Mourinho, Benítez and the Pursuit of the Past

January 22, 2022


“In the sudden flood of spare time he had after departing Manchester United, José Mourinho filmed a commercial for a bookmaker. A couple of years and a couple of jobs on, it is still running on British television. It still works, after all. Mourinho is still a household name in Britain. The ad’s central concept holds up. Mourinho’s acting might be just a little hammy — as you might expect — but it is quite deft, too. Looking as tanned and healthy and relaxed as we all did in 2019, he earnestly walks viewers through what it takes to be ‘special.’ The joke is that he should know: He is the Special One, after all. Get it? …”
NY Times


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

January 21, 2022


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


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

January 19, 2022


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


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

January 17, 2022


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


Manchester City, Chelsea and Competing With Perfection

January 16, 2022


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


UEFA Champions League round of 16 classics

January 8, 2022


“Taking in José Mourinho’s touchline charge, La Remontada and plenty more besides, UEFA.com picks out a classic last-16 tie from each of the last 18 seasons. The 2021/22 UEFA Champions League is the 19th edition since the knockout round of 16 replaced the second group stage. UEFA.com picks out a classic tie from each of the past 18 seasons – all headline scores are aggregate. …”
UEFA (Video)


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

January 6, 2022


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


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

December 29, 2021


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


Introducing the no-touch All-Stars

December 28, 2021


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


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

December 27, 2021


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


Tifo video: A guide to 3-4-3

December 26, 2021


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


The Premier League Chose Festive Fixtures Over Safe Fixtures

December 23, 2021


“So, things are a bit of a mess in the Premier League: On Monday, Tottenham were bounced from the Europa Conference League by the governing body itself, UEFA, which awarded a 3-0 win to French side Rennes in the final game of the group phase. The match was supposed to be played on December 9, but a COVID outbreak among Tottenham’s players and coaching staff forced Spurs to postpone—the team’s third such postponement in just over a week. …”
The Ringer


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

December 22, 2021


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


Who are the 10 best players in the Premier League?

December 17, 2021


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


What Do We Mean by Good Soccer?

December 11, 2021



“Jesse Lingard was streaking away, the ball at his feet, on the right wing. Their legs weary and their hopes dwindling, Arsenal’s defenders heaved and hauled to keep up with him, as if they were running into a stiff wind. And on the other side of the field, Cristiano Ronaldo started to sprint. It was a true sprint, too, a track sprint, a coached sprint: starting in a low crouch, his back straightening as he reached full tilt, head held high, arms pumping. The clock had just ticked past 90 minutes, but there seemed to be a magnet drawing Ronaldo to Arsenal’s penalty area, some elemental force. …”
NY Times


The Data Day No 15: Our Rolling Football Blog

December 10, 2021


December 9: Villarreal qualified for this season’s Champions League despite not finishing in the top six of La Liga, the cutoff for traditional Europa League qualification. They did so by beating Manchester United in the Europa League final. And although they couldn’t chase down United to win Group F on Thursday, they did more than they needed to in Bergamo to carry on to the Champions League last 16 despite sitting 13th in La Liga. …”
The Analyst
SI: Champions League Group Ouster Is Barcelona’s New Bottom – Jonathan Wilson


Zenit St Petersburg’s Ozdoev strikes late to deprive Chelsea of top spot

December 9, 2021


“Once again Thomas Tuchel was left to reflect on Chelsea’s inability to take care of the small details. The European champions are not playing with the right attitude at the moment and although they almost got away with it this time it was not a surprise when they ended up relinquishing top spot in Group H to Juventus after this chaotic draw with Zenit St Petersburg. …”
Guardian
Guardian – Champions League roundup: Atalanta v Villarreal snowed off; Juve top Group H
YouTube: Zenit St Petersburg vs. Chelsea: Extended Highlights | Group Stage


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

December 4, 2021


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


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

December 2, 2021


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


Cox: City can beat elite teams without a prolific forward – it’s against the cautious sides it becomes a problem 

November 23, 2021


“Sometimes it feels like every Manchester City game is a test of whether playing without a prolific forward is viable, and the consensus can swing wildly from one match to the next. But City’s upcoming week might demonstrate why. On Wednesday, they face Paris Saint-Germain — a side averaging 62 per cent possession in Ligue 1, and naturally attack-minded by virtue of having multiple superstar forwards. Either side of PSG’s visit, City host Everton and West Ham United, two of the more cautious sides in the Premier League. Everton are averaging just 41 per cent of possession, the fourth-least in the league, and while West Ham are more positive in that respect, only Newcastle United pressure the opposition less frequently in the final third than David Moyes’ side. City’s next three opponents are typical of their managers. …”
The Athletic – Michael Cox


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

November 1, 2021


“… 3) Off-key De Bruyne struggling for form: On 59 minutes there was the rare sight of Kevin De Bruyne being substituted, Manchester City’s talismanic midfielder having been clumsy of touch, short of a yard and generally misfiring. Pep Guardiola is a big fan but he is also ruthless and this was the correct decision. Of the 30-year-old, who has struggled with injuries, he said: ‘Kevin is such an important player for us and an excellent person. He is trying more every single day [to return to top form]. Today he made a step forward in many things. About playing or resting him – this is my decision because I know a lot of information about a player. In seasons there are highs and lows, big moments and the next one [game] is another challenge, another opportunity. Kevin knows it. He has done more than good since he arrived here and wants to continue to do it. The problem is when he gives up trying, says it doesn’t matter. That is not the case with him.’ …”
Guardian (Video)


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

October 31, 2021


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


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

October 30, 2021


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


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

October 28, 2021


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


Which player at your club should be getting more minutes?

October 17, 2021


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


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

October 10, 2021


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


2004–05 Chelsea F.C. season

October 6, 2021


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


Chelsea’s loss at Juve illustrates the challenges Tuchel faces in fighting for titles domestically and abroad

September 30, 2021


Leonardo Bonucci in action for Juventus against Sampdoria.
“Thomas Tuchel probably didn’t need a reminder of the difficulty in competing on two fronts this season, but Manchester City and now Juventus have given him just that in the space of five days. The chaotic circumstances surrounding his arrival at Stamford Bridge in January — replacing fan favourite Frank Lampard and thrust straight into a condensed schedule made more unrelenting by COVID-19’s impact — created a degree of breathing space in the Premier League that helped propel them to Champions League glory. Tuchel was of course under a degree of pressure to secure a top-four spot last term, but he harnessed that rarest of things under owner Roman Abramovich — a sense of freedom arising from lowered expectations — to galvanise this group to an improbable European success. The dynamic is different this time. …”
ESPN
Guardian: Tuchel and Chelsea are failing to capitalise on Lukaku’s specific threat
YouTube: Juventus vs. Chelsea: Extended Highlights, Bayern München vs. Dynamo Kyiv: Extended Highlights, Zenit vs. Malmö: Extended Highlights, Atalanta vs. Young Boys: Extended Highlights, Benfica vs. Barcelona: Extended Highlights, Wolfsburg vs. Sevilla: Extended Highlights


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

September 28, 2021


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


Marcos Alonso and the Genius of Thomas Tuchel

September 25, 2021


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


2021–22 UEFA Champions League

September 22, 2021


“The 2021–22 UEFA Champions League is the 67th season of Europe’s premier club football tournament organised by UEFA, and the 30th season since it was renamed from the European Champion Clubs’ Cup to the UEFA Champions League. The final will be played at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It was originally scheduled to be played at the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany. However, due to the postponement and relocation of the 2020 final, the final hosts were shifted back a year, with Saint Petersburg instead hosting the 2022 final. The winners of the 2021–22 UEFA Champions League will automatically qualify for the 2022–23 UEFA Champions League group stage, and also earn the right to play against the winners of the 2021–22 UEFA Europa League in the 2022 UEFA Super Cup. …”
W – 2021–22 UEFA Champions League, W – 2021–22 UEFA Champions League group stage
Guardian – Champions League 2021-22 draw: group stage analysis and predictions


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

September 13, 2021


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


2021-22 UEFA Champions League Group Stage

September 11, 2021


The map is a standard location-map showing the locations of the 32 qualified teams in the 2021-22 UEFA Champions League Group Stage. There are several other aspects to the map page… 1). Groups A through H… At the very top of the map are the eight 4-team groups of the Group Stage, arranged with with each club’s home-country flag shown alongside. 2). Allocations vs. Qualified teams, by country… At the left side of the map page, Allocations (by member-nations) are shown, via a list of the top 41 UEFA Member-Associations in their current [2021-22] Country Co-efficient ranking. I stopped at 41 (out of the 55 total UEFA member-nations) because #41 is the current ranking of Moldova, and Sheriff Tiraspol of Moldova was the club from the lowest-ranked country to qualify for this season’s tournament. This is the first time a club from Moldova has qualified for the elite competition that is the Champions League. But it is not really any sort of fairy-tale story of a David making it into the realm of the Goliaths. …”
billsportsmaps


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

September 11, 2021


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


Which Premier League team has the best goalkeeper?

September 10, 2021


“Which side has the best attack in the Premier League right now? What about the best midfield, defence, and goalkeeper? When you split the team up into its parts, it’s not such an easy question to answer. But, here at The Athletic, we have tried. Starting with the midfield, our writers nominated the sides they feel have the best set of players in that area. Now we’re on to the goalkeepers. There will be follow-up articles on the other two team sections later in the week. Don’t agree? Come and let us know in the comments and vote for the Premier League’s best goalkeeper in the poll at the end of the article…”
The Athletic
The Athletic: Which Premier League team has the best defence?


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

September 8, 2021


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


Fans don’t want legacy clubs dominating or state-funded clubs, so can football ever be happy?

September 4, 2021


“OK, so let me get this straight. We don’t want blue-blood clubs, like Liverpool and Manchester United, dominating for decades at a time and we are deeply suspicious of how enthusiastically these aristocrats embraced financial fair play (aka, Operation Drawbridge). When it comes to winners, we want to spread it around a bit — we like disruption. But we do not want these new challengers to be funded by oligarchs or sovereign wealth funds — unless it is our club, then it is completely fine — and we are not too keen on American investors coming over here and expecting to make some money. Is that right? If it is, many of you are going to be disappointed. But you will not be the only ones. …”
The Athletic


Chelsea Proves a Point While Collecting One at Liverpool

August 29, 2021



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


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

August 21, 2021


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


Should the Premier League have a salary cap?

August 13, 2021


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


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

August 12, 2021


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


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

August 8, 2021


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


Paying the Price for Premier League Riches

August 7, 2021


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


The Athletic’s football analytics glossary: explaining xG, PPDA, field tilt and how to use them

July 30, 2021


“Our use of data and statistics has been ever-growing within the articles that we write at The Athletic, drawing upon different metrics to highlight strengths, weaknesses, or patterns observed in a certain team or player. Some of these analytics metrics will be very familiar to you by now, while others might need a little bit more explanation. Much like the NFL analytics glossary from The Athletic, this is our attempt at explaining some of the most common football metrics and how to use them. So let’s dive in… ”
The Athletic


Chelsea Tactical Analysis: Thomas Tuchel vs Previous Managers

July 25, 2021


“Thomas Tuchel’s entry into the Premier League as Frank Lampard’s replacement is seen with a lot of hope by the Chelsea faithful. Tuchel is a coach who has proven himself at the highest level and has managed the very best in the business over his last four stints. The German manager is an out-and-out football coach and he works quite intricately with the teams he has managed and the personnel he has worked with. … Antonio Conte would deploy a three-man defense with two wide centre-backs. The wing-backs would shuttle up and down the flanks. They’d join in attack and that’s why Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses were a hit under the Italian’s tutelage. Now, Tuchel has taken a bit of both worlds and fused them together into a system that has worked like a charm so far. …”
sportskeeda (Feb 2021)
YouTube: The Difference Between Tuchel & Conte’s 3-4-3 | Tuchel’s Tactics vs Conte’s Tactics (July 2021)
W – Thomas Tuchel, W – Antonio Conte
Thomas Tuchel – Chelsea – Tactical Analysis (March 2021)
Kante’s renaissance: How Tuchel restored him to role he starred in under Ranieri and Conte (May 2021)


The Super League Thought It Had a Silent Partner: FIFA

May 22, 2021


“Tucked away in the pages and pages of financial and legal jargon that constitute the founding contract of the Super League, the failed project that last month briefly threatened the century-old structures and economics of European soccer, were references to one ‘essential’ requirement. The condition was deemed so important that organizers agreed that the breakaway plan could not succeed without satisfying it and yet was so secret that it was given a code name even in contracts shared among the founders. Those documents, copies of which were reviewed by The New York Times, refer to the need for the Super League founders to strike an agreement with an entity obliquely labeled W01 but easily identifiable as FIFA, soccer’s global governing body. …” NY Times


Money, Power, and Respect at the Champions League Final

May 10, 2021


“The grand spectacle is almost upon us. Real Madrid, the great but ancient empire of European soccer, have been swept aside for now; Paris Saint-Germain, the fast-rising upstart, have faltered in their ascent. As Chelsea and Manchester City, their respective conquerors, prepare to contest the third men’s UEFA Champions League final between two English teams, there is a sense that they are announcing another next great rivalry. … Now, Foden has been coached by Pep Guardiola for only a few seasons. Yet he is such an accurate embodiment of the Spaniard’s footballing philosophy—tactically versatile, endlessly fluid in his movement—that he seems to have been working with him since he was able to walk. … Both should be leading figures for their club for several seasons to come. …” The Ringer (Audio)


How the Super League Fell Apart

April 22, 2021


“For 48 hours, soccer stood on the brink. Fans took to the streets. Players broke into open revolt. Chaos stalked the game’s corridors of power, unleashing a shock wave that resonated around the world, from Manchester to Manila, Barcelona to Beijing, and Liverpool to Los Angeles. That internationalism is what has turned European soccer, over the last 30 years, into a global obsession. The elite teams of western Europe are stocked with stars drawn from Africa, South America and all points in between. They draw fans not just from England, Italy and Spain, but China, India and Australia in numbers large enough to tempt broadcasters across the planet to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for the rights to show their games. …”
NY Times
W – The Super League
CBS – European Super League collapse explained: What’s next? Real Madrid, Barcelona quiet; Premier League clubs out (Audio)
BBC – European Super League: All six Premier League teams withdraw from competition (Video)
YouTube: All six English clubs confirm plans to exit European Super League


Capitalist Greed Created the European Super League

April 21, 2021


Roberto Firmino of Liverpool shoots while under pressure from Éder Militão of Real Madrid during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second-leg match on April 14, 2021 in Liverpool, England.
“Yesterday, once again, the prospect of a breakaway European Super League (ESL) reared its head. The proposal — to carve out a continental competition in which fifteen of the game’s elite clubs could never be relegated — was met with widespread dismay by those who love the game. Despite a year that has shown just how vital fans are for the ‘spectacle’ of football, it was the match-going fans that once again were of least concern. Instead, if the plans go ahead, the future of football will be shaped by television and advertising — an entertainment industry that the top clubs estimate will deliver them £300 million per year, far outstripping their current domestic and Champions League revenues. It’s important to point out that the Super League isn’t an anomaly. …” Jacobin, European Super League explained: the contracts, plots and threats that shook football to its core, Guardian: The greed of the European Super League has been decades in the making, Guardian – ‘It’s war’: what the papers say about the European Super League, NY Times: Super League Appears to Collapse as City Walks Away


Europe Plunders Paris for Talent, and P.S.G. Pays the Price

April 7, 2021



“Paris St.-Germain could not, in the end, have sped Tanguy Nianzou along much quicker than it did. He was captain of the club’s under-19 side when he was only 16. He was called up to the first team at 17, training alongside Neymar and Kylian Mbappé and the rest, and soon made his debut. He even started a game in the Champions League. And still, despite all those opportunities, he left. Nianzou had just turned 18 when, on July 1 last year, he was presented as a Bayern Munich player. P.S.G. did not even have the solace of being able to pocket a premium fee for a player it had nurtured. Nianzou’s contract was expiring. He walked out of his hometown club for nothing. …” NY Times


Eddie Howe: Tactics, Chelsea 0-3 Bournemouth

April 5, 2021


“In January 2018 Bournemouth beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, a result their manager Eddie Howe described as their ‘best result’ since their promotion to the Premier League. They remained level at half-time, despite Bournemouth demonstrating signs of promise during the first half, and then took the lead when Callum Wilson scored six minutes into the second half. Junior Stanislas then doubled their lead, before former Chelsea defender Nathan Aké scored their third, securing all three points. A year later, incidentally, Howe oversaw a 4-0 home victory over the same opponents, on that occasion managed by Maurizio Sarri. Most recently – in December 2019 – they won again at Stamford Bridge, this time when Frank Lampard was Chelsea’s manager.”  The Coaches’ Voice (Video), BBC – Jan 2018 (Video)


Sometimes the Numbers Lie

February 20, 2021


“This is the story of a struggling striker. He has scored only twice since November: once in a cakewalk of a cup game against an overmatched opponent, and once from the sort of position in which he really could not miss, the ball falling to him a couple of yards out, a goal by accident rather than design. The latter was a welcome fillip — sometimes that is what you need, after all, that jolt of luck — but it did little to gloss over the striker’s troubles. Five goals in 23 league games since joining his new club remains a paltry return. His confidence seems to be shot, as if he has hit ‘rock bottom,’ as one pundit observed. …” NY Times


Soccer Isn’t Blameless in Its Culture of Abuse

February 15, 2021


“This time, it was Yan Dhanda. A few days ago, it was Axel Tuanzebe and Anthony Martial. Before that, it had been Alex Jankewitz and Romaine Sawyers. It happened to Lauren James, and to her brother, Reece, too. So pernicious, so constant is soccer’s problem with racist abuse that it is, at times, hard to keep up. Almost all of these cases echo what Dhanda experienced on Wednesday night: The names and the details can be changed, but the themes are the same. That evening, the 22-year-old Dhanda played for his team, Swansea City, in an F.A. Cup match against Manchester City. Swansea lost, 3-1. After the game, Dhanda checked his Instagram account. And there, waiting for him, was a racist, abusive private message. …” NY Times (Video)


Premier League 2019-20: How did your team – and our chief football writer – get on this season?

July 27, 2020


“Every August, I have the thankless task of predicting how the final Premier League table will look come May. This season, of course, how things stood in May mattered little, with the campaign not coming to an end until July because of coronavirus. This 11-month season has brought drama, relief for champions Liverpool and misery for those at the bottom. It has also thrown up plenty of surprises. Here, I assess every team’s 2019-20 campaign – and also look back at whether I was anywhere near being right with my pre-season predictions. …”
BBC (Video)


Premier League emerges from lockdown changed but bringing hope

June 18, 2020

“Most people can pinpoint the moment when it became real, the hot flush of panic when it dawned that coronavirus was not some far-off threat but rather one heading to our doorsteps, quickly, inexorably, hellbent on destruction. For English football, it came during the week that began with Leicester’s 4-0 Premier League drubbing of Aston Villa on Monday 9 March and moved through Liverpool’s Champions League elimination at the hands of Atlético Madrid on the Wednesday. What an uncomfortable night that was at Anfield, thousands of diehards wanting to be there but, in their hearts, wondering why they had been allowed. Was it really safe? …”
Guardian


Premier League returns: The 2019-20 season so far in eight graphics

June 15, 2020

“After a 100-day absence because of the coronavirus pandemic, England’s top flight will return to action on Wednesday. But where did we leave off and what are the challenges facing sides at both the top and bottom over the next nine games? BBC Sport helps you get up to speed with a picture of the Premier League in eight graphics. …”
BBC


When Andriy Shevchenko’s move to Chelsea failed under Jose Mourinho

April 20, 2020


“To many Andriy Shevchenko was one of the best strikers in the first decade of the 21st century. His career spanned a host of big clubs, where he scored a lot of goals for them. While he’s now the manager of the Ukrainian national team and qualified them for the Euros, he isn’t quite renowned as a manager yet. His playing days might be well behind him, but he is still well-remembered for that. His best spell came before he came into the bigger spotlight. Dynamo Kiev was the place where he first broke onto the scene. Having initially played for the Reserves side, his goalscoring exploits saw him rise through the ranks and later earn a big move to Milan in the summer of 1999. …”
Football Pink


For David Luiz and Chelsea, Everything’s Perfect. Until Suddenly It’s Not.

September 30, 2018

“Muttering under his breath, shaking his head in regret, David Luiz was the last player to disappear from the field. He had taken his time after the final whistle. As Liverpool’s players went over to celebrate with their fans, and as his Chelsea teammates trudged disconsolately toward the tunnel, Luiz lingered. He stripped off his jersey. He bestowed a few handshakes on eager young fans reaching their arms out for him to brush.” NY Times


2018-19 Premier League (1st division England, including Wales)

August 18, 2018

“Table, fixtures, results, attendance, stats …” billsportsmaps


Maurizio Sarri: Chelsea’s Tuscan Son

August 12, 2018

“STIA, Italy — The road from Faella, down in the Arno valley, winds up and up into the hills, beyond the vineyards, with their military precision, beyond the tangled olive groves and into the woods, thick and dark and untamed. At Consuma, the highest point of the pass, the view stretches all the way west to Chianti; Arezzo lies south, Florence north. Consuma is not where the journey ends. It takes an hour, and countless tight hairpins shaded by slender cypresses, before the road descends into the village of Stia, its terra-cotta roofs nestled in an ocean of green, a little Tuscan idyll nestled in the valley. The soccer field, overlooking the river and screened by a chain-link fence, is the first thing you see as you arrive. Most days, for more than a year, Maurizio Sarri made the trip twice.” NY Times