What Liga MX and MLS must do to make the expanded Leagues Cup a success

September 30, 2021


“For years, MLS has tried to substantially grow its fanbase. The league has expanded rapidly, constructed fabulous new stadiums, made strides in youth development, thrown resources into marketing efforts and shuffled between different broadcasters. The work has paid dividends in attendance in many markets, massively raised the valuations of every club and attracted a growing number of deep-pocketed, motivated owners, but it hasn’t made MLS all that popular nationally. Still, MLS is on an upward trajectory. …”
The Athletic


Freiburg’s fond farewell to the Dreisamstadion

September 30, 2021


Freiburg’s Dreisamstadion is one of Germany’s most iconic football grounds
“On 26 September 2021, Freiburg played their 360th and final Bundesliga game at the iconic Dreisamstadion, running out comfortable 3-0 winners against Augsburg. It was a fitting way to say farewell to their home of the last 66 years. Before the match, Freiburg head coach Christian Streich had declared that the sense of nostalgia surrounding the club’s final home outing was perfectly understandable, but that it had no place in his dressing room. He and the players weren’t thinking about it, hadn’t really discussed it – they were too busy preparing for a “complicated game” against an Augsburg side who had just got the better of Borussia Mönchengladbach. …”
Bundesliga (Video)
W – SC Freiburg


Chelsea’s loss at Juve illustrates the challenges Tuchel faces in fighting for titles domestically and abroad

September 30, 2021


Leonardo Bonucci in action for Juventus against Sampdoria.
“Thomas Tuchel probably didn’t need a reminder of the difficulty in competing on two fronts this season, but Manchester City and now Juventus have given him just that in the space of five days. The chaotic circumstances surrounding his arrival at Stamford Bridge in January — replacing fan favourite Frank Lampard and thrust straight into a condensed schedule made more unrelenting by COVID-19’s impact — created a degree of breathing space in the Premier League that helped propel them to Champions League glory. Tuchel was of course under a degree of pressure to secure a top-four spot last term, but he harnessed that rarest of things under owner Roman Abramovich — a sense of freedom arising from lowered expectations — to galvanise this group to an improbable European success. The dynamic is different this time. …”
ESPN
Guardian: Tuchel and Chelsea are failing to capitalise on Lukaku’s specific threat
YouTube: Juventus vs. Chelsea: Extended Highlights, Bayern München vs. Dynamo Kyiv: Extended Highlights, Zenit vs. Malmö: Extended Highlights, Atalanta vs. Young Boys: Extended Highlights, Benfica vs. Barcelona: Extended Highlights, Wolfsburg vs. Sevilla: Extended Highlights


In One Moment, Messi and P.S.G. Make It All Work

September 30, 2021


“Lionel Messi picked the ball up in that spot, the one that has served as the starting point for so many of his finest moments, the one that he knows so well that it might as well be his spot. It has, for 15 years, been his base camp, his happy place: a few yards inside from the right touchline, a few yards from halfway. He was standing still as he controlled it. He had been standing still for some time, by that stage. Paris St.-Germain had taken an early lead, through Idrissa Gueye, and had spent most of the rest of the game desperately trying to fend off Manchester City’s unrelenting attacks. …”
NY Times


Champions League roundup: Sheriff Tiraspol shock Real Madrid

September 28, 2021


Sheriff Tiraspol shock Real Madrid
“The Moldovan side Sheriff Tiraspol pulled off a remarkable 2-1 win away against Real Madrid in the Champions League, snatching a shock victory thanks to a sensational 89th-minute strike from Sebastien Thill. The competition debutants Sheriff went ahead against the 13-time European champions in the 25th minute with a header from the Uzbek midfielder Jasurbek Yakhshiboev, who narrowly missed a chance to double the visitors’ lead later in the first half. …”
Guardian
YouTube: Real Madrid vs. Sheriff: Extended Highlights, AC Milan vs. Atlético Madrid: Extended Highlights, Porto vs. Liverpool: Extended Highlights, RB Leipzig vs. Club Brugge: Extended Highlights, PSG vs. Man. City: Extended Highlights, Dortmund vs. Sporting: Extended Highlights


One of the great Guardiola pressing masterclasses – a tactical breakdown of how Man City beat Chelsea

September 28, 2021


“For the neutral, Saturday’s clash between Chelsea and Manchester City was something of a disappointment. Whereas we might have expected the two title favourites to take the game to one another and create an enthralling high-tempo contest, this was a slow-burning game with few clear-cut goalscoring chances. The culprits, in terms of making the game less exciting than anticipated, were clearly Chelsea. Thomas Tuchel used a 3-5-2 formation — the system he successfully turned to midway through last weekend’s victory over Tottenham Hotspur — and Chelsea desperately lacked creativity or connections between midfield and attack. Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner remained in centre-forward positions but received little service. …”
The Athletic


Lens win in Marseille and set their sights on European football

September 27, 2021


Olympique de Marseille’s Bamba Dieng in action with RC Lens’ Christopher Wooh
It’s no wonder Marseille feature so often in the Sunday evening slot in Ligue 1. Big derbies – such as the clash between Lyon and Saint-Étienne next week – are also chosen for the glamour match of the weekend, but the atmosphere at the Vélodrome has been electric this season and their match against Lens this weekend was no exception. Lens are hardly box office but, after a strong start to the season, they went into the game knowing that a victory would take them above the hosts and into second place in the table. They succeeded, winning a scintillating game 3-2 to show that they might have enough about them to finish in the top six this season. …”
Guardian


Defender (association football)

September 27, 2021


“In the sport of association football, a defender is an outfield player whose primary roles are to stop attacks during the game and prevent the opposing team from scoring goals. Centre backs are usually in pairs, with two full-backs to their left and right, but can come in threes with no full backs. There are four types of defenders: centre-back, sweeper, full-back, and wing-back. The centre-back and full-back positions are essential in most modern formations. The sweeper and wing-back roles are more specialized for certain formations depending on the managers choice of play and adaptation. … The sweeper (or libero) is a more versatile centre-back who ‘sweeps up’ the ball if an opponent manages to breach the defensive line. This position is rather more fluid than that of other defenders who man-mark their designated opponents. Because of this, it is sometimes referred to as libero, which is Italian for ‘free’. …”
Wikipedia
Guardian – The Question: Could the sweeper be on his way back? (Jonathan Wilson – Sep. 2009)
Football Tactics for Beginners- The Sweeper Keeper: From Lev Yashin to Manuel Neuer (Dec. 2017)
YouTube: What Happened to Sweepers in Football?, What is a Libero?, What is a Sweeper Keeper?


1998 FIFA World Cup Final

September 26, 2021


Aimé Jacquet – Zinedine Zidane
“The 1998 FIFA World Cup Final was a football match that was played on 12 July 1998 at the Stade de France in the Parisian commune of Saint-Denis to determine the winner of the 1998 FIFA World Cup. The final was contested by defending champions Brazil and the host nation France, marking the first time that a World Cup final was disputed between the host nation and the defending champion. France won the match 3–0 to claim their maiden World Cup, with the timing of the match two days before Bastille Day adding to the significance of the victory. Zinedine Zidane, who was named man of the match, scored twice before half-time and Emmanuel Petit added a third goal in the last minute. The match had an attendance in the region of 75,000. … The match also saw speculation on the condition of the Brazilian striker Ronaldo, who suffered a convulsive fit on the eve of the match. After initially being left out of the team sheet, in spite of his physical state, it was announced just 72 minutes before kick-off that he was going to play. In the match, he sustained an injury in a clash with French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez. Although it was believed that the decision to play Ronaldo had backfired, it was understandable as the player had been a crucial member of the side throughout the tournament, having scored four goals and created three more. …”
Wikipedia
Tactical Analysis: France vs. Brazil
W – Aimé Jacquet, W – Roger Lemerre
W – Zinedine Zidane, W – Didier Deschamps
NY Times: Sun Shines on France’s National Heroes
YouTube: Tactics Explained | 1994-1998: A History Of The World Cup, How France’s 4-3-3 won the 1998 World Cup | Tactical Analysis: France 3-0 Brazil | Zidane vs Ronaldo


Analysed: Are Barcelona the new Stoke or are Stoke the new Barcelona?

September 25, 2021


“It’s fair to say that the atmosphere at Barcelona is not exactly rosy at the moment. The off-field chaos is impossible to ignore, with debts of over €1.2 billion meaning one of the world game’s most famous clubs faces the very real prospect of bankruptcy. Of course, such huge financial difficulties have spilt onto the pitch, with Barcelona forced to offload some of their most prized assets — including Lionel Messi, the best player in their history (which is saying something when Diego Maradona and Johan Cruyff have also worn their colours). This was always going to lead to a drop-off in quality in Barcelona’s performances on the pitch, but the fans still expect more than they’re getting. …”
The Athletic (Video)
Barcelona’s 54 crosses in one dreadful game – how Koeman’s side are ‘playing like Stoke City’


Marcos Alonso and the Genius of Thomas Tuchel

September 25, 2021


“Things got so bad, at one point, that even Marcos Alonso’s father was telling him to go. His fallout with his coach at Chelsea, Frank Lampard, had been spectacular and it had been total. Alonso had been substituted at halftime during a game at West Bromwich Albion, but instead of dutifully filing out to support his teammates, he had instead skulked off to wait on the team bus, stewing at the injustice of it all. When Lampard found out, he was furious. First, he rebuked Alonso for his disloyalty, his petulance, in front of his teammates, a public shaming that often functions as soccer’s nuclear option, and then he ostracized him entirely from his team. For four months, Alonso did not play so much as a minute of soccer. …”
NY Times
W – Marcos Alonso


Jorge Sampaoli is building something special at Marseille

September 24, 2021


“‘Nietzsche thought while walking too,’ said Marseille coach Jorge Sampaoli to explain why he constantly paces up and down the touchline. ‘I analyse things better while on the move.’ Following Sampaoli’s arrival in March, Marseille lacked the ferocity and intensity of their coach. Now, however, they are playing with intensity and dynamism, embodying their manager’s snarling, prowling touchline presence. Club and coach are a perfect match and, after years of underachieving, Marseille may have finally found the right formula. Known as a Marcelo Biesla ‘disciple’, even if he quietly rejects the comparison, Sampaoli has based his success this season on a gung-ho outlook. It is working, with four wins and two draws from Marseille’s first six games. …”
Guardian
Jorge Sampaoli: Coach Watch (Video)
W – Jorge Sampaoli
Jorge Sampaoli: 5 things on the inbound Marseille coach


Why are Americans buying Italian football clubs?

September 24, 2021


“There is a wave of American-owned clubs in Serie A currently. Roma, AC Milan, Fiorentina, Parma, Spezia, Bologna and Venezia are all under US or Canadian control, meaning more than a quarter of the clubs in Italy’s top flight are owned by individuals from North America. Why do Americans want Italian clubs, and why is the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) allowing them to purchase these clubs at such a rate? Also, is it working out for them?”
The Athletic (Video)
Fortune: Despite ‘zero chance to win a championship,’ American business tycoons continue to pile into Italian soccer (March 2021)
Fortune: The Great Serie A Sale: Six Italian Soccer Clubs Are Currently Looking For New Ownership (Audio – Aug. 2020)
Understanding ‘Football’ in Italy By Rick Steves and Gene Openshaw
W – List of Italian football club owners


Turf Moor

September 23, 2021


Turf Moor is an association football stadium in Burnley, Lancashire, England. The stadium has been the home of Burnley F.C. since 1883. This unbroken service makes Turf Moor the second-longest continuously used ground in English professional football. The stadium is situated on Harry Potts Way, named after the manager who won the 1959–60 First Division with the club, and has a capacity of 21,944. … In 1922, Turf Moor hosted its only FA Cup semi-final and, in 1927, it was the venue of an international match between England and Wales. The stadium’s record attendance was set in 1924, when 54,775 people attended an FA Cup third round game between Burnley and Huddersfield Town. …”
Wikipedia


Mexico–United States soccer rivalry

September 23, 2021


“A sports rivalry exists between the national soccer teams of Mexico and the United States, widely considered the two major powers of CONCACAF. The first match was played in 1934, and the teams have met 72 times, with Mexico leading the overall series 36–15–21 (W–D–L). Matches between the two nations often attract much media attention, public interest, and comment in both countries. The U.S.-Mexico matches are widely attended; several matches at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico have drawn over 100,000 fans, and several matches at the Rose Bowl in the United States have drawn over 90,000 fans. The most important matchups take place in quadrennial FIFA World Cup qualification matches and major tournaments such as the CONCACAF Gold Cup. The rivalry plays out often in annual friendlies scheduled during the early months in U.S. cities with large Mexican American populations such as Los Angeles, Houston, and Chicago. …”
Wikipedia
Guardian: The beautiful chaos of the USA-Mexico rivalry has returned (Video)
ESPN – USMNT-Mexico rivalry, post-Nations League classic: What’s next? (Video)


“Ninth time lucky!” – Five things learned as West Ham stun Manchester United in EFL Cup upset at Old Trafford

September 23, 2021


“West Ham rolled up to Old Trafford in the EFL Cup without either of their best centre-backs in Kurt Zouma and Angelo Ogbonna, and given the Hammers were in siege defence mode for basically 80 minutes, you would have thought that would come back to haunt him, but it didn’t. United piled on the pressure, sending crosses and passes into the box but in the end it was Dean Henderson who made the bigger saves. That’s down to Craig Dawson and Issa Diop. The centre-back pair were colossal, getting their heads and feet to everything United put in. …”
Squawka
Guardian: West Ham’s Lanzini strikes to knock Manchester United out of Carabao Cup
BBC: Manchester United 0 – 1 West Ham United


Tactical Analysis: Manchester City’s Underlaps

September 22, 2021


“Adherents to the rather loaded term of positional play perceive football to be a game of dynamic spatial occupation. Subsequently, players will move in relation to the ball carrier and their supporting teammates. These reference points mean movements carry implications when working under a 5/7 zone structure which provides the framework for optimal creation of passing angles and maintenance of connections. Movement and subsequent vacation of space sends a signal to rotate, typically on the horizontal axis. …”
Running the Show


2021–22 UEFA Champions League

September 22, 2021


“The 2021–22 UEFA Champions League is the 67th season of Europe’s premier club football tournament organised by UEFA, and the 30th season since it was renamed from the European Champion Clubs’ Cup to the UEFA Champions League. The final will be played at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It was originally scheduled to be played at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. However, due to the postponement and relocation of the 2020 final, the final hosts were shifted back a year, with Saint Petersburg instead hosting the 2022 final. The winners of the 2021–22 UEFA Champions League will automatically qualify for the 2022–23 UEFA Champions League group stage, and also earn the right to play against the winners of the 2021–22 UEFA Europa League in the 2022 UEFA Super Cup. …”
W – 2021–22 UEFA Champions League, W – 2021–22 UEFA Champions League group stage
Guardian – Champions League 2021-22 draw: group stage analysis and predictions


Bayern Munich: Why Does The Bundesliga Look So Easy To Them?

September 21, 2021


“Bayern Munich are the most dominant German football team of all time. And it isn’t even close. They have dominated the Bundesliga for as long as anyone can remember and it seems as though that won’t come to an end anytime soon. But how have they done this? How have they monopolized the league and achieved such unprecedented success? Let’s find out. …”
YouTube: Bayern Munich: Why Does The Bundesliga Look So Easy To Them?


Eredivisie Overture: Part One

September 20, 2021


PEC Zwolle vs. Feyenoord in happier, safer times. 16 February 2020
“The Dutch are a society littered with contradictions. Rising waters threaten a country largely below sea level, but it was Amsterdam that served as a breeding ground for the very capitalism which constructed our climate crisis. Nationalism inherent in the Dutch psyche sees Germany as an ‘other’ when in reality the relationship between the two countries is as close as any. The Netherlands became famous in the football world for a revolutionary change in the perception of the game. Today, however, their current state of football is defined in many ways by conservatism. It’s not unlike a nation-state to find itself drowning in its own conflict. …”
Football Paradise


Liverpool have enjoyed a more iconic fightback against AC Milan – but this was still immensely satisfying

September 20, 2021


“If there is one nagging concern about Liverpool’s ability to compete for the biggest prizes this season, it surrounds the depth of Jurgen Klopp’s squad compared to those of their rivals. It’s a lively topic brought into sharp focus by a quiet end to the transfer window and the subsequent loss of Harvey Elliott for most of the season with a serious ankle injury in last weekend’s win over Leeds. Klopp has a star-studded starting XI capable of beating anyone but does he really have enough in reserve to be able to handle the challenges ahead? Will Liverpool pay the price for not splashing the cash this summer? A thrilling 3-2 victory over AC Milan in their Champions League opener at Anfield last night added weight to the Liverpool manager’s bullish claims that he’s got what he needs. Tougher tests lie ahead but this was a productive evening for some of those on the fringes. …”
The Athletic, W – Jürgen Klopp
Liverpool floored by Elliott injury but Klopp will not let negativity creep in, W – Harvey Elliott
Sadio Mane’s Liverpool century (Video), W – Sadio Mané
Loris Karius: Dogged by misfortune or his own worst enemy?, W – Loris Karius
YouTube: Is Trent Alexander-Arnold A Midfielder?, W – Trent Alexander-Arnold


Vinícius kickstarts Bernabéu party and comes of age as Real Madrid hero

September 20, 2021


Vinícius Júnior
“In the end, the police had to pull him out of there. There was a party back at his place and Vinícius Júnior was enjoying this more than the last time he was there and probably more than he should have been, but he didn’t care and you couldn’t really blame him: this had been a long time coming and when at last it did, boy was it good. Boy was he. After 560 days, football finally returned to the Santiago Bernabéu and, having conceded inside 200 seconds, twice trailed and been reacquainted with whistles, the Brazilian put Real Madrid into the lead and on course for a 5-2 win over Celta de Vigo that made a celebration of their homecoming. …”
Guardian
NY Times – At Barcelona, a Feeling Worse Than Sorrow: Pity


Arrigo Sacchi’s cultural revolution

September 18, 2021


Arrigo Sacchi
“In the early 1990s, the Italian national team were in a distinct crisis. To solve the tactical issues, the Federazione drew on the secret weapon of domestic Italian football: Arrigo Sacchi. The former Milan coach replaced Azeglio Vicini, who had not been able to win the World Cup at home, in 1991. Making its début against Norway, a draw meant that the qualification for the 1992 EURO was definitively over. However, Sacchi’s real goal was to rebuild the Squadra Azzurra – and in the long term to succeed at the 1994 World Cup. In that context, Sacchi relied on the well-known Milan axis composed of Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta and Franco Baresi. Meanwhile, the 1993 FIFA World Player of the Year, Roberto Baggio, was considered the pivotal point in attack. Certainly missing the qualities of his Dutch players from Sacchi’s Milan days, he was able to work on a coherent system, involving Baggio and the two Rossoneri Roberto Donadoni and Daniele Massaro. A system that, unsurprisingly, was very similar to the one Milan played in the late 1980s. …”
Arrigo Sacchi’s cultural revolution
Arrigo Sacchi: The Tactical Masters (Video)
How Marcello Lippi masterminded the resurgence of Juventus in the 1990s
The footballing fairy tale of Juventus cult hero Moreno Torricelli
How Giovanni Trapattoni adapted his way into legend
Total Football Journeyman: Arrigo Sacchi & The Cult of Universal Player (Video)
W – Marcello Lippi, W – Arrigo Sacchi, W – Giovanni Trapattoni
YouTube: A Brief History of Arrigo Sacchi, The coaching genius who made Juve invincible | Marcello Lippi Interview | Serie A, Legendary: Press Conference with Giovanni Trapattoni

Marcello Lippi


Shearer meets Carroll: ‘I thought I would finish my career at Newcastle. I’ve still got so much to give’

September 18, 2021


“The first time Andy Carroll left Newcastle United, he was flown to Liverpool in Mike Ashley’s helicopter. Funny what a £35 million transfer fee can get you. The second time was a bit of a contrast; no announcement from his hometown club, no chance to say goodbye or empty his locker at the training ground and definitely no helicopter. Just a contract tailing off and a cold, familiar silence. Andy isn’t bitter. Football rolls on, a hype-powered juggernaut, and the big man wants to roll with it. At 32, he doesn’t have a club currently, but he is keeping himself fit, training every day and waiting for a chance. …”
The Athletic


What The Heaven Happened To PSG?

September 17, 2021


“Created in 1970, PSG are still a young club. A club that had its first golden age before suffering a significant decline… But a club that despite everything has remained very ambitious! And since being bought by Qatar, PSG want to win the Champions League at all costs. Now with Leo Messi, Sergio Ramos, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, PSG could really fulfill their dream.. But is it really possible? How did PSG go from a young Paris club to a MEGA CLUB?! What the heaven happened to PSG?!”
YouTube: What The Heaven Happened To PSG?


The 2005 German Match-Fixing Scandal

September 17, 2021


“In early 2005, German football was overshadowed by the discovery of a €2 million match fixing scandal centered on second division referee Robert Hoyzer, who confessed to fixing and betting on matches in the 2. Bundesliga, the DFB-Pokal (German Cup), and the then third division Regionalliga. The scandal has been described as the largest controversy in German football since the Bundesliga scandal of the early 1970s, as numerous players, coaches and officials have been accused of involvement with an organised crime group in the scheme, which came on the eve of Germany playing host to the 2006 World Cup. …”
W – 2005 German football match-fixing scandal
NY Times: Germany Still Consumed by a Scandal (March 2005)
YouTube: The 2005 German Match-Fixing Scandal


Can Jack Grealish Lead Manchester City to Champions League Glory?

September 16, 2021


“In 1979, when Nottingham Forest made Birmingham City striker Trevor Francis the first £1 million player in British football, more than doubling the previous record, his new manager, Brian Clough, breezed in late to Francis’s introductory press conference, stopping only to give his new star a playful thwack with a squash racquet before heading off to the courts. … Cultural shifts and changes in locker-room power dynamics make it unlikely that British football’s first £100 million player, Manchester City’s Jack Grealish, will be subject to quite the same level of autocratically eccentric negging, which is not to say his famously intense and meticulous new boss is a stranger to idiosyncrasy. …”
The Ringer (Audio)


The Blueprint: Five Tactical Trends to Look out for in Juventus vs. Milan

September 16, 2021


“It’s official. The Blueprint’s gone continental. This week, we’re headed to Turin for a Serie A clash that pits the league frontrunners against an old superpower that has since faded. But maybe not in the way you think. Milan travel to Juventus with the sides in two very different frames of mind.  Juventus’ start has been troublesome to put it kindly, and downright dreadful if we are being less kind.  Defeat to Napoli last Saturday left Massimiliano Allegri’s side with just one point from their opening three fixtures, and they sit in 16th place. It’s the first time they’ve failed to win at least one of their first three Serie A matches in 52 years. …”
The Analyst


When a Fairy Tale Is Disputed Territory

September 16, 2021


“Edmund Addo sank into child’s pose in the middle of the field, his forehead touching the turf, his arms outstretched in front of him, a gesture of supplication and thanks. About 60 yards away, euphoria had overwhelmed his teammate Giorgos Athanasiadis, his legs buckling as two colleagues tried to help him to stand. Their coach, Yuriy Vernydub, danced on the touchline. They were all relatively recent arrivals to Sheriff Tiraspol: Addo, a Ghanaian midfielder, and the Greek goalkeeper Athanasiadis had joined this summer; Vernydub predated them only by a year. Still, though, they knew what this meant to their team, which had been waiting for this moment for two decades. …”
NY Times
Sheriff Tiraspol: Who are the Moldovan minnows making their Champions League debut?
W – FC Sheriff Tiraspol
YouTube: The Football Club Without A Country: The Story of Sheriff Tiraspol


How do you decide which football team to support as a neutral?

September 15, 2021


“For me, 11 July 2021 will go down in history. Not as the date of the England men’s football team’s first major final since 1966, but the first time as an adult I supported England in a major tournament. Since 1980, I have found myself looking forward to the point in tournaments when England are knocked out and I can enjoy the rest of the competition, so it was a very different experience to find myself seriously pondering the choice between Braveheart Mancini or Humble Southgate before the final. But why did I end up supporting Anyone But England in all those other tournaments? Was it schadenfreude, the trepidation of UK media, which is dominated by the thoughts and concerns of England, reacting to an England victory? Or maybe it was just the commonplace behaviour of any football fan, helping to cement my own sense of community and belonging by the use of the ‘other’. …”
Guardian
Guardian: The joy of seeing a football stadium for the first time (Oct. 2020)


Traps, Overloads and Vertical Transitions – Benitez’s Everton’s Use of Wide Pressing Traps and How It Can Facilitate the Toffees in Possession Approach

September 14, 2021


“As Everton meandered to another mid-table finish in Carlo Ancelotti’s first full season, something which has become more common than not in recent years, it suffices to say Everton fans looked ahead to the summer transfer window wondering what direction Ancelotti and Marcel Brands would take Everton’s squad, some with trepidation considering the scattergun recruitment of the club in recent years. However, the Merseyside team saw their plans thrown into disarray when Ancelotti was chosen by Florentino Perez to return to Real Madrid at the start of June, leaving Everton searching for another permanent manager, another common feeling for Everton and its fans in recent years. Following a three-week managerial search, Farhad Moshiri and Everton turned to Rafael Benitez on a three-year contract to lead the team into the upcoming season and beyond. …”
Breaking The Lines
Rafa Benítez: Coach Watch (Video)
The Athletic: What it’s like to play for Rafa Benitez (Video)
W – Rafael Benítez
YouTube: Everton’s new system under Rafael Benitez | Premier League Tactics Session


Cox: Mane spinning both ways makes him a dangerous option through the middle

September 14, 2021


“Not for the first time, Sadio Mane’s fine performance in Liverpool’s 3-0 victory over Leeds was overshadowed by the contribution of Mohamed Salah. It was the Egyptian who scored Liverpool’s opener, which brought up his 100th Premier League goal and inevitably dominated the headlines. Mane had to wait until the 92nd minute — and his 10th shot of the match — before getting onto the scoresheet. But this was a contest made for Mane, against a Leeds side using their typically aggressive man-to-man press across the pitch. Whereas Salah was a threat primarily with his speed in behind, Mane was capable of coming short to receive the ball to feet, spinning past opponents and turning in either direction. He was Liverpool’s key attacker. …”
The Athletic
BBC – Leeds 0-3 Liverpool: Fabinho & Salah star as Liverpool look back at their best – Stephen Warnock (Video)


Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action

September 13, 2021


Lukaku – Chelsea
“1) Elliott’s injury shows sport at its cruellest. For the first hour at Elland Road, Liverpool’s midfield was a million miles from the mess of last season, slick and accomplished, with Fabinho – who spent much of last campaign as an emergency centre-back – and Thiago Alcântara, now able to express himself as part of a functional team, turning on the style as Liverpool sliced through their opponents at will. But equally on song was the dazzling Harvey Elliott, who over the last four games had established himself not just as a deserving member of Klopp’s starting XI but also one of the country’s brightest young footballers. …”
Guardian


Catenaccio

September 13, 2021


Catenaccio (Italian pronunciation: [kateˈnattʃo]) or The Chain is a tactical system in football with a strong emphasis on defence. In Italian, catenaccio means ‘door-bolt’, which implies a highly organised and effective backline defence focused on nullifying opponents’ attacks and preventing goal-scoring opportunities. … The key innovation of Catenaccio was the introduction of the role of a libero (‘free’) defender, also called ‘sweeper’, who was positioned behind a line of three defenders. The sweeper’s role was to recover loose balls, nullify the opponent’s striker and double-mark when necessary. Another important innovation was the counter-attack, mainly based on long passes from the defence. In Helenio Herrera’s version of catenaccio in the 1960s, he used a 5–3–2 formation, in which four man-marking defenders were tightly assigned to the opposing attackers while an extra player, the sweeper, would pick up any loose ball that escaped the coverage of the defenders. The emphasis of this system in Italian football spawned the rise of many top Italian defenders who became known for their hard-tackling and ruthless defending. …”
Wikipedia
Football Tactics For Beginners: Catenaccio
YouTube: Catenaccio explained


2021-22 UEFA Champions League Group Stage

September 11, 2021


The map is a standard location-map showing the locations of the 32 qualified teams in the 2021-22 UEFA Champions League Group Stage. There are several other aspects to the map page… 1). Groups A through H… At the very top of the map are the eight 4-team groups of the Group Stage, arranged with with each club’s home-country flag shown alongside. 2). Allocations vs. Qualified teams, by country… At the left side of the map page, Allocations (by member-nations) are shown, via a list of the top 41 UEFA Member-Associations in their current [2021-22] Country Co-efficient ranking. I stopped at 41 (out of the 55 total UEFA member-nations) because #41 is the current ranking of Moldova, and Sheriff Tiraspol of Moldova was the club from the lowest-ranked country to qualify for this season’s tournament. This is the first time a club from Moldova has qualified for the elite competition that is the Champions League. But it is not really any sort of fairy-tale story of a David making it into the realm of the Goliaths. …”
billsportsmaps


Jamal Musiala: Bayern Munich’s “magician of the match” casts a spell on RB Leipzig

September 11, 2021


“… Musiala was named on the substitutes’ bench at the Red Bull Arena, but didn’t hang about after entering the fray in first-half stoppage time for the injured Serge Gnabry. Within two minutes of the restart, the teenager brought an Alphonso Davies ball under his spell and fired with unerring accuracy beyond Peter Gulacsi. The Germany wizard then turned provider for Bayern’s third, ghosting in behind Mohamed Simakan and telegraphing the unmarked Leroy Sane‘s run with an inch-perfect cross towards the back post. It was footballing sorcery at its finest. …’
Bundesliga (Video)
Bundesliga – Jamal Musiala: Who is Bayern Munich’s Germany star of the future?
YouTube: Best of Jamal Musiala – Bayern’s and Germany’s New Wonderkid


Bosman ruling

September 11, 2021


“Twenty years ago today, Jean-Marc Bosman won a court case that changed the game forever – but did the Belgian’s just victory actually do more harm than good? Dec. 15, 1995 is one of the most significant dates in football history. For some, it was the day on which footballers were finally empowered. For others, it was the day on which the game stopped being a sport and became a business. As with any dramatic shift in power, the truth lies somewhere in between. What is beyond dispute, though, is that the old system had to change. In the spring of 1990, Jean-Marc Bosman’s two-year contract with SA Royal Club Liegois was entering its final few months. The Belgian was offered a new deal that would have seen his weekly wage reduced by 75 percent. Unsurprisingly, Bosman rejected it. He was promptly placed on the transfer list. …”
The Bosman Ruling may have freed footballers from ‘slavery’ – but the elite now own football
W – Bosman ruling
W – Jean-Marc Bosman
YouTube: How the Bosman Ruling Changed Football


Premier League 2020/21: The biggest underachievers and overperformers based on expected goals

September 11, 2021


“The Premier League season has reached its conclusion but does the final table accurately reflect performance? Manchester City deservedly wrapped up the title, while many expected Fulham, Sheffield United and West Brom to be relegated as the campaign progressed. Elsewhere though, some teams have managed to accumulate more points than their showings suggested they would, while others have been left confused as to how they aren’t higher up in the standings. Using data from Infogol’s expected goals model, we look at four teams who found themselves in a ‘false’ position after 38 games. …”
Sporting Life (May 28, 2021)
The Athletic: Premier League top-four permutations: What form table, xG, odds and fixtures show (May 11, 2021)
W – Expected goals
Sporting Life: Premier League: Team by team xG analysis on the 2020/21 season (May 28, 2021)
Five Thirty Eight: Club Soccer Predictions (Sept. 8, 2021)
YouTube: Football’s New Stat – What is Expected Threat?, What is xG? | By The Numbers (Jan. 2018)


Which Premier League team has the best goalkeeper?

September 10, 2021


“Which side has the best attack in the Premier League right now? What about the best midfield, defence, and goalkeeper? When you split the team up into its parts, it’s not such an easy question to answer. But, here at The Athletic, we have tried. Starting with the midfield, our writers nominated the sides they feel have the best set of players in that area. Now we’re on to the goalkeepers. There will be follow-up articles on the other two team sections later in the week. Don’t agree? Come and let us know in the comments and vote for the Premier League’s best goalkeeper in the poll at the end of the article…”
The Athletic
The Athletic: Which Premier League team has the best defence?


A World Cup Every Two Years? Why?

September 10, 2021



“This is soccer’s age of the Big Idea. There is an incessant, unrelenting flow of Big Ideas, ones of such scale and scope that they have to be capitalized, from all corners of the game: from individuals and groups, from clubs and from leagues, from the back of cigarette packets and from all manner of crumpled napkins. The Video Assistant Referee system was a Big Idea. Expanding the World Cup to 48 teams was a Big Idea. Project Big Picture, the plan to redraw how the Premier League worked, was a Big Idea. The Super League was the Biggest Idea of them all — perhaps, in hindsight, it was, in fact, too Big an Idea — an Idea so Big that it could generate, in the brief idealism of its backlash, more Big Ideas still, as the death of a star sends matter hurtling all across the galaxy. …”
NY Times


Johan Cruyff

September 9, 2021


Hendrik Johannes Cruijff OON (Dutch: [ˈjoːɦɑn ˈkrœyf] (About this soundlisten, internationally spelled Cruyff; 25 April 1947 – 24 March 2016) was a Dutch professional football player and coach. As a player, he won the Ballon d’Or three times, in 1971, 1973, and 1974. Cruyff was a proponent of the football philosophy known as Total Football explored by Rinus Michels, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the sport, and one of the greatest managers. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Dutch football rose from a semi-professional and obscure level to become a powerhouse in the sport. Cruyff led the Netherlands to the final of the 1974 FIFA World Cup and received the Golden Ball as player of the tournament. … Cruyff is widely seen as an iconic and revolutionary figure in history of Ajax, Barça, and the Oranje. David Winner, the author of Brilliant Orange, wrote about Cruyff’s influential career in the football world, ‘There have been lots of brilliant football figures down the years, but none has been as significant as Johan Cruyff. … As coach at Ajax and Barcelona, he built thrilling sides, nurtured a remarkable number of genius players and influenced many of the most important teams in the world. .. Once radical and revolutionary, Cruyffian principles have become standard throughout the modern game. His blueprint for developing young players has been copied all over the world.’ …”
Wikipedia, W – Style of play and views on the game
Total Football Journeyman: From Mighty Magyars to Flying Dutchmen
Guardian: What formation did Holland’s Total Football side actually play?
Cruijff’s Total Football Guide (433-2)
W – History of AFC Ajax
W – Rinus Michels, W – Ruud Gullit, W – Frank Rijkaard, W – Marc Overmars, W – Dennis Bergkamp, W – Louis van Gaal
YouTube: Total Football Explained 5:09, Football’s Greatest International Teams .. Netherlands 1974 26:08, Netherlands – Argentina: Bergkamp Goal 1998, Johan Cruyff ● Flair Like No one Else (Rare Footage)


USMNT, Ricardo Pepi shine against Honduras in second half of World Cup qualifier

September 9, 2021


“The U.S. men’s national team has gotten its World Cup qualifying campaign back on the rails with a 4-1 win over Honduras on Wednesday night. After entering halftime down 1-0, manager Gregg Berhalter made three substitutions to start the second half with aplomb. What ensued was a four-goal onslaught, as the USMNT climbed all the way to third in the Octagonal as the first international window comes to a close. It was a classic ‘tale of two halves’ type of match. After struggling in the 4-3-3, Berhalter lined his team up in a 3-4-3. What ensued was an even sloppier 45 minutes than any of the previous four intervals, with gaps galore in the midfield, between the back seven and the attack, and all over the defensive line. …”
The Athletic
NY Times: For U.S. Men’s Team, Win Salvages a Week They’d Rather Forget
Guardian: A brilliant 45 minutes against Honduras failed to mask US World Cup problems


UEFA World Cup qualifying scores: Poland end England’s winning streak; Spain, Germany notch victories

September 8, 2021


Poland 1, England 1
“…In a night of relatively low drama most of the big guns of European football eased to a further three points, not least Germany, who looked impressive in swatting aside Iceland 4-0. An early goal from Serge Gnabry set Hansi Flick’s side on course for a win that takes them four points clear in Group J before Antonio Rudiger, Leroy Sane and Timo Werner found the net, the latter only after wasting a string of presentable opportunities. After two games in which they dropped points the visit of Lithuania came at a good time for Italy with new Juventus striker Moise Kean netting a first-half brace. Their lead in Group C had been looking precarious after a draw against Switzerland but they had Northern Irish goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell to thank as he saved a penalty that meant Northern Ireland held the Swiss to a goalless draw in Belfast. …”
CBS Sports (Video)
BBC – World Cup 2022 qualifying: Who is close to qualifying? Who are the surprise packages?
Guardian: Szymanski denies England as Poland snatch late draw after Kane’s opener
ESPN: England’s draw in Poland keeps Three Lions on track for Qatar 2022, but they’ll need complete performances to vie for World Cup


Rosters Reimagined! A Post-Transfer Market Tinkering of the EPL’s Big Six

September 8, 2021


Liverpool – Most used so far: 4-3-3, Alternative pictured: 4-2-2-2
“The transfer window has closed and we’re left with a week of international football to wonder what money truly buys. So for kicks, let’s incorporate the new lads in alternative formations for the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ and see what cleverness or calamity results… Because why not, right? …”
The Mastermindsite


Explained: Why South American Premier League stars are heading to Croatia after international duty

September 7, 2021


“After Colombia play Paraguay in Asuncion this Sunday evening, the eighth of their 18 qualification games for next year’s World Cup, Davinson Sanchez will not stick around for the ninth. Rather than staying on for the home game with Chile in Barranquilla on Thursday, Sanchez will fly back across the Atlantic. Not back to London, but to Croatia, for a hastily arranged 10-day training camp by the Adriatic Sea. This is all part of a plan that Sanchez agreed with Tottenham Hotspur to make sure that his involvement in Colombia’s World Cup qualifiers will cause minimum hassle to Spurs’ season. …”
The Athletic (Audio)
NY Times: Brazil-Argentina Match Stopped After Health Officials Storm Field (Video)
The Athletic: Spurs and Villa receive clarity over Argentina stars and hope there is no repeat next month Argentina, Brazil
YouTube: Brazil vs Argentina | Matchday 6 Highlights | CONMEBOL South American World Cup Qualifiers


Spain Loses World Cup Qualifier For The First Time In 66 Matches, 2-1 Against Sweden

September 6, 2021


“The Spanish national team tasted defeat for the first time in 28 years in a World Cup qualifying match after they lost to Sweden 2-1 on Friday in Stockholm. Sweden came back from a goal down to defeat Spain who lost a World Cup qualifying match after 66 games undefeated. The defeat means that Spain have lost a World Cup qualifying game after 66 matches and 28 years. During this undefeated run, they also managed to win 10 in a row before the 2010 World Cup which they ended up winning. A defeat that Luis Enrique would not have excepted as his men had done well in the Euro 2020 having made the semi-finals where they lost eventual Champions Italy on penalties. …”
Republic World
YouTube: Sweden stuns Spain 2-1 in World Cup qualifier | WCQ Highlights | ESPN FC
UEFA: European Qualifiers: England and Belgium rampant, Sweden stun Spain


For U.S. Men, Two Games and No Wins Add Up to Concern

September 6, 2021



“If every World Cup qualifying campaign is a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows, then the United States men’s soccer team has not yet left the ground. The Americans have played two games in four days to start the final round of their regional qualifying tournament for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and though they expected to win both matches, they have settled instead for two disappointing draws. These are early days, still. There are 12 games to go. And two points are better than none. …’
NY Times (Video)
Guardian: John Herdman aims to end Canada’s time in the World Cup wilderness (Video)


Total Football

September 5, 2021


Johan Cruyff playing with Ajax in 1971
Total Football (Dutch: totaalvoetbal) is a tactical system in association football in which any outfield player can take over the role of any other player in a team. Although Dutch club Ajax and the Netherlands national football team are generally credited with creating this system during the 1970s, there were other sides who had played a similar style before, such as the Austrian Wunderteam of the 1930s, the Argentine side ‘La Maquina‘ of River Plate in the 1940s, the Golden Team of Hungary in the 1950s, English team Burnley in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and Brazilian side Santos in the 1960s. In Total Football, a player who moves out of his position is replaced by another from his team, thus retaining the team’s intended organisational structure. In this fluid system, no outfield player is fixed in a predetermined role; anyone can successively play as an attacker, a midfielder and a defender. The only player who must stay in a specified position is the goalkeeper. …”
Wikipedia
YouTube: Total Football Explained


Analyzing Maurizio Sarri’s First Home Game in Charge of Lazio

September 5, 2021


“Lazio kicked off the Maurizio Sarri era with a 3-1 win against newly promoted Empoli, where Sarri coached from 2012 to 2015 and led to promotion. Their final match before September’s international break saw them host Spezia, coached by Thiago Motta following Vincenzo Italiano’s departure to Fiorentina in the summer. Whilst Spezia started in a 3-4-3 formation, Sarri continued with his traditional 4-3-3 formation, making just two changes: Luis Alberto came in for Jean-Daniel Akpa Akpro on the left side of midfield, whilst Patric started on the right side of central defense in the place of Luiz Felipe. Lazio started off with a 4-4-2 high-block pressing scheme, with Felipe Anderson joining Ciro Immobile up top whilst Pedro dropped deeper to the wing. This was a flexible shape as Sergej Milinković-Savić often stepped out from midfield to press, which then saw Anderson drop back to a wider, deeper position. …”
Breaking the Lines
Tactical analysis analyze Lazio Empoli
NY Times – Maurizio Sarri: Chelsea’s Tuscan Son (Aug. 2018)
W – Maurizio Sarri


Fans don’t want legacy clubs dominating or state-funded clubs, so can football ever be happy?

September 4, 2021


“OK, so let me get this straight. We don’t want blue-blood clubs, like Liverpool and Manchester United, dominating for decades at a time and we are deeply suspicious of how enthusiastically these aristocrats embraced financial fair play (aka, Operation Drawbridge). When it comes to winners, we want to spread it around a bit — we like disruption. But we do not want these new challengers to be funded by oligarchs or sovereign wealth funds — unless it is our club, then it is completely fine — and we are not too keen on American investors coming over here and expecting to make some money. Is that right? If it is, many of you are going to be disappointed. But you will not be the only ones. …”
The Athletic


The Problem When Teams See Athletes as Assets

September 3, 2021


“One of the things that appealed most to Manchester City about Marlos Moreno was his flexibility. The club spotted him as a teenager, coming off the back of a breakthrough season in which he helped Atlético Nacional, his hometown club in his native Colombia, win not just a national title but the Copa Libertadores, too. Moreno, then 19, had the air of a rising star. He was the sort of prospect who stood out among the thousands of players around the world whose names and performance data flash in front of the eyes of the scouts and analysts at Europe’s biggest clubs. … Executives were sufficiently excited by the acquisition of a player they felt was one of the most promising in South America to mention his name to Sheikh Mansour, City’s owner. …”
NY Times
Who is Man City owner Sheikh Mansour and what’s his net worth?
W – Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan


Case for the Planet: Football Needs to Think

September 3, 2021


“By any football club’s standards, 2020 was a catastrophic year. Pandemic-driven shortfalls caused by the absence of fans has left clubs across Europe cash-strapped. The continent’s superclubs are no exception. Last month, The Financial Times reported that Inter Milan are rushing to raise $200m in emergency funds to cope with a €102m loss last season. In Catalonia, the world’s highest earning club are in crisis, off-loading players and staff to mitigate the effects of amassing debt and an income shortfall of over €200m for the 2019-20 season. …”
Football Paradise


Bochum celebrate their Bundesliga return by beating Mainz in style

September 3, 2021


“They streamed down the streets in blue and white, gravitating to the Castroper Strasse where trams drop right outside the Ruhrstadion and the smell of grilling sausages hits you as soon as the double doors open. ‘The euphoria was palpable throughout the city,’ said Thomas Reis. They had waited for this and how they deserved it. Bochum is a city of 365,000 people hiding in plain sight in football’s landscape, in the German game’s most teeming region. On a wider scale, VfL Bochum are destined to be the forgotten of North Rhine-Westphalia, squeezed into the space between the bigger and brasher Borussia Dortmund to the east and Schalke to the west. …”
Guardian
W – VfL Bochum


Golden Team

September 1, 2021


W – Gusztáv Sebes, W – Ferenc Puskás
“The Golden Team (Hungarian: Aranycsapat; also known as the Mighty Magyars, the Magical Magyars, the Magnificent Magyars, the Marvellous Magyars, or the Light Cavalry) refers to the Hungary national football team of the 1950s. It is associated with several notable matches, including the ‘Match of the Century‘ against England in 1953, and the quarter-final (‘Battle of Berne‘) against Brazil, semi-final (against Uruguay) and final of the 1954 FIFA World Cup (‘The Miracle of Bern‘). The team inflicted notable defeats on then-footballing world powers England, Uruguay and the Soviet Union, before the 1956 Hungarian Revolution caused the breakup of the side. Between 1950 and 1956, the team recorded 42 victories, 7 draws and just one defeat, in the 1954 World Cup final against West Germany. …”
W – Golden Team, W – Total Football
The greatest teams of all time: Hungary 1950–56
Guardian – Hungary’s Golden Squad: the greatest football team never to win it all?
The Curious Case of Hungarian football
Remembering Josef ‘Pepi’ Bican, once Europe’s greatest goalscorer
The glory of Josef Uridil, the first man to transcend football and celebrity in Austria
Hungary 1950s (Video)
W – Match of the Century (1953 England v Hungary football match), W – Battle of Berne (1954 FIFA World Cup), W – 1954 FIFA World Cup Final