpagefootball

1985 – Division One, Year Zero?

“From the moment a shirtless Michel Platini gleefully paraded the European Cup trophy around the chaos-ravaged Heysel Stadium on May 29th 1985, English football had to face the stark reality that its existence would never be the same again. The tragedy in Brussels claimed the lives of 39 people when a decaying wall collapsed under the pressure of hundreds of fleeing Italians. The responsibility for those deaths – and the majority of the trouble witnessed in and around Heysel that day – was laid squarely at the foot of the riotous, out-of-control Liverpool fans. The events of that evening were shocking in the extreme, yet this was not an isolated incident; Heysel was a gruesome punctuation to a decade long charge sheet built up against the English. Certain rampant hooligan elements who attached themselves to English clubs (and the national team) had long since spilled over the Channel from domestic football to the continent. For some time, UEFA had been itching to censure English clubs for the behaviour of their fans abroad – the Heysel disaster finally provided them with the necessary gun from which to fire their bullets.” Football Pink

Goal Analysis: How Arsenal overcame the mighty Bayern Munich

“Arsenal have had a very indifferent start to their Champions League campaign, losing their opening two games. Doing that means that you need to pick up points against the third team, a simple enough task if the third team isn’t Bayern Munich. Having said that, Arsenal too came into this game in great form, with Sanchez and Ozil in great form. of course, Lewandowski and co. were looking intimidating as always, and that just set the stage for an epic clash.” Outside of the Boot

Leverkusen 4 – 4 AS Roma: Schmidt’s Zunkunftfußball on Tour

“Regardless of what happens today, yesterday’s 4-4 feast of a draw between Bayer Leverkusen and AS Roma at the BayArena is the match of the round. Perhaps feast is the wrong descriptor. Let’s try avant-garde installation piece instead. Adapting this descriptor instead, has avant-gardeism ever been so much fun? (Hmmmm.) Of course, all the fun should be attributed to Roger Schmidt’s vision and tactics for Tuesday’s match. For over a season now, in the Bundesliga, we’ve come to identify Schmidt’s hyper-pressing system at Leverkusen, which features an excessive number ball-seekers flooding forward to win back the ball quickly (a la Kloppian gegen-pressing) then flooding the width of the opponent’s box.” Bundesliga Fanatic

Tactical Analysis: Inter Milan 0-0 Juventus | A stalemate of two halves

“Sunday saw one of the most important matches in European and world football, the Derby d’Italia, which pitted at the Giuseppe Meazza Internazionale Milano of Roberto Mancini who arrived in second place in Serie A and Juventus of Massimiliano Allegri, who have not had a good start this season and in this game looked to raise their performance. The Nerazzurri lined up in a 4-4-2 system, with two central midfielders (Medel and Melo) who would lend aid to the defense if necessary.” Outside of the Boot

Football Cities: Liverpool

“The history of the balance of power in football can arguably be understood by one simple factor; money. For all the talk of the ‘glory game’ and clubs defying the odds, sustained success has overwhelmingly correlated to club wealth, a trend dating back to the early twentieth century with such figures as John Henry Davies of Manchester United and Sir Henry Norris of Fulham and Arsenal. Both took clubs from near extinction to the top of the First Division. Money is not an automatic guarantee of success of course – the history of the game is littered with those who’ve crashed and burned trying to raise themselves to the level of the game’s elite but failed, thanks to toxic combinations of ill fortune and bad management. But for sustained success money has always been a vital factor, a trend the wealth trap of the Premier League had only succeeded in exaggerating.” thetwounfortunates

The Frustrating Promise of Analytics: Soccer Has a Left-Handed-Pitcher Problem

“… The field of public soccer analytics has a left-handed-pitcher problem. Since it consists of so many events, baseball is fertile ground for analytics. A whopping 143 players in Major League Baseball had more than 500 plate appearances this season. Meanwhile, in the Premier League last season, only seven players took 100 shots, and only two had more than 50 shots on target. To get around that problem, most of the advances in soccer analytics have come from working with aggregates. Whether it’s some of the more basic concepts (like total shots ratio or comparative shots on target) or slightly more opaque metrics (like expected goals), the process comes from looking at the totals across leagues and then drawing conclusions.” Grantland

Decision Making And Expected Value

“In the 69th minute of the most important derby in English football (that’s still the case right?) Manchester United lead Liverpool 1-0 with the game obviously still very much open. An average team in Liverpool’s position would still expect to draw or win the game about 21% of the time, not ideal but nowhere near a lost cause. With United on the attack and the ball in the final third Carrick plays a weighted ball through to Ander Herrera who latches onto it on the edge of the penalty area. Right here Gomez has a decision to make, he can accept that his positioning wasn’t great but just try and track Herrera as quickly as possible, or he can try and redeem himself with a last-ditch tackle near the byline.” Stats Bomb

Manchester City – The Modern World

“Most football clubs would be very satisfied if they ended up with a second place Premier League finish and qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions League, but not Manchester City. In fact, chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak said, ‘it is hard to look back on the 2014/15 season without a degree of disappointment’, as there was no title to show for their efforts.” The Swiss Ramble

Platini and Blatter’s “thing between two men” defense explains why neither should be FIFA president

“This has not been a good month for Michel Platini. When September turned to October, UEFA president Platini was the clear front-runner to replace beleaguered FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who was supposedly planning to finally step down after the February 2016 FIFA presidential elections. Platini had it good. Europe had his back, so did many Asian and South American nations. Everything was rainbows and champagne, even though there were always plenty of questions about Platini’s past and candidacy. And then everything crumbled. It must have been devastating.” Fusion

Beyond Barça, Bayern, and Madrid: Who’s the Fourth-Best Team in the World?

“For going on five years now, the world soccer hierarchy has looked like this: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich … and then everybody else. So, as players return from the international break and domestic leagues resume play this weekend, it’s time to ask: Who exactly is the best of the rest? This season, three teams have the chief claims, but questions surrounding their legitimacy make the answer as unclear as ever.” Grantland

Around Europe: Neymar, Wijnaldum strike for four; Yaya Toure unhappy

“Four-goal performances are the new hat tricks as Barcelona’s Neymar and Newcastle’s Georginio Wijnaldum both lit up Europe with their individual performances this weekend. Elsewhere, normal service resumed in England, where Jurgen Klopp’s time at Liverpool is underway, while there are managerial dilemmas to solve in Germany and Spain. Napoli continues to talk down its title chances in Italy, despite evidence to the contrary, while in France actions off the pitch seized the most attention.” SI

After Gradel, Martial and Payet: Who is Ligue 1’s Next Starlet?

“Ligue 1 has gotten some play in the English media this season for the talent that teams have bought this summer. Anthony Martial is scoring at a unsustainable rate but he’s exactly the type of striker that Manchester United need with Wayne Rooney’s continuing decline. Dimitri Payet has arguably been the best #10 in the league this season, Max Gradel before his knee injury was a perfect fit in Bournemouth’s system. Even N’Jie Clinton with his spare appearances has been a spark plug for Tottenham when he’s gotten the chance. This trend might very well continue next summer with the likes of Sofiane Boufal, Thomas Lemar and Bernardo Silva.” Stats Bomb

A purple Italy? Fiorentina and the possibility of a dream Serie A title

“Florence has long reigned as one of Italy’s greatest cities. A city of culture, art and wonder. A city with one of the most historic and eldest Italian universities. Florence is a real treasure of Italy. Fiorentina is a real treasure of the city itself. One of Italy’s most famous clubs has been the place for many great players to showcase their ability, Gabriel Batistuta and Robert Baggio to name two.” backpagefootball

Fun, Order And Klopp

“To week nine! We’re tantalisingly close to be able to make some reasonably confident conclusions from the fare we’ve seen and the early winners and losers are starting to shake out a little. One of the early winners- Leicester- produced a real sit up and take note performance in retrieving a two goal deficit at Southampton. With a relevant caveat about the effect of the score, to bombard Southampton with 22 shots in the final 52 minutes was some effort, especially given Southampton’s prior efficiency in rebutting opposition shooting and they duly got their just rewards with a late equaliser. As we will see later, sometimes styles clash and teams neutralise each other, sometimes the opposite occurs and you get an open game and sometimes shit just happens. Predicting this is not always straightforward.” Stats Bomb

Premier League Diary: Louis Van Gaal defeated Manchester United again this weekend

“Three months of the Premier League, and Manchester United has been curiously underrepresented in these entries. In the last two seasons, Manchester United were remarkable. Not remarkably good, you probably understand, but remarkable. David Moyes and Louis van Gaal served up some moments of absolute write-aboutableness. For Moyes, there was calamity and sedition, and Wayne Rooney wasn’t very good at football anymore. For Van Gaal, there was calamity, occasional excellence, and Wayne Rooney wasn’t very good at football anymore.” Fusion

Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool and the importance of ‘gegenpressing’

“Who is the best playmaker in the world? While others squabble over individual players, Jürgen Klopp has no doubt. Nothing, he believes, creates more chances than gegenpressing. It is his faith in that style and his ability to instil its principles in his players that allowed Borussia Dortmund to compete with far wealthier clubs. The system was able to negate the fact Bayern Munich were able to afford better individuals. The hope at Liverpool is he can have a similar impact in the Premier League.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Analysis: Jürgen Klopp’s tactical options in the attacking third at Liverpool
“Transitional phase and long-term future are terms that have become synonymous with Liverpool Football Club. Those can easily be replaced with false dawn and exaggerated hope, with the same actual results on an off the field. But Liverpool’s appointment of Jürgen Klopp as manager has been met with widespread acceptance from all corners of the sport. Klopp may well be the most high profile manager Liverpool have appointed in the Premier League, surpassing La Liga & UEFA Cup winner Rafael Benitez in 2004 and even the returning Kenny Dalglish in 2011.” Outside of the Boot

Martino must be rethinking Argentina’s approach

“‘No battle plan,’ said a famous 19th century Prussian military man. ‘survives contact with the enemy.’
Argentina coach Gerardo Martino must surely be wondering about the validity of his plan of action after a historic 2-0 defeat at home to Ecuador in the first round of World Cup qualification. Martino had spent his first year in charge building up to this moment. During friendlies and the recent Copa America he was always anxious to stress that he was looking to consolidate an idea of play.” World Game – Tim Vickery

Neymar says he played ‘one of my best games for Barca’ after four-goal haul

“Neymar said he played one of his best games in a Barcelona shirt after scoring four times in Saturday’s 5-2 La Liga win over Rayo Vallecano at the Camp Nou. Neymar grabbing his first four-goal haul — a poker in Spanish — by winning and converting two first-half penalties, then twice finishing clinically after good work from strike partner Luis Suarez — before finally laying on his team’s final goal for Suarez.” ESPN

The sad state of Croatian football

“For many years, the small nation of Croatia has been a breeding ground for some of the premium talents in European football. From Davor Suker , Zvonomir Boban and Robert Prosinecki, to Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mario Mandzukic, Croatia and its domestic league has blossomed into a top-15 side nationally and a top-20 league worldwide. However, despite a bevy of elite footballers and several impressive academies, the domestic league and national team are among the two most corrupt and troubled institutions in world football with a seemingly endless laundry list of infractions and crimes on its record.” Outside of the Boot

Man City 5 Bournemouth 1

“Raheem Sterling scored a hat-trick as Manchester City thrashed Bournemouth to remain top of the Premier League. City were missing the injured Sergio Aguero but went ahead when Sterling poked in despite looking offside. Adam Federici then spilled a cross for Wilfried Bony to tap in before Glenn Murray scored from 20 yards. Sterling waltzed around the Cherries defence for his second and made up for Jesus Navas’ hesitation to grab a third before Bony turned and struck late on.” BBC

The Heinz Höher Device: Reviewing Ronald Reng’s Matchdays

“On the phone with writer Ronald Reng, Heinz Höher is insistent: ‘Please, just give me a couple hours of your time. I want to tell you something. I have to tell you something.’  What Höher insists on telling takes the form of Reng’s latest book, Matchdays: the Hidden Story of the Bundesliga (translated by James Hawes, Simon and Schuster, 434 pages). But perhaps it’s Höher’s insistence and his eccentric personality, more than his actual story that comprises the heart of Reng’s narrative.” Bundesliga Fanatic

A bumpy ride: Gordon Strachan and Scotland

“Gordon Strachan has confirmed he will remain in charge of Scotland , signing a two-year extension to his contract as national manager. Here, BBC Sport reviews his near three-year spell in charge of the national team. Following the sacking of Craig Levein after just three wins from his 12 competitive matches in charge, the Scottish FA turned to Strachan to lift the national team and the country out of its latest despair.” BBC

Five players to keep an eye out for in the Swiss Super League this season

“The Swiss Super League is starting to develop into a little gem for European clubs. Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka and Roman Bürki have all respectively made the move across to Europe’s most competitive leagues in recent years. With big potential and little fees involved, more clubs from Europe’s ‘top five’ leagues are starting to scout the once relatively unknown league. Out of all the major European leagues the Bundesliga has the biggest grasp of the Swiss Super League. With ten players in the current Swiss national team playing in Germany, expect German clubs to return to the Swiss Super League to have a look at the following players.” backpagefootball

Book review: Liverpool’s Blueprint by Paul Grech

“Anyone who follows Paul Grech on Twitter will know that he is a passionate fan of Liverpool (his recent purchase of a Jurgen Klopp LFC mug is testament enough) and so his book Liverpool’s Blueprint is an analysis of the clubs academy which gives a thoughtful insight into an area of the club which has its own folklore. The book is broken down into seven chapters which delve into how the academy fell into disrepair and was rebuilt by Rafa Benitez and, finally, how it runs in the present day. The recent appointment of the aforementioned Klopp and his philosophy on developing young talent would make a fantastic sequel.” Football Pink

Euro 2016: Qualifiers for the tournament in France

“The group stage of qualification for Euro 2016 is over and the make-up of next summer’s tournament is taking shape. There will be 24 teams competing in the finals. France were assured of a place as hosts, and a further 19 countries have qualified automatically – 18 by finishing either first or second in their group and one more as the highest third-placed finisher. There will also be four play-off ties to determine the final four teams competing in France – and we now know who will be competing in those ties.” BBC

Albania v Serbia – Fans’ dreams sacrificed to political goals

“Tonight sees the biggest game in Albanian football history take place at the Elbasan Arena. The Balkan nation have the opportunity to qualify for a major international tournament for the first time in their history. All that is required is a win in their penultimate match and for Denmark to simultaneously fail to win in Portugal and they’ll be home and hosed. In a qualification process littered with extraordinary performances by smaller nations – Iceland, Wales and Northern Ireland all spring to mind – Albania’s campaign still holds up as one of the most impressive. At the time of the draw last February, Albania were ranked as the 40th best team in Europe and allocated in seeding pot 5, alongside such footballing greats as Moldova, Azerbaijan and neighbours Macedonia.” backpagefootball

Euro 2016 countdown begins for Wales and Chris Coleman

“If qualifying for Euro 2016 in front of 750 hardy Welsh fans in torrential Bosnian rain was an intimate ordination ceremony for a select few, Wales’ campaign finale at home to Andorra was the moment the doors were thrown open for the ultimate party. This was a celebration 57 years in the making, the chance for 33,000 success-deprived supporters to welcome home their heroes at a cacophonous Cardiff City Stadium.” BBC

Tactical Analysis: Argentina 0-2 Ecuador | Argentina fail shamefully in the opener

“Ecuador was the surprise on the first day of the South American qualifying, winning in Buenos Aires against the Argentine national team, which played without L. Messi but with a very strong squad, against a modest Ecuadorian national team. Ecuador scored a historic victory by a 2 -0 margin, to mark the first occasion in 22 years that Argentina lost in Buenos Aires.” Outside of the Boot

The peaceful invasion that London feared – England vs. Germany, 1935

“The mid-1930s was a time of growing fear in Europe, indeed the world. Germany, in particular, was a major concern for the rest of the continent. In 1935, a number of events pointed the way towards the conflict that was World War Two. This was the year that the German air force, the Luftwaffe, was formed. A few days later, Adolf Hitler ignored the Versailles Treaty and announced that Germany would re-arm. And in September, the Nuremberg Laws, an anti-semitic doctrine that made it illegal for Jews and non-Jews to have any form of relationship, came into effect. The rest of the world was scared of Germany and its intentions.” Football Pink

European Chance Maps and Taking a Look at Some Early Extremes

“After such a draining international break for us Americans, there will be no hard-core analysis here this week. It’s a nice time to introduce and use a few new tools to take a look at some of the more extreme early teams as far as chance creation. Following Paul Riley’s lead, I’ve opened up chance/deep completion maps for the big 4 European Leagues (he’s taken care of the EPL quite nicely). It’s a tableau workbook with every pass ending within 30 yards of goal for every team with all kinds of filters available. If you want to see only long-balls that wind up incomplete tried by Sassuolo, you can. If you want to see only chances created from the left half-space by Koln, go ahead. These will ideally be updated every two weeks.” Stats Bomb

Euro 2016 – Are the minnows really getting better?

“After each round of international matches, particularly with one where a major upset occurs, one often hears the phrase, ‘there are no minnows anymore.’ But is this really true? Can any team really beat any other? Does Andorra stand a chance in a match against Germany, or could Guam beat Argentina? Most likely this is no but it does raise the question – are these so-called footballing minnows really improving or is it simply good teams getting beaten on bad days?” backpagefootball

Mario Gaspar and Marcelino: A match made in heaven

“For Villarreal, standing atop the La Liga summit for the first time in their history, 2015/16 represents a culmination of an extraordinary rejuvenation. European semi-finalists three times since 2003, domestic runners-up in ’08, yet relegated in 2011; they are perennial overachievers beset by an implausible penchant for self-destruction. Never the bride, yet their presence on the guestlist is achievement enough.” Outside of the Boot

Hump Day Dumpster Dive: Manchester United must free political prisoner Victor Valdés

“Is the international break over yet? This one felt like it lasted for an eternity, and we should all be happy to see the back of it. Sport fandom is hysterical enough as it is without the added dangers of fervent nationalism. Mexico beat U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! in the Border Wall Cup, the Netherlands joined Vatican City as literally the only countries in Europe not to qualify for the newly-expanded Euro 2016, and your favorite club’s best player probably picked up an injury. What a time to be alive. Let’s dive into the dumpster, shall we?” Fusion

Mexico tops United States 3-2 in thrilling CONCACAF Cup

“Paul Aguilar scored a goal for the ages to end a game for the ages. The Mexico defender, who had been a thorn in the U.S.’s left side all evening at a sold-out Rose Bowl, latched on to a high, speculative pass from Raúl Jiménez in the 118th minute and hit a thunderous volley past Brad Guzan and inside the left post. The strike lifted Mexico to a 3-2 extra time triumph in a gripping Confederations Cup playoff that will be remembered for as long as the Americans and El Tri play the sport. With a berth in the 2017 tournament at stake, players on both teams gave their all on a sweltering Pasadena evening. Mexico took the lead twice and the U.S. recovered and equalized twice. When substitute forward Bobby Wood—the hero of the friendly wins over the Netherlands and Germany—scored in the 108th minute, it seemed as if penalty kicks would be needed to end an epic affair. But Aguilar’s moment of brilliance highlighted the genuine difference in skill between the two sides and was a game-winner befitting the occasion.” SI

U.S. Fails to Keep Step With Mexico’s Lead
“Mexico defeated the United States, 3-2, on Saturday night in a game staged to decide which team would earn a place in the 2017 Confederations Cup, an eight-country tournament of dubious prestige that will take place in Russia, the site of the 2018 World Cup. Mexico’s winning goal was scored in spectacularly skillful fashion in the 118th minute, in the second half of overtime, as Paul Aguilar sprinted into the right side of the box, settled under a rapidly descending lob pass from Raul Jiménez and lashed a low, wicked volley inside the left post. The Mexican players scrambled to form a joyous pile near the corner flag. The Americans stood still, stunned.” NY Times

After Mexico loss, it’s time to consider Klinsmann’s suitability as U.S. coach
“I’ve been reading a good book lately. It’s called Das Reboot: How German Soccer Reinvented Itself and Conquered the World. The author, Raphael Honigstein, tells the story of how the Germans completely rethought their approach to talent development starting in the late 1990s, refined it even more in the early 2000s and reaped the ultimate reward by winning World Cup 2014. Jurgen Klinsmann is a central figure in the tale whose voice appears throughout the book. When the German federation has trouble finding a suitable coach in 2004, Klinsmann gets the job and shocks the traditional German system by bringing in his American fitness gurus and introducing a technocrat’s way of thinking when it comes to developing talent and exploring new ideas. In many ways, he’s like a McKinsey consultant for soccer.” SI (Video)

Soccer Godcast, Episode 5: U.S. vs. Mexico and the ugly side of patriotism
“The latest international break is upon us, and the American soccerverse is consumed by all things USA vs. Mexico. Being the upstanding Americans that they are, hosts Kevin Brown and Miriti Murungi discuss this weekend’s CONCACAF Cup showdown and the wonderfully reckless comments from Landon Donovan, who may or may not have suggested that it was time for Jurgen Klinsmann to be fired, should the United States lose on Saturday. Later, they discuss Elliot Turner’s story about the unfortunate parallels between the conversations surrounding the U.S.-Mexico rivalry and the ongoing American immigration debate, which sparks a conversation about the number of U.S. fans who use soccer as a flimsy excuse to be xenophobic in the name of patriotism, and whether an ideological gap may exist between various segments of the U.S. fanbase.” Fusion (Video)

The Unbearable Lightness of Klopp: What Liverpool’s New Manager Could Mean for the Premier League

“You know what the problem is? The problem is that Liverpool has no idea whether Liverpool is supposed to be fun. Jürgen Klopp, the club’s freshly unveiled new manager, is fun. Gegenpressing, the tiki-taka-on-MDMA playing style on whose groovy back he took Dortmund to consecutive Bundesliga championships in 2011 and 2012, is fun. The touchline repertoire of leaps, aerial punches, spins, and roundhouse kicks with which he air-guitars his teams to victory and rages against defeat is fun.” Grantland

Euro 2016 countdown – France

“Les Bleus have plenty of talent at their disposal as they prepare to host next summer’s 24-team tournament. But their lack of competitive action makes it hard to judge their chances. France face the perennial problem of tournament hosts – they have played only friendly matches since their World Cup quarter-final defeat by Germany. But coach Didier Deschamps insists it is not a problem as, in the past year, France have played Spain, Belgium, Portugal and Brazil, with England, Germany, Holland and Russia lined up in the coming months.” World Soccer

Mane Garrincha: The Beethoven of Football

“The perfect prototype of the modern footballer is Cristiano Ronaldo; tall and imposing, hulking, well toned muscles that are regularly flexed for the cameras, endorsement deals due to dazzling Hollywood looks and a marketability due to a superficial charm or theatrics off the pitch. In the current football climate Mane Garrincha would not be looked at twice by companies that want to market their products, probably the equivalent of Dean Windass, he was that hideously deformed. Born with multiple defects that ruled him out of various potential moves to clubs who deemed him too far gone and incapable of producing anything worthwhile on a football pitch. How wrong they were because it was due to his deformed spine and a right leg bent outwards and a left leg half a dozen centimeters shorter bent inwards that allowed him to hook the ball in that special way that conjured those mazy dribbles that dazzled many fans.” Outside of the Boot

Inconvenient truths: Platini, Chung, and the lies at the heart of FIFA’s demise

“Business leaders often opt against telling straight, brutal truths. That’s the case for several reasons, one of which is that telling the straight, brutal truth doesn’t always serve immediate personal or business interests. Also, most people, unsurprisingly, don’t have death wishes. That’s why, odds are pretty good that you’ll never see your boss walk into the office and say, ‘Hey everyone, I’ve done bad, suspect things that compromise everything we do here. No authorities or enforcement officials know anything but I just wanted you to know the truth because the truth matters.’ Self-preservation instincts make sacrificing for truth difficult, particularly after one dedicates a significant amount of time toward cultivating valuable personal or business interests.” Fusion

Euro 2016 countdown – Czech Republic

“The Czechs made it through to the 2016 finals despite being drawn in a potentially difficult group with Holland, Turkey and Iceland. A team with few well-known stars, coach Pavel Vrba has moulded them into a side that is greater than the sum of its parts. Expectations were low at the start of the qualifying campaign but an injury-time winner in their opening game in Prague against Holland galvanised the side and they went on to win their opening four games, while their rivals struggled. The Czechs have an impressive record at the European Championship, winning (as Czechoslovakia) in 1976, reaching the Final in 1996, the semi-finals in 2004 and the quarter-finals in 2012. They have qualified for every tournament since 1996.” World Soccer

Book Review: Raphael Honigstein’s “Das Reboot” Tells Story Behind Germany’s 2014 World Cup Victory

“‘This piece originally appeared at The New Republic.’ When U.S. Men’s National Team coach Jürgen Klinsmann declared ahead of the 2014 World Cup, “We cannot win this World Cup, because we are not that level yet,” it sparked howls of outrage across the country. Landon Donovan, who had recently been cut from the team by the Germany native, took to television to disagree, while ESPN commentator Michael Wilbon was so incensed he told Klinsmann to ‘get out of America.’ Klinsmann wasn’t wrong—the U.S. lost in the round of 16—but his cold pragmatism was unwelcome in a country that not only regularly makes heroes out of underdogs but that likes to view itself as one.” Bundesliga Fanatic

How to Build a World Cup Winner
“When U.S. national team coach Jürgen Klinsmann declared ahead of the 2014 World Cup, ‘We cannot win this World Cup, because we are not that level yet,’ it sparked howls of outrage across the country. Landon Donovan, who had recently been cut from the team by the German-native, took to television to disagree, while ESPN commentator Michael Wilbon was so incensed he told Klinsmann to ‘get out of America.’” New Republic

Das Reboot: How German Soccer Reinvented Itself and Conquered the World
“… Estádio do Maracanã, July 13, 2014, the last ten minutes of extra time in the World Cup Final: German forward Mario Götze jumps to meet a floated pass from André Schürrle, cushions the ball with his chest, and in one fluid motion volleys the ball past the onrushing Argentine goalkeeper into the far corner of the net. The goal wins Germany the World Cup for the first time in almost thirty years. As the crowd roars, Götze looks dazed, unable to comprehend what he has done. In Das Reboot, Raphael Honigstein charts the return of German soccer from the dreary functionality of the late 1990s to Götze’s moment of sublime, balletic genius and asks: How did this come about?” Public Affairs


Poland’s Robert Lewandowski: the man Scotland fear in Euro 2016 qualifier

“There was a time when Scottish football conjured up images of artistry, of neat triangles of passing, the ‘pattern-weaving’ approach. Not any longer. A century ago, Hungarian football was obsessed by trying to emulate the Rangers tourists of 1905; this past week has featured a series of Polish condemnations of Scotland’s supposed clogging. The message has been so consistent, it feels there must be policy behind it, a string of not especially subtle nudges to the referee, Viktor Kassai.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

The top ten fan owned clubs in English football

“An enticing concept has been quietly incubating within English football in recent years: supporter ownership of clubs. While it may be the norm in places such as Germany and Argentina for football fans to own their club, it’s still a fairly alien idea in the United Kingdom and most of the Commonwealth. The allure is obvious: football fans and club owners often disagree about how clubs should operate. Wealthy owners – often with minimal connection to the club’s community – tend to prioritise the pursuit of profit, and take financial risks that can destabilise or endanger clubs. Football fans, however, view their club as a community asset rather than as a business, and desire to be treated loyally as valued club members instead of as replaceable customers.” backpagefootball – Part 1 (Video), Part 2 (Video)

Ireland v Germany – the build up, the battle, and the bliss

“The international scene in Ireland needed an injection of positivity after a steady decline since the 2002 World Cup in Saipan. So much negativity surrounds the soccer team, with bandwagon loads of people getting their fix from rugby because, well, we’re quite good at a minority sport. Perhaps that’s harsh but we witnessed something special on Thursday night. For me, a young freelance journalist based in Co. Tipperary, it was a surreal experience after being granted media accreditation for the first time.” backpagefootball