Crystal Palace, Leicester, West Ham using counter-attack to great effect

September 27, 2015

“Manchester City and Manchester United are occupying the top two positions in the Premier League table, but the real story is the over-achievement of some exciting underdogs. West Ham United, Leicester City and Crystal Palace have been among the most impressive teams in the division and are all sitting pretty towards the top. Interestingly, the trio have something very obvious in common: they’ve all been excellent on the counter-attack. The statistics summarise the situation. These three sides are among the worst teams in terms of possession: West Ham with 45 percent, Crystal Palace and Leicester with 44. Only Tony Pulis’ West Brom (42 percent) are beneath them.” ESPN – Michael Cox

Play our Premier League Predictor

September 27, 2015

“Map out the road to Premier League glory by predicting the scores for all the games this season. See how your guesses fare against other supporters and pundit Mark Lawrenson, plus get feedback from BBC Sport’s team including Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer.” BBC

Barcelona beaten 4-1, Juve problems continue

September 24, 2015

“Barcelona suffered a big shock and Juventus stuttered again while Real Madrid and Lyon impressed. We round up how the group stage contenders got on in Wednesday’s action.” UEFA

Florenzi boosts Roma; Bayern shines, Arsenal flops in Champions League

September 18, 2015

“A brilliant goal from Alessandro Florenzi earned Roma a 1-1 draw against Barcelona in the highest-profile clash on the second half of Matchday One of the Champions League, while there was further disappointment for the Premier League as Arsenal was beaten away to Dinamo Zagreb, 2-1. Chelsea, though, did record a comfortable victory, 4-0 over Maccabi Tel Aviv to relieve some of the mounting pressure on Jose Mourinho, while there were a pair of comfortable wins for the two Bundesliga sides in action: Bayern Munich winning 3-0 away to Olympiakos and Bayer Leverkusen thumping BATE Borisov 4-1 at home.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Five-Game Superstars: Just How Good Are Riyad Mahrez and Andre Ayew?

September 18, 2015

“How to hang around the top of the Premier League while grabbing plenty of neutral support along the way? Five games into the season, the answer appears to be: ‘Get yourself a tricky winger.’ So far, Swansea and Leicester City have combined for five wins, four draws, and one loss — all while playing some of the most fun-to-watch soccer in England. Riyad Mahrez has led Leicester, a team that came into the season looking like possible relegation fodder (oops), to the only undefeated record outside of Manchester City. Eleven points from five games is one heck of a haul, and it’s probably enough to permanently remove them from relegation talk. Meanwhile, Andre Ayew has helped propel Swansea to a draw against Chelsea and a win against Manchester United.” Grantland (Video)

Goal Analysis: How PSV Eindhoven defeated Manchester United in the Champions League

September 18, 2015

“In a game with several plot lines— Memphis’ return to PSV, Luke Shaw’s injury, Martial getting his first start after a great debut, Wayne Rooney’s injury prohibiting him from playing, as well as PSV’s coach, Phillip Cocu, a former player under Van Gaal, the three goals all being scored between the 40th and 60th minutes were just another piece of an already interesting game.” Outside of the Boot

Manchester United players’ row with Louis van Gaal may not be a crisis

September 14, 2015

“When Bobby Robson took over at PSV Eindhoven in 1990, he was shocked by the culture he found there. ‘An English professional,’ he said, ‘accepts the manager’s decision, but after every match here the substitutes come and visit me.’ Debate has been part of Dutch football from at least the days of Rinus Michels and his ‘conflict principle’ by which players were encouraged to critique one another’s performances, seemingly on the logic that every pearl begins with a little grit of irritation.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

City on Fire: How Manchester City Became the Best Team in the Premier League … Again

September 13, 2015

“Just a couple of months ago, Manchester City were a team hovering underneath the cloud of long-term decline. Yaya Touré couldn’t do it all anymore, Vincent Kompany no longer looked like a rock in central defense, and even David Silva, the team’s creative hub, was pushing 30. A year after winning the tile, City finished eight points back of first-place Chelsea — and were it not for a late-season winning streak and bunch of games in which Chelsea had nothing to play for, the gap could’ve been even larger.” Grantland

De Gea, Martial facing different kinds of pressure at Manchester United

September 13, 2015

“All in all, last week was a pretty big week for Anthony Martial. He made his debut for France as a second-half substitute against Portugal on Saturday, four days after becoming the most expensive teenager in the history of football. This Saturday, it’s possible (but unlikely) that he’ll make his debut for Manchester United–the most successful club in English history in terms of league titles won–against Liverpool, the second most successful. But while his life has been hurtling along–from being, in the wider consciousness of English football, some promising French kid who played against Arsenal for Monaco last season to full-on celebrity with the potential to define a manager’s reign–for the other key figure in United’s deadline day, everything has stalled.” SI -Jonathan Wilson

Ratings: Man Utd 3-1 Liverpool: Martial steals show with thrilling debut

September 13, 2015

“Manchester United came out victors in a fairly turgid game against Liverpool thanks to second half goals from Daley Blind and Ander Herrera. The first half was one of the poorest of the season so far with neither side managing to register a shot on target. United dominated the possession but they were unable to really test Simon Mignolet, with most of the problems for the Belgian caused by himself.” Squawka (Video)

European football: 7-1 scorelines, fluke goals and more

September 1, 2015

“It was a busy weekend across Europe, with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich winning, Roma shocking Juventus and transfers galore. But what are the stories you might have missed? Several former Premier League strikers on the scoresheet, freak goals and stadium problems and more – BBC Sport takes a look.” BBC

Louis van Gaal’s quest for control brings scant consolation at Swansea

September 1, 2015

“If only Club Brugge were in the Premier League. But they are not and, when you strip out the seven goals Manchester United scored in two games against them, they have scored just three in four this season. For all the talk of progress and of Louis van Gaal’s methods slowly being assimilated by his players, his 50th game in charge ended with the same result as his first: a 2-1 defeat to Swansea.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Champions League draw analysis: Picks to make it out of each group

August 29, 2015

UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino, left, and UEFA Competitions Director Giorgio Marchetti, right, remove the balls containing the names of the soccer clubs, during the draw for the Champions League 2015/16 play-offs, at the UEFA Headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)
“There was a twist to the Champions League group stage draw in Monaco Thursday. UEFA’s new seeding regulations meant that only reigning champions would be picked from Pot 1, leaving some dangerous contenders in the lower pots. And so it proved, as Manchester City was drawn with Juventus and Sevilla while Real Madrid drew Paris Saint-Germain and Shakhtar Donetsk. The draw resulted in some intriguing individual storylines, powerhouses going up against one another and the first steps on the road to the San Siro.” SI (Video)

Louis van Gaal’s possession obsession risks blunting Manchester United’s edge

August 29, 2015

“‘My worry,’ Louis van Gaal said after Manchester United’s draw against Newcastle on Saturday, ‘is that we have to dominate the opponent’. He was not bothered, he insisted, that his side had failed to score, and he felt no great urge to sign another striker despite the ineffectiveness of Wayne Rooney; rather he was happy because ‘three times we are the better team … We did it today, we did it against Aston Villa and against Tottenham. Against Tottenham was less but against Villa, Brugge and today we dominated’.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Taking the temperature of Manchester United

August 24, 2015

“Making observations based off one game and presenting them as fact is reactionary pulp, especially when players and teams have anywhere between 37 and 50 games left, including cups, to rectify mistakes, build chemistry and become comfortable with themselves, each other and the system they play within. Three games in, and little more than guesswork is still the most prevalent manner of forecasting the next nine months of soccer.” backpagefootball

Chelsea doesn’t have the depth to win the Premier League

August 21, 2015

“Chelsea cake-walked its way to the Premier League title last year. All the usual challengers were either in a state of transition (Manchester United and Liverpool), apparently lacking motivation (Manchester City), or being Arsenal (Arsenal). Having kept all the important pieces of the same squad together, and with questions still hovering over its rivals, Chelsea is (was?) heavily favored to repeat as champions. But judging by the evidence on display in preseason and in the Blues’ first two performances in the league, we should probably pump the brakes on those predictions.” Fusion

Early Skews, Man City Impress And Other Stat Stories: EPL Week 2

August 17, 2015

“We’ve hit the crucial juncture of two (!) games now and already firm story lines are appearing around the media. Simple hooks are readily available to explain any positive or negative deviation, depending on which direction a team appears to be turning. Take Southampton; last season they conceded four or more shots on target on 14 separate occasions and yet in only five of those games they conceded twice or more. In all those matches combined, they ran a pretty much bang on league average 70% save percentage.” StatsBomb

Tactical Analysis: Manchester United 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur | United superbly compact, Spurs struggle in build-up

August 14, 2015

“The first game of the Premier League season matched up Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United against Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur. Many supporters looked at this clash and saw it as one which was very suitable for the Barclays Premier League opener. Two managers who favour aggressive high pressure and attacking, proactive football along with a host of quality players on either side made this a tantalizing clash on paper. However, although the game promised much as a spectacle in the end the game was far from tantalizing. Both teams appeared nervy, wary of the ramifications that a poor start to a league season can have.” Outside of the Boot

England: Premier League [1st division], 2015-16 location-map with: 14/15 attendances, all-time seasons in 1st division + major titles listed./ Plus, a few words about each of the 3 sides promoted for 15/16 (Cherries, Hornets, Canaries).

August 14, 2015

England: Premier League [1st division], location-map with 14/15 attendances, all-time seasons in 1st division + major titles listed   Links… -Teams, etc…2015–16 Premier League (  -News, fixtures, results, table, etc…Premier League page at BBC. -My fav site for articles on the Premier League, etc…The ( -Table, fixtures, results, stats, etc… -Kits…Barclays Premier League 2015 – 2016 [home, away & alternate kits] (” billsportsmaps

EPL season preview: Familiar four should compete for 2015-16 title

August 11, 2015

“The Community Shield is rarely a reliable gauge to anything–as Arsenal proved last season by cruising to a 3-0 win over Manchester City then winning only two of its opening eight games of the season–but what was apparent on Sunday was how many of the doubts that have been expressed about Chelsea’s capacity to retain its title were played out. Jose Mourinho’s side looked sluggish–perhaps simply behind Arsenal in terms of physical preparation, with a view to peaking later in the season and so heading off the spring fatigue it suffered last season–raising key questions about the depth of the squad. Arsenal, meanwhile, was sharp and eager, having apparently carried over the form of the end of last season into the beginning of this (but then again we’ve said that before).” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Always Lucky, Rarely Good: The Manchester United Story

August 11, 2015

“Manchester United were not a good soccer team last season — and they haven’t been for four or five years running. For a while, that didn’t stop them from winning. The end of Sir Alex Ferguson’s tenure was marked by the outsize performances of under-talented squads, but when he handed the same team over to David Moyes, the magical carriage turned into a seventh-place pumpkin. With Moyes ousted after one season, Louis van Gaal came in, and the great United rebuild began anew under the urgent mandate to return to the top four and Champions League in any way possible. In typical United fashion, they finished fourth, but they did it on the back of results that outstripped the quality of their performances.” Grantland

In European Soccer, Usual Suspects Are Expected to Win

August 11, 2015

“The European soccer season gets under way in earnest in the days ahead. But as usual, there is something missing: true uncertainty about who will be on top when the season ends. While each of Europe’s top five leagues is made up of as many as 20 teams, only a few rich teams are seen to have a real chance at winning the league title. A look at bookmaker’s odds shows that for the have-nots, the chances of winding up at the top of the table are increasingly close to zero. In this exercise, the chances are calculated by translating odds to percentages — a team that is 2-1 has a 33 percent chance of winning the title, for example, and an 8-1 shot has an 11 percent chance. However you figure it, the deck is stacked against most of the teams in every race.” NY Times

Premier League 2015-16: Who will finish where?

August 7, 2015

“The phoney wars of pre-season friendlies and the Community Shield are over and the real business of the Premier League begins this weekend. So it is once again time to dust off the crystal ball and take a guess on how the top flight will unfold over the next nine months. Can Jose Mourinho and Chelsea’s grip on the crown be released? Can Arsenal finally turn promise into a Premier League title? Can Brendan Rodgers rebuild Liverpool from the wreckage of that 6-1 humiliation at Stoke City on the final day of last season? The safety net is, of course, that clubs still have plenty of time to alter the odds by making a landmark signing before the window closes, but here goes…” BBC

EPL season preview: Familiar four should compete for 2015-16 title

August 7, 2015

“The Community Shield is rarely a reliable gauge to anything–as Arsenal proved last season by cruising to a 3-0 win over Manchester City then winning only two of its opening eight games of the season–but what was apparent on Sunday was how many of the doubts that have been expressed about Chelsea’s capacity to retain its title were played out.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Premier League Preview: It’s the Most Powerful League in the World, But Will It Ever Be the Best?

August 7, 2015

“Two months — that’s all we get this year. The 2014-15 European soccer season concluded with the Champions League final in early June, but we’re already back at it, as Chelsea’s Premier League title defense starts tomorrow. Last summer’s World Cup delayed the start of the previous season and next summer’s European Championships have pushed up the start of this one, so the summer was short.” Grantland

Stock-piling of talent in England is ruining romance across Europe

August 7, 2015

“Last season PSV won the Dutch league by 17 points. They scored 92 goals in 34 games and won all but five matches. They were a bright young attacking side under an impressive young coach in Phillip Cocu, the sort of team who might, a couple of decades ago, have had a serious crack at the European Cup over the next couple of seasons before inevitably being broken up as economic reality kicked in. The modern world being what it is, that process has already begun and they’ve lost Memphis Depay to Manchester United and Georginio Wijnaldum to Newcastle United, players who between them represent 36 of those 92 goals (and eight assists). And PSV probably think they’ve done quite well to hold on – for now – to Luuk de Jong, Adam Maher and Jetro Willems.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

The Omnipotent RealmThe Profane: Ronaldo, Hazard, and the Soul-Killing Economy of ‘Who’s Better?’

August 1, 2015

“Jose Mourinho said this week that Eden Hazard is better than Cristiano Ronaldo. We’ll call that Thing One. The planet Earth came into being 4.5 billion years ago when the core of the solar nebula collapsed to form a star, causing debris in the resulting gravitational sphere to accumulate into planets. We’ll call that Thing Two. Thing One agitated people. Writers wrote about what Mourinho said. People who know how to make graphs on their computers ran to their computers to make graphs, proving or disproving (although almost always disproving) his claim. Stern men on television discussed the matter sternly and at length.” Grantland – Brian Phillips

England Rules: Four Questions That Explain the Summer Transfer Window

July 27, 2015

“While there’s still more than a month remaining, something about the current transfer window just seems … off. Most of the big clubs — Chelsea, PSG, Arsenal, Barcelona, and Real Madrid — have been relatively quiet, and the star we all expected to leave looks like he might stay put in Italy for another year. Now, there’s been plenty of movement in Munich, Manchester, and everywhere else, but even those transactions have been underpriced, overpriced, or seemingly out of nowhere. In short, the silly season’s gotten weird. Here are four questions to sort through all the mayhem.” Grantland

Can Louis van Gaal Get the Best out of Bastian Schweinsteiger for a Second Time?

July 17, 2015

“In the midst of Bastian Schweinsteiger’s departure, there has been a sense of disappointment amongst the Bayern Munich fans. As a much-loved figure in the Bavarian capital, Schweinsteiger’s exit leaves a somewhat sour taste for them. And yet for all of his achievements at Bayern, and all of the trophies he has inspired, manager Pep Guardiola could no longer guarantee his continual place in the side. A therefore disgruntled ‘Basti’ may have needed to content himself with a place on the bench, and as an instigator of accomplishment and an icon amongst the Bayern faithful, that, clearly, wasn’t an option he entertained.”> Licence to Roam

A Tale of Two Transfers: The Divergent Perception of Raheem Sterling and Morgan Schneiderlin

July 17, 2015

“Earlier this week, a long-rumored transfer finally reached completion, as one of the best young players in the English Premier League ended the impasse with his former club and forced his way to a top-four team. And really, who could blame him? For the past couple of seasons, due to his relative youth and inexperience at the top level, he’d been making a weekly salary of less than £40,000 — well below market value. Rather than accepting a significant raise, he refused to extend his contract in order to pressure his then-current team into selling him to a bigger club. With the clock ticking on a contract that had only two years left to run, an agreement came about … and Morgan Schneiderlin officially moved to Manchester United. In other transfer news, Raheem Sterling moved from Liverpool to Manchester City.” Grantland

Manchester United’s transfer strategy has been shockingly sensible

July 14, 2015

“If you have a midfielder, you’d be best advised to keep him under lock and key for the next six weeks. Manchester United has a taste for blood, and no midfielder is safe. While most of us were either out boozing or finally watching those documentaries in our Netflix queue, United went out and signed two of the best midfielders on the market – former Bayern Munich linchpin Bastian Schweinsteiger and Southampton’s previously Arsenal or Tottenham-bound distributor, Morgan Schneiderlin. Only a few years removed from Sir Alex Ferguson playing strikers, defenders, wingers, and literally one of the coaching staff in midfield, United is finally properly addressing what was a glaring weakness.” Fusion

On professional football – or: in praise of illusionary love

June 27, 2015

“Summer has arrived. And in the absence of the usual pulsating weekly encounters punctuated with thrilling goals and flooded with indomitable passion, we have to settle for the next best thing – transfer speculation – the time of the year when almost anybody and everybody is linked with, well, almost anybody and everybody. This is when, for a few moments, one is allowed to imagine, hope, as to what might be – even if it never materialises – everyday brings with it a new story, a new exclusive, a new quote, closely analysed, to decode a player’s possible intentions.” backpagefootball

Liverpool’s Striking Choices And Problem Shooters In The Premier League 2014-15

June 11, 2015

“If you are a club aiming to infiltrate the Premier League’s top four on a regular basis, how does this sound as a description of one of your strikers for next season: 4 time League Champion in Top 5 leagues; 2 time Domestic Cup winner; Champions League Winner; Established international for major European nation; 24 years old. This player is coming into his peak years and his club have already secured his services on a long contract. This is a winning situation, right?” StatsBomb

Dissecting the Glazers’ decade of decay (and the Manchester United legend who allowed it)

May 12, 2015

“For almost any other team, the past 10 years would have been considered a period of startling success: five league titles, three League Cups, one Champions League trophy and two other trips to the finals. But while 10 years of the Glazer family at Manchester United have provided some of the finest soccer Old Trafford’s ever seen, they’ve also served up a decade of mismanagement – decline, panic and glory. Taken out of context, those successes ignore the club’s extensive, perhaps more significant failures. For every near miss Manchester United endured, different management could have pushed for another trophy, and while trophies are not the only symbol of merit for a club, they are one of the most important for a club of United’s powers.” Fusion (Video)

The rise and wane of the English-style manager (and what England will lose when they’re gone)

April 24, 2015

“With a click of a remote, the modern soccer fan can flit effortlessly from Chelsea versus Man United in London to Juventus-Lazio in Turin or Bayern against Dortmund in Munich. As stars like Eden Hazard blur into Carlos Tévez then Thomas Müller, we stare groggily at the magnificent, endless, globalized spectacle being played out in front of us in gleaming stadiums by athletes from every continent, trying to remember what game we are watching, or where it is taking place. ‘If it’s Tuesday, it must be Munich,’ we think, our heads throbbing. It wasn’t always like this. No man is an island, wrote John Donne, but with its draughty, brutish terraces, muddy pitches, halftime pies laced with botulism, and Luddite-esque devotion to the long ball game, there was a time, not so long ago, when English soccer felt a world apart from its European cousins. The five-year club ban from European competition in the 1980s and `90s also added to the sense of not so splendid isolation. Even today, the relatively small number of English players keen to ply their trade abroad can give the national team a parochial air.” Fusion

Tactical Analysis: Manchester United 4-2 Manchester City | Weakness down the channels exploited

April 16, 2015

“Manchester gathered its two giants once again at Old Trafford; a journey for the Citizens that was found more strenuous owning more to the weight this match held rather than the time spent traveled. Louis Van Gaal’s men had re-created in recent weeks the Manchester United magic of yester years and had gained significant momentum that resulted in plenty of turned heads to take notice. To balance every rise with a fall, we barely had to look beyond the territorial limits of Manchester, as Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City found themselves in a downward spiral ever since the turn of the year. City’s loss last Monday night against Crystal Palace meant that United finally surpassed their cross town rivals in the league.” Outside of the Boot

Louis van Gaal’s latest masterstroke: Fellaini as deep-lying target man

April 13, 2015

“Throughout his career as a coach, Louis van Gaal has been dogmatic, but perhaps the only thing he is dogmatic about is the fact that he is right. He came to the Premier League and, because he’s smarter than anybody else, he took the one surviving facet of the traditional English game, and showed how we could have been using it far more effectively all these years. Look, he said, I like this target man of yours, but why on earth haven’t you been using him in midfield?” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

United Take Back Manchester: How Louis van Gaal Finally Found His Best Team

April 13, 2015

“We’re 32 games into the season, and this much is now obvious: Manchester United are one of the four best teams in the Premier League. Yesterday’s 4-2 romp over Manchester City was United’s sixth league victory in a row and the team’s best performance of the season. Just a month removed from a heated battle for fourth place with Liverpool, United totally dominated their crosstown rival and now sit four points clear of City in third. Over the first half of the season, Louis van Gaal’s team strung together a host of ugly victories on the back of improbable goals and timely finishing. But now, with wins over Tottenham and Liverpool in addition to City, the manager has his team playing the kind of attacking soccer he warned that fans might have to wait until next season to see. So what finally clicked for United? Basically, van Gaal finally found the right starting lineup.” Grantland

From Hero to Zero, The Manager Cauldron

April 8, 2015

“With the evolution of the English Premier league, expectations are at an all time high. Wealthy investors expect nothing but the best from their team and quite often fabricate erratic and instantneous decisions. The euphoria and prospects of garnering silverware can often cloud judgment and project a directors desires into a far from plausible stratosphere. The monumental stakes have also never been higher with next years’ mouth-watering £5.4bn TV deal up for grabs. An estimated £99million will be won by the last place team and £150million for the winners. However, it isn’t just the players who come and go, more often than not, it’s managers too. Managers often get blamed for the teams’ failings but the players take the honours of winning. The managers take the major brunt of their teams results and it seems they can never win. An owners’ fixation in elevating their reputation in this elite Billionaire Club means they have no qualms in paying for the extermination of a contract. To them it’s merely status and the team is just their toy to dissipate excess cash.” Soccer Politics

The Fun in France: Are We Set for a Boring End to the European Soccer Season?

April 3, 2015

“Can you believe it’s April already? While there have been times over the past eight months when the season’s felt like an interminable drag — those weeks of domestic cup games, the handful of international breaks, consecutive weekends in which the best game involves Newcastle — we’re finally here. With just about two months left in most leagues across Europe, it’s the stretch run, where the rubber meets the road, the standings approach finality, and things become truly exciting. Except, maybe not this year.” Grantland

How Van Gaal has made his “philosophy” count for Man United

March 28, 2015

“If you come at the English with a philosophy, you best not miss. After all, failure to make high-minded ideas count will always count against managers who dare to stick their heads above the pulpit and define themselves as thinkers in one form or another. Andre Villas-Boas was far from blameless when it came to his two Premier League dismissals at Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, but his profile as a bookish, bright young analyst hardly helped to endear him to his new public. Similarly, Rafael Benitez’s exotic preferences for zonal marking and stringent squad rotation marked him out as a foreign oddity ripe for derision. Arsene Wenger and Brendan Rodgers both receive plenty of ridicule for their love of concepts and scholastic mannerisms when the results begin to dry up.” Squawka

Listen Here, Cristiano: Sir Alex Ferguson’s Email to a Madrid Star in Crisis

March 28, 2015

“Listen here, lad, Don’t think for a tinker’s red second that I don’t know exactly how you feel, finding an email from me. I know, Cristiano. If there’s one thing they could say about me, it’s that I always knew what my boys were feeling — better than they did, most times, not that it took a chess master to out-think Gary Pallister. And yes, son, you’re still one of my boys. Now and always. Not a transfer fee on earth’ll win you a move from that club. So quit grimacing at your screen like a Kirkcaldy bricklayer with his first taste of chicken vindaloo. Sit down and pay attention. Bloody laptop’s probably got rhinestones on it.” Grantland – Brian Phillips

Tactical Analysis: Liverpool 1-2 Manchester United | United’s pressing, early dominance and more

March 24, 2015

“The fixture between Liverpool and Manchester United is one that demands global attention. As a spectacle, it is England’s riposte to El Clasico, Derby della Madonnina, De Klassieker, and so forth. In short, it is a very big deal. The animosity between the cities may have its roots in issues beyond the football pitch but it is on it that it finds a platform to express itself. Thus, a game between the two sides is always plagued with intensity and a smorgasbord of emotions. The traditional giants may not be fighting for the ultimate prize of the title but they are 2 of the teams in the running for a spot in next season’s Champions League. The result at Anfield may not prove be the defining moment in the race but its importance didn’t have to be underlined ahead of the game.” Outside of the Boot

Simon Mignolet vs David de Gea: Why it’s closer than you think

March 22, 2015

“Eternal foes Manchester United and Liverpool lock horns once again on Sunday afternoon in the biggest derby match for years, with the chance of a top-four finish up for grabs alongside the pride of two of English football’s most successful clubs.” Squawka (Video)

So, Louis van Gaal, what exactly is your Manchester United ‘philosophy’?

March 16, 2015

“Something very strange is happening at Old Trafford. It not so much that the grumbling is growing louder, despite Manchester United sitting fourth in the table having lost only twice in the league since the turn of the year, it is who is lined up on either side of the debate. On the one hand, unconvinced by a string of scratchy displays, is a section of the media and public arguing that the spectacle needs to improve. On the other, demanding we look at the results, is Louis van Gaal, a coach who for a quarter of a century has been dogmatically insisting that aesthetics are vital to football and that journalists and fans never look sufficiently at the process.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Ángel di María seems an uninterested bystander at Manchester United
“Manchester United’s defenders have committed some shocking errors this season, but the manner of the two concessions in Monday’s 2-1 FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Arsenal must have been particularly alarming for Louis van Gaal. The problems originated from United’s right flank, where they struggled all evening. The most dangerous player in the opening minutes was Alexis Sánchez, fielded on the left of Arsenal’s 4-2-3-1 system. Up against Antonio Valencia, a winger who has been fielded at right-back remarkably frequently considered he has never looked remotely comfortable in that role, it looked set to be a mismatch, especially after Sánchez cut inside easily for the game’s first half-chance.” Guardian – Michael Cox

Watch the 8 Best Goals Scored by Premier League Managers

March 13, 2015

“Sam Allardyce | Bolton Wanderers vs. Ipswich Town. 21 April 1979. Big Sam gets accused of being many things: long ball merchant, unambitious, over indulgent at the buffet. But I can only accuse him of abandoning an excellent mustache. While playing for Bolton Wanderers, Allardyce scored this thunderbolt of a header against Ipswich Town. In the early 2000s, Allardyce’s returned to Bolton as manager and would take them back into the Premier League and the Europa League. Sadly, the mustache did not come with him.” 8 by 8 (Video)

Did the long ball tactic really ruin English football?

March 1, 2015

“In the glorious game of football many things are forgiven—cheating, biting, lying, spitting—but there’s one thing that’s inexcusable. One thing so wretched and sickening it deserves no place in the game we all know and love. That one thing, the cardinal sin, is called the long ball. Next year marks the 50th year of hurt for the weathered and beaten English faithful. 50 years since Geoff Hurst belted the ball against the bar and allegedly across the West German line. 50 years without a trophy and what’s to blame? That despicable long ball.” Outside of the Boot

Boring Winners and Long Ball in England Boring Winners and Long Ball in England

February 25, 2015

Robin van Persie, of Manchester United.
“Earlier this month, Louis van Gaal, the manager of Manchester United, showed up at a press conference armed with an unusual prop: printouts of statistics from his most recent match, a 1—1 draw against West Ham United. West Ham’s coach had accused van Gaal of playing “long ball,” a tactic that involves repeatedly sending long, searching passes forward to opportunistic strikers, hoping for a lucky bounce or knock-down near the goal. Long ball eschews the beauty of intricate passing play and coördinated counter-attacks for trial and error: more often than not, the passes are headed out of play or kicked back down the field by the opposing team, caught by the keeper, or go out of bounds. The approach calls for tall, muscular center-forwards who can overpower defenders to win the ball; the rest of the team hangs back so that they can immediately launch the ball forward after the play and try all over again. While long ball can be very effective, particularly for teams of lesser technical ability, it makes for deadly dull viewing.” New Yorker

Loan Deals, Backup Wingers, and Balance Sheets: Recapping the Premier League’s Drab January Transfer Window

February 3, 2015

“The January transfer window ended not with a bang, but with Aaron Lennon being loaned to Everton. Usually, the first month of the year is good for at least one panic buy from a big team looking to turn its season around — and occasionally, those moves work. It seems almost comical now, but when Mario Balotelli went from Manchester City to AC Milan in January 2013, he put that team on his back, scoring 12 goals down the stretch to propel the Italian giants into the Champions League. More often, though, the moves end up saddling a team with an overpriced, awkwardly fitting piece like Juan Mata at Manchester United. And every once in a while, a January signing will result in a Fernando Torres–size disappointment that, yes, in fact, you can see from outer space.” Grantland

Analysis: Louis van Gaal’s 3-5-2 and Di Maria/Rooney Conundrums

February 1, 2015

“With Louis van Gaal at the helm, the 2nd half of the season was supposed to be when the new and improved Manchester United would show that they have well and truly embraced and mastered the Dutchman’s philisophy. However, a dip in form has seen a few questions raised about the tactics used. Rahul Natarajan explores the conundrums faced by the experienced manager.” Outside of the Boot

Boro Beat City and the Bantams Take the Bridge: How the FA Cup Lost Its Damn Mind

January 26, 2015

“In theory, the FA Cup gives England’s minnows a chance to upset their big Premier League brethren, but that’s so rarely the case. In reality, small teams give their fans a chance to watch their favorite club play host to some of the world’s best players. Or if it’s an away game, the club scores a nice cash infusion with the shared gate money from a big-time team’s big-time stadium. And then they lose and go back to grim Saturdays in the third division. This weekend, though, reality was turned upside down — and Middlesbrough and Bradford City stuffed it into a rocket and kicked it into outer space.” Grantland (Video)

Charlie Austin: Is it time England called on QPR striker?

January 19, 2015

“England manager Roy Hodgson’s focus has been on the defensive arts this week after his contentious nomination of Argentina’s Javier Mascherano for the Ballon d’Or – but he had a striker on his mind at Loftus Road on Saturday. Wayne Rooney may have captured his attention after Hodgson took his seat in the directors’ box to watch Manchester United beat Queens Park Rangers 2-0 but there is little new to learn about the man he made his captain. The object of Hodgson’s attentions was more likely to be QPR’s Charlie Austin, whose 13 Premier League goals in a struggling side leave him third behind 17-goal Diego Costa of Chelsea and Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero, who has 14, in the Premier League scoring charts.” BBC

NBC created Tinder for soccer fans

January 17, 2015

“As you may know, soccer dating is a topic I find particularly funny, and potentially lucrative. Internet dating is as close to mainstream as its ever been, with a variety of options to help you find whatever it is you’re looking for in a prospective soul mate. Why can’t we apply this to soccer? There’s JDate and Christian Mingle for religiously inclined. Black People Meet and Latino People Meet for folks with a ‘type,’  too afraid to luxuriate in the racial deliciousness of our nation. Farmers Only for people who really aren’t down racial deliciousness, but prefer to say so in coded language, and Tinder, for people who want to pretend that the possibility of sex isn’t the only reason they’re leaving the house that night.” Soccer Gods

The story of Blyth Spartans’ epic FA Cup run

January 17, 2015

“Exaggeration seems to be common place in modern day football doesn’t it? For example saying Manchester City are a club in crisis after going two games without a win or calling Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard England greats after consistently failing to make an impact at a major tournament? Actually, throw hypocrisy into that opening line. Can the FA really blame grassroots football for underachievement at the top level when there is a serious lack of real investment in the game at that level? Or can top clubs really bemoan the attendances at FA Cup fixtures when they use the greatest domestic club competition in the world as a reason to play fringe players in their squad?” The Football Pink”>Football Pink

Manchester City doesn’t care who you want to win the title

January 14, 2015

“As recently as a few weeks ago, you could hardly open a newspaper refresh a website without seeing a feature proclaiming Chelsea as champions-in-waiting. There was no shortage of premature comparisons to Arsenal’s Invincibles™ of 2003-2004, casting José Mourinho’s against history instead of the rest of the Premier League. Fast-forward to the start of 2015, and Manchester City have quietly crept up and caught the Blues. Ahead of both teams’ Saturday matches, City and Chelsea are level in ever category. If the season ended today, the two would head for a play-off.” Soccer Gods

How the Bottom Half Lives: Five Tales From the Depths of the Premier League Table

January 9, 2015

“Let us spare a thought for the little guys. These denizens of the bottom half of the Premier League table don’t get much pub. And when they do, it’s always as a foil for one the big boys. Burnley’s back-to-back draws against Manchester City and Newcastle haven’t spawned thousands of words of tactical analysis about their effective, underdog tactics, nor have they resulted in any glowing interviews with Danny Ings or George Boyd and his beautiful hair. No, they’re just the temporarily immovable object against the ultimately unstoppable force. What’s wrong with Manchester City always ends up being more important than what’s right with Burnley. But, well, stuff actually happens at the bottom; it’s a place where some people even carve out a reasonably comfortable existence. So, now that we’re just more than halfway into the season, let’s take a look at how the other half has been living.” Grantland

Plenty of Southampton threats in store for Manchester United on Sunday

January 9, 2015

“The last time Manchester United faced Southampton at Old Trafford, Adnan Januzaj had one of those days. So impressive in a wide playmaking role, the talented Belgian was instrumental in Robin van Persie’s opener, and the hosts should have been two or three ahead at halftime. The match ended 1-1, though, with Southampton slowly winning the arm-wrestle in central midfield and scoring a very late equaliser.” ESPN

Football fans need to stop expecting the unexpected in the FA Cup

January 7, 2015

“The FA Cup third round is frequently considered to be all about giant killing, whereas it’s actually all about the possibility of giants losing. It might be a pedantic distinction, but it explains a great deal about the negativity surrounding the competition in recent years. The ideal FA Cup tie is, inevitably, a nonleague side at home against a high-flying Premier League club. The third-round draw didn’t quite provide that this time around, although Yeovil (bottom of League One) and AFC Wimbledon (League Two) were handed ties against Manchester United and Liverpool, while nonleague Dover faced more modest Premier League opposition, in Crystal Palace.” ESPN – Michael Cox

The myth of the Crazy Gang is an entertaining story, but the truth is even better

January 7, 2015

“The former Manchester United and Aston Villa coach Ron Atkinson had a term for when a player put in a particularly vigorous tackle early in the match – ‘early doors’ as he put it – in order to let his opponent know what awaited him for the remainder of the game: A reducer. Roy Keane was a master of the art this side of the Irish sea, while Graham Kavanagh executed one particularly memorable example on Gilberto Silva in a friendly with Brazil at Lansdowne Road, but the undisputed king of the reducer in the late 80s was Wimbledon’s own Vinnie Jones.” backpagefootball (Video)

Transfer window is a merry go-round that no one can get off

January 4, 2015

“‘People should change their ideas,’ Louis van Gaal warned after Manchester United had kept their sixth clean sheet of the season in drawing at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. United have conceded only five goals in their last nine games and have the fourth best defensive record in the division. ‘It’s not about new players, it’s about organisation.’ No subject has so nettled Van Gaal since his arrival at United as the suggestion that the club’s summer transfer policy left him short of defensive cover and, given how often United have been saved by the excellence of David De Gea this season, it’s hard to believe he really is as satisfied by his defence as he has made out, but the general point was a sound one.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson, Guardian – Transfer window: Premier League club-by-club guide