Ranked: The top 10 defensive midfielders in the Premier League

May 21, 2022


“Defensive midfield is one of the most underrated and undervalued positions in modern football. These pivots are so often crucial to the success of their teams but can so often be overlooked for individual recognition, or in Manchester United’s case just overlooked entirely from the squad. So we’ve looked over the 2021/22 Premier League season and, taking into account the players enduring class in the years prior as well as their performances this season, come up with a list of the 10 best defensive midfielders in the Premier League. …”
squawka


Introducing playstyle wheels – The Athletic’s way of capturing ways a team play well (or not)

May 21, 2022


“There are a lot of numbers in football that measure success. Goals and points are the original analytics, and newer stats such as expected goals and possession value are just increasingly fine-grained ways to model how likely goals are to happen. They’ll give you the bottom line: is this team or player doing things that help put the ball in the net or keep it out? Basically, are they good at football? It’s harder to measure how they’re good at football. …”
The Athletic


Sean Dyche, Ulla Klopp and whoever saves Everton: Who deserves a statue at your Premier League club?

May 16, 2022


“Ten years on from ‘Aguerooooooooo!’ and Manchester City’s first Premier League title win, the club yesterday unveiled a statue of their former striker at the Etihad Stadium. Aguero’s iconic stoppage-time winner in their 3-2 victory against Queens Park Rangers on the final day of the 2011-12 season will be remembered forever by City fans, so it is only right that he has been immortalised in galvanised steel. But who deserves a statue at your Premier League club? And who will be next at City? We’ve asked our Premier League club reporters to explain their choices and if you think they’ve got it drastically wrong then please let us know in the comment. …”
The Athletic


The Most Decisive Goals in Premier League History

May 16, 2022


“Today marks 10 years since Aguero. You remember: 93:20. Balotelli’s assist. The Goal That Changed Everything. The Match That Had Everything. Joe Hart on throw-in duties. Joey Barton’s long walk off. A surprisingly iconic QPR away kit. I think Edin Dzeko did something or other. Drink it in. I swear you’ll never see anything like this again. Sometimes goals are so iconic that they don’t need a date or a time. Just a single name. Michael Thomas, Jimmy Glass. Aguero. …”
The Analyst (Video)


When Were the 2021-22 Premier League Teams Last Relegated From the Top Flight?

April 23, 2022


Woolwich Arsenal, playing at Highbury, in the Second Division, in 1913. Crazy but true.
“The demotion season is upon us. In the next few weeks three teams will drop out of the Premier League, to be replaced by Fulham (promoted this week) and two others. As it stands it will be Norwich City, Watford and Burnley going down, but just how long is it since each of the 20 clubs currently in the Premier League last experienced relegation? Because make no mistake, they all have, just some more recently than others. …”
The Analyst (Video)


Chelsea and the Stamford Bridge dilemma facing any new owners

March 29, 2022


“It was apparently Roman Abramovich who, early in his discussions with Raine Group — which is sourcing a sale of Chelsea — stipulated the conundrum that is Stamford Bridge must not be ignored. Any party interested in acquiring the club had to boast an intent to upgrade the stadium and complete the transformation the oligarch had once aspired to oversee himself. For Abramovich, that would serve as a demonstration of a new owner’s commitment as well as long-term ambition. …”
The Athletic


FA Cup and Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend

March 18, 2022


Brennan Johnson puts an arm round Ryan Yates after the midfielder
“… 4) Saints must take heart from City dates. Southampton will draw considerable strength from previous results this season against the Premier League leaders. They shared the points home and away with Pep Guardiola’s side, a head-to-head record bettered only by Crystal Palace and Tottenham. No reason to feel intimidated then, especially with Manchester City’s usually smooth engine spluttering ever so slightly. On the downside for Southampton, arguably the best prolonged spell of form since Ralph Hassenhüttl arrived has been abruptly ended by three straight defeats in the league. Booking a place in the FA Cup semi-finals would be just the tonic. …”
Guardian (Video)


Roman Abramovich: What do Russian owner’s sanctions mean for Chelsea?

March 14, 2022


“The future of European champions Chelsea is uncertain after sanctions were placed on Russian owner Roman Abramovich on Thursday. The billionaire has been in charge since 2003 but had his attempts to sell the club halted by the UK government, which has frozen his assets. What does it mean for Chelsea’s fans, players and staff? BBC Sport explains how the situation will affect those associated with the club. Abramovich was sanctioned by the UK government as part of its response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The government believes the billionaire has had a ‘close relationship for decades’ with Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, links Abramovich has always denied. …”
BBC (Video)
NY Times: At Chelsea, Nervous First Steps Into an Uncertain Future
NY Times: Britain Freezes Assets of Roman Abramovich, Creating Crisis at Chelsea
Guardian / Jonathan Wilson – ‘It was so emotional’: Yarmolenko on his tears for Ukraine after West Ham goal
Guardian: Stamford Bridge hosts dark day for those who care for football’s soul
New Republic: Is Soccer on the Brink of a Moral Awakening?

Hammers ahead Andriy Yarmolenko, born in Ukraine, scored his staff’s opening objective within the win. With Russia’s invasion on Ukraine persevering with, there isn’t a doubt that his coronary heart is heavy and hurting.


Roman Abramovich and the End of Soccer’s Oligarch Era

March 12, 2022


“There were, over the years, three stories that explained how Roman Abramovich washed ashore at Chelsea. Each one, now, serves as a kind of time capsule, a carbon-dated relic from a specific period, capturing in amber each stage of our understanding of what, precisely, soccer has become. The first took root in the immediate aftermath of Abramovich’s takeover of Chelsea. It was light, fuzzy, faintly romantic. Abramovich, the tale went, had been at Old Trafford on the night in 2003 when Manchester United’s fans stood as one to applaud the great Brazilian striker Ronaldo as he swept their team from the Champions League. Abramovich had been so smitten, it was said, that he had decided there and then that he wanted a piece of English soccer. …”
NY Times
The Athletic: Chelsea – what next? (Audio)


Why Did Global Soccer Ban Russia, Really?

March 5, 2022


“Anything as popular as soccer, whose fans number in the billions, is bound to become currency. The game carries immense value for people who play and watch it, but also to anyone who wants to use it to reach hearts, minds, and wallets the world over. In the past 30 years, the commoditization of the world’s game has accelerated, both as a television product and as a means for the ultra-rich to blow their money and burnish their reputations. The highest tier of global soccer is so expensive now that there probably is no ethical way to afford membership. But the roster of EPL club owners is a who’s-who of murderous dictators; scions of other oil-rich, human rights-denying royal families; and oligarchs who pillaged state assets to make themselves rich as their countries privatized them after the Cold War. …”
SLATE
FIFA’s suspension of Russia is a rarity – but one that strips bare the idea that sport can be apolitical
ESPN – FIFA suspends Russia from World Cup, all soccer competitions: What it means, how it works (Video)
Forbes: FIFA Bans Russia, But Don’t Forget About Ukraine’s World Cup Dreams
Aljazeera: Russia faces sporting fallout over invasion of Ukraine (Video)
FIFA has finally acted against Russia, but it doesn’t undo a long history of cosying up to Putin (Video)

Ukrainian flag with the inscription “Stop War. We against war.” prior the Bundesliga soccer match, Germany


New Year, New Me: The Biggest Changes in Stats Perform’s Power Rankings

February 24, 2022


“The return of European knockout football has us once again watching teams from across the continent go up against one another. But tournament football, clearly, doesn’t see every team play each other, and the beauty of it is that the best team doesn’t always win. And that’s absolutely fine. But what if there was a global league system, rather than one-off knockout ties, that could help us gauge the comparative strength of teams across the world? Well, that’s exactly what Stats Perform’s Power Rankings seek to do. …”
The Analyst


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


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)


Newcastle Are Moving Fast and Breaking Things in a Bid to Stay Alive

February 1, 2022


“Look: Manchester City will win the Premier League title. If you’d like to foster the belief that alternative outcomes are possible, then by all means characterize the two-point swing in the title race just before the international break as ‘significant’ or even inconvenient for the reigning champions. Southampton’s Kyle Walker-Peters darting across City’s back line and striking a blow against Pep Guardiola’s Goliath; Hakim Ziyech’s magnum opus against Tottenham; Liverpool triumphing over Crystal Palace in a must-win game amid penalty controversy—this is all the kind of blockbuster stuff that suggests the pulse of the title race is quickening. It amounts to City now being just nine points clear at the top of the table now. …”
The Ringer


The rise and fall of three-man defences and what it tells us about the Premier League

February 1, 2022


“The two managers who have defined English football’s recent craze of using a three-man defence are Antonio Conte and Thomas Tuchel. In his debut campaign at Chelsea, 2016-17, Conte became the first manager in half a century to win the English league title with a back three. Four years later, Tuchel used a similar system at the same club, meaning Chelsea became the first team in two decades to win the European Cup with a three-man defence. …”
The Athletic – Michael Cox


How do you value a player?

January 30, 2022


“Last year a Premier League club invited their scouts to a training day where one of the exercises focused on valuations, starting with the price of a large latte from Starbucks. Everyone had to log on via an app and enter the value. A pint of beer in the local pub was next, followed by a four-bedroom detached house in a particular town in the north west. … What is Mbappe worth with six months remaining on his contract? Actually, what is any player worth? …”
The Athletic


What if every Premier League club could make one exciting (but plausible) signing before the deadline?

January 30, 2022


“Each club in the Premier League has different needs in the transfer market. Some are constrained by finances. All are constrained by time. But what if they weren’t? We’ve gone through every single Premier League side and come up with one signing they would love to make before deadline day. …’
Squawka


A trip to Dubai, ‘Yellow days’ or time off: What will your club’s players be doing during the Premier League break?

January 24, 2022


“It has snuck up on us in a whirl of postponed fixtures, the FA Cup’s third round and the Carabao Cup semi-finals but this weekend is the last push before the Premier League takes a two-week break. Don’t worry, there’s going to be plenty of football to keep us going in the meantime — with the EFL continuing, the Africa Cup of Nations’ knockout phase, World Cup qualifiers and the FA Cup fourth round to keep us entertained — but it’s an opportunity for many Premier League squads to get some time on the training pitch or simply take a well-deserved rest. Ralf Rangnick has opted to give his Manchester United players six days off, and the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea will also have extended breaks. But Newcastle United (Saudi Arabia) and Arsenal (Dubai) are off to warmer climes. Here, The Athletic’s club writers give you the rundown of what your lads are going to be up to over the next couple of weeks…”
The Athletic
W – 2022 EFL Cup Final


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


Players to Watch in 2021-22: The Analyst 50 (Part I)

January 21, 2022


“After a summer of frantic international football tournaments across the globe, the new domestic league season is now on the horizon. Ninety-eight teams will battle it out across the top five European leagues, with titles to be won, European football to be secured and relegation to be avoided and we wanted to give you a guide on some of the players to watch in 2021-22. We recruited the very best of Stats Perform’s data editors to give us a list of 50 players. These players aren’t who they think are the greatest – you’ve all read that. This is a selection of 50 players that we think will make an impact in 2021-22. Some are obvious, some less so. Let’s dive in to The Analyst 50, with the first 25 players. …”
The Analyst (July 2021) Part I (Video), Part II (Video)


Cliques in football dressing rooms: The good, the bad and the ugly

January 19, 2022


“‘When it comes to dressing-room dynamics, one of the major issues you’ve got is that there’s no other industry in the world where, on the most important day of the week, over 50 per cent of the workforce isn’t used for the big moment,’ a Premier League coach tells The Athletic. … We are talking about dressing-room cliques: why they form, what damage they can do, and how managers can try to prevent divides and schisms from creating bigger problems. …”
The Athletic


‘How Liverpool can climb Everest again’ – Danny Murphy on why title race is not over yet

January 17, 2022


“With Manchester City’s brilliance and the way they are so relentless and clinical when it comes to winning games, it looks like Liverpool are climbing Everest with their title bid this season. It’s worth remembering they have done it before, though. Right now, catching City looks extremely unlikely but then Jurgen Klopp’s side have already beaten the odds to triumph a few times in recent years. So, although it is going to take an absolutely unbelievable effort for them to stop City retaining their Premier League crown from here, there are a few reasons I would not write the Reds off yet. …”
BBC (Video)


Manchester City, Chelsea and Competing With Perfection

January 16, 2022


“For a few weeks, around this time last year, English soccer found itself in a heartfelt, sincere discussion over whether the time had come for Éderson, Manchester City’s goalkeeper, to start taking penalties. Questions were asked on television. The subject was weighed in newspapers. Soccer’s commentariat chewed over the idea’s merits. It had all started with a joke. Some time in 2019, the otherwise all-conquering Manchester City had developed a curious tick. Suddenly, Pep Guardiola’s team just could not score penalties. …”
NY Times


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)


Analysing Mendy and Kelleher’s wonder saves and the importance of not backpedalling

January 6, 2022


“Chelsea came from behind to draw 2-2 with Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Sunday as two of the outsiders for this year’s Premier League title kicked off 2022 with one of the most entertaining matches of the season. After an action-packed first 45 minutes resulted in all four goals, it was the goalkeepers that stole the show in the second half. Edouard Mendy was first called into action in the 57th minute, denying Mohamed Salah’s daring effort from range with a superb leap to his right. A minute later, Mendy made another big save to his right, to keep out a stinging attempt from Sadio Mane after a wonderful interchange between Mane and Salah found the Liverpool attacker free on goal. …”
The Athletic (Video)


Explained: How and when the Premier League will reschedule its postponed fixtures

December 29, 2021


“The Premier League postponements just keep on coming. After gameweek 18 on December 18 and 19 was decimated by COVID-19 outbreaks at several clubs, with six of the round’s 10 fixtures being pushed back, the Premier League’s Boxing Day programme was also hit by a further three postponements among the nine scheduled games. Further disruption is inevitable as the highly transmissible Omicron variant continues to spread. Gameweek 20, on December 28 to 30, already shorn of two fixtures and increased uncertainty over Everton’s home match against Newcastle United on Thursday. The postponements present the Premier League officials with a problem. …”
The Athletic


Introducing the no-touch All-Stars

December 28, 2021


“For a minute this weekend against Chelsea, it looked like Conor Coady might have to come off. He had just made what could have been a game-saving tackle, reaching a perfectly timed toe around Christian Pulisic to snuff out an open shot from the top of the box, but Coady twisted his ankle while going to ground and had to be helped off the pitch. As play restarted without him, the TV crew talked about how rare it was to see Wolves without their captain. Since the start of this season, Coady has played 1,788 out of a possible 1,800 minutes for his club, plus three World Cup qualifiers for England. …”
The Athletic


2021 was the year when football’s silent majority finally found its voice

December 27, 2021


A mural in Rome depicting Juventus president Andrea Agnelli puncturing a football with a knife. Juve backed the doomed European Super League breakaway.
“Remarkably, the website is still live. Eight months after the European Super League disintegrated in an embarrassing fireball, you might think its founders would be minded to erase all trace of their hubris and humiliation. But perhaps that would be to credit them with too much competence. And so there it remains to this day: ‘The Super League is a new European competition between 20 top clubs comprised of 15 founders and five annual qualifiers.’ Well, good luck with that. There is, of course, an alternative theory. After all, the Super League is still not quite dead in a legislative sense; certainly not if you believe the loud and persistent avowals of Andrea Agnelli at Juventus, Joan Laporta at Barcelona and Florentino Pérez at Real Madrid, the three remaining hoarse men of the apocalypse. …”
Guardian


Tifo video: A guide to 3-4-3

December 26, 2021


“… Using a 3–4–3, the midfielders are expected to split their time between attacking and defending. Having only three dedicated defenders means that if the opposing team breaks through the midfield, they will have a greater chance to score than with a more conventional defensive configuration, such as 4–5–1 or 4–4–2. However, the three forwards allow for a greater concentration on attack. This formation is used by more offensive-minded teams. The formation was famously used by Liverpool under Rafael Benítez during the second half of the 2005 UEFA Champions League Final to come back from a three-goal deficit. It was also notably used by Chelsea when they won the Premier League under manager Antonio Conte in the 2016–17 season and when they won the 2021 UEFA Champions League Final under Thomas Tuchel. …”
W – 3–4–3
YouTube: Tifo video: A guide to 3-4-3
YouTube: Why is Germany’s 3-4-3 working so well? (June 2021)


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


Premier League: Man City on top but no team in control of title race – Alan Shearer analysis

December 22, 2021


“Manchester City will be top at Christmas after winning eight straight games but I don’t think any team will take control of this Premier League title race for a long time yet. At the moment, it is City’s turn to make everyone say ‘wow’ at the way they are playing. Some of their football is amazing and they are strolling through many of their matches. They currently look the team to stop, but I have thought the same about Liverpool and Chelsea at different times this season and I am sure we will soon be talking again how strong those two look….”
BBC (Video)


Who are the 10 best players in the Premier League?

December 17, 2021


“First things first. Let’s not even pretend this is a serious piece of journalism. It’s a game, a fun bit of distraction to force us all to argue with each other and berate everyone else’s bad opinions. So, please, enjoy it for what it is and join the debate — but be nice. It’s just football, right? Here’s the game: name the 10 best players in the Premier League. On general talent, not just the form they’ve been in for the past few weeks. And you have to put them in order, with No 1 the best. It’s actually really hard. Does Harry Kane deserve a place despite his nightmare of a season so far? Is Mohamed Salah plus nine Manchester City players a valid top 10? How do you compare apples and oranges? We asked our writers and editors to have a go, then averaged out the answers to come up with this. Outraged? Again, have a go yourself. We don’t mind being told we’re wrong. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic – Fantasy Premier League: The players on my watchlist for the festive fixtures (Dec. 3, 2021)


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


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


ESPN FC 100: Messi, Lewandowski, Oblak among No. 1s; Premier League has most representatives

December 4, 2021


“For the sixth consecutive year, ESPN presents its annual ranking of the best men’s players and coaches in world soccer! Welcome to FC 100. As always, rankings are broken down into Top 10 lists for positions, plus a countdown of managers, in order to present the most meaningful look at talent on the pitch and the sideline. Whereas last year was dominated by Liverpool and Bayern Munich — the clubs combined for eight of the 10 No. 1 spots — the leaders in this year’s edition are spread across six teams, with none having more than two men on top of their respective category. …”
ESPN (Video)
Go to: Goalkeeper | Right-back | Centre-back | Left-back | Central midfield | Attacking midfield | Winger | Forward | Striker | Manager


Scipio Africanus and the Carthaginians: The Flank Dilemma in the Premier League

December 2, 2021


“… As funny as this may sound, the famous general was actually right. But the question is, how do you make the other bastard look dumb? Well… you deploy the best tricks up your sleeve to fool them. Let’s rewind back to the Third Punic War when Scipio Africanus ran a ‘clever trick’ on the Carthaginians at the Battle of Ilipa. Both the Romans and the Carthaginians had armies composed of their well-trained, homegrown soldiers and not-so reliable Iberian allies, almost half/half for each. For a few days, the two armies were camped close to each other and would come out during the day and form up. Scipio always put his legionnaires in the center and positioned his Iberians on the wings, whilst the Carthaginians followed their lead and did the same with their army and engaged in a staring contest. …”
Breaking The Lines


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


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)


Tactics and Thunder: Analysing Antonio Conte’s suitability for Manchester United

October 31, 2021


When deeper, Conte’s teams prioritise compactness over pressure and work to block spaces centrally and force the opponent wide. When the ball is moved, all players move across in unison.
“No one can have missed that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seems to be on the brink at Manchester United and clinging onto his job as the club’s manager. It’s being reported that the Norwegian needs positive results in the coming matches to remain in charge of United, highlighting United’s indecisiveness regarding their managerial situation. Surely, if the club officials were 100% behind Solskjaer, they would keep him regardless of the result at Tottenham on Saturday, or Manchester City next week? Equally, if they doubt him, why is he still in charge? …”
Running the Show (Video)


Tough at the top – mixed fortunes for Premier League’s top three

October 30, 2021


“For the first time since September 2017, the Premier League’s top three all played at 3pm UK time on a Saturday and it resulted in a gripping, action-packed afternoon full of mixed fortunes for the English top-flight’s title-chasers. The big winners were Chelsea, who earned a 3-0 victory at Newcastle to lead the division by three points. Liverpool sit second after throwing away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Brighton, while 10-man Manchester City suffered a shock 2-0 home loss to Crystal Palace. …”
BBC (Video)


Why outswinging corners lead to more chances but inswingers lead to more goals

October 28, 2021


“A corner. A roar goes up from the crowd. It puzzled Jose Mourinho when he first came to England how fans reacted to their team winning a corner kick ‘with the same applause as a goal’. Yet corners are a valuable weapon in an attacking team’s armoury. But should they be inswinging or outswinging? In the past 10 Premier League seasons, 3.4 per cent of corners resulted in a goal. So far this season, we are slightly above average at 4 per cent. In fact, last weekend, six teams in separate matches scored goals from a corner. Arsenal, Southampton, Newcastle, Watford, Brentford and West Ham all profited while Chelsea also won a penalty from a corner, which they converted. …”
The Athletic


Which player at your club should be getting more minutes?

October 17, 2021


“As the Premier League returns, there is a player at every club (well, apart from Crystal Palace apparently) that you feel should be getting more minutes on the pitch. He might have battled back from injury, struggled to make an impact since joining last summer, or be a teenager who is still developing but he might just be the difference — if only your manager takes a chance on him. The Athletic’s data analyst Tom Worville has produced squad profiles for each club to show the number and percentage of minutes played when set against the age of the player in question. You can expect to see most of the footballers our writers have chosen in the bottom left-hand corner — i.e. they’re young and have not had many minutes so far this season — but there are exceptions. Let us know whether you agree with the selection for your club in the comments section below… ”
The Athletic


How many touches should a forward have in a game of football?

October 10, 2021


“It has become an increasingly common sight in football broadcasting. In the 50th minute of Manchester City’s trip to Liverpool, an in-game graphic popped up on the screen to reveal which player had made the fewest touches in the game so far. At that point, Diogo Jota’s 17 were the fewest, with Liverpool’s front three all among the bottom five. The question to ask when seeing such statistics is — is that good or bad? When using data in football, one of the key duties of care is to ensure it is surrounded in context, to better understand why these statistics are useful in the game. So with this in mind, how many touches should a forward have in a game of football? And importantly, do such numbers matter when assessing a forward’s performance? …”
The Athletic


2004–05 Chelsea F.C. season

October 6, 2021


“The 2004–05 season was Chelsea F.C.‘s 91st competitive season, 13th consecutive season in the Premier League and 99th year as a club. Managed by José Mourinho during his first season at the club, Chelsea won the Premier League title (their first league title in 50 years) and the League Cup. … In the Champions League, Chelsea aimed to improve upon their semi-final placing the previous year, but in the end only matched their achievement. They also exited the FA Cup in the fifth round to eventual semi-finalists Newcastle United. …”
Wikipedia
W – José Mourinho
YouTube: How Did Chelsea Win Their First Premier League Title? [And How Good Were Chelsea Before 2005?]


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


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

September 28, 2021


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


Marcos Alonso and the Genius of Thomas Tuchel

September 25, 2021


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


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


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

September 13, 2021


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


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


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

September 11, 2021


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


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

September 8, 2021


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


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


Chelsea Proves a Point While Collecting One at Liverpool

August 29, 2021



“LIVERPOOL, England — Romelu Lukaku’s second half was not an especially glamorous one. There was a lot of running, darting into the slivers of space on either side of Liverpool’s central defenders, hoping for a ball that rarely came. There was a substantial amount of tussling and wrestling with Joel Matip, in particular, the two scrabbling for every inch of ground. There were not, conversely, many touches: only 20 in all after halftime, not quite one every two minutes. …”
NY Times
Guardian: Chelsea show resilience to survive Anfield’s medieval battle scenes


Interchanging front threes or a traditional No 9? Why top Premier League teams prefer flexibility

August 21, 2021


“As the Harry Kane transfer saga rumbled on in the background, the scene on the pitch for last weekend’s Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester City clash was more typical of modern football. With no Kane available, Tottenham used Son Heung-min up front. With their pursuit of Kane so far unsuccessful, City used Ferran Torres up front. Son and Torres are both generally regarded as wide players. That’s not to say they’re not sporadically prolific — each one scored a Premier League hat-trick last season, and both say they’re perfectly happy playing through the middle. But neither is anything like traditional No 9s: they drop off, they come short and they make runs into the channels. …”
The Athletic


Should the Premier League have a salary cap?

August 13, 2021


“… It may be a surprise, but Premier League football clubs are not actually good at making money. This years’ winners of the Premier League and Champions League (Man City & Chelsea) made pre-tax losses of over £1.5 billion. But is that the cost of success? Would bringing in a salary cap make the Premier League a more even playing field? Could they follow La Liga’s rules? Or could a salary cap actually hand the advantage to the traditional big six? …”
YouTube: Should the Premier League have a salary cap?


Premier League round table: Who can challenge City? Which teams should fear drop? What would make you happy?

August 12, 2021


“In two days’ time, the Premier League is back. Promoted Brentford kick things off by hosting Arsenal at their shiny new stadium on Friday night and the first weekend of fixtures also treats us to Harry Kane-admiring Manchester City against Harry Kane-owning Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday afternoon. City are the team to beat after coasting to the title in 2020-21, so who are the teams that are going to challenge them? Which clubs should be looking over their shoulder in the bottom half of the table? And who are you most looking forward to watching this season? We asked four of our writers to answer those questions and more, as we ramp up our Premier League content before the 2021-22 season gets underway…”
The Athletic
BBC – Premier League predictions: Who will finish where in 2021-22?
Guardian – Back in the game: here comes the Premier League again


Introducing ‘expected threat’ (or xT), the new metric on the block

August 8, 2021


“By this point, you’ve probably heard of the term expected goals (or xG). If not, familiarise yourself. It’s the poster-boy of the football analytics movement, going from being included in the box-score on shows such as Match of the Day and Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football to shaping how those within the game think about chance creation. It even influences scouting and recruitment. It’s become something of a meme too, with Brighton’s well-documented gap between goals and xG dominating the discourse for Graham Potter’s side in 2020-21. …”
The Athletic


Paying the Price for Premier League Riches

August 7, 2021


Andreas Pereira is known as the Preseason Pirlo. But he has nowhere to go.
“The headed clearance did not quite get the requisite power, or direction. It floated, rather than fizzed, out of Brentford’s penalty area, the danger not quite clear. Two Manchester United players converged on it, sensing opportunity. The ball bounced off the turf, not too high, not too quick, and hung in the air for just a second. And that is where Andreas Pereira met it.There is a reason some Manchester United fans have come to know Pereira — with equal parts affection and admonishment — as the Preseason Pirlo. …”
NY Times