Why Ronaldo is giving Solskjaer a huge tactical problem

October 19, 2021


“In one sense, Manchester United’s 4-2 defeat by Leicester could be considered something of a freak result. The scoreline was 1-1 for the majority of the game, both sides significantly overperformed their xG, and four of the game’s six goals came in the frenetic final 12 minutes — three of them scored by Leicester. It was one of those brilliant periods where strategy and tactics go out of the window, giving way to chaos and luck. … The poster boy for their current malaise, of course, is Cristiano Ronaldo. …”
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


FSG and the culture wars at Liverpool

October 3, 2021


“The smell of ale usually hits you as the doors of the Twelfth Man on Walton Breck Road swing open but not on this Saturday afternoon. It is 50 minutes before the Premier League game between Liverpool and Crystal Palace and the pub is half-empty. On the walk up to Anfield from the direction of the Mersey river, pints have already been sunken at the Saddle Inn on Fountains Road and it was quiet there as well. Closer to the ground, any bar is normally two or three deep. Yet last month, you could walk into the Twelfth Man and get served more or less straight away. …”
The Athletic (Video/Audio)
Guardian – ‘It’s the package’: how Liverpool’s rhythm got the goals flowing again
Guardian – Liverpool v Manchester City: great games in the Klopp-Guardiola era
Guardian – A striker isn’t everything, but might solve Pep Guardiola’s all-or-nothing problem (Jonathan Wilson)
Pep Guardiola record vs Liverpool is a myth, and Man City boss’ own comments prove it
W – John W. Henry
******Guardian: Manchester City make spitting complaint after thrilling Liverpool draw

Pep Guardiola says Jurgen Klopp


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


In One Moment, Messi and P.S.G. Make It All Work

September 30, 2021


“Lionel Messi picked the ball up in that spot, the one that has served as the starting point for so many of his finest moments, the one that he knows so well that it might as well be his spot. It has, for 15 years, been his base camp, his happy place: a few yards inside from the right touchline, a few yards from halfway. He was standing still as he controlled it. He had been standing still for some time, by that stage. Paris St.-Germain had taken an early lead, through Idrissa Gueye, and had spent most of the rest of the game desperately trying to fend off Manchester City’s unrelenting attacks. …”
NY Times


Champions League roundup: Sheriff Tiraspol shock Real Madrid

September 28, 2021


Sheriff Tiraspol shock Real Madrid
“The Moldovan side Sheriff Tiraspol pulled off a remarkable 2-1 win away against Real Madrid in the Champions League, snatching a shock victory thanks to a sensational 89th-minute strike from Sebastien Thill. The competition debutants Sheriff went ahead against the 13-time European champions in the 25th minute with a header from the Uzbek midfielder Jasurbek Yakhshiboev, who narrowly missed a chance to double the visitors’ lead later in the first half. …”
Guardian
YouTube: Real Madrid vs. Sheriff: Extended Highlights, AC Milan vs. Atlético Madrid: Extended Highlights, Porto vs. Liverpool: Extended Highlights, RB Leipzig vs. Club Brugge: Extended Highlights, PSG vs. Man. City: Extended Highlights, Dortmund vs. Sporting: 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


Tactical Analysis: Manchester City’s Underlaps

September 22, 2021


“Adherents to the rather loaded term of positional play perceive football to be a game of dynamic spatial occupation. Subsequently, players will move in relation to the ball carrier and their supporting teammates. These reference points mean movements carry implications when working under a 5/7 zone structure which provides the framework for optimal creation of passing angles and maintenance of connections. Movement and subsequent vacation of space sends a signal to rotate, typically on the horizontal axis. …”
Running the Show


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


Can Jack Grealish Lead Manchester City to Champions League Glory?

September 16, 2021


“In 1979, when Nottingham Forest made Birmingham City striker Trevor Francis the first £1 million player in British football, more than doubling the previous record, his new manager, Brian Clough, breezed in late to Francis’s introductory press conference, stopping only to give his new star a playful thwack with a squash racquet before heading off to the courts. … Cultural shifts and changes in locker-room power dynamics make it unlikely that British football’s first £100 million player, Manchester City’s Jack Grealish, will be subject to quite the same level of autocratically eccentric negging, which is not to say his famously intense and meticulous new boss is a stranger to idiosyncrasy. …”
The Ringer (Audio)


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


The Problem When Teams See Athletes as Assets

September 3, 2021


“One of the things that appealed most to Manchester City about Marlos Moreno was his flexibility. The club spotted him as a teenager, coming off the back of a breakthrough season in which he helped Atlético Nacional, his hometown club in his native Colombia, win not just a national title but the Copa Libertadores, too. Moreno, then 19, had the air of a rising star. He was the sort of prospect who stood out among the thousands of players around the world whose names and performance data flash in front of the eyes of the scouts and analysts at Europe’s biggest clubs. … Executives were sufficiently excited by the acquisition of a player they felt was one of the most promising in South America to mention his name to Sheikh Mansour, City’s owner. …”
NY Times
Who is Man City owner Sheikh Mansour and what’s his net worth?
W – Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan


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


Cox: How Nuno repeated Tuchel’s trick by using narrow attack to beat Manchester City

August 17, 2021


Manchester City’s 2021-22 started in the same way their 2020-21 ended — with a 1-0 defeat. Sunday’s loss at Tottenham wasn’t as disheartening as their defeat by Chelsea in the European Cup final, but there was a common pattern in how their opponents set up without possession. Although the 3-4-3 of Thomas Tuchel was different to the 4-3-3 used by Nuno Espirito Santo in his first game as Spurs manager, it’s worth looking at the positioning of the front three. In Porto, Tuchel evidently told his three attackers to remain in narrow positions and block any passes through the centre of the pitch, as shown below, which largely hampered City’s build-up play — particularly their ability to feed the ball into the centre of midfield. …”
The Athletic
Tottenham 1-0 Man City – Tactical Analysis – Nuno’s First Game
The Stats: Who was Tottenham’s biggest threat? Why didn’t City score? Do either need Kane?
YouTube: Tactical Analysis: Tottenham 1-0 Manchester City |How City’s Best Tactic Was Their Biggest Weakness|


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


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


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


Paul Pogba: which clubs could offer him escape from Manchester United?

September 30, 2018


“Paul Pogba, who was stripped of the Manchester United vice-captaincy on Tuesday, could potentially leave the club in January after his relationship with José Mourinho hit an all-time low. But with a salary of £250,000 a week and a fee likely to be in the region of £100m, which clubs have the financial might to sign the French World Cup winner?” Guardian


The Best Two Way Premier League Players

September 30, 2018

“Looking for players that contribute on both sides of the ball is often a difficult task. Separating out tactical responsibilities from player abilities, and individual shortcomings from schematic ones is always hard. Does a player not track back because he’s lazy or because he has instructions to remain high up the pitch? Does a midfielder keep passing it sideways because he cannot pick a forward pass or because the manager’s approach calls for conservative possession?” StatsBomb


Sergio Agüero embraces defending to erase Pep Guardiola’s doubts

August 26, 2018

“Manchester City beat Huddersfield 5-1 in an FA Cup fifth-round replay in March last year. Sergio Agüero scored twice but post-match discussion centred largely on whether he had a future at the club. Pep Guardiola had made it clear he felt there were elements of the Argentinian’s game that did not fit with his vision and had brought in Gabriel Jesus with a view, it seemed, to easing him out.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Barcelona Season Preview: Messi the Great Facilitator

August 18, 2018

“By any realistic measure Barcelona had a dominant season last year. They won their domestic league by 14 points, while losing only a single game. They also won their domestic cup. But Barcelona are a club destined to fail to live up to expectations that only they can set. And what came to define their season, more than the raging success of their domestic campaign, was a stunning Champions League quarterfinal defeat to Roma. And so it is that the team which ran up 93 points in La Liga set about correcting for a failed season.” StatsBomb


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

August 18, 2018

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


Arsenal 0-2 Manchester City

August 12, 2018

“Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola says his side will get even better as they deservedly beat Arsenal on the opening day of the Premier League season. The Gunners were playing their first competitive game without Arsene Wenger in charge since 1996 but were well beaten by the defending champions. Raheem Sterling put City ahead in the 14th minute when he got the ball on the corner of the box, cut beyond two players and rifled home from 20 yards.” BBC (Video)


Manchester City Sizes Up Its Toughest Premier League Opponent: Complacency

August 10, 2018

“It was not a goal that clinched a title, or secured a trophy, and it was not a victory that was needed, not a win that changed very much at all. On the surface, when Gabriel Jesus scored in injury time against Southampton on the final day of last season, it was just another goal, just another win. Manchester City had scored 106 times over the previous 10 months; on the way to the Premier League title, Pep Guardiola’s team had won 32 of 38 games.” NY Times


Premier League: 10 things to look out for on the opening weekend

August 10, 2018


Clockwise from top left: Rafael Benítez, Manuel Pellegrini, Claude Puel, João Moutinho, Mohamed Elyounoussi and José Mourinho.
1) Manchester United and Leicester need to start brightly. José Mourinho and Claude Puel are under more pressure than most to start the season strongly. Both have large numbers of sceptics among their club’s supporters, and doubts also persist about the popularity of their methods with players. So both managers need their teams to perform brightly as soon as the season kicks off in order to lift the mood. …” Guardian


Premier League table prediction – Part One

August 10, 2018

“As the Premier League kicks off this coming Friday, it really is shaping up to be one of the most competitive in recent memory.” Backpage Football – Part One, Backpage Football – Part Two


Vulnerable channels and 20 zones: the tactics behind Guardiola’s title win

April 25, 2018

“Ottmar Hitzfeld, the former Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich manager, used to speak of the red zone, a central area of the pitch just outside the penalty box. Control that, he believed, and you controlled the game. If in your half you denied the opposition the ball in that space, they were forced wide and while crosses can be dangerous they are a low percentage route to goal. …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson (Video)


Man United need a big game from Alexis Sanchez vs. Man City

April 13, 2018

“Alexis Sanchez’s January transfer to Manchester United was, on paper, among the most dramatic moves in Premier League history. There were three major factors to it. The first was the novelty of a genuine, real-life swap deal between Arsenal and United, two of the Premier League’s biggest clubs. It was exciting simply because for all the tabloid rumours, such exchange deals barely ever actually come to fruition. But this time everything went through, and two high-profile footballers suddenly swapped lives. …” ESPN – Michael Cox


Liverpool’s stunning first-half salvo leaves Manchester City’s hopes on rocks

April 5, 2018


“For Liverpool it was one of those nights when perhaps they reminded themselves why the banners fluttering on the Kop included one carrying the message ‘European royalty’. All three of their goals were scored at that end. They swept Manchester City away during a first-half blitz and will go into the second leg in such a position of strength it is difficult to see how Pep Guardiola’s side can possibly save themselves. …” Guardian


Champions League quarter-finals: tie-by-tie analysis

March 18, 2018


“We run the rule over the last-eight matches, including the all-Premier League duel between Liverpool and Manchester City, and predict who will triumph …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


The ‘Two Worlds’ of the Champions League Keep Drifting Apart

February 22, 2018


Sadio Mané and Liverpool put five goals past F.C. Porto last week.
“As he readied his players to face Manchester City in the last 16 of the Champions League last week, F.C. Basel Coach Raphaël Wicky realized he had a problem. Ordinarily, Wicky would dedicate one training session shortly before a game to a shadow match: On one side, his likely starting team, and on the other, 11 squad members slotted in to simulate Basel’s forthcoming opponent. They would line up in the same system, adopt the same style, play in the same patterns. The aim of the exercise is to familiarize the first team with the challenge that lies in wait. …” NY Times


FA Cup: Wigan win over Manchester City better than 2013 final – Kevin Kilbane

February 22, 2018

“Wigan’s win over Manchester City was an amazing game to witness and it has to go down as one of the greatest FA Cup shocks of all time. When the Latics beat City in the 2013 final it was a big enough upset, but that was when they were a top-flight club, not in League One as they are now. Then you consider the level Pep Guardiola’s side have been performing at all season, how far clear they are at the top of the Premier League, and that they were trying to do the Quadruple. …” BBC (Video)


Jesus Navas on Sevilla return, beating anxiety at Man City & life under Guardiola

February 22, 2018

“Jesus Navas had been away for four years. After returning to Seville, he was walking down the street, reacquainting himself with his home town. Suddenly, two men snuck up on him from behind, threw a sack over his head and bundled him into the boot of a waiting BMW. From there he was driven to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium, then thrust out of the car, blinking into the Andalusian sun. …” The Set Pieces


Tactical fouling is spoiling football – time for the rulemakers to stamp it out

February 9, 2018


“Football is often considered conservative with its rule changes, but in recent decades there have been various subtle but crucial alterations to the Laws of the Game, which are often overlooked. The back-pass law in the early 1990s, for example, forced goalkeepers and defenders to become more technically skilled, encouraging passing football. Stricter tackling laws, meanwhile, protected attackers from brutal challenges. …” ESPN – Michael Cox


Check their DMs: Fernandinho, Matic, and others key to a manager’s tactics

January 26, 2018

“Throughout the Premier League era, English football has never entirely embraced the defensive midfielder. In fact, the very concept has routinely prompted dissent from English fans. Traditionally, the English game has produced plenty of box-to-box midfielders and the natural urge was therefore to field two players in that mould together. David Batty’s outstanding performances for Leeds, Blackburn and Newcastle sides were often overlooked, as was Michael Carrick’s excellent work for Manchester United. Those two represented what managers wanted from defensive midfielders in the late 1990s, and late 2000s respectively. But how about the late 2010s? …” ESPN – Michael Cox (Video)


Raheem Sterling Proves That Everything You Know About Goal-Scoring Is Wrong

January 19, 2018


“Raheem Sterling has scored 14 goals in the Premier League this season for Manchester City, putting him right in the thick of the competition’s Golden Boot race, along with the likes of Tottenham’s Harry Kane, Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, and his teammate, Sergio Aguero. Of the 23-year-old Englishman’s haul, 13 have come inside the box, five of which were inside the 6-yard area. Five goals have come after the 80th minute of a match, helping Pep Guardiola’s side secure vital points on their journey to utter domination in his second season in England. And yet, there is a conundrum about Sterling’s reputation as a goal scorer: A popular opinion persists that he’s, well, just bad at shooting. …” The Ringer (Video)


Spontaneity and excitement are being eroded in increasingly Big Six-dominated Premier League

January 19, 2018

“When Leicester City won the Premier League two years ago it felt like a watershed moment. In a division where the gulf between the haves and have-nots had never been greater, the 5,000/1 outsiders Leicester had pulled off arguably the greatest ever upset in English football history. …” Telegraph


Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend

January 12, 2018


Huddersfield Town’s Terence Kongolo, left, gets stuck in during the Terriers’ Third Round FA Cup match against Bolton Wanderers.
“… 10) A happy Monday for post-Hughes Stoke? Like the revolution, the first match of Stoke’s post-Mark Hughes era will be televised, as they travel to Manchester United on Monday night. At the time of writing, the identity of Hughes’ replacement is yet to be confirmed, but whoever is in charge for this match, it constitutes something of a free swing for a team in the relegation zone but far from doomed. Given the likelihood of a new manager bounce (or perhaps more pertinently, the old manager’s absence) and the fact Stoke are unbeaten in eight Monday night Premier League matches, it would not be a huge surprise to see the Potters emerge with a point. …” Guardian


Measuring Changes In Attacking Style In The Premier League

January 12, 2018

“Back in November we applied a clustering algorithm to find out which Premier League clubs had similar attacking styles. We wanted to see what we could find using match summary stats that anyone with an internet connection could get hold of. Our main rule was that we wanted to avoid using pure outcome stats, e.g. shots on target, completed passes, completed crosses, goals, assists etc. We thought we’d run the risk of just clustering teams together on how good/lucky they’d been so far. We didn’t use anything too fancy, just per game stats based on the way teams attempt to attack; shots from outside the box, inside the box, open play, set pieces, short passes, long passes, dribbles, crosses and how much they use the wide areas when they attack. …” StatsBomb


When Stephen Ireland Outshone Robinho At Man City

January 12, 2018

“The current incarnation of Manchester City – the freewheeling global powerhouse managed by Pep Guardiola, handing out thrashings to lesser sides like they’re going out of fashion – bears little resemblance to what went before. The club was utterly transformed on 1st September 2008, when the Abu Dhabi United Group confirmed its takeover. …” The Set Pieces


Roy Hodgson wields the Croydon Way to halt Manchester City juggernaut

January 3, 2018

“The technical areas were a study in difference. On one side was the pencil thin, shaven-headed figure of Pep Guardiola, arms folded, sleek in his black bomber jacket. In the other were two figures dressed in black but that was the only similarity between them. That football could have produced two such disparate groups, practically separate species, is testament to its infinite richness. …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


In a Top-Heavy Premier League, More Teams Rush to the Bunker

January 3, 2018

“LIVERPOOL, England — There was a moment, a few minutes into the second half, that encapsulated it all. Not just this game and these teams, but what the Premier League has been this season, and what it might become. A Manchester United attack had just broken down, and Everton’s defense had cleared the ball. Phil Jones, United’s central defender, collected the ball deep inside his own half. Oumar Niasse, Everton’s hardworking forward, chased him down. Jones hurried a pass to his teammate Marcos Rojo, whose touch was not entirely clean. The boisterous Goodison Park crowd, scenting weakness, stirred. …” NY Times


Tactical review of 2017: Pep Guardiola reasserts his version of post-Cruyffianism

December 29, 2017


“The year ends with Pep Guardiola ascendant, his juego de posición, evolved over time and amended and slightly repackaged for England, cutting a swathe through the Premier League, just as it overwhelmed all in La Liga and the Bundesliga. There will be the usual complaints about how much money has been spent and, more pertinently, about the origin of that money, but English football has never seen anything quite like this. …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Arsène Wenger’s efforts to counter the counter cause Arsenal confusion

December 21, 2017

“Three weeks ago, before Arsenal lost to Manchester United, Arsène Wenger suggested playing a back three had helped his side combat the counterattack which, of all their many weaknesses over the past decade, has probably been their biggest. It was a claim that prodded interest at the time and has become more intriguing only in the days since. The truth of it will be severely tested on Friday as Arsenal face Liverpool who at the moment are one of the most dangerous counterattacking sides in the world. …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Tactical Analysis: Manchester City 4-1 Tottenham Hotspur | Guardiola extends winning run to 16

December 21, 2017

“Pep Guardiola guided his Manchester City side to their sixteenth consecutive victory in the Premier League with a dominant victory over Tottenham Hotspur. Mauricio Pochettino’s men were seen by many as the league’s best hope of ending City’s dominant run, but Spurs ended up leaving the Etihad Stadium on Saturday on the wrong end of a 4-1 scoreline, having been totally outclassed across all four phases of the game. …” Outside of the Boot