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

Life’s a Pitch for Leo Messi

March 23, 2016

“Pitch concerns increase for Leo Messi as Suarez promises no return to naughty corner. Although Barcelona have a cushion at the top of La Liga that could comfortably house the most impressive of posteriors, the Catalan club will still be fretting and fussing outside football’s school gates as they drop their MSN at the rough-and-tough daycare that is the international break. Perhaps the biggest worry is over Leo Messi who has a fairly tough battle against Chile on Thursday night, followed by a clash in Cordoba against Bolivia on a pitch that looks a little like a post-apocalyptic cabbage patch.” Bein

Local hero Marcus Rashford gives Louis van Gaal hope of European place

March 20, 2016

“The ball was offered, then swiftly withdrawn and Martín Demichelis was hopelessly drawn in, snatching vainly at the space where the ball had been and collapsing as Marcus Rashford zipped by him, opened up his body and calmly rolled a finish past Joe Hart. A fifth goal for Manchester United puts the 18 year old from Wythenshawe level with Federico Macheda, an albatross of a comparison he will surely soon cast off, and reinvigorated United’s challenge for the top four. Whatever else happens, this season will not have been a waste for United if he delivers on even half his potential.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Champions League: Man City makes history, Atletico wins in dramatic PKs

March 16, 2016

“It was a night without goals in the two Champions League last-16 second legs, a pair of stalemates that saw Manchester City eliminate Dynamo Kyiv by virtue of its 3-1 victory in the first leg, while Atletico Madrid beat PSV in a dramatic penalty shootout to reach its third successive quarterfinal. For City, this is progression to the last eight for the first time in its history. The second leg was always likely to be a formality, but even so there was something strikingly dull about the most pedestrian of 0-0 draws in which the most notable incident was a first-half injury suffered by Vincent Kompany, a huge price to pay for a game in which both sides appeared to be doing nothing more than fulfilling a contractual obligation.” SI – 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

Liverpool, Manchester United appear to be rivals heading on opposite paths

March 12, 2016

“The only good news for Manchester United is that it was not worse. It wasn’t just that Louis van Gaal’s streak of four straight wins over his club’s bitterest rivals came to an end, it was the manner of the defeat. United was thoroughly outplayed in the 2-0 loss to Liverpool in their Europa League last-16 first leg. United was grateful to David De Gea for keeping the score down, and, while it’s not inconceivable that the deficit–the result of a Daniel Sturridge penalty and another goal from Roberto Firmino–can be made up at Old Trafford next week, it would take a radically improved performance even to be possible.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

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

March 6, 2016

“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)

West Brom 1-0 Man Utd player ratings: Rondon punishes vistors following Mata dismissal

March 6, 2016

“A first half sending off for Juan Mata proved to be the catalyst for a West Bromwich Albion victory at the Hawthorns, as Tony Pulis’ men ran out 1-0 winners over Manchester United. Although the Baggies struggled to make the most of their one-man advantage for the most part, they did finally take the lead after 66 minutes when Salomon Rondon turned on a sixpence and fired home from close-range, following Sebastian Pocognoli’s cross.” Squawka

Manchester United and the problem of moving on from an all-powerful leader

February 28, 2016

“The question isn’t even ‘if’. It isn’t even really ‘when’ any longer: it’s who comes next. Perhaps an FA Cup defeat at Shrewsbury on Monday would have ended Louis van Gaal’s reign at Old Trafford this week; perhaps a Europa League exit against Midtjylland on Thursday night will. But nobody really thinks Van Gaal will still be Manchester United manager next season.” Guardian – 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

Manchester City’s poor form has club in downward spiral

February 23, 2016

“It was a risk the Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini knew he was taking. Fielding a significantly weakened side in the FA Cup fifth-round tie against Chelsea on Sunday effectively sacrificed the competition to ensure first-teamers are fully rested before Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 tie away against Dynamo Kyiv. If City gets a positive result there and then beats Liverpool in the League Cup final next Sunday it will probably be regarded as a price worth paying. But that’s a huge if.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

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

Player Ratings: Chelsea 1-1 Man Utd: Diego Costa snatches a point in injury time

February 7, 2016

“It was a fixture that neither side could, in reality, afford to lose. Manchester United headed to Chelsea knowing a win was necessary if they were to keep touch with the top four in the Premier League. For the Blues losing this match could go far in undoing all the good work that had see last season’s league champions pull away from the relegation zone.” Squawka

Money League – Oh! You Pretty Things

February 2, 2016

“A couple of weeks ago Deloitte published the 19th edition of their annual Football Money League, which ranks leading clubs by revenue, this time for the 2014/15 season. On the face of it, little has changed compared to the previous year, as Real Madrid once again top the table for the 11th year in a row with annual revenue of €577 million (£439 million), and there are no new entrants in the top 10. However, there has been some movement with Barcelona (€561 million) overtaking both Manchester United (€520 million) and Bayern Munich (€474 million) to reclaim second place, as they became only the third club to break the €500 million revenue barrier.” The Swiss Ramble

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

January 29, 2016

“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

Fans’ Patience With Louis van Gaal at a Nadir

January 29, 2016

“By any measure, Manchester United is one of the four biggest soccer clubs in the world. Its wealth, tradition, stadium and future earning potential are all up there with Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich. But on the field, United is massively underachieving. Its team is out of the Champions League and drifting out of contention in the Premier League, where Leicester City, a low-budget club, still leads the standings with more than half the season gone. Bravo to Leicester, and shame on United.” NY Times

Around Europe: Mourinho looms over Man United; Argentine attackers star

January 25, 2016

“As the transfer window gets set to shut and teams in Europe’s top leagues take stock of where they stand, significant developments continued to unfold around the continent. Arsenal, down to 10 men, lost ground in the title race after a London derby defeat, while Manchester United also slipped again at home in the Premier League. Real Madrid dropped its first points under Zinedine Zidane, while Pep Guardiola is facing another injury-induced challenge at Bayern Munich. Two Argentine strikers are fighting it out for top honors in Italy, while in France, the title race is over already. Here is what caught our eye Around Europe this week.” SI

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

The Question: Klopp v Van Gaal … has Manchester United’s manager been left behind?

January 17, 2016

“Jürgen Klopp had warned us what we should expect. As he charged down the touchline on Wednesday evening punching the air and shouting amid the snowflakes after Joe Allen’s late equaliser against Arsenal, he was perhaps not merely saluting a hard-earned point but relishing a game that fulfilled his ideal of what football – and specifically English football – should be.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Wayne Rooney to Pele: Weird & wonderful goal records

January 17, 2016

“Wayne Rooney has set so many landmarks that he could almost have an entire episode of Record Breakers  dedicated to him. The Manchester United striker passed another one by scoring Sunday’s winner at Liverpool, overtaking Arsenal’s Thierry Henry as the scorer of the most goals for a single club in Premier League history. Rooney, 30, rifled in his 176th league goal for the Red Devils since arriving from Everton in 2004. Here, we take a look at some other weird and wonderful goalscoring records.” BBC

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

“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

The Question: what is attacking football?

January 6, 2016

After Manchester United’s goalless draw with West Ham in December, Louis van Gaal professed himself baffled by the Old Trafford crowd’s demands for his side to be more attacking. ‘I don’t understand that they are shouting ‘attack, attack’ because we are the attacking team and not West Ham United,’ he said. In doing so, he raised a question that seems fundamental to football and yet is surprisingly hard to answer: what is attacking?” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Back Page Football’s five most read articles of 2015

January 4, 2016

“It’s been another big year for Back Page Football as we published almost 1000 articles that covered news, views and opinion from all across the globe. As we head into 2016, there’s no better time to look back at the 12 months that was, and below are the features that grabbed the attention of our readers the most.” backpagefootball

EPL Notes: Leicester City in a rut; Diego Costa shines for Chelsea

January 4, 2016

“English soccer’s long-standing habit of cramming extra games into the public holidays around Christmas and New Year is one of the quirks that add to the Premier League’s appeal. It also rewards the clubs with the deepest pockets and the deepest squads. Elsewhere in Europe, teams catch their breath with a mid-season rest. English soccer celebrates the halfway point in its marathon by sending the players out to play extra games with little rest in the winter wind and the rain. It’s a muddy boot camp for millionaires.” SI

Garth Crooks’ team of the week: Rooney, Alli, Willian, Defoe

January 4, 2016

“Arsenal extended their lead at the top of the Premier League with an unconvincing win over relegation-threatened Newcastle. Leicester City missed a penalty as they failed to scored for a third consecutive match in a draw with Bournemouth, while Manchester United and Manchester City both won. Chelsea beat Crystal Palace for their first win under Guus Hiddink. But who were the outstanding performers? Here are my selections.” BBC

Unpredictable English Premier League Keeps Us Guessing

December 28, 2015

“If uncertainty makes for compelling competition, nothing can rival the English Premier League. While every other major league in the world shut down for Christmas, all 20 English clubs played on Boxing Day. Not too many followed form, although Manchester City’s 4-1 crushing of Sunderland, which is haunted by the specter of relegation, was predictable enough. And Tottenham’s 3-0 win over Norwich City might also have been foreseen.” NY Times

Euro 2016 lacks a clear favourite as France, Germany, Spain all flawed

December 17, 2015

“Euro 2016 will be the first-ever European Championships comprised of 24 teams, a format that opens up the tournament to the continent’s minnows. Yet assessing the runners and riders ahead of Saturday’s draw, it feels like one of the most closed European championships in a long time. There are three clear favourites who each have something obvious to shout about: France are the hosts, Spain the holders and Germany the world champions. Other than this trio, it’s incredibly difficult to make a case for anyone else triumphing.” ESPN – Michael Cox

2016 UEFA Championship: Host France gets favorable draw

December 15, 2015

“The 2016 European Championships draw was made in the Palais des Congres in Paris Saturday. UEFA president Michel Platini was not present—he is currently suspended from his duties by FIFA—but there was support for the Frenchman when footage of player-turned-politician helping France win Euro 1986 was met with applause in the draw auditorium. It was Platini who instigated this new-look Euros format: there are now 24 teams in the tournament, eight more than in previous competitions.” SI (Video)

Premier League Diary: How Louis Van Gaal will be run out of Manchester United next weekend

December 15, 2015

“Another weekend, and another weekend of the purest guff. It is quite hard to describe how useless Manchester United is, but only because the depth of the team’s woefulness has already been stated. Repeatedly. There is, admittedly, an infinite combination of all the thousands of words in the English language, and many of those combinations could be deployed to describe how utterly rubbish at football they are. But the problem is that Manchester United is infinitely awful. With each game they find a new way to be awful, while dredging up all the ways in which they have also recently been awful. They are operating with a checklist of cack, and ticking off the boxes with every match, and then drawing another box at the bottom, and annotating it with a new disaster. Then they check that, and the player checking it goes down with a thigh strain.” Fusion

Are Manchester United and Arsenal Getting Lucky?

December 15, 2015

“There are many ways to look at the effectiveness and reliability of a team but when you find a metric related to scoring goals that places them on the edges of historical parameters or beyond it pays to take notice. Both Man Utd and Arsenal sit perilously close to the positive edge of measures that surround the levels of good chances they have been creating and allowing as we shall soon see.” Stats Bomb

Premier League Diary: Manchester finds inspiration in the ghost of Rafa Benitez

December 15, 2015

“We begin this week’s installment of the Diary by returning to the wisdom and knowledge of an old, old friend. One who may not be managing in the Premier League any more, but who is always managing in our defensive, negative, rigorously well-structured hearts. We speak, of course, of Rafael Benitez.” Fusion

Premier League: The most unpredictable season?

December 8, 2015

“It is the Premier League season that has everyone scratching their heads. Champions Chelsea are down in 14th. Leicester, bottom at Christmas last year, are top less than 12 months later. In fact, as this image below shows, the old cliche that anyone can beat anyone has never been more apt. Undoubtedly, there have been some strange results.” BBC

Flawed EPL favorites leading to congested table, fascinating title race

December 6, 2015

“This is a most unusual Premier League season. Fourteen games in, none of the expected title favorites has settled into any kind of consistent form and the result is a league table that is extremely tightly bunched, with four teams separated by two points at the top of the table, Tottenham two behind that group and Liverpool two behind Spurs. Most tellingly, the leaders, Manchester City and Leicester City, have 29 points: only once in the past 17 years has the leader had a lower total with 14 games of the season gone.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Ratings: Man Utd 0-0 West Ham: No goals and few ideas as Fellaini and Zarate go close

December 6, 2015

“Old Trafford played host to what was ultimately an underwhelming clash between Manchester United and West Ham United as neither side were able to score any goals despite a few promising chances and passages of play. The approaches of the two sides were perhaps best summed up by the individuals they channelled the majority of their play through: Marouane Fellaini for the hosts and Mauro Zarate for the visitors.” Squawka

The false identity of the Premier League

December 3, 2015

“The Premier League resides at the heart of English football and sport in general. We as a nation cherish and adore it. We see it as one of our greatest sporting beacons which makes us English believe we have the greatest football league in the world. Part of such a belief is the notion that it is the most competitive footballing league, where David repeatedly topples Goliath.” backpagefootball

Warning for Louis van Gaal: boring style can mean the sack at Manchester United

December 3, 2015

“Wins, they say, are the only currency that matters. Win matches and all other sins will be forgiven. Perhaps. But as Old Trafford becomes increasingly frustrated by Louis van Gaal’s obsession with process, as the goalless draws rack up and the chants of ‘Attack! Attack! Attack, Attack, Attack!’ are heard earlier and earlier, it’s perhaps worth remembering that it would not be unprecedented for a Manchester United manager to be ousted because his football was considered boring.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Should Swansea Sack Garry Monk?

November 30, 2015

“Losing at Anfield is hardly going to increase the pressure on Garry Monk as much as losing to Norwich did. However the two games had an identical feature; on each occasion Swansea managed eight shots, none of which required the opposition keeper to make a save. With a key function of creating goals being an ability to invite the keeper to stop the ball, these numbers make grim reading and are a low watermark in what increasingly looks like an attacking drought. Swansea flew out of the blocks this year with good results and performances against teams that, with hindsight, had vulnerabilities: Chelsea, Sunderland and Newcastle, then a sneaky traditional win against Man Utd. Since then though, they have only once exceeded a league average shot total (14 against Stoke) and haven’t managed to exceed the same for shots on target (4.4) at all.” Stats Bomb

Schurrle lifts Wolfsburg, Man United disappoints in Champions League

November 28, 2015

“The last 16 of the Champions League is beginning to take shape. The second day of Matchday 5 saw Real Madrid confirm top spot in its group as Cristano Ronaldo scored two and set two up in a 4-3 win away to Shakhtar Donetsk, while Paris St-Germain is through to the next round after Zlatan Ibrahimovic marked his return to Malmö with a goal in a 5-0 victory. Benfica and Atlético Madrid also progressed. Benfica had to come from 2-0 down to draw in Kazakhstan against Astana while Antoine Griezmann scored twice in Atlético’s 2-0 win over Galatasaray.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Top 50 Premier League Players of All Time: Part 1 – 50-41

November 28, 2015

“The BPF Top 50 feature is back for 2015, and this time we are counting down the greatest players to have graced the Premier League since it was established in 1992. The first part of this year’s countdown includes some of Arsene Wenger’s best performers during his time as Arsenal manager, as well as one of the most consistent midfielders of his generation who sadly left us far too soon.” backpagefootball

Kasper Schmeichel on Leicester City’s remarkable rise to the top

November 24, 2015

“Leicester’s incredible start to the season continued on Saturday as they beat Newcastle to move top of the Premier League table. The Foxes were bottom of the table in April, but seven months on, led by the goals of prolific striker Jamie Vardy, they have lost only one of their first 13 league matches. Claudio Ranieri’s in-form team host second-placed Manchester United next weekend, with the chance to extend their unlikely lead at the top. Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, who has been at the King Power Stadium since June 2011, tells Match of the Day 2 what is behind his team’s remarkable rise.” BBC

Milner best suited to Liverpool wing, despite preference to play centrally

November 24, 2015

“Ahead of Liverpool’s trip to Manchester City on Saturday, all eyes will be on Raheem Sterling. The young attacker’s decision to switch from Liverpool to City was English football’s most protracted, and controversial, transfer of the summer; but, going the other way, there was a more surprising move. James Milner was at Manchester City for five years, winning two league titles and two domestic cups, but elected to make the step down to join Liverpool. In many ways, Milner’s decision was understandable; often overlooked at City in favour of players with bigger reputations and bigger egos, Milner wanted to be appreciated, to feel like a central part of a major club. Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool offered him that opportunity, and Milner was immediately named the club’s vice-captain. The absence of Jordan Henderson through injury has ensured Milner frequently starts with the armband, too.” ESPN – Michael Cox

The Premier League so far: a majestic muddle that continues to entertain

November 10, 2015

“A third of the way through the Premier League season and it is still to take shape. There is a pleasingly old-fashioned look to the table, with the top seven separated by six points. To put that into context, 12 games into last season, the leaders Chelsea had six points more than Manchester City do now and the gap to seventh was 14. The usual suspects – or some of the usual suspects – will presumably kick on but this promises to be a closer, less predictable race than for years.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Champions League team of the week: Bayern and Barcelona impress

November 6, 2015

“It is no surprise that Bayern Munich have three players in the Champions League team of the week after their superb display in the 5-1 win at home to Arsenal. Germany forward Thomas Muller weighed in with two goals, and Barcelona duo Neymar and Luis Suarez join him in attack after scoring in their win over BATE Borisov. For the second matchweek running there is just one Premier League player in the XI, with Manchester City midfielder Fernandinho celebrating his part in the win in Seville which saw City into the last 16.” BBC

Hump Day Dumpster Dive: European club vows to fight racism with racism

November 3, 2015

“There is so much bloody soccer happening. Arsenal is awesome terrible awesome terrible. Bayern Munich just served up another reminder that we shouldn’t even bother watching any of its games until the Champions League semi-finals. José Mourinho is living out a terrible nightmare that will probably end in an eight-figure payout deal. Manchester United is…zzzzz. Let’s get to dumpster diving.” Fusion

Tactical Analysis: Manchester United 0-0 Manchester City | Man-oriented defences on top

October 28, 2015

“Manchester United hosted City in the 170th Manchester derby. In this fixture last season United dominated the midfield battle with Mata’s central roaming creating an overload that was key to United’s victory. Furthermore Toure was played as one of City’s two deep midfield players despite his well-documented defensive shortcomings and this contributed to their resounding defeat.” Outside of the Boot

Around Europe: Sherwood axed; Suarez, Aubameyang net hat tricks

October 26, 2015

“Yet another dramatic week in Europe’s major leagues saw pressure increase on Jose Mourinho, while there were hat tricks for some of the continent’s big-name players, like Barcelona’s Luis Suarez and Borussia Dortmund’s in-form Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Bayern Munich might have found a successor to Pep Guardiola, while there was a dramatic return of the ex in Italy.” SI

Decision Making And Expected Value

October 21, 2015

“In the 69th minute of the most important derby in English football (that’s still the case right?) Manchester United lead Liverpool 1-0 with the game obviously still very much open. An average team in Liverpool’s position would still expect to draw or win the game about 21% of the time, not ideal but nowhere near a lost cause. With United on the attack and the ball in the final third Carrick plays a weighted ball through to Ander Herrera who latches onto it on the edge of the penalty area. Right here Gomez has a decision to make, he can accept that his positioning wasn’t great but just try and track Herrera as quickly as possible, or he can try and redeem himself with a last-ditch tackle near the byline.” Stats Bomb

Beyond Barça, Bayern, and Madrid: Who’s the Fourth-Best Team in the World?

October 19, 2015

“For going on five years now, the world soccer hierarchy has looked like this: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich … and then everybody else. So, as players return from the international break and domestic leagues resume play this weekend, it’s time to ask: Who exactly is the best of the rest? This season, three teams have the chief claims, but questions surrounding their legitimacy make the answer as unclear as ever.” Grantland

Around Europe: Neymar, Wijnaldum strike for four; Yaya Toure unhappy

October 19, 2015

“Four-goal performances are the new hat tricks as Barcelona’s Neymar and Newcastle’s Georginio Wijnaldum both lit up Europe with their individual performances this weekend. Elsewhere, normal service resumed in England, where Jurgen Klopp’s time at Liverpool is underway, while there are managerial dilemmas to solve in Germany and Spain. Napoli continues to talk down its title chances in Italy, despite evidence to the contrary, while in France actions off the pitch seized the most attention.” SI

Premier League Diary: Louis Van Gaal defeated Manchester United again this weekend

October 19, 2015

“Three months of the Premier League, and Manchester United has been curiously underrepresented in these entries. In the last two seasons, Manchester United were remarkable. Not remarkably good, you probably understand, but remarkable. David Moyes and Louis van Gaal served up some moments of absolute write-aboutableness. For Moyes, there was calamity and sedition, and Wayne Rooney wasn’t very good at football anymore. For Van Gaal, there was calamity, occasional excellence, and Wayne Rooney wasn’t very good at football anymore.” Fusion

Hump Day Dumpster Dive: Manchester United must free political prisoner Victor Valdés

October 14, 2015

“Is the international break over yet? This one felt like it lasted for an eternity, and we should all be happy to see the back of it. Sport fandom is hysterical enough as it is without the added dangers of fervent nationalism. Mexico beat U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! in the Border Wall Cup, the Netherlands joined Vatican City as literally the only countries in Europe not to qualify for the newly-expanded Euro 2016, and your favorite club’s best player probably picked up an injury. What a time to be alive. Let’s dive into the dumpster, shall we?” Fusion

Champions League: Who makes our team of the week?

October 2, 2015

“5-0 win over Dinamo Zagreb. After defeats for Arsenal and Chelsea on Tuesday, Wednesday wins for Manchester City and Manchester United see three Premier League players make the XI. And Cristiano Ronaldo – who extended his lead at the top of the all-time Champions League goalscoring charts with two more for Real Madrid – keeps his place.” BBC

Bastian Schweinsteiger: A Machiavellian Prince

September 30, 2015

“It had to be under the sweltering Rio de Janeiro heat in the Maracana with nerves frayed to a twang, hearts in mouth and tension gripping every single body in that soulful old stadium that Bastian Schweinsteiger was defined most clearly as a man and as a player. Bloodied, bandaged, cramped he was at the wars and spectacularly looked like a doped up Tutankhamun running around upending Argentina players when need dictated, such as his yellow card suffered in the twenty ninth minute for clattering into Ezequiel Lavezzi. He was not in a jolly let’s-have-tea-in the-garden mood, he was zipping around the pitch with absolutely no anxiety and even when Germany faltered, he was often the last bastion of defense. Being man of the match on the biggest stage of all was typical of the man many in Bavaria had christened ‘football God’, a term reserved only for the most charismatic and enigmatic players- indeed the only players that come to mind are Matt Le God Tissier, the king of the Dell and the original Eric Cantona, impressive company.” Outside of the Boot

Manchester United – What Difference Does It Make?

September 30, 2015

“Sir Alex Ferguson was always going to be a tough act to follow at Manchester United and so it proved as David Moyes’ brief reign ended with him being sacked after a poor season and the club failing to qualify for European competition for the first time since 1990. He was in turn replaced by Louis van Gaal, whose side also struggled at times, but the Dutchman has a great track record, not to mention a larger-than-life personality, and did ultimately lead United back into Europe by finishing fourth in the Premier League in 2014/15. So what difference has the absence of the Champions League made to United’s financial results?” The Swiss Ramble