Monthly Archives: April 2023

Liverpool 4-3 Tottenham: A thriller that underlines why neither team are top four

Liverpool won a fourth successive Premier League match thanks to an incredible 94th-minute winner from Diogo Jota against Spurs at Anfield. Goals from Curtis Jones, Luis Diaz and a Mohamed Salah penalty put Jurgen Klopp’s team in a commanding position in the first 15 minutes, as Spurs found themselves all but beaten in the first third of a match for the second Sunday running. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic – Liverpool and Tottenham are at the crossroads: What can they learn from each other?


‘You can’t help but get swept up’: joy as Napoli near first title for 33 years

“Naples has exploded into delirious celebrations as its football team edged closer towards clinching its first Serie A title in 33 years – a victory that would resonate well beyond football for this often-derided southern Italian city. Napoli had hoped to claim Scudetto glory with six games still to play, but a 1-1 draw against Salernitana meant it has had to delay the official party by a few days. …”
Guardian (Video)

Boom time: Why attendances are spiking and football has never meant more

“On any given Saturday, there are hundreds of thousands of football supporters with somewhere to be. They fill trains, cars and buses on journeys intersecting the country, feeding the habit they have neither the wish nor ability to abandon. It is the national obsession that continues to strengthen its grip and this, undeniably, is its boom era. For all that the Premier League has achieved in its 30 years, this season is set to be the first time on record that the average top-flight game has attracted more than 40,000 in English football history. …”
The Athletic

The Rise and Fall of Valencia

In 2014 Peter Lim became the majority shareholder at 6 time La Liga champions Valencia. His arrival was initially celebrated, but after years of financial turbulence, the fans are demanding his exit to preserve the club’s future. What happened to Valencia? Why did it turn so toxic so quickly? What happened to their best players? And what happened to their new stadium? Reuben Pinder explains. Illustrated by Marco Bevilacqua.

When Rangers beat Celtic with 10 men to end their curse in the Scottish Cup

Tom Forsyth of Rangers. (Apps 332, Goals 6). Pictured scoring against Celtic in the 1973 Scottish Cup final.
“Although it ended in a league and cup double, Walter Smith’s first full season as Rangers manager was far from a procession. After grabbing the title in a final-day shootout with Aberdeen in May 1991 – less than four weeks after the dramatic departure of Graeme Souness to Liverpool – Smith had to rebuild quickly. With five players in and five out, it was the busiest summer of the club’s nine successive titles in that era. Because of Uefa’s imposed maximum of four foreign players, Smith had very little choice. …”
Guardian (Video)

Why Brentford are the best set-piece takers in football

Brentford have scored over 30 set-piece goals since the start of the 2021/22 season, only Liverpool and Manchester City have scored more set-piece goals in that time. And those two teams have taken a lot more set-pieces. Ability from the dead ball is fundamental to their success. So how have they become so good at set pieces? Jon Mackenzie explains. Henry Cooke illustrates.”

Liverpool’s midfield transfer targets: Analysing Mount, Mac Allister, Gravenberch and more

Liverpool may have withdrawn from the race to sign Jude Bellingham but there will still be plenty of change to their central midfield this summer. The club are in the hunt for at least two, and possibly three, midfielders in the upcoming window, and a lot of exploratory work and discussions have been carried out by their senior recruitment staff in recent weeks to determine, out of the players they have tracked extensively, who will be available and at what price. …”
The Athletic

Football, Mental Health, and Belonging

“I like to think that everything in life is a metaphor. Things can be broken down into comparisons, and when it comes to the game of football, we can spend entire lives trying to find our positions on the pitch. There’s the big, powerful centre forward. So tall and imposing that you can sense their presence in a room. Off the pitch, they could be singers, actors, social media influencers, or something else. In short, they’re people that thrive in the spotlight and want more of it. …”
Football Paradise

Andriy Shevchenko: ‘I want to share with the world what Ukrainian people are feeling’

“‘It was an incredible, emotional moment for me to spend time with her,’ Andriy Shevchenko says as he describes meeting a little Ukrainian girl called Maryna last month. The most famous former footballer from Ukraine, who won the Ballon d’Or in 2004 and the Champions League with Milan before he also coached his country at Euro 2020, pauses as he reflects on a simple encounter where he kicked a football back and forth in hospital with the six-year-old. …”

Arsenal just did not know how to press Manchester City’s 4-2-4

“It was not a shock that Manchester City defeated Arsenal last night, and not a surprise they did so relatively convincingly, considering both sides’ recent run of form. But the nature of City’s tactical approach was a surprise. Having spent recent weeks building up with a three-man defence and pushing a defender forward into midfield, City played a simple 4-2-4 on Wednesday. Arsenal seemed unsure of how to press this system, and City were adept at progressing the ball through central zones and up to Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland between the lines. …”
The Athletic: Michael Cox
The Athletic: This is Manchester City’s era – there are only two ways that changes any time soon (Video)
The Athletic: Manchester City 4-1 Arsenal: Magnificent De Bruyne and fiendish Haaland clip leaders’ wings
Guardian: Manchester City took Arsenal to a horrible place and didn’t let them leave
NY Times: Manchester City, Relentless and Ruthless, Strolls Past Arsenal
Guardian: Kevin De Bruyne sees off Arsenal to give Manchester City upper hand in title race

Barcelona, Real Madrid & Franco: How two rivals united in exploiting a painful divide

“It has not been a good last 10 days in Spain for anyone who would like football and politics not to be mixed in alarming ways. The sorry mess began with comments made by Barcelona president Joan Laporta while he was defending his club’s past payments to former referees chief Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira. Laporta said he was amazed that Real Madrid had complained, given that: ‘Madrid was historically favoured in refereeing decisions, it was the team of the regime, close to political, economic and sporting power for 70 years.’ Everyone listening knew that the ‘regime’ Laporta was referring to was the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, who ruled Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Napoli can begin their party while shroud still envelops Juventus

“It was not the goal that sealed Napoli’s third-ever Scudetto, but it sure felt like it, an emotion so overpowering that some players could not keep their feet. As Giacomo Raspadori’s volley skidded through Wojciech Szczesny’s legs and into the Juventus net, Piotr Zielinski simply collapsed on to his back, lying spreadeagled on the Allianz Stadium turf. …”

How Arsenal’s tactics show Arteta’s coaching influences, from Cruyff to Guardiola

“With every recent Arsenal clash with Manchester City has come a predictable discourse — the relationship between Mikel Arteta and Pep Guardiola. It’s the obvious way to go given Arteta’s journey to becoming Arsenal manager via an assistant management role under his fellow Spaniard and the pair’s early days together at Barcelona. And while Guardiola clearly has a huge impact on Arteta, in the build up to these matches it is often overlooked that the Arsenal manager has also drawn inspiration from a number of other coaches. …”
The Athletic

Real Madrid’s shock defeat hurts divisive reserve keeper most of all

“Just a few minutes before 10pm local time, Andriy Lunin left the Real Madrid dressing room at Girona’s Montilivi stadium. With the exception of academy players Mario Martin, Mario de Luis and Sergio Arribas, only two of Ancelotti’s side had already made their way to the team bus before him: Nacho Fernandez and Antonio Rudiger. The Athletic was there and asked the goalkeeper about his feelings: How are you, Andriy? …”
The Athletic

When can Barcelona win La Liga?

Barcelona are on the verge of winning La Liga for the first time since 2019. It has been a mixed season for Barca — they were knocked out of the Champions League at the group stage and then crashed out of the Europa League against Manchester United — but winning the league for the first time under Xavi would be a huge achievement. With the Catalan side travelling to Rayo Vallecano tonight and defending champions Real Madrid having slipped up against Girona on Tuesday night, when could Barca wrap up the title? …”
The Athletic

Mbappe is on course to break 10 records this season – and he’s not finished yet

Kylian Mbappe enjoys a unique status in the French game. In the 41st minute of Paris Saint-Germain’s trip to Angers on Friday, they won a corner. By that point, Mbappe had scored twice and Angers were staring at defeat, and probable confirmation of their relegation in the days to follow. Mbappe walked over to take the set piece, in between the Colombier and Jean Bouin stands, right in front of the home supporters. These were not Angers’ most vocal ultras, it must be said. But the 24-year-old raised his arms, as if to encourage the crowd to generate some noise. They did. And they cheered him. …”
The Athletic

Liverpool and how it became the football mural capital of the UK

“It is a glorious spring morning in north Liverpool and John Barnes is gazing up at the latest striking addition to Anfield’s growing collection of street art. Covering the entire end wall of a terraced house on Balfour Street, a five-minute stroll from the stadium he once graced as a player, it consists of two images of Barnes: a close-up of his face — brow furrowed, lips pursed — and another of him unleashing a left-footed shot. …”
The Athletic

Wrexham’s Hollywood promotion: How Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney helped end 15 years of hurt

“A grieving period would always be needed after Wrexham’s promotion hopes had been ended in the most gut-wrenching of manners last season. The problem for Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney is it couldn’t be allowed to last too long. So, as the club’s co-owners offered heartfelt words of commiseration to their crestfallen players in the dressing room after Grimsby Town had edged a truly titanic play-offs semi-final on the final Saturday of May, the wheels designed to push Wrexham forward were just hours away from turning once again. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Trying to identify the masked rapper who claims to be a Premier League footballer

“There is a masked rapper who claims to be a Premier League footballer — and nobody knows who it is. By concealing his identity, Dide has created a wave of interest in his music. His first release, ‘Intro Freestyle;, has more than 130,000 views on YouTube while ‘Thrill’, a three-and-a-half-minute single, has over 740,000 views to go along with Dide’s 28,000 YouTube subscribers, 58,000 Instagram followers and 100,000-plus monthly listens on Spotify. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Premier League Title Race: Are Arsenal Crumbling Under the Pressure Again?

“Title races can take many forms; the runaway champions; a two-horse race; a surprise package. But it isn’t always the winners who make the main headlines, sometimes it’s the team that blew their chance that lives in the memory. Newcastle United’s infamous collapse in 1995-96 is probably the most memorable after they threw away a 12-point lead that they held in January after 23 matches, while Man Utd blew a 13-point lead over Arsenal in 1997-98 and an eight-point lead with just six games remaining in 2011-12 to give Manchester City their first Premier League crown (albeit their final-day comeback against QPR and Sergio Aguero’s last-gasp goal grabbed the headlines). …”
Thw Analyst (Video)

Salah is back – this is the Liverpool tactical change that made it happen

“How many times have you watched Mohamed Salah play for Liverpool this season and felt he was too isolated, too wide and getting crowded out by opponents? There has seemingly been a rotating list of frustrations as the Egypt forward, alongside his team-mates, has failed to hit the lofty standards of previous years. …”
The Athletic

Abandon ship: does this symbol of slavery shame Manchester and its football clubs?

A contemporary depiction of the Peterloo Massacre of 16 August 1819.
“I got my first Manchester City football badge when I was a little boy. It was gorgeous – a golden ship in full sail on the top half of the crest, the red rose of Lancashire on the bottom half, all framed in sky blue. The ship made a huge impression. It reminded me of the Blue Peter badge and pirates. Pirates were exciting. They did as they wanted, plundered what they fancied and ruled the waves. Everybody wanted a parrot on their shoulder and a patch on their eye. …”

Pep Guardiola, the architect of tiki-taka, has come to embrace physicality

“… It would have made for an interesting experience for Pep Guardiola, who at that time was on his sabbatical, having left Barcelona the previous summer and had already been confirmed as the next Bayern manager. His Barcelona side was notable for its lack of physicality — he happily played multiple short, slight players in the same side and backed technique to defeat physique. His future Bayern side, clearly, offered different qualities, which he would come to embrace. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic: Bayern Munich’s Champions League failure will accelerate recruitment drive up front

Inter’s tense season can end in glory with all-Milan Champions League semi-final

“‘Squadra nervosa, squadra vittoriosa.’ When Esteban Cambiasso was a treble-winning Inter Milan midfielder, people used to say that an irritable team, agitated and often upset with itself, tended to be a winning team. What better preparation, then, for Benfica’s visit to San Siro than a rondo ruckus at Appiano Gentile with Romelu Lukaku stepping into separate Andre Onana and Marcelo Brozovic after the Inter goalkeeper made a rather overzealous challenge on the team’s playmaker-in-chief. …”
The Athletic
Guardian: Inter survive late goals to set up all-Milan Champions League semi-final

Sevilla 3 Manchester United 0: De Gea horror show – but are Ten Hag’s team running out of puff?

“It was a night when everything went wrong for Manchester United. Having been 2-0 up in the first leg of this Europa League quarter-final last week, they duly conceded five – two at Old Trafford and three in Spain tonight – to stumble out of the competition in embarrassing fashion. It was a terrible performance which raises major questions over how strongly Erik ten Hag’s side can finish a season where they are in an FA Cup semi-final on Sunday and still battling for a top-four finish in the Premier League. Our experts analyse the major talking points. …”
The Athletic

Maybe it’s time to welcome back the old fashioned wing-half – in modern guise

Bayern Munich, full-back Philipp Lahm
“One of the easiest and most misleading pieces of footballing received wisdom is that everything is cyclical. Wait long enough, the great drum of history will revolve again and the same ideas will come back round, be that sharp side-partings, the back three, Howard Webb apologising to Brighton or Roy Hodgson managing Crystal Palace. Except time is not a flat circle. Each iteration is different because it comes with knowledge of what went before. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Is Arsenal’s defence actually struggling?

Arsenal sit top of the Premier League, and are mounting a challenge for the title for the first time since 2004. However since the World Cup break, Arsenal have had a dip in their defensive numbers that has seen them concede far more goals from January onwards. Taking a look at the data and specifically their struggles with set pieces – how much of an impact is this going to have on their season? Jon Mackenzie writes as Craig Silcock illustrates, can they still get themselves over the line as champions this season?”

Against the right opponents, the deep-lying Bruno Fernandes experiment is worth revisiting

“One of the more eye-catching aspects of Erik ten Hag’s first year at Manchester United has been his problem-solving on the go by tactically re-profiling his players. If management is like trying to build an aircraft while flying, then Ten Hag has spent parts of this season not sitting in the cockpit but on the fuselage, trying to craft the landing gear into a propeller. …”
The Athletic

European roundup: Barcelona held at Getafe, Union Berlin title dream fades

Barcelona were held to a second straight 0-0 draw in La Liga after mid-table Getafe managed to take a point off the leaders in a hard-fought game on Sunday. Xavi’s side, who drew 0-0 with Girona last weekend, still have a healthy lead over second-placed Real Madrid at the top of the standings. Madrid’s 2-0 win over Cádiz on Saturday means Barça’s lead is now 11 points with nine games left in the season. …”

Who will make Premier League top four? Analysing the run-ins of Champions League hopefuls

“We are on the home straight of the Premier League season and while the title might have become a two-horse race, there are still some highly lucrative spots up for grabs. There are arguably six clubs fighting for the remaining two Champions League spots, with fewer than 10 games to play. Newcastle United and Manchester United are currently leading the pack in the race for Europe’s most esteemed competition, but will it stay that way? …”
The Athletic

Liverpool’s poor away form: ‘You always fear for them now’

“After watching a sleepy and hollow performance against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge earlier this month, Liverpool fans boarded their coaches home from London with a familiar feeling. … Disappointment and frustration have been recurring feelings for Liverpool fans on the road this season. They have watched their team lose eight times but only seen three wins. A stark contrast to Liverpool’s past four seasons, where they lost nine times and won 50 games in total. …”
The Athletic – Liverpool’s poor away form: ‘You always fear for them now’

Crossing the Danube – the story of the inaugural Mitropa Cup

“From the late 19th century and into the 1920s, Vienna became what many writers have called a ‘centre of fermentation’, propagated by the cultural and intellectual elite of the city. Ideas, ideaologies, social movements, progressive medicine, music and literature filled the air of Vienna’s cafés and coffee houses. The Vienna Circle, a group of philosophers hell-bent on bringing scientific enlightenment to people, also emerged from the city. Football also benefitted from this culture of cerebral curiosity. …”
Game of the People
Game of the People – Crossing the Danube – the story of the inaugural Mitropa Cup
W – Mitropa Cup
Nations which participated in the Mitropa Cup (1927–1940)

How Carvajal and Camavinga’s positioning caused problems for Chelsea

“… Real Madrid’s right flank has been central to some tweaking in recent weeks, especially with Rodrygo’s constant movement inside to overload the centre of the pitch or even double up with Vinicius Junior on the left at times. Against Chelsea in the Champions League on Wednesday, it was more of the same but with a different idea to battle against Frank Lampard’s 5-3-2. Chelsea’s caretaker manager moved away from the back-five system in his first game in charge against Wolverhampton Wanderers, but returned to this shape in this match against Real Madrid. …’
The Athletic
The Athletic – Real Madrid 2 Chelsea 0: Champions in control, Lampard tactics backfire – and poor Joao Felix
The Athletic – As Real Madrid impress again, Carlo Ancelotti is big winner at a critical time

Napoli may have regrets from defeat in Milan – they need to unite for the home leg

“In San Siro’s Curva Sud, a pair of devilish red hands threatened to strangle the Pulcinella, a cowering look of pure terror writ large on the masked face of this figure from Neapolitan folklore. ‘In our hands, our destiny,’ proclaimed the Milan ultras’ pre-match choreography. But once the Champions League quarter-final kicked off, the street-wise Pulcinella cunningly escaped Milan’s clutches and seemed intent on making fun of their hosts on the biggest stage. Napoli did not appear intimidated by the atmosphere or the team that beat them up 4-0 in the league at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona 10 days ago. …”
The Athletic (Video)
Guardian – Milan against the world: five of their greatest nights on the big stage
NY Times: Milan Celebrates Its Revival With a Mighty Roar

Champions League to non-League – how fine are margins between the best and semi-pros?

“The Etihad Stadium. A Champions League quarter-final. Manchester City and Bayern Munich. John Stones is strolling out of central defence into midfield, having spent the last few weeks doing the same but from right-back. It is the latest tactical curiosity from City manager Pep Guardiola’s back catalogue and another string to the bow of one of the most technically gifted defenders of a generation. Stones is named man of the match as City win 3-0. The previous afternoon, about four and a half miles eastwards and eight stops along Manchester’s tram system, Curzon Ashton are hosting Spennymoor Town in the National League North, the sixth tier of English football. …”
The Athletic

Manchester City 3 Bayern Munich 0: Rodri’s stunner, Bayern dishevelled and Dias the Colossus

Manchester City took a huge stride towards a Champions League semi-final with a riotous victory over Bayern Munich at the Etihad Stadium. Pep Guardiola’s side will take a three-goal lead into next week’s second leg in Bavaria. Rodri’s stunning goal, curled in from distance beyond a despairing Yann Sommer, prised an initially tight game open before the hosts ran riot to score twice more in six frantic second-half minutes. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic – Pep Guardiola’s tactical evolution: The one constant? Change

Benfica and the Great Champions League Question: What If?

“On the night Enzo Fernández left Benfica, nobody mentioned his name. As they gathered in the changing room before their game on the last day of January, his soon-to-be-former teammates would have known roughly what was happening. The club was settling the finer points of Fernández’s $130 million transfer to Chelsea. The player was awaiting permission to fly to London. The silence, though, was not rooted in discomfort. Fernández’s absence did not weigh especially heavy on Benfica’s squad. …”
NY Times
W – Enzo Fernández
W – Progression of the British football transfer fee record

Lens dream of Champions League return after 20-year absence

“We’ve written about plenty of surprise packages in this column, but it’s rare for clubs to break into the European places in Ligue 1. Reims did it in 2018-19 but, other than that, the top seven of PSG, Marseille, Monaco, Lille, Rennes, Nice and Lyon have been remarkably consistent for the last half-decade. Lyon’s recent stutters have created an opportunity for a new face to secure a place in Europe. …”
W – RC Lens

Milan giants are Champions League contenders but may miss top-four cut

“The Champions League quarter-finals are upon us and, for the first time in 17 years, there are three Italian sides among the final eight. Before anyone gets carried away contemplating brave new eras, they might consider the growing possibility that two of those teams might not even qualify for next season’s tournament. Inter have won none of their last six games and slipped out of Serie A’s top four after drawing 1-1 with Salernitana on Good Friday. …”

Liverpool against Arsenal dispelled a myth – it was proof tactical battles can be fun

“‘Intriguing tactical battles’ are generally considered to be a euphemism for matches that are tight, tense, and uneventful. This is something of a myth, however. Commentators, pundits and presenters refer to games in this manner when nothing else is happening, in an attempt to convince the armchair viewer that sitting through it isn’t a complete waste of their time. But Liverpool’s 2-2 Anfield draw with Arsenal yesterday was one of the most intriguing tactical battles you’ll see all season and one of the best games you’ll see all season. …”
The Athletic – Michael Cox

As Barcelona fail to spark, fans call for Lionel Messi once more

“In Barcelona’s two most recent home games — the loss to Real Madrid last week in the second leg of a Copa del Rey semi-final and the draw in La Liga against Girona on Monday night — fans at Camp Nou have been chanting Lionel Messi’s name in the 10th minute. ‘Messi! Messi!’ Those calls, symbolically timed for the minute matching the shirt number the Argentinian superstar wore for the Catalan club for so many years until that shock departure to Paris Saint-Germain in 2021, echoed like a desperate song reminiscent of better times for Barcelona in the opposition penalty area. In neither of these last two matches have Barca managed to score. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Liverpool 2 Arsenal 2: Firmino’s revival, Ramsdale’s rescue and a Premier League classic

Arsenal withstood a blistering second-half barrage from Liverpool to salvage what could yet prove a crucial draw in their pursuit of a first Premier League title since 2004. Aaron Ramsdale conjured two stunning late saves deep into stoppage time to ensure Arsenal left Anfield with a point for the first time in seven seasons after blowing a 2-0 lead. Their advantage at the top of the table now stands at six points, with second-placed Manchester City — who host the leaders later this month — holding a game in hand. …”
The Athletic

‘I can’t live without it’: grassroots referees on passion in face of abuse

“Let’s be honest, Paolo Di Canio pushing over Paul Alcock; Manchester United players hunting a backpedalling Andy D’Urso; Aleksandar Mitrovic’s tantrum at Old Trafford, punished by an eight-game ban: not the least hilarious things we have seen. And why shouldn’t we laugh? … Greg Cruttwell’s new film, In the Middle, introduces us to a diverse range of officials at a variety of levels, all of whom know two things: player behaviour in the Premier League inspires player behaviour through the pyramid, and grassroots referees are absolutely not safe. …”

Marshall Islands revisited: The Englishmen taking football to the last country on Earth without a team

“Last December, the citizens of the Marshall Islands woke to an unexpected sight. Mornings typically dawn with the horns of freighters pulling into the harbour, or with blinds pierced by the low glint of the sun that adorns the tiny Pacific nation’s flag. On this day, events were different. As they ate breakfast, the inhabitants of Majuro, the Marshallese capital, were greeted by a parade of Argentine flags. Lionel Messi had delivered the South American nation its third World Cup trophy and the expatriate community, working in the Marshall Islands’ fisheries, had decided to celebrate. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Why do Bayern Munich sell the most football shirts?

The club that sells the most football shirts in the world may surprise you. Despite clubs like Manchester United, Real Madrid and Barcelona having established fans across the globe and a history of mega-stars in their ranks – it isn’t them. Bayern Munich come in at number 1 in the shirt selling rankings, with a whopping 3.4 million shirts sold in 2021. But how does a club in the Bundesliga attract so much popularity? Seb Stafford-Bloor writes as Craig Silcock illustrates just why the Bavarian club have became so popular in recent years.

Frank Lampard Returning to Chelsea Epitomizes the Chaos of the Club’s Season

“When Chelsea square off against Wolves on Saturday, the fourth manager of the current Premier League campaign will lead the team out of the tunnel, though it won’t exactly be an unfamiliar face. Last seen in January after dragging Everton into the relegation zone, Frank Lampard has been appointed as Chelsea’s caretaker manager for the remainder of the season, just over two years after he was sacked by the club. Chelsea bringing Lampard back is the cherry on top of the schadenfreude sundae—the team sits in 11th place and is struggling to score goals, but at least it’s the breakaway leader in xB (expected banter). …”
The Ringer

Game of Numbers #14 – Ilkay Gündoğan’s Movement Masterclass

“It’s spectacular to think that even within a midfield of Bernardo Silva, Kevin de Bruyne and Rodri, that İlkay Gündoğan remains one of City’s most important players when it matters most. He’s guaranteed a selection for 20-30 games in any given season, despite all the magnificent options operating around him. In fact, when fit, he’s often the team captain – even when more vocal players like Dias or De Bruyne remain available. This is all down to the German’s intelligence and magnificence when it comes to off-the-ball movement. …”
The Mastermindsite (Video)

Liverpool shouldn’t sack Klopp – but it is right questions are being asked of him

“Imagine, for a second, that Liverpool hadn’t appointed Jurgen Klopp in late 2015 and were instead forced to settle for an inferior manager who only marginally improved the club. In that world, the past few years in English football would have been very dull. Rather than Manchester City winning four of the last five titles — already a huge level of dominance, although two of them were only clinched on the final day ahead of Liverpool — they would presumably have coasted to five in a row without any serious challenge. …”
The Athletic (Video)
The Athletic: Liverpool’s whole defensive structure is struggling – it’s not just Virgil van Dijk

Sackings spate shows who matters now: welcome to football’s age of the executive

Patrick Vieira gone! Antonio Conte gone! Brendan Rodgers gone! Graham Potter gone! More managers have left Premier League clubs in the past four weeks than in the entire 2005-06, 2003-04 or 1995-96 seasons. The past month has not quite matched the chaos of November 1994, when Ossie Ardiles, Mike Walker, Ron Atkinson, Gerry Francis and Brian Little left their jobs, but for managers this has been the most turbulent season in Premier League history, with 13 leaving mid‑campaign. It may not be over yet. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Kylian Mbappe, a PSG marketing video that upset him and what we know about his future

“From the outside, it appeared to be just an ordinary marketing video sent to Paris Saint-Germain season ticket holders to try to coax them into a renewal. But then, on Thursday, an Instagram story appeared on Kylian Mbappe’s account, expressing to his 102 million followers that he was unhappy about the whole thing. … This was not the first time Mbappe has used social media to vent his frustrations. Last October, after a 0-0 Ligue 1 draw with Reims, Mbappe dropped a subtle message on an Instagram story about his perceived unhappiness at being played as a central striker. …”
The Athletic

The Great Story You Might Not See in ‘Welcome to Wrexham’

“The irony of it all, really, is that Notts County would make a terrific subject for a documentary. The elevator pitch is simple. After more than a decade of financial strife and rolling existential crises — featuring both a convicted fraudster and fictional Gulf investment — the oldest professional soccer club in the world puts together a record-shattering campaign, one that promises to restore the team to something close to its former glory. The casting is rich and compelling. …”
NY Times

Real Madrid’s gamble may have cost them La Liga — here, it dismantled Barcelona

“The simple concept of risk and reward is a major part of football tactics, and seems to be particularly crucial in contests between Barcelona and Real Madrid. When the two sides met last month in a crucial La Liga encounter, Carlo Ancelotti boldly pushed Dani Carvajal forward from right-back into an advanced position where he caused Barcelona serious problems in the second half. At one point, it appeared he had crossed for Marco Asensio to turn home a winner, but the goal was disallowed by the VAR. …”
The Athletic – Michael Cox
The Athletic: Barcelona will still win La Liga – but 4-0 Clasico defeat is going to hurt

Collective goals: multi-club ownership is changing world football’s landscape

““’We don’t have a hierarchy of clubs – this is not a pyramid-type model,’ Joshua Wander insisted after 777 Partners completed its purchase of a 64.7% majority stake in Hertha Berlin last month. ‘This is really about preserving the independence and the deep and rich histories of the individual clubs. We want to provide our clubs with the tools so that they can all be the best.’ …”

Football Twitter, Arsenal, and Coming Back to Myself

“Getting older is a peculiar experience, particularly hitting 40. There are highs—a new decade, the chance for over the top and extended celebrations—and then there are lows— your mortality suddenly hits you over the head and won’t leave you alone, you feel ‘past it’, angry that you’ve not done nearly enough in your life nor are the person you thought you would become.  Suddenly the cliche of a midlife crisis becomes clearer, more understandable, perhaps more desirable. After going through various phases in my 20s and 30s, I felt like I wanted to reclaim myself, to become more me, whatever that would end up meaning. It was football that helped me come back to myself. …”
Football Paradise

Chelsea Ran Up the Bill. Its Coach Paid the Price.

“Every week, it seemed, Chelsea officials worked their phones to quiet the whispers that Graham Potter was about to be fired. And every week the news media quickly relayed those reassurances to Chelsea’s fans, even as the defeats mounted, the grumbling grew louder and the team’s plunge down the Premier League table showed little sign of slowing. …”
NY Times

Bundesliga double-header: Two days, two matches, one league where fans are treated as adults

“On Friday night, our train pulls into Wolfsburg. Four chimneys stretch into the dusk from the Volkswagen plant, a hulk of concrete, steel and brick sitting adjacent to the station and spreading as far as the eye can see. This is the heart of the city and yet, late at night, it’s eerily quiet. When Wolfsburg was created in 1938, it was conceived as a community to serve the mass production of an affordable family vehicle, what would become the Volkswagen Beetle, and the auto manufacturer still defines the city. …”
The Athletic

How Pep Guardiola turned John Stones into Manchester City’s midfield maestro

“John Stones’ performance against Liverpool on Saturday was a masterclass. In recent weeks, Stones has been Pep Guardiola’s inverted full-back, moving from right-back to central midfield seamlessly and helping Manchester City dominate games. While Stones has less impact in the final third compared to his predecessor Joao Cancelo, who used to move into midfield from left-back, the England international’s own style has allowed City to thrive in other ways. …”
The Athletic (Video)
The Athletic: Jurgen Klopp seems bullet-proof but Liverpool’s patience is not limitless

Joe Willock will score more Newcastle goals thanks to exceptional runs

“Off-ball movement usually goes unnoticed. With 20 outfield players running around, and the focus on the ball, it’s hard to grasp everything happening on the pitch upon first viewing. That’s why team analysts and coaches go over the tape again and again and again, and why they know their players better than anyone else. Joe Willock’s off-ball movement might not have resulted in a bucket load of goals and assists this season for Newcastle United, but the smart runs the 23-year-old has been making meant Eddie Howe knew it was only a matter of time. …”
The Athletic