Diego Costa’s cheery scowl shows Chelsea are in a good place

November 26, 2016

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“Unless the rest of his life is one enormous bluff, it is safe to assume Diego Costa is not a particularly successful poker player. It is never hard to know what he is thinking: he is an open book whether he is scowling in anger, scowling in frustration, scowling in irritation or, as has increasingly been the case recently, scowling cheerily.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Team Comparisons: Good (and Bad) in the Premier League

November 26, 2016

“Twelve games have passed in the Premier League and there’s value in looking at comparative historical numbers at various points. It’s a good time to take stock because a) it’s starting to become a vaguely decent sample and b) I have a load of numbers stored at twelve games because i’ve written this before. This is the eighth season of Opta data that has been published publicly around the place and with every season that passes, the more interesting the outliers become.” Stats Bomb


U.S. Men’s Soccer Has an Ally in Misery: England

November 26, 2016

“A humbling defeat at the hands of a nation a small fraction of your size. A manager briskly fired, hastily replaced on a messy temporary basis by pretty much the only guy anyone could think of at the time. Question marks that linger not just about whether the team is good enough, but whether the players themselves care enough about representing their country.” NY Times


Tactical Analysis: Atletico Madrid 0-3 Real Madrid | Zidane ends Real Madrid’s derby woes

November 26, 2016

“Real Madrid extended their unbeaten run in La Liga to 24 matches with a comprehensive victory in the last ever derby to take place at the Vicente Calderon. Atletico had not lost at home in the league for over a year but Zidane successfully came up with a game plan to maintain his unbeaten away league record since taking over as Real Madrid manager.” Outside of the Boot


Tactical Analysis: Manchester United 1-1 Arsenal | Static play from Arsenal as United control the center

November 26, 2016

“Premier League’s greatest rivals went up against each other as Mourinho faced Wenger for the first time as a Manchester United manager, having been unbeaten against the Frenchman in his 11 previous Premier League meetings. The onus was on Man United to grab the initiative and take the three points at Old Trafford as they were already eight points behind league leaders Liverpool. Arsenal on the other hand, had the chance to claim top spot with a win over their rivals.” Outside of the Boot


From Budapest to São Paulo: How Bela Guttman influenced Brazil’s golden generation

November 26, 2016

“In the history of modern life, the years 1956-58 can certainly be considered important. Britain invaded Egypt over Suez Canal access, NASA was founded, the European Economic Community was created, and of course Heartbreak Hotel, the first single of Elvis Presley, was released. In purely football terms, however, those years mark some of the most influential circumstances of all time. 1956-58 denotes the specific point in footballing time when the tactical tricks of the great 1950s Hungarian team were transferred to the bottomless talent pool of Brazil thanks largely to the temperamental, globetrotting exploits of one masterful, mythical manager named Bela Guttman.” Football Pink


Leipzig, Leaks, and Left Backs: A Look at the Bundesliga’s Surprising Start

November 20, 2016

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“It’s been a fascinating start in the Bundesliga. When you look at the table, maybe only Bayern, Augsburg and Mainz are about where they expected to be. And Bayern are certainly not where they want to be performance-wise. Today we will look at a few contributors or areas of play that are keying early season surprises or holding their teams back. With Bayern and Dortmund playing this weekend, I will try to save them for next week for a possible recap piece.” Stats Bomb


Diego Maradona’s misguided political statement on Western Sahara

November 20, 2016

“Diego Maradona is considered as the greatest footballer of all time and scorer or the ‘Goal of the Century.’ And now, it seems, a willing apologist for the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara. According to a number of news reports, as well as posts on Maradona’s official Facebook page and the Twitter account of former Egyptian football great, Mohamed Aboutrika, the two of them are set to return to Morocco along with other former stars of the game—including Brazil’s Rivaldo, Ghana’s Abedi Pele, and Liberia’s George Weah—and former Moroccan players for a so-called ‘Match for Peace’ tomorrow.” Africas A Country


Costa Rica Pummels the U.S. and Puts World Cup Qualifying in Doubt

November 20, 2016

“The defense was a shambles. The midfield had little presence. The attack, such as it was, just spun and sputtered. How bad was it? It is difficult to know where to start. There was no fluidity from the United States national team here on Tuesday night against Costa Rica. No flow, no rhythm, no concentrated push, either early or late. There was no sturdiness or stoutness or resilience in a game that felt critical. There was no creativity.” NY Times


The death of possession football

November 18, 2016

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“Former Bayern Munich manager and current Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, speaking after Bavarian side’s 5-1 triumph over Arsenal last season, was famously said: What I want, my desire, is to have one hundred percent possession. Bayern Munich had enjoyed sixty nine percent of possession in that game as goals from Robert Lewandowki, Thomas Muller, David Alaba and Arjen Robben gave Arsenal nightmares that probably suggested the extent of damage that possession football can usually do.” backpagefootball


Brendan Rodgers, the beauty of 3-4-2-1 and its potency as a tactical weapon

November 18, 2016

“In a modern world in which style so often matters more than substance – and at times neither seems to matter much at all – moments of significance can be lost amid the swirl. It’s easy to dismiss Brendan Rodgers’ last full season at Liverpool: the ineffectiveness of Mario Balotelli, the falling out with Raheem Sterling, the final-day humiliation at Stoke … and yet it also included a nugget of genuine tactical innovation. It’s not to say that Antonio Conte, Pep Guardiola or Serbia’s Slavoljub Muslin have copied Rodgers or have in any way learned directly from him to point out that all have, this season, employed some of his model with success – and Rodgers, it might also be pointed out, was inspired by Paulo Sousa.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Tactical Analysis: England 2-2 Spain | Start of a transition for both teams

November 18, 2016

“England’s international friendly against Spain on the 15th November marked Gareth Southgate’s fourth game in charge of the Three Lions and a chance for Spain to make one more step towards regaining their identity as ‘La Furia Roja’. Despite incredible depths of talent within the two camps, both teams are looking to rebuild their confidence after disappointing stints at the European Championships over the summer, but this time without the old guard.” Outside of the Boot


Confronting Columbus: How Mexico is planning to combat its Dos A Cero past

November 18, 2016

“It’s possible that Mexico’s most significant call-up ahead of Friday’s World Cup qualifier against the U.S. isn’t on coach Juan Carlos Osorio’s roster. This call-up won’t be in uniform in Columbus. He won’t break a sweat or kick a ball. Imanol Ibarrondo’s contribution is expected to be intangible. It’ll have to be. He’s Spanish, not Mexican, and he’s 49 years old. Ibarrondo once played professionally. He’s now an author, sports psychologist, consultant and motivational speaker who tries to help athletes and coaches bring out their best. Columbus is a place where Mexico certainly hasn’t been at its best.” SI


Bundesliga new boys RB Leipzig – reviled, divisive, compelling

November 18, 2016

“Why are RB Leipzig being dubbed the most hated club in German football? Because Red Bull’s cash gives them wings. Wings that have helped build a football club almost from scratch that threatens the existing order of the game there, indeed its very culture.” backpagefootball


History of the BBC African Footballer of the Year award

November 18, 2016

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“Before the BBC African Footballer of the Year 2016 launches on Saturday, BBC Sport looks at all the previous winners. The prize started life as the BBC African Sports Star of the Year award in 1992, when Ghanaian footballer Abedi Pele was the inaugural winner. The format has evolved and now a shortlist of five players is announced following a poll of football journalists from every country in Africa – after which a public vote decides the best for that year. Names etched on the trophy include George Weah, Didier Drogba, Jay-Jay Okocha, Yaya Toure and Sammy Kuffour.” BBC


England vs. Scotland: 10 memorable matches

November 18, 2016

“… England 2-3 Scotland, April 15th 1967. Wembley Stadium, London. Six years on from the roasting they received at the hands of the Auld Enemy, Scotland once again pitched up at Wembley with a strong team in this Home Championship game that doubled as a European Championship qualifier. This time, though, they were expected to struggle against ten of the English XI (Jimmy Greaves replacing Roger Hunt) that were crowned world champions on the same pitch less than a year earlier.” Football Pink


The Future of Luis Enrique

November 18, 2016

“As Barcelona manager, you can imagine it’s a lot like spinning plates except you have 100 plates going at once and 100 million people watching your every move. The job places you under a very intense magnifying glass and while the successes enjoyed make it worthwhile, the stress can eventually take you down.” Barca Blaugranes


Tactical Analysis: Bayern Munich 1-1 Hoffenheim | Sinsheim club remain unbeaten

November 17, 2016

“German champions Bayern Munich welcomed fellow unbeaten Hoffenheim in the league to the Allianz Arena last Saturday with hopes of extending their winning streak in all competitions to five matches as they’ve begun to find their stride under Carlo Ancelotti in recent weeks. Western Europe’s new managerial sensation Julian Nagelsmann and his side had done well this term up until this match to build on last season’s last-gasp league survival, but faced his their toughest challenge yet as they visited the home of Germany’s finest.” Outside of the Boot


‘It Is America. But I Want to Play in Mexico.’

November 11, 2016

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“EL PASO, Tex. — Night fell and the thick, heavy air was cut by a sharp, chilling breeze, the sort of West Texas wind that made it feel as if the whole city had a fever. Was it hot out, or cold? The children on the field at Pico Norte Park, which is little more than a bumpy, narrow strip of grass lined for soccer, wore uniforms and quickly broke a sweat; the parents ringing the sideline wore jeans and sleeves as they watched and cheered and occasionally shivered.” NY Times


USA-Mexico World Cup qualifier given added tension in wake of Trump victory

November 11, 2016

“Tensions ahead of an always charged USA-Mexico soccer game this Friday have suddenly been magnified by the election of Donald Trump as America’s 45th president. Trump ran a scorched-earth campaign that openly denigrated immigrants and called for the mass deportation of Mexicans from the United States. His incendiary rhetoric – Trump called Mexican immigrants, among other things, rapists – could make for an ugly backdrop to a rivalry that has already had its fair share of nasty incidents. There is a real fear that the rhetoric Trump used could make its way into the stands and streets around the stadium, targeting Mexican fans.” Guardian


Brazil look to banish Belo Horizonte demons against struggling Argentina

November 11, 2016

“It has been 28 months, but finally Brazil will return to the site of their greatest trauma. Their World Cup qualifier against Argentina on Thursday will be their first game in Belo Horizonte since the 7-1 defeat to Germany in the World Cup semi-final. Nothing will ever erase that horror but a victory over Argentina would make the ghosts loom less menacingly over the Mineirão in future – particularly if it adds to the growing fear in Argentina that the country may not qualify for the next World Cup.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Tactical Analysis: Juventus 1-1 Lyon | Allegri’s correct tactics aided by stellar strike duo

November 11, 2016

“Lyon came to the Juventus Stadium on Wednesday evening with their backs against the wall. They had played a decent match against the Italian side at home on Matchday Three, only to be stunned by Juan Cuadrado’s rasping winner. Gianluigi Buffon was the real hero of the match, though, and while Juventus did ride their luck at times a fortnight ago, this time around, manager Massimiliano Allegri seemed to have absorbed a lesson or two from the previous encounter. Having to settle for a draw was no doubt disappointing for the hosts, but facing a must-win match against Sevilla, the Bianconeri should take pride in the success of their adjustments.” Outside of the Boot


Inside the Eredivisie

November 11, 2016

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“Aloha from your favourite ‘little brother’ league, from the land of the Nethers. It’s been quite an interesting season in the Eredivisie, 12 games in. For one, Feyenoord are top and were unbeaten until last weekend, and seem to have a team that is one of their most balanced in recent memory. Following sacking reports 3 weeks into his tenure, Peter Bosz has steered Ajax well back on track and they have not lost a single match since Hakim Ziyech’s arrival. Last year’s last-day champions PSV have struggled a bit more. Luuk de Jong has failed to replicate the scoring form he maintained for the last two years and their chance creation trend has been slightly erratic, but more on that to follow. PS: Admittedly, small sample size alert.” Stats Bomb


Tactical Analysis: Chelsea 5-0 Everton | Chelsea’s build-up play and passive pressing from Everton

November 11, 2016

“Chelsea put in probably the best performance of the season so far in the Premier League by any team, against Everton, running out 5-0 winners against Ronald Koeman’s side. Chelsea were absolutely rampant and clinical up front with a brilliant all round performance. Antonio Conte now has enjoyed four consecutive wins after switching to the 3-4-3 formation in the Premier League. Chelsea have scored 14 goals in those games and conceded none in the process.” Outside of the Boot


Tactical Analysis: Dortmund 0-0 Schalke | Schalke control space excellently to render Dortmund ineffective

November 11, 2016

“The first Ruhr derby of the season kicked off at the Signal Iduna Park with both Dortmund and Schalke looking to kick-start their stuttering campaigns. Last season’s runners-up had not come close to reaching the form they hit last season coming into this game and faced further difficulty doing so with the absence of Marco Reus in the side. In his place was 19 year old Ousmane Dembele as Dortmund switched to a 4-1-4-1 with midfield metronome Julian Wiegl in the 6 role and Götze and Kagawa operating as the 8s. It turned out to be a frustrating afternoon for the men in yellow as their rivals from the Ruhr kept them at bay throughout the entirety of the game with a fantastic defensive display in their compact 5-3-2 shape.” Outside of the Boot


The Question: what is a centre-forward?

November 6, 2016

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“hat is a centre-forward? It is a question that is far harder to answer now than it used to be. The suggestion that Pep Guardiola may not be entirely happy with Sergio Agüero seemed at first bizarre. How, realistically, could a player of his ability, his goalscoring capacity – 109 league goals in five seasons at City, despite injuries – be doubted? For a modern striker, though, goals are only part of it.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Tactical Analysis: Dortmund 1-0 Sporting | Dortmund win comfortably

November 6, 2016

“The home side started the game with their regular 4-1-4-1 formation with Weigl as the midfield anchor and Adrian Ramos leading the line. The second half saw a slight tweak in tactics from Tuchel. The team started the half with an unorthodox role for Guerreiro on the left side, a tactical aspect that we have seen Tuchel experiment with at other instances this season. Beyond the 70th minute mark, Dortmund switched to a 5-4-1, matching their opponent’s shape.” Outside of the Boot


Passing Motifs: Identifying Team and Player Passing Style

November 6, 2016

“The Passing Motifs methodology is something I’ve been working for a couple of months now, and it has left pretty satisfying results convincingly representing team and player passing style. I got the original idea from an article pre-print on the arXiv titled ‘Searching for a Unique Style in Soccer’ by Laszlo Gyarmati, Haewoon Kwak and Pablo Rodriguez. These guys do research for Spanish telecommunications giant Telefonica and took a slight detour into football analytics by applying a mathematical concept from graph theory which they apply to communications networks, basically to prove the popular point that Barcelona have a pretty unique passing network. Since then, I have substantially modified their original idea and have obtained a pretty cool methodology of my own.” Stats Bomb


Featured: Copa90 in Profile

November 6, 2016

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“With over 1 million subscribers, COPA90 has become the home of football culture. Travelling the planet to tell the story of football through the fans, they have, as they say themselves, been welcomed into people’s homes, bars, and stadiums, making films that celebrate the greatest game on Earth. They sat down with Póg Mo Goal.” Pog Mo Goal


Three at the back is a dream for Chelsea but a nightmare for Everton

November 6, 2016

“Tt is now five consecutive victories for Chelsea since Antonio Conte switched to a 3-4-3 system – 16 goals scored, none conceded – and this was their most impressive attacking display for years, a wonderful demonstration of efficient turnovers, intelligent running and intricate interplay. If there was any doubt about the difficulty of switching from a four-man defence to a back three, you only needed to look at Everton.” Guardian – Michael Cox


Flashbacks To Vietnam and Bad LSD, Via Selhurst Park

November 6, 2016

“The first half of Liverpool’s latest stirring victory was like a bad acid trip I took after returning from Vietnam in 1969, two years before I was even born. Everything went fuzzy and there was some Doors music playing, possibly at half-speed. Every time Palace went forward it was like someone else’s life – indeed, the lives of lots of people – flashed before my eyes, all amidst vague shouts of ‘Tomkins, you fucked up there! You lost your man…’.” Tomkins Times


Jürgen Klopp teaches Liverpool the art of filling space dynamically

November 2, 2016

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“Liverpool remain a work in progress but it’s coming together promisingly. During Jürgen Klopp’s first campaign at Anfield the players adapted quickly to his high-energy, heavy-pressing system and regularly disrupted the opposition’s passing but they only sporadically formulated quick, incisive attacking moves themselves.” Guardian – Michael Cox, Michael Cox


Are Sampaoli’s Sevilla ready to challenge?

November 2, 2016

“Before last Sunday’s clash between Atletico Madrid and Sevilla, Diego Simeone had suggested that his opponents could challenge for the title this season. ‘Mind games’ was the initial reaction. Put a little pressure on the home side who had begun the season encouragingly. The second thought was that Simeone was just being nice, bigging up his compatriot Jorge Sampaoli who succeeded Unai Emery at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán in the summer.” backpagefootball


Tactical Analysis: TSG Hoffenheim 1 – 0 Hertha Berlin

November 2, 2016

“A potentially exciting clash between two red-hot sides: Julian Nagelsmann’s boys against Pal Dardai’s Hertha Berlin. A clash of two youngish tacticians from different generations: Nagelsmann, a 29-year old, Dardai, a 40 year old. So how did this generational clash play out?” Bundesliga Fanatic


2016-17 Ligue 1 (France/1st division) location-map, with: 15/16 attendance data… Plus the 3 promoted clubs (Nancy, Dijon, Metz).

November 2, 2016

“… New Regions of France (effective 1 Jan 2016/final decree of names on 1 Oct 2016). Regions in France have been reduced from 27 regions to 18 regions…Regions of France [1982-2016] (en.wikipedia.org). The 3 promoted clubs in the 2016-17 Ligue U.” Bill Sports Maps


Debunking The Myth: The Bundesliga is Competitive and No One Can Hide It

November 2, 2016

“The people who say that the English Premier League or Spanish La Liga are better than the Bundesliga often say that Germany’s domestic league isn’t competitive. They go on to reference Bayern’s title streak and use that stat to show that the Bavarians have no competition along with the fact that Dortmund was their only real challenger. But based on what’s gone on this season for the big clubs and the not as big clubs, along with the league’s European showings, this argument is no longer valid and probably never was.” Bundesliga Fanatic


Stoke City – But I’m Different Now

November 2, 2016

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“Stoke City finished in a highly creditable ninth place in the Premier League in the 2015/16 season, the third year in a row that the club from the Potteries had ended up ninth under manager Mark Hughes. Although this highlighted the fact that Stoke have become an established member of the Premier League, their traditional underdog spirit was underlined in their annual report by chairman Peter Coates describing this feat as merely ensuring that ‘the club will play a ninth consecutive year in the top league during the 2016/17 season.’” Swiss Ramble


Manchester City 3-1 Barcelona, 2016 Champions League: 3 Things We Learned

November 2, 2016

“Barcelona have lost for the first in the Champions League this season, and it was an ugly loss. Manchester City dominated the Catalans in the second half and pulled of a fantastic 3-1 comeback victory thanks to a Pep Guardiola masterpiece of tactical brilliance, intensity and high pressing.” Barcablaugranes


2016-17 FA Cup 1st Round – map and attendance list./+ the 3 FA Cup 1st Round first-timers (Merstham FC, Stamford AFC, Westfields FC).

November 2, 2016

“The map (click on image at the top of this post) shows all 80 clubs who have qualified for the 2016-17 FA Cup First Round Proper. Also on the map page is the 1st Round fixture list, and there is a list of the 80 clubs’ current home league average attendances. There were 736 clubs accepted into this season’s tournament. The 44 clubs from the Premier League (the 1st division) and the Football League Championship (the 2nd division) will join the competition in the 3rd Round (played in early January). The 1st Round and the 2nd Round are contested between all the clubs from the two lower leagues of the Football League (48 teams) – League One (3rd division) and League Two (4th division) – plus the 32 Non-League clubs who qualified through the preliminary and qualifying rounds (6 rounds).” Bill Sport’s Maps


L’Internationale exhibition – London comes alive for Euro 2016

November 2, 2016

“Oxford House in Bethnal Green, London, recently played host to L’Internationale, an exhibition of photos taken in London during Euro 2016. Liam Aylott, by day a professional fashion and advertising photographer, tracked down fans of all twenty-four participating nations and captured the agony and ecstasy of supporting one’s nation. The exhibition and Liam’s work was supported by Kick It Out and the Football Supporters’ Federation’s Fans for Diversity fund, which was set up to help fans celebrate the extraordinary power of football to unite people from a diverse set of backgrounds.” Football Pink