The Three Epic, Early Champions League Showdowns

December 14, 2017


“The draw for the Champions League round of 16 is set, and even though the first games will not be played for two months, we already know that at least one true European power will be eliminated before the quarterfinals kick off, and a couple more elite clubs could be in trouble. This is because the Champions League draw pitted some of the best teams in the world against each other in early clashes. According to Soccer Power Index, six of the nine best teams to make the knockouts have been drawn against each other. These three matchups — each of which consists of two games, one at each club’s home grounds — should give the Round of 16 a new level of drama. … ” fivethirtyeight, NY Times: Real-P.S.G. and Barcelona-Chelsea in the Champions League, YouTube: The Three Epic, Early Champions League Showdowns


Tottenham’s staying power in question as economic gravity pulls hard

December 14, 2017

“Gravity can be annoyingly persistent. Mauricio Pochettino, as so often, said all the right things after Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-0 win against Brighton & Hove Albion on Wednesday. He is looking forward to the challenge of taking on Manchester City. He is ‘positive’. He promised Tottenham will ‘enjoy it’. They will go to the Etihad Stadium to win. Which is all well and good. Perhaps Tottenham will end both Manchester City’s run of 15 successive league wins and their own miserable record in away games against other top-six sides. Perhaps they will, at least temporarily, return a flicker of excitement to a title race that seems all but run. However, there is a lurking sense that none of it really matters. …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Paddy Agnew’s Notes from Italy: Napoli playing catch-up in the Champions League

October 31, 2017

“As the Champions League moves centre stage again this weekend, it is intriguing to note that of the three Italian clubs involved, it is the league leaders Napoli who may well have most to do to play their way into the second round. In their homeland, Napoli can do no wrong, having won 10 of their 11 Serie A games this season, drawing the other (10 days ago to Inter). …” World Soccer


Chelsea 0-1 Manchester City: Guardiola uses his full-backs & wingers to get De Bruyne into space

October 8, 2017


“Chelsea came into this game on the back of a midweek victory at Atletico Madrid, probably the tactical performance of the season so far – they showed defensive discipline, midfield control and completely outwitted Diego Simeone’s usually-formidable Atletico. The key was Antonio Conte’s use of 3-5-2, a modification upon the 3-4-3 that won Chelsea the league last season. This 3-5-2 allowed Eden Hazard to play centrally, and means Cesc Fabregas can be used in central midfield without Conte having to sacrifice one of his two disciplined defensive midfielders. Two big advantages. …” Zonal Marking


Premier League results: Man City win at Chelsea, Fellaini and Kane score twice

October 1, 2017

“The top three all won in the Premier League on Saturday as Manchester City defeated Chelsea in the late game to reclaim the top spot that had briefly been taken away from them earlier in the day. Kevin de Bruyne smashed a stunning second-half strike past fellow Belgian Thibaut Courtois as Manchester City leapfrogged Manchester United on goal difference with a slender 1-0 victory. …” BBC


Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ fail in first attempt to increase their TV share

September 28, 2017


There has been a plot by Man Utd, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and Man City to grab more of the Premier League’s television billions
“The row over a plot by Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City to grab more of the Premier League’s television billions intensified after their rivals rejected an offer to resolve the dispute. A secret meeting of the other 14 top-flight clubs discussed a proposal put forward by the league to change how its overseas rights revenue is allocated following mounting pressure from the so-called ‘Big Six’ for them to be awarded a larger share of the cash. …” Telegraph


Man City Exploit Shakhtar’s Aggression to Claim Hard-Fought 2-0 Victory

September 28, 2017

“Manchester City were strong against Shakhtar Donetsk. They secured a 2-0 win in their Champions League fixture against the Ukrainian side, and while many would’ve predicted that at the outset, especially given the game was played at Etihad Stadium, it was a tricky one for Pep Guardiola’s men. ‘Tonight, we beat an amazing team,’ the Spanish manager asserted. ‘It was an extraordinary performance. They have fantastic players, are well organised and defended really well. A lot of credit to my players because we had to work hard to beat them. It was big result for us and they deserved our respect.’ …” Licence To Roam


Leeds United: Are Championship leaders finally set for Premier League return?

September 25, 2017

“As Leeds United’s supporters celebrated at the traditional gathering place of The Old Peacock just a short walk from Elland Road, one of English football’s institutions had taken another small step on the long road to recovery. A 3-2 win over Ipswich – a game almost designed to play on nerves frayed by 15 years of trauma – kept Leeds top of the Championship on goal difference going into Tuesday’s game at third-placed Cardiff.” BBC


Races tighten in La Liga, Serie A; Manchester City stumbles again

January 19, 2017

“While the Bundesliga continues to remain on break, the title races came alive in two of Europe’s other preeminent leagues as Real Madrid and Juventus both slumped to surprise defeats to reignite the drama atop La Liga and Serie A. In England, Pep Guardiola has more problems to deal with at Manchester City, which is now out of the Champions League spots and 10 points behind Chelsea in the Premier League. Meanwhile, there is a new owner in Ligue 1 at one of France’s clubs hoping to rebound and rediscover greatness. This is what caught our eye around Europe this weekend. SI


Global Series | Top 10 European Players of 2015: Busquets, Kane and De Bruyne feature

December 19, 2016

“… 2. IVAN RAKITIC Rakitic 2016The Croatian superstar has had a super debut season at the Camp Nou. During his initial days, there was a bit of disbelief that confronted the notion that either Xavi or Iniesta would have to sit out matches to accommodate Rakitic. All of this died down very soon, as Rakitic let his feet do the talking. While he isn’t the most prolific in front of goal, he doesn’t really need to be, and he does the job of keeping the likes of Messi, Neymar and Suarez well fed very efficiently.” Outside of the Boot


Manchester City bounce back to leave Wenger fuming – Football Weekly

December 19, 2016

“It must be (nearly) Christmas, because on today’s Football Weekly, my true love sent to me AC Jimbo, Barry Glendenning, Paolo Bandini, and Barney Bloody Ronay! … We then brush aside the Premier League and turn our attention to Italy, where Juventus saw off Roma in a top o’ the table Serie A clash. Finally, we hear from our long lost pal Sid Lowe about Real Madrid’s victory in the World Club Cup final and the state of play in La Liga, which has downed tools until the new year. Rafa Honigstein will be with us for Thursday’s show, so if you have a question for the World’s Greatest Bavarian, post it on the blog below.” Guardian (Video)


Best Way for Pep Guardiola to Silence Doubters Is to Show Flexibility

December 15, 2016

“… There he stands. He can’t do it any other way. Which is all fine and noble and laudable. His philosophy has been highly successful, bringing six league titles and two Champions Leagues in seven seasons in management while producing some of the most startling and beautiful football the world has known. If it takes stubbornness, iron will and inflexibility to achieve that, so be it. Great men are rarely easy; vision comes at a cost.” Bleacher Report – Jonathan Wilson


Champions League last 16: Tie-by-tie analysis

December 12, 2016

“1) Manchester City v Monaco. Pep Guardiola will be content with this draw, but Monaco are among the most exciting sides in Europe and perhaps the most underrated team in the competition. Leonardo Jardim has created an exciting side who have scored an incredible 53 goals in 17 Ligue 1 matches. Although Monaco share the goals around impressively, it is notable that Radamel Falcao has found his shooting boots again, scoring five goals in Monaco’s past two games. They are also tactically flexible, able to play both 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 effectively, as they demonstrated with 2-1 victories home and away against Tottenham Hotspur in the group stage.” Guardian – Michael Cox


Pep Guardiola v Antonio Conte: a tactical showdown of brooder against extrovert

December 2, 2016

“It would, perhaps, be the defining irony of Arsène Wenger’s uneasy relationship with Chelsea if it turns out that when he finally devised a way of beating them it provoked a tactical shift that won the Blues the title. Since Chelsea switched to a back three when 3-0 down at half-time at the Emirates, they have conceded only once, winning seven Premier League games in a row. They passed one major test by coming from behind to beat Tottenham last week but on Saturday represents an even more severe examination as they go to Manchester City.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Tactical Analysis: Borussia Monchengladbach 1-1 Manchester City | Draw sends unconvincing Man City into the knockouts

December 1, 2016

“After a scintillating display against Barcelona at the Etihad, the sky blues went to Borussia Park to face the Gladbach side who were lacking in confidence from their previous games. City were expected to come out with an easy victory, but what happened there was rather surprising. It was this fixture that kick started the run of Manuel Pellegrini’s men into the semi-finals of last season but this match was not half as lunatic as that game, as Man City showed no intent and lacked energy to kill the game.” Outside of the Boot


Team Comparisons: Good (and Bad) in the Premier League

November 26, 2016

“Twelve games have passed in the Premier League and there’s value in looking at comparative historical numbers at various points. It’s a good time to take stock because a) it’s starting to become a vaguely decent sample and b) I have a load of numbers stored at twelve games because i’ve written this before. This is the eighth season of Opta data that has been published publicly around the place and with every season that passes, the more interesting the outliers become.” Stats Bomb


The death of possession football

November 18, 2016

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“Former Bayern Munich manager and current Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, speaking after Bavarian side’s 5-1 triumph over Arsenal last season, was famously said: What I want, my desire, is to have one hundred percent possession. Bayern Munich had enjoyed sixty nine percent of possession in that game as goals from Robert Lewandowki, Thomas Muller, David Alaba and Arjen Robben gave Arsenal nightmares that probably suggested the extent of damage that possession football can usually do.” backpagefootball


The Question: what is a centre-forward?

November 6, 2016

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“hat is a centre-forward? It is a question that is far harder to answer now than it used to be. The suggestion that Pep Guardiola may not be entirely happy with Sergio Agüero seemed at first bizarre. How, realistically, could a player of his ability, his goalscoring capacity – 109 league goals in five seasons at City, despite injuries – be doubted? For a modern striker, though, goals are only part of it.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Manchester City 3-1 Barcelona, 2016 Champions League: 3 Things We Learned

November 2, 2016

“Barcelona have lost for the first in the Champions League this season, and it was an ugly loss. Manchester City dominated the Catalans in the second half and pulled of a fantastic 3-1 comeback victory thanks to a Pep Guardiola masterpiece of tactical brilliance, intensity and high pressing.” Barcablaugranes


Guardiola wants Manchester City to be perfect in crucial Barcelona clash

October 31, 2016

“Pep Guardiola has warned his Manchester City side they will have to play “almost perfectly” if they are not to suffer again at the hands of Barcelona and leave their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League knockout stages at serious risk. Two weeks after Guardiola’s team lost 4-0 at the Camp Nou, the sides renew acquaintances in Manchester with City’s manager knowing that another defeat against his former club could have costly repercussions given the standings in Group C and the possibility of Borussia Mönchengladbach moving into second position by beating Celtic.” Guardian (Video), Guardian – Champions League


Change Is Coming at Arsenal, but Is It Enough to Make the Difference?

October 27, 2016

“Five teams at the top of the Premier League, divided by a single point. Even their goal difference varies by only two. Yet it’s impossible not to view all five teams differently, in part because of the fixture list and in part because past performance inevitably affects how we view the present.” bleacher report


Premier League stats: Which player has gone 1,241 days without starting in a win?

October 23, 2016

“One player’s unwanted record of failing to win a game when in the starting XI now stands at 1,241 days, while Nathan Redmond and Gary Cahill prevented an unwanted first for English players in the Premier League. Here, we take a look at some of the most interesting stats from the weekend.” BBC


Ever-evolving Guardiola keeps adapting, from Barcelona to Bayern to Manchester City

October 20, 2016

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“When Pep Guardiola left Barcelona in 2012, there was one huge question about him. He’d grown up at Barcelona. He’d been a ball-boy there. He’d come through the youth system. He’d played for and captained the team. He knew Barcelona and its culture better than almost anybody else. It was a club that had formed him, and he was then able to reform it. He’d wound down his playing career elsewhere but could he really thrive elsewhere?” SI – Jonathan Wilson


The Five Months in Mexico That Shaped Pep Guardiola’s Philosophy

October 20, 2016

“It was as they were whiling away one of those long, sultry evenings cooped up in the comfortable surroundings of the Hotel Lucerna in Culiacán, Mexico, that Pep Guardiola outlined to Ángel Morales his vision of the perfect goal. Over the course of their five months in northwest Mexico, Guardiola, who would become the greatest soccer coach of his generation, and Morales, a journeyman playmaker from Argentina, spent hours together, eating, relaxing, talking. A decade later, though, it is that one thought, that purest distillation of Guardiola’s philosophy, that has stayed with Morales.” NY Times


Why the Premier League is the reason for England’s international struggles

October 16, 2016

“The mere appointment of an Eddie Howe, Jurgen Klinsmann or anyone else as the England manager would never be enough to seek solutions for the state of the English national side. The problems are more deeply rooted than some conceive. Selecting Michael Keane or bringing in a fresh approach to the side and changing the way the team plays won’t transform the whole scenario of the situation.” backpagefootball


Real Madrid rallies; Manchester City, Dortmund cruise in Champions League

September 15, 2016

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“Defending European champion Real Madrid scored twice in the final minutes to turn defeat into victory on a Champions League night that was far livelier and less predictable than the first half of Matchday 1. After a string of thumping wins for the elite clubs on Tuesday, Wednesday brought tension and drama. A Bruno Cesar goal had had Sporting Lisbon dreaming of an improbable victory, but Cristiano Ronaldo leveled with an 89th-minute free kick against his former club before Alvaro Morata’s injury-time header delivered the three points.” SI – JONATHAN WILSON


Gulf in class evident for Barcelona, Bayern Munich in Champions League openers

September 15, 2016

“The build-up to this season’s Champions League was dominated by talk of the disparity in resources between the haves and the have nots of European football and two of the superclubs playing on the first day of this season’s group stage did nothing to dispel that. Favorites Bayern Munich and Barcelona cruised to 5-0 and 7-0 victories over Rostov and Celtic, respectively, to kick off this season’s competition in style.” SI – JONATHAN WILSON


Pep Guardiola wins tactical battle with José Mourinho in Manchester derby

September 12, 2016

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“José Mourinho was quick to criticise his players after Saturday’s 2-1 defeat by Manchester City. ‘A few players were below the level,’ he complained. ‘Sometimes players disappoint managers.’ But Mourinho’s tactical blunder was equally to blame for Manchester United’s poor first-half performance and their improvement after the break owed much to his change of formation. City’s most dangerous players in Pep Guardiola’s 4-3-3 system are the two advanced central midfielders, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne.” Guardian – Michael Cox

José Mourinho’s faith in Wayne Rooney faces biggest test in Manchester derby
“It’s probably just as well the Manchester derby is happening so early in the season. There’s only so much fevered anticipation, so much guarded politeness, so many unconvincing insistences that they get along fine that a league can take. Certainly, there’s only so often it can be pointed out that beating Bournemouth, Southampton and Hull or Sunderland, Stoke and West Ham is all very well but the real test will come in the derby.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


StatsBomb: Premier League Round Up, Week 4

September 12, 2016

“We’re four games in and have a little more to chew on. Statistical categories are a fair way off providing strong answers and schedules are masking plenty of truths but the hints are getting stronger and even at this early juncture the new order is starting to look a hell of a lot like the old order, or at least the order we used to know before all the cards got thrown up in the air last season. Let’s have a quick spin around the league and see what we can pick up.” Stats Bomb


Inverted Full Backs and their benefits: A look at what we might see at Guardiola’s Manchester City

September 12, 2016

“Following the announcement in February that Pep Guardiola would take over from Manuel Pellegrini at Manchester City ahead of the new season, football enthusiasts have been fantasising about what the Spaniard might bring to English football. A student of Johann Cruyff, Guardiola’s methods during his previous stints in charge of Barcelona and Bayern Munich gained plaudits from across Europe. In spite of this, many of the Pep’s ideas and innovations have remained foreign to the Premier League. Guardiola’s approach is an interpretation of the tactical system ‘Positional play’ or ‘Jeugo de Posicion’. The primary aims of which are to create quantitative, qualitative and positional superiority over the opposition. Starting with playing out from the back, it is essential that Guardiola’s teams always have a spare man over the opponents in order to make possession retention more seamless.” Outside of the Boot


Inverted Full Backs and their benefits: A look at what we might see at Guardiola’s Manchester City

September 6, 2016

“Following the announcement in February that Pep Guardiola would take over from Manuel Pellegrini at Manchester City ahead of the new season, football enthusiasts have been fantasising about what the Spaniard might bring to English football. A student of Johann Cruyff, Guardiola’s methods during his previous stints in charge of Barcelona and Bayern Munich gained plaudits from across Europe. In spite of this, many of the Pep’s ideas and innovations have remained foreign to the Premier League. Guardiola’s approach is an interpretation of the tactical system ‘Positional play’ or ‘Jeugo de Posicion’. The primary aims of which are to create quantitative, qualitative and positional superiority over the opposition.” Outside of the Boot


The Incredible Stats Behind Joe Hart’s Uber-Consistent Manchester City Career

August 31, 2016

“Joe Hart is off to Torino on a season-long loan. It could be a good move for the England keeper, though my personal hope would be that it opens up the opportunity for Fraser Forster to cement his place as England’s starting custodian; regular football, and a move away from the swirl of Pep’s brave new City where his options were all but exhausted and his omission would only be a story in itself, should reinvigorate a player who, should we not forget, has been a mix of sublime and infuriating for fans of England and Manchester City alike.” umaxit


The Fractious History Of Guardiola and Mourinho

August 27, 2016

“Ferguson never got on with Rafa, Clough didn’t see eye to eye with Revie and Mark Hughes doesn’t like anybody. Football is a game of intense passions, managers have let their emotions get the better of them on numerous occasions and feuds are commonplace; but you would struggle to uncover a conflict as enduring as that between Jose Mourinho and Josep Guardiola. The games’ two most highly rated managers will meet for the 17th time on September the 10th as they take their new sides into a Premier league season, both expected to bring glory to their respective ends of greater Manchester. Mourinho is expected to rebuild the Red Devils’ reputation as one of the powerhouses of European football, something that has been up in the air since the retirement of Alex Ferguson.” Football Pink


Over/Under: European club, season predictions for 2016-17

August 20, 2016

“With the new top-flight seasons set to kick off in Italy and Spain this weekend–and Germany one week later–and the Premier League just underway, there are lots of predictions to be made and questions to be answered. Will the competitive imbalance in France, Germany and Italy continue to be a problem? Will we see a surprise winner in any league? Will there be an outsider who cracks the Champions League elite? And just who will Jose Mourinho fall out with next? With all of those questions–and more!–in mind, we take a look at the European club landscape in the over/under prism to provide as much clarity as possible entering a nine-month quest for trophies and championships…” SI


The Question: can De Bruyne and Silva prosper in their ‘free No8’ roles?

August 20, 2016

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“These are, it must be stressed, very early days. Things will change, things will develop and besides, one of Pep Guardiola’s greatest skills is his protean nature, his capacity and willingness to change approach game by game – something that will be tested by the flood of matches an English season brings. But two games in to his competitive tenure as manager of Manchester City, certain patterns have already begun to emerge.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Tactical Analysis: Manchester City 2-1 Sunderland | Guardiola already implementing Juego de Posición

August 20, 2016

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“With Manchester City now a couple of months into the Guardiola reign, while Sunderland barely a month into Moyes spell as manager, the ambitions but also issues of these teams going into the 2016/17 couldn’t be any more different. Pep Guardiola’s City have already begun successful implementation of his favoured Juego de Posición with the Catalonian coach being provided with both the players and funds he needs to succeed in his role as manager. The arrivals of Stones, Gundogan and Sane, without even mentioning the other £55m spent this summer, show the ambitions of both the club and everyone surrounding it. David Moyes, brought in quickly following the departure of Sam Allardyce isn’t blessed with nearly as strong a squad as he’d like, though the signings of Paddy McNair, Donald Love and Adnan Januzaj (the latter on loan), do suggest that Sunderland do have some sort of ambition ahead of next term. In the opening fixture of both sides season’s, it was Guardiola versus Moyes at the Etihad.” Outside of the Boot


Pep, Mourinho, Simeone and more: Ranking world’s top 10 club managers

May 26, 2016

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“Just as the Champions League format has allowed an elite group of clubs to dominate in recent years, the coaching landscape, too, is overshadowed by the personalities of a revered few who are hired at a huge expense with the guarantee of trophies. The perfect example of that is in the Premier League, where all the attention is going to be on Manchester’s clubs City and United when next season kicks off, despite their recent fourth and fifth respective finishes in the league. City will have Pep Guardiola in charge, while United looks set to have Jose Mourinho. It’s a personal rivalry that dominated Spanish football when the pair locked horns during two controversy-laden years at Barcelona and Real Madrid, respectively.” SI (Video)


Hump Day Dumpster Dive: Crisis-hit Barcelona is crumbling to a domestic double

May 5, 2016

“By the time you read this, it may or may not be Wednesday. “Hump Day” is a cute concept, but some meaning is lost when you’re a functional alcoholic who treats Tuesday as the start of the weekend. But enough about your dad. Let’s dive into the dumpster together.” Fusion


Real Madrid, City and Bayern all flex their muscles

April 17, 2016

“Manchester City, Real Madrid and Bayern München all returned to domestic action with a bang on Saturday, scoring 11 goals between them and conceding only one.” UEFA


Champions League semifinals yield intriguing, tough-to-call pairings

April 17, 2016

“The Champions League semifinal draw kept apart the two teams from Madrid and also denied Pep Guardiola the opportunity to face his club for next season, Manchester City–at least until a potential final. When the names were drawn out in Nyon, Switzerland on Friday, it was Manchester City vs. Real Madrid and Bayern Munich vs. Atletico Madrid. Both semifinals will be fascinating, but on the basis of the quarterfinals, you could argue that the two weakest teams still left face each other, as do the two strongest teams.” SI


Around Europe: Barcelona burnout; Ben Arfa makes his Euro case

April 12, 2016

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“There were decisive moments in the title race in England and Germany, as respective leaders Leicester City and Bayern Munich came closer to the finishing line, though a shock result in Spain has opened the door to the pack chasing defending champion Barcelona. A new coach with a familiar name enjoyed a successful start at Lazio, while in France, a new hat trick hero has given national team boss Didier Deschamps a selection dilemma leading into Euro 2016. Here is what caught our eye this week from Around Europe.” SI (Video)


Can Southampton Become A Force In The Premier League?

April 12, 2016

“In a more normal Premier League season, the wider media would probably be spending more time rehashing the same clichés they’ve used for Southampton over the past couple of years. They’re hanging around the top eight having survived another summer of key departures (Morgan Schneiderlin and Nathaniel Clyne) and there’s no real signs of danger as they’re once again above average in controlling shot numbers for and against. Perhaps the quality of attacking football hasn’t quite been to the standard of the previous two seasons but it’s still been satisfactory. Their goal difference is fine enough at +11 and in a year of chaos and turbulence, Southampton are being their steady selves.” Stats Bomb (Video)


Is British football ‘winded’?

March 28, 2016

“Excuse the pun, but it’s a pun worth pursuing so please bear with me… I remember reading an excellent book by Gabrielle Marcotti and Gianluca Vialli a couple of years ago entitled ‘The Italian Job’, it was an insightful and intelligent read, very different to the usual football literature I had accumulated over the years. One thing from that book that has stuck with me all this time was the idea that the weather in the UK was detrimental to the development of great technical players, and playing great football.” Outside of the Boot


Football Weekly: Watford end Arsenal’s hold on the FA Cup

March 16, 2016

“On today’s Football Weekly, AC Jimbo welcomes Jonathan Wilson, Nick Ames and Gregg Bakowski to near-earth orbit to look back on a weekend of thrills and spills in the FA Cup, Premier League and beyond. We start in the FA Cup. Watford piled on the misery for Arsenal by ending their chances of winning the trophy for the third year in a row. The Hornets will be joined in the semi-finals by Everton – who saw off Chelsea in a game full of Diego Costa naughtiness – as well as Crystal Palace and one of West Ham or Manchester United, if they can ever find a date for a replay. Romance.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson (Video)


English game lacks Champions League quality – but at least it is unpredictable

March 12, 2016

“Two down, two to go. Chelsea’s exit from the Champions League means half of the Premier League’s four entrants have gone and, barring something miraculous in the Camp Nou next week, Arsenal will join them, leaving only Manchester City, assuming they finish the job against Dynamo Kyiv. Had it not been for a tough knockout draw for Italian sides this season, the Premier League’s fourth Champions League slot might have come under serious threat from Serie A for 2017-18. As it is, England has picked up half a point more than Italy so far this season and, with only two Italian sides left in European competition one of them Juventus, who must go to Bayern Munich after a 2-2 draw in the home leg, that advantage should be increased. Given the Premier League’s wealth – it has 17 of the 30 clubs with the highest revenue in the world, according to the latest Deloitte report – the fact that the coefficient is even an issue is faintly embarrassing.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Arsenal are finding fresh ways to fail in pursuit of Premier League title

March 6, 2016

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“Last season it was August, the season before that it was March, the season before that it was January and the season before that it was March and April and bit of May. This season it’s now. Every year Arsenal have a spell in which they undo the good work that has made them look potential title challengers. That was perhaps the most striking aspect of the defeats by Manchester United and Swansea: that this lack of edge, this failure to seize an opportunity, felt so familiar.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson (Video)


Manchester City on verge of first UCL quarterfinal; PSV holds Atletico

February 28, 2016

“Manchester City took a major step towards its first UEFA Champions League quarterfinal with a 3-1 victory away to Dynamo Kyiv in the first leg of its round-of-16 tie. City, much improved after its struggles in recent weeks, took a 2-0 lead in the first half thanks to goals from Sergio Aguero and David Silva. Vitaliy Buyalskyi pulled one back with a deflected shot just before the hour mark, but a superb goal from Yaya Toure–who had earlier missed a golden chance–restored the two-goal margin in the final minute. In Eindhoven, PSV was reduced to 10 men with more than a quarter of the game still to play with a red card to Gaston Pereiro, but the Eredivisie leader held out against Atletico Madrid for a 0-0 draw.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Five Bundesliga youngsters that Premier League teams will be looking to sign

February 28, 2016

“In an era, where the total net worth of squads in the BPL (4.4billion Euros) is double that of the Bundesliga teams (2.38 billion), and the third richest/most valuable clubs in Germany (Leverkusen and Schalke are around 200 million Euros) would barely crack the top 10 in England (West Ham and Newcastle are tied for 9th at 182 mil each) moving to the Premier League after one or two great seasons has increasingly become the norm for Bundesliga talents.” Bundesliga Fanatic


Super Sunday, Predictions And Palace: Premier League Round Up

February 17, 2016

“Super Sunday came and went as a thrilling spectacle for the non-partisan bystander. The two games featuring the top four contenders–who by any reasonable estimation have all but sealed their places–were full of contentious decisions, tension, storylines and thrills. Even the most stone-hearted fan could surely not have been slightly warmed by the returning Danny Welbeck and his winning contribution and significantly, Arsenal’s late winner kept the four teams within a six point range. Everything about Arsenal’s title challenge is reliant on squad fitness so from that perspective a deep bench for the first time since around November was a huge bonus.” Stats Bomb


Leicester City – the New Romantics?

February 11, 2016

“Romance died in the Premier League on Sunday 27th April 2014. That was the afternoon Liverpool rested on top of the division, needing only a point at home to Chelsea to keep the advances of Manchester City at bay. Fuelled by the passion of Steven Gerrard and the brilliance of Luis Suarez, Liverpool had surged ahead of the pack on the back of eleven straight victories. The Gods of Football had decided that Stevie G, Anfield legend, would have the fairytale ending to a career that had so far been missing a Premier League medal. Significantly too, this would come in the year and months of Hillsborough’s 25th anniversary. After two decades, the natural order of British football was to be restored. The pretenders to the throne had been swept aside one by one.” Football Pink


Leicester City keep getting better as Premier League title race heats up

February 11, 2016

“We should no longer be surprised by Leicester’s continued excellent form, but the manner with which they defeated previous title favourites Manchester City on Saturday was quite staggering. Having taken the lead following the game’s first significant incident, Leicester continued to counter-attack dangerously and only looked under serious pressure in the final 10 minutes, perhaps when they thought the game was already won. Is complacency really going to be the factor that allows other sides back into the title race?” ESPN – Michael Cox


How will Pep Guardiola assess Manchester City’s current squad?

February 7, 2016

“Predicting Pep Guardiola’s assessment of Manchester City’s current squad is a trickier task than might be expected. Across his time in charge at Barcelona and Bayern Munich there are common themes and obvious concepts he insists upon — the simple concept of possession football being the most obvious example — but his favoured type of player has varied dramatically. It’s worth remembering, for example, that when Guardiola took charge of Bayern three years ago, the consensus was that he’d struggle to find a place for Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben — wingers rather than the wide forwards with whom he’d worked at Barcelona.” ESPN – Michael Cox


Smaller clubs toppling Premier League elite – we may have to get used to it

January 29, 2016

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“It may simply be that this season is a freak. Leicester have 47 points after 23 games; not since 2002-03 have the leaders had fewer than 50 points at this stage. If teams keep winning points at the same rate as they have up till now, they will end up with 78, the lowest tally to win the title since Manchester United did it with 75 in 1996-97 when they effectively had the league sown up by the beginning of May and drew three games on the run-in, still finishing seven clear of Newcastle United in second.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Garth Crooks’ team of the week: Alli, Firmino, Payet

January 25, 2016

“Behind them, heavyweights Manchester City and Arsenal both slipped up in their pursuit, with Tottenham gaining ground on the duo with a 3-1 win over Crystal Palace. Manchester United are now five points shy of fourth spot following their home defeat by Southampton. But who were the outstanding performers? Here are my selections…” BBC


Five players who could leave Manchester City in the summer

January 17, 2016

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“Manchester City’s squad is expected to undergo an overhaul this coming offseason if Pep Guardiola succeeds Manual Pellegrini as manager. There has already been talk around who the Spaniard would bring to the Premier League with him and that will of course lead to exits from the Etihad Stadium.” backpagefootball


FA Cup’s declining status to continue in modern Premier League world

January 13, 2016

“As the cliché goes, the third round of the FA Cup is the most romantic weekend of the season; but it’s some time since the cliché has been true. Instead, a new tradition has sprung up, that of bemoaning the FA Cup’s declining status. The first week of January is now when English football gets together and makes some half-baked suggestions about how to restore the competition’s relevance. It seems bizarre now that the FA Cup was until the late 1980s the premier competition of English football.” SI – Jonathan Wilson


Book review: Fully Programmed – The lost world of football programmes

January 10, 2016

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“Derek Hammond and Gary Silke have already achieved critical praise and impressive sale figures for their excellent ‘Got Not Got’ and ‘The Lost World of’ series of books on footballing nostalgia. Their regular articles are also featured in BackPass magazine. This book represents another worthy addition to their collection. To some people, programme collecting as a hobby is on a par with train spotting. It is considered to be the preserve of males still living at home with their mothers and is a peculiarly British tradition. Nothing could be further from the truth- programme collecting has always been cool.” Football Pink, amazon, [PDF] Fully Programmed: The Lost World of Football Programmes


A Compilation of EPL Model Predictions after Round 20/38

January 10, 2016

“The 3rd round FA Cup weekend is already under way which means a break from the arduous Premier League season. With 20 out of the 38 rounds finished and 200 current season matches to draw data from, it seems like a good time to attempt to predict what might happen at the end of the season. Will Leicester City carry on with their spectacular early, but recently waning, form and be crowned champions at the end of the year, having been fighting against relegation just the year before? Will Spurs win their first league title in more than half-a-century, or will it be one of the more usual suspects in Arsenal or Manchester City? What should we expect from traditional powerhouses Manchester United and Chelsea? And is there any salvation for Aston Villa? Too many questions and if you are looking for definitive answers, this is NOT the place to be.” Stats Bomb


The Premier League: A New World Order or a temporary glitch?

January 10, 2016

“So is this the most extraordinary Premier League season ever? One where all the certainties of elite financial domination have been smashed and football is once more truly competitive and absorbing? Or is where we find ourselves after the first half of the season just a blip before the football universe’s financial masters reassert themselves? The truth is that we won’t know until the end of the season, until the game is played out. But it is also true that the very existence of that state of not knowing means there has been change.” Football Pink


What would the Premier League look like if it were a knockout competition?

January 8, 2016

“At this early stage of the year, English football is all about knockout competitions: the busy festive period of league football is over, and instead we have midweek Capital One Cup semifinals, followed by the FA Cup third round. In fact, this year as a whole is also heavily based around knockout football, with the supposed offseason featuring three major competitions: Euro 2016, the Olympics and a bonus Copa America, too. Knockout football is interesting, in part, because it’s more likely to produce slightly unusual winners. Few would argue, for example, that Wigan were England’s best team in 2013 because they won the FA Cup. The element of randomness is precisely what people enjoy, and come to expect; the concept of a giant-killing in the cup competitions is arguably what the tournament is all about.” ESPN – Michael Cox