Who is the best player from each of England’s 48 counties?

November 30, 2021


“England’s system of counties is rarely discussed in relation to professional football. If you say you support Surrey or Lancashire or Worcestershire, you are clearly talking about cricket rather than football. England’s second sport is played by sides who take their names from the county they’re based in, but football is contested by teams almost universally named after cities and towns. There are, of course, Notts County and Derby County; Notts literally being the name of the county and Derby representing the county of Derbyshire. Things become more complex when you consider Stockport County, named because Stockport was once a ‘county borough’, independent from control of any wider county, and across the border in Wales there’s Newport County, originally named Newport & Monmouth County, after the historic county of Monmouthshire. …”
The Athletic – Michael Cox


Marcelo Bielsa Is Right To Raise Doubts About The Future Of Football

November 30, 2021


“The hectic festive football schedule is a fundamental part of British society around Christmas. So much so that football fans always look ahead to who their teams are facing around the holidays and to them it is very much one of the best things around the Christmas period. But with the growing physical demands of the game and congested schedule, it may be time to sacrifice in the entertaining cluster of fixtures in quick succession to have matches filled with more energy and quality. …”
The Sportsman


Aubameyang to Zaha: how Africa Cup of Nations will hit Premier League

November 29, 2021


“Only four top-flight clubs are in line to be unaffected by tournament that kicks off in Cameroon on 9 January. … Jürgen Klopp is not the only Premier League manager who will have Afcon on his mind over the coming weeks. With the delayed 33rd edition of the continental showpiece due to begin in Cameroon on 9 January, planning for the absence of up to 40 players from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Wilfried Zaha during one of the most intense periods of the domestic season will present a major headache for several. Much to the annoyance of Klopp and European club managers, the tournament was switched back to its usual mid-season slot after the 2019 Cup of Nations in Egypt was held for the first time during the European summer, because June and July are part of the rainy season in Cameroon. …”
Guardian
W – 2022 African Nations Championship
YouTube: AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS 2022 DRAW RESULT


Manchester City 2 – 1 West Ham United

November 29, 2021


“Manchester City midfield pair Ilkay Gundogan and Fernandino were on target as Pep Guardiola’s Premier League superiority over West Ham continued. City have now won 10 of 11 top-flight meetings with the Hammers under the Spaniard. In a game played in a snow-storm before half-time, skipper Gundogan provided the decisive moment after 33 minutes when he turned home a deflected Riyad Mahrez effort at the far-post. It was the Germany midfielder’s third goal of the season – and his second in four league games – and was followed up in the final minute by Fernandinho, who had only been introduced three minutes earlier to tie the game up. The veteran Brazilian had not scored a Premier League goal since October 2018 but found the target from the edge of the box. …”
BBC (Video)
YouTube: Victory in the snow! | City 2-1 West Ham | Man City Highlights | Gundogan & Fernandinho goals!


2021 Copa Libertadores Final: Palmeiras 2 – Flamengo 1

November 29, 2021


“The 2021 Copa Libertadores Final was the final match which decided the winner of the 2021 Copa Libertadores. This was the 62nd edition of the Copa Libertadores, the top-tier South American continental club football tournament organized by CONMEBOL. The match was played on 27 November 2021 at the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo, Uruguay, between Brazilian sides Palmeiras and Flamengo. Palmeiras defeated Flamengo by a 2–1 score after extra time in the final to win their third title in the tournament, and second in a row. As winners of the 2021 Copa Libertadores, they qualified for the 2021 FIFA Club World Cup and earned the right to play against the winners of the 2021 Copa Sudamericana in the 2022 Recopa Sudamericana. …”
Wikipedia
Libertadores 2021: The Final Chapter (Nov 25, 2021)
YouTube: Palmeiras (BRA) vs Flamengo (BRA) | LIBERTADORES FINAL HIGHLIGHTS | 11/27/21


Shocking rise of fan disorder leaves Ligue 1 facing an existential crisis

November 28, 2021


“This was supposed to be a season of celebration and new acclaim for the French league. Not only would crowds return to stadiums after a year of matches behind closed doors but Lionel Messi’s arrival at Paris Saint-Germain guaranteed unprecedented global interest in Ligue 1. Three months in, France is shocked and embarrassed and the talk among authorities is of an existential crisis. …”
Guardian


He Knows Who Won the Ballon d’Or. No, He Won’t Tell.

November 28, 2021



“At this time of year, Pascal Ferré seems to field the same call, over and over again. They come from across the world. Sometimes, it is a team executive or a club president. Often, it is an agent, charming and inquisitive. Occasionally, it might even be one of the world’s most famous players themselves. Regardless of the voice on the other end of the line, they all follow much the same pattern with Ferré, the genial, bearded editor in chief of the prestigious French soccer weekly France Football. They start by shooting the breeze, asking casually after Ferré’s general health. Then, they start to shift gear. …”
NY Times


A Guide to 4-4-2

November 27, 2021


“One of the most traditional formations in football, the classic 4-4-2, has fallen out of favor with many of the top sides around the world. Why has it fallen out of favour? How can it be used effectively? Written by Eric Laurie, illustrated by Philippe Fenner. …”
YouTube


Portugal on collision course with Italy after Qatar World Cup play-off draw

November 27, 2021


Italy and Portugal have been drawn in the same pathway for the European FIFA World Cup play-offs, meaning only one will be able to secure qualification for next year’s tournament in Qatar. Italy are the defending European champions, after beating England on penalties in the final of Euro 2020 in the summer. Portugal meanwhile won Euro 2016, overcoming France in Paris to win the tournament for the first time. But one — or both — will miss out on a place in Qatar after Friday’s play-off draw. …”
The Athletic


Is 2021 Switzerland’s greatest year?

November 26, 2021


“It’s never easy to define a team by a single year. There are so many variables, so many intricacies, that can determine what constitutes a ‘great year’, that it’s almost impossible to put one above another. For starters, everything is relative: is it ‘better’ to over-achieve with a weak squad, for example, or to succeed with a side that was always expected to win? Like everything in football, you’ll never get a unanimous decision. After Remo Freuler scored Switzerland’s fourth goal of the night against Bulgaria last Monday, however, you’d have been hard-pressed to find a single Swiss fan in attendance that wouldn’t put 2021 right at the top of the pile for the men’s ‘Nati’. …”
Back Page Football


Italy: Serie A, 2021-22 season – Location-map, with 2 charts: Seasons-in 1st-Division & All-time Italian Titles list.

November 26, 2021


“… The map page has a location-map of 2021-22 Serie A. The location-map features each club’s home kit [2021-22]. The map also shows the 20 Regions of Italy. And the map also shows the 11 largest cities in Italy (2019 metropolitan-area figures) {Metropolitan cities of Italy}. The cities’ population figures can be seen at the top of the location-map. Finally, the map shows the locations of both the promoted clubs and the relegated clubs from 2021… Promoted to Serie A for 2021-22 (Empoli, Salernitana, Venezia); relegated to Serie B for 2021-22 (Benevento, Crotone, Parma). The right-hand side of the map page has 2 charts. The top chart shows each of the 20 clubs’ total seasons in Serie A, with consecutive top-flight seasons also listed. The other chart is the All-time Italian titles list (1898-1915; 1920-43; 1946-2021). …”
billsportsmaps
W – 2021–22 Serie A


What’s so special about the half-spaces? (With help from Rene Maric)

November 25, 2021


“Back in 2014, Rene Maric was a football tactics blogger training a team of amateurs when he got curious about a geometry he’d come across in coaching circles. Managers like Jurgen Klopp and Ralf Rangnick didn’t just divide the pitch into vertical halves or thirds. They talked about five horizontal zones running the length of the field, like the ones Pep Guardiola chalked on his training pitch at Bayern Munich to help guide players’ spacing and movement. The outside zones were easy to name; those were the wings. The middle was the middle. Germans had a specific term for the two bands in between: halbraum, or ‘half-spaces’. Maric admitted it was ‘not a good word’ in English, but for lack of any better ideas, the name stuck. He wrote a long post for Spielverlagerung on what made these two extra zones worth paying attention to. …”
The Athletic
Guardian – From chatroom to the bootroom: Rene Maric’s very modern coaching journey (Sep. 2018)
W – René Marić


Analyzing Xavi’s First Game as Barcelona Manager

November 25, 2021


“Xavi finally made his debut as a coach in the Barcelona dugout. Since the departure of Lionel Messi at the beginning of the season, it has been evident that this season is going to be very difficult for Barcelona. As Antoine Griezmann was released on the transfer window deadline day, Barcelona’s star-studded forward line suddenly began to cross the line into agony. It appeared that Ronald’s Koeman’s dismissal was only a matter of time. Xavi finally made his debut in the Barcelona dugout after a short spell of 3 matches by Sergi Barjuan. However, the path in front of Xavi is not smooth at all. Barcelona has been out of the top four in the league table for a long time, and the threat of being eliminated from the Champions League group stage is quite real. In this team, Xavi does not have a specific target man except Luke de Jong, but his performance should not persuade Xavi to include him in the lineup. …”
Breaking The Lines


Who Has Qualified for the 2022 World Cup?

November 24, 2021


“With a year to go, almost half the field for the 2022 World Cup is set. Thirteen countries have already booked their places for the tournament, which opens in Qatar next Nov. 21: some with ease, cruising through qualifying, and some with a touch more drama. Quite what the tournament, riddled with scandal and concern from the day Qatar was announced as the host, will be like cannot yet be known. The identities of the teams who will contest it, though, are remarkably familiar. Most — if not quite all — of the traditional contenders are already there: a 10-country-strong European contingent led by France, the defending champion, and Belgium, officially the world’s best team, as well as the likes of Spain and England and Germany. They have been joined by the two great powerhouses of South America, Brazil and Argentina. …”
NY Times


Cox: City can beat elite teams without a prolific forward – it’s against the cautious sides it becomes a problem 

November 23, 2021


“Sometimes it feels like every Manchester City game is a test of whether playing without a prolific forward is viable, and the consensus can swing wildly from one match to the next. But City’s upcoming week might demonstrate why. On Wednesday, they face Paris Saint-Germain — a side averaging 62 per cent possession in Ligue 1, and naturally attack-minded by virtue of having multiple superstar forwards. Either side of PSG’s visit, City host Everton and West Ham United, two of the more cautious sides in the Premier League. Everton are averaging just 41 per cent of possession, the fourth-least in the league, and while West Ham are more positive in that respect, only Newcastle United pressure the opposition less frequently in the final third than David Moyes’ side. City’s next three opponents are typical of their managers. …”
The Athletic – Michael Cox


Solskjaer Out at Manchester United After a Loss Too Far

November 23, 2021


“Manchester United had not done it after a humiliation by Liverpool. And the club’s executives had managed to tolerate the sight of Manchester City’s cruising to victory at Old Trafford while barely breaking a sweat. After each defeat, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the manager who had overseen both calamities, somehow remained in his post. He could not, though, survive a third. Solskjaer had promised, two weeks on since that defeat against Manchester City, that his team would react, that it would use the embarrassment as fuel for the rest of the season. …”
NY Times


Qatar 2022 is a powerplay aimed at neighbours more than European critics

November 21, 2021


“One year to go, 11 in the making. Welcome to Qatar 2022, the final countdown, and a World Cup that for all the noise, the sense of fingers crossed and a gaze averted from the bloodier details, still makes no real sense at all. It was easy to feel a bit distracted as Sepp Blatter read out the word ‘Qatar’, with a slight break in his voice, shortly after lunchtime on 2 December 2010. There was an edge of hysteria in the chamber at Fifa House. Ten minutes earlier Blatter had broken the red wax seal on another padded envelope, and said ‘Russia’, to protracted squeals of joy. The crowd had already begun to seethe. …”
Guardian
Guardian – Pride and poverty: Qatar’s World Cup fever tempered by legacy of labour abuses
Guardian – The men who built Qatar’s World Cup dream deserve some of David Beckham’s pay packet (October 2021)
Guardian – Revealed: football’s plan for Qatar workers’ centre as World Cup legacy


What has gone wrong at Southampton?

November 21, 2021


“Southampton were once known for their savvy in the transfer market and their dedication to promoting from their youth teams. But Southampton – ‘savvy in the transfer market’ became Southampton – ‘a selling club’, and in recent years they have been unable to reproduce the talent they have lost. How did they form a team of such talent? Why haven’t they done it since? What is their plan going forward? Alex Stewart explains, Philippe Fenner illustrates.”
YouTube


‘I have ambition to manage an elite team, but I am in no hurry’ – Xabi Alonso happy to learn at Real Sociedad

November 21, 2021


“‘My role here is fundamental,’ Xabi Alonso tells The Athletic as he shelters from the rain by a pitch at Real Sociedad’s Zubieta training ground. The former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich midfielder is now back home in the Basque Country, at the club where he developed as a player and where his current job is to coach the youth team, Real Sociedad B (which they all call Sanse). … The evidence suggests that Alonso and everyone else working at Zubieta have indeed been getting this right. Very right. Real Sociedad’s first team are top of La Liga, Alonso’s Sanse are the only youth team playing in the adult Segunda Division. …”
The Athletic


The World Cup Loses Its First Star

November 20, 2021


“Somewhere, in a darkened room, Erling Haaland was watching. Injury meant he would not be able to take the field for Norway’s most significant match in 20 years. The Netherlands’ return to partial lockdown last weekend meant, with the game played behind closed doors, he would not even be able to support his national team from the stands. Instead, Haaland had to follow from afar, powerless to help. Two minutes into the game, he posted an image of the game’s television broadcast on Instagram, accompanied by a Norwegian flag and the heart emoji. There was, then, still a scintilla of hope. …”
NY Times


Switzerland Are Back in the World Cup and They Will Be a Problem

November 20, 2021


“Switzerland have done it again, grabbing glory from the mouths of supposedly greater footballing nations. Once again, one of the sport’s superpowers has woken up one morning, ready to eat breakfast with destiny, only to go downstairs and find that Switzerland has already scoffed its meal. In this summer’s Euro 2020, France seemed to be moving toward the next stage of the tournament, soaring toward glory on the back of a series of sublime performances from Paul Pogba. That was until Switzerland snatched away their aspirations with a last-minute goal to force extra time in the Round of 16 before sending them home by winning the penalty shootout. Most recently, Italy has been made to suffer at Swiss hands. …”
The Ringer (Audio)


Ancient Chinese Football Freestylers

November 19, 2021


Chinese ladies playing cuju, by the Ming Dynasty painter Du Jin
“China is sometimes said to be the home of football. Scattered references in ancient documents and legendary epics suggest China was playing a type of freestyle football. But what did this freestyle football look like? Does it have any connection to the game we know today? Written by David Goldblatt, illustrated by Marco Bevilacqua.”
YouTube
W – Cuju


World Cup 2022: ranking the top 10 contenders a year before Qatar

November 19, 2021


“With just over a year to go until the World Cup kicks off, 12 teams have qualified alongside hosts Qatar. All four semi-finalists from 2018 have sealed their spots and are joined by former world champions Argentina, Brazil, Germany and Spain, while recent European champions Portugal and Italy still have more to do. With most of the big hitters now able to prepare for the tournament, we assess where they stand as the countdown to Qatar begins. …”
Guardian
The Athletic: CONCACAF World Cup qualifying: Where USMNT, Canada, Mexico and Panama stand with six matches left
World Cup 2022 Power Rankings: France & England the early favourites as Portugal & Italy falter


World Cup 2022 qualification: Who will be in Qatar and who is in play-offs?

November 16, 2021


Gareth Southgate’s England are heading to Qatar 2022, while Wales and Scotland have a play-off place secured
“England have qualified for the 2022 World Cup finals while Wales and Scotland are heading to the play-offs along with some surprising names. European champions Italy and Portugal will also have to go through two rounds of play-off games next March after failing to win their respective groups. Heading to the World Cup so far are: Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland. The Netherlands, Norway and Turkey are the three teams left who can still qualify automatically. The winners of each group secure a place at the World Cup, with the 10 runners-up joining two Nations League teams in the play-offs, where three further places are up for grabs. …”
BBC


The Tactics behind Union Saint-Gilloise’s Belgian Title Challenge

November 16, 2021


“The Jupiler Pro League (Belgian first division A) has largely been dominated in recent years by just a handful of teams. You would have to go back to 1997 to find a champion whose name isn’t Club Brugge, Gent, Genk, Anderlecht, or Standard Liege. If you travel all the way back to 1935, you enter an era dominated by Royale Union Saint-Gilloise. USG won three titles between 1932 and 1935, and after hibernating for over 70 years, they are back at the top of the table. Only promoted last season, they currently lead perennial champions Club Brugge by 4 points. … Many interesting dives into the rise, fall, and resurrection of the club under Brighton chairman Tony Bloom have been written. Few though have studied the tactical setup of USG though, and how manager Felice Mazzu has swept aside the heavyweights of the Benelux. There’s a wholesome uniqueness about the attack, and a riskier edge to their defence. …”
Breaking The Lines


Scotland 2 – 0 Denmark

November 16, 2021


“Scotland secured a seeded spot in the World Cup play-off semi-finals as goals from John Souttar and Che Adams stunned Denmark with a thrilling performance at Hampden Park. Steve Clarke’s Group F runners-up needed at least a point against the runaway leaders to give themselves a chance of a home draw. But centre-half Souttar headed home in his first Scotland game since being sent off in a 2018 defeat by Israel and striker Adams burst clear to settle growing nerves after 86 minutes. Scotland had lived dangerously in the closing stages before that breakaway goal secured a sixth competitive victory in succession for the first time since winning six Home Nations matches in a row between March 1928 and February 1930. …”
BBC
Guardian: Che Adams secures Scotland play-off seeding in superb win over Denmark


1998 World Cup terror plot

November 15, 2021


“From March to May 1998, a terror plot against the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France was uncovered by European law enforcement. More than 100 people were arrested in seven countries as a result of the plot. Organised by the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA) and backed by al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the plot is thought to have targeted the England–Tunisia match on 15 June 1998, and involved infiltrating the Stade Vélodrome in Marseille in order to attack players and spectators during the game, attack the hotel in Paris hosting the United States national team, and finally hijacking an aircraft and crashing it into the Civaux Nuclear Power Plant near Poitiers. … Although Osama Bin Laden had a rented place in the stands of Arsenal Football Club, he wanted to destroy English football. Terrorists had reportedly planned to blow up the England substitute bench (targeting youngsters David Beckham and Michael Owen), shoot English players and throw grenades into the stands. …”
Wikipedia
Howler: Net of Suspicion


What it’s like to play for Steven Gerrard: Intense, obsessive winner and creates a ‘no excuses’ culture

November 14, 2021


Steven Gerrard has swapped the marble staircase of Ibrox for the concrete one that leads into Villa Park. They are two stadiums whose brick facades possess an enduring character and whose designs were concocted by the same architect, Scotsman Archibald Leitch. When it comes to talk of building things that last, though, they now have another common denominator in Gerrard, who arrives at Villa looking to make them into a force again, just as he did over his three and a half seasons in charge at Rangers. He is a manager seeking one final destination in Liverpool but who is plotting a path by restoring similarly grand clubs — particularly, those giants who are sleeping. ..”
The Athletic (Video)
The Athletic – Gerrard’s Aston Villa in-tray: Solve defensive issues, get more out of Buendia and Bailey, invest in youth (Video)
W – Steven Gerrard


How Football Actually Works

November 14, 2021


“The game of football can be divided, split, and broken down into many elements. But as a team, there are certain passages of play you will always encounter. In this video, we will explain the 10 categories of phases of play; In-possession, out of possession, transitions, and set-pieces. Explained by Eric Laurie. Illustrated by Philippe Fenner.”
YouTube


U.S. Beats Mexico and Then Rubs It In

November 14, 2021


Weston McKennie and his teammates beat Mexico with goals and then taunted them in song.
“Michael Jackson’s 1988 song ‘Man in the Mirror’ — a classic tune, but no one’s idea of a rousing sports arena jam — was blaring over the stadium speakers late on Friday night as the U.S. men’s soccer team rollicked and embraced happily on the field. A bit less than half an hour earlier, Christian Pulisic had charged toward the sideline to celebrate the first of the Americans’ goals in their 2-0 victory against Mexico, lifting the front of his No. 10 jersey to reveal the same phrase, ‘Man in the Mirror,’ scrawled in permanent marker on his white undershirt. At that moment, even reasonably well-informed American soccer fans might have been left scratching their heads at the references, struggling to understand what, exactly, was afoot. …”
NY Times (Video)


Hjulmand: Denmark happy to be World Cup dark horses

November 13, 2021


“With eight wins from eight, 27 goals scored and zero conceded, Denmark qualified for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ in stunning, swashbuckling style. But when Politiken, one of the country’s daily newspapers, dubbed 2021 an ‘almost perfect year’, the reason for qualifying the description was obvious. The events of 12 June, and Christian Eriksen’s horrifying on-field cardiac arrest, are never far from Danish minds – or from conversations around their team. Rather than cast a shadow, however, the trauma of the Eriksen incident – and the response to it – has served to solidify bonds within Kasper Hjulmand’s team and unite the nation around them. …”
FIFA
W – Kasper Hjulmand


Italy 1 – 1 Switzerland

November 13, 2021


Italy remain top of Group C on goal difference despite being held in Rome
“Jorginho’s last-minute penalty miss ensured the race to finish first in 2022 World Cup qualifying Group C goes down to the wire as top two Switzerland and Italy played out a gripping draw. The Chelsea player blazed over after VAR was used to rule that Ulisses Garcia had shoved Domenico Berardi. Giovanni Di Lorenzo headed Italy level after Silvan Widmer’s superb opener. The Azzurri hold the edge going in to the last round of games with a goal difference two better than the Swiss. It means a straight shoot-out between the pair for top spot on Monday, with Italy at Northern Ireland and Switzerland at home against Bulgaria….”
BBC


The Little Country That Could Wonders if It Still Can

November 13, 2021



“Luis Suárez arrived first. And in the ordinary run of things, for a city like Salto — a sleepy place tucked into a distant corner of a tiny country — that would have been its claim to fame: producing one of the finest strikers of a generation. Except that, precisely three weeks later, a second arrived. Edinson Cavani grew up only a few streets from Suárez. The curiosity that the two players who would, for more than a decade, help turn Uruguay’s national team into one of the most potent in the world were born in such quick succession, in such proximity, lends their origin story a faintly fantastical gleam. Lightning, after all, is not supposed to strike twice. …”
NY Times


Patrick Vieira – Crystal Palace – Tactical Analysis

November 12, 2021


“After Roy Hodgson’s retirement from the game, many thought Crystal Palace were doomed for relegation. However, with a couple of new signings and a more energetic, attack-minded style of play, Patrick Vieira has taken Palace to new heights. While they sit just tenth place in the table, Vieira’s Eagles have now gone unbeaten in their last six matches, including a massive 2-0 win to set title-contenders Manchester City back a peg. Even in matches they’ve lost the season, the signs of what’s to come from Palace in the future are promising. So with that, here is a tactical analysis of Patrick Vieira’s new-look Crystal Palace. …”
The Mastermindsite
How Patrick Vieira’s Impressive Tactical Revolution Is Taking Shape at Crystal Palace (Sep 23, 2021)
W – Patrick Vieira


Why you should be watching… Napoli

November 12, 2021


“Luciano Spalletti is crafting a Napoli side with the characteristics of his recent predecessors. Possession-based and quick in attack, like the side of Sarri. Ruthless in defensive with a cohesive press, like the sides of Ancelotti and Gattuso. And as Alex Stewart explains, the first title since 1990 isn’t out of the question. Illustrated by Henry Cooke. …”
YouTube


USA-Mexico: 5 things to know about El Tri before crucial World Cup qualifier

November 12, 2021


“So begins Mexico’s most challenging – and most frigid – World Cup qualifying window. Following a promising start to the Octagonal with four wins and two draws, manager Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino and his squad will now embark on a demanding two-game away trip against the United States (Nov. 12) and Canada (Nov. 16). There’s much more than just World Cup qualifying points on the line here. After already losing to the USMNT twice this year in the Nations League and Gold Cup finals, Mexico will seek to avoid a potential third consecutive defeat since June. As for Canada, Mexico have had some issues with John Herdman’s team after narrowly defeating them 2-1 in the Gold Cup semifinals and being held to a 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw at the Estadio Azteca in October. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. …”
MLS Soccer (Video)


Football Manager 2022

November 11, 2021


“Welcome, friend. Welcome to a brave new world. Forget about the metaverse — Football Manager is the only alternative reality people like us will ever need. For here, within the confines of our laptops, we can live our dreams, write our stories and be the people we always knew we could be. But, by thunder, there’s a lot going on, isn’t there? Stick with me and I’ll guide you through it. We’re going to strip it all down and work on the basics. So start a new game, select career mode and, for the sake of argument, pick Tottenham Hotspur and hit ‘Quick Start’. There will be a short pause as your computer rumbles through the set-up process. Use this time to remind yourself that nothing good comes easily. …”
FM22: The definitive beginner’s guide to Football Manager
Football Manager 2022 (Video)
Football Manager 2022: The 20 best non-European teams to manage in the new game
FM22: Managing Newcastle United on Football Manager (Part 1)
Football Manager 2022 wonderkids: The 20 best young players to sign in FM22
Football Manager 2022: The 20 best teams to manage in the new game


‘You either improve or you die’ – What it’s like to play for Antonio Conte

November 9, 2021


“After the Tottenham squad had spoken to their colleagues at Chelsea about what to expect from Antonio Conte as head coach, some felt a degree of trepidation. This is perhaps understandable. After all, they would have been told about the ferocious work ethic, the instructions during training that are so relentless he has to constantly suck throat lozenges and the volcanic temper that can erupt when things are not going his way. Most who have worked with Conte have a story or two to tell. … But they will also be working with a head coach who likes to foster a team spirit and camaraderie, and demands that his squad become a tight-knit group. This is what it’s like to play for Antonio Conte…”
The Athletic (Video)
W – Antonio Conte


Rennes hammer Lyon and take aim at Champions League places

November 9, 2021


“On a weekend when the other teams in the mix for the European places stumbled – draws for Monaco and Marseille, a defeat for Nice – Sunday night fixture looked like an appealing one, with Lyon traveling to Rennes. It was no shock that the match would feature so much attacking play but it was a surprise that nearly 90% of it came from Rennes. They ran out convincing 4-1 winners to move up to fifth in the table, just a point behind Nice and Marseille. The result was something approaching a shock given Lyon’s impressive recent form and the fact that Rennes were missing a handful of important players. …”
Guardian


History of FC Barcelona

November 9, 2021


Barcelona’s Copa del Rey-winning squad of 1928.
“The history of Futbol Club Barcelona begins from the football club‘s founding in 1899 up until the present day. FC Barcelona, also known simply as Barcelona and familiarly as Barça, is based in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. The team was founded in 1899 by a group of Swiss, English, German and Spanish footballers led by Joan Gamper. The club played amateur football until 1910 in various regional competitions. In 1910, the club participated in their first of many European competitions, and has since amassed fourteen UEFA trophies and a sextuple. In 1928, Barcelona co-founded La Liga, the top-tier in Spanish football, along with a string of other clubs. As of 2020, Barcelona has never been relegated from La Liga, a record they share with Athletic Bilbao and arch-rival Real Madrid. The history of Barcelona has often been political. Though it was a club created and run by foreigners, Barcelona gradually became a club associated with Catalan values. In Spain’s transition to autocracy in 1925, Catalonia became increasingly hostile towards the central government in Madrid. The hostility enhanced Barcelona’s image as a focal point for Catalonism, and when Francisco Franco banned the use of the Catalan language, the stadium of Barcelona became one of the few places the people could express their dissatisfaction. The Spanish transition to democracy in 1978 has not dampened the club’s image of Catalan pride. In the 2000s – a period of sporting success in the club and an increased focus on Catalan players – club officials have openly called for Catalonia to become an independent state. …”
W – History of FC Barcelona
W – Joan Gamper
How society and politics gave us Catenaccio and Total Football
A Brief History Of FC Barcelona
Paulino Alcántara: Barcelona’s Filipino icon who blazed a trail for Messi
The importance of Catalonia – past and present – to Spanish football
In the pantheon of modern-day greats, where do Sergio Busquets’ unique talents rank?
YouTube: Barcelona, Johan Cruyff & Catalan Independence, La Masia: The History of Barcelona’s Academy

Barcelona face PSV in the 1977–78 UEFA Cup semi-finals. They also finished the season as Copa del Rey winners.


West Ham display the virtues of manager Moyes to shock Liverpool

November 8, 2021


“As Pablo Fornals ran on to Jarrod Bowen’s through-ball midway through the second half, the London Stadium fell into one of those pregnant silences that were probably the greatest loss of the time without fans. Over the course of what can only have been two or three seconds but felt far longer, you could almost hear the thought processes. First, was he going to get his shot in? Yes. Then, was he set to measure his finish? He was. Then, was his shot going to beat Alisson? It did, just about, carrying on into the net despite a hefty touch by the keeper. Is the London Stadium still disliked by West Ham fans? Perhaps it is. …”
Guardian: Jonathan Wilson
Guardian: Kurt Zouma earns West Ham victory as Liverpool run ends with Alisson errors
West Ham United 3-2 Liverpool – Tactical Analysis – How Moyes’ Men Claimed Victory


The ‘problem Cristiano Ronaldo is creating at Man Utd’

November 8, 2021


“It’s possible to have too much of a good thing. And in Manchester United’s case, it’s possible to have too many good attackers. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is compelled to play as many of United’s big-name attackers as possible. But in doing so is sacrificing balance and defensive awareness. As Michael Cox writes playing Cristiano Ronaldo, with little defensive desire, is making United worse. Illustrated by Marco Bevilacqua.”
YouTube


Red Star, Paris St-Germain and the contrasting global brands of Parisian football

November 8, 2021


“If Paris St-Germain are a Hollywood blockbuster, says David Bellion, then Red Star are an indie film directed by Ken Loach or Michel Gondry – one about the oldest and undoubtedly hippest football club in the French capital. Making links between football and the arts comes naturally to Bellion, the former Manchester United and Sunderland striker who is now creative director at Red Star, a cult French third division team who like PSG have a brand that resonates with fans around the world, but for different reasons. Founded in 1897, they sit at the heart of Saint-Ouen, a diverse, working class suburb of northern Paris, and were formed by Jules Rimet, the longest-serving Fifa president whose name gleams on the original World Cup trophy. …”
BBC
W – Red Star F.C.


Examining Gasperini’s Tactics & Their Influence on Serie A, Part I: The Seeds of the High Press

November 7, 2021


Roma’s 2016/17 side played a classic Italian style that was Gasperini’s own introduction to senior football as a player in the seventies.
: “A Dutchman praising an Italy side beating his home nation is still a rare sight in football, but you heard the sound of that very pin drop after Louis Van Gaal’s praise this week. ‘For the first time,’ Van Gaal enthused at a Firenze press event, ‘I really loved watching an Italian team play.’ Roberto Mancini’s Italy walked away 1-0 winners against the Netherlands but, for those of us who’ve stuck with Serie A through its 21st century makeover, the manner of Mancini’s foot-ball—one featuring a team effort to win the back high and early—was nothing new. You could say current Serie A coaches Paulo Fonseca and—for a far longer spell of paying his dues over the last fifteen years—Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini have a hand in it. …”
Part I: The Seeds of the High Press
Part II: Moving From Year Zero to Club Legend
Part III: Building a Club Institution

A mid-season midfield partnership between Javier Pastore and Gianluca Mancini helped draw opponents into pressing Roma’s makeshift 4-3-3 phase while building up inside the Giallorossi half.


1.FC St. Pauli: Taking the 2nd Bundesliga by Storm

November 5, 2021


“Bayern Munich’s 5-1 battering of Leverkusen, RB Leipzig’s stuttering start to the season, and Dortmund’s unruly Erling Haaland reliance have all combined to make the 59th Bundesliga season one of the driest title races in recent memory. With the Bavarian giants set to retain their 10th consecutive Meisterschale, it is time to visit the Zweite Bundesliga for hopes of a title challenge. There, Germany’s second division is living up to its billing as The Greatest Zweite Bundesliga of All Time. The numerous fallen giants aren’t just providing a spectacle of unrivaled terrace culture, but the football on the pitch is as competitive as ever, with just 4 points separating 1st and 4th. …”
Breaking the Lines
Breaking the Lines: St Pauli – Culture, Politics, and Pirates


When the Solution Is the Problem

November 5, 2021


That split-second when everyone thinks the ends justify the means.
“Not once, in two decades, had David Beckham heard the moment. He had witnessed it at the time, of course. More than that, in fact: He had summoned it and created it and lived it. He had, presumably, watched the moment more than once in the intervening years, too. But it was not until a couple weeks ago that he sat down and listened to it. The moment he did was — obviously — captured for posterity, a social media post as meta as they come: a man recording his own reaction to a recording of himself. As Beckham listens, he has a look of fierce concentration on his face, mixed with just a little genuine concern, as if he really does not know how it all ends. The audio plays in the background, an echo of his past: the last couple minutes of the BBC radio commentary of England’s meeting with Greece on the road to the 2002 World Cup. …”
NY Times (Audio)


Daniel Levy: Raising Tottenham’s ambitions or thwarting them?

November 5, 2021


“If his words at the time are to be believed, Daniel Levy never planned for it to be this way. His stated intention, when ENIC took over Tottenham Hotspur in 2001, was to hold the fort as non-executive chairman and then find someone more experienced to do the job. Like so many others who find themselves in powerful positions in football, though, he loved the thrill of it. What’s more, he felt he was good at it. Whether it was rival chairmen, managers or agents, Levy relished every negotiation. Oh, how he relished a negotiation. Two decades on, he is arguably the most high-profile executive in the Premier League. Some would say famous. Others, both among Tottenham’s fanbase and among that strange community of Premier League owners and directors, would say infamous. …”
The Athletic (Audio)
The Athletic – Antonio Conte to Tottenham: Why talks broke down in the summer, why it’s happening now and what to expect (Audio)


The Blizzard (magazine)

November 4, 2021


The Blizzard is a quarterly football magazine edited by Jonathan Wilson, published in both download and hard copy formats by Blizzard Media. The magazine was originally sold on a pay-what-you-like basis. The Blizzard took its name from an eclectic Victorian Sunderland-based newspaper set up by Sidney Duncan, which ran for 12 issues and was established in 1893. Wilson, who also comes from Sunderland, wanted to replicate the eclectic nature of this publication. The Editor’s Note, which began Issue Zero, set out the magazine’s ethos as an alternative to that which was currently available in football media. … The Blizzard accommodates longer articles than a typical football magazine, with pieces up to 8000 words long. Topics are often more obscure and esoteric than other magazines, aiming to either cover little-explored components of football culture, or to take new perspectives on previously well explored issues. …”
Wikipedia
The Blizzard


Why Are MLS Teams So Expensive?

November 4, 2021


“According to Sports Business website Sportico, the MLS’s top three most valuable franchises as of 2021 are Los Angeles FC, Atlanta United and LA Galaxy, valued at $860m, $845m and $835m respectively. Yet Newcastle United were recently sold for $415m, and West Ham United are estimated to be worth $508m. So how can the MLS be more valuable than the Premier League? Seb Stafford-Bloor explains. Illustrated by Henry Cooke.”
YouTube: Why Are MLS Teams So Expensive?
MLS 2021: Who is the highest paid player in US soccer?
W – Expansion of Major League Soccer


2021-22 FA Cup, 1st Round: location-map, with fixtures & current league attendances.

November 3, 2021


“The 2021–22 FA Cup is the 141st edition of the oldest football tournament in the world, the Football Association Challenge Cup. It was sponsored by Emirates and known as the Emirates FA Cup for sponsorship purposes. The winners will qualify for the 2022–23 UEFA Europa League group stage. Premier League side Leicester City are the defending champions, having beaten Chelsea in the previous year’s final. The FA Cup is a knockout competition with 124 teams taking part all trying to reach the Final at Wembley in May 2022. The competition consists of the 92 teams from the Football League system (20 teams from the Premier League and the 72 in total from the EFL Championship, EFL League One and EFL League Two) plus the 32 surviving teams out of 637 teams from the National League System (levels 5–10 of the English football league system) that started the competition in qualifying rounds. …”
W – 2021–22 FA Cup
billsportsmaps
W – FA Cup
BBC – FA Cup


El Gráfico

November 3, 2021


Heleno de Freitas (Boca)
El Gráfico is an Argentine online sports magazine, originally published by Editorial Atlántida as a print publication between 1919 and 2018. El Gráfico was released in May 1919 as a weekly newspaper, and then turned to a sports magazine exclusively. It began to be scheduled monthly from 2002, and was discontinued in 2018, continuing only on internet. El Gráfico is widely the most regarded sports magazine in Argentina and Latin America. The magazine was nicknamed La Biblia del deporte (‘The Bible of sports’) due to its chronicles, notable journalists and collaborators and its photographies. … The best selling era of El Gráfico was during the 1986 FIFA World Cup when Argentina crowned champion, with 690,998 sold. The second place in the ranking of all-time best seller magazine is for the 1978 FIFA World Cup with 595,924. Diego Maradona was the sports man with the most appearances on the cover: 134, followed by Daniel Passarella (58) and Norberto Alonso (54). …”
Wikipedia
Angels with Dirty Faces – Jonathan Wilson: 15 – Our Way
Diego Maradona: A genius and the soul of a nation – Jonathan Wilson
El Pibe del Barrio: Understanding the Latin American archetype and what it means for U.S. Soccer


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

November 1, 2021


“… 3) Off-key De Bruyne struggling for form: On 59 minutes there was the rare sight of Kevin De Bruyne being substituted, Manchester City’s talismanic midfielder having been clumsy of touch, short of a yard and generally misfiring. Pep Guardiola is a big fan but he is also ruthless and this was the correct decision. Of the 30-year-old, who has struggled with injuries, he said: ‘Kevin is such an important player for us and an excellent person. He is trying more every single day [to return to top form]. Today he made a step forward in many things. About playing or resting him – this is my decision because I know a lot of information about a player. In seasons there are highs and lows, big moments and the next one [game] is another challenge, another opportunity. Kevin knows it. He has done more than good since he arrived here and wants to continue to do it. The problem is when he gives up trying, says it doesn’t matter. That is not the case with him.’ …”
Guardian (Video)


Youri Tielemans: Why Leicester City Star Is One of the Premier League’s Best Midfielders

November 1, 2021


“A run of two wins in nine games in all competitions had led to all sorts of head-scratching, not to mention a few worried mumblings about Brendan Rodgers and whether he might think fifth place, an FA Cup and a Community Shield was as much as he could realistically achieve at the King Power Stadium. Things have looked a little less scary in the Halloween season, though. That emphatic 4-2 win over Manchester United kick-started a run of four consecutive victories (well, three, plus a shoot-out win against Brighton and Hove Albion in the EFL Cup). OK, they conceded eight goals in those four games, but one thing at a time. Ironically, perhaps the biggest concern for Leicester right now is the major positive of their season: the form of Youri Tielemans. …”
The Analyst
W – Youri Tielemans
YouTube: Youri Tielemans’ wonder goal puts Leicester City in front of Brentford