Newcastle and Stepping Stone Players

June 22, 2022


“Newcastle United want Champions League football. But they are a long way from achieving that with the current squad of players. However, would Champions League quality players want to join Newcastle in their current state? So, how do they make that jump? With Stepping-Stone players. Seb Stafford-Bloor explains what they are, Marco Bevilacqua illustrates.”
YouTube


‘They build an image of the enemy’ – France’s struggles to police football fans

June 6, 2022


“It might be of little consolation to the Liverpool fans, young and old, who were aggressively kettled, callously tear-gassed, arbitrarily struck with batons, cruelly denied entry to the stadium or viciously mugged on the day of the Champions League final, but there has been almost as much outrage in France over what happened at the Stade de France last weekend as there has been in the UK. Within hours of the game, and with the dust having barely begun to settle on Real Madrid’s 1-0 win, journalists and commentators from across the political spectrum were deploring the stark organisational failures that had led to the dangerous bottlenecks that were allowed to build up before the game and angrily denouncing the French government’s attempts to blame the travelling Liverpool supporters. …”
The Athletic


A Very Specific Risk

June 3, 2022


“It can be hard, at times like these, to know exactly who to believe. On one side, there are the thousands of witness accounts, the contemporaneous reports from much of the world’s news media, the countless videos and an apparently bottomless reserve of high resolution photographs, all telling one story about last Saturday’s Champions League final. And that was all it took. As soon as UEFA decided that the real problem with this sporting event was all the people who wanted to watch it, the — let’s keep the lawyers happy — misinformation spread and disseminated and infected everything it touched. From that point on, Liverpool’s fans were presumed guilty until proven innocent, not least by considerable portions of the people who should, really, have been their allies: other soccer fans. …”
NY Times


Only in an alternate reality should Real Madrid be Champions League winners – that’s the beauty of football

May 29, 2022


“On another day, in some other timeline, maybe Real Madrid could have won the 2021-22 Champions League final. It would have been improbable in any universe, with the way Carlo Ancelotti’s team played, but you can imagine some alternate reality where the movements of bodies and balls are just a little less orderly, where football is a little less fair — who knows, maybe stranger things have happened in a world like that than a smash-and-grab 1-0 win. But yesterday was not that day, and this is not that timeline. Of course Liverpool are champions. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic – Liverpool 0-1 Real Madrid analysis: Courtois’ saves and Klopp’s goalless finals
Guardian – ‘Don’t be sad’: Liverpool fans pack city streets to welcome heroes home
BBC – Liverpool 0-1 Real Madrid: Champions League defeat caps miserable end to magnificent season amid Paris chaos (Video)
NY Times: UEFA Blames Delay at Champions League Final on ‘Fake Tickets’


Liverpool’s elite underdogs and the clubs who (finally) gave them a shot

May 28, 2022


“Fos-sur-Mer lies on the Mediterranean coast, but it is not a town renowned for its cool, refreshing sea air. It is a busy port, dominated by factories, oil refineries and gas terminals and known more widely for its polluted air and some alarming health statistics. Nor is it known as a football hotbed, but a few miles in from the port is the Stade Parsemain, where FC Istres were forced to relocate after winning promotion to Ligue 1 for the first time in their history in 2004. It was an ill-fated move — by the time the stadium was ready to host top-flight football, the season was nearly over and relegation was looming. …”
The Athletic
NY Times: The Liverpool Star Who Came Out of Nowhere
W – Luis Díaz


How will the new Champions League work?

May 27, 2022


The new format for the UEFA Champions League has been confirmed. After proposing a ‘Swiss Model’, UEFA has taken on board feedback from member clubs and has finalised a new version of the Champions League. But what is it? What will it mean for your club? Who is unhappy? Written by Dan Sheldon, illustrated by Alice Devine.”
YouTube


Mohamed Salah, Real Madrid and revenge

May 27, 2022


“It’s a question — like, ‘You don’t mind, do you?’, or ‘Does size matter?’ — that is very rarely answered honestly. When the BT Sport gang asked Mohamed Salah, in the immediate aftermath of Liverpool’s Champions League semi-final win over Villarreal, which of Manchester City or Real Madrid he would prefer to play in the final, they probably thought he would give the standard, stock answer. ‘I don’t mind, both are great teams, I’m just happy we’re in the final, either will be a tough game,’ blah, blah, blah. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic: Konate or Matip? Liverpool’s big Champions League final decision
SI: Champions League Final Brings Elixir for Liverpool, Real Madrid’s Fresh Setbacks – Jonathan Wilson
The Athletic: Luis Diaz: The remarkable rise of ‘Luchito’, Liverpool’s ‘true miracle’
Guardian: ‘It’s not easy to score against me’: Courtois the key to Madrid’s wild ride (Video)
The Athletic: Carlo Ancelotti — the Galactico whisperer and king of cups
The Athletic: What makes Eduardo Camavinga the perfect super-sub for Real Madrid


Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp Era Is Ascending and Shows No Signs of Slowing Down

May 10, 2022


“It’s a good time to be a Liverpool fan: They reached their third Champions League final in five years following Tuesday’s win over Villarreal, their 63rd game of 2021-22. They’ve played in every possible fixture available this season, they’re in contention to win a historic four trophies, and Jürgen Klopp recently signed a contract extension committing himself to the club until 2026. …”
The Ringer


Outbreaks of chaos expose fatal flaw that keeps denying Guardiola European glory

May 7, 2022


“At what point does just one of those things become more than just one of those things? If Manchester City’s defeat to Real Madrid on Wednesday night were a one-off, it could be written off. What can you do about luck like that? If you have nine shots on target to the opposition’s none in the first 90 minutes and still lose 2-1 what, really, have you done wrong? Especially when you’ve dominated the first leg as City had done. But this keeps happening. Season after season, Pep Guardiola finds his teams dominating Champions League ties and losing. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Cox: Like Ancelotti, Guardiola got his subs right. There’s not much more he could have done

May 6, 2022


“Even by the standards of Champions League semi-finals, the most action-packed and dramatic stage of any competition in modern football, Real Madrid’s comeback against Manchester City last night was truly extraordinary. For 85 minutes at the Bernabeu, City were largely faultless and seemed set to record a controlled 1-0 victory that would take them into the final against Liverpool on May 28. Then, suddenly, a late blitz saw the Spanish champions score two goals, both through Rodrygo, and at 5-5 on aggregate, the momentum was with Madrid. It wasn’t a surprise they opened the scoring in extra time, and it wasn’t a surprise that they held out. City were shellshocked. Is it possible to make sense of such a chaotic ending? Let’s see. …”
The Athletic: Michael Cox
Guardian: Systemic flaws of Guardiola’s City keep Champions League out of reach (Video)
NY Times: Real Madrid Stuns City, Seizing the Moment as Only It Can
Guardian: Real Madrid’s latest miracle is a tale of 88 seconds and one Ancelotti video (Video)
The Athletic: Camavinga, Rodrygo, Vinicius: Real Madrid’s big bets on rising stars are paying off


Liverpool beat Villarreal: How the Reds came back from the brink in Champions League semi-final

May 4, 2022


“They were outplayed during the first half of their semi-final second leg in Villarreal, the Reds producing surely their worst half of the season in a game that threatened to derail their quadruple hopes. But – as is so often the case – Jurgen Klopp’s side found a way. Liverpool looked in control of the tie after a comfortable 2-0 win last week at Anfield but the Spanish side cancelled out that lead by the break. At the hour mark it was still 2-2 on aggregate, but Fabinho, half-time substitute Luis Diaz and Sadio Mane scored to send Liverpool to Paris – where they will play either Real Madrid or Manchester City. …”
BBC
NY Times: Liverpool’s Dream Delivered, Only After Villarreal’s Is Dashed
Guardian: Díaz turns tide at Villarreal to send Liverpool to Champions League final
NY Times – Champions League Updates: Liverpool Beats Villarreal to Reach Final (Video)


Cox: Liverpool broke down Villarreal by learning not to foul them

April 30, 2022


“The tactical battle between Liverpool and Villarreal was one of contrasts. It was attack versus defence, width versus narrowness, high pressing against a deep block. But above all else, it was about tempo. Liverpool wanted a high-intensity, 100mph game. Villarreal attempted to slow it down whenever possible. A key factor in Liverpool’s eventual breakthrough was Jurgen Klopp’s side not allowing Villarreal breaks in play. …”
The Athletic


Pochettino and the paradox at PSG, a club that is almost unmanageable

April 30, 2022


“There is probably only one thing a manager can do at Paris Saint-Germain that would enhance his reputation, which is to win the Champions League – and even then there would be plenty of people looking at the £900m net spend since the Qatari takeover in 2011 and thinking: ‘About time.’ Mauricio Pochettino has not done that. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


A Clash of Civilizations in the Champions League Semifinal

April 29, 2022


“It is easy to see a clash between Manchester City and Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinal as the ultimate contrast of footballing cultures: If City are the brash young upstart of European football, then Madrid are its landed gentry. The latter have been crowned its kings on 13 occasions, while the former still await their first European title. Historians might see this as a reductive reading of the situation—as a club, City were actually founded several years before Madrid, but in terms of prestige, the Mancunians are still playing catch-up. The pattern of Tuesday’s first leg, which Manchester City won 4-3, perfectly illustrated this dynamic. …”
The Ringer
NY Times: Superclubs and Spring Nights
Tactical Analysis: Manchester City 4-3 Real Madrid


Jurgen Klopp: How significant is Liverpool boss’ contract extension?

April 28, 2022


“Liverpool are almost on a good news overload as they chase immortality and a historic quadruple but the announcement that manager Jurgen Klopp has extended his Anfield contract may just be the best yet. Klopp’s Liverpool are on course to reach their third Champions League final under his leadership after a controlled 2-0 win against Villarreal in the first leg of their last four-tie, and have already won the Carabao Cup this season. Add to this, they will play Chelsea in the FA Cup final at Wembley in May and stand only one point behind leaders and reigning champions Manchester City in pursuit of their second Premier League title under the charismatic German. …”
BBC
NY Times: When Passing Is Art, Not Paint by Numbers


Manchester City 4-3 Real Madrid: Classic Champions League tie a genuine gold standard match

April 27, 2022


Kevin de Bruyne opened the scoring after only 93 seconds in an incredible Champions League semi-final first-leg tie
“Carlo Ancelotti’s last visit to Manchester City ended in a 5-0 humiliation in what proved to be the final match of his tenure as Everton manager. When the legendary Italian manager, 62, turned to his Real Madrid backroom staff with arms outstretched and gave an anxious glance down at his watch with City 2-0 up after only 11 minutes on his return to Etihad Stadium, he was probably fearing a similar scoreline. City were flying. Real were overwhelmed. This was shaping up as a one-sided mauling for the great old Champions League campaigner chasing the trophy for a historic fourth time….”
BBC
The Athletic: ‘I always have it in my head’ – the mental strength behind Karim Benzema’s outrageous penalty for Real Madrid
NY Times: A Convincing Win That Was Anything but Convincing
The Athletic: Carlo Ancelotti’s quiet path to redemption at Real Madrid
Guardian: Pep Guardiola urges Manchester City to be more ruthless in Real Madrid return


Two nights in Madrid, two wildly contrasting experiences

April 16, 2022


“Nobody was leaving. Not Atletico Madrid’s players, who it seemed were going to have to be dragged kicking and screaming from the Champions League stage, and not their supporters, who were determined to have the last word. … You wouldn’t have guessed their team had just been beaten to a place in the Champions League semi-finals by Manchester City. What a noise — from the start to the bitter, bitter end. And what an extraordinary occasion it was. Again. … When the dust settled on that angry, bad-tempered quarter-final second leg at the Wanda Metropolitano last night, it was City who had held on to secure a semi-final meeting with Real Madrid, leaving Atletico, like Chelsea the previous evening, to count their regrets. …”
The Athletic


Soccer Should Worry About the Product, Not the Packaging

April 10, 2022


“Everything started with a letter. In the summer of 1990, Daniel Jeandupeux, a young Swiss coach, was bored. More precisely, he was bored by that year’s men’s World Cup. The romance of Toto Schillaci, the joy of Roger Milla, the swelling aria of Nessun Dorma: None of it could quite dislodge his sensation that it had been, by and large, a deeply ‘ugly’ tournament. That thought inspired Jeandupeux to explore why that might have been. As he described it to the estimable Dutch news outlet De Correspondent, he used an early example of soccer analytics software, a platform called Top Score, to examine what form the game took, particularly in matchups in which one team took an early lead. …”
NY Times


Marseille weather storm and revive their Champions League ambitions

April 4, 2022


“In like a lion and out like a lamb. The old adage about weather in March has been a perfect description of Marseille’s form and their chances of qualifying for the Champions League over the last month. Marseille were floundering at the end of February. What had looked like an iron grip on a Champions League place suddenly seemed uncertain after home defeats to Clermont and Monaco, as well as a draw against a Troyes side who have not exactly set the league alight this season. …”
Guardian


Shakhtar provide supplies to refugees but ‘dreaming of return to normality’

March 28, 2022


“Normality is another world for Shakhtar Donetsk. When Russia invaded Ukraine, football was stopped and the lives of the players, coaches, staff and fans were turned upside down in an instant. There was no time to waste with lives at stake as the autumn’s Champions League games against Real Madrid and Internazionale quickly became a distant memory. Sergei Palkin, the chief executive, has been at the forefront of the club’s humanitarian efforts and ensuring the safety of players from the academy to the first-team captain. …”
Guardian


Paris Saint-Germain and the wreckage of another Champions League calamity

March 12, 2022


“On Wednesday evening, moments after the final whistle in Real Madrid’s Bernabeu, the Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi and the club’s sporting director Leonardo descended into the bowels of the stadium. It is now almost 11 years since Al-Khelaifi’s state-backed Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) acquired PSG and, despite spending in excess of £1 billion on incoming transfers, the Champions League trophy remains elusive. This season, a devastating final half-hour from Real’s French striker Karim Benzema turned the round-of-16 tie in favour of the Spanish team, enabling a side led by former PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti to recover from a 2-0 aggregate deficit and eliminate them from the competition. …”
The Athletic (Audio/Video)


Champions League Final Will Be Played in Paris, Not Russia

February 26, 2022


“European soccer’s governing body on Friday voted to move this season’s Champions League final, the showcase game on the continent’s sporting calendar, to Paris as punishment for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The game, on May 28, had been scheduled to be played in St. Petersburg, in a stadium built for 2018 World Cup and financed by the Russian energy giant Gazprom, a major sponsor of the governing body, UEFA. It will take place instead at the Stade de France, in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis. It will be the first time France has hosted the final since 2006. UEFA said it had made the decision as a result of ‘the grave escalation of the security situation in Europe.’ …”
NY Times
****New Republic: European Soccer Only Has Itself to Blame for Its Russia Problem
***NY Times: Stranded Soccer Stars, Frantic Phone Calls and a Race to Flee Kyiv (Video)
NY Times: The Roots of Ukraine’s War: How the Crisis Developed
NY Times – Maps: Tracking the Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The Athletic: Footballers should not be asked to do a politician’s job
NY Times – Soccer, Russia and a Line Drawn Too Late


Van Dijk’s dominance and Konate’s best performance make Liverpool good bets to reach the Champions League final

February 20, 2022


“In a tactical sense, Liverpool’s 2-0 victory away to Inter Milan felt like a very modern contest. The game was played at a frenetic tempo, both sides looked to push up and press the opposition whenever possible, and there were various moments when the defences seemed set to play themselves into trouble on the edge of their own penalty areas, such was the defensive effort of the attacking players. In situations like that, sometimes the defenders themselves are slightly anonymous — they hold a high line, position themselves to sweep up if the press is beaten, but find that their job title is slightly misleading and they don’t have to do much actual defending. …”
The Athletic (Audio)


Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend

February 18, 2022


Douglas Luiz midfielder Aston Villa
“… 4) Gerrard seeks Villa midfield spark. Steven Gerrard has lost more matches than he has won as Aston Villa manager. There were redeeming qualities in the defeats to Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea, but nothing to admire in last week’s awful performance at Newcastle. The centre-backs performed competently but their attackers were hardly involved, principally because Villa’s midfield allowed Jonjo Shelvey and Joelinton to run the show. That is damning of John McGinn and Douglas Luiz and helps explain why Gerrard was so keen to sign Brighton’s Yves Bissouma in January. …”
Guardian


‘What they think is what we think, to go through’ – Ancelotti ready for PSG test

February 15, 2022


Kylian Mbappe – Paris Saint Germain
“‘What Mbappé thinks is what Benzema thinks, which is what Vinícius thinks, which is what Messi thinks,’ Carlo Ancelotti said, pretty much saying it all, or at least trying to. And he hadn’t named half of them yet, the list lengthening a few minutes later even without citing Neymar when he added Marco Verratti, Ángel Di María and Mauro Icardi. … ”
Guardian


Notorious match-fixer Solti’s game of fine margins echoes down the years

February 13, 2022


Liverpool – Ron Yeats
“For Liverpool, Wednesday’s Champions League tie against Internazionale will inevitably conjure memories of 1965. Leading 3-1 from the first leg of their first European Cup semi-final, Liverpool went to San Siro and lost 3-0 in a game that players insist was fixed. The first Inter goal was scored direct from a free-kick they believed to be indirect, the second after the ball was nicked from the goalkeeper Tommy Lawrence as he bounced it before clearing. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Premier League without VAR: Arsenal in Champions League places; Everton soar to safety

February 10, 2022


“It’s now five long years since Arsenal last played in the Champions League, and in fact this season is their first without any kind of European football since 1995-96. Mikel Arteta is trying to put that right, but finds his team in sixth place which, at best, is only going to be good enough for a place in the Europa League — where the Gunners were marooned for the past four seasons. But ESPN can reveal that without the decisions of the VAR, Arsenal would already be sitting pretty in fourth spot and dreaming of that place back among Europe’s elite. This season we’re looking at all VAR (video assistant referee) decisions across the Premier League, and seeing how they might have affected the outcome of games. …”
ESPN (Video)


How can we make Europe’s big leagues more competitive?

January 27, 2022


“There are still four months remaining in most European domestic leagues, but the big titles are largely already decided. It’s a situation we’ve become accustomed to: the rich clubs wrapping up the league by the turn of the year, allowing them to concentrate on what really matters to them, the Champions League. Winning the title, the fundamental point of holding a national league system, is barely a story, and tense run-ins are largely a thing of the past. …”
The Athletic


Mourinho, Benítez and the Pursuit of the Past

January 22, 2022


“In the sudden flood of spare time he had after departing Manchester United, José Mourinho filmed a commercial for a bookmaker. A couple of years and a couple of jobs on, it is still running on British television. It still works, after all. Mourinho is still a household name in Britain. The ad’s central concept holds up. Mourinho’s acting might be just a little hammy — as you might expect — but it is quite deft, too. Looking as tanned and healthy and relaxed as we all did in 2019, he earnestly walks viewers through what it takes to be ‘special.’ The joke is that he should know: He is the Special One, after all. Get it? …”
NY Times


When Two Champions Leagues Titles in Eight Months Don’t Count

January 17, 2022



“Pitso Mosimane has done enough winning in the last year, plus change, to talk about nothing else. In November 2020, only three months after he was appointed manager of the Egyptian club Al Ahly, he won the African Champions League title. He did so by beating Zamalek, Al Ahly’s fiercest rival. The final was cast as the derby of the century. Nobody in Egypt thought it was an exaggeration. Eight months later, he repeated the trick. The calendar contracted and concentrated by the pandemic, Al Ahly returned to the Champions League final in July to face Kaizer Chiefs, the team Mosimane had supported as a child in South Africa. He won again. He was showered with golden ticker tape on the field, then presented with bouquets of roses by government grandees when he returned to Cairo. …”
NY Times


Conor Gallagher is a throwback to old-fashioned No 8s – and that could be what England are missing

January 12, 2022


“At a time when the England national side is blessed with several quality attacking midfielders excelling for clubs in the Champions League, Conor Gallagher probably isn’t the best of the bunch. He is, however, surely the most typically English. Gallagher has been the standout player for a rejuvenated Crystal Palace side, featured in many people’s select XI from the first half of the Premier League season, and has been one of the revelations of the season for Fantasy Football players. Palace fans want him to stay, Chelsea fans would like him to return from his loan, and England supporters were delighted to see him make his international debut in November against San Marino. …”
The Athletic – Michael Cox


UEFA Champions League round of 16 classics

January 8, 2022


“Taking in José Mourinho’s touchline charge, La Remontada and plenty more besides, UEFA.com picks out a classic last-16 tie from each of the last 18 seasons. The 2021/22 UEFA Champions League is the 19th edition since the knockout round of 16 replaced the second group stage. UEFA.com picks out a classic tie from each of the past 18 seasons – all headline scores are aggregate. …”
UEFA (Video)


The Premier League Chose Festive Fixtures Over Safe Fixtures

December 23, 2021


“So, things are a bit of a mess in the Premier League: On Monday, Tottenham were bounced from the Europa Conference League by the governing body itself, UEFA, which awarded a 3-0 win to French side Rennes in the final game of the group phase. The match was supposed to be played on December 9, but a COVID outbreak among Tottenham’s players and coaching staff forced Spurs to postpone—the team’s third such postponement in just over a week. …”
The Ringer


WTF is Group G?

December 14, 2021


“… Needless to say, there was plenty more where that came from. Rightly or wrongly, the prospect of Lille, Sevilla, Red Bull Salzburg and Wolfsburg going head to head over the next four months was not exactly setting pulses racing. For The Athletic, that was only ever going to mean one thing: watching every minute of every Group G match. If you thought that would be a slog, prepare to be disappointed. Two Champions League records were set inside the first 45 minutes of the opening game, a Bulgarian referee made the worst penalty decision in living memory, a manager was sacked, a 28-match unbeaten run came to an end and a teenage striker showed why he is on the radar of every top club in Europe. …”
The Athletic


What Do We Mean by Good Soccer?

December 11, 2021



“Jesse Lingard was streaking away, the ball at his feet, on the right wing. Their legs weary and their hopes dwindling, Arsenal’s defenders heaved and hauled to keep up with him, as if they were running into a stiff wind. And on the other side of the field, Cristiano Ronaldo started to sprint. It was a true sprint, too, a track sprint, a coached sprint: starting in a low crouch, his back straightening as he reached full tilt, head held high, arms pumping. The clock had just ticked past 90 minutes, but there seemed to be a magnet drawing Ronaldo to Arsenal’s penalty area, some elemental force. …”
NY Times


The Data Day No 15: Our Rolling Football Blog

December 10, 2021


December 9: Villarreal qualified for this season’s Champions League despite not finishing in the top six of La Liga, the cutoff for traditional Europa League qualification. They did so by beating Manchester United in the Europa League final. And although they couldn’t chase down United to win Group F on Thursday, they did more than they needed to in Bergamo to carry on to the Champions League last 16 despite sitting 13th in La Liga. …”
The Analyst
SI: Champions League Group Ouster Is Barcelona’s New Bottom – Jonathan Wilson


Christian Streich – SC Freiburg – Tactical Analysis (2021-22 Edition)

December 10, 2021


“After back to back top ten finishes, SC Freiburg are now flying high toward a Champions League position in the German Bundesliga. Christian Streich’s team have played some fantastic high pressing, high tempo football, beating some of the best teams in the league without any genuine stars in their side. So following up from our tactical analysis of the team last season, we take a look at how Christian Streich has revolutionized Freiburg in 2021-22. …”
The Mastermindsite


Zenit St Petersburg’s Ozdoev strikes late to deprive Chelsea of top spot

December 9, 2021


“Once again Thomas Tuchel was left to reflect on Chelsea’s inability to take care of the small details. The European champions are not playing with the right attitude at the moment and although they almost got away with it this time it was not a surprise when they ended up relinquishing top spot in Group H to Juventus after this chaotic draw with Zenit St Petersburg. …”
Guardian
Guardian – Champions League roundup: Atalanta v Villarreal snowed off; Juve top Group H
YouTube: Zenit St Petersburg vs. Chelsea: Extended Highlights | Group Stage


Who owns Barcelona?

December 8, 2021


“Barcelona, unlike their Champions League rivals, are not privately owned and cannot attract private investment. They are owned by their fans – known as members or socios. What are socios? Who makes the decisions at Barcelona? Why has this type of ownership led to their current financial predicament? Written by Alex Stewart. Illustrated by Philippe Fenner.”
YouTube (Video)


How Barcelona lost their soul

October 31, 2021


“‘This won’t last forever,’ Pep Guardiola said during his final season as coach of Barcelona’s first team in 2012. ‘Sooner or later, we will stop winning. Then is when we will have to see if we have faith in the way we are and the way we play.’ Barcelona had grown used to winning at that point — during Guardiola’s four years as coach they lifted 14 of the 18 trophies available, including two Champions Leagues and three La Liga titles. Everyone around the club was also proud of achieving such success with a team based around homegrown youth products, while playing an attractive style of football they believed was rooted firmly in their club’s unique ‘Barca DNA’.  Almost a decade later, it is fair to say that Barcelona have stopped winning. …”
The Athletic (Video)


Why Can’t Man City Fill Their Stadium?

October 29, 2021


“Following the high octane clash between Man City and RB Leipzig in the Champions League that ended with 9 goals, Pep Guardiola called out the fans for their lack of attendance. And there were a lot of empty seats, but why? Written by Seb Stafford-Bloor, illustrated by Marco Bevilacqua. …”
YouTube


Manchester United’s Perfect Feedback Loop

October 22, 2021


“Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was in the mood to play the hits. Manchester United’s most ardent fans, he said, were ‘the best in the world.’ The players who had the privilege to wear the team’s colors were the ‘luckiest’ on the planet. And, of course, there was the inevitable nod to history, to the club’s ‘habit’ of clawing victory from the maw of defeat. Solskjaer was glowing, and with good reason. United had just given Atalanta a two-goal head start in the Champions League and recovered to win regardless. Cristiano Ronaldo had delivered, yet again. United had been at the bottom of its group at halftime, flirting with elimination, but now it sat comfortably at the top. The fans sang Solskjaer’s name as he gave his postmatch television interviews. …”
NY Times


Xavi, Pirlo Or Conte? Who’s The Right Manager For Barcelona As Koeman Nears Exit?

October 1, 2021


“It was predictable. After the summer shambles and behind the scenes chaos that unfolded at the Camp Nou, Ronald Koeman’s position has constantly seemed under threat and now after a Champions League hammering at the hands of Benfica, it appears he will leave the club. His brief spell at Barca saw them win the Copa del Rey last year and finish third in La Liga, but without Lionel Messi and co, they have found life more difficult. Their Champions League campaign has consisted of two 3-0 defeats and although they are still unbeaten in the league, three draws against the likes of Cadiz and Granada have left fans frustrated. So with Koeman’s departure all but sealed, which candidates can lead the club through this rebuild? …”
The Sportsman


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


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’


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Why this season’s Champions League draw should see more glamour ties than usual

August 28, 2021


“The frantic pace of the football calendar means one can often overlook particular checkpoints until they have arrived. … Marc Albrighton is still somehow only 31 years old. These are all things that slip out of the back of our footballing minds, only to swing back into view during quiet moments when we finally get to have a cup of tea and go over the facts at a more sedate pace. … Six more places in the competition’s group stages will be decided this week but, of the 26 sides that we know will feature in Thursday’s group draw, there will be some difficult challenges ahead. Here’s The Athletic’s guide to how it all works. …”
The Athletic
Champions League Narratives: Looking at the major talking points from the group stage draw


Chelsea Tactical Analysis: Thomas Tuchel vs Previous Managers

July 25, 2021


“Thomas Tuchel’s entry into the Premier League as Frank Lampard’s replacement is seen with a lot of hope by the Chelsea faithful. Tuchel is a coach who has proven himself at the highest level and has managed the very best in the business over his last four stints. The German manager is an out-and-out football coach and he works quite intricately with the teams he has managed and the personnel he has worked with. … Antonio Conte would deploy a three-man defense with two wide centre-backs. The wing-backs would shuttle up and down the flanks. They’d join in attack and that’s why Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses were a hit under the Italian’s tutelage. Now, Tuchel has taken a bit of both worlds and fused them together into a system that has worked like a charm so far. …”
sportskeeda (Feb 2021)
YouTube: The Difference Between Tuchel & Conte’s 3-4-3 | Tuchel’s Tactics vs Conte’s Tactics (July 2021)
W – Thomas Tuchel, W – Antonio Conte
Thomas Tuchel – Chelsea – Tactical Analysis (March 2021)
Kante’s renaissance: How Tuchel restored him to role he starred in under Ranieri and Conte (May 2021)


The Super League Thought It Had a Silent Partner: FIFA

May 22, 2021


“Tucked away in the pages and pages of financial and legal jargon that constitute the founding contract of the Super League, the failed project that last month briefly threatened the century-old structures and economics of European soccer, were references to one ‘essential’ requirement. The condition was deemed so important that organizers agreed that the breakaway plan could not succeed without satisfying it and yet was so secret that it was given a code name even in contracts shared among the founders. Those documents, copies of which were reviewed by The New York Times, refer to the need for the Super League founders to strike an agreement with an entity obliquely labeled W01 but easily identifiable as FIFA, soccer’s global governing body. …” NY Times