Monthly Archives: April 2016

Worth the Price of 92 Admissions: Entry Into a Stadium Fan Club

“The list includes ramshackle old stadiums, scented and scarred with century-old reminders of English soccer’s storied past, but also the gleaming cathedrals that testify to the Premier League’s rich new present. The City Ground (Nottingham Forest) and the County Ground (Swindon Town). Elland Road and White Hart Lane, but also Villa Park and Craven Cottage. Turf Moor and Deepdale and Ashton Gate. And when the final whistle blows at Saturday’s match between Manchester City and Stoke City, Martin Weiler, a 61-year-old soccer fan with no affiliation to either team, will leave the Etihad Stadium having seen a match in every one of them. In doing so, he also will become eligible for membership in one of soccer’s most distinctive supporters groups: the 92 Club, a small and exclusive fellowship made up of individuals who have watched a competitive league or cup match at the stadium of each of the 92 clubs in England’s top four divisions, which includes some teams from Wales.” NY Times

Janssen Transition a Godsend for AZ and Netherlands

“Every once in a while an individual emerges from relative obscurity. A rags to riches tale. And there’s no better contemporary example than Vincent Janssen, a relentless forward with boundless potential, his debut season in a top-flight league has been nothing short of extraordinary. No doubt when signing for AZ last summer from second tier club Almere City – where he managed 32 goals in 74 games – he was assured of his own abilities but even Janssen couldn’t have envisaged what has since transpired.” Who Scored?

Sakho, Psychos, Kings and Princes

“While there has been clear progress made under Jürgen Klopp, the recent ride has not been without its moments of worry – and that’s before the issue of centre-backs and their ‘slimming’ pills. I think we can all agree that the squad he inherited now looks a lot better than any of us thought back in October; almost every player has improved, or flourished, under him (some of it will be him improving them, and some of it them finding form), and the Reds are just two games away from a second final of the season. So this bodes well. My optimism remains undimmed, when a few games into this season it was very dim indeed.” Tomkins Times

Leicester and Tottenham offer hope by tinkering less and avoiding rotation

“A thought experiment. Let’s imagine the rumblings from the elite clubs reach their most extreme conclusion. Let’s assume there comes a super league of quasi-franchises playing each other over and over again. There would be some sort of trophy at the end of it, to provide at least a veneer of competition, but really it would be about revenue generation. The sporting aspect would take second place to entertainment. With no relegation, there would be a lack of fear and the game would become increasingly about attack. Goals would bring eyeballs and that, whatever lip service was paid to the charms of silverware, would be the real battle.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Alexander Hleb’s Broken Dreams at FC Barcelona

“Alexander Hleb won the treble in his first season at Barcelona, but his move away from Arsenal wasn’t the platform he had hoped for. In the ensuing years, the Belarussian has spoken out about his regret of leaving North London. Still only 26 at the time Hleb was a central figure in manager Arsène Wenger’s team and alongside Samir Nasri and Cesc Fàbregas were forming a dynamic attacking trio.” Futbolgrad

RB Leipzig Watch: Showdown at the “Betze”

“If you have never heard of SV Sandhausen, don’t worry you are not alone. The club from the South-West of Germany might be the most boring and forgettable one in the whole country. Nobody outside of that region knows where this small town of 15.000 even is. However the SVS is currently the 30th best football club in Germany. Which is a pretty great position for a club as bland as Sandhausen. MS Word 98, anyone? Please look at that logo!” Bundesliga Fanatic

Diego Simeone v Pep Guardiola: the defensive master faces the great creator

“When Diego Simeone was appointed manager of Atlético Madrid in December 2011, he faced an awkward conversation with his son. Taking over in Madrid meant he would be spending less time with his family in Argentina. His son’s concerns, though, were rather different. ‘You’re taking on Messi and Ronaldo?’ the nine-year-old said and laughed at the implausibility of such an undertaking. Simeone has come out on top against Lionel Messi twice in his four and a half years in Madrid but he has chosen his moments well, twice leading Atlético to success over Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals. Tuesday’s victory was an archetypal snuffing out, a transcendent example of how to prevent an opponent’s stars from shining. Simeone took on the Messi problem and solved it.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Scottish Cup semi-final: Rangers v Celtic Player ratings

“Rangers are through to their second cup final of the season after beating Celtic 5-4 on penalties following a 2-2 draw after extra time. So how did the individual players on each side fare? Former Rangers and Scotland midfielder Stuart McCall assesses the performances of the Ibrox side, while former Celtic and Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Pat Bonner rates Ronny Deila’s players.” BBC

Champions League semifinals yield intriguing, tough-to-call pairings

“The Champions League semifinal draw kept apart the two teams from Madrid and also denied Pep Guardiola the opportunity to face his club for next season, Manchester City–at least until a potential final. When the names were drawn out in Nyon, Switzerland on Friday, it was Manchester City vs. Real Madrid and Bayern Munich vs. Atletico Madrid. Both semifinals will be fascinating, but on the basis of the quarterfinals, you could argue that the two weakest teams still left face each other, as do the two strongest teams.” SI

Anfield effect can be overstated but there’s no denying it is also spectacular

“Football supporters are tribal creatures at heart, and remarkable as it may seem there were a few who professed not to enjoy Liverpool’s stupendous comeback against Borussia Dortmund on Thursday, the latest and arguably greatest drama yet in the long-running series of sublime-going-on-surreal European nights at Anfield. Messages appeared on social networks almost straight away, quite possibly from people with Manchester postcodes or Goodison Park season tickets, complaining that the way the media were (over)reacting anyone would think Liverpool had won the Champions League.” Guardian

Russia’s Leicester City: How FK Rostov are spearheading an unlikely title challenge

Rostov-on-Don, a quiet city based in the South-West part of the Russian Federation with a population of just under 1.1 million people. Not a place known by many outside of Russia and within Russia, both the city and the region are most well-known for its agricultural industry which produces one-third of Russia’s vegetable oil from sunflowers.” Outside of the Boot

Premier League Diary: Louis van Gaal would prefer to use Viagra as heart medication

“When the Diary tries to write its weekly column, it almost always reverts to using a laptop. Occasionally, if it’s feeling a little retro, it will bring out the old desktop, sit down, and pretend to be a proper writer. It isn’t just the desktop that makes it feel a little old-fashioned and nostalgic for a past that probably never was, but the accoutrements that are believed to be of that time.” Fusion

Former Chelsea, Everton, Tranmere and Scotland star Pat Nevin speaks to The Football Pink

“Former Chelsea, Everton, Tranmere and Scotland star Pat Nevin speaks to Mark Godfrey of The Football Pink. He talks openly about his upbringing in Glasgow, playing for the infamous Ken Bates at Chelsea, his time on Merseyside with Everton and Tranmere, representing his country 28 times and his current life as a TV pundit and analyser. He also discusses in great length his love of music and his involvement in various political issues.” Football Pink (Video)

Marko Nikolić’s Racial Slur Damages Serbian Football

“Former Partizan Belgrade manager Marko Nikolić, who is considered as one of the most talented Serbian managers at the moment, got himself into the spotlight last week for the wrong reason, and this incident is likely to have a negative impact on his career. Nikolić, who is now plying his trade at NK Olimpija Ljubljana, called his player Blessing Eleke a “black idiot”—a racial slur that was widely reported throughout Europe.” futbolgrad

History of the Ball

“According to official FIFA regulations, a soccer ball must be spherical, made of leather or another suitable material, the circumference must be between 68 and 70cm, the weight must be between 410 and 450g, and the internal pressure must be between .6 and 1.1 atmospheres. Within these regulations, however, there can be a lot of variation. The history of the modern soccer ball began in 1862 with the invention of the rubber bladder.” Soccer Politics

Furious Everton fan confronts Roberto Martínez after Mané levels for Southampton

“A defining week in Roberto Martínez’s reign began with one disgruntled fan invading the pitch in an attempt to confront the Everton manager, one unwanted record and the latest in a long line of lame displays at Goodison Park. The dissent and deflation will not have gone unnoticed by Farhad Moshiri, Everton’s new major shareholder, who was looking down from the directors’ box.” Guardian

Jamie Vardy and Leicester City climb every hurdle when doubts are raised

“All season, it feels as if it has been a case of the world waiting for Leicester City to slip up. Modern football is a place in which dreams melt to air; fairytales were for the 70s. And yet every time it appears they may falter, they somehow find an inner resolve that carries them through. Leicester may be the mice that roared – but they are mice with the strongest of backbones. On Sunday Leicester looked as if they had run out of attacking ideas. Sunderland had begun to look as though their vague threat might become something more substantial. Even with Jamie Vardy, thoughts had drifted away from which non-league side he scored against four years ago to doubts about his form.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Russia’s Leicester City: How FK Rostov are spearheading an unlikely title challenge

Rostov-on-Don, a quiet city based in the South-West part of the Russian Federation with a population of just under 1.1 million people. Not a place known by many outside of Russia and within Russia, both the city and the region are most well-known for its agricultural industry which produces one-third of Russia’s vegetable oil from sunflowers. However, in the last few months, this has changed considerably thanks to the efforts of the town’s football club FK Rostov. When analysing Rostov’s history in post-Soviet era Russian football since 1991, their record has been unremarkable.” Outside of the Boot

Group of death: FIFA officials’ financial secrets exposed in new Wikileaks-style trove

“Mossack Fonseca, a prominent law firm headquartered in Panama—with offices in 36 other jurisdictions—sprung a leak last year. That leak produced approximately 11.5 million documents revealing over 200,000 entities and 14,000 clients, surfacing relationships that had remained behind a veil of secrecy and attorney-client privilege. The leaked emails and documents reveal a wide spectrum of clientele—from politicians to celebrities, athletes, the ridiculously wealthy and powerful, and corporations—who have been turning to the firm for decades to create offshore shell companies, corporate vehicles that leave virtually no ownership footprint.” Fusion

Around Europe: Barcelona burnout; Ben Arfa makes his Euro case

“There were decisive moments in the title race in England and Germany, as respective leaders Leicester City and Bayern Munich came closer to the finishing line, though a shock result in Spain has opened the door to the pack chasing defending champion Barcelona. A new coach with a familiar name enjoyed a successful start at Lazio, while in France, a new hat trick hero has given national team boss Didier Deschamps a selection dilemma leading into Euro 2016. Here is what caught our eye this week from Around Europe.” SI (Video)

Can Southampton Become A Force In The Premier League?

“In a more normal Premier League season, the wider media would probably be spending more time rehashing the same clichés they’ve used for Southampton over the past couple of years. They’re hanging around the top eight having survived another summer of key departures (Morgan Schneiderlin and Nathaniel Clyne) and there’s no real signs of danger as they’re once again above average in controlling shot numbers for and against. Perhaps the quality of attacking football hasn’t quite been to the standard of the previous two seasons but it’s still been satisfactory. Their goal difference is fine enough at +11 and in a year of chaos and turbulence, Southampton are being their steady selves.” Stats Bomb (Video)

Tactical Analysis: Barcelona 2-1 Atlético | Red card = Atleti pseudo-compactness, Suarez and Messi capitalise

“In a repeat of the 2013-14 quarter final, Barcelona were pitted against Diego Simeone’s stubborn Atletico side who were riding high in La Liga, 6 points off their opponents on Tuesday night in 2nd place, having just swept aside Real Betis 5-1 at the weekend. Barcelona, on the other hand, came into this fixture on the back of their first defeat in 39 games to none other than their arch rivals Real Madrid at the Camp Nou. Facing the other team in Madrid just a few days later, who on their day have proven just as difficult to beat as Real, ideally wasn’t what they were looking for in terms of a confidence booster. However, considering the absence of key Atleti’s centre-backs Jose Gimenez and Stefan Savic and Barca’s quite phenomenal record against los Rojiblancos (6 consecutive wins), Barca would likely have come into this game, as they do in every other game, believing they could come away with the victory.” Outside of the Boot

Book Review: When Football Came Home

“In June this year, Henry Winter will publish Fifty Years of Hurt , a volume that will use England’s 1966 World Cup victory as a springboard to examine the fortunes of the national XI over the subsequent half century. We’ll have to wait and see as to whether Winter can manage to get through the exercise without spinning a specific narrative – be it about Charles Hughes, too many league fixtures, penalties and the practising thereof, foreign players in English football or the antiquated nature of the FA – but suffice to say, it’s often easy to use vague patterns and trends to shoehorn an argument. As Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski displayed in Why England Lose, later rechristened Soccernomics , England actually punch at about the weight they should do given the raw materials they have to work with and Hartlepool United fans might argue with the use of the word ‘hurt’ to describe a period that has actually come with more than a few high points.” thetwounfortunates, amazon, Guardian – When football came home: England’s rapture against Holland at Euro 96

For Club or Country?

“Today in class, we celebrated ‘Jersey and Scarf Day’; many of the students in our Soccer Politics class brought in their favorite piece of soccer memorabilia and shared their story about how it was obtained, as well as the extent of their allegiance to their respective team. The class appeared to be roughly split 50/50 between club teams and national teams. After observing this trend, I recalled back to an r/soccer forum from a few years ago which simply asked its readers: ‘Club or Country?’ Do soccer fans care more about club success or national team glory?” Soccer Politics

Barcelona’s Evolution: The beauty of the build-up phase

“Nowadays, arguably the most important phase in football is the build-up. Whether a team uses long balls to reach the final third or plays swift ground passes to breach the opponent’s stronghold, the build up plays a pivotal role in determining the outcome of a football match regardless. Like a movie, there needs to be a build-up towards the climax or the final product. In football, it is a continuous and seamless process, interchanging between both building, finishing and defending phases at all times.” Outside of the Boot

Burnley – Seasons In The Sun

“Life looks pretty good for Burnley at the moment, as they are top of the Championship table with a very good chance of an immediate return to the top flight. Even though they were relegated from the Premier League after a single season, chairman Mike Garlick rightly observed, ‘as a club we gained a great deal of respect and admiration throughout the football world.’” The Swiss Ramble

Tactical Analysis: Liverpool 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur | Effective pressing denies Spurs vic

“Harry Kane’s 22nd league goal of the season earned Tottenham a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Anfield on Saturday, but their failure to secure a victory allowed Leicester to stretch their lead at the top of the table to seven points the following day with a narrow 1-0 triumph over Southampton. Spurs will be disappointed to have lost ground on the league leaders, but their performance on a difficult day at Anfield against a resolute Liverpool side didn’t really warrant anything more than a point.” Outside of the Boot

Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool remind English football what it is good at

“Two games in five days, both 1-1 draws, both of the highest quality and played out with a ferocious intensity. There are plenty of reasons to believe Liverpool are moving forward under Jürgen Klopp. What he has also done is make Liverpool fun and, more than that, has demonstrated just how enjoyable, how good, English football – and an English style of football – can be. When Klopp arrived at Anfield, amid a cloud of excited chatter about gegenpressing, there were cynics who sniffed and asked just how new this great theory really was.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson (Video)

The Elephant in the Room … is a Bayern Munich regression inevitable?

“Let’s be honest, the lion’s share of Bundesliga’s European glory and UEFA coefficient points during the last half decade have been won by one club: FC Bayern München. Die Roten reached five (!) CL semifinals in the last six seasons and after getting past Juventus in dramatic fashion they look like a sure shot to make the semis again this year. Bayern will play Benfica Lisbon and let’s be real, they will go through if nothing crazy happens. Nobody can expect Bayern’s run of excellence to continue forever, so what can the Bundesliga do in Europe when Bayern slows down?” Bundesliga Fanatic

North East rivals spur each other on in thrilling title race

“If you think the Premier League and Championship title races are exciting, then it’s nothing compared to the battle to top this season’s Evostik Northern Premier League. North East rivals Blyth Spartans and Darlington 1883 enter the final stretch locked in a fight that’s almost certainly going to go down to a final day decider on April 23rd. Blyth, managed by local lad Tom Wade, are more renowned for their FA Cup giantkilling acts down the years while former Sunderland defender Martin Gray’s Darlington are a phoenix club formed in 2012 from the ashes of the former league club whose fortunes took a terminal nosedive after the folly of ex-chairman George Reynolds and their white elephant of a stadium.” Football Pink

El Clasico: Ronaldo, Real Madrid end Barcelona’s unbeaten run

“On an emotional day at Camp Nou that served as a tribute to the great Johan Cruyff, Barcelona’s unbeaten run ended at 39 matches with a 2-1 loss against Real Madrid. Barça’s lead at the top of La Liga shrank to six points, and the gap ahead of Real also went down to seven as a result. Despite dominating possession, Barça couldn’t score in the first half. Madrid’s chippy defense frustrated the home team, as center back Sergio Ramos in particular showed no shyness in conceding fouls if it looked like he might be beaten one-on-one. The Barça players frequently looked toward referee Alejandro Hernández with their arms outstretched, begging for a whistle.” SI

‘Italian Mourinho’ Antonio Conte will be shock for Chelsea players after gentle Guus

“Mattia Destro’s first night of marital bliss ended with a 5am wake up call. He kissed his bride goodbye and left for Florence. Italy training awaited. ‘If it were down to me,’ Antonio Conte smiled, ‘he would have already been on his way back after cutting the cake.’ The Italy manager would cancel Christmas too if the rules allowed him to as his former Siena players will tell you. Second in Serie B at the time, they had lost to Varese in their last game before the winter break in 2010.” Telegraph (Video)

Disaster averted, but issues remain for USMNT looking ahead

“So the world isn’t ending. Put down the pitchforks and torches, cancel the move into that bunker and hold off on the ritual sacrifices. Facing the unimaginable horror of elimination from the World Cup more than two years before the tournament kicks off in Russia, the U.S. national team gathered itself and blasted Guatemala, 4-0, on Tuesday evening in Columbus, Ohio. Now 2-1-1 in their four-team semifinal round group and scheduled to face St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago in September, coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s team looks to be well on its way to CONCACAF’s Hexagonal—just where it’s supposed to be.” SI

Bordeaux Chipping Away to Safety Under Club Legend Ramé

“‘Is there a Ramé effect? The future will confirm that – or not.’ It’s early days for Ulrich Ramé as Bordeaux coach, but it already seems as if he’s as steady a personality as a boss as he was as the goalkeeper that served Les Girondins for the best part of 15 years. When replacing the beleaguered Willy Sagnol at the helm, the new man was faced with the prospect of a genuine rearguard action. Bordeaux had won just two of their last 11 games in all competitions under Sagnol and were looking over the shoulders having begun the campaign with the expectation of pushing towards Europe.” Who Scored?

Klopp and Liverpool’s 39th Step of Progress

“Despite dropping points in the past two games from leading positions, Liverpool showed enough against Southampton – in a near-perfect first half – and Spurs (for the whole game) to suggest a team heading in the right direction. Progress is rarely linear. There will be downs as well as ups; form comes and goes. But the overriding impression is what counts, and right now that is of a side coming together nicely, if not yet perfectly.” Tomkins Times

The death of fair play in the Bundesliga?

“In the minutes after the final whistle, you could observe 1. FC Köln’s Dominique Heintz having a proper go at Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann. What happened? In the 90th minute, the Billy Goats lost the ball whilst going forward due to a clear cut foul on Lukas Klünter. Instead of blowing his whistle referee, Deniz Aytekin allowed the game to commence. Die Hoffe’s Andrej Kramaric desperately tried to get to the goal, and after getting past 4 men on an incredible run, he managed to fire off a shot which forced Timo Horn to give a rebound.” Bundesliga Fanatic

Assessing the Turning Point as Arsenal Leave it Too Late Again

“And so, for Arsenal, the familiar pattern repeats. Just at the moment at which all hope is almost gone, they start to play again. Saturday’s 4-0 win against Watford was a reminder of how good this Arsenal can be, of the swirl of passes, the sudden darts and thrusts, of football as art. But it leaves Arsenal 11 points behind the leaders Leicester City with a game in hand. It all feels like too little too late and demands the question of why? How is it that Arsenal can play like this now, but couldn’t when they endured that run of two wins in nine games through January, February and the beginning of March?” Who Scored?

Kaspar Schmeichel: Leicester’s unsung hero

during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Stoke City at The King Power Stadium on January 23, 2016 in Leicester, England.
“While much has been made of Leicester City’s remarkable attacking unit this season, less has been said about a defence that boasts the fourth best record in the division. The likes of Wes Morgan and Robert Huth have proved many people wrong over the course of an incredible campaign, but behind that defensive duo has been a goalkeeper finally beginning to step out of the shadows of his famous father. Kasper Schmeichel has been both blessed and cursed with his surname during his career.” Football Pink

Arsenal caught out at the near post by oligarchs and TV billions

“London was bright and sunny on the final day of the season 12 years ago. Arsenal’s players performed a cancan on the pitch at Highbury as fans chanted: ‘We are unbeatable.’ After an iffy first half, they had won 2-1 to complete a full season without defeat in the league. In the aftermath of that glorious achievement there was giddy talk of an assault on Europe as the final frontier. Alan Hansen described them as ‘the most fluid, devastating team that the British Isles has seen’.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Analysing Liga MX’s most talented players: Avilés Hurtado

“Who is Aviles Hurtado? 28-year-old Avilés Hurtado is a versatile attacking player, currently playing for Chiapas in Liga MX. Somewhat of a late developer, Hurtado only made his debut in the Colombian league seven years ago, for América de Cali. After a couple of years in Cali, Hurtado moved to Medellín in 2011 to join another Colombian giant, Atlético Nacional. Hurtado’s arrival in Mexico came before the 2013 Clausura (second-half of the season) as he moved to Pachuca.” Outside of the Boot

Uruguay legend Alvaro ‘El Chino ‘ Recoba bids farewell to football

“‘One last magic act.’ That’s how El Pais, Uruguay’s biggest newspaper, chose to headline their preview of Alvaro Recoba’s farewell match, which took place on Thursday night in the Gran Parque Central, a stadium he knew so well and lit up so frequently during his playing days with Nacional. Recoba debuted for Danubio back in 1994, but enjoyed his first successes — and his most recent ones too — with Nacional, where he became a club idol.” ESPN

The Bundesliga gets back to work – previews and predictions for Matchday 28

“After what seemed like an eternity of an international break, where we learned that Germany can look average defensively versus a speedy counterattacking England team and can dominate Italy’s C squad, the Bundesliga is thankfully returning. Let’s give a shout out to Leverkusen twitter before getting to our 10 predictions for Matchday 28!” Bundesliga Fanatic

Analysis: Chelsea’s press under Guus Hiddink

“Chelsea’s season is over. They went out of the League Cup in October, the Premier League title was gone months ago and the top four is pretty much out of reach now as well, and then, in the span of a week, the Blues went out of both the FA Cup and Champions League. Although Chelsea has not lost in the league since Guus Hiddink took over from Jose Mourinho, Chelsea have been lackluster. The form has improved only slightly; the offense still struggles for great portions of games, and the defense is porous.” Outside of the Boot