Playing for Louis van Gaal: What USMNT can expect from a unique Netherlands coach

“You don’t get away with much under Louis van Gaal. Not even if you’re literally the best player in the world. In 1999, during Van Gaal’s first spell as Barcelona coach, Rivaldo had just won the Ballon d’Or, partly down to his performances in Catalonia, and partly down to his performances just behind Ronaldo in the Brazil side that reached the World Cup final. Thus, Rivaldo thought he could throw his weight around a bit: he made an oblique reference to being ‘abused’ after collecting the Ballon d’Or and demanded that he play as a No 10 for his club, rather than on the left of a front three as Van Gaal’s system dictated. …”
The Athletic

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La Liga packs up for World Cup and some need a break more than others

“‘I’ll be watching it of course, at home, because I like football,’ Carlo Ancelotti said. ‘My teams will be the teams where my players play: Brazil, Spain, France, Uruguay, Croatia, Germany, lots of teams. I’ll follow the World Cup as a fan, and may the best team win it. Unfortunately, Italy can’t.’ There was a smile, a goodbye and with that he was gone. They all were. Just before midnight on a Thursday in early November and the Real Madrid coach was the last man to leave. La Liga was finished, everyone out of here for 50 days. Mentally, some had gone already. …”
Guardian

European roundup: Filip Kostic inspires Juventus in defeat of Internazionale

“Filip Kostic set up both goals as Juventus beat Internazionale in Serie A on Sunday in a challenging game where both teams had chances to win. Kostic took advantage of a cleared Inter corner and raced into the box, where Adrien Rabiot guided the assist elegantly into the bottom corner in the 52nd minute. Kostic then fed an unmarked Nicolo Fagioli six minutes before full time for the second goal. Juventus are fifth on 25 points, 10 behind leaders Napoli. Inter are seventh on 24 points. …”
Guardian

Barcelona vs Almería, La Liga: Final Score 2-0


Gerard Piqué
“Barcelona will be top of the La Liga table for the next two days thanks to a comfortable 2-0 win against Almería at the Greatest Stadium on Earth on Saturday night. Barça played very good football and dominated a helpless Almería side, and the night was extra special as Gerard Piqué started and captained the side for the last time at Camp Nou and was part of the winning team on his farewell. …”
Barca Blaugranes (Audio)

Barça go knocking on wrong doors after clásico defeat that was too easy

When at last it was all over, Joan Laporta stood up, shook hands with Florentino Pérez and slipped out. For the second time in five days Barcelona’s president had sat front row centre watching things fall apart. He had listened to the Real Madrid supporters he had been so looking forward to seeing again launch into olés, laugh their way through ironic pleas for his coach to stay and invite him to enjoy Thursday nights in the Europa League, and now it was time to leave. He went down the stairs, past the statue of Sotero Aranguren and Alberto Machimbarrena cast in bronze and to the referee’s dressing room. There, according to José María Sánchez Martínez’s report, he ‘repeatedly asked for an explanation’. He had come to the wrong place. …”
Guardian

Barcelona’s financial mess: Champions League exit, more levers, Coutinho debt


“Around Camp Nou, it was mostly an eerie silence on the final whistle of Barcelona’s 3-3 draw with Inter Milan, as it dawned on the home fans that their club are now almost certainly eliminated from the 2022-23 Champions League already, with two group games still to play. As Inter’s players, coaches and fans celebrated in their small pockets, most of the 92,302 crowd were stunned and exhausted — as were the Barcelona team, their coach Xavi Hernandez and the club’s president Joan Laporta. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Williams brothers enjoy stirring send-off at Athletic after international calls

“On Sunday evening Iñaki Williams boarded a plane north to Paris. About the time he set off from there to Le Havre on Monday, Nico Williams was heading in the other direction, south to Barajas and on to Las Rozas, 25km outside Madrid. On Saturday, a night none of them would ever forget – a delirious, joyous celebration of everything they are – they had embraced; then, for the first time, Bilbao’s brothers went separate ways. …”
Guardian

Analysing Bayern Munich 2 Barcelona 0: Xavi’s Alonso gamble, misfiring Lewandowski and ruthless Sane


“A ruthless 10-minute spell immediately after half-time helped Bayern Munich beat Barcelona at the Allianz Arena, with goals from Lucas Hernandez and Leroy Sane sealing three points for Julian Nagelsmann’s side. Barcelona dominated the first half but Robert Lewandowski failed to make Bayern pay on his return to Munich. Whatever the Bayern head coach Nagelsmann said at the break did the trick — by the 54th minute they were two goals ahead, first a header by Hernandez and then a neat finish from Sane. …”
The Athletic

European roundup: Bayern held by Stuttgart, Napoli and Milan grab wins

“Bayern Munich conceded a stoppage-time equaliser scored by the VfB Stuttgart striker Serhou Guirassy from the penalty spot, as the champions endured a third consecutive Bundesliga draw. The game started well for Bayern, with Mathys Tel scoring their opener in the 36th minute. The France youth international Tel, who at the age of 17 years and 136 days became the youngest player to start a league game for Bayern, had already scored in the German Cup first round. He scored his first league goal by drilling in a low drive from an Alphonso Davies cutback. …”
Guardian

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

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

Impressive stat highlights Ter Stegen’s strong start to the season for Barcelona

“Marc-Andre ter Stegen has enjoyed a strong start to the season with Barcelona after deciding to take the summer off and enjoy a rest. The goalkeeper has conceded just one goal in four games so far and has pulled off a host of saves along the way for the Catalan giants. Opta highlight how he’s actually saved all but one of the shots on target he’s faced so far this season in La Liga. …”
Barca Blaugranes (Audio)
W – Marc-Andre ter Stegen

Can Barcelona and Manchester United Right Their Financial Ships?

“The Old Testament is full of cautionary tales about profligacy, and one of the most famous involves Esau and Jacob. Esau, after working all day in the field, comes home to find his younger brother in the kitchen making soup. Jacob offers to share his soup in exchange for Esau’s part of the family inheritance, a bargain that the hungry Esau accepts. Thousands of years later and thousands of miles away, a new pot of soup is on the stove. FC Barcelona defined European soccer for about a decade earlier this century. …”
Reporter Wings

What the Champions League Is Lacking


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

Rating the best and worst of Europe’s 2022-23 kits: From stunners to zany stripes

“We’ve rated the Premier League home kits. We’ve rated the Premier League away kits. So now it’s time to go Euro. It’s a big ask to review the design choices of an entire continent, but The Athletic has broad shoulders and is very happy to take on the job. Someone has to — you may think that this is not something that is absolutely vital for the smooth continuation of public discourse, but unfortunately, we’ve checked, and actually, it is. …”
The Athletic (Video)

The Luis Suarez 8

“In 2013/14 Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers created a team that would come close to winning the Premier League. Luis Suarez was their star. When he was sold for over €80million to Barcelona Liverpool had a rebuilding job. Who did they sign? How did they do? Where are they now? Written by Seb Stafford-Bloor, illustrated by Philippe Fenner.”
YouTube

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


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

Investigation: Barcelona’s financial crisis and what the rest of football thinks of it


“As the football industry shuddered from the reverberations of the COVID-19 pandemic, the bright minds in the Barcelona boardroom concocted a plan. With the club beset by financial angst, one of their executives approached UEFA, the organiser of the Champions League, with a proposal. Barcelona required loans to ease the pain caused by years of poor decision-making in the transfer market and extravagance on player salaries, all of which was exacerbated by a pandemic that shattered commercial and matchday income.  The idea, therefore, was to apply for a loan from a bank and use anticipated future broadcast revenues from playing in the Champions League as the security for the loan. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Kounde: ‘I waited for Barça as that is where I want to be’

“Jules Kounde is now officially a Barça player and the Frenchman was presented to the world on Monday at an event which took place at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper. The new blaugrana defender was accompanied by president Joan Laporta and the director of football, Mateu Alemany as Kounde donned the Barça shirt for the first time in public. …”
FC Barcelona

25 Years On: Ronaldo’s Inter Debut After His Painful Barcelona Break-Up

“Ronaldo and his agent looked across at each other, gave a nod of the head and shook hands with Barcelona president Josep Nunez and vice-president Joan Gaspart. The Brazilian’s new contract would keep him at Camp Nou into the new millennium, and the paperwork was being printed out ready to sign within minutes. It was 3pm in the afternoon on a sunny summer’s day in 1997. The two parties agreed that now would be a good time to nip out, have a bite to eat and a glass of cava to celebrate the new agreement, before returning to put pen to paper and wrap up the day’s business. …”
The Sportsman

Barcelona’s incompetence should be celebrated in an age of gross inequality


“The winner of the 2022 Football Book of the Year award is Barca by Simon Kuper, which was originally intended to be about how Barcelona became the world’s most revered football club. During Kuper’s research, however, the situation changed. Barcelona were no longer the world’s most revered club. Rather, they were being roundly mocked for their haplessness at board level. The book was published just before the departure of Lionel Messi on a free transfer to Paris Saint-Germain last summer, which occurred because the club were in such a ridiculous state they weren’t able to register him as a player, despite them wanting to keep Messi and Messi wanting to stay. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Three Tales From the Transfer Market

“Let’s try something different in this week’s newsletter: A journey through modern soccer in three (vaguely related) stories. … 2. Lessons Do Not Get Learned. … Nobody watched Manchester United flailing in the Premier League and said: Yes, the issue here is the in-form left back. Nonetheless, the first signing of Manager Erik ten Hag’s tenure at Old Trafford was a left-back: Tyrell Malacia, to be exact, drafted in from the Dutch club Feyenoord. He will soon be joined, it seems, by Lisandro Martínez, an Argentine defender, and Christian Eriksen, a Danish midfielder, and Frenkie de Jong, currently with Barcelona, and possibly even the Brazilian forward Antony. …”
NY Times

Why Barcelona’s ground is called ‘Camp Nou’ not ‘Nou Camp’


“Less than three weeks working for The Athletic have been enough for me to raise an existential doubt that has nagged me since the day I set foot on English soil. ‘Why is Barcelona’s stadium widely regarded as the ‘Nou Camp’ in England?’ It sounded really wrong in my head. The Athletic editors listened to my enquiry and actually gave some thought to that. Barcelona’s home has been popularly referred to Camp Nou since it opened on September 24, 1957. However, there was a long path to that becoming its official name. …”
The Athletic (Video)

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


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

Gavi’s contract impasse at Barcelona and the problem of too much football


“… Luis Enrique was speaking after Barcelona midfielder Pablo Martin Paez Gavira’s outstanding performance in last Thursday’s 1-1 UEFA Nations League draw with Portugal. Of course, you will know him as Gavi and the still just 17-year-old had been the game’s outstanding figure, showing tremendous personality and game intelligence to overshadow experienced Portuguese midfielders like Joao Moutinho and Bruno Fernandes. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Why Pedri might not ever win the Ballon d’Or?


Pedri is one of the most exciting young players in world football. He plays for a giant of a club in Barcelona, and already there’s little he can’t do on the pitch. So surely, one day, he’ll be in the reckoning for the Ballon d’Or award. But is it that easy? Seb Stafford-Bloor looks at the previous winners to find out. Illustrated by Philippe Fenner.
YouTube
W – Pedri

The art of the third-man run (feat. Son, Smith Rowe and De Bruyne)


“Xavi knows a thing or two about passing and movement patterns, and about how to navigate a way through the opposition press. … The third man is a relatively simple but fascinating concept to explore in terms of freeing up a player to receive possession in between the lines, or in some cases to break through on goal, after two team-mates exchange passes. Essentially, how player A passes to player B, who is marked and unable to receive the ball from him directly, via player C. Picture a defender playing the ball into the striker, who lays it off for a midfielder. …”
The Athletic

How Messi Became “The Flea”


“La pulga. La pulga atomica. Lionel Messi the atomic flea. The agility, the movement, the elusiveness. When Lionel Messi was growing up he was tiny. But with the ball at his feet he buzzed and zipped around the pitch. Back in Argentina they nicknamed him the flea, but by the time he was in Barcelona he had become the atomic flea. Seb Stafford-Bloor remembers Messi, Henry Cooke illustrates.”
YouTube

Inside the first 12 months of Laporta’s Barcelona presidency


“Amid the celebrations of Barcelona’s 4-0 Clasico victory at Real Madrid last Sunday, the club’s most powerful and influential figures came down to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu pitch to pose for a photo to mark the occasion. While club president Joan Laporta raised four fingers proudly, vice-president Rafael Yuste clenched a fist. Coach Xavi, his brother and assistant Oscar Hernandez and Sergio Alegre, another of the backroom staff, were grinning widely. Sporting director Mateu Alemany and international department director Jordi Cruyff were beaming too. …”
The Athletic

How Xavi’s new-style 4-3-3 is helping Barcelona rebuild


“… To some fans it sounded ridiculous to praise players for losing to their arch nemeses, especially given how little results had improved since Laporta fired Ronald Koeman as manager and brought in Pep Guardiola’s supposed heir-apparent in Xavi. But in the 12 games since — the last 11 of them undefeated — Laporta has been proven right. If you had to pick a single turning point in Barcelona’s season, the moment some hidden switch flipped from post-Lionel Messi malaise to the start of an exciting new project, that January Clasico was it. …”
The Athletic

Real Madrid vs Barcelona: Aubameyang score twice for El Clasico to give Barcelon 4-0 win over Real Madrid


“Barcelona boss Xavi will not rule out a remarkable late push for the La Liga title after his side’s thrashing of runaway leaders Real Madrid in a statement win at the Bernabeu. Real, who had won the previous five Clasicos, are nine points clear of Sevilla with nine matches to go, with third-placed Barcelona a further three behind with a game in hand. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice on his Clasico debut and set up Ferran Torres. Aubameyang and Ronald Araujo headed in crosses from Ousmane Dembele before the break and Aubayemang then flicked the ball into the path of Torres for their third. …”
BBC
Guardian: Aubameyang leads way for Barcelona with two goals in Real Madrid thrashing

Being Oneself: Marcelino and Athletic Bilbao


“For fans across the world, football has long been a game through which they can seek a subconscious identity. Through what their clubs represent and what they stand for, fans look to find themselves somewhere there, and through appropriation, it becomes an extension of themselves. With that in mind, the potential success of a club like Athletic Bilbao will send a lasting message across the globe—largely because of its distinct social identity in Spain. …”
Football Paradise
Football Paradise: When Barca bowed to Athletic Bilbao – Giant-killing legacy of Fred Pentland (March 2018)
W – Athletic Bilbao

On this day but in 1930, Athletic Club achieved our Cup number 11. On June 1, 1930, the lions met Real Madrid CF in the final played at Montjuic (Barcelona) and won 3-2.

Tactical Analysis: Napoli vs. Barcelona (Second Leg)


“Thursday night’s tie between Napoli and Barcelona saw the latter put on an absolute clinic in attack. It was a performance that pressed the rewind button, reminiscent of the philosophy which made Barcelona one of the most dominant teams of the 2000s. What were the dynamics behind this? Early in the game, Napoli implemented a 4-3-3 press in order to match/outnumber Barcelona in build-up. Here, Barcelona responded by matching Napoli’s 1st line of defense using a make-shift back 3. Using a back 3 allowed 1 fullback to advance creating a wide overload as such. …”
Breaking the Lines

New Year, New Me: The Biggest Changes in Stats Perform’s Power Rankings


“The return of European knockout football has us once again watching teams from across the continent go up against one another. But tournament football, clearly, doesn’t see every team play each other, and the beauty of it is that the best team doesn’t always win. And that’s absolutely fine. But what if there was a global league system, rather than one-off knockout ties, that could help us gauge the comparative strength of teams across the world? Well, that’s exactly what Stats Perform’s Power Rankings seek to do. …”
The Analyst

Cold-blooded Barcelona subdues Atletico with Tiki-Taka brilliance: Data and Tactical Analysis


“Barcelona dismantled Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid at Camp Nou by becoming the first team to score four goals past them, since December 2012. This was Atletico’s one of the worst defensive performances in the Diego Simeone era. Colchoneros took an early lead in the 8th minute through Yannick Carrasco but it lasted just three minutes. The breath-taking equalizer by Jordi Alba assisted the Catalans to maintain the impetus in the first half and score another two goals, in the remaining half. …”
News 9 Live
YouTube:Tactical Analysis : Barcelona 4-2 Atletico Madrid | Xavi And Simeone’s Tactical Battle

Ajax, Barca, Bayern among Europe’s great treble winners


“The Bavarians’ success was remarkable given they changed their coach earlier in the campaign, appointing Hans-Dieter Flick as head coach. Flick had been the number two at Bayern and had filled similar roles with RB Salzburg and the German national team. Prior to that, he was coach of Hoffenheim in the regional league. While Flick inherited a team, he rekindled the fire at Bayern and won three major prizes. Bayern Munich joined eight previous winners of the ‘treble’. …”
Game of the People

Aubameyang, Xavi and Barcelona: Is this going to work?


“Xavi used to be an idealist. Two years ago, from the comfortable remove of Doha, he pontificated on what sort of forward suited Barcelona and who, in particular, did not: Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. ‘Aubameyang will kill you in open space,’ Xavi told the press. ‘But Barcelona need players who know how to move in small spaces. It’s not easy to think of players who have adapted well to Barca. Samuel Eto’o was perfect, as is Luis Suarez right now.’ Ah, well, nevertheless. …”
The Athletic

The Aston Villa Revolution Will Be Televised


“You’ll be shocked to learn that a lot of soccer coverage, maybe even most, is results-driven. For instance, we were exactly 22 minutes away from another dispatch on the fragile Manchester United restoration project; Ralf Rangnick’s vulnerable, developing creation meekly pressing its head out of an awkward cocoon stage against lower-table opposition. They were winning 2-0 at Villa Park, and the second Bruno Fernandes goal, thumped in off the crossbar, felt like something wriggling free. But United still lack the ability of other big clubs to put the game out of sight, and Aston Villa are surprisingly resilient. …”
The Ringer (Video)

Milan draw with Juventus as De Jong scores late winner for Barcelona


Frenkie de Jong
“La Liga leaders Real Madrid fought back from two goals down at home to rescue a 2-2 draw against lowly Elche thanks to a last-gasp Éder Militão goal in stoppage time. Real wasted a golden opportunity to widen the gap at the top of the table after second-placed Sevilla stumbled at home with a draw against Celta Vigo on Saturday. …”
Guardian

Football and cryptocurrency sponsorship: is the free-for-all over?


“Up until now, football’s relationship with cryptocurrency sponsorship has felt like a complete and utter free-for-all, with no rules whatsoever. Slowly but surely that is starting to change. This week the UK government announced plans to crackdown on misleading ads for cryptocurrency companies, which would treat them like ads for other financial products, a move that could have far-reaching implications in the world of football which is increasingly dependent on the booming sector. Meanwhile Spain is leading a similar charge in the EU. …”
The Athletic

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


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

Spain: 2021-22 La Liga – Location-map, with Seasons-in-1st-Division for the current 20 clubs & Spanish titles list.


“The map shows the twenty clubs in the current season of the Spanish La Liga [2021-22]. The map features the locations and crests of the 20 current La Liga clubs. Plus, the recently-promoted and -relegated teams are noted. (Promoted in 2021: Espanyol, Mallorca, Rayo Vallecano; relegated in 2021: Eibar, Valladolid, Huesca). …”
billsportsmaps
Guardian: Sid Lowe

Coutinho’s downward spiral: how it went wrong for Barcelona’s record signing


“‘All Barcelona fans, all around the world, are very excited about getting to know Coutinho,’ said Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu, as the Catalan club’s new record signing was presented at the Nou Camp in early January 2018. … That welcome has not aged well. Flush with the money from selling Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain for a world-record €222 million the previous summer, Barcelona could have targeted any player they wanted. They fixed their gaze on Coutinho, and would not let go until Liverpool had haggled the fee up to €120 million, plus another €40 million in add-ons. For all that money, Barcelona have so far got 106 games, 25 goals, and 14 assists. … But the move has actually been a disaster, for the club and the player. …”
The Athletic

Valverde’s extra-time strike sends Real Madrid into Spanish Super Cup final


“By the time this was over, it was way after midnight in Riyadh, they were barely able to walk any more let alone run, and they were 6,500km from home but Real Madrid had made it. The last ball had been caught by Thibaut Courtois and he lay on the turf, clutching their place in the final of the Spanish Super Cup, Fede Valverde’s extra-time goal having settled a match that ultimately had the winner everyone expected but did not play out as anticipated. A fun night could have gone either way, from 1-0 to 1-1, 2-1 to 2-2 and ultimately 3-2. …”
Guardian
El Clasico score: Real Madrid edge Barcelona in extra time with Fede Valverde’s goal to reach Supercopa final

UEFA Champions League round of 16 classics


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

Sensible Transfers: Barcelona


“In this Sensible Transfers series, In this series, we will analyse teams, identify problem areas, and suggest solutions in the form of incoming players. Barcelona are still riddled with huge debt, and whilst they want to look dominant in the transfer market, the reality is they need to be selective with who they bring in. Xavi has returned as manager and promised a return to a ‘Barcelona-style’. So which players would fit into a ‘Barcelona-style’? Alex Stewart suggests solutions for an attacker and a left-back. Illustrated by Henry Cooke.”
YouTube

Getafe roll over Real Madrid in great escape bid inspired by Crystal Palace


“Giovanni Trapattoni carried a bottle of holy water with him, blessed by the sister who actually was his sister. In 2009 the Espanyol manager Mauricio Pochettino hiked to Montserrat to visit the black virgin, enlisting her help in avoiding relegation, salvation delivered soon after. And Raúl Madero, the Argentinian national team doctor, twice visited the wailing wall. The first time, before the 1986 World Cup, he asked for them to be champions; when he went back four years later, he thought that would be pushing it, so requested runners-up. True story, and when it comes to football you’ll try anything. Sometimes it even works. …”
Guardian

Overperforming Real Madrid? Underperforming Barca? Analysing how La Liga season could unfold


“There are many ways to win in football — but scoring more goals than you really should have, while conceding fewer than would have been expected, is a pretty good mix. Real Madrid have definitely been outperforming their numbers over the first half of this La Liga season, both in attack and defence. These are two big reasons why Carlo Ancelotti’s team have been able to open up what already looks a potentially decisive lead over their challengers — eight points over second-placed Sevilla, an astonishing 17 to champions Atletico Madrid in fifth, and 18 to Barcelona in seventh (albeit with Real Madrid having played a game more). …”
The Athletic (Video)

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


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

The Barcelona Inheritance – Jonathan Wilson


“… His new book is The Barcelona Inheritance: The Evolution of Winning Soccer Tactics from Cruyff to Guardiola. Wilson takes his tactical knowledge and applies it to a specific coaching tree, albeit one that is quite famous. Johan Cruyff has traditionally been attributed with creating the modern Barcelona style of play. Even today, with every new manager, the questions are asked whether the new man can keep Barcelona playing the same tika taka style while churning out the next great generation of soccer talent every year. Wilson explores Cruff’s legacy through the men who succeeded him at Barcelona and in the Netherlands. …”
Review of Jonathan Wilson’s new book, ‘The Barcelona Inheritance’
Jonathan Wilson and The Barcelona Inheritance
amazon

What happened to Philippe Coutinho?


“In 2017 Philippe Coutinho became one of the world’s most expensive transfers as he completed a move to Barcelona from Liverpool, where he had been the club’s joint top-scorer in the Premier League, and top assist provider. However, ever since then his career has fallen. What happened? Why? And where is he now? Seb Stafford-Bloor explains. Henry Cooke illustrates.”
YouTube
W – Philippe Coutinho

The Data Day No 15: Our Rolling Football Blog


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

Who owns Barcelona?


“Barcelona, unlike their Champions League rivals, are not privately owned and cannot attract private investment. They are owned by their fans – known as members or socios. What are socios? Who makes the decisions at Barcelona? Why has this type of ownership led to their current financial predicament? Written by Alex Stewart. Illustrated by Philippe Fenner.”
YouTube (Video)

Xavi gets tough: Basic hotels, communal meals and early arrivals demanded by Barcelona’s new head coach


“Three weeks back at Barcelona, after six years away in Qatar, Xavi has already begun to set in place the deep structural changes he has long planned to make on and off the pitch at the Nou Camp. The most visible immediate changes have been with the team — in Xavi’s first three games in charge Barcelona have been playing with more confidence and intensity, pressing higher and harder, taking more risks, breaking forward with more players. The doom and gloom that surrounded the Catalan club through the final stages of Josep Maria Bartomeu’s disastrous presidency has also been replaced by a wave of positivity and optimism — a feeling that despite the club’s huge debts and unbalanced squad they have turned a corner. That feeling is also shared by Xavi. …”
The Athletic
Guardian: Xavi is the epitome of Barcelona brilliance but times have changed

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


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

Analyzing Xavi’s First Game as Barcelona Manager


“Xavi finally made his debut as a coach in the Barcelona dugout. Since the departure of Lionel Messi at the beginning of the season, it has been evident that this season is going to be very difficult for Barcelona. As Antoine Griezmann was released on the transfer window deadline day, Barcelona’s star-studded forward line suddenly began to cross the line into agony. It appeared that Ronald’s Koeman’s dismissal was only a matter of time. Xavi finally made his debut in the Barcelona dugout after a short spell of 3 matches by Sergi Barjuan. However, the path in front of Xavi is not smooth at all. Barcelona has been out of the top four in the league table for a long time, and the threat of being eliminated from the Champions League group stage is quite real. In this team, Xavi does not have a specific target man except Luke de Jong, but his performance should not persuade Xavi to include him in the lineup. …”
Breaking The Lines

History of FC Barcelona


Barcelona’s Copa del Rey-winning squad of 1928.
“The history of Futbol Club Barcelona begins from the football club‘s founding in 1899 up until the present day. FC Barcelona, also known simply as Barcelona and familiarly as Barça, is based in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. The team was founded in 1899 by a group of Swiss, English, German and Spanish footballers led by Joan Gamper. The club played amateur football until 1910 in various regional competitions. In 1910, the club participated in their first of many European competitions, and has since amassed fourteen UEFA trophies and a sextuple. In 1928, Barcelona co-founded La Liga, the top-tier in Spanish football, along with a string of other clubs. As of 2020, Barcelona has never been relegated from La Liga, a record they share with Athletic Bilbao and arch-rival Real Madrid. The history of Barcelona has often been political. Though it was a club created and run by foreigners, Barcelona gradually became a club associated with Catalan values. In Spain’s transition to autocracy in 1925, Catalonia became increasingly hostile towards the central government in Madrid. The hostility enhanced Barcelona’s image as a focal point for Catalonism, and when Francisco Franco banned the use of the Catalan language, the stadium of Barcelona became one of the few places the people could express their dissatisfaction. The Spanish transition to democracy in 1978 has not dampened the club’s image of Catalan pride. In the 2000s – a period of sporting success in the club and an increased focus on Catalan players – club officials have openly called for Catalonia to become an independent state. …”
W – History of FC Barcelona
W – Joan Gamper
How society and politics gave us Catenaccio and Total Football
A Brief History Of FC Barcelona
Paulino Alcántara: Barcelona’s Filipino icon who blazed a trail for Messi
The importance of Catalonia – past and present – to Spanish football
In the pantheon of modern-day greats, where do Sergio Busquets’ unique talents rank?
YouTube: Barcelona, Johan Cruyff & Catalan Independence, La Masia: The History of Barcelona’s Academy

Barcelona face PSV in the 1977–78 UEFA Cup semi-finals. They also finished the season as Copa del Rey winners.

How Barcelona lost their soul


“‘This won’t last forever,’ Pep Guardiola said during his final season as coach of Barcelona’s first team in 2012. ‘Sooner or later, we will stop winning. Then is when we will have to see if we have faith in the way we are and the way we play.’ Barcelona had grown used to winning at that point — during Guardiola’s four years as coach they lifted 14 of the 18 trophies available, including two Champions Leagues and three La Liga titles. Everyone around the club was also proud of achieving such success with a team based around homegrown youth products, while playing an attractive style of football they believed was rooted firmly in their club’s unique ‘Barca DNA’.  Almost a decade later, it is fair to say that Barcelona have stopped winning. …”
The Athletic (Video)

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


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)

Barcelona, Drifting, Fires Ronald Koeman as Coach


“Ronald Koeman knew even before he arrived in Barcelona that his journey as the club’s manager had ended. His team had just lost for the second time in four days, beaten by Real Madrid on Sunday and then by modest Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday. It was marooned in ninth place in La Liga. There could be, the club decided, no way back. The decision to fire Koeman was made while he and his players were still in transit. Barcelona’s president, Joan Laporta, had spent the flight back from Madrid consulting with several executives, according to Sport, the Catalan newspaper, and then informed Koeman that he had decided to end his 14-month tenure. A statement from Barcelona made the decision official a little after midnight. …”
NY Times

Life After Leo


“Even by the most charitable estimate, Camp Nou is barely more than a third full by the time the teams stroll on to the field. The Champions League anthem blares, drowning out the thin applause that had greeted the players. Fans pockmark row upon row of sun-bleached seats, stretching into the sky, lost in the vast stadium. On the far side, Barcelona’s motto, its statement of self — més que un club — is spelled out in the seats. As the players fan out, taking their positions, the lettering is still readable. To the left, in the arena’s second tier, where there was once a club sponsor’s logo, a yellow patch has spread. …”
NY Times