Balkan League – Do not believe the media hype

December 27, 2016

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“Rough translation of the Serbian colloquial proverb offers a descriptive insight into efforts that have seen the football regulatory bodies of the former Yugoslav countries come together to form a unified regional Balkan League. Such a league would be built around a similar model, which had been successfully adopted in basketball and is expected to follow in other sports such as boxing.” futbolgrad (Video)

Could A Balkan Football League Ever Work?
“The idea of a united Balkan league is not a new one. At a conference in July 2007 delegates from Slovenia, Romania, Russia and Serbia discussed the practicalities of a Central and Eastern European league and the lower league structure by which it would be underpinned by. The now disgraced Michel Platini has also been open to the idea, as he feels that such a structure could reduce the gap between the Western European elite and their eastern counterparts…” In Bed With Maradona

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“The Balkans Cup was an international football competition for clubs from Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Turkey, and Yugoslavia. It was introduced in 1961 and was very popular in the 1960s (the 1967 final attracted 42,000 spectators), being the second most important international club competition for clubs from the region (after the European Champions’ Cup in which the champions could play; the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup originally attracted few teams from the region as many did not organise domestic cups regularly and only Yugoslavia had significant representation in the Fairs Cup). …” Wikipedia


After Terror, Berlin Finds Comfort and Joy in a Soccer Club’s Ritual

December 27, 2016

“BERLIN — They matched Santa hats with soccer scarves. They sang hymns in cherubic voice and screamed sports chants at the top of their lungs. They held ceremonial white candles and swigged mulled wine from plastic cups. On Friday night, for the 14th year in a row, the home stadium of F.C. Union Berlin, a second-division soccer club in the eastern corner of the German capital, became the site of the country’s most discussed Christmas celebration. What began more than a decade ago as an improvised gathering of 80 people has since morphed into an ostentatious event — part pep rally, part church service — attended by an arena-stuffing crowd of 28,500.” NY Times (Video)


Tactical Analysis: Bayern Munich 3-0 RB Leipzig | Famed Leipzig press disappears

December 27, 2016

“Bayern and Leipzig met at the Allianz Arena in a first versus second contest as both sides looked to open up a lead at the top of the table before heading into the winter break. The result of the game would depend on how each team battled the other’s contrasting style of play. Bayern put in a formidable performance to run out comfortable winners as three first half goals gave them the three points. It was a top notch performance from the home side, while the promoted team were totally off colour on the night.” Outside of the Boot


Juventus 1-0 Roma | Leaders extend their lead at the top

December 27, 2016

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“After successfully seeing out Milan in Rome, Luciano Spalletti took his men to the home of defending champions. The two sides met in the top of the table clash which was expected to be the biggest game of the season so far. As Juventus looked to extend their lead at the top of the table, Roma wanted to close in on the deficit. Along with the three points, Juventus wanted the win badly since it would mark their 25th consecutive league win at home, a record which is already being held by them.” Outside of the Boot


The best and worst moments of 2016, according to WSC contributors

December 27, 2016

“From a sunny trip to Tow Law and many unexpected winners to a seemingly endless number of scandals, our writers’ give their highs and lows of 2016…” WSC – Part 1, Part 2


How Hughton gave the ailing Seagulls the ‘Chris’ of life

December 27, 2016

“It was coming on Christmas two years ago when Sami Hyypia, the respected former Liverpool defender, walked in to the office of Brighton & Hove Albion chairman Tony Bloom and tendered his resignation as manager. Then, the Seagulls were suffering. For despite reaching the promotion play-offs in the previous Championship season (2013/14) – under Spanish coach Oscar Garcia – they were floundering in the relegation zone. And it presented as no surprise when Hyypia’s offer to prematurely part with the club was accepted by Bloom and the Brighton board.” Football Pink


The Illustrated History of Football: David Squires

December 23, 2016

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“You’re probably familiar with the genius illustrations of David Squires by now. His weekly comic strips in the Guardian are hilariously entertaining and he spoke to The Set Pieces for Vox in the Box earlier this year. David has a new book, The Illustrated History of Football, out on 3rd November. Having seen an advance copy we can assure you it’s brilliant, if a little disturbing in parts (look out for Rafa Benitez’s half-time team talk in the 2005 Champions League final). We’re delighted to present an exclusive strip from the book on Sergio Aguero’s last-minute title-sealing strike for Manchester City in 2012. Enjoy…” the set pieces, The Sunshine Room – Some drawings by David Squires, amazon


Is this season truly different for Arsenal? It’s developing a familiar feel

December 23, 2016

“Lock a man in a concrete box for a decade and the chances are he’ll become fascinated by minute changes within his environment–the shifting patterns of the damp on the walls perhaps, or a new crack in the ceiling–and argue vehemently that everything is different now. To everybody else, though, he’s just a man in a concrete box. This is Arsenal.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Russia’s 2018 World Cup – A Conversation Beyond Sport

December 23, 2016

What’s happening with the next World Cup? The 2018 World Cup will be in Russia, running from 14 June to 15 July, hosting 32 football teams—and their fans –from around the world. It will be held in twelve stadiums and eleven cities across the European part of Russia. The host cities are a mix of large and small, cities that are better known to foreigners and cities that are almost unknown outside Russia.” futbolgrad


Pressing is the Premier League’s big trend, but it’s not without its problems

December 22, 2016

“If Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool win the Premier League title this season, we might look back upon Monday’s 1-0 victory over Everton as among their most significant triumphs. It was a classic ‘the mark of champions’ win: an away trip to local rivals, a poor game, a below-par performance and a late winner. Liverpool supporters haven’t celebrated so hard for years. For neutrals who anticipated a good game at Goodison Park, however, Monday was a damp squib.” ESPN – Michael Cox


Pierre Mony: the footballer so popular he got away with murder

December 22, 2016

The following is an extract from issue 23 of the Blizzard, which is on sale in December. The Blizzard is a quarterly football journal available from www.theblizzard.co.uk on a pay-what-you-like basis in print and digital formats. The first full international match between France and England was played on 15 May 1923 at the Stade Pershing in the Bois de Vincennes in Paris. It was an interesting game, attended by an impressive 30,000 spectators, despite driving rain and hail. France had beaten an England Amateurs team at this same venue in 1921 but a similar result was not expected against the full England side.” Guardian, W – History of the France national football team


Forever Pure – Football and Racism in Jerusalem

December 22, 2016

“Documentary which follows events at Israel’s most notorious football club. Beitar Jerusalem FC is the most popular team in Israel and the only club in the Premier League never to sign an Arab player. Midway through a season the club’s owner, Russian-Israeli oligarch Arcadi Gaydamak, brought in two Muslim players from Chechnya in a secretive transfer deal that triggered the most racist campaign in Israeli sport and sent the club spiralling out of control. Forever Pure follows the famous football club through the tumultuous season, as power, money and politics fuel a crisis and shows how racism is destroying both the team and society from within.” BBC (Video)


Fred – Shakhtar Donetsk’s unsung hero

December 22, 2016

“Shakhtar Donetsk’s defensive midfielder Frederico Rodrigues Santos, better known as Fred, has been very much the unsung hero of a stellar side this season. We have featured a vast array of Shakhtar Donetsk players of late, but with Paulo Fonseca leading his side to a 13-point lead over rivals Dynamo Kyiv, and with winning six out of six games in the Europa League, it is not difficult to praise the work done at Shakhtar Donetsk this season.” futbolgrad


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

December 19, 2016

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“1. LIONEL MESSI No real prize for guessing the occupant of this position. Messi stakes his claim this season as not just the best of South America, but also the best of the world. There were noises last season about Messi disagreeing with Enrique and having a training ground bust up with the manager, but he turned it all around after a point, and an incredible send half of the season saw him lead Barcelona to glory in 3 competitions.” Outside of the Boot


Global Series | Top 10 European Players of 2015: Busquets, Kane and De Bruyne feature

December 19, 2016

“… 2. IVAN RAKITIC Rakitic 2016The Croatian superstar has had a super debut season at the Camp Nou. During his initial days, there was a bit of disbelief that confronted the notion that either Xavi or Iniesta would have to sit out matches to accommodate Rakitic. All of this died down very soon, as Rakitic let his feet do the talking. While he isn’t the most prolific in front of goal, he doesn’t really need to be, and he does the job of keeping the likes of Messi, Neymar and Suarez well fed very efficiently.” Outside of the Boot


Leicester’s Drastically Changing Passing Patterns

December 19, 2016

“Last years champions are struggling this season, a 1-0 loss to Bournemouth saw them fall to 14th in the table and more worryingly it’s not just bad luck. Some regression was expected, but they have played well below bookies expectations. The obvious problem is shot volume: this year they have the 16th most shots and shots on target after being 7th and 6th last year. They allowed the 6th fewest SOT last year, this year they are 16th. The problem isn’t possession or a lower completion%, both of those metrics have slight rises, so it must have something to do with the quality of those passes. That’s what we will do today, take a dive into what has changed so drastically when Leicester has the ball.” Stats Bomb


Global Series | Top 10 African Players of 2015: Toure, Kidiaba and Brahimi feature

December 19, 2016

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“… 8. ROBERT KIDIABA Kidiaba is the veteran goalkeeper at TP Mazembe, is one of the most decorated African players in the game today. Kidiaba started off his career at AS Saint Luc, and his success there prompted the national team to take him to the AFCON in 1998. This brought attention to the young keeper, and he signed for Mazembe after the tournament. Ever since then, he’s been a constant in their side, winning league titles galore, and 3 African Champions League trophies as well.” Outside of the Boot


Global Series | Top 10 North American Players of 2015: Chicharito, Dempsey and Navas feature

December 19, 2016

“… 4. ORIBE PERALTA One of the best strikers in Mexican football at the moment, Oribe Peralta has been around with the Mexican team for a number of years now, but only recently became a regular selection. the striker is famous among fans of El Tri for the brace he scored in the final of the 2012 Olympics to win the gold medal for Mexico against a fancied Brazil team. Having been around in Mexican football for some time, Peralta has represented a number of clubs from the Liga MX, but is now one of the important players at Club America.” Outside of the Boot


Manchester City bounce back to leave Wenger fuming – Football Weekly

December 19, 2016

“It must be (nearly) Christmas, because on today’s Football Weekly, my true love sent to me AC Jimbo, Barry Glendenning, Paolo Bandini, and Barney Bloody Ronay! … We then brush aside the Premier League and turn our attention to Italy, where Juventus saw off Roma in a top o’ the table Serie A clash. Finally, we hear from our long lost pal Sid Lowe about Real Madrid’s victory in the World Club Cup final and the state of play in La Liga, which has downed tools until the new year. Rafa Honigstein will be with us for Thursday’s show, so if you have a question for the World’s Greatest Bavarian, post it on the blog below.” Guardian (Video)


#IBWM100 For 2016 – A Year In Review

December 15, 2016

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“On Wednesday, 23 December at 10am (GMT) we will publish the #IBWM100 for 2016 – our list of the most exciting young* players in world football. As always, we’ve stuck with the format that served Don Balon so successfully for many years; 100 names and details of where each player is from. We’ll revisit the list in twelve months’ time and assess how the year has panned out for each of the players concerned. The process we use for selection remains exactly the same. We talk to scouts, coaches, players, journalists, fans and bloggers from around the world to get a clear a picture of exactly who we should be watching and why.” #IBWM100 2016 – Introduction, #IBWM100 For 2016 – A Year In Review>/a>>


AC Milan: The Rise of the Fallen Idols

December 15, 2016

“With 18 officially recognized UEFA & FIFA titles, AC Milan are the third most successful club in the world and the second most decorated club in Europe after Real Madrid, at least in terms of trophies won. Gradually all the cherishment of their accolades started to fade as things didn’t work out for the seven time Champions league winners in the past five years. When they won their seventh European Cup in 2007, Milan were five ahead of Barcelona and only two behind Real Madrid, but in the past nine years Real have extended their lead by two more and Barca have closed to within two of Europe’s second most successful club.” Outside of the Boot


Best Way for Pep Guardiola to Silence Doubters Is to Show Flexibility

December 15, 2016

“… There he stands. He can’t do it any other way. Which is all fine and noble and laudable. His philosophy has been highly successful, bringing six league titles and two Champions Leagues in seven seasons in management while producing some of the most startling and beautiful football the world has known. If it takes stubbornness, iron will and inflexibility to achieve that, so be it. Great men are rarely easy; vision comes at a cost.” Bleacher Report – Jonathan Wilson


The Man Behind The Goal – Brian Glanville

December 15, 2016

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“What a delight to have these wonderful stories back in print. To say that Brian Glanville is the Dean of English football fiction is true enough, but much more needs to be added. Because it was Glanville who created the genre. His novels ‘The Dying of the Light’ and ‘The Rise of Gerry Logan’ stand out not only as superb evocations of the world of professional football, but also as remarkable works of art. Glanville’s artistry shines through these short stories. The prose is steely, terse, colourful, demotic… exactly what is needed to convey the down-to-earth atmosphere of football and footballers.” World Soccer


Ukrainian Premier League Roundup – Ukrainian Derby Special

December 15, 2016

“Shakhtar’s entertaining 4-3 victory over Dynamo Kyiv in Monday’s Ukrainian Derby had it all—the fastest goal ever in a meeting between the two sides, two own goals from Dynamo defender Yevhen Khacheridi, and two comebacks from Shakhtar to claim the three points and effectively clinch the title, and, of course, a fight that led to a sending off for Dynamo striker Júnior Moraes. The intense rivalry between the two sides has so often reached a boiling point that Ukrainian website Tribuna published a list of the five ‘best’ fights to take place during their matches.” Futbolgrad


Tactical Analysis: AS Roma 1-0 AC Milan | Chess match settled by Nainggolan

December 15, 2016

“You’d be forgiven for thinking that Monday night’s matchup between Serie A giants Roma and AC Milan was going to be the game of the season so far. The Stadio Olimpico played host to what promised to be a tantalizing affair between 2nd and 3rd place, both tied on points and both desperate to keep up with Juventus at the top of the table. Despite Milan’s impressive form heading into the game; one loss in their last twelve games in all competitions; their inexperience on the field without veteran Montolivo showed as they struggled to hold onto the ball and maintain pressure for any extended period of time.” Outside of the Boot


The Evolution of the Number 6: Beauty and the Beast

December 12, 2016

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“Football goes in cycles, the past is the key to the future and old systems and styles may become popular in the future. A good example of this is the 3-5-2 formation originally used in 1986 by the world cup winning Argentine team. The formation went out of vogue but has been resurrected by Antonio Conte in Juventus and in the Italian national team and is actually becoming popular as even Bayern and most recently Everton have used the formation.” Outside of the Boot


Champions League last 16: Tie-by-tie analysis

December 12, 2016

“1) Manchester City v Monaco. Pep Guardiola will be content with this draw, but Monaco are among the most exciting sides in Europe and perhaps the most underrated team in the competition. Leonardo Jardim has created an exciting side who have scored an incredible 53 goals in 17 Ligue 1 matches. Although Monaco share the goals around impressively, it is notable that Radamel Falcao has found his shooting boots again, scoring five goals in Monaco’s past two games. They are also tactically flexible, able to play both 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 effectively, as they demonstrated with 2-1 victories home and away against Tottenham Hotspur in the group stage.” Guardian – Michael Cox


How a Scottish manager working in Wales ended up in charge of Juventus

December 12, 2016

“Matt Busby, Ally McCoist, Alex Neil and Lee McCulloch are just a few of the famous (and not so famous) footballers who have emerged from the small Scottish town of Bellshill. Sitting just 16km from the centre of Glasgow, Bellshill has produced more than its fair share of top level footballers given its modest population of just over 20,000. The town also gave us a football manager who went to Italy for one season and came home with a rather unfortunate record in the Turin derby.” Guardian


MD 14 Team of the Week – Ingolstadt take down RBL, only Bayern take advantage!

December 12, 2016

“We covered the weekend’s action in our extensive recap yesterday, so let’s not waste any more time and get to the performers from the Bundesliga’s Team of the Week for Matchday 14! Goalkeeper – Freiburg’s Alexander Schwolow must be reading these as motivation, because it’s back to back appearances for the guy who was ranked as the worst goalie in the league by Squawka just two weeks ago.” Bundesliga Fanatic


Tim Vickery’s Notes from South America: Atletico Nacional look to strike a blow for the continent

December 12, 2016

“It was always unlikely that Atletico Nacional would be able to win two titles on the same day, on opposite sides of the planet. The first team squad are in Japan, representing South America in the Club World Cup, and hoping to make it to the final on Sunday – the same day that the Colombian league comes to a climax. Nacional were through to the semi final, and, giving a game to their reserves they drew 1-1 away to Santa Fe of Bogota in the first leg. But now, back in Medellin for the return match, they were down to the reserves of the reserves. With 25 players in the Far East, they were forced to field in effect an Under-21 side. They lost 4-0.” World Soccer


The best World Cup format–that FIFA would never consider

December 8, 2016

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“The World Cup might grow to 40 teams, or it might wind up with 48. It might be eight groups of five or four groups of 10, or there might be 16 seeds and a straight 32-team knockout round to get to join them in the format we have now. Or it might be 16 groups of three. Either way, the endless gigantism stimulated by FIFA presidential elections, as candidates promise more and more nations that they, too, can play in a World Cup, means that the competition will be even more bloated, even more unwieldy by then. Of course, this is 2026 we’re talking about, so there’s a significant chance global political elections by then will mean that by then, as George Orwell foresaw, it’s just three teams: Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Bayern Munich – Elevation

December 8, 2016

“Bayern Munich won the double of the Bundesliga and the German Cup in 2015/16, obviously a fine feat, but not that surprising for Germany’s most successful club. In total, the Bavarians have won the league no fewer than 26 times and the cup on 18 occasions, though Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said that it was still a ‘historic achievement’ to top the Bundesliga four years in a row.” The Swiss Ramble


Tactical Analysis: Dortmund 4-1 Mönchengladbach | Dortmund’s patience and clinical finishing

December 8, 2016

“Thomas Tuchel was critical of his team’s showing after their 2-1 defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt, suggesting that the players were technically, mentally and tactically deficient on the day. After a win over Bayern Munich and the demolition of Legia Warsaw in the Champions League, Dortmund found themselves in 7th place before the start of their home fixture against Borussia Mönchengladbach. In contrast, Borussia Möchengladbach came in to this fixture having won just one game in sixteen away from home in the Bundesliga. They had managed to keep one clean sheet away from Borussia-Park since the start of the season, and their last victory at the Westfalenstadion came in 2014.” Outside of the Boot


Legia Warsaw and the Champions League: an unexpected success

December 8, 2016

“It couldn’t have started any worse. Legia Warsaw, Poland’s first representative in the Champions League group stage in 20 years, kicked off their grand adventure at home to Borussia Dortmund in mid-September. Instead of a gutsy performance Legia succumbed to a 6-0 thumping in such an embarrassing fashion that they sacked their manager – and the display was so dire that many Polish fans expected to watch further matches behind assembled living-room furniture. On top of the terrible result Legia hooligans made a fool of themselves in the stands, leading to the next home match vs Real Madrid to be played behind closed doors.” Rightbankwarsaw


Arsenal seal top spot as Spurs head to Europa League – Football Weekly Extra

December 8, 2016

“The award-winning Football Weekly returns to look back on a busy midweek of European action. AC Jimbo’s voice is at around 75% in the seductive stakes, so he’s joined by Barry Glendenning, James Horncastle and Jonathan Wilson on the harmonies. We begin with the Champions League. Arsenal were most un-Arsenal and ended up winning their group, while Spurs were über-Spursy and ended up third and in the Europa League. As for Leicester, well – at least they did the business before heading to Porto.” Guardian (Video)


Greed Is Destroying European Football, but Too Many Don’t See It as a Problem

December 8, 2016

“And so with a weary sigh, the Champions League group stage comes to an end. There have been brilliant goals, lots of them, and a couple of exhilarating games. The clashes between Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich, between Manchester City and Barcelona, between Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid, had certain self-contained dramas. Ludogorets Razgrad and FC Rostov, here and there, put up encouraging fights. But fundamentally, it all passed with a shrug and a yawn. Those big clashes have essentially ended up being meaningless, as both teams went through.” Bleacher Report (Video)


Tactical Analysis: Everton 1-1 Manchester United | United’s build up play and Everton’s compact structure in defending

December 8, 2016

“Everton hosted Manchester United at Goodison Park as the two teams were desperate for a win following a poor run of results. Everton had only one win in the last eight matches while United had one in seven. Languishing beneath the European spots with the teams above them racking up points consistently, it was imperative that both teams look for the win in order to stay within touching distance of those at top.” Outside of the Boot


Sergio Ramos bares striker’s soul to leave Barcelona on ropes in title race

December 5, 2016

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“It was time, Ramos time. In fact, if anything, he was a little early. The clock had reached 89 minutes in the first clásico of the season and Barcelona were winning 1-0, Madrid’s lead at the top reduced to three points, game on again, and Luka Modric was standing by the ball out on the left where Arda Turan had gifted them one last chance, the kind of moment this man is made for. Thirty yards away, Sergio Ramos nodded “over here” at him, eyebrows, eyes and head gesturing surreptitiously. At least he hoped it was surreptitious. As he took up his position – offside for now, ready to step back on – Gerard Piqué watched him and tracked him, or tried to; in Piqué’s way was Lucas Vázquez, pushing, diverting, annoying.” Guardian


Tactics: back three back in fashion

December 5, 2016

“Chelsea, Manchester City, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur, Juventus, Roma, Sevilla, Wales, Serbia, Italy, Spain. The list of teams who have played with a back three at some point this season is long, varied and growing. In the Premier League, playing three at the back has spread with extraordinary speed since Chelsea manager Antonio Conte reacted to his side’s defeat at Arsenal by returning to the shape he had favoured with Juventus and Italy.” World Soccer – Jonathan Wilson


Jose Mourinho is a fraction away from turning Man Utd into title challengers – just get rid of that walking suicide note Marouane Fellaini

December 5, 2016

“There was a moment in the second half at Goodison Park on Sunday which suggested Jose Mourinho’s permanent look of sour misery may be about to change.His Manchester United side unleashed a sequence of first-time passes, pinging the ball around with genuine fizz. As passes spun with training ground precision from Matteo Darmian to Anthony Martial to Michael Carrick to Ander Herrera, it was possible to see exactly what the United manager is trying to achieve with his team.” Telegraph


Exclusive interview with new USA coach Bruce Arena

December 5, 2016

“USA coach Bruce Arena told The Set Pieces that Christian Pulisic has a “very bright future” with the national team after meeting the Borussia Dortmund teenager for the first time at the weekend. Having recently been appointed as US head coach for a second time, Arena was in Germany to check in on the American contingent in the Bundesliga. On Saturday, he attended Dortmund’s victory over Borussia Mönchengladbach at Signal Iduna Park to watch Pulisic and Gladbach’s flying full-back Fabian Johnson.” the set pieces


Tim Vickery’s Notes from South America: Chapecoense may find that renewal comes in the form of playing again

December 5, 2016

“The Atanasio Giradot stadium deserved some joy. Last Wednesday the ground in Medellin was packed, with thousands left outside, as the Colombian public gathered to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the Chapecoense air disaster. It was a deeply moving ceremony, and a show of solidarity that left Brazilians in awestruck gratitude. The only connection between Medellin and Chapeco was the game of football which was to have been taking place at that time on Wednesday evening. And with Medellin efficiency and a warm Colombian heart, Nacional – as well as requesting that the title of the Copa Sudamericana be awarded to Chapecoense – had put together a sincere and touching tribute.” World Soccer


Inside Italy’s ultras: the dangerous fans who control the game

December 2, 2016

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“On 7 July this year, Raffaello Bucci’s body was found at the bottom of the so-called “viaduct of suicides”. Just a day before, he had been interviewed by police investigating links between football and organised crime. The viaduct is an impressive structure connecting Turin to Cuneo, a city 100km to the south, and south-eastern France. The arches carrying the dual-carriageway over the Stura di Demonte river are 45 metres high. It was on this same spot that Edoardo, only son of Gianni Agnelli (the late owner of Fiat and Juventus), ended his life in 2000.” Guardian


Pep Guardiola v Antonio Conte: a tactical showdown of brooder against extrovert

December 2, 2016

“It would, perhaps, be the defining irony of Arsène Wenger’s uneasy relationship with Chelsea if it turns out that when he finally devised a way of beating them it provoked a tactical shift that won the Blues the title. Since Chelsea switched to a back three when 3-0 down at half-time at the Emirates, they have conceded only once, winning seven Premier League games in a row. They passed one major test by coming from behind to beat Tottenham last week but on Saturday represents an even more severe examination as they go to Manchester City.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


RB Leipzig – How the most loathed German club has been silencing its haters

December 2, 2016

“All those who have a pre-conceived notion about the Bundesliga being a boring league, the ongoing season is forcing them to think again. It has panned out in a manner which would probably be quite different to how most would’ve predicted, going into the new season. The number of surprise packages have matched the number of teams who are underperforming. Sides like Hoffenheim, Koln and Eintracht Frankfurt have made flying starts to the new campaign, whereas the trio of Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Monchengladbach and Wolfsburg have has left many disappointing.” backpagefootball


The curious geography of Welsh goalkeepers

December 2, 2016

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“11th June 2016. A moment I had resigned myself to never seeing had actually, finally arrived. In the magnificent Stade de Bordeaux Wales were about to make their European Championship finals debut and play its first match at a tournament since eight days shy of exactly 58 years earlier in the World Cup of 1958.” Football Pink

The Curious Geography of Welsh Goalkeepers
“With the news in the run up to Euro 2016 that Chris Maxwell had been called up to Wales squad as cover for Danny Ward it meant that Wales’s four first choice goalkeepers are north Walians. Russell Todd investigates the curious geography of Welsh goalkeepers.” Podcast Pêl-droed


Tactical Analysis: FC Rostov 3-2 Bayern Munich

December 2, 2016

“FC Bayern and FC Rostov ‘s first Champions League encounter was widely anticipated, as everybody wanted to see how ‘Russia’s Leicester City’ would fare against the German giants at the Allianz Arena. In the end, the outcome was disappointing, as Rostov’s passive defense was easily demolished, and Bayern won 5-0.” Bundesliga Fanatic


Player Passing Motif Style Application: Distinctive Players & Recruitment Opportunities

December 2, 2016

“I was recently invited to send some of my work on passing motifs to be used for a Fink Tank column in The Times, but of course a dendrogram such as the one I linked in my previous entry wouldn’t cut it in printed media. Therefore, I thought the best thing to do was set out to answer some concrete applied questions the methodology might answer, which would be easy to display but interesting nevertheless.” Stats Bomb


Opponent in Finals Requests Chapecoense Be Awarded the Title

December 1, 2016

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“Atlético Nacional, the Colombian team that was to play Chapecoense of Brazil in the finals of the Copa Sudamericana soccer tournament this week, has asked the organization in charge of South American soccer to award the trophy to Chapecoense, which had nearly all of its players and coaches killed in a plane crash on Monday night. Nacional said in a statement on its website and its Twitter feed that it had requested that the South American confederation, Conmebol, cancel the two-leg finals and declare Chapecoense the champion of the tournament, South America’s second-most prestigious club competition.” NY Times


Tactical Analysis: Real Sociedad 1-1 Barcelona | Catalan frustration continues

December 1, 2016

“Barcelona went into the encounter against Real Sociedad at the Anoeta, winless since 2007 against the Basque side at their home. Barcelona have endured a dip in form in recent weeks compared to their high standards while Sociedad have been finding themselves in the top 5 in the league table, performing really well.” Outside of the Boot


Tactical Analysis: Liverpool 2-0 Sunderland | Liverpool’s gegenpressing and its importance

December 1, 2016

“Klopp’s Liverpool faced Moyes’ Sunderland in a game where Liverpool really needed the three points, partly to get up on their feet again after the dropped points against Southampton, but above all to stay close to City and Chelsea at the top. Sunderland on the other hand, wanted to continue their upturn in form after their last two wins, and get out of the relegation zone.” Outside of the Boot


Tactical Analysis: Arsenal 2-2 PSG | Thrilling night ends in a stalemate

December 1, 2016

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“Despite being a thrilling encounter in terms of its result and implications, the lesson learned from Paris Saint-Germain’s trip to Arsenal should ultimately be one of two limited teams doing battle in a way that did little to inspire confidence. The Gunners were sloppy in possession, unadventurous and limited in wide areas. Paris Saint-Germain, as they have since the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, lacked a reliable focal point in attack, with Edinson Cavani getting only one of eight shots on target. They somewhat surprisingly controlled possession, but with Blaise Matuidi, the nominal left winger, playing in a deeper role than the teamsheet would suggest, there was little venom from the French side.” Outside of the Boot


Tactical Analysis: Borussia Dortmund 8-4 Legia Warsaw | Defence thrown out of the windows

December 1, 2016

“In football, the line between attack and defense is incredibly thin, even non-existent. In a game where there is little set offense or defense, and where the flow of a match is fluid, the best teams master the ability to defend while attacking, and attack while defending. When a great team has the ball, they aren’t just thinking of how to break down the defense. They’re also thinking about how to prevent the opposition, that defense, from winning the ball back and then counter attacking. Like a chess grandmaster, great players, coaches and teams always think 2-3 moves ahead.” Outside of the Boot


Tactical Analysis: Borussia Monchengladbach 1-1 Manchester City | Draw sends unconvincing Man City into the knockouts

December 1, 2016

“After a scintillating display against Barcelona at the Etihad, the sky blues went to Borussia Park to face the Gladbach side who were lacking in confidence from their previous games. City were expected to come out with an easy victory, but what happened there was rather surprising. It was this fixture that kick started the run of Manuel Pellegrini’s men into the semi-finals of last season but this match was not half as lunatic as that game, as Man City showed no intent and lacked energy to kill the game.” Outside of the Boot