At African Soccer Event, Games of Cat and Mouse

January 30, 2018


“CASABLANCA, Morocco — Standing just inside the lobby of Casablanca’s Novotel, Koly Koivogui was hard to miss. Dressed in a bright red zip-up track top bearing the insignia of the Guinean national soccer team, Koivogui, a large, barrel-chested coach, stood guard. He was making sure that uninvited player agents or scouts did not harass members of his team on the eve of the 16-team African Nations Championship, a competition for national teams with rosters made up solely of players who play club games in their birth countries. …” NY Times


Kevin-Prince Boateng the catalyst for Eintracht Frankfurt’s ‘one-night stand’

January 30, 2018

“It was short, but oh so sweet. For 19 hours following their 2-0 win over Borussia Mönchengladbach on Friday, Eintracht Frankfurt were second in the Bundesliga, with just Bayern Munich ahead of them. It wouldn’t last, of course, with Bayer Leverkusen, Schalke and the other riders in a sub-champion field still to play, but Die Adler were determined to make the most of their ‘one-night stand’, as sporting director Fredi Bobic put it after. …” Guardian (Video)


No Ne-exit For Neymar

January 30, 2018

“1) Neymar pledges PSG future. Time for a bit of a giant media reverse with beep-beeping and hazard lights in full effect. Neymar is going nowhere next summer except to Russia for the World Cup and no doubt a lengthy vacation in Brazil. His club boss says it, his manager says it, the footballer’s ‘people’ say it and heck, the football says it too. The player is ‘2000% percent’ going to be playing with PSG next season, whether the French club wins the Champions League or not. ‘I’m happy with my team-mates and I’m happy at PSG,’ was Neymar’s message after Saturday’s 4-0 win over Montpellier. So back off, Real Madrid and pack away any sneaky ideas in a bag marked, ‘not in a million years’.  …” Bein-Sports (Video)


Transfer window: Scottish-based players catching the eyes of other clubs

January 30, 2018


Celtic striker Moussa Dembele’s future remains unclear
“The January transfer window will soon be closed, to the relief of many managers given that a number of Scottish-based players are attracting admiring glances. It’s a case of now or, well, the summer for clubs looking to strengthen for the season run-in or those looking to profit with players’ contracts running down. In Scotland, the days of high-profile deadline-day transfers are now few and far between. Yet in this window there remains interest in a number of players at leading clubs. Here’s a run down of the individuals likely to be in the news over the coming days…” BBC


The Last Cup of Sorrow – the story of the Anglo-Italian Cup

January 30, 2018

“MATTHEW CRIST remembers a short-lived and short-loved relic of the 60s which was reincarnated for football’s boom time in the 90s but eventually fell foul of supporter apathy and violence both on and off the pitch. The arrival of the 1990s provided something of a watershed for English football. The national side had shone at Italia ‘90, club sides were once again able to compete in Europe after a five-year ban, and Channel 4’s live Italian football coverage beamed a host of new names and faces into our living rooms for the first time; not to mention the introduction of the Premier League, which promised us a whole new ball game. …” Football Pink


Why the ‘greatest footballer in the world’ is buried in an Egyptian war cemetery

January 30, 2018

“England 1 Scotland 5. Saturday, 31 March 1928. Wembley. Att: 80,868. The spartan, light-coloured gravestone looks like any other in Fayid War Cemetery. Just one of hundreds arranged into formal, regimented rows on an incongruous patch of land on the western shore of Egypt’s Great Bitter Lake. There, at the mid point of the Suez Canal, lie men who died after serving in the Second World War. Men such as Major AS Jackson. The conflict was over by the time Jackson was killed on 15 November 1946. His end came after he lost control of a truck near his base in the Suez Zone, suffering serious head injuries. The 41-year-old died before he reached hospital. …” The Set Pieces


Film charts groundbreaking approach of legendary manager Valeriy Lobanovskyi

January 26, 2018


“Former Dynamo Kiev and USSR manager Valeriy Lobanovskyi is the subject of a short montage by film-maker Jonny Newell. The video uses the techniques of the Soviet montage theory, linking the scientific approach of Lobanovskyi, and the type of football his famous teams played, with the Soviet ideals of collectivism at the time. Lobanovskyi managed Dynamo Kiev and the Soviet Union among others between 1973 and 2002. At the former he won both the 1975 and1986 Cup-Winners Cup, alongside the 1975 Super Cup, 12 Soviet/Ukrainian titles and nine cups. These successes were achieved through his pioneering scientific style of management, believing in the power of the collective over the individual. …” WSC (Video), Guardian: How Valeriy Lobanovskyi’s appliance of science won hearts and trophies, W – Valeriy Lobanovskyi, Football’s Greatest Managers: #7 Valeriy Lobanovskyi


Check their DMs: Fernandinho, Matic, and others key to a manager’s tactics

January 26, 2018

“Throughout the Premier League era, English football has never entirely embraced the defensive midfielder. In fact, the very concept has routinely prompted dissent from English fans. Traditionally, the English game has produced plenty of box-to-box midfielders and the natural urge was therefore to field two players in that mould together. David Batty’s outstanding performances for Leeds, Blackburn and Newcastle sides were often overlooked, as was Michael Carrick’s excellent work for Manchester United. Those two represented what managers wanted from defensive midfielders in the late 1990s, and late 2000s respectively. But how about the late 2010s? …” ESPN – Michael Cox (Video)


If You Like Phibsborough You’ll Love Paris…

January 26, 2018

“The night before had quickly, and without invitation, morphed into the morning after; and throwing twenties at the barman for two European-sized bottles of Heineken in an all-night bar along the River Seine that was a mash up of Fibbers and Bruxelles was becoming less appealing as the weak winter Parisian sun chased the night through Boulevards and side streets. Leaving, I waded through the flea markets near Bastille weaving my way through the early rising selfie taking couples and back to my temporary abode. Paris needs no introduction. …” Pog Mo Goal


Red Rebels: The Glazers and the FC revolution by John-Paul O’Neill

January 26, 2018


“‘Revolutions only effect a radical improvement when the masses are alert and know how to chuck out their leaders as soon as the latter have done their job.’ This quotation – from George Orwell – is aptly used by John-Paul O’Neill at the conclusion of his exposé on the running of FC United. What begins as a hope-fuelled guide to starting a team from scratch turns into a crime sheet of mismanagement as O’Neill attempts to evidence how ironically dis-united the fan-made club became. …” WSC, amazon


Nations League: The back-door route to Euro 2020?

January 26, 2018

“Is the Uefa Nations League a complicated irrelevance? Or, for some of the home nations, is it their best route to Euro 2020? England, Wales and Northern Ireland might baulk at that suggestion, given all three were at the finals in France in 2016, but would they all be entirely confident of finishing in the top two places in a five- or six-team group to earn qualification in the usual way? The Scottish FA is being more circumspect. With its focus sharpened by Hampden hosting four Euro 2020 tournament matches, it is selling Uefa’s new competition – one which will effectively replace most international friendlies – to sceptical fans as a way of ending what would be a 22-year absence from major finals. …” BBC (Video)


An Englishman Abroad

January 26, 2018

“Thirty years ago this summer, Gary Lineker came to the end of a highly successful first season with Barcelona. Signed from Everton after his exploits with England at the 1986 World Cup, where he won the Golden Boot, he was an instant hit at Camp Nou, scoring a match-winning hat-trick against Real Madrid in the Clásico and finishing his first season with 21 goals. …” The Blizzard


Cristiano Ronaldo Is Human After All

January 22, 2018


“We’re doing this again, huh? Last summer, Cristiano Ronaldo began to walk toward the exit of the Santiago Bernabéu. He even turned the door handle—only to, and I’m guessing here, realize that, along with the value of the British pound, his scoring rate was about to plummet. Brexit has consequences, and so does trading Marcelo for Ashley Young. Although Spanish authorities dogged him for the (reported) €14.8 million he hid in a shell company in the British Virgin Islands, he eventually came back to Spain after a summer vacation ready to … uh, oh boy. …” The Ringer


Henrikh Mkhitaryan may rediscover the old spark amid Arsenal energy

January 22, 2018

“One game – or, more accurately, one half‑game – dominates the memory of Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s time at Manchester United. In the league derby at Old Trafford last season, the first meeting in England of José Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, the Armenian looked lost. He was partly responsible for the opening goal because of the way he initially did not press Pablo Zabaleta and then finally went far too late, and he was withdrawn at half-time. He did not play for two months after that. …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Tim Vickery’s Notes from South America: State championships at the heart of Brazil’s problems

January 22, 2018

“Fluminense against Botafogo is known as ‘the grand-dad classic’. The Rio clash has been played since 1905, making it the oldest of Brazil’s big derby games. The latest instalment was on Saturday – a dreary goalless draw played in the Maracana stadium in front of 7,126 paying customers – a figure boosted by curious tourists. But this, officially, is not pre-season. This game took place in the second round of the Rio State Championships, which drags out until mid May before being instantly forgotten, giving way to the national league.” World Soccer – Tim Vickery


The Current State of Football Podcasting

January 22, 2018

“On collecting the gong for best podcast at the recent Football Supporters Federation awards on behalf of The Guardian newspaper’s Football Weekly, Jonathan Wilson, founder of The Blizzard and author of numerous books including his history of football tactics, Inverting the Pyramid was seen to tweet: Podcast of the Year at the FSF Awards goes to Football Weekly. Nice to win, better to beat Judas FM. …” The Two Unfortunates


VAR: Willian ‘dive’, Iheanacho goal – how does the system work?

January 19, 2018


“The video assistant referee (VAR) trial in competitive English football has faced its first major controversy. The decision not to overturn Willian’s yellow card for diving and award a penalty to Chelsea in their FA Cup third-round replay against Norwich on Wednesday, led to Match of the Day pundit Alan Shearer calling the system a ‘shambles’. Just 24 hours earlier, the first VAR goal had been awarded – when Leicester’s Kelechi Iheanacho’s offside strike was overturned 67 seconds after originally being ruled out in their FA Cup win over Fleetwood. Then, the reaction was broadly positive. …” BBC (Video)


Mourinho’s charismatic authority brings success and instability

January 19, 2018

“Last season Eden Hazard observed that the main difference between José Mourinho and Antonio Conte was that Mourinho does not practise ‘automisations’. He does not have players practise set moves they can perform almost unconsciously that can be deployed at great pace when the situation demands. He organises his defence and leaves his forwards to improvise. That has been taken by some as evidence that Mourinho is no longer at the forefront of coaching – and perhaps it is – but it is also a detail that explains his entire methodology. …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


FourFourTwo’s 100 Best Football Players in the World 2017

January 19, 2018

“… No.26, Kylian Mbappe. Talk about bursting onto the scene: the teenager turned heads across Europe – and became the second-most expensive player in history – with his scintiliating performances in Ligue 1 and beyond. One football stats sage recently declared on Twitter that Kylian Mbappe is ‘the best teenager we’ve seen in the data era’. This is no time for another Proper Football Men vs Analytics Geeks debate – and in this case there’s no need anyway, as it’s a statement with which all parties can surely agree. …” FourFourTwo (Video)


Raheem Sterling Proves That Everything You Know About Goal-Scoring Is Wrong

January 19, 2018


“Raheem Sterling has scored 14 goals in the Premier League this season for Manchester City, putting him right in the thick of the competition’s Golden Boot race, along with the likes of Tottenham’s Harry Kane, Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, and his teammate, Sergio Aguero. Of the 23-year-old Englishman’s haul, 13 have come inside the box, five of which were inside the 6-yard area. Five goals have come after the 80th minute of a match, helping Pep Guardiola’s side secure vital points on their journey to utter domination in his second season in England. And yet, there is a conundrum about Sterling’s reputation as a goal scorer: A popular opinion persists that he’s, well, just bad at shooting. …” The Ringer (Video)


Spontaneity and excitement are being eroded in increasingly Big Six-dominated Premier League

January 19, 2018

“When Leicester City won the Premier League two years ago it felt like a watershed moment. In a division where the gulf between the haves and have-nots had never been greater, the 5,000/1 outsiders Leicester had pulled off arguably the greatest ever upset in English football history. …” Telegraph


Can Peter Stöger prove himself to be more than a caretaker at Borussia Dortmund?

January 19, 2018

“Once upon a time not so long ago, a father took his son down to the Geissbockheim, literally translated as the Billy Goats’ home. It’s the training ground of 1. FC Köln, the Billy Goats who at this particular moment were in the German second division. The son wanted to watch them train but most importantly he was eagerly hunting the autographs of his heroes. …” The Set Pieces


Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend

January 12, 2018


Huddersfield Town’s Terence Kongolo, left, gets stuck in during the Terriers’ Third Round FA Cup match against Bolton Wanderers.
“… 10) A happy Monday for post-Hughes Stoke? Like the revolution, the first match of Stoke’s post-Mark Hughes era will be televised, as they travel to Manchester United on Monday night. At the time of writing, the identity of Hughes’ replacement is yet to be confirmed, but whoever is in charge for this match, it constitutes something of a free swing for a team in the relegation zone but far from doomed. Given the likelihood of a new manager bounce (or perhaps more pertinently, the old manager’s absence) and the fact Stoke are unbeaten in eight Monday night Premier League matches, it would not be a huge surprise to see the Potters emerge with a point. …” Guardian


Measuring Changes In Attacking Style In The Premier League

January 12, 2018

“Back in November we applied a clustering algorithm to find out which Premier League clubs had similar attacking styles. We wanted to see what we could find using match summary stats that anyone with an internet connection could get hold of. Our main rule was that we wanted to avoid using pure outcome stats, e.g. shots on target, completed passes, completed crosses, goals, assists etc. We thought we’d run the risk of just clustering teams together on how good/lucky they’d been so far. We didn’t use anything too fancy, just per game stats based on the way teams attempt to attack; shots from outside the box, inside the box, open play, set pieces, short passes, long passes, dribbles, crosses and how much they use the wide areas when they attack. …” StatsBomb


When Stephen Ireland Outshone Robinho At Man City

January 12, 2018

“The current incarnation of Manchester City – the freewheeling global powerhouse managed by Pep Guardiola, handing out thrashings to lesser sides like they’re going out of fashion – bears little resemblance to what went before. The club was utterly transformed on 1st September 2008, when the Abu Dhabi United Group confirmed its takeover. …” The Set Pieces


2018 African Nations Championship: Group-by-group guide

January 12, 2018


“The 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) in Morocco is the fifth edition of the tournament that features only players plying their trade in their own domestic championships. The Confederation of African Football (Caf) introduced the tournament in 2009 when Ivory Coast hosted an eight-team finals that was won by DR Congo. In 2011, the tournament – hosted by Sudan – expanded to 16 teams with Tunisia emerging as winners before Libya lifted the trophy in South Africa in 2014 and DR Congo won again in 2016, when Rwanda staged the finals. The holders and record two-time champions will not be in Morocco however, after losing to Congo Brazzaville in qualifying. …” BBC


As January Camp Roster is Announced, Has USMNT Missed Out on Jonathan Gonzalez?

January 12, 2018

“The U.S. national team, which is barely a team at this point, will kick off this World Cup year without a World Cup at a January camp defined by last fall’s qualifying failure. There are no big games for which to prepare and there’s no permanent coach. As a result, this is a program with very little structure or long-term direction. Former assistant Dave Sarachan, who led the USA at November’s friendly in Portugal following Bruce Arena’s resignation, will preside over the squad of 30 campers announced Monday. …” SI – Brian Straus


Joachim Löw’s World Cup Left-Back Conundrum

January 12, 2018

Bundestrainer Joachim Löw is spoilt for choice as he starts to think about his squad ahead of next summer’s World Cup finals in Russia. In many positions he is going to have a real headache choosing which players to leave out of the final 23-man squad. There are of course some dead-certs like Mats Hummels in the centre of defence, Toni Kroos as the metronome in midfield and then Joshua Kimmich at right-back. However, it is on the other fullback flank that the German national team coach is going to have a particular headache. …” Bundesliga Fanatic


The 100 best footballers in the world 2017

January 4, 2018


“Our panel of 169 experts from 63 nations compile a list of the greatest male players in 2017. Click on an individual to read more about their year. …” Guardian


Critics Say FIFA Is Stalling a Doping Inquiry as World Cup Nears

January 4, 2018

“LONDON — Dealing with Russia and its doping program haunted the International Olympic Committee for over a year. Now it’s FIFA’s turn. With the Russia World Cup six months away, leaders of the antidoping movement are criticizing soccer’s governing body over its failure to pursue more aggressively whether Russian authorities covered up positive doping tests belonging to the country’s top soccer players. Travis Tygart, the head of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, said Tuesday that FIFA’s apparent inaction was ‘exasperating.’ Craig Reedie, the president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said he expected FIFA to pursue any allegations of corruption and act decisively. …” NY Times


Scottish football’s crisis of confidence

January 4, 2018

“When Alex Ferguson was appointed Billy McNeill’s successor as Aberdeen manager in the summer of 1978, it had been thirteen years since a team outside of the Old Firm were crowned champions of Scotland and the Glasgow giants had already racked up sixty seven league titles between them: their reputation as the country’s preeminent force well established. Given the weight of historical context and the fact the 36-year-old Ferguson had recently suffered the ignominy of being sacked by St. Mirren, casual observers may have expected he would ease himself gently into his new position in the North East. Those who understood the psyche of the Govan-raised firebrand knew better. …” Football Pink


Ronaldinho and the Right-Winger

January 4, 2018


“It would be hard to imagine stranger bedfellows than Ronaldinho and Jair Bolsonaro. Ronaldinho became a global icon in the 2000s, his carefree manner on the pitch belying an enormous talent that made him the best footballer in the world before the emergence of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. He was the son of a dockyard worker who died when he was just eight and grew up in poverty in Porto Alegre. Bolsonaro, by contrast, is the champion of Brazil’s rich — a bombastic far-right politician who has made his career directing insults at women, gay people, and ethnic minorities. …” Jacobin


La Liga At the Break: Valencia, Girona and Atlético

January 4, 2018

“In just a scant few days the La Liga teams will return from their truncated winter rest. Before we dive head first into the home straight of the season, let’s take a look back at what the first chunk of games has taught us, shall we? This isn’t technically the halfway-point as Spain’s domestic break comes after 17 games rather than 19. Don’t worry though, we’re not about to let that get in the way of a good ol’ rummage through the numbers! …” StatBomb


Tim Vickery’s Notes from South America: Latorre highlights the dangers of romanticising fans

January 4, 2018

“Diego Latorre was one of the first Argentinians to be burdened with the “new Maradona” tag. He never came close to living up to those expectations. But he had a reasonable career, including international caps, and he has subsequently gone on to become one of Argentina’s most thoughtful and intelligent pundits. With the South American club season in its high summer pause, attention has turned to Europe, with the recent Real Madrid-Barcelona superclasico and the ongoing activities of Serie A and the Premier League. … World Soccer – Tim Vickery


Football Manager 2018 review

January 3, 2018


“It’s been 18 months since I signed for Celtic. During my first season, I impressed with a clean sweep of domestic trophies and qualification to the knockout stages of the European Champions League. At this point, this year’s campaign promises much of the same, and the board, press and fans love me. But things are boiling over in the dressing room, and I’m fast losing the confidence of my players. How did this happen? Six months earlier, star man Tom Rogic turned in a few dodgy performances and was dropped to the bench. Several weeks later he came knocking, unimpressed with his situation. I promised him more first team football, but failed to keep my word. And as one of my most influential players, my untrustworthiness sparked an internal revolt. To make matters worse, the media has now caught wind of our troubles. Introduced to the series this year, Football Manager 2018’s new Dynamics system is its most distinguished feature. …” PC Gamer, W – Football Manager 2018, Football Manager (Video)


The All-Bundesliga Teams – Third Team All – Bundesliga – Outfield Players

January 3, 2018

“You know the drill by know, using heaps of video and stats I’ve selected the three best teams of the Hinrunde in the 2017\18 Bundesliga. Sven Ulreich was the goalkeeper of the third team, here are his three defenders, coz we’re going hipster 3-3-3-1. …” Bundesliga Fanatic (Video)


Roy Hodgson wields the Croydon Way to halt Manchester City juggernaut

January 3, 2018

“The technical areas were a study in difference. On one side was the pencil thin, shaven-headed figure of Pep Guardiola, arms folded, sleek in his black bomber jacket. In the other were two figures dressed in black but that was the only similarity between them. That football could have produced two such disparate groups, practically separate species, is testament to its infinite richness. …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Hampden custodians Queen’s Park face anxious wait over national stadium review

January 3, 2018


“Sir Alex Ferguson and Scottish FA performance director Malky Mackay – just two of the former players, and well-kent faces, who helped Scotland’s oldest football club celebrate their anniversary. But, as Queen’s Park come to the end of their 150th year, they enter 2018 needing even more influential backing as they face one of the biggest challenges to their own longevity – and that of their famous home, Hampden Park. Scottish football owes its existence to that meeting at 3 Eglinton Terrace, Glasgow, on 9 July 1867, when Queen’s Park’s first president, Mungo Ritchie, used his casting vote to choose their current name instead of The Celts. …” BBC


Barcelona halfway report: Midfielders

January 3, 2018

“… Go back to the summer of 2017 and many wondered if Andrés Iniesta was even first choice anymore. At 33 years of age, it could have been argued that the Spaniard had given all he had but the reality was that a change of system was needed to get the best out of the club captain. Ernesto Valverde deployed him in a position that does not require a large amount of running whilst still allowing him to see plenty of the ball. His importance to the team is once again obvious and while he will continue to pick up injuries, he has missed 40 days through injury this season, the reduced amount of KM covered should lessen his time out and allow him to be ready for the final stages of the season. …” Barca Blaugranes


In a Top-Heavy Premier League, More Teams Rush to the Bunker

January 3, 2018

“LIVERPOOL, England — There was a moment, a few minutes into the second half, that encapsulated it all. Not just this game and these teams, but what the Premier League has been this season, and what it might become. A Manchester United attack had just broken down, and Everton’s defense had cleared the ball. Phil Jones, United’s central defender, collected the ball deep inside his own half. Oumar Niasse, Everton’s hardworking forward, chased him down. Jones hurried a pass to his teammate Marcos Rojo, whose touch was not entirely clean. The boisterous Goodison Park crowd, scenting weakness, stirred. …” NY Times