Monthly Archives: November 2015

The Outsiders, Part 1: Berwick Rangers

“As you approach from the south, staring wistfully out at the slate grey North Sea reflecting the equally slate grey sky over the sand dunes of Cheswick and Goswick, the quaint walled-town of Berwick-upon-Tweed – perched neatly atop the sloping banks of the famous River Tweed – slowly and neatly begins to frame this picturesque view of northernmost Northumberland. As the train lurches across the Robert Stephenson-designed Royal Border Bridge, leaving the villages of Tweedmouth and East Ord in its slipstream, one could easily be fooled into thinking you were entering another country. The shimmering, twinkling surface of the Tweed – that most renowned of salmon grounds – gives one a sense of a natural dividing line between England and Scotland. Indeed, throughout the centuries and the turbulent history between the two neighbours, it often has. However, since 1482, at the height of the Anglo-Scottish wars, Berwick has remained firmly under English control.” Football Pink

The Outsiders, Part 2: FC Büsingen
“Surrounded by the Swiss: not something you hear very often, is it? In this case, we’re not referring to a rare military skirmish (those multi-functional Army knives can be very threatening under certain circumstances), rather the tiny German enclave of Büsingen am Hochrhein which is, as inferred, totally contained within the conventional borders of Switzerland. The town has been separated from the Motherland (or should that be Fatherland?) since 1805 and the time of the Napoleonic Wars when it switched from Austrian control to that of Württemberg, which itself became a part of the German Empire a year later before eventually becoming part of the modern Bundesrepublik Land of Badem-Württemberg we see today. The ties to Germany remain unbroken despite the result of a referendum in the town after the First World War, in which the inhabitants voted to become part of Switzerland, was ignored due mainly to the Swiss being unable to offer anything substantial in return.” Football Pink

The Outsiders, Part 3: Derry City
“Derry, of all places in Britain and Ireland, seems ready made for the language of football, with a history that’s very much composed of two halves. You’ve those who see themselves as Irish on one side of the pitch, and those who see themselves as British on the other. Out of this strange, enforced marriage comes a place that’s cut from different cloth to anywhere else on both sides of the Irish Sea. Home of shirt factories and receptacle of the shared history between two islands, this is a city that has suffered, as described in Phil Coulter’s famous song ‘The Town I Love So Well.’ But, as in the poems of Seamus Heaney and the upbeat rhythms of The Undertones, the character of Derry is based on triumph over suffering, and in finding a voice and a position unique to itself.” Football Pink

The Outsiders, Part 4: FC Vaduz
“William Cook, writing in the weekly conservative magazine The Spectator, describes Liechtenstein as ‘utterly ridiculous’. It is a tax haven that has more registered companies than people, In August 2009, the British government department HM Revenue & Customs agreed with Liechtenstein to start exchanging information. It is believed that up to 5,000 British investors have roughly £3billion deposited in accounts and trusts in the country. To put the size of the country into a British context, its population is similar to Milton Keynes. You’ll find something familiar with their national anthem, it is sung to the same tune as ‘God Save The Queen’. The capital of Liechtenstein is the sleepy town of Vaduz – the home of FC Vaduz.” Football Pink

The Army Men on Tour – CDKA Moscow in Yugoslavia 1945

“Today we travel back to 1945, when Croats and Russians played the first football match against each other. Since the Russian Revolution in 1917, the Western world perceived communism as a common enemy and thus that space of the world seemed far away from rest of Europe. At this time, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was a part of the Western side, with whom they shared values and beliefs, thus they had not recognized the Soviet Union, and so the interwar period was marked by alienation between the two countries. During the Second World War, the Independent State of Croatia was one of Nazi Germany’s last standing allies, and unlike in the Soviet Union the beautiful game was still played in Zagreb in those dark years.” Russian Football (Video)

The Resurrection of Moussa Dembele

“After eighteen months in charge, Mauricio Pochettino’s plan appears close to completion. Last sunday’s 4-1 win against West Ham, coupled with excellence at the Emirates, the multi-goal hammerings of Bournemouth and Manchester City, have only added to the growing belief that Tottenham can finally clear that final hurdle. After all, Champions League qualification, after five fifth place finishes in a decade, has proved notoriously elusive. Displaying energy, efficiency, inherent interchanging combined with an outstanding collective awareness, Tottenham’s early-season excellence shows no signs of slowing. A far cry from the fragile, eternally transitional shambles of recent years, Pochettino has interspersed the bulldog spirit of Harry Redknapp and Tim Sherwood with a continental strategy a la Juande Ramos and Andre Villas Boas.” Outside of the Boot

7 reasons why nobody wants to play against Liverpool right now

“Liverpool enhanced their sharp upturn in form under Jurgen Klopp further with a narrow 1-0 victory over Swansea City on Sunday. The Reds have lost just one game since the German took over the Anfield reins last month and their win against Swansea at the weekend was their third straight triumph in all competitions.” Squawka

Should Swansea Sack Garry Monk?

“Losing at Anfield is hardly going to increase the pressure on Garry Monk as much as losing to Norwich did. However the two games had an identical feature; on each occasion Swansea managed eight shots, none of which required the opposition keeper to make a save. With a key function of creating goals being an ability to invite the keeper to stop the ball, these numbers make grim reading and are a low watermark in what increasingly looks like an attacking drought. Swansea flew out of the blocks this year with good results and performances against teams that, with hindsight, had vulnerabilities: Chelsea, Sunderland and Newcastle, then a sneaky traditional win against Man Utd. Since then though, they have only once exceeded a league average shot total (14 against Stoke) and haven’t managed to exceed the same for shots on target (4.4) at all.” Stats Bomb

The UEFA Champions League anthem is more than a song, which is why booing it makes sense

“During the last round of the UEFA Champions League group stage, Manchester City fans booed the competition’s anthem. Again. And, once more, UEFA threatened to fine the team for what it considers ‘inappropriate behavior’ from its fans for their repeated jeering of the competition’s official song. Ultimately, UEFA dropped its case. When UEFA initially announced the probe on City fans, Twitter specialists and others on social media quickly turned to ridicule, understandably. It seems hard to understand why the booing of an apparently neutral ritual might be labeled as ‘inappropriate.’ Instead, it raised the question of why UEFA is spending such seemingly unnecessary amounts of energy pursuing this nuisance, while other big problems – like racist chanting at matches, or having its president, former French international Michel Platini, suspended for 90 days under corruption allegations – loom over it.” Fusion

Video Analysis: Intelligent pressing from Liverpool beats City

“Liverpool pulled off a stunning victory against favourites for the title, Manchester City this past weekend. The 4-1 scoreline didn’t really flatter the Reds, who were dominant, and right on top of their opponents. What magic dust has Jurgen Klopp sprinkled on pretty much the same squad that was struggling under the previous manager?” Outside of the Boot (Video)

Tactical Analysis: Juventus 1-0 AC Milan | Juventus struggle to break down a compact Milan

“In Juventus and AC Milan we have two giants of world football. The hosts have found life difficult following the departures of greats Carlos Tevez, Arturo Vidal and cult-hero Andrea Pirlo; the slow start to their defence of last season’s record-breaking 31st title has seen them pick up only 6 wins from their opening 13 league fixtures. However, back-to-back victories leading into this tie created a hopeful vibrancy amongst Juve fans and the Torinese people sold out all 41,000 seats to make for an electric atmosphere against their Milanese rivals who travelled the relatively short 80-mile distance across the north of Italy to the beautiful region of Piedmonte and the Juventus Stadium that sits in a remarkable location beside picturesque backdrops of the Alps.” Outside of the Boot

Schurrle lifts Wolfsburg, Man United disappoints in Champions League

“The last 16 of the Champions League is beginning to take shape. The second day of Matchday 5 saw Real Madrid confirm top spot in its group as Cristano Ronaldo scored two and set two up in a 4-3 win away to Shakhtar Donetsk, while Paris St-Germain is through to the next round after Zlatan Ibrahimovic marked his return to Malmö with a goal in a 5-0 victory. Benfica and Atlético Madrid also progressed. Benfica had to come from 2-0 down to draw in Kazakhstan against Astana while Antoine Griezmann scored twice in Atlético’s 2-0 win over Galatasaray.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Terrible title defences: from Manchester City in 1938 to Leeds in 1993

Ipswich goalkeeper Roy Bailey in action against Bolton in September 1962.
“Manchester City 1937-38. The pattern of winning the championship and then having a dozy season is not a new one for Manchester City. What’s happened over the past four years is barely a ripple compared to the wild dip City endured in 1937-38. After losing to Grimsby on Christmas Day, they’d gone unbeaten through the second half of the previous season, taking the title by three points from Charlton with a side that included such greats as the goalkeeper Frank Swift, the rapid winger Ernie Toseland and the goalscoring trio of Eric Brook, Alex Herd and Peter Doherty.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson (Video)

Everton: the season so far

“We are a third of the way through the Premier League of 2015/16 already, so it seems as good a time as any to evaluate that greatest of football imponderables – Everton. How have the Toffees done and what can we expect to see from them going into the crucial winter slog? Up front I’m going to declare that I was one of those people who clamoured for Roberto Martinez’ head last season. Does that make me one of those intolerably excitable kneejerk types? Possibly, but plenty of managers have been given the shove at all levels of professional football – never mind the Premier League – for presiding over the type of dross that was served up by Everton during the 2014/15 campaign.” Football Pink

Top 50 Premier League Players of All Time: Part 1 – 50-41

“The BPF Top 50 feature is back for 2015, and this time we are counting down the greatest players to have graced the Premier League since it was established in 1992. The first part of this year’s countdown includes some of Arsene Wenger’s best performers during his time as Arsenal manager, as well as one of the most consistent midfielders of his generation who sadly left us far too soon.” backpagefootball

Tactical Analysis: Schalke 1 – 3 FC Bayern

Schalke’s initial defensive scheme.
“Andre Breitenreiter fielded his Schalke side in a 5-4-1 basic shape that would be transformed into something like 3-4-3 during attacking build-up. This was a defensive-minded approach with a deep block and quick counters whenever the opportunity occurred. Keeper Ralf Fährmann was shielded by a five-men-back shape, consisting of Sascha Riether and Dennis Aogo at right and left back, while Joel Matip, Benedikt Höwedes and Roman Neustädter played as the central defender trio with Matip on the right half-back and Neustädter on the left.” Bundesliga Fanatic

Brighton, Northampton & McBurnie – things you may have missed

“The nights are drawing in, the shops are teeming with desperate bargain-hunters and children will shortly be disappointed by the quality of their advent calendar chocolate. We are nearly entering the final month of 2015 and, while the weather cools down, the Football League action heats up. Here are some of Saturday’s best bits.” BBC

PSV Eindhoven and the forgotten treble of 1988

“When PSV Eindhoven secured the treble of Dutch League, Dutch Cup and European Cup in May 1988, it was typical of a brief period of unprecedented egalitarianism in the European game. As surprising as it may look some 27 years later in an era of G-14 ‘Super Clubs’, the Dutch side’s European victory followed Champion Clubs’ Cup wins by Steaua Bucharest in 1986 and Porto in 1987.” backpagefootball

Joys and surprises of watching Liverpool and Arsenal in Ethiopia (for 45p)

“José Mourinho swept a disgusted arm through the air, spun on his heel and disappeared down the tunnel, furious at Chelsea conceding an equaliser to Liverpool well into the third minute of first-half injury time. The majority of the 90 or so people packed into the courtyard of the Sebli Cafe laughed. Outside, a mule trotted past, followed by a man carrying the hide of a skinned goat on a stick. Smoke drifted across the doorway from the charcoal of the woman warming a coffee pot outside the cafe next door.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Scouting New Talent: The Age of Technology

“The football world is obsessed with transfers and possible surprise moves; it all boils down to multi-million dollar pay cheques, club rivalries and a never-ending flow of players. Often, we only see the sport from the perspective of the premiere leagues and forget that the large majority of transfers occur in the lesser known divisions. There is a soccer transfer being made every five minutes that you won’t read about. It’s not just the big teams that are looking for new talents all over the globe. Today, almost every team has to compete with the rest of the world to find the right balance of players and hopefully discover a future star that will help them reach a new playing and financial level.” Football Pink

Leonid Slutsky Juggles Two Demanding Jobs in Russian Soccer

“The Russian soccer federation announced this year that it was toughening one of the rules for teams in its top domestic league: In an effort to bolster the development of young Russian players ahead of the 2018 World Cup, club teams would be particularly limited in the number of foreign players they could have on the field at any given time. Reactions to the change varied, and in a recent interview, the coach of the Russian national team said — not surprisingly — that he understood the thinking behind the regulation. Also not surprisingly, the coach of CSKA Moscow, one of the country’s perennial juggernauts and a team with the financial resources to sign players from abroad, said he was opposed to the rule.” NY Times

Champions League reform? Yes, please.

“Every May, there’s a special occasion held in our humble abode and it tries to combine the best of European food and football. It usually falls on a warm, late spring evening, which sees windows open and a cool breeze wafting the smells of a busy kitchen around the whole apartment. An annual four course dinner, themed around two particular countries, complete with paired wines, is served over the course of a few hours. Last year we bounced between Italy and Spain for an aperitif, a starter, the main and a sweet. We cook, we eat, we get merrily drunk and we watch the UEFA Champions League final.” Football Pink

Kasper Schmeichel on Leicester City’s remarkable rise to the top

“Leicester’s incredible start to the season continued on Saturday as they beat Newcastle to move top of the Premier League table. The Foxes were bottom of the table in April, but seven months on, led by the goals of prolific striker Jamie Vardy, they have lost only one of their first 13 league matches. Claudio Ranieri’s in-form team host second-placed Manchester United next weekend, with the chance to extend their unlikely lead at the top. Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, who has been at the King Power Stadium since June 2011, tells Match of the Day 2 what is behind his team’s remarkable rise.” BBC

Milner best suited to Liverpool wing, despite preference to play centrally

“Ahead of Liverpool’s trip to Manchester City on Saturday, all eyes will be on Raheem Sterling. The young attacker’s decision to switch from Liverpool to City was English football’s most protracted, and controversial, transfer of the summer; but, going the other way, there was a more surprising move. James Milner was at Manchester City for five years, winning two league titles and two domestic cups, but elected to make the step down to join Liverpool. In many ways, Milner’s decision was understandable; often overlooked at City in favour of players with bigger reputations and bigger egos, Milner wanted to be appreciated, to feel like a central part of a major club. Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool offered him that opportunity, and Milner was immediately named the club’s vice-captain. The absence of Jordan Henderson through injury has ensured Milner frequently starts with the armband, too.” ESPN – Michael Cox

Hertha Berlin: Winning Ugly is Still Winning

“On a snowy November Sunday in Germany’s capital, Hertha Berlin hosted a Hoffenheim side desperate for points, but it was the Berliners who came away with all three points, winning 1-0. The win was more ugly than an artistic triumph, as Berlin could only manage one shot through the entire ninety minutes, but yet another victory leaves Coach Pál Dárdai’s Berliners in the final Champions League spot in the BuLi table with a 7-2-4 record, one point behind 3rd place VfL Wolfsburg and one ahead of streaking Borussia Mönchengladbach. Hoffenheim occupies the league’s cellar on eight points, and have yet to score a goal under fireman coach Huub Stevens in his three games in charge.” Bundesliga Fanatic

The case for Lionel Messi for SI’s 2015 Sportsman of the Year

“To understand just how good Lionel Messi was this year, you have to go back to his lowest point. It was January 4, Messi started on substitutes’ bench and Barcelona lost 1-0 at lowly Real Sociedad. The following day, Messi missed training with ‘a stomach bug,’ which is a euphemism in Spain for playing hooky. Andoni Zubizarreta, Barcelona’s sporting director, was sacked. Luis Enrique, the coach, was said to have offered to resign. Sandro Rosell, the president, resigned soon after over transfer irregularities. English clubs were readying bids for Messi. In short, Barcelona was in crisis.” SI

Tactical Analysis: Argentina 1-1 Brazil | Argentina improve but to no avail

“Last Friday, the South American derby between Argentina and Brazil was played. The game should have been played on Thursday but had to be suspended due to heavy rain that fell on Buenos Aires. The match found an Argentine team without two of their stars, with Messi and Agüero both out injured and this only added to the absence of Carlos Tevez. Martino’s team started with a 4-3-3 system, while Dunga used a 4-2-3-1 system, trying to stop the Argentine midfield, and cut the creative circuit.” Outside of the Boot

Pass Me The Ball! Serie A Striker Involvement 2015-16

“It’s a fact: Mauro Icardi, the joint top goal-scorer of the 2014/2015 edition of Serie A (together with Luca Toni), is struggling to find the net this season. Last season he recorded 0.56 non-penalty goals per 90 minutes, but for the early stages of 2015/2016 his scoring rate has dropped to 0.35 non-penalty goals per 90. His non-blocked conversion rate of 20% has stayed essentially unvaried compared to the 19% observed last season, but his shots numbers have literally nosedived in the 10 games he has played so far. A rate of 3.8 shots per 90 had decreased by 54% this season, to just 1.7 shots p90. Why has this happened? Apparently, the Argentinian himself knows the answer.” Stats Bomb

The Academy Series | 10 best Boca Juniors products: Tevez, Gago, and Banega feature

“Recently crowned Argentinian Primera champions Boca Juniors are undisputedly one of the biggest and most successful clubs in South America and over their celebrated history have brought through countless players who have gone on to make a huge impact in the game. Since their foundation in 1905, their academy has produced international stars such as infamous Antonio Rattin and world cup winners Oscar Ruggeri and Alberto Tarrantini.” Outside of the Boot

The Ten Oldest Stadiums in Spain

“Before I start, I have to admit that there is a flaw in a club claiming to have the oldest stadium. It’s a bit like Trigger’s Broom (or Theseus’ Paradox if you’re that way inclined). Can something which has had all of its component parts replaced over the course of time, remain fundamentally the same? Well for the sake of this article, the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’. Quite simply here are the 10 oldest stadiums in Spain. Just a couple of criteria apply; The current stadium has to be on the site of the original ground and it must have hosted a match in any of Spain’s top three tiers. So in reverse order, in at number 10 is… ” Inside Spanish Football

Football Cities: Exeter

“When football writers talk about provincial footballing sides and cities a few familiar names crop up, such as Nottingham and Derby. These definitely fall into the category of ‘not London’ and smaller than the UK’s other major conurbations, but are still relatively large in size and success. When you start heading out to the geographical margins, however, life as a football club is a little less illustrious and more of a battle for interest and survival. As a modestly-sized city with a team that has only occasionally threatened the third tier of English football, Exeter is firmly in the latter camp. Where a football club takes root and grows can be due a number of factors.” thetwounfortunates, W – Exeter City F.C.

The Beauty (and Boredom) of Bayern’s Brain

“Pep Guardiola continues to redefine what we expect from the world’s best managers. His Bayern Munich side are undefeated in the Bundesliga this season, with 11 wins out of 12, and have already established a staggering goal differential of +33. They won the league title and appeared in back-to-back Champions League semi-finals during his first two seasons in charge. Under his reign, they average a staggering 72% possession per game.” 8by8

Hulk now proving his worth to Dunga and the Selecao

“I’ll get the cliche out the way early: Hulk really has been incredible this season. When Stan Lee created the Marvel character he certainly wouldn’t have expected the slogan ‘The Incredible Hulk’ to be applied to a Brazilian footballer, however, it epitomizes Hulk’s form this term and a Selecao career that had seemingly run its course is now back in full swing.” Outside of the Boot

1985/86 Week: After The Apocalypse – A Video Introduction

“The sense of decay had been growing around English football for a long time, in the run-up to the start of the 1985/86 season. Attendances had been falling year on year, hooliganism had become an increasingly visible problem, and a number of different clubs had found balancing their books a greater and greater challenge. During the first five months of 1985, however, the feeling had grown that this was more than just a malaise that would be put right. Crowd violence at matches had become increasingly visible as more and more matches were televised, with such incidents as full blown riots during matches between Luton Town and Millwall in the FA Cup and between Chelsea and Sunderland in the League Cup showing levels of violence that hadn’t been seen before in English grounds.” twohundredpercent (Video)

Gambles pay off as Hungary get to France and Storck proves his worth

“At the final whistle, after Hungary had won 2-1 to reach their first major tournament since 1986, their players gathered in front of the goal they had been attacking the second half, behind which the most vociferous of the home support was gathered. The ground, momentarily fell silent, then players and fans joined in singing the national anthem. Two lines, perhaps, had particular significance: ‘Long torn by ill fate, Bring upon it a time of relief.’” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Football Weekly: Hungary qualify for Euro 2016 as England’s friendly with France goes ahead

“The podders reflect on the Euro 2016 playoffs and the rest of the international friendlies. Plus, Raúl retires, Paul Lambert heads to Blackburn Rovers and Jimmy Floyd Hasslebaink remains in high demand. On today’s Football Weekly, AC Jimbo is joined by Jacob Steinberg, Michael Cox and John Ashdown to look back on the Euro 2016 qualifiers, with a bit of help from Jonathan Wilson, who was in Bosnia to see (or not) Ireland’s 1-1 draw with Dzecko and co in the fog, and then in Budapest to witness Hungary qualifying for their first major tournament in 30 years, and is now en route to Slovenia. Because that’s the sort of thing he does.” Guardian – Michael Cox, Jonathan Wilson, etc. (Video)

Talent Radar Young Forward Rankings: Harry Kane & Paulo Dybala enter top five

“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

Dele Alli scores stunner as England beat France at Wembley

“Dele Alli enjoyed a stunning full debut as England beat France 2-0 on a night of tears, compassion and defiance at Wembley. The 19-year-old Tottenham midfielder found the top corner with a stunning 24-yard strike and played a key role in Wayne Rooney’s second-half volley. England’s ninth straight Wembley victory was an impressive one that came against a star-studded France side. But the real winner here at Wembley was football. Just four days after 129 people died in the Paris terror attacks, the France team and their English counterparts, as well as the home and away fans inside this famous stadium, stood shoulder to shoulder to send a defiant message to the terrorists who wreaked havoc in the French capital.” ESPN

Klinsmann and the Americans: An Uneasy Alliance

“It’s fair to say that U.S. Men’s national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann has been under fire this year from American fans and writers. The failure to gain the finals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July, after being defeated on penalties by Panama in the semifinals, coupled with the October loss to archrival Mexico for a berth in the 2017 Confederations Cup, has created doubts as to whether Klinsmann is still the right man to lead the American squad that earlier in the year had beaten Mexico, the Netherlands and Germany in successive friendlies. Klinsmann, who has also coached the German national team and Bayern Munich, led his squad through a strong 2014 campaign, highlighted by their advance from the World Cup ‘Group of Death’ in Brazil, but the question in sports is always ‘what have you done for me lately?’” Bundesliga Fanatic

Maurizio Sarri should heed past failures as he mounts Europa League assault

“Maurizio Sarri, with his unassuming, coffee-sipping, zealous sideline watching demeanour, is scarcely a figure guilty of flattering his players. The Italian had been forced to quash talk of a first domestic title in Naples since the heady days of Diego Maradona when his side dispatched four past Diego Lopez at the San Siro and, after smashing five past FC Midtjylland at the San Paolo in Europa League action, he was again obliged to subdue talk of an assault on Europe’s second-tier prize.” backpagefootball

Lucas Biglia scores to give Argentina first WCQ win over Colombia

“Argentina claimed their first win in 2018 World Cup qualifying against Colombia at the Metropolitano Roberto Melendez stadium. Lucas Biglia’s first-half strike was enough to give the Albiceleste a 1-0 triumph — their first win at the fourth time of asking on the road to Russia. It was also only their second goal in four games, but that result now catapults Argentina up to fourth and back into contention in the fledgling campaign.” ESPN

France attacks: Sporting fixtures postponed after attacks

“Several sporting fixtures in France have been postponed after a series of attacks across Paris in which 129 people were killed. Three suicide bombers died in blasts outside the Stade de France while France played Germany on Friday. With fans unable to leave, many poured on to the pitch, while both national teams spent the night in the stadium. All European Rugby Champions Cup and Challenge Cup matches set to be played in France this weekend are off. However, the French Football Federation (FFF) said Tuesday’s international friendly against England at Wembley would go ahead following three days of national mourning.” BBC (Video)

As Paris Attacks Unfolded, Players and Fans at Soccer Stadium Remained Unaware
“Shortly after 9:45 p.m. Friday, at halftime of an exhibition soccer match between France and Germany, the players on both teams went to their locker rooms to rest while the coaches, who normally would have been reviewing their strategies, instead received shocking news. Everyone had heard the two explosions outside the stadium during the first half of the game, and Didier Deschamps, who leads the French team, and Joachim Löw, Germany’s manager, were told by French officials that there was a developing crisis, with violence reported near the stadium as well as around the city. President François Hollande, who had been at the match, had already been rushed from the stadium, they were told, but the second half would proceed.” NY Times

Wembley to welcome France for England friendly in spirit of defiance
“So, the show goes on then. As news of the atrocities in Paris on Friday night filtered through to Alicante during the second half of England’s friendly against Spain – a tumorous, spreading sense of horror with each fresh round of details – football became an instant irrelevance. At the time it seemed certain that Tuesday’s game against France, at Wembley, would be cancelled. In part because of the obvious pressing security concerns, but above all because of the sheer rawness of the occasion, the sense of unnecessary intrusion on a period of pain and grief.” Guardian

The Academy Series | 10 best Barcelona products: Xavi, Iniesta, and Messi feature

“FC Barcelona’s La Masia is renowned in football and with good reason – it is undoubtedly one of the best youth academies in the world. The training regime at La Masia focuses on performance over results. With good performances, victories and trophies will arrive in due time. Parents are instructed to ask the youth players, their kids, whether they played well instead of ‘did you win?’. This has bred a philosophy-centric education system at Barça. The implementation of concepts from Total Football by Johan Cruyff focuses on technical ability and football intelligence – players being trained to make the best decisions on the pitch, having the technique to execute ideas which were seen and thought of a few steps in advance of their opponents. Out-thinking and out-playing rather than out-muscling the opposition.” Outside of the Boot

Goal Analysis: How Sevilla’s pressing worked against Real Madrid

“Real Madrid travelled to Sevilla as La Liga leaders and started far brighter than the Andalucians; who have struggled to find the form they hit in the 2014-2015 term, seeing them finish in a highly respectable 5th position and lift the Europa League trophy, mustering up only 3 wins from their first 10 fixtures this season before this encounter.” Outside of the Boot

Tactical Analysis: Dortmund 3-2 Schalke | Dortmund keep changing to pick up the win

“In the first Ruhr derby of this season, Borussia Dortmund emerged victorious while Schalke’s poor run of results continued. Thomas Tuchel started out with a 4-3-3 system. For the visitors, Andre Breitenreiter continued with the 4-4-2 system.” Outside of the Boot

Brazil fail to reach World Cup? Don’t rule it out as they head to Argentina

“That if Brazil failed to qualify for the World Cup? The prospect seems incredible but it is one that football may have to try to come to terms with. It is still a distant possibility but, given how awful the side have been at their last two major tournaments and given how they have started qualifying for Russia 2018, it is not as preposterous a scenario as it would once have seemed. With Argentina also stuttering off the blocks there will be an unexpected sense of anxiety about Thursday’s meeting in El Monumental.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Euro 2016: Are Spain over their World Cup hangover?

“Despite a solid record in qualifying of nine wins from 10 games, European champions Spain are facing several dilemmas as they prepare for the defence of their title in France next summer. Veteran coach Vicente del Bosque faces selection problems in several areas, and there is also a more general concern over La Roja’s playing style as they continue to address the lingering hangover from last summer’s World Cup finals campaign, where they made a shock group-stage exit. Going into Friday’s friendly with England, these are the main issues.” BBC

West Ham – New Gold Dream

“West Ham’s 2014/15 season was like the proverbial game of two halves under Sam Allardyce, as a promising start took the club into the top four at Christmas, before a wretched slump produced just three victories in the next 21 games. The Hammers still finished in a comfortable 12th place, which should presumably have satisfied joint chairman David Sullivan, as he described “retaining our Premier League status” as one of his highlights of the season. The club also qualified for Europe for the first time since 2007, albeit only by finishing top of the Fair Play table.” The Swiss Ramble

My Funes Mori faux pas

during the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Everton at The Hawthorns on September 28, 2015 in West Bromwich, United Kingdom.
“When the Argentine centre-back joined Everton from River Plate I did not think he stood any chance of success. I felt that in the Premier League he would be exposed for lack of quality, pace and physicality. True, his first couple of months have not been unblemished. He is unlikely ever to be a candidate for a world XI. But he appears to have settled in well, exuding confidence right from the off. Clearly, he is considerably better than I had thought.” The World Game – Tim Vickery (Video)

Gute Woche / Schlechte Woche: Matchday 12 Edition

“You cannot accuse the Bundesliga of failing to offer something for everyone. For those who want some feisty and aggressive football, there was Derby drama to be had this weekend. For those who enjoy predictability, there was a routine Bayern Munich victory to whet the appetite. For those who anticipate the surprise and shock factor of the game, there was a defender netting a brace in the Rhine derby and a Salomon Kalou hat-trick. The 2015-2016 Bundesliga campaign is really starting to heat up, and while the league is beginning to take some sort of shape, it remains as fiercely competitive as ever.” Bundesliga Fanatic

From refugee to signing for Zico

“At the age of three, Zohib Islam Amiri fled the war in Afghanistan to find refuge in Pakistan. Now he’s a football hero in his homeland. Listen as he recounts his perilous journey to safety, his pride at playing for his national team, the shock of being signed by Brazilian legend Zico and the terror of watching Taliban executions on the pitch he would later play on for his country.” BBC (Video)

The Premier League so far: a majestic muddle that continues to entertain

“A third of the way through the Premier League season and it is still to take shape. There is a pleasingly old-fashioned look to the table, with the top seven separated by six points. To put that into context, 12 games into last season, the leaders Chelsea had six points more than Manchester City do now and the gap to seventh was 14. The usual suspects – or some of the usual suspects – will presumably kick on but this promises to be a closer, less predictable race than for years.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Why modern football is failing minorities

“For almost a century and a half, the beautiful game has offered excitement, advancement and delight. But only, it seems, if you’re white, straight and male. Such is the dissonance between football in theory and in practice. If there is a European equivalent to the American dream it is this, the universal promise of a game that can transform regions, offer hope to broken communities and raise even the poorest from rags to riches.” backpagefootball

Mauricio Pochettino is building Spurs from the back, the opposite of Arsenal

“Once upon a time, pundits said that great teams were ‘built from the back.’ Concentrating on defence before attack was considered the optimum way to create a winning machine, but this has proved trickier in an era when almost every fan base is determined for their side to play ‘good football’ and managers aren’t given much time to impress. Besides, whereas great defending was once considered the domain of the back four, and maybe a screening midfield player too, it’s now a collective effort. Can great teams be built from the back if the defending starts from the front?” ESPN – Michael Cox

David Moyes: Where did sacked Real Sociedad boss go wrong?

“David Moyes has been sacked as Real Sociedad boss. The Basque side are marooned near the bottom of La Liga – they are above the relegation zone on goal difference – and a limp performance in Friday’s 2-0 defeat against lowly Las Palmas was the final straw. This is how his 364 days in charge went.” BBC

League success – is three the magic number?

“From Sheffield FC to FC United of Manchester, clubs have been born with the same ambition: to become the greatest in the world. In France, this sentiment is echoed loudly by the capital city’s starlets Paris Saint Germain. Relatively speaking they’re a new club, formed in 1970 with the merging of Stade Saint-Germain and Paris FC. For a brief time in the early 90s this dream of footballing conquest almost became a reality with Ligue 1 titles and pantheons of the game like George Weah and David Ginola in the side.” backpagefootball

Football and comics

“Venture into any bookshop today and you will find a section given over to ‘graphic novels’[1], books that talk about them, books by or about their creators. After a dip in quality and interest around the millennium, the field is now full of great writers and illustrators, challenging stories and subject areas, and even the superhero genre has undergone a bit of a reboot[2]. This piece was originally conceived as a history of how football has appeared in comics, graphic novels, whatever terminology you want to use, but in the course of researching it I had the good fortune to talk to Paul Trevillion[3] and decided that Paul and his work on Roy of the Rovers was a much more interesting and specific point of departure. And as I talked to Paul, I found myself thinking more about football than comics, but you’ll see what I mean by that in due course[4].” Put Niels In Goal

The Academy Series | 10 best River Plate products: Saviola, Mascherano, and Higuain feature

“As one of the biggest clubs in Argentina, River Plate and its prestigious academy have produced countless world class players over their 114-year history. A club associated with the three G’s – Ganar, Gustar y Golear (Win, Enjoy & Thrash) – tries to instil their young charges with this philosophy from an early age and ensure that those on their books are technically outstanding, comfortable on the ball and, above all, intelligent footballers.” Outside of the Boot

Zlatan’s Ibrahimovic’s Mortality

“Watching a superstar in any sport have to cope with his own mortality is one of the more fascinating things you’ll see, especially so if the player is as stubborn as Zlatan Ibrahimovic. A fun example of seeing the battle between player X and father time is seeing what’s happened to Kobe Bryant over the past three seasons. Even your average person knows just how bad Kobe is currently. More than anything, Kobe Bryant is the cautionary tale of a headstrong superstar declining to a point where they’re way below a net zero in terms of value to a team.” Stats Bomb (Video)

Southampton – With Or Without You

“Under new manager Ronald Koeman Southampton enjoyed another season of decent progress in 2014/15 with the club achieving its highest ever Premier League position, finishing 7th with a record 60 points, and qualifying for Europe for the first time in 12 years. This was a testament to the success of the Southampton model, whereby a combination of thoughtful planning, good scouting and player development has allowed the club to move forward, despite selling around £130 million of talent over the past two seasons.” The Swiss Ramble

Football Cities: Nottingham

“The sixth part of our Football Cities series sees long time contributor Steve Wright analyse the footballing landscape in Nottingham. As a companion piece to Steve’s post, I’d like to direct you to a recent edition of the outstanding We Are Going Up podcast in which presenters David Cameron Walker and Mark Crossley took a trip to Meadow Lane and reflect on many of the issues discussed by Steve in written form below. … Nottingham is only a small provisional city but it manages to sustain two historically significant football clubs. Maybe it would be easier for one of them if the other did not exist and the city could focus its whole footballing attention on a single point, as they do in Leeds, Newcastle and Derby, but it is because both clubs have significant individual history that it is impossible that either could secede to the other or that they could merge.” thetwounfortunates

USA World Cup qualifying roster: Nagbe, Johnson in; Dempsey out

“Clint Dempsey, who started the year as U.S. national team captain, is off. New citizen Darlington Nagbe and emerging defensive stalwart Matt Miazga suddenly are on the threshold of their international debuts. Fabian Johnson is back after a short stay in the coach’s doghouse. And Jurgen Klinsmann has found a balance between continuity and overhaul on his first World Cup qualifying roster of this new cycle. Less than a month after reaching the nadir of his four-plus year tenure as U.S. coach, the embattled manager has named a 23-man team for the upcoming qualifiers against Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in St. Louis (Nov. 13) and Trinidad and Tobago in Port of Spain, Trinidad (Nov. 17).” SI