Monthly Archives: March 2016

Johan Cruyff: The man who made Total Football reality

“Johan Cruyff, who has died at the age of 68, was one of football’s greatest and most significant figures. The proof lies in two phrases with which he will always be synonymous. One is ‘Total Football’ – the style epitomised by the Netherlands team, with Cruyff as the centrepiece, who reached the 1974 World Cup final under Rinus Michels before losing to West Germany. It was a philosophy based on the theory that any outfield player could play in any other position on the pitch with comfort. Under his mentor Michels, Cruyff was the embodiment of the supremely skilled, multi-purpose footballer.” BBC (Video)


Explore the changing tides of European footballing power

“England’s Premier League is enjoying one of its most competitive seasons for years, but at the same time the league is without a club in Europe’s top 10 for the first time in 20 years. The interplay between competitive balance and outright quality of football is a complex one, and depending on who you talk to, different levels of importance are placed on each when it comes to talk of which league is the best.” FT Data

Is the integrity of international football under threat?

“Mid-March is upon us and the business end of the football season has arrived where we start to get an idea of the future destination of all the big prizes in both domestic and European football. As Sir Alex Ferguson famously remarked ‘It’s squeaky-bum time’. It also sees the arrival of the calendar year’s first worldwide international break where top level football across Europe takes a week’s break for a round of international matches. With 2016 being an even-numbered year and in addition a European Championships year for UEFA’s members, this batch of friendly matches has more of an edge to it than your traditional drab and half-hearted friendly international fixture that takes place prior to the start of the European league season in early August.” Outside of the Boot

FC Start – Footballers, heroes, tools of the state

“The story is an improbable one that is typical of the industry that retold and reshaped it; a group of war prisoners who take on their captors on a football pitch and surprisingly manage to defy the odds (and instructions) to end the game in a draw. There is an American hero in the form of a rookie goalkeeper who makes a string of saves as well as the obligatory happy ending with the players managing to escape after being swept away by a jubilant crowd. That is the script of Escape to Victory a movie that, more than three decades since its release, remains arguably the finest fictional portrayal of the game of football. It works not because the match action is particularly good (although it is done better than most) but mostly as the story draws on the powerful emotions that sport can foster. The plot itself might not be overly credible yet the idea that sport can deliver hope and instil faith where there seems to be none is totally believable.” Football Pink

Peru’s Achilles heel threatens to derail their World Cup path

“I was just turning five in the build up to the 1970 World Cup – too young to really understand what all the fuss was about. I do recall, though, some older kids nearby collecting the sticker album, and I can still remember going through a pile of their swaps. The first one I saw was a Peruvian – memory plays tricks but it might well have been Ramon Mifflin. Everything about the photo looked impossibly exotic – the Andean features and, especially, that red sash on the white shirt! In my young mind it all conjured up mystery and adventure.” The World Game – Tim Vickery (Video)

Is British football ‘winded’?

“Excuse the pun, but it’s a pun worth pursuing so please bear with me… I remember reading an excellent book by Gabrielle Marcotti and Gianluca Vialli a couple of years ago entitled ‘The Italian Job’, it was an insightful and intelligent read, very different to the usual football literature I had accumulated over the years. One thing from that book that has stuck with me all this time was the idea that the weather in the UK was detrimental to the development of great technical players, and playing great football.” Outside of the Boot

Aston Villa – This House Is A Circus

Micah Richards
“There seems to be no end to the misery that Aston Villa put their supporters through. The famous Midlands club, one of a select few to have won the European Cup, is stuck at the bottom of the Premier League table and look destined for a seemingly inevitable relegation, which would be the first time they had dropped from the top flight since 1987. Manager Rémi Garde described securing safety as ‘an impossible mission that we have to make possible’, though it would not be a major shock if the Frenchman were to be given his marching orders any time soon, given their impotent form. In truth, it always seemed a strange decision to entrust Villa’s fate to a man with no management experience in the Premier League.” The Swiss Ramble

Luis Suárez returns to a thriving Uruguay camp ready to unsettle Brazil

“From a narrative point of view, it would have been better if Uruguay had been struggling in World Cup qualification. It is appropriate that Luis Suárez’s return after his ban for biting Giorgio Chiellini during the World Cup in Brazil should come in a World Cup qualifier in Brazil, on Friday, but a sense of drama demands that he should be riding buck-toothed over the horizon to drag Uruguay from a position of hopelessness to qualification for Russia. As it is, he returns to a Uruguay side who are actually in pretty good shape.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Why Jurgen Kramny Should Be Considered for the Manager of The Season Award

“When I last wrote about VFB Stuttgart for the Fanatic, they were in the thick of the relegation battle, and they had just recently hired Jurgen Kramny. Even though I thought that they had the ingredients to improve, even the most optimistic Stuttgart supporter couldn’t have predicted what would ensue for Kramny and Die Schwaben. Despite their most recent performance, a disappointing 2-0 home loss to a talent-rich but injury-riddled Leverkusen, the fact that Stuttgart are 11th in the league is remarkable when you realize where they were when Kramny took over.” Bundesliga Fanatic

The North London Derby: An American Spurs fan’s pilgrimage to White Hart Lane

“Mostly due to the lack of an American television presence, my relationship with Tottenham Hotspur remained limited to the video game sphere for seven years, until August 18, 2013. Even the most devoted Spurs supporter would be hard-pressed to give you details about that day—a rather boring 1-0 win over Crystal Palace in the season opener—but for me, it exists like a B.C./A.D. divider for my fandom: everything before that date is pre-obsession, and everything after is tinted in club colors, blue and white.” Fusion (Video)

What Is Brussels?

“What is Brussels? The images of Tuesday’s attacks are of a city in transit, a crowded metro and a bustling airport, banal sites of everyday movement—now turned into spaces of death. The city is much less legible and familiar than Paris. We learn of fragments of its geography—an immigrant neighborhood called Molenbeek and downtown subway station called Maelbeek—but what connects them? Brussels is many things at once: the de facto capital of the European Union, a contested site in the long-running conflict between Dutch- and French-speaking groups, and a city of immigrants, remarkably cosmopolitan and diverse—a crossroads of histories and conflicts. The city is a place, but we should also think of it as a project: imperfect, unfinished, but essential.” Slate – Laurent Dubois

Leicester City phenomenon sparks all kinds of stories, inspiration

“How great is the Leicester City underdog story? Well, let’s just say that a four-day visit to the East Midlands—aka, the center of the soccer universe, circa 2016—can produce multiple stories that restore your faith in the inspirational power of sports. This much is fact: If Leicester City can hold onto its Premier League lead—currently at five points with seven games to go—it will be the greatest season-long surprise champion in the history of professional team sports. Remember, Leicester was a 5,000-to-1 shot to win the Premier League before the season, roughly the same odds of a No. 15 seed winning the NCAA basketball tournament (which, obviously, has never happened).” SI

The Current State of the Crimean Premier League

“Last week marked the two-year anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. Football clubs and its fans were also deeply impacted by this event, and within one year all three major clubs Tavriya Simferopol, FK Sevastopol, and the lesser-known Zhemchuzhina Yalta had to declare bankruptcy, and were dissolved, later to re-emerge as new clubs that could participate in the Russia football pyramid. These new clubs TSK (Tavriya Simferopol Crimea) Simferopol, SK Chernomorskogo Flota (SKChF) Sevastopol, and Zhemchuzhina Yalta played a handful of games in the third-tier Russian Professional Football League. On August 22, 2014 the UEFA Emergency Panel stated “that any football matches played by Crimean clubs organised under the auspices of the Russian Football Union (RFU) will not be recognised by UEFA until further notice.” The clubs were then disbanded.” Futbolgrad

Life’s a Pitch for Leo Messi

“Pitch concerns increase for Leo Messi as Suarez promises no return to naughty corner. Although Barcelona have a cushion at the top of La Liga that could comfortably house the most impressive of posteriors, the Catalan club will still be fretting and fussing outside football’s school gates as they drop their MSN at the rough-and-tough daycare that is the international break. Perhaps the biggest worry is over Leo Messi who has a fairly tough battle against Chile on Thursday night, followed by a clash in Cordoba against Bolivia on a pitch that looks a little like a post-apocalyptic cabbage patch.” Bein

Consolidation and Cup Finals

“How does one top arguably the greatest night in the history of the club? The answer was twofold for many Liverpool fans: keep Steven Gerrard and mount another genuine title challenge. The former would be ultimately successful; although it looked for a spell as if it would end with the captain jumping ship to Chelsea, Gerrard’s genuine love for the club overcame his demons of self-doubt. The latter – attempting to wrest the Premier League from the Londoners and Manchester United – would be infinitely more challenging and it would take a few years of tweaking and consolidation before a genuine title tilt would become a reality.” Tomkins Times

African players in the Premier League

“Peter Ndlovu was the first. Now 246 African players have played in the Premier League since it began in 1992, scoring 1,776 goals in 14,210 appearances. Chelsea legend Didier Drogba has scored the most goals (104), Kolo Toure has made the most appearances (349) while Nigeria (35) has contributed the most players. As the Premier League live fan park comes to Cape Town this weekend learn all you need to know about African players in the English top flight.” BBC, BBC – You can read an accessible version of this graphic here.

Remember the name Marlos Moreno… he’s a star in the making

“In the 22 years I have been living over here there have been plenty of careers I have been lucky enough to follow from the start. The highlight, of course, is Lionel Messi. Little known even by Argentina when he was called up for the South American U-20 Championship at the start of 2005 in Colombia. He was two years younger than the rest of the players and seemed half the size, an unimpressive figure – until the ball was tied to his left foot and all of us fortunate enough to be watching were aware that we were in the presence of something very special.” The World Game – Tim Vickery (Video)

Local hero Marcus Rashford gives Louis van Gaal hope of European place

“The ball was offered, then swiftly withdrawn and Martín Demichelis was hopelessly drawn in, snatching vainly at the space where the ball had been and collapsing as Marcus Rashford zipped by him, opened up his body and calmly rolled a finish past Joe Hart. A fifth goal for Manchester United puts the 18 year old from Wythenshawe level with Federico Macheda, an albatross of a comparison he will surely soon cast off, and reinvigorated United’s challenge for the top four. Whatever else happens, this season will not have been a waste for United if he delivers on even half his potential.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Liverpool – Over The Wall

James Milner
“It’s been a bit of a mixed bag for Liverpool supporters in recent times. Last season the Reds finished sixth in the Premier League, while they also reached the semi-finals of both domestic cup competitions, before being eliminated by Aston Villa in the FA Cup and Chelsea in the Capital One Cup. This season looks like it might be another case of Liverpool being the nearly men, having been narrowly beaten by Manchester City in the Capital One Cup on penalties, while they currently lie just outside the European places in the Premier League. They still have hopes of success in the Europa League, having just put bitter rivals Manchester United to the sword at Anfield, but there’s still a long way to go in that competition.” The Swiss Ramble

Tactical Analysis: Bayern Munich 4-2 Juventus (AET) | Intense match decided on the wings

“After a dramatic 2-2 draw in the first leg, Juventus travel to the Allianz Arena in Germany to face Bayern Munich in the last 16 of the Champions League. The first leg ended 2-2 at the appropriately named Juventus Stadium following Pep Guardiola’s Bayern going into a 0-2 lead. Readjustments from Massimillano Allegri which saw the men from Turin adopt a more direct style for the latter stages causing Bayern’s makeshift centre-back pairing of Joshua Kimmich and David Alaba serious problems.” Outside of the Boot

The Eredivisie Title Race – 2 teams, 1 champion

“With so much going on across Europe, it is very easy to forget about the Eredivisie. Napoli’s relentless chase of Juventus for the Serie A crown, Leicester’s astounding ascent to the top of the Premier League, PSG’s successful retainment of Ligue 1 and Barcelona’s utterly breath-taking performances over in Spain have caught the eyes of many. Over in Holland though, something equally as intriguing has been brewing. Two giants of the Dutch game, PSV and Ajax, sit atop the Eredivisie, separated by 1 point, and with 7 games each to go. Both have won exactly the same number of games this season. Things are tight, let’s say. But who will prevail?” Outside of the Boot

Emirates’ Rise Is Faced With Growing Threats

“In international soccer, the United Arab Emirates are looking good. The national team finished third at the 2015 Asian Cup continental tournament, and it is stocked with the country’s golden generation of players. The team has a real chance to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. The 14-team Arabian Gulf League, which professionalized in 2008, is now regarded as one of the best in Asia. One of the clubs, Al Ahli of Dubai, reached the final of the Asian Champions League last year. Yet the league still struggles to attract fans, and it is now facing twin threats from the rise of Qatar and China in global soccer that threaten to knock the Emirates down the soccer ladder.” NY Times

Inter and the Left

“Football’s relationship with politics both on the left and right has been well documented. Those who wish to reinforce their ideology over those whom they rule or wish to, have never been short on using the sport for its propaganda purposes and Mexico’s socialist Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) are no different. The EZLN were formed in late 1983 and based themselves in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. Their foundation was made amongst the complex ideologies of Mexico’s urban north and the indigenous populations of the remote areas of eastern Chiapas. Using connections between the local peasantry and the Catholic Church the group soon began to have a popular following. On January 1 1994 the EZLN made a public statement which in effect declared war upon the Mexican government.” In Bed With Maradona

Italy confirm that Euro 2016 will be last tournament with current manager

“It has been revealed that Antonio Conte will step down from his role as manager of the Italy international squad after they have finished competing in Euro 2016. The news has been confirmed by the Italian Football Federation that the competition will be the last that the 46-year-old will be in charge of the team.” backpagefootball

Champions League: Man City makes history, Atletico wins in dramatic PKs

“It was a night without goals in the two Champions League last-16 second legs, a pair of stalemates that saw Manchester City eliminate Dynamo Kyiv by virtue of its 3-1 victory in the first leg, while Atletico Madrid beat PSV in a dramatic penalty shootout to reach its third successive quarterfinal. For City, this is progression to the last eight for the first time in its history. The second leg was always likely to be a formality, but even so there was something strikingly dull about the most pedestrian of 0-0 draws in which the most notable incident was a first-half injury suffered by Vincent Kompany, a huge price to pay for a game in which both sides appeared to be doing nothing more than fulfilling a contractual obligation.” SI – Jonathan Wilson (Video)

Olympique Marseille: Staring into the Abyss

“I wasn’t exactly bullish on Marseille coming into this season. Though I was pleased with the club’s more youthful approach, the sheer amount of prime aged talent let go combined with the potential ramifications of Marcelo Bielsa second year syndrome meant that a 4th-6th place finish was more in order. But I didn’t expect this much of a drop off. No one could’ve expected that Marcelo Bielsa would leave after the home opener because of various reasons involving the Marseille higher ups. Marseille are currently 10th in Ligue 1, seven points from 4th place and six points away from relegation. The quality of football has been turgid, at times depressing. They haven’t won at home since September, they haven’t led in a match in over a month and haven’t had a lead of two or more goals since beating Caen in mid January.” Stats Bomb

The Downfall of Genoa

“From 1096 to 1797 the Republic of Genoa was one of the most powerful city-states in Italy and Europe. Alongside Venice, Pisa and Amalfi, it was one of the Maritime Republics, independent entities provided with a fleet of ships both for their own protection and to support their rich and extensive trade networks all over the Mediterranean Sea. During the 16th century Genoa flourished under the government of the admiral Andrea Doria (one of the two teams which in 1946 merged to form Sampdoria was named after him) but after reaching its peak the Republic fell in 1797, when Napoleone Bonaparte established the Ligurian Republic. In the 2014/2015 football season the region flourished much like it had in the 16th century: Genoa finished sixth on the table, with three points more than city rivals Sampdoria, who placed 7th but still qualified for the Europa League play-offs at the expense of the Rossoblu, who were denied a UEFA licence by the FIGC. Both Genoese teams outdid AC Milan and Inter Milan in the league table.” Stats Bomb

Football Weekly: Watford end Arsenal’s hold on the FA Cup

“On today’s Football Weekly, AC Jimbo welcomes Jonathan Wilson, Nick Ames and Gregg Bakowski to near-earth orbit to look back on a weekend of thrills and spills in the FA Cup, Premier League and beyond. We start in the FA Cup. Watford piled on the misery for Arsenal by ending their chances of winning the trophy for the third year in a row. The Hornets will be joined in the semi-finals by Everton – who saw off Chelsea in a game full of Diego Costa naughtiness – as well as Crystal Palace and one of West Ham or Manchester United, if they can ever find a date for a replay. Romance.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson (Video)

Vicenza Calcio – The Tumultuous Journey of one of Italy’s Oldest Clubs

“Without question, the ‘Ballon D’Or’ is one of the most prestigious awards to be handed to an individual during his professional career. Awarded annually to the best individual footballer of that calendar year since 1956, past winners have included Zidane, Rivaldo, Platini and Cruyff, amongst countless others. Interestingly, only 5 Italians have ever won the award. Omar Sívori in 1961, Gianni Rivera in 1969, Paolo Rossi in 1982, Roberto Baggio in 1993, and Fabio Cannavaro in 2006, all legends of the game, in Italy and across the globe.” Outside of the Boot

Scout Report: Oussama Tannane | The exciting Dutch forward

“Oussama Tannane is a Moroccan-Dutch footballer who currently plays for Ligue 1 side Saint-Etienne. He’s an exciting player who can get people on the edge of their seats with his creativity and pace. Born in Tetouan, Morocco in March 1994, Oussama Tannane also has a dual nationality with the Netherlands, and has made two appearances for the Netherlands U21 national team. Having spent his youth career at Zeeburgia, Ajax, FC Utrecht, PSV and SC Heerenveen. Tannane made his professional debut with SC Heerenveen at the age of 19 in the Netherlands Eredivisie league during the 2012-2013 season.” Outside of the Boot (Video)

If Klopp is the Future, How Long Will It Last?

“This article follows on from last week’s free piece, written in the aftermath of the 2-0 victory over Man United, which in turn took its inspiration from Jonathan Wilson’s quote (and here I merely paraphrase) about Louis van Gaal representing the past, and Jürgen Klopp the future. Football has its fashions – not merely superficial changes, but in terms of what’s effective – and yet not everyone keeps up with progress. And success doesn’t always belong to the team with the most radical style.” Tomkins Times

A classic Pep talk: Don’t mistake Guardiola’s passion for anger

“This isn’t the reaction we expected to see from Pep Guardiola, but knowing his character, it’s not too surprising. As the final whistle blows on a scoreless draw between his Bayern Munich and Bundesliga title rivals Borussia Dortmund, Guardiola marches onto the field with a purpose. He strides by late-game substitute Mehdi Benatia, briefly making a point with both his words and his hands, in the classic Guardiola manner.” SI

Talent Radar Young Midfielder Rankings: Dele Alli enters the mix

Julian Weigl
“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

English game lacks Champions League quality – but at least it is unpredictable

“Two down, two to go. Chelsea’s exit from the Champions League means half of the Premier League’s four entrants have gone and, barring something miraculous in the Camp Nou next week, Arsenal will join them, leaving only Manchester City, assuming they finish the job against Dynamo Kyiv. Had it not been for a tough knockout draw for Italian sides this season, the Premier League’s fourth Champions League slot might have come under serious threat from Serie A for 2017-18. As it is, England has picked up half a point more than Italy so far this season and, with only two Italian sides left in European competition one of them Juventus, who must go to Bayern Munich after a 2-2 draw in the home leg, that advantage should be increased. Given the Premier League’s wealth – it has 17 of the 30 clubs with the highest revenue in the world, according to the latest Deloitte report – the fact that the coefficient is even an issue is faintly embarrassing.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Eintracht Frankfurt’s New Coach – Niko Kovac

“Eintracht Frankfurt have signed a new head coach to replace Armin Veh. From now on Niko Kovac, 44, will be the man at the side-line together with his brother, Robert Kovac, as assistant coach. The brothers were born in Berlin, and Niko played 241 matches for Hertha BSC Berlin, Hamburger SV, Bayer Leverkusen and FC Bayern München. Eintracht Frankfurt is in danger to be relegated after a disastrous sequence of losses, as Die Adler are 16th in the Bundesliga table, sliding downward as they haven’t won in their last seven matches.” Bundesliga Fanatic

Why fly when you can walk on water? Arsenal FC v Hull City FC – Part One

“Sitting having my haircut this morning, in the few moments I can hear myself think over the brash man talking loudly about the tires on his Rolls-Royce, his Russian wife, or white water rafting with his Mother-in-Law, who he talked about in the manner akin to that of Alf Garnett, I consider my approach to today’s game. I respect the etiquette of the hairdressers perfectly, not saying a word except for the garbled instructions of what I would like done, and then keeping schtum, smiling occasionally when I make eye contact in the mirror with the barber.” backpagefootball – Part 1, Part 2

The referee’s a…..?

“I write this while happening to find myself on the same aeroplane as a current, high profile Premier League referee for the second time in as many weeks. I’m not usually one for fraternising with strangers on trains, planes and automobiles but I feel that, had I been sat next to the said official (who was, incidentally, with his wife/girlfriend and child), we could quite easily have bonded over the copy of When Saturday Comes I had just purchased from the terminal’s branch of WH Smith’s; and also, not least, because he and I briefly opened the batting together for Blyth Cricket Club second XI some twenty or so years ago. He won’t remember me from that; my time at the crease at the opposite end was generally short and uneventful.” Football Pink

Liverpool, Manchester United appear to be rivals heading on opposite paths

“The only good news for Manchester United is that it was not worse. It wasn’t just that Louis van Gaal’s streak of four straight wins over his club’s bitterest rivals came to an end, it was the manner of the defeat. United was thoroughly outplayed in the 2-0 loss to Liverpool in their Europa League last-16 first leg. United was grateful to David De Gea for keeping the score down, and, while it’s not inconceivable that the deficit–the result of a Daniel Sturridge penalty and another goal from Roberto Firmino–can be made up at Old Trafford next week, it would take a radically improved performance even to be possible.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Arsenal are finding fresh ways to fail in pursuit of Premier League title

“Last season it was August, the season before that it was March, the season before that it was January and the season before that it was March and April and bit of May. This season it’s now. Every year Arsenal have a spell in which they undo the good work that has made them look potential title challengers. That was perhaps the most striking aspect of the defeats by Manchester United and Swansea: that this lack of edge, this failure to seize an opportunity, felt so familiar.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson (Video)

Impressions of an Exciting Bundesliga Saturday

“MatchDay 25 was a glorious one for the Bundesliga. After a rare midweek slate of matches, one would think that it would be a low-scoring weekend, with players fatigued from their exertions a few days back as the season nears the stretch run. But not so. The six early Bundesliga matches showed a total of 26 goals scored, with the late Saturday matchup between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, the league’s two best clubs and the highest scoring. And, in predictable unpredictable Bundesliga fashion, Der Klassiker ended up scoreless between the German giants.” Bundesliga Fanatic

Tactical Analysis: Real Madrid 0-1 Atletico Madrid | Atleti shut down the center

“The Madrid derby is always one of the fiercest in the world, and the past several years have only heightened the rivalry. With Diego Simeone leading Atleti back to success, the past four years have seen the derby pick up in quality as well as intensity. Real hasn’t beaten Atleti in three seasons, an embarrassing stat for Real. Both teams needed three points to keep up with Barcelona in the chase for the league title as well.” Outside of the Boot

The history of the FA Cup trophy

“The FA Cup is, without a doubt, a huge part of English football, and the history of the FA Cup trophy itself is a rich and colourful one. First held in the 1871-72 season, the FA Cup is the oldest football competiton in the world and provides a unique opportunity for smaller teams to face the top teams. The FA Cup Final is a huge sporting event and it has an iconic trophy to match.” Football Pink

Tactical Analysis: Lyon 2-1 PSG | Evolution of Genesio’s 4-3-3

“Missing Samuel Umtiti, Clement Grenier and Christophe Jallet due to suspension and Mathieu Valbuena and Corentin Tolisso to injury, Paris Saint-Germain’s maiden visit to the Stade des Lumieres had all the makings of a nightmare scenario for hosts Olympique Lyonnais, especially given the clubs’ four prior meetings this season. Once in the league, once in the cup, once in the league cup and once in the Trophee des Champions, France’s version of the Community Shield, Lyon and the champions had met, and each time, the outcome was decisive. Lyon, despite a creditable performance in the Coupe de France had never looked close to having a handle on the champions, and on a weekend where most contenders for the league’s European positions had stumbled, for Lyon to improve their situation seemed unlikely.” Outside of the Boot

Drastic changes are needed at Celtic but will the board listen?

“Top of the league with ten games to go and still in with a chance to win the Scottish Cup, you would expect supporters of such a club to be happy with their lot, but this is Celtic we are talking about and expectations are not being met. Booing has replaced cheers at Celtic Park, as the stadium once dubbed Paradise is turning into a Hieronymous Bosch scene. Performances under manager Ronny Deila have been woeful, the players struggling to do even the basics of what is expected of a professional football player and above all else – there is a lack of entertainment.” Scotzine

West Brom 1-0 Man Utd player ratings: Rondon punishes vistors following Mata dismissal

“A first half sending off for Juan Mata proved to be the catalyst for a West Bromwich Albion victory at the Hawthorns, as Tony Pulis’ men ran out 1-0 winners over Manchester United. Although the Baggies struggled to make the most of their one-man advantage for the most part, they did finally take the lead after 66 minutes when Salomon Rondon turned on a sixpence and fired home from close-range, following Sebastian Pocognoli’s cross.” Squawka

FIFA, Knowing Prosecutors Are Watching, Makes Some Changes

“ZURICH — Soccer’s governing body used an election on Friday to try to break with the past. FIFA chose a new president, the Swiss administrator Gianni Infantino, while approving reforms intended to overhaul the multibillion-dollar organization that the American authorities said last year was overrun with criminals. A new era has begun, Mr. Infantino said, addressing fellow FIFA officials in a stadium here but surely hoping that United States prosecutors were listening from afar. In their continuing case, the federal authorities in Brooklyn have depicted the Switzerland-based FIFA as a victim, hijacked by depraved leaders — corrupted but not corrupt. The organization hired top defense lawyers and crisis managers from the United States to share information with investigators and help advance that characterization in the nine months since charges were first unsealed.” NY Times
NY Times: The Baur au Lac and Me (Video)
NY Times: Sepp Blatter, on Eve of FIFA Election, Is Exiting ‘a Happy Man’

The Story of Arsenal vs Barcelona: Will Arsenal ever beat Barca?

“The Story of Arsenal vs Barcelona: Will Arsenal ever beat Barca? Arsenal and Barcelona are frequently compared among football fans with their similar football styles; high possession rate, tiki-taka, total football, and etc. Both teams, almost every season, record highest ball possession rates in their corresponding leagues. Iniesta once said ‘I think Arsenal still play the best football in England. They play in a style in the way that most emulates what we do in Barcelona – and what is in our opinion the right way to approach the game … their football philosophy is the most attractive in England.’ As shown in this comment, one of the greatest products created by the Barcelona system obviously has respect for Arsenal’s football and also admits that Arsenal is somehow imitating Barcelona’s style.” Soccer Politics

Three points for a goal? League 1 America: the soccer revolution that never was

“Two weeks ago Jim Paglia, a 63-year-old businessman, was moving home. The boxes in his new house no doubt contained possessions of personal interest. But hidden amongst the stacks was also a collection of documents that would intrigue the soccer public too. The boxes contained perhaps the last remnants of a failed bid against MLS’s claim to America’s first-division status: proposals for a single-entity league that looked to radically Americanize soccer and attract fans to a sport that had been in hiatus professionally for nearly a decade. This, the plans show, would have also meant changing the game. There would be electronic sensors, pitch divisions and Lycra-like jerseys. Goals? They would be replaced by points. And the goals themselves? Well, there would be four of them.” Guardian

Talent Radar Young Defender Rankings: Dortmund’s Ginter & Atletico’s Gimenez rise

“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

Arsenal – Brass In Pocket

“As Arsenal enter the business end of the season, there is still much to play for, even though they are now likely to be eliminated from the Champions League by the mighty Barcelona. The domestic double is still up for grabs with nobody running away with the league, while the Gunners’ recent record in the FA Cup is second to none. However, many supporters are nervous about the team’s ability to finish the job, as the customary spate of injuries has led to a distinct dip in form.” The Swiss Ramble