Tag Archives: Football Manager

Inter’s use of a strike partnership under Simone Inzaghi is old-fashioned but highly effective

“At the start of Pep Guardiola’s managerial career, he seemed intent on creating the type of team that would have suited him as a player. A slender, technical midfielder who lacked physicality but could spread play calmly, Guardiola’s playing career ended prematurely because football no longer suited his type of player; defensive midfielders at the turn of the century were supposed to be about power and ball-winning ability. …”
The Athletic – Michael Cox (Video)


Fitting celebrities into systems is the challenge for modern, elite managers – Jonathan Wilson

“Football is dominated now as it never has been before by a handful of superclubs. For many of them, winning their domestic title has come to be regarded almost as a formality. There are vast imbalances within leagues and that, of course, conditions the tactical approach teams take. If you expect to win most games comfortably, everything becomes focused on attacking – which can cause problems for the superclubs on the rare occasions they come up against a team at around their level: they forget not merely how to defend, but also how to fight. …”

Ange Postecoglou, Tottenham’s new manager: The history, the track record, the philosophy

“Things could go spectacularly well for Ange Postecoglou at Tottenham Hotspur. They could also go spectacularly badly. Where some managers can be considered the safe option, Postecoglou is the opposite. He is extremely talented, a visionary, and can be deeply empathetic. But he is also completely uncompromising. He has an almost evangelical commitment to his principles — mainly that his teams play exciting, attacking football. …”
The Athletic (Video)
W – Ange Postecoglou

The Worst Premier League Team to Survive

For a long time, 40 points was assumed to be enough for a team to avoid Premier League relegation. In reality, it’s nearly always possible to survive with fewer. But which team has won the least points and still managed to survive? Who is the worst team not to have been relegated? Seb Stafford-Bloor explains, Craig Silcock illustrates.

One more, Manchester City. One more

“… It is as simple as that for Manchester City now: one more match to win, one more trophy to lift. Do that, and they will be treble winners. Their joy at beating Manchester United in the FA Cup final yesterday was there for all to see. Pep Guardiola in tears, the players bouncing up and down arm in arm, physios lifted onto shoulders, turned upside down and spun around. Had this been the last game of their season, it would have meant the world, but with it setting up a shot at history next Saturday in Istanbul, it must mean even more. It feels like their time. …”
The Athletic (Video)
The Athletic – Manchester City 2-1 Manchester United: Analysing FA Cup final’s Gundogan opener, treble talk, ‘keeper comparison’ (Video)
The Athletic – Welcome to Manchester City 3.0: The latest great Guardiola team

Elland Road – 20 years a political pawn in the chaotic life of Leeds United

“… They give it to you straight around here and when you get to Elland Road, the home of Leeds United, it has that vibe about it: visitors welcome and might be slaughtered. There’s no cheese club in this corner of English football, no stadium skywalk tour or adjoining sports village. Ninety minutes in the West Stand feels more and more like a dare. It is one of the best stadiums in England, in the sense that you don’t get this any more, not at the top of the game. It is Leeds’ comfort zone and no one else’s. …”
The Athletic

All 20 Premier League clubs’ 2022-23 season summed up in just 10 games

“Did the Premier League season pass you by? Can you barely remember what took place before the World Cup? Are you a bit unsure of what happened with Bournemouth? It’s difficult to describe a 380-game campaign concisely. But here is an attempt: all 20 Premier League teams’ seasons summarised in 10 choice matches… ”
The Athletic – Michael Cox

Premier League Team of the Season: OptaJoe’s 2022-23 XI

“The 2022-23 season has come to an end, with Manchester City winning the Premier League title for the seventh time in the last 12 seasons – five of those coming in the last six campaigns. Pep Guardiola has now won the title in 11 of his 14 seasons as a top-flight manager across spells in charge of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Man City, with Arsenal forced to contend with second place despite spending 248 days atop the Premier League table – the most by a side not to win the title in English top flight history. With the curtain fully closed on the campaign, our data experts at OptaJoe have picked their Premier League Team of the Season for 2022-23 based on the data. …”
The Analyst

Stop worrying about time-wasting – every team does it and it’s not getting (much) worse

“Time-wasting. By all accounts, a massive waste of time… or a means to an end by which a football team can win a match. There have been several high-profile examples this season of what has felt like inexorably painful bouts of time-wasting. Players dropping to the ground one, two, even three at a time in the closing stages of matches, ‘keepers taking an age with goal kicks… it’s felt extremely common. Because it is common. It basically happens in every single match — and that’s nothing new. …”
The Athletic

When the Bubble Bursts: Football’s Post-Apocalypse

“Football has a money problem. Rather than being shaded by money trees, the health of the modern game is being antagonised by the very fabric of its ecosystem. Footballers, fans and clubs are all pawns in the money plays of billionaires and nation-states, attracted by the cash flow of the industry. Without them, without their money, this sport which we schedule our lives around looks like a stranger. …”
Football Paradise

Welcome to Kenilworth Road: Is Luton’s ground ready for the Premier League?

“Kenilworth Road is easy to miss when walking along Dunstable Road, a hub of shops and restaurants to the west of Luton’s town centre. It shows itself at the top of the adjoining streets but is soon hidden again by the houses that man-mark three of its four sides. Luton Town’s home is small enough to be concealed by houses, yet with just one more Luton win, in the Championship play-off final against Coventry City at Wembley this weekend, it will be staging Premier League football. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic: How much is the Championship play-off final worth? Coventry and Luton battle for ‘biggest financial prize in football’

Tactical Analysis: How Coventry City Reached the Playoff Final

“Coventry City is a win away from a return to the Premier League after beating Middlesborough 1-0 on aggregate in the EFL Championship playoff semi-final. A win against Luton, who were promoted to League One in the 2017/18 season alongside Coventry, in the final dubbed as ‘one for the romantics’ by Coventry manager Mark Robins, would see his team reach England’s top division just 5 years on from promotion out of League Two. Reaching the final is an incredible achievement in its own right, and these are the tactics that got them there. …”
Breaking the Lines

Dortmund agony, Bayern joy – and a rogue sprinkler: How Bundesliga drama unfolded

“On the Bundesliga regular season’s final day, Borussia Dortmund suffered a catastrophe for the ages to hand Bayern Munich their 11th straight title. Heading into the 34th and last game of a league campaign that began in the first week of August, Dortmund simply needed to beat mid-table Mainz at home to become champions, or hope second-placed Bayern failed to win away to Cologne, another side with little to play for. …”
The Athletic
NY Times: Dortmund, Bayern and the Chance of a Lifetime

Cholismo 2.0: This Time It’s Possession-Based

“… It has taken years to finally land on a coherent and convincing style of play. After several false starts, failed launches and beta testing malfunctions, Cholismo 2.0 is here and it looks nothing like it’s predecessor. We are still not even sure if the current iteration of Atlético — post-World Cup Atlético — is the real deal. The tactical change is evident and the results have been promising, but the caveat is they have had nothing to play for since after the World Cup. They were eliminated from the group stage of the Champions League, finishing last in a group made up of Bayer Leverkusen, Club Brugge and Porto. Any whispers of a title challenge were hushed with losses to Villarreal, Real Madrid, Cádiz and Mallorca. …”
The Analyst

Myth-busting the 2022-23 Premier League storylines – what is true and what isn’t?

“Not only was a World Cup parked midway through this football season but — more importantly — it was a campaign of great change in social-media algorithms. The hunt for engagement has never been so furious. Some of the likes-gathering community have reacted in a dishonest way, shifting to a not-exactly-true model, an impressions-first economy. Given the fact that many millions have consumed this content it feels almost ungracious to confirm that, no, Arsenal were not 11 points clear with a game in hand when they signed Jorginho. And, yes, Ederson has conceded a direct free-kick goal in his career. And no, Trent Alexander-Arnold does not have the second-highest number of goals from direct free kicks in Premier League history. …”
The Athletic

How Manchester City ‘switched on’ to win the Premier League

“The year was just a few days old but word of disharmony in the Manchester City camp had spread far and wide. It was even being discussed at other clubs. The start of 2023 was rough for City. Yet they have emerged from that period emphatically, storming to a third straight Premier League title thanks to 11 victories in a row — even if they had Arsenal’s defeat away to Nottingham Forest to thank for getting them over the line. Such has been their resurgence, powered by Erling Haaland’s 36 goals in 33 Premier League appearances, they could lay claim to being the best of manager Pep Guardiola’s great City teams. If they go on to win the treble — Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League — in June, they will go down as one of the best sides in history. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic: The Guardiola gear change – why nobody can match Manchester City in the spring (Video)
The Athletic: Manchester City, Premier League champions*? (Video)
NY Times: At Manchester City, Clinical Success Leaves Outsiders Cold
Guardian: Player ratings for Manchester City’s 2022-23 Premier League title winners

Serendipity of De Zerbi and Brighton underlines football’s great complexities – Jonathan Wilson

“Imagine that Thomas Tuchel had not been sacked by Chelsea at the beginning of September and that Graham Potter had not been lured from Brighton to replace him. Potter, presumably, would still be in charge at the Amex. Would Brighton’s situation now be better or worse? Would they be heading into Sunday’s game against Southampton sixth in the Premier League table and likely to qualify for the Europa League? …”

Aston Villa have become a team to be feared – and are one game from Europe

“When Aston Villa’s push for Europe started to gain serious momentum six weeks ago, the only question was which competition could they qualify for. Somehow, finishing in a top-four spot and playing Champions League football in September was still on. The difficulty was that however slender the six points between themselves in sixth and Newcastle United in fourth place felt, what was to come — a brutal set of remaining fixtures as well as rivals catching up on their games owed — was always likely to leave Villa lagging behind. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Paris Saint-Germain Finances 2021/22

“Paris Saint-Germain are seemingly a club in crisis, even though they are currently on top of Ligue 1, as their results this season have been disappointing by their high standards, while rivals like Lens and Marseille are too close for comfort. Fans have recently called for the board to resign, criticising the club’s management for a lack of a sporting vision and poor recruitment, including many over-rated talents and mercenaries. They say that too many players are only in Paris for the money. …”
Swiss Ramble

Fear, suspicion, awe: How Manchester City are viewed in Europe’s football citadels

“For Manchester City and their Abu Dhabi owners, the realisation of their grand footballing project is tantalisingly within reach. Domestic dominance has already been achieved, with City just one win away from securing a fifth Premier League title in six seasons, and now the club are closing in on a first-ever Champions League triumph after they progressed to next month’s final against Inter Milan with a semi-final victory over holders Real Madrid. …”
The Athletic (Video)
The Athletic: Gravity – the inescapable force behind Man City’s push for the treble (Video)
Manchester City were utterly superb, but we should worry
SI: Man City Shows the Real Money Is in Charge Now in the Champions League – Jonathan Wilson
BBC – Manchester City 4-0 Real Madrid (5-1 agg): Pep Guardiola says win banishes ‘pain’ of last year
NY Times: Manchester City Dethrones Real Madrid in a Dominant Champions League Performance

Inter have gone from the brink to the jackpot — reaching final matters for so many reasons

Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez celebrates after scoring his side’s opening goal during the Champions League semifinal second leg soccer match between Inter Milan and AC Milan at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, Tuesday, May 16, 2023.
“Rippling down the Curva Nord, the choreography unfurled by Inter Milan’s ultras before their Champions League semi-final second leg showed a knight in shining armour, his shield pock-marked with arrows, a depiction of Inter’s quest for the holiest of grails. If the knight were to have suddenly animated and taken off his helmet, it would not have come as a surprise to see the face of Simone Inzaghi revealed. He may as well have ridden in on a white charger when he joined Inter two years ago. They were champions of Italy at the time. But they did not look like a club who were going to dominate Serie A in the way Inter did between 2006 and 2010, when five domestic titles in a row culminated in an unprecedented treble. …”
The Athletic (Video)
Guardian: Inter’s Champions League progress built on depth and defensive resilience
Guardian: Lautaro Martínez finishes off Milan to put Inter in Champions League final

Luton’s Kenilworth Road is basic, boisterous and brilliant – Premier League fans should embrace it

“This is a defence of Kenilworth Road, not that it really needs it. Scarcely has the home of a football club needed additional defences less than the fortress-like stadium belonging to Luton Town. A trip there always promises a rowdy atmosphere, character in spades and a healthy dose of fear for the opposition. Following their 3-2 win on aggregate over Sunderland in the Championship play-off semi-finals this week, a tie where the Kenilworth Road faithful played their part dutifully in the second leg, Luton are one win away from the Premier League after a 31-year top-flight absence. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Fabinho: Liverpool’s new system is giving ‘the Lighthouse’ new foundations

“It was not too long ago that Fabinho’s Liverpool career looked like it was drifting towards an unhappy ending. The Brazilian has barely resembled a shadow of himself during parts of this season and, while being far from the only player struggling, his decline was significant and one of the roots of Liverpool’s collective problems. For years, Fabinho was able to patrol the centre of the pitch from touchline to touchline in front of his team’s defence. The lighthouse, the Dyson — pick your nickname and it explains his responsibilities in Liverpool’s 4-3-3 system. …”
The Athletic (Video)

How Barcelona won La Liga: Old-school rules, new hunger and a changing of the guard

“When Xavi was made Barcelona manager in November 2021, he found a squad that was lacking in confidence. Barca had not won the league title in two and half years, and there were few signs they would be truly ready to challenge for one again soon. Tough losses in the Champions League had left their mark on a group whose ambition was to compete among the European elite. There was still a sense of trauma around the comeback defeats suffered against Roma and Liverpool, in 2018 and 2019. …”
The Athletic (Video)

The grim reality of being a Premier League fourth official: ‘It’s 90 minutes of hell’

“It has to be one of the worst jobs in football. The lucky few are fortunate enough to be called by their first name. The majority are just known as ‘fourth’. One or two, spelt out in reports submitted to the Football Association, are called c***s. Either way, the job description should come with a warning that you are pretty much guaranteed to spend an hour and a half being harangued for decisions which almost always have nothing to do with you. …”
The Athletic

Arsenal losing the league does not have to be a collapse of character

“In the moment of full operatic collapse, the pain of a season of dashed and throttled glory reaching its narrative end point, the Emirates Stadium was treated to the sight of Roberto De Zerbi doing a knee slide. A slightly creaky one but with sufficient momentum to get a little purchase on the lime green early summer turf, fist pumping, head up sedately. Brighton had just gone 3-0 up in this game, playing a lovely, breezy, light kind of pass‑and-run football. …”
The Athletic – Roberto De Zerbi’s anti-Arsenal blueprint for Brighton: Be direct, be disruptive

Trabzonspor’s Recovery Mission Begins

“After losing just three league games in last season’s title-winning campaign, Trabzonspor have endured a dismal and disappointing defence of their first Super Lig title in 38 years. In the ten months separating their league title win with the eventual departure of manager Abdullah Avci, Trabzonspor lost nine league games – more than Avci lost in both the 2020/21 and 2021/22 seasons. This run was made to look all the worse with Galatasaray racing ahead with a record winning streak in the Turkish Super Lig and leaving the likes of Trabzonspor in the dust. …”
Breaking the Lines

The Premier League xG table: Evaluating the attacking performance of every club

“In case anyone needed reminding, scoring goals helps you win games of football. For those who like to dig a little deeper, it is interesting to see how often a team scores goals relative to the opportunities they create. Yes, your team might rocket a 40-yard strike into the top corner from time to time, but how sustainable is that method of attack across a season? That’s right, we’re talking about expected goals (xG). …”
The Athletic

Milan haven’t learned from derby defeats – Inter were far superior with and without the ball

“… Inter may well have learned, but Milan did not. Their first half looked almost identical to the 3-0 Supercoppa loss to Inter in Riyadh in January. They were 2-0 down after 21 minutes that night to goals from Edin Dzeko and Federico Dimarco, as their 4-2-3-1 struggled to cope with Inter’s advancing wing-backs and combative front two. …”
The Athletic (Video)
SI: Inter Dominates Milan Champions League Derby But Fails to Finish the Job – Jonathan Wilson

Mohamed Salah has a secret skill for Liverpool which makes him truly special

“If there was a list detailing everything Mohamed Salah brings to Liverpool, it would be a very long one. His goals and remarkable consistency would of course be at the top and, with that, all the records that come his way. The assists he provides would be on there, too, along with his speed and ingenuity. …”
The Athletic

Real Madrid 1-1 Manchester City: Vinicius and De Bruyne strike but Haaland was kept quiet

“A stunning strike from Kevin De Bruyne earned Manchester City a 1-1 draw against Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final first leg, after Vinicius Junior had scored from nearly the exact same spot on the Bernabeu pitch before the break. City dominated possession in the first half but it was Real who went in ahead after Vinicius linked well with Eduardo Camavinga and Luka Modric. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic: Stones, Camavinga and why Man City and Real Madrid pushed defenders into midfield – Michael Cox
Guardian – Real Madrid v Manchester City: beauty and parity living on the razor’s edge
The Athletic: Vinicius Jr, De Bruyne and the visceral thrill of kicking a football really hard
The Athletic: The important things for Man City in the Bernabeu were the things that did not happen
BBC: Real Madrid 1 – Manchester City 1
YouTube: Real Madrid vs Manchester City 1-1 | 2023 Champions League | Match Highlights

Liverpool fans and the national anthem: A history of hostility

“The message from the Kop could not have been clearer. ‘You can stick your coronation up your arse,’ came the cry from the most vocal section of Liverpool’s crowd during Wednesday’s home win over Fulham, an echo of the sentiment that had reverberated around Hampden Park in Glasgow a few days earlier courtesy of Celtic fans. It was the latest iteration of Anfield’s long-standing antipathy for the British establishment, and which manifests itself most obviously when Liverpool supporters routinely boo the playing of the country’s national anthem, God Save the King. …”
The Athletic (Video)
The Athletic: Liverpool fans and Jurgen Klopp: Is the love affair as strong as ever? (Video)
The Athletic: Why Liverpool want Jorg Schmadtke as their new sporting director
The Athletic: What would make managers improve behaviour towards officials? We asked some
The Athletic: Virgil van Dijk hails Alisson after Liverpool clean sheet century: ‘I’m very glad he’s my goalkeeper’

Do football managers matter?

“Managers can’t perform magic, although some people seem to think they can. They’re not David Copperfield or Harry Potter. They can’t work miracles or sprinkle some magical dust to make players know how to play football. Spending hours on analysis isn’t very useful. It doesn’t put you in better conditions to win the game. The tactics, the schemes, they’re all bull***t. Of course tactics matter, but players win the game. For 45 minutes at a time, players make their own decisions. Football is a continuous sport in which the coach has barely any influence, less than in any other sport. …”
The Athletic

Napoli’s title-winning tactics analysed and explained

“The Scudetto is heading to Naples. A lot has happened since Napoli’s last league win in 1989-90. A Diego Maradona-inspired team won that title with 51 points — Serie A had only 18 teams and a win was worth just two points at the time. They were then relegated in 1997-98, came back up at the second attempt before going down again immediately in 2000-01. They even spent two seasons in the third tier before getting back into Serie A for the 2007-08 campaign. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Real Madrid vs Manchester City: Champions League semi-final tactical breakdown

“A place in the final is within touching distance. Manchester City and Real Madrid face off in a Champions League semi-final for the second season running, and you would do very well to predict an outright favourite. In many ways, we are fortunate that we get to witness these two heavyweight teams battle for 180 minutes across two legs as opposed to a single 90-minute final — with a strong case to be made that a final-four tie has produced greater entertainment historically. …”
The Athletic (Video)

The $5billion deal that German fans don’t want

German football is seeking new investment. In terms of international broadcasting revenue they sit behind Serie A, LaLiga and the Premier League. So Deutsche Fussball Liga have created a proposal to bring in more revenue. What is the proposal? How will it work? And why is there such opposition in Germany? Seb Stafford-Bloor explains, Craig Silcock illustrates.
The Analyst – Bundesliga Title Predictions 2022-23: The Final Stages
The Athletic: How Bayern Munich’s Dayot Upamecano became pitch-perfect with operatic training

Arsenal’s spread of goals is the sign of a great team

“For all the similarities between this season’s two Premier League title contenders, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City and Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal, there’s one obvious difference. It’s a philosophical debate as much as a purely tactical one: does adding one record-breaking individual to your attack actually improve the side overall, or does his brilliance come at the expense of others? …”
The Athletic (Video)

A question of soul: Osasuna’s remarkable story fires belief in Real Madrid upset

Osasuna president Luis Sabalza wells up as he speaks about the journey he and his team have been on to reach this year’s Copa del Rey final, in which they will face Real Madrid in Seville’s Estadio Cartuja on Saturday evening. … The 75-year-old then pauses to recall a less happy date in his club’s history, June 7, 2015, when an Osasuna side heavily burdened by debt and disgrace were seconds away from relegation to Spain’s third tier, which would likely have sunk the club completely. …”
The Athletic (Video)
Guardian: Real Sociedad are living their best days – with David Silva at the heart

Liverpool 4-3 Tottenham: A thriller that underlines why neither team are top four

Liverpool won a fourth successive Premier League match thanks to an incredible 94th-minute winner from Diogo Jota against Spurs at Anfield. Goals from Curtis Jones, Luis Diaz and a Mohamed Salah penalty put Jurgen Klopp’s team in a commanding position in the first 15 minutes, as Spurs found themselves all but beaten in the first third of a match for the second Sunday running. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic – Liverpool and Tottenham are at the crossroads: What can they learn from each other?

Boom time: Why attendances are spiking and football has never meant more

“On any given Saturday, there are hundreds of thousands of football supporters with somewhere to be. They fill trains, cars and buses on journeys intersecting the country, feeding the habit they have neither the wish nor ability to abandon. It is the national obsession that continues to strengthen its grip and this, undeniably, is its boom era. For all that the Premier League has achieved in its 30 years, this season is set to be the first time on record that the average top-flight game has attracted more than 40,000 in English football history. …”
The Athletic

The Rise and Fall of Valencia

In 2014 Peter Lim became the majority shareholder at 6 time La Liga champions Valencia. His arrival was initially celebrated, but after years of financial turbulence, the fans are demanding his exit to preserve the club’s future. What happened to Valencia? Why did it turn so toxic so quickly? What happened to their best players? And what happened to their new stadium? Reuben Pinder explains. Illustrated by Marco Bevilacqua.

Why Brentford are the best set-piece takers in football

Brentford have scored over 30 set-piece goals since the start of the 2021/22 season, only Liverpool and Manchester City have scored more set-piece goals in that time. And those two teams have taken a lot more set-pieces. Ability from the dead ball is fundamental to their success. So how have they become so good at set pieces? Jon Mackenzie explains. Henry Cooke illustrates.”

Liverpool’s midfield transfer targets: Analysing Mount, Mac Allister, Gravenberch and more

Liverpool may have withdrawn from the race to sign Jude Bellingham but there will still be plenty of change to their central midfield this summer. The club are in the hunt for at least two, and possibly three, midfielders in the upcoming window, and a lot of exploratory work and discussions have been carried out by their senior recruitment staff in recent weeks to determine, out of the players they have tracked extensively, who will be available and at what price. …”
The Athletic

Football, Mental Health, and Belonging

“I like to think that everything in life is a metaphor. Things can be broken down into comparisons, and when it comes to the game of football, we can spend entire lives trying to find our positions on the pitch. There’s the big, powerful centre forward. So tall and imposing that you can sense their presence in a room. Off the pitch, they could be singers, actors, social media influencers, or something else. In short, they’re people that thrive in the spotlight and want more of it. …”
Football Paradise

Arsenal just did not know how to press Manchester City’s 4-2-4

“It was not a shock that Manchester City defeated Arsenal last night, and not a surprise they did so relatively convincingly, considering both sides’ recent run of form. But the nature of City’s tactical approach was a surprise. Having spent recent weeks building up with a three-man defence and pushing a defender forward into midfield, City played a simple 4-2-4 on Wednesday. Arsenal seemed unsure of how to press this system, and City were adept at progressing the ball through central zones and up to Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland between the lines. …”
The Athletic: Michael Cox
The Athletic: This is Manchester City’s era – there are only two ways that changes any time soon (Video)
The Athletic: Manchester City 4-1 Arsenal: Magnificent De Bruyne and fiendish Haaland clip leaders’ wings
Guardian: Manchester City took Arsenal to a horrible place and didn’t let them leave
NY Times: Manchester City, Relentless and Ruthless, Strolls Past Arsenal
Guardian: Kevin De Bruyne sees off Arsenal to give Manchester City upper hand in title race

Barcelona, Real Madrid & Franco: How two rivals united in exploiting a painful divide

“It has not been a good last 10 days in Spain for anyone who would like football and politics not to be mixed in alarming ways. The sorry mess began with comments made by Barcelona president Joan Laporta while he was defending his club’s past payments to former referees chief Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira. Laporta said he was amazed that Real Madrid had complained, given that: ‘Madrid was historically favoured in refereeing decisions, it was the team of the regime, close to political, economic and sporting power for 70 years.’ Everyone listening knew that the ‘regime’ Laporta was referring to was the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, who ruled Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975. …”
The Athletic (Video)

How Arsenal’s tactics show Arteta’s coaching influences, from Cruyff to Guardiola

“With every recent Arsenal clash with Manchester City has come a predictable discourse — the relationship between Mikel Arteta and Pep Guardiola. It’s the obvious way to go given Arteta’s journey to becoming Arsenal manager via an assistant management role under his fellow Spaniard and the pair’s early days together at Barcelona. And while Guardiola clearly has a huge impact on Arteta, in the build up to these matches it is often overlooked that the Arsenal manager has also drawn inspiration from a number of other coaches. …”
The Athletic

Premier League Title Race: Are Arsenal Crumbling Under the Pressure Again?

“Title races can take many forms; the runaway champions; a two-horse race; a surprise package. But it isn’t always the winners who make the main headlines, sometimes it’s the team that blew their chance that lives in the memory. Newcastle United’s infamous collapse in 1995-96 is probably the most memorable after they threw away a 12-point lead that they held in January after 23 matches, while Man Utd blew a 13-point lead over Arsenal in 1997-98 and an eight-point lead with just six games remaining in 2011-12 to give Manchester City their first Premier League crown (albeit their final-day comeback against QPR and Sergio Aguero’s last-gasp goal grabbed the headlines). …”
Thw Analyst (Video)

Salah is back – this is the Liverpool tactical change that made it happen

“How many times have you watched Mohamed Salah play for Liverpool this season and felt he was too isolated, too wide and getting crowded out by opponents? There has seemingly been a rotating list of frustrations as the Egypt forward, alongside his team-mates, has failed to hit the lofty standards of previous years. …”
The Athletic

Pep Guardiola, the architect of tiki-taka, has come to embrace physicality

“… It would have made for an interesting experience for Pep Guardiola, who at that time was on his sabbatical, having left Barcelona the previous summer and had already been confirmed as the next Bayern manager. His Barcelona side was notable for its lack of physicality — he happily played multiple short, slight players in the same side and backed technique to defeat physique. His future Bayern side, clearly, offered different qualities, which he would come to embrace. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic: Bayern Munich’s Champions League failure will accelerate recruitment drive up front

Inter’s tense season can end in glory with all-Milan Champions League semi-final

“‘Squadra nervosa, squadra vittoriosa.’ When Esteban Cambiasso was a treble-winning Inter Milan midfielder, people used to say that an irritable team, agitated and often upset with itself, tended to be a winning team. What better preparation, then, for Benfica’s visit to San Siro than a rondo ruckus at Appiano Gentile with Romelu Lukaku stepping into separate Andre Onana and Marcelo Brozovic after the Inter goalkeeper made a rather overzealous challenge on the team’s playmaker-in-chief. …”
The Athletic
Guardian: Inter survive late goals to set up all-Milan Champions League semi-final

Sevilla 3 Manchester United 0: De Gea horror show – but are Ten Hag’s team running out of puff?

“It was a night when everything went wrong for Manchester United. Having been 2-0 up in the first leg of this Europa League quarter-final last week, they duly conceded five – two at Old Trafford and three in Spain tonight – to stumble out of the competition in embarrassing fashion. It was a terrible performance which raises major questions over how strongly Erik ten Hag’s side can finish a season where they are in an FA Cup semi-final on Sunday and still battling for a top-four finish in the Premier League. Our experts analyse the major talking points. …”
The Athletic

Maybe it’s time to welcome back the old fashioned wing-half – in modern guise

Bayern Munich, full-back Philipp Lahm
“One of the easiest and most misleading pieces of footballing received wisdom is that everything is cyclical. Wait long enough, the great drum of history will revolve again and the same ideas will come back round, be that sharp side-partings, the back three, Howard Webb apologising to Brighton or Roy Hodgson managing Crystal Palace. Except time is not a flat circle. Each iteration is different because it comes with knowledge of what went before. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Is Arsenal’s defence actually struggling?

Arsenal sit top of the Premier League, and are mounting a challenge for the title for the first time since 2004. However since the World Cup break, Arsenal have had a dip in their defensive numbers that has seen them concede far more goals from January onwards. Taking a look at the data and specifically their struggles with set pieces – how much of an impact is this going to have on their season? Jon Mackenzie writes as Craig Silcock illustrates, can they still get themselves over the line as champions this season?”

Against the right opponents, the deep-lying Bruno Fernandes experiment is worth revisiting

“One of the more eye-catching aspects of Erik ten Hag’s first year at Manchester United has been his problem-solving on the go by tactically re-profiling his players. If management is like trying to build an aircraft while flying, then Ten Hag has spent parts of this season not sitting in the cockpit but on the fuselage, trying to craft the landing gear into a propeller. …”
The Athletic

Who will make Premier League top four? Analysing the run-ins of Champions League hopefuls

“We are on the home straight of the Premier League season and while the title might have become a two-horse race, there are still some highly lucrative spots up for grabs. There are arguably six clubs fighting for the remaining two Champions League spots, with fewer than 10 games to play. Newcastle United and Manchester United are currently leading the pack in the race for Europe’s most esteemed competition, but will it stay that way? …”
The Athletic

Liverpool’s poor away form: ‘You always fear for them now’

“After watching a sleepy and hollow performance against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge earlier this month, Liverpool fans boarded their coaches home from London with a familiar feeling. … Disappointment and frustration have been recurring feelings for Liverpool fans on the road this season. They have watched their team lose eight times but only seen three wins. A stark contrast to Liverpool’s past four seasons, where they lost nine times and won 50 games in total. …”
The Athletic – Liverpool’s poor away form: ‘You always fear for them now’

Crossing the Danube – the story of the inaugural Mitropa Cup

“From the late 19th century and into the 1920s, Vienna became what many writers have called a ‘centre of fermentation’, propagated by the cultural and intellectual elite of the city. Ideas, ideaologies, social movements, progressive medicine, music and literature filled the air of Vienna’s cafés and coffee houses. The Vienna Circle, a group of philosophers hell-bent on bringing scientific enlightenment to people, also emerged from the city. Football also benefitted from this culture of cerebral curiosity. …”
Game of the People
Game of the People – Crossing the Danube – the story of the inaugural Mitropa Cup
W – Mitropa Cup
Nations which participated in the Mitropa Cup (1927–1940)