The New Manager Effect – Five Under the Radar European Managerial Changes to watch in 2016/17

July 30, 2016

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“The conclusion of the European football season, a time for fans to sit back and reflect on the season just passed for their club. To assess and debate whether or not it was a good, bad or merely average season. The owners and board members of clubs will also spend the summer months doing exactly the same thing, however, the one crucial difference is they must make a decision whether to continue with the incumbent manager or whether to make a change. For those that choose the latter option and make a change, there is no such thing as a summer break, negotiations and interviews remain ongoing until a suitable replacement has been found. Criteria is weighed up such as past success at clubs, experience, past performances at clubs counter-balanced alongside the financial situation said individuals inherited and whether or not a new inexperienced manager could add a breath of fresh air to a football club.” Outside of the Boot


Millwall – Hard Times

July 30, 2016

“Millwall narrowly missed out on bouncing back to the Championship at the first time of asking, losing 3-1 against Barnsley in the League One play-off final. Although this was not the outcome that Lions’ supporters would have desired, there were plenty of encouraging signs for The Den faithful. As chairman John Berylson observed, ‘This was going to be a rebuilding year and that has proved to be the case.’” Swiss Ramble


What does it take to unearth a footballing genius?

July 30, 2016

“Discovering a rare talent. ‘I think I have found you a genius.’ This was the simple telegram sent by Belfast-based scout Bob Bishop to Manchester United manager Matt Busby after watching a 15-year-old George Best play. Prior to this encounter, Best had remarkably been rejected by local club Glentoran for being ‘too small and light’ but Bishop was undeterred, noting Best’s fleet of foot and dazzling trickery. The rest is history, and demonstrates that football scouting is as much of an art as a science.” BBC (Video)


Waiting for Con – Ireland’s sports writing colossus

July 30, 2016

“Considering the circumstances of one’s own conception is a curious concern. Dispensing with the questions that are perhaps too crude to contemplate – where, when, and, the most dreaded of all, how – the possibility of ‘why?’ can, on occasion, generate some intriguing answers. Born in mid-March, 1991, a standard gestation would suggest my own ‘seedtime’ fell somewhere in or around June of the previous year. An incongruous month of boring, goal-stricken football for most, Italia ’90 cemented Ireland’s nationwide fascination with a sport whose appeal had been suitably whetted two years previously at Euro ’88.” Football Pink


Player Aging: Attacking Players

July 23, 2016

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“First things first. Although I never publicly announced it at the time, I’ve spent the last 12 months consulting for a Premier League football team. My engagement ended at the end of the 2015/16 season and so now I’m able to pick up my virtual pen and begin writing again. It’s been about 18 months since I’ve done this so please be gentle…” StatsBomb


Antonio Conte: Exploring Italy’s tactics at Euro 2016

July 23, 2016

“They may have been eliminated from the tournament in the quarter-finals, but in football you don’t just remember the winners. You remember the team that inspires the viewer the most. The Italy of Conte is a team that impressed a lot, not just me but the entire world of football. With as few opportunities to have sessions together as national teams have, it is quite usual to see national teams have an unclean collective positional structure/systems defensively and attacking wise, to rely a lot more on individual qualities. What Conte managed to build for this tournament, was a fantastic collective team, which in my opinion was the best this Euro 2016.” Outside of the Boot (Video)


The Beauty of Mediocrity

July 23, 2016

“Winning isn’t everything in football. As Evertonian and Sheffield student Alex Leonard explores, relationships with underachieving clubs are not only unexpectedly romantic but can teach you valuable life lessons too. An uncomfortable consensus of disgust led much of the Kop end to leave early. A slow grumbling stream of red and white headed for the exit. Yet despite the utterly woeful football on display, I felt compelled to stay, shivering in the bitter March evening.” Football Pink


Lazio Inches Closer to an Italian Soccer Title … From 1915

July 23, 2016

“Lazio is closing in on the Italian soccer championship. The championship of 1915. Prompted by a petition signed by 30,000 Lazio fans, a committee of the Italian soccer federation is set to recommend that Lazio be declared co-champions of a tournament that concluded more than 100 years ago.” NY Times


Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland)

July 23, 2016

“… I have tried to make all the club crests on the map approximately the same size. From the original blank map I added lakes in Sweden and Finland, plus I also added flanking-edge areas not in the original blank map (in the Baltic States/Eastern Europe and in NE Netherlands). I did this because I had to tilt the original map to orient it in a more North-South axis. That was necessary because the original map’s focal point was the Norwegian Sea, not the Scandinavian Peninsula, and so Scandinavia-and-Finland looked distorted – until I tilted the whole map about ~20 degrees.” Bill Sport Maps


Stefan Reinartz’s path from player to analyst helps us understand passing

July 23, 2016

“As Stefan Reinartz’s career as a tidy holding midfielder in the Bundesliga began to stall due to various injuries, his curiosity about the machinations of the game only grew bigger. … Reinartz and Hegeler decided to look at passing; more specifically, they searched for a way to assign a numerical value to effective passing.” ESPN


The Question: was Euro 2016 the death of possession football?

July 19, 2016

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“So, it’s over then, the worst of the 15 European Championships to date, a tournament so bereft of quality that Wales’s mildly diverting win over an inept Belgium was raised to the status of minor classic. Of 51 games, perhaps one, France’s victory over Germany, will be remembered by neutrals – and it, in truth, was utterly unrepresentative of the rest of the tournament. Many have questioned whether Portugal were worthy winners but in a sense they are the most worthy of winners: no champion ever, perhaps, has been so representative of the ethos of a tournament.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Euro 2016 Tactical Analysis: France 0-1 Portugal (AET) | Substitutions the key for Portugal

July 19, 2016

“The Euro 2016 final saw the home nation favourites France take on Portugal. France, who played in a 4-2-3-1 for almost the entirety of the match, dominated the match but were unable to put away their chances. Portugal stuck with the 4-4-2 diamond that had got them to the final and put on yet another disciplined display, made even more impressive following Ronaldo’s early exit from the match. Combined with the goalkeeping heroics of Rui Patricio, excellent substitutions, and France’s profligacy in front of goal, Portugal was able to record their first ever major tournament victory. This tactical analysis will look at how the teams set up to play, Portugal’s tactical change, and key substitutions that affected the outcome of the match.” Outside of the Boot


Goodbye Dani Alves: Barcelona’s search for a new right back

July 19, 2016

“After nearly a decade of quality and assurance in the right-back position, Barcelona are left with a qualm. With Dani Alves departing for Juventus on a free transfer, and Aleix Vidal showing serious doubts about his ability to be starting for a club of this size, it is most likely that a new signing will be necessary at the Nou Camp, to take over the right-back position. Candidates have been discussed widely with many names being thrown into the hat. Throughout this piece I will look at a number of options, perhaps some ‘different’ names not so widely spoken of.” Outside of the Boot


Angels with Dirty Faces: How Argentinian Soccer Defined a Nation and Changed the Game Forever

July 19, 2016

“Argentina has produced Alfredo Di Stéfano, Diego Maradona, and Lionel Messi—some of the greatest soccer players of all time. The country’s rich, volatile history is by turns sublime and ruthlessly pragmatic. A nation obsessed with soccer, Argentina lives and breathes the game, its theories, and its myths. Jonathan Wilson lived in Buenos Aires, in an apartment between La Recoleta Cemetery—where the country’s leading poets and politicians are buried—and the Huracán stadium. Like his apartment, Angels with Dirty Faces lies at the intersection of politics, literature, and sport. Here, he chronicles the evolution of Argentinian soccer: the appropriation of the British game, the golden age of la nuestra, the exuberant style of playing that developed as Juan Perón led the country into isolation, a hardening into the brutal methods of anti-fútbol, the fusing of beauty and efficacy under César Luis Menotti, and the emergence of all-time greats in Maradona and Messi against a backdrop of economic turbulence.” amazon – Jonathan Wilson


After unorthodox path, Griezmann has France on cusp of Euro 2016 title

July 8, 2016

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“‘They didn’t create any chances,’ Germany manager Joachim Low moaned following the Euro 2016 semifinals. And yet somehow France scored two goals in the 2-0 victory, both from its newest hero with the unique backstory, Antoine Griezmann. One, admittedly, was a penalty awarded after a handball following a set piece, but the other was a classic piece of poaching. There was something very old-fashioned all around about that second strike–a cross, a goalkeeper stretching with a striker bearing down, the loose ball prodded in. It felt anachronistic, which perhaps goes some way to explaining Germany’s greatest problem in this tournament–and also why Griezmann has had such an impact.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Euro 2016, ISIS, and France

July 8, 2016

“On March 29th, 2016, France played Russia in the first football match to take place in the Stade de France since the terrorist attacks on November 13th. Before the game, the media coverage centered as much on the increased security presence as on the game itself. Commentators wondered: would fans feel safe returning to the stadium? Would the stadium be full? Would the atmosphere be lively or sober? The players were attuned to the extraordinary circumstances as well: speaking about returning to the site of the attacks, French striker Olivier Giroud said that ‘we are human beings before being sportsmen…It will obviously affect us to go there.’” Soccer Politics


Sister of French Soccer Star Antoine Griezmann Recalls Terror of Paris Attacks

July 8, 2016

“Maud Griezmann walked into the concert hall and looked around. It was a little before 9 p.m. on Nov. 13 at the Bataclan in Paris, and she admired the grand stage. She looked at the growing crowd. She watched, for a few moments, as a man at the souvenir stand sorted T-shirts and posters and CDs for the band Eagles of Death Metal, which was just about to begin its set. Then Ms. Griezmann looked quickly at her phone. Her brother Antoine Griezmann is a star forward for France’s national soccer team, and he was playing that night at the Stade de France, just outside the city limits. It was an exhibition match against Germany. The game and the concert were scheduled to start around the same time. Ms. Griezmann put her phone away. She wanted to listen to the music.” NY Times


France overcomes Germany at last in impassioned Euro 2016 semifinal

July 8, 2016

“Euro 2016 at last had its great game, not quite an all-time classic perhaps, not Seville ’82 certainly, but a minor epic of passion and controversy played out on a balmy evening in front of a febrile crowd in the most striking of French stadiums. It ended with France having beaten Germany in a competitive game for the first time since 1958, two Antoine Griezmann goals taking the host through to Sunday’s final against Portugal after a 2-0 victory over the reigning World Cup champions.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Euro 2016 Tactical Analysis: France 5-2 Iceland | France overpower incoherent Iceland

July 8, 2016

“The sharks meet the minnows, David meets Goliath, underdog meets the host nation. Of the quarter finals, this was certainly the matchup with a greater disparity. France, a football powerhouse, facing Iceland, in their first major tournament. Although many thought that Iceland had an outside chance to keep their fairy tale alive, France crushed those dreams. It was a dominant performance from the French from start to finish.” Outside of the Boot


Wales exceeded expectations at Euro 2016 – but must now deal with them

July 8, 2016

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“Commiserations to Wales, whose exhilarating Euro 2016 journey came to an end at the semi-final stage in Lyon, but congratulations to all concerned for lighting up the tournament – particularly from a British point of view – and showing what is possible when a team functions as a team and takes a strong mentality and deep reserves of self-belief out on to the pitch. This is not intended as veiled criticism of England, though some may read it that way, for the Welsh and the English narratives have been inextricably entwined in France. They were drawn in the same group, and though England won the head-to-head battle – just – they lost the war by finishing second to a team with two victories.” Guardian


Zinedine Zidane’s World Cup final headbutt recalled, 10 years later

July 8, 2016

“Berlin’s Olympiastadion was hot and humid on July 9, 2006. There had been storms all week. Zinedine Zidane had converted a penalty early in the World Cup final. Marco Materazzi had headed an equalizer. Italy had hit the bar. France had been denied another penalty. The game went into extra time and seemed to be heading for penalties. Then, with 10 minutes to go, a France attack was thwarted. As the ball was cleared, I saw out of the corner of my eye, a blue-shirted figure collapse. Something clearly had happened. The game stopped.” SI – Jonathan Wilson (Video)


Euro 2016 Tactical Analysis: Wales 1-0 Northern Ireland | Northern Ireland’s high press and Wales’ reliance on crosses

July 8, 2016

“The work begun by John Toshack was pushed forward by the late Gary Speed, and now Chris Coleman seems to be putting the final touches on a talented group of players. Wales have looked a calm and confident team so far, with two very good results for them against Slovakia and Russia sandwiched between a blip against England. Coleman said he felt that this blip would certainly not end the ‘journey’ Wales were on, and when one observes the togetherness of the players on the field, it would take a difficult result to send them home. Northern Ireland managed to concede a single goal to Wales and were looking to improve on a solid defensive but toothless offensive showing against the world champions Germany. This 1-0 defeat was enough to put them through to the last 16, but there were question marks over how they would fare against a hungry, young Welsh side.” Outside of the Boot


Euro 2016 Tactical Analysis: Germany 1–1 Italy (6-5 Pens) | Germany and Italy play almost similar systems

July 8, 2016

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“Joachim Low, in order to tackle Antonio Conte’s almost unbeatable 3-5-2 formation, decided to change his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation to 3-5-2. Germany took the lead through Mesut Ozil and Italy equalized through Leonardo Bonucci’s penalty. In the penalty shootout after the extra-time, 7 kicks failed to end up in the back of the net. Finally, it was Germany that managed to sneak through to the semi-finals of Euro 2016 just like Jonas Hector’s shot slipped under Gianluigi Buffon in the ultimate and decisive kick of the match. Here’s my tactical analysis of the game.” Outside of the Boot


Euro 2016 Tactical Analysis: Germany 3-0 Slovakia | Germans outplay Slovakia

July 8, 2016

Germany’s dominant display against a resilient Northern Ireland team suggested that the signs were indeed present that they would be able to mount a challenge for the European championship. While this victory by a single goal was enough and certainly efficient by German standards, they will need more goals as they face sterner tests. It is promising that there is a strong core and continuity from their World Cup success, that will provide invaluable experience to help them progress in the tournament.” Outside of the Boot


Portugal rides its defending, Ronaldo’s heroics to Euro 2016 final

July 8, 2016

“With a goal and an assist, suddenly everything is right in the world of Cristiano Ronaldo. This may be the least entertaining of the seven Portugal sides to reach the semifinals of a major tournament, but it is only the second to reach a final, after a comfortable 2-0 win over Wales, and if Ronaldo’s role is simply to provide a cutting edge ahead of the hard-tackling midfield that is the true strength of the side, neither he nor they will mind. It’s a remarkable sleight of tactical hand that Fernando Santos has pulled to create a situation in which one of the greatest players of all time is a sort of bolt-on to the main body of the side, but Ronaldo is not the reason Portugal is in the final of Euro 2016. He played excellently against Hungary, but if Portugal had continued to defend as it did in that 3-3 draw, it would not have got this far.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Wales 3 -1 Belgium

July 1, 2016

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“Wales reached the semi-finals of a major tournament for the first time after a stirring fightback to defeat Belgium in the European Championship quarter-final in Lille. Radja Nainggolan put Belgium ahead with a thunderous 25-yard strike but Wales captain Ashley Williams headed in from a corner to equalise in a breathless first half littered with chances at both ends. Welsh celebrations reached stratospheric levels when Hal Robson-Kanu, a striker without a club, gave them the lead with a divine turn and finish.” BBC (Video)


Euro 2016 Tactical Analysis: England 1 – Iceland 2 | Tactically disciplined Iceland kicks England out of Europe.

July 1, 2016

“When England scored its first goal, the Icelandic players must have told ‘theta reddast’ to each other. It’s a common saying in Iceland and means everything is going to be fine. In the end it was all good for the small island nation. Iceland knocked England out of Euro 2016 and forced Roy Hodgson to retire after coming back from behind and taking the lead very early in the first half. Iceland put on a well-disciplined tactical display and with a hardworking and collective approach it managed to stifle England through some good space compression in the midfield.” Outside of the Boot


England absorbs more shame, failure with Euro 2016 ouster to Iceland

July 1, 2016

“For two years Roy Hodgson has been saying that England would be at its best when it faced a side that attacked it, when it could use its ace in forward areas to play on the counterattack. We’ll never find out if that was true. No side has attacked England since Switzerland did in the second half of the Euro 2016 qualifier in Basel in September 2014, when England, playing with uncharacteristic poise, won 2-0. Perhaps this side could have challenged Germany or France (although the defending against Iceland suggests not), but we’ll never know, because it failed in what seemed the most basic of tasks, beating a nation with a population of 330,000.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

England Loses
“England has now left Europe twice in four days, with the second departure allowing this writer some small sentiment of retributive justice for the stupidity of the first. After the unmitigated and unfolding disaster of Brexit, the English national football team was defeated 2-1 by Iceland yesterday in the European Football Championship. Iceland! That’s right. With a population of around 330,000, with a fair scattering of part-time players and a coach who also works as a dentist and a goalkeeper who is also a filmmaker, Iceland defeated England, the country who first formulated the game of association football in the nineteenth century and has the richest league in the world and most of the game’s best-paid players.” NYBook


Team England, the FA and the Great EPPP Gamble

July 1, 2016

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“As far as can be observed from social media, there were two responses to England being beaten by Iceland in Euro 2016. The first was blind fury, rage at overpaid footballers and incompetent coaches. The second, the more favourable one, was uncontrollable laughter prompted by the singular failure of technique, passing, shooting, crossing and, in some remarkable instances, controlling a ball. Both are equally valid but option two had the added frisson of the hilarity gleaned from seeing our Wayne tripping over footballs, the ground and his feet, on several occasions.” In Bed With Maradona


Copa America 2016 Tactical Analysis: Argentina 0-0 Chile (2-4 pens) | Chile adapt quickest & win midfield battle

July 1, 2016

“The Copa America Centenario concluded on Sunday night with a tense, closely-fought contest between Argentina and Chile in a repeat of last year’s final. And, in a prescient case of déjà vu, it once again saw Chile emerge triumphant from a penalty shootout after a goalless draw, handing them their second trophy in quick succession. Much of the aftermath was dominated by Lionel Messi’s shock announcement that he would be retiring from international football following a fourth final defeat for Argentina. However, this shouldn’t overshadow the great achievement by Chile in what was a fascinating final between two well-matched sides.” Outside of the Boot


Brutally tough path suiting Italy’s strengths at Euro 2016

July 1, 2016

“This was, they said, the weakest Italy squad in half a century. The draw has been so unkind that, after facing Belgium in the group stage, Italy’s putative route to the final means taking on the world champion Germany after the defending European champion Spain with the host France–or the host-slayer Iceland–waiting in the semi. For other sides that might have been too daunting a prospect, but Italy seems almost energized by it. Antonio Conte’s side has produced highly astute tactical performances to beat Belgium and Spain. It wouldn’t even be true to say they were counterattacking displays, although that clearly is a strength of his side, because Italy matched Spain for possession in the first half of their last-16 clash. But it is a team that is at its best using an opponent’s strength against itself.” SI – Jonathan Wilson