Category Archives: Chelsea

Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea sacking – the inside story told from both sides


“Chelsea’s sombre players shunned most of their non-mandatory media duties as they made their way out of Stadion Maksimir after Champions League humiliation at the hands of Dinamo Zagreb on Tuesday evening, only to find their discomfort was far from over. Boarding the plane that would take them back to England from the Croatian capital meant filing awkwardly past the front rows of seats containing head coach Thomas Tuchel and his staff, as well as co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali. …”
The Athletic
Guardian – Style, central midfield and strikers: Potter’s key Chelsea issues to tackle

Champions League: Michael Cox’s tactical guide to this season’s leading contenders

“Judging by the bookmakers’ odds, there are eight sides who stand a decent chance of winning this season’s European Cup. Broadly speaking, they look familiar from last season — few clubs have undergone a dramatic overhaul in terms of their starting XI and only one of these eight clubs appointed a new manager in the summer. If you haven’t watched any of the favourites since last season, here’s the lowdown on their approaches for 2022-23. …”
The Athletic

Money to Burn: Lessons From the Premier League’s Transfer Window

“… This is what the Premier League does every year, of course: Every summer, and most winters, its clubs descend on Europe, the cash from infinitely spiraling television deals burning a hole in their pockets, and proceed to hose an entire continent with money. They swamp it, they flood it, they drown it with their wealth. And then, at the end of August, they go home, armed with a few more Brazilian playmakers and Swedish strikers, ready to play the games that will earn the money for them to do it all over again in a few months. …”
NY Times

The Earliest Premier League Sackings

“News broke just before 9am on Tuesday morning that Bournemouth had fired their manager Scott Parker, only four games into the 2022-23 season. The man who had stylishly guided the club back into the top-flight saw his side lose 9-0 at Liverpool on Saturday and, unlike Ralph Hasenhüttl, who has survived not one but two 9-0 defeats as Southampton boss, Parker has been dispensed with before September, reportedly more because of differing views on Bournemouth’s transfer strategy than the Anfield shellacking. Either way, Parker’s departure is one of the earliest in Premier League history, but which unfortunate managers have been sacked even earlier into the season? Read on to find out. …”

Real Madrid & the Role of Tactics at Elite Teams

Does a team need a complex tactical structure to be elite? In recent times we have seen complex tactical approaches from managers and clubs like Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool and even Julian Nagelsmann’s Bayern Munich. But does a club need one to be successful? Real Madrid would argue not. Jon Mackenzie explains, Marco Bevilacqua illustrates.
YouTube

Is this the worst Premier League foul ever?

“Some fouls leave you wincing. Some are debatable. And some leave players with lasting damage. The Premier League is widely regarded as the most competitive league in the world, so naturally, there have been some hefty challenges. But which is the worst foul committed in the Premier League? Seb Stafford-Bloor writes. Philippe Fenner.”
YouTube

What the Champions League Is Lacking


“PARIS — There will be stories, of course. There are always stories. The Champions League delivers them so frequently and so reliably that it is impossible to dismiss the nagging suspicion that all of this might just be scripted, the product of some complex simulation being run from a secret lair in Nyon. Robert Lewandowski, clad in the blue and red of Barcelona, will return to Bayern Munich, only a few weeks after forcing his exit. Manchester City’s visit to Borussia Dortmund will see Erling Haaland standing once more before its Yellow Wall, that great force of nature no longer at his back but marshaled in his face. …”
NY Times
The Athletic: Champions League draw analysed – The biggest games, the shocks in store, the toughest groups

Premier League at 30: How football has changed


“‘Football didn’t start in 1992.’ It did not, but it did change forever. Next week marks the 30th anniversary of the Premier League replacing the Football League First Division at the top of the English football tree. Here is what has happened in those 30 years and how the Premier League and the world has changed. …”
BBC (Video)

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

“… 3) Hammers looking to find rhythm. David Moyes was in no mood to deliberate after West Ham slipped to a second successive defeat, though it was not for the want of trying at Nottingham Forest; they had a goal disallowed, twice hit the underside of the crossbar and Declan Rice saw a penalty saved. Moyes said he hopes their Europa Conference League playoff first leg at home to Viborg on Thursday will help them establish some rhythm after a disappointing start. …”
Guardian

Chelsea 2-2 Tottenham: Spurs’ problem zone, James’ key role, and a controversial arm wrestle

Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur shared the points in the first meeting of two of the Premier League’s Big Six this season. A spectacular first-half volley from summer-signing centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly gave Thomas Tuchel’s side the lead on 19 minutes, as Chelsea completely dominated the first half at a sun-soaked Stamford Bridge. Tottenham fought their way back into the match in the second half, equalising through Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, only for Reece James to put Chelsea back in front with 13 minutes of normal time left. Just when it looked like Chelsea had held on for the win, Harry Kane flicked home a corner deep in added time to secure a point for the visitors. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Why the through ball is becoming a dying art in European football


“The number of through balls in the UEFA Champions League dropped 50 per cent between the 2018-19 and 2021-22 seasons. In Europe’s top five leagues, the number of through balls dropped on average 30 per cent over the same period. In the Europa League, it dropped 24 per cent. The through ball is not extinct, but it is endangered.Before examining why, we need to define the term. FBref data define a through ball as a: ‘Completed pass sent between the back defenders into open space.’ It is a complex pass to complete, hence the number of through balls is never particularly high and is in fact lower than the goals-per-game total in Europe’s top divisions. …”
The Athletic (Video)

What you may have missed on the Premier League’s opening weekend


“The Premier League is back — and it was a dramatic opening weekend with promoted Fulham holding would-be champions Liverpool to a draw, Erling Haaland scoring two goals on debut for Manchester City and Manchester United losing at home, with Cristiano Ronaldo starting the visit of Brighton on the bench. But away from the main talking points, our The Athletic staff have picked out some of things you may have missed from the first round of 10 matches. Let us know what you spotted in the comments section below. …”
The Athletic

The Ted Lasso fan’s guide to the Premier League: Your starting point for the 2022-23 season


“We’re not sure when Ted Lasso’s third and (maybe) final season will drop, but it’s never too early to start preparing for how you’ll fill the void once it ends — and this week provides the perfect opportunity. AFC Richmond won promotion back up to the Premier League at the end of the show’s second season, but the real thing kicks off on Friday for another year with plenty of comedy and drama of its own. So if you’re one of the many Ted Lasso fans who haven’t gotten invested in the real-life Premier League just yet, now’s the time to dive in — if only so you’ll be prepared for all the new details sure to be included in season three. Ted Lasso’s landmark licensing deal with the Premier League means lines between the two will be blurred more than ever when it does return. …”
The Athletic (Video)
BBC – Premier League 2022-23: Everything you need to know as new season starts (Video)
NY Times: They Got to the Premier League. Staying? That’s the Hard Part.

Predicting the transfer market: Nunez, Haaland and league exchange rates


“It was hardly surprising that at least three of the Premier League’s leading clubs were interested and, ultimately, that one of them ended up taking the plunge. The striker had scored freely in his domestic league, was a good age and, on the face of it, had all the attributes — physical in particular but technical too — to succeed in England. … Either way, it is interesting to cast your eye down the table below and wonder what the numbers will look like for Manchester City’s Erland Haaland and Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez — the Premier League’s two biggest imports this summer — at the end of their first season in England. Nunez came off the bench to score in Saturday’s Community Shield victory whereas Haaland missed a sitter late on, but how will their contribution be viewed in May next year? …”
The Athletic (Video)

Premier League owners: Who is in charge of your club?


“With the 2022-23 campaign quickly coming into focus and the summer transfer window in full flow, many Premier League owners are in the spotlight once again. Following the Chelsea takeover and the promotion of Fulham, Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest, there will be some new faces at the table this season. So, who owns your lot? See below for a breakdown of the ownership structure and board make-up of all 20 Premier League clubs…”
The Athletic

Transferspeak: The 22 stages of a transfer saga

“Transfer sagas are dead. Well, the classic, perfectly-sized sagas of the golden era, anyway. Bit of tapping-up, some balking at the asking price, a cheeky transfer request being slapped in, an 11th-hour hijacking, done deal, ‘as soon as I heard they were interested, there was no other place I wanted to go’. But something weird has happened. Transfers are now taking ages. Or are they? It’s the transfer window’s Muller-Lyer illusion: maybe transfers are just as long as they always were, but something is making them seem more drawn-out. …”
The Athletic

Roc Nation’s Michael Yormark on Romelu Lukaku: ‘You have to play to his strengths … I don’t think that happened’

“Michael Yormark initially sounds like an American sports agent straight out of central casting as, having started his day as usual at 3.30am because ‘greatness is a process’ which requires dedication, the head of Roc Nation Sports slips into a smooth overview of how it feels to represent a roster of famous athletes including Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Siya Kolisi. …”
Guardian

Why Chelsea want to sign Raphinha and what Leeds star would bring to Tuchel’s side


“As far as statements of intent go, it’s hard to beat splashing out on a fast, skilful Brazilian winger to get the juices of a fanbase flowing. Todd Boehly has taken a remarkable amount of responsibility upon his own shoulders in Chelsea’s first transfer window under his joint ownership with Clearlake Capital, liaising directly with head coach Thomas Tuchel to draw up a list of priority targets and leading negotiations himself. Winning the race to sign Raphinha — although Barcelona appeared to be making moves yesterday — would be an eye-catching start. …”
The Athletic

Concerns, Complaints and a Suicide Shake Chelsea F.C.


“Month after stressful month, the problems mounted inside Chelsea F.C. Almost a dozen employees of the club’s marketing department said they had come to expect being berated by their boss in front of colleagues. Others said they had faced his wrath in more humiliating ways, ordered to stand up and leave staff meetings on a single man’s word. The pressure took its toll. By last year, multiple Chelsea employees had vanished for weeks, or sometimes months, of medical leave. At least 10 staff members — from a department that employs about 50 people — had left the club altogether, one employee said. Then, in early January, a well-liked former staff member killed himself. …”
NY Times

Premier League five-a-side teams: who would you pick for your club?


“… We tasked our Premier League reporters with picking a five-a-side team from the club that they cover. There are some obvious picks — and some less obvious ones. The rules: *The ball is not allowed over head height  *Slide tackles are forbidden *Each team must have a goalkeeper and they can’t come out of the area *Outfield players are not allowed in the area *They can score from anywhere outside the area. Here we go then. Please feel free to disagree wholeheartedly with their picks in the comments section…”
The Athletic

The Dust Settles: The Biggest Changes in Stats Perform’s Power Rankings Over the Course of this Season


“So that’s that. Another season in the books. Lots happened, but in some ways, lots stayed the same. As tends to happen, European football’s hierarchy tightened their stranglehold on silverware. Real Madrid, the very definition of footballing heritage, won their record 35th La Liga title and a 14th European Cup/Champions League. Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain continued their domestic league dominance. Elsewhere, it was a renaissance season for AC Milan, who won their first Scudetto in 11 years and returned to the Champions League for the first time since 2013-14. Forty-two years after winning the UEFA Cup in 1980, Eintracht Frankfurt won the famous trophy again, beating Rangers in the Europa League final. …”
The Analyst

Premier League winners and losers: set pieces, sprinting, nutmegging and fouling


“Manchester City are champions, Tottenham Hotspur grabbed the final Champions League spot and Mohamed Salah and Son Heung-min share the golden boot trophy. The main prizes have now been handed out, but take a look under the bonnet and there are plenty of alternative awards to be handed out to players and teams. Some of them are insightful, some of them are utterly pointless. All of them are fun. Here we go… ”
The Athletic
The Analyst
Guardian – Premier League 2021-22 season review: our writers’ best and worst
***ESPN: How VAR decisions affected every Premier League club in 2021-22 (Video)
***W – 2021–22 Premier League

Ranked: The top 10 defensive midfielders in the Premier League


“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)


“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?


“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


“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?


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


“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


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?


“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


“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?


“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


“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


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


“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


“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


“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?


“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?


“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?


“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


“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)


“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


“‘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


“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


“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


“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


“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


“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


“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


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


“… 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


“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


“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?


“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?



“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 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


“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


“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


“… 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 


“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