The 100 best footballers in the world 2015 – interactive

December 31, 2015

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“Welcome to the Guardian’s choice of the world’s top 100 footballers for 2015. Led by Zico, Javier Zanetti and Gheorghe Hagi, our panel of 123 experts from 49 nations compiled a countdown of the greatest male players on the planet. Click on an individual to read more about their year. Guardian: Barney Ronay: Messi regains No1 position, How our judges voted: the complete statistics, Datablog: the numbers crunched, Video: the ten best footballers in the world, Read the full list of judges and top 100 rules


Tuchel’s Tactical Positioning Revs Borussia Dortmund’s High-Powered Attack

December 31, 2015

“Borussia Dortmund have been amazing to say the least, in the first half of the 2015-16 season. It’s only half a season, yet Dortmund have scored a whopping 85 goals in all competitions which, astonishingly, is seven more than they managed all of last season. New head coach Thomas Tuchel has changed the commonly used ‘Gegenpressing’ philosophy of Dortmund, which was used by Jurgen Klopp. Tuchel’s new game model of positional play (translated from the Spanish juego de posición) makes them unique in a league dominated by pressing and counterattacking teams.” Bundesliga Fanatic


Rock-Paper-Scissors: A Brutal, Cutting League

December 31, 2015

“It’s fair to say that I don’t watch enough of the world’s other leagues to make a definitively accurate comparison, but the more I think about it (from inside my bubble) the more it strikes me that the English Premier League’s unique challenges lay not in the quality of the teams and the tactical acumen of their managers (although there are some good teams and some very clever coaches), but in the brutal intensity of almost every 90 minutes – as well as the number of games played (without a winter break) and the wide variety of approaches faced.” Tomkins Times


Swansea City – Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me

December 31, 2015

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“Even though Swansea City’s form has not been great, it still came as something of a surprise when manager Garry Monk was sacked this month, not least because the customary smooth succession to a capable replacement seems to have foundered. There have reportedly been talks with former Argentina and Chile coach Marcelo Bielsa, but coach Alan Curtis remains in charge for the time being.” The Swiss Ramble


Italy’s Future Left Back? Adam Masina

December 31, 2015

“Less than three years ago, Adam Masina was the reserve striker at Bologna Primavera, the under-19 team of the club. He was barely fielded and for him a future in football was very unlikely. Dumped by the club, he ended up in the third tier of Italian football, on loan at Giacomense, just because at the Emilian club were looking for youngsters, in order to receive the FIGC subsidies assigned to teams which regularly field under-21 players in their starting formation. To find him a place in the team, Giacomense manager Fabio Gallo, decided to field him as the left wingback in his 3-5-2 and then even as the left-back when he switched to a 4-3-3. Gallo’s intuition has been Masina’s salvation: he became a regular of the team and his good performances granted him a return in Bologna.” Stats Bomb


Tactical Analysis: River Plate 0-3 Barcelona | Barca’s enterprising play too much for River

December 31, 2015

“In Yokohama, the final of the FIFA World Club Championship, saw on one hand the champion of the Copa Libertadores River Plate, who had beaten in the semifinals Sanfrecce Hiroshima of Japan, and on the other the Champions League winners, FC Barcelona that without Messi and Neymar beat Chinese team Guangzhou Evergrande. In the end, the Spanish team had their South American trident, as both Messi and Neymar decided to play the game despite not being 100%. River Plate made one change from the team that played the semifinal, with Uruguayan Tabaré Viudez replacing Leonardo Pisculichi. Luis Enrique presented his classic 4-3-3 system, River Plate alternated between their usual 4-3-1-2 and 4-4-2, the two systems being used by the team of Marcelo Gallardo.” Outside of the Boot


The devil and José Mourinho

December 28, 2015

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“At the beginning of May 2015, Chelsea wrapped up the Premier League title with a scrappy 1-0 win over Crystal Palace. It was not a great game or a great performance – for a couple of months Chelsea had looked exhausted, dragging their fatigued limbs over the line and grateful no contender was able to mount a serious challenge to them. It was a day of relief as well as exultation, manager José Mourinho’s third title with the club, his first since he returned in 2013 for his second stint as manager, and only the fifth Chelsea had ever won, despite all the recent investment from their billionaire owner Roman Abramovich.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Tactical Analysis: Arsenal 2-1 Manchester City | Disciplined Arsenal win the match

December 28, 2015

“Arsenal have been regarded as title contenders all season, as demonstrated through their strong performance on Monday The Gunners were forced to dig deep at the end but got the result from another solid and disciplined team performance – the same of which cannot be said for the entire Manchester City side. Manuel Pellegrini’s side was the complete opposite of Arsenal’s: they were lazy, lacked teamwork, and appeared as if they ran out of ideas until the last 20 minutes of the match. Combined with mistakes and poor decision making (both from the players and the manager), it was yet another match against a top team where City could’ve lost by more than one goal. It is clear that City was missing Vincent Kompany, and the situation was further worsened by the fact that Aguero looked completely out of sorts. Arsenal’s victory leaves City six points off the top, and if City’s poor performances against top sides continue, their title hopes will be over. To understand why this happened, Arsenal’s game plan will be analyzed, in addition to a brief editorial on City’s shortcomings, shown by the analysis of the goals and goal-scoring opportunities.” Outside of the Boot


#IBWM100 2016

December 28, 2015

“On Wednesday, 23 December at 10am (GMT) we will publish the #IBWM100 for 2016 – our list of the most exciting young* players in world football. As always, we’ve stuck with the format that served Don Balon so successfully for many years; 100 names and details of where each player is from. We’ll revisit the list in twelve months’ time and assess how the year has panned out for each of the players concerned. The process we use for selection remains exactly the same. We talk to scouts, coaches, players, journalists, fans and bloggers from around the world to get a clear a picture of exactly who we should be watching and why. Across the year, we monitor each player on our long list to see how things are going while considering what the future is likely to hold for them. Eventually our long list becomes the #IBWM100 – nothing definitive, just the players that we believe will really soar in 2016.” In Bed With Maradona – INTRODUCTION, In Bed With Maradona – 100 2015: Our twelve month review of the class of 2015


Deportivo Cali: Colombia’s Cantera de Oro

December 28, 2015

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“It may sound like a truism but South American football usually finds itself adopting a short term mentality. With many clubs steeped in debt, the fragile state of their finances means that squads are dismantled after any success and young stars are whisked away at an increasingly early age. The gulf between South America teams and Europe is bigger than ever and shows no sign of reducing any time soon.’ Outside of the Boot


Unpredictable English Premier League Keeps Us Guessing

December 28, 2015

“If uncertainty makes for compelling competition, nothing can rival the English Premier League. While every other major league in the world shut down for Christmas, all 20 English clubs played on Boxing Day. Not too many followed form, although Manchester City’s 4-1 crushing of Sunderland, which is haunted by the specter of relegation, was predictable enough. And Tottenham’s 3-0 win over Norwich City might also have been foreseen.” NY Times


The USA – world football’s final frontier

December 28, 2015

“In American folklore, when the British redcoats came to Massachusetts in 1775 during the Revolutionary War, the message amongst the colonists was ‘one if by land, and two if by sea’. They came by land. In mid-November 2015, it was the Americans who came to New York City by land, air or subway (or my trek via a 13-hour shoddy bus ride to China Town) to see the British — two of them, with friends — packed in a Brooklyn convention center to celebrate ‘BlazerCon’. Redcoats were swapped for blazers (tweed ones were the most memorialised). Guinness was poured. Meat pies were consumed. This was a modern-day revolution of sorts, only through ‘soccer’.” Football Pink


The game that changed Italian football

December 28, 2015

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“PAUL GRECH looks back to 1920s fascist-regime Italy and an incident between two northern powerhouses that would alter the country’s football landscape forever. It was meant to be a season of celebration for Bologna. Not because of any anticipated success – sadly such dreams have faded away – but in remembrance of past triumphs. In particular they wanted to celebrate once more their last triumph in the league on the fiftieth anniversary of that success. They had hoped to honour that scudetto win with a calm league season, as they had done in the previous two years, and perhaps maybe even push for a Europa League spot. Instead, the team collapsed and when they lost to Catania with a game to go, it confirmed what had been evident for months of listless performances: Bologna were getting relegated to Serie B.” Football Pink


Allegri, Dybala and Mandzukic recover from slow start to put Juve in title race

December 28, 2015

“What a wonderful year it has been for Juventus and all those associated with the club: from the highs of winning the double and reaching the Champions League final to the lows suffered at the start of this new season. Yet whatever turbulent times the Bianconeri have experienced, they have stayed faithful to their winning mentality, coming back stronger than ever to put themselves in a great position to target yet another league title.” ESPN


Liverpool’s Premier League hoodoo

December 28, 2015

“Few can doubt that Liverpool have had a fantastic footballing legacy, but what are their chances of future Premier League success? Let’s compare their Premiership record with their pre-Premier League record. Whilst the team always do well in the cups, they often under-perform in the league. Many will be looking ahead to see if Leicester City can do a Blackburn Rovers and win the Premier League to rub Liverpool’s nose in it.” backpagefootball


Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini Are Barred From Soccer for 8 Years

December 21, 2015

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“Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, two of the most powerful figures in global soccer, were barred from the sport for eight years on Monday morning after being found guilty of ethics violations. The suspensions were imposed by the independent ethics committee of FIFA, soccer’s international governing body. Mr. Blatter, who is FIFA’s longtime president, as well as Mr. Platini, who is the president of UEFA, which oversees soccer in Europe, are prohibited from taking part in any soccer-related activities while barred — a sanction that, in Mr. Platini’s case, seemingly ends any chance that he will be able to run in February’s special election to fill the post Mr. Blatter has said he would vacate.” NY Times
NY Times: The Rise and Fall of Sepp Blatter
NY Times: A Hemisphere of Soccer Corruption


Ten Intriguing Ligue 1 Attackers

December 21, 2015

“Last season, I did a piece on 10 intriguing Ligue 1 players and looking back on it nearly a year later, it’s kind of funny to see what’s happened since. Origi has for the most part reaffirmed my opinions on his caliber as a player (scoring goals in the league cup doesn’t count), Nabil Fekir and Jordan Amavi kept going and going and they both looked like legitimately great talents until they tore his acl’s while Jordan Ayew and Florian Thauvin are floundering away in the abyss known as the relegation race in the Premier League.” Stats Bomb


Tactical Analysis: PSG 5-1 Lyon | Fournier’s men exposed by long balls

December 21, 2015

“When Ligue 1 announced its fixture list prior to the start of the current season, it was all too easy to focus on Paris Saint-Germain hosting Olympique Lyonnais as the marquee matchup of the campaign’s first half. After all, Lyon had run PSG hard for the title in the previous season, only just slipping out of contention over the last ten matches.” Outside of the Boot


Global Series | Top 10 South American Players of 2015: Alexis, Neymar and Suarez feature

December 21, 2015

“In this new annual feature, we at Outside of the Boot aim to unearth the best performing footballers from each of the 5 primary Confederations in the past calendar year. Rather than do the work ourselves, we had the bright idea of crowd-sourcing the answers and the football-sphere has spoken with its votes. Drum roll please. And the winners of Global Series: South America is…” Outside of the Boot


Hard Premier League slog would take Pep Guardiola into the unknown

December 21, 2015

“After Chelsea had won the league last season, José Mourinho made a not especially veiled dig at Pep Guardiola. … The jibe was unfair in a number of ways but it carried enough truth to sting. At Bayern Munich, Guardiola took over a club that had just won the treble. Inevitably, in terms of trophies won, the trajectory has been downward: two Bundesliga titles have followed and there will surely be a third this year but in each of the past two seasons Bayern have gone out of the Champions League in the semi-finals. In terms of the football played, though, Guardiola’s reign has been a triumph. Bayern stand in the avant-garde of football’s tactical evolution.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


The good, bad and ugly of FIFA’s Mad Men

December 21, 2015

“I discovered it late but I’m glad I got there in the end. As a 1960s nut, the TV series Mad Men was made for me. In the last few months I ploughed through all seven seasons of a program that looked at the decade and its changes, especially in terms of gender relations, through the prism of the advertising industry.” The World Game – Tim Vickery


Tactical Analysis: Bayer Leverkusen 5-0 Borussia Monchengladbach | High press and good positioning the difference

December 21, 2015

“Bayer Leverkusen edged high-flying Borussia Monchengladbach for most of the first hour of the match before the floodgates opened for what turned out to be a feast for die Werkself‘s two strikers, Stefan Kiessling and Javier Hernandez, the Mexican scoring his first hat-trick in Leverkusen colours. An hour of finely poised action was soon to be a rout for the home side, as Gladbach were punished for their lack of conviction in the attacking third combined with Bayer’s craftily created and ruthlessly finished goals. Both clubs saw their Champions League run for the season end in midweek, but Gladbach were on the back of last weekend’s stunning 3-1 win over Bayern Munich.” Outside of the Boot


Three ways Bayern Munich could line up in Carlo Ancelotti’s diamond system

December 21, 2015

(FILES) This file photo taken on May 13, 2015 shows then Real Madrid's Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti gesturing during the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg football match Real Madrid FC vs Juventus at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid. As Spanish sports newspaper Marca and Spanish broadcast Cadena Cope reported on December 17, 2015, Italian former head coach of Real Madrid Carlo Ancelotti will follow Pep Guardiola as head coach of German bundesliga football club FC Bayern Munich. / AFP / GERARD JULIENGERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images
“Normally things would be rather quiet around this time of the year for Bundesliga clubs, soaking up the tranquility that comes with a winter break which suspends top-flight German football until late January. However, for Bayern Munich, that hasn’t been the case in the last few days. While the Bavarians are only midway through the current campaign, eyes are already turning towards a new era starting at the end of the season. With Pep Guardiola set to stand down next spring to seek pastures new after what will be three years at the helm, Bayern have moved quickly to appoint his successor in waiting ahead of 2016/17.” Squawka


Klopp: Saviour, Not Magician

December 21, 2015

“The role, impact and influence of the modern manager becomes ever more intriguing. Even in just the past ten years we’ve seen so much change: increased player power, and along with social media, decreased fan patience. There are frequent hysterias to get rid of managers, but also over their appointments in the first place. Jürgen Klopp has had the temerity to not arrive with a magic wand; a trio of outstanding away displays, the like of which the Reds probably only produced once in Brendan Rodgers’ final season-and-a-quarter (the 3-0 at Spurs), have been followed by familiar flaws that have been troubling the Reds for years, often perpetrated by the same players. The only thing you can criticise Klopp for, beyond a judgement call here and there, is not working miracles.” Tomkins Times


Poor Aston Villa, Farewell Mourinho and Leicester On Fire

December 21, 2015

“So, the end of the road came for Mourinho. Mutually frogmarched out of the club having presided over a dip in performance deeper than the journey taken by Villas Boas and without precedence in his own career. Nobody is denying that the human factors behind this drop in performance have precluded his retention but beyond that it seems wrong to presume that in turning his Champions into Chumpions, he had much leeway to continue. The demands of helming a mega-club require only the finest returns and presumably only his reputation, or financial considerations, kept him alive for this long.” Stats Bomb


Brilliant transformation of Wes Morgan embodies the miracle of Leicester

December 17, 2015

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“There was a moment early in the second half on Monday when Wes Morgan jinked inside Pedro then found himself faced with Diego Costa. Through some sleight of the upper body, Morgan persuaded Costa to go clattering into space to his left and strolled away. This was Wes Morgan, the same Wes Morgan who last year became a byword for haplessness, a series of errors and moments of misfortune culminating in the moment when he slid helplessly across the turf against Liverpool and saw a penalty awarded as a cross hit his face.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Euro 2016 lacks a clear favourite as France, Germany, Spain all flawed

December 17, 2015

“Euro 2016 will be the first-ever European Championships comprised of 24 teams, a format that opens up the tournament to the continent’s minnows. Yet assessing the runners and riders ahead of Saturday’s draw, it feels like one of the most closed European championships in a long time. There are three clear favourites who each have something obvious to shout about: France are the hosts, Spain the holders and Germany the world champions. Other than this trio, it’s incredibly difficult to make a case for anyone else triumphing.” ESPN – Michael Cox


Inter stay top of Serie A as Roma’s home struggles continue

December 17, 2015

“Inter solidified their position at the summit of the Serie A table, Bologna continue to fly under Roberto Donadoni while Juventus registered their sixth victory on the spin. It was, as always, a frenetic weekend in Serie A. And below are this week’s talking points.” backpagefootball


Maurizio Sarri – A tale for hipsters and dreamers alike

December 17, 2015

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“The latest instalment in one of the most extraordinary football stories of recent years is currently playing itself out in Serie A – the wonderful tale of Maurizio Sarri, manager of Napoli. I’ve always been a sucker for those managers who without stellar football careers behind them have risen by dint of their coaching and inspirational qualities, their intelligence and their sheer perseverance to some of the top jobs in the game.” backpagefootball


Gerard Pique takes on Real Madrid: Will it ever end?

December 17, 2015

“Even when he’s halfway around the world, Gerard Pique just cannot let it lie. The Barcelona defender’s running verbal battle with most of the Real Madrid squad continued in Japan on Wednesday as he refused to back down after igniting yet another row, this time with Bernabeu duo Alvaro Arbeloa and Sergio Ramos. We all know there’s little love lost between Barca and Madrid, but no figure on the pitch seems to embody the rivalry more closely than Pique.” BBC


Bundesliga MatchDay 16 Team of the Week

December 17, 2015

“MatchDay 16 gave Bundesliga fans another exciting weekend, full of thrilling matches and outstanding performances. The leaders, Bayern Munich took care of business against the scrappy boys from Ingolstadt, turning it on in the second half for a 2-0 victory. Dortmund players flexed their collective muscles with an impressive 4 goal performance on 24 shots, despite the excellent Henrik Mkhitaryan with perhaps two of the misses of the season, as well as goal scoring machine Pierre Emerick Aubameyang missing a penalty.” Bundesliga Fanatic


The Boys in Green vs. McGregor

December 17, 2015

“Last Saturday was a busy day for Irish sports fans. Aside from the usual Premier League games to keep an eye on, the draw for the group stages of Euro 2016 cast a long shadow over the day. If it felt as though we were waiting a long time for that draw to start in the early evening, it was a longer wait still for those brave (or foolhardy?) souls who stayed the course a further 12 hours to watch one of the most talked about Irish sporting events of the year – Conor McGregor vs Jose Aldo in UFC 194.” backpagefootball


2016 UEFA Championship: Host France gets favorable draw

December 15, 2015

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“The 2016 European Championships draw was made in the Palais des Congres in Paris Saturday. UEFA president Michel Platini was not present—he is currently suspended from his duties by FIFA—but there was support for the Frenchman when footage of player-turned-politician helping France win Euro 1986 was met with applause in the draw auditorium. It was Platini who instigated this new-look Euros format: there are now 24 teams in the tournament, eight more than in previous competitions.” SI (Video)


Bright Future: Liverpool are a team of players still yet to hit peak age

December 15, 2015

“There was a stark reminder of just how young Liverpool’s current squad is when the players headed towards the Kop, hand-in-hand, saluting supporters after their 2-2 stalemate with West Bromwich Albion. Apart from Martin Skrtel and James Milner, the other nine players who embraced the Reds’ supporters at Anfield last weekend were largely fresh-faced and youthful, still learning their trade in the game. Jordon Ibe (20), Divock Origi (20), Roberto Firmino (24), Alberto Moreno (23) and Emre Can (21) were amongst the line of players who greeted fans after the full-time whistle, all of whom are under the age of 25.” Squawka

Tactical Analysis – Liverpool 2 WBA 2
“Klopp made only three changes following the midweek Europa League clash with Sion. None was a surprise, with Moreno and Benteke replacing Smith and Origi and Coutinho, coming back from injury, replacing Firmino who was given the break his recent displays suggested he is in great need of. Pulis’ WBA presented even less of a surprise in their starting XI. Gardner was expectedly chosen to replace the injured Sessegnon down the right flank. This was the only change as although Yacob was in line to make his comeback following a one-game suspension, he had to miss the game due to compassionate leave for bereavement. As such Olsson remained at centre-back with Evans ahead as the team’s defensive midfielder.” Tomkins Times


Tactical breakdown: How Ranieri’s Leicester City has overtaken the EPL

December 15, 2015

“Leicester City sits on top of the Premier League table after 16 rounds in one of Europe’s biggest stories nearly halfway through the season. New manager Claudio Ranieri has sharpened Leicester’s focus, harnessing his players’ scrappiness to become a formidable defensive side paired with England’s in-form striker, Jamie Vardy. Unlike its results, the team’s tactics are fairly typical. The Foxes line up in a standard English 4-4-2, with Riyad Mahrez’s tendency to drift inside and next to the front two passing as their most complicated wrinkle.” SI


Premier League Diary: How Louis Van Gaal will be run out of Manchester United next weekend

December 15, 2015

“Another weekend, and another weekend of the purest guff. It is quite hard to describe how useless Manchester United is, but only because the depth of the team’s woefulness has already been stated. Repeatedly. There is, admittedly, an infinite combination of all the thousands of words in the English language, and many of those combinations could be deployed to describe how utterly rubbish at football they are. But the problem is that Manchester United is infinitely awful. With each game they find a new way to be awful, while dredging up all the ways in which they have also recently been awful. They are operating with a checklist of cack, and ticking off the boxes with every match, and then drawing another box at the bottom, and annotating it with a new disaster. Then they check that, and the player checking it goes down with a thigh strain.” Fusion


Tactical Analysis: Wolfsburg 1-2 Dortmund | Tuchel’s men exploit Wolfsburg’s structural issues

December 15, 2015

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“The two leaders of the chasing pack came head to head in this encounter. Both teams were galvanised by Gladbach’s shock 3-1 victory over runaway leaders Bayern Munich and were eager to close the gap on the Bavarians. Despite Wolfsburg’s phenomenal home record prior to this game (29 league games unbeaten), Thomas Tuchel’s reinvigorated Borussia Dortmund side were many people’s favourites going into this game with striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in lethal form with 17 goals in 14 Bundesliga matches. Both sides were without key players, Wolfsburg were unable to rely on Dante who was absent through suspension while BVB were missing centre-back Mats Hummels who was replaced by Sven Bender; a peculiar decision at first but one which seemed to make more sense as the game wore on and proved to be problematic for Wolfsburg.” Outside of the Boot


Are Manchester United and Arsenal Getting Lucky?

December 15, 2015

“There are many ways to look at the effectiveness and reliability of a team but when you find a metric related to scoring goals that places them on the edges of historical parameters or beyond it pays to take notice. Both Man Utd and Arsenal sit perilously close to the positive edge of measures that surround the levels of good chances they have been creating and allowing as we shall soon see.” Stats Bomb


Premier League Diary: Manchester finds inspiration in the ghost of Rafa Benitez

December 15, 2015

“We begin this week’s installment of the Diary by returning to the wisdom and knowledge of an old, old friend. One who may not be managing in the Premier League any more, but who is always managing in our defensive, negative, rigorously well-structured hearts. We speak, of course, of Rafael Benitez.” Fusion


Euro 2016 power rankings: every team assessed before draw

December 10, 2015

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“The Euro 2016 draw takes place in Paris on Saturday and Jonathan Wilson looks at all the teams, putting France at No1 and Romania at No24” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Scandals, tragedy clouding France’s preparations to host Euro 2016

December 10, 2015

“The good news for France is that Olivier Giroud scored a hat trick for Arsenal against Olympiakos on Wednesday, taking his tally to 12 goals in his last 15 appearances for club and country and, perhaps, at last suggesting that he can thrive when the pressure is really on. The bad news is just about everything else. From the tragic to the trivial to the weird, France’s preparations for Euro 2016, which it will host next summer, have been hit by a series of problems.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Tactical Analysis: Valencia 1-1 Barcelona | Valencia risks pay off

December 10, 2015

“Following a circus of a week at Los Che where Portuguese manager Nuno walked after his side failed to register a shot at goal in their 1-0 loss at Sevilla; which resulted in the surprising arrival of new boss Gary Neville, both playing and coaching staff at the club will have been desperate to get back to league action. Thousands of the home fans welcomed Neville & co. to the stadium before the game by lining the streets surrounding the historic Mestalla stadium whilst singing his name and making plenty of noise in support of his ambitious words in his first press conference.” Outside of the Boot


Euro 2016 Playoffs

December 10, 2015

“This weekend the eight remaining teams in Euro 2016 qualifying will be fighting it out for the final four places available for France next summer. 20 teams have already booked their tickets for France, but who else might find themselves sipping Bordeaux at a cafe on the Champs-Élysées next June? The Euro 2016 playoffs start Thursday and finish Tuesday. Here are what the coaches have to say about the upcoming matches.” Total Soccer Project


Power Rankings | Top 5 Managers (November 2015): Klopp joins Enrique at the top

December 10, 2015

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“A new mini-feature on the site for the new season is the introduction of the manager Power Rankings, where every month we list out the Top 5 tacticians from across Europe’s top leagues. October’s Power Rankings features five managers who’ve played key roles as the table begins to take shape.” Outside of the Boot


The Outsiders, Part 5: AP Campionese

December 10, 2015

“‘And this is Campione d’Italia’, she’s the Italian comune in Switzerland, you know, she’s an Italian enclave and exclave surrounded by Switzerland but still in the Province of Como, Lombardia, in the Swiss canton of Ticino’. Introducing the small town of Campione d’Italia, is much like describing a distant relative at a very large family celebration. She’s both vaguely recognisable and completely unfamiliar. She has the same plump and contented face as aunty Giulia, yet she’s definitely got the nose of grandpa Müller.” Football Pink

The Outsiders, Part 6: FC Andorra
“As countries go, there are few that can match the sheer stunning beauty of Andorra. Nestled firmly in the Pyrenees between France and Spain, Andorra is the sixth smallest nation in Europe in terms of size, its population could fit inside Barcelona’s Nou Camp stadium. It has a rich culture stretching back over a thousand years and is a constitutional monarchy with an official language of Catalan, though French and Spanish are widely spoken too.” Football Pink

The Outsiders, Part 7: The New Saints
“Around the globe, football teams that have incorporated their sponsor’s name are common place. Of course, Red Bull have taken on teams in New York, Leipzig and Salzburg, aptly named the New York Red Bulls, RB Leipzig and FC Red Bull Salzburg whilst Bayer Leverkusen in Germany have taken their founders’ name since their emergence in 1904, as did PSV Eindhoven in 1913. Hyundai have taken on two teams in South Korea, Jeonbuk and Ulsan whilst Toyota even got in on the act in Japan.” Football Pink


Brighton and Hove Albion – Welcome to the Beautiful South

December 10, 2015

“Brighton and Hove Albion’s famous song goes on to refer to winning the cup, but these days the Seagulls are firmly focused on going up to the Premier League. The club has transformed itself from relegation candidates in a ‘disappointing’ 2014/15 to viable promotion contenders this season. Indeed, the Albion currently sit proudly on top of the table and after 19 games are the only remaining unbeaten side among the 92 Football League clubs. As chairman Tony Bloom commented, this represents ‘a tremendous improvement and progress in the past 12 months.’” The Swiss Ramble


The 10 Young Stars of 2015: Paulo Dybala (South America)

December 10, 2015

“Paulo Dybala is an Argentine striker currently playing for Juventus. The youngster made the move to Juventus this summer from Palermo for 32 million euros, in one of the blockbuster moves of the summer. He’s also a full Argentine international, making his debut in the recent World Cup qualifier against Paraguay, when he came on as a sub for Carlos Tevez. The striker started out at Argentine club Instituto de Cordoba, playing in the second division, where he broke all sorts of records, including some held by the legendary Mario Kempes.He played 38 consecutive games there, scored 2 hattricks, and scored in 6 consecutive games. After some controversy about the paper work, he completed his move to Palermo, and in his time there, made enough of an impact to be signed by Juventus for a massive transfer fee.” Outside of the Boot

The 10 Young Stars of 2015: Ryan Thomas (Oceania)
“Ryan Thomas is a 20 year old New Zealander currently bearing the colours of PEC Zwolle. The youngster was signed from a youth academy in New Zealand in 2013 after Zwolle took him on trial and were impressed with what he had to offer. The player is usually deployed as a winger, but can also fill in in the middle of the park, a position he was deployed in during his youth days. Thomas is the only Kiwi in the entire Eredivisie, and indeed, The Netherlands aren’t really a well trodden path for his compatriots. Despite this though, he’s settled in well, and made a huge impact on the league, and his team. His greatest success has come in the cup final in 2014, where he scored a brace to help his side beat the mighty Ajax and lift the trophy.” Outside of the Boot


Premier League: The most unpredictable season?

December 8, 2015

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“It is the Premier League season that has everyone scratching their heads. Champions Chelsea are down in 14th. Leicester, bottom at Christmas last year, are top less than 12 months later. In fact, as this image below shows, the old cliche that anyone can beat anyone has never been more apt. Undoubtedly, there have been some strange results.” BBC


Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink: Heir to the Dutch coaching throne?

December 8, 2015

“Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink is a managerial rarity. He is, all at once, a young Dutch football manager (aged just forty-three), currently employed, and in the midst of a coaching career on an upward trajectory. As loveable Jimmy rocked up at Burton Albion in just over a year ago, he added his name to a diverse, and only sometimes illustrious list of names. From the collected wisdom, trophy cabinet and philosophies of Louis Van Gaal, to the plucky sojourners such as Marinius Dijkhuizen at Brentford, all of whom carry something seductively attractive to club owners and directors the world over; the DNA of a Dutch football coach.” Football Pink


UEFA Champions League: Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs FC Barcelona: Match Preview

December 8, 2015

“FC Barcelona will be looking to end their UEFA Champions League group stage on a high tomorrow evening, when they travel south of Cologne to Leverkusen to take on Bayer 04 at the BayArena. While Barcelona have utterly dominated the group to seal top spot, the second berth for the knockout stages remains entirely up for grabs; all three sides could yet join the Blaugrana in the Round of 16, depending on results in Matchday 6.” Barca Blaugranes


Quiet faith and kind patience – the deserved success of Watford

December 8, 2015

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“Watford’s success has been nothing if not understated. Like waking up to find the sun bright outside one’s window in the middle of winter, Watford’s success invites a slight smile but no small amount of bemusement. For a team whose solid consistency and durable success belied the extent to which they by no means set the Championship alight last season, à la Bournemouth, the Hornets could perhaps have been expected to struggle. Yet in a Premier League reminiscent of the End of Days, where Jamie Vardy scores for fun and Chelsea sit just two points clear of the relegation zone, Watford have proven a balm of consistency.” backpagefootball


Team of the Week: Matchday 15

December 8, 2015

“The Bundesliga often gets a reputation as a two-team league, and while it would be unfair to take away from the accolades of Bayern and Dortmund, that kin of characterization is equally unfair to the other teams. Leverkusen have played some of the most exciting and creative attacking football in Europe. Hertha seem rejuvenated under coach Pál Dárdai. Wolfsburg more or less dominated Manchester United in their two UCL matchups. Schalke 04 used to have the most exciting young core, with talents like Leroy Sane that is until Borussia Mönchengladbach burst onto the scene last year. With youngsters, like Andreas Christensen, Mahmoud Dahoud, and Nico Elvedi, they started 3 players in the center of the defense and midfield who are each 19 years old! So, the pre-match banter about not being afraid of Bayern looks to have been just confidence, as Gladbach, as a result of that youthful infusion coupled with outstanding performances from veterans, such as Granit Xhaka, Fabian Johnson, Oscar Wendt and Raffael emerged with a shocking 3-1 victory, extending their run of unbeaten games to 10, while handing the  Bavarians their first loss of the season! You can read an excellent breakdown of the game here.” Bundesliga Fanatic (Video)


Dick Forshaw – a Waterford pioneer and troubled soul

December 8, 2015

“Waterford has had its share of visitors over the centuries, ever since the Vikings first set up shop there back in the 9th Century. The football team have been no different, whether it was former World Cup winner Bobby Charlton, Polish international Piotr Suski or the Coventry born duo of Johnny Matthews and Peter Thomas who would enjoy great success down on the south coast, all playing in the blue of the city at one stage or other. In his recent, meticulously researched history of soccer in Munster, David Toms goes into some detail in the development of the sport in the southern province and he focuses especially on developments in urban centres like Cork, Limerick and Waterford.”backpagefootball


The 10 Young Stars of 2015: Loris Karius (Keeper)

December 6, 2015

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“In the land of overflowing goalkeeping talent, Loris Karius is one of the men to be taken seriously as competition to the undisputed number 1- Manuel Neuer. The 22 year old currently plays for Mainz, but was on the books of Manchester City for 3 years. He made his debut in trying circumstances, coming on as a substitute after the first choice goalkeeper was sent off. Karius started off among the youth ranks of Stuttgart, before moving to Manchester City. He couldn’t really get a break through there, and ended up making the move back home with FSV Mainz.” Outside of the Boot

The 10 Young Stars of 2015: Andy Najar (North America)
“Andy Najar is a Honduran International who came through the DC United academy. Najar moved to America at the age of 13 and was soon part of DC United’s academy. He wasted no time in impressing and quickly moved up the ranks making his first team debut at just 17. The Honduran International hit the ground running winning the MLS Rookie of the Year award in his debut season. After pledging his allegiance to Honduras, Najar impressed in the 2012 Olympics to earn a move to Europe in the form of Anderlecht. Mainly deployed as a right-winger, but capable of filling in at right-back, the Honduran International has acquitted himself well as he continued his development on European soil.” Outside of the Boot


Ability v technique – Barcelona strike perfect balance

December 6, 2015

“The great Tostao, centre forward of Brazil’s 1970 side and the wisest voice in his country’s game, recently tried to clear up a basic confusion in football – the difference between ability and technique.” The World Game – Tim Vickery


Flawed EPL favorites leading to congested table, fascinating title race

December 6, 2015

“This is a most unusual Premier League season. Fourteen games in, none of the expected title favorites has settled into any kind of consistent form and the result is a league table that is extremely tightly bunched, with four teams separated by two points at the top of the table, Tottenham two behind that group and Liverpool two behind Spurs. Most tellingly, the leaders, Manchester City and Leicester City, have 29 points: only once in the past 17 years has the leader had a lower total with 14 games of the season gone.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


100 2015

December 6, 2015

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“12 months ago the expectation was that Pierre-Emile Højbjerg was on the verge of breaking into the Bayern Munich first team. We felt sure that the young midfielder would start to feature more regularly after a handful of Bundesliga and Champions League appearances to end the year had gone reasonably well. Instead he has spent 2015 on loan at Augsburg and currently Schalke, and admittedly he is a better player for it even though he’d clearly have preferred to have had the same experiences with his parent club.” In Bed With Maradina – Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Pione Sisto, Etc.

100 2015


Tactical Analysis: Napoli 2-1 Inter Milan | Fluid Neapolitan Football But Inter’s Energy Almost Alters Result

December 6, 2015

“Napoli went atop the Serie A standings for the first time since April 1990, with a win over Inter Milan decided by the narrowest of margins and some Gonzalo Higuain striking brilliance. Higuain’s brace took his goals tally to 12 this season, and only a fine save from goalkeeper Pepe Reina denied Inter a share of the points. Roberto Mancini’s Nerazzurri played the entire second half with ten men, but it was a case of too little too late for Inter, who lived to rue their defensive mistakes on the night.” Outside of the Boot


Ratings: Man Utd 0-0 West Ham: No goals and few ideas as Fellaini and Zarate go close

December 6, 2015

“Old Trafford played host to what was ultimately an underwhelming clash between Manchester United and West Ham United as neither side were able to score any goals despite a few promising chances and passages of play. The approaches of the two sides were perhaps best summed up by the individuals they channelled the majority of their play through: Marouane Fellaini for the hosts and Mauro Zarate for the visitors.” Squawka


More Charges as FIFA Inquiry Widens

December 3, 2015

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“The investigation into corruption and bribery in soccer that in May rocked FIFA, the sport’s multibillion-dollar governing body, metastasized on Thursday when United States officials unsealed a new indictment that alleged an even more extensive network of criminal behavior across dozens of countries and involved some of the most powerful people in international soccer. Sixteen new defendants were identfied, with charges including wire fraud, money laundering and racketeering, aimed almost entirely at individuals from Central and South America. Among them were aformer president of Honduras, a judge on the Constitutional Court of Guatemala and the current and former presidents of Brazil’s national soccer federation.” NY Times (Video)

Five-Star Zurich Hotel Again Figures Into FIFA Arrests
“Just before 6 a.m. here Thursday, Swiss law enforcement officers briskly entered a side door of the Baur au Lac hotel. Moments later, a hotel custodian, in a starched uniform and polished shoes, stepped out the front door of the five-star property and dutifully vacuumed the entryway carpets, seemingly oblivious to the police raid underway behind him. It would have been a bizarre juxtaposition for this plush, historic hotel on the banks of Lake Zurich if it were not so familiar. Just six months ago, the Swiss police arrived at the Baur au Lac for the first roundup of top soccer officials, rocking the soccer world and providing an august setting for charges of corruption, bribery, money laundering and other ignoble offenses.” Y Times