Sean Dyche, Ulla Klopp and whoever saves Everton: Who deserves a statue at your Premier League club?

May 16, 2022


“Ten years on from ‘Aguerooooooooo!’ and Manchester City’s first Premier League title win, the club yesterday unveiled a statue of their former striker at the Etihad Stadium. Aguero’s iconic stoppage-time winner in their 3-2 victory against Queens Park Rangers on the final day of the 2011-12 season will be remembered forever by City fans, so it is only right that he has been immortalised in galvanised steel. But who deserves a statue at your Premier League club? And who will be next at City? We’ve asked our Premier League club reporters to explain their choices and if you think they’ve got it drastically wrong then please let us know in the comment. …”
The Athletic


The Most Decisive Goals in Premier League History

May 16, 2022


“Today marks 10 years since Aguero. You remember: 93:20. Balotelli’s assist. The Goal That Changed Everything. The Match That Had Everything. Joe Hart on throw-in duties. Joey Barton’s long walk off. A surprisingly iconic QPR away kit. I think Edin Dzeko did something or other. Drink it in. I swear you’ll never see anything like this again. Sometimes goals are so iconic that they don’t need a date or a time. Just a single name. Michael Thomas, Jimmy Glass. Aguero. …”
The Analyst (Video)


Manchester City Had the Money. Haaland’s Team Had the Plan.

May 11, 2022


“A few days before last summer’s transfer window drew to a close, a handful of Manchester City’s most senior executives gathered in a conference room at the club’s sprawling campus to pick through what had gone right, and what had gone wrong, over the previous couple of months. Though City, the Premier League champion, had succeeded in persuading Aston Villa to relinquish Jack Grealish, the impish playmaker who had emerged as England’s breakout star during the European Championship — making him the most expensive player in English history in the process — it had failed to land its other priority target, the Tottenham striker Harry Kane. …”
NY Times


Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp Era Is Ascending and Shows No Signs of Slowing Down

May 10, 2022


“It’s a good time to be a Liverpool fan: They reached their third Champions League final in five years following Tuesday’s win over Villarreal, their 63rd game of 2021-22. They’ve played in every possible fixture available this season, they’re in contention to win a historic four trophies, and Jürgen Klopp recently signed a contract extension committing himself to the club until 2026. …”
The Ringer


Futures bets for EPL, Serie A title chases and other tight European races

May 7, 2022


“The Champions League final is set between Liverpool and Real Madrid, but there are still two incredibly close title races in two of the biggest leagues in Europe. The Premier League and Serie A titles are coming down to the final few weeks. There are also close battles for European places and relegation battles across the top five European leagues. Here’s a look at what’s on the line, the biggest matches to come and how the betting market views the close races in the final few weeks of league play. …”
The Athletic


Outbreaks of chaos expose fatal flaw that keeps denying Guardiola European glory

May 7, 2022


“At what point does just one of those things become more than just one of those things? If Manchester City’s defeat to Real Madrid on Wednesday night were a one-off, it could be written off. What can you do about luck like that? If you have nine shots on target to the opposition’s none in the first 90 minutes and still lose 2-1 what, really, have you done wrong? Especially when you’ve dominated the first leg as City had done. But this keeps happening. Season after season, Pep Guardiola finds his teams dominating Champions League ties and losing. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Cox: Like Ancelotti, Guardiola got his subs right. There’s not much more he could have done

May 6, 2022


“Even by the standards of Champions League semi-finals, the most action-packed and dramatic stage of any competition in modern football, Real Madrid’s comeback against Manchester City last night was truly extraordinary. For 85 minutes at the Bernabeu, City were largely faultless and seemed set to record a controlled 1-0 victory that would take them into the final against Liverpool on May 28. Then, suddenly, a late blitz saw the Spanish champions score two goals, both through Rodrygo, and at 5-5 on aggregate, the momentum was with Madrid. It wasn’t a surprise they opened the scoring in extra time, and it wasn’t a surprise that they held out. City were shellshocked. Is it possible to make sense of such a chaotic ending? Let’s see. …”
The Athletic: Michael Cox
Guardian: Systemic flaws of Guardiola’s City keep Champions League out of reach (Video)
NY Times: Real Madrid Stuns City, Seizing the Moment as Only It Can
Guardian: Real Madrid’s latest miracle is a tale of 88 seconds and one Ancelotti video (Video)
The Athletic: Camavinga, Rodrygo, Vinicius: Real Madrid’s big bets on rising stars are paying off


A Clash of Civilizations in the Champions League Semifinal

April 29, 2022


“It is easy to see a clash between Manchester City and Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinal as the ultimate contrast of footballing cultures: If City are the brash young upstart of European football, then Madrid are its landed gentry. The latter have been crowned its kings on 13 occasions, while the former still await their first European title. Historians might see this as a reductive reading of the situation—as a club, City were actually founded several years before Madrid, but in terms of prestige, the Mancunians are still playing catch-up. The pattern of Tuesday’s first leg, which Manchester City won 4-3, perfectly illustrated this dynamic. …”
The Ringer
NY Times: Superclubs and Spring Nights
Tactical Analysis: Manchester City 4-3 Real Madrid


Manchester City 4-3 Real Madrid: Classic Champions League tie a genuine gold standard match

April 27, 2022


Kevin de Bruyne opened the scoring after only 93 seconds in an incredible Champions League semi-final first-leg tie
“Carlo Ancelotti’s last visit to Manchester City ended in a 5-0 humiliation in what proved to be the final match of his tenure as Everton manager. When the legendary Italian manager, 62, turned to his Real Madrid backroom staff with arms outstretched and gave an anxious glance down at his watch with City 2-0 up after only 11 minutes on his return to Etihad Stadium, he was probably fearing a similar scoreline. City were flying. Real were overwhelmed. This was shaping up as a one-sided mauling for the great old Champions League campaigner chasing the trophy for a historic fourth time….”
BBC
The Athletic: ‘I always have it in my head’ – the mental strength behind Karim Benzema’s outrageous penalty for Real Madrid
NY Times: A Convincing Win That Was Anything but Convincing
The Athletic: Carlo Ancelotti’s quiet path to redemption at Real Madrid
Guardian: Pep Guardiola urges Manchester City to be more ruthless in Real Madrid return


A Different Kind of Rivalry Defines the Premier League Title Race

April 26, 2022


“The embrace between Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola two weekends ago at full time of the FA Cup semifinal was more subdued than the theatrical, jump-attack in the Premier League six days before that. Klopp more or less fielded his strongest Liverpool team against a Manchester City side weakened by a punishing midweek Champions League tie against Atlético Madrid. During the FA Cup match, City, who fell 3-0 down, managed to stay in it until the last kick, with Fernandinho blazing any lingering hopes of extra time over the bar. …”
The Ringer (Video)


When Were the 2021-22 Premier League Teams Last Relegated From the Top Flight?

April 23, 2022


Woolwich Arsenal, playing at Highbury, in the Second Division, in 1913. Crazy but true.
“The demotion season is upon us. In the next few weeks three teams will drop out of the Premier League, to be replaced by Fulham (promoted this week) and two others. As it stands it will be Norwich City, Watford and Burnley going down, but just how long is it since each of the 20 clubs currently in the Premier League last experienced relegation? Because make no mistake, they all have, just some more recently than others. …”
The Analyst (Video)


How Pep Guardiola Uses Ball Boys

April 23, 2022


When Manchester City faced Atletico Madrid in the Champions League Pep Guardiola had a plan to stop Atleti’s time-wasting and dark-arts tactics. He needed help from the ball boys. What did they do? What was Guardiola’s plan? Did it work? Written by Sam Lee, illustrated by Marco Bevilacqua.
YouTube


Oleksandr Zinchenko: ‘If you stay silent it means you support what is happening in Ukraine’

April 17, 2022


“… That is the exhausting but grimly necessary reality for Zinchenko and his compatriots. Every action is cast in the shadow of Russia’s invasion, with its barbaric consequences, and among the biggest concerns is that people outside become desensitised. It simply would not do and, on an Easter weekend when professional commitments bring an FA Cup semi-final for Manchester City against Liverpool, he wants to use his platform. For almost an hour his anger pours out, sometimes in controlled rage but often in raw expressions of hurt. Words can capture people’s attention but, in whatever order, they still cannot rationalise exactly what is happening inside Ukraine. …”
Guardian
W – Oleksandr Zinchenko


Two nights in Madrid, two wildly contrasting experiences

April 16, 2022


“Nobody was leaving. Not Atletico Madrid’s players, who it seemed were going to have to be dragged kicking and screaming from the Champions League stage, and not their supporters, who were determined to have the last word. … You wouldn’t have guessed their team had just been beaten to a place in the Champions League semi-finals by Manchester City. What a noise — from the start to the bitter, bitter end. And what an extraordinary occasion it was. Again. … When the dust settled on that angry, bad-tempered quarter-final second leg at the Wanda Metropolitano last night, it was City who had held on to secure a semi-final meeting with Real Madrid, leaving Atletico, like Chelsea the previous evening, to count their regrets. …”
The Athletic


Alan Shearer analyses Man City 2 Liverpool 2: Quick free-kick aids De Bruyne, Klopp’s clear message, screaming at Ederson

April 11, 2022


“Electric, relentless, scintillating, towering standards and brutal in its intensity; Jurgen Klopp likened this match to a boxing match and so it was, with these two exceptional teams slugging it out toe-to-toe at the top of the Premier League, each committed to their own style and principles, utter belief in what they do, and refusing to change for them or for anybody. It was everything we hoped for and expected. Blimey, Manchester City against Liverpool was good. …”
The Athletic
Guardian: Manchester City’s strive for perfection goes on as Liverpool highlight flaws – Jonathan Wilson


Broken down: How Klopp’s Liverpool and Guardiola’s Manchester City play football

April 9, 2022


“Manchester City vs Liverpool. Pep Guardiola vs Jurgen Klopp. A 4-3-3 vs ….well, a 4-3-3. Whichever angle you look at it from, City and Liverpool have barely given each other an inch as they set record-breaking limits in the modern Premier League era. … The numbers certainly support Klopp’s assertion. Only one point separates the two sides in terms of Premier League points accrued since the beginning of the 2018-19 season. After 143 games each, City are just edging it 338 to 337. …”
The Athletic (Video)
The Athletic: How Guardiola and Klopp left the rest of the Premier League trailing in their wake (Video)
The Athletic: One day, Jurgen Klopp will leave Liverpool – will all he has built last once he has gone? (Audio)
Guardian: Foden, the flanks and key battles that will decide Manchester City v Liverpool – Jonathan Wilson
BBC – Man City v Liverpool: Tiny margins involved in Premier League’s title-defining rivalry (Video)
NY Times: Liverpool, Manchester City and a Bar Set Too High
NY Times: Classic Games, Lingering Scars and the Finish Line in Sight


How Does the Style of Football Change as You Journey Down the English Football League?

April 2, 2022


“As someone who’s turning circle and acceleration make Per Mertesacker look like a 100-metre sprinter, I can assure you that the long ball over the top for a nimble striker remains the most potent weapon in Sunday League football. Forget your false nines, playing it direct to your quickest and often best player is the way to go. As a percentage play, going long also comes with a greater margin for error. Misplace the pass and while you’ve given the ball away, it’s probably in the opposition half and you can retain your defensive shape. The technical ball skills required to progress upfield through shorter, more intricate passing are not always easy to come by at that level, particularly on questionable playing surfaces. …”
The Analyst


FA Cup and Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend

March 18, 2022


Brennan Johnson puts an arm round Ryan Yates after the midfielder
“… 4) Saints must take heart from City dates. Southampton will draw considerable strength from previous results this season against the Premier League leaders. They shared the points home and away with Pep Guardiola’s side, a head-to-head record bettered only by Crystal Palace and Tottenham. No reason to feel intimidated then, especially with Manchester City’s usually smooth engine spluttering ever so slightly. On the downside for Southampton, arguably the best prolonged spell of form since Ralph Hassenhüttl arrived has been abruptly ended by three straight defeats in the league. Booking a place in the FA Cup semi-finals would be just the tonic. …”
Guardian (Video)


In Derby Without Drama, City Wins a Laugher

March 7, 2022



“There was no tension in the last few minutes. It had gone long before the fourth goal arrived, marking the point at which victory turned into a rout. So had what little anxiety, what scant fretfulness might still have lingered. Instead, in the final few minutes of a derby, Manchester City’s fans could let go and enjoy themselves. Theirs was not a vicarious joy. There was pleasure, of course, to be had in the sight of Manchester United, once again, reduced to chasing shadows, grasping hopelessly at air, its players’ heads hanging and its fans silently trooping away. But as the minutes ticked by, the Etihad Stadium grew a little tired of crowing. …”
NY Times
Guardian: Manchester United flounder without foundations to build upon – Jonathan Wilson
BBC: Manchester United players ‘not good enough or don’t care’ – pundits react to derby defeat (Video)


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

February 24, 2022


“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


Premier League title race has finally regained its intrigue as Man City falter

February 22, 2022


“As if from nowhere a title race has appeared. Manchester City’s 12-point lead is down to six which means that if Liverpool win their game in hand and if Liverpool win at the Etihad Stadium in April, the two clubs could be level on points. City are still in the better position, particularly given they have not lost a league game at home against Liverpool under Pep Guardiola. But what had started to look like a procession has, quite unexpectedly, regained a sense of intrigue. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend

February 18, 2022


Douglas Luiz midfielder Aston Villa
“… 4) Gerrard seeks Villa midfield spark. Steven Gerrard has lost more matches than he has won as Aston Villa manager. There were redeeming qualities in the defeats to Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea, but nothing to admire in last week’s awful performance at Newcastle. The centre-backs performed competently but their attackers were hardly involved, principally because Villa’s midfield allowed Jonjo Shelvey and Joelinton to run the show. That is damning of John McGinn and Douglas Luiz and helps explain why Gerrard was so keen to sign Brighton’s Yves Bissouma in January. …”
Guardian


Premier League without VAR: Arsenal in Champions League places; Everton soar to safety

February 10, 2022


“It’s now five long years since Arsenal last played in the Champions League, and in fact this season is their first without any kind of European football since 1995-96. Mikel Arteta is trying to put that right, but finds his team in sixth place which, at best, is only going to be good enough for a place in the Europa League — where the Gunners were marooned for the past four seasons. But ESPN can reveal that without the decisions of the VAR, Arsenal would already be sitting pretty in fourth spot and dreaming of that place back among Europe’s elite. This season we’re looking at all VAR (video assistant referee) decisions across the Premier League, and seeing how they might have affected the outcome of games. …”
ESPN (Video)


Newcastle Are Moving Fast and Breaking Things in a Bid to Stay Alive

February 1, 2022


“Look: Manchester City will win the Premier League title. If you’d like to foster the belief that alternative outcomes are possible, then by all means characterize the two-point swing in the title race just before the international break as ‘significant’ or even inconvenient for the reigning champions. Southampton’s Kyle Walker-Peters darting across City’s back line and striking a blow against Pep Guardiola’s Goliath; Hakim Ziyech’s magnum opus against Tottenham; Liverpool triumphing over Crystal Palace in a must-win game amid penalty controversy—this is all the kind of blockbuster stuff that suggests the pulse of the title race is quickening. It amounts to City now being just nine points clear at the top of the table now. …”
The Ringer


How do you value a player?

January 30, 2022


“Last year a Premier League club invited their scouts to a training day where one of the exercises focused on valuations, starting with the price of a large latte from Starbucks. Everyone had to log on via an app and enter the value. A pint of beer in the local pub was next, followed by a four-bedroom detached house in a particular town in the north west. … What is Mbappe worth with six months remaining on his contract? Actually, what is any player worth? …”
The Athletic


What if every Premier League club could make one exciting (but plausible) signing before the deadline?

January 30, 2022


“Each club in the Premier League has different needs in the transfer market. Some are constrained by finances. All are constrained by time. But what if they weren’t? We’ve gone through every single Premier League side and come up with one signing they would love to make before deadline day. …’
Squawka


How can we make Europe’s big leagues more competitive?

January 27, 2022


“There are still four months remaining in most European domestic leagues, but the big titles are largely already decided. It’s a situation we’ve become accustomed to: the rich clubs wrapping up the league by the turn of the year, allowing them to concentrate on what really matters to them, the Champions League. Winning the title, the fundamental point of holding a national league system, is barely a story, and tense run-ins are largely a thing of the past. …”
The Athletic


The Aston Villa Revolution Will Be Televised

January 25, 2022


“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)


A trip to Dubai, ‘Yellow days’ or time off: What will your club’s players be doing during the Premier League break?

January 24, 2022


“It has snuck up on us in a whirl of postponed fixtures, the FA Cup’s third round and the Carabao Cup semi-finals but this weekend is the last push before the Premier League takes a two-week break. Don’t worry, there’s going to be plenty of football to keep us going in the meantime — with the EFL continuing, the Africa Cup of Nations’ knockout phase, World Cup qualifiers and the FA Cup fourth round to keep us entertained — but it’s an opportunity for many Premier League squads to get some time on the training pitch or simply take a well-deserved rest. Ralf Rangnick has opted to give his Manchester United players six days off, and the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea will also have extended breaks. But Newcastle United (Saudi Arabia) and Arsenal (Dubai) are off to warmer climes. Here, The Athletic’s club writers give you the rundown of what your lads are going to be up to over the next couple of weeks…”
The Athletic
W – 2022 EFL Cup Final


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

January 21, 2022


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


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

January 19, 2022


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


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

January 17, 2022


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


Manchester City, Chelsea and Competing With Perfection

January 16, 2022


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


UEFA Champions League round of 16 classics

January 8, 2022


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


Africa Cup of Nations: Which Premier League players are going?

January 3, 2022


Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Edouard Mendy, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Maxwel Cornet and more will be gone for several weeks
“The Africa Cup of Nations begins next month, with over 30 Premier League players set to miss several weeks of the season as they head to Cameroon. Arsenal, Leicester City and Watford are each set to lose a league-high four players. Liverpool will lose three – including forwards Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane – as will Crystal Palace. Chelsea are going to be without keeper Edouard Mendy, who could miss the Fifa Club World Cup and league games against Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham, among others. …”
BBC


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

December 29, 2021


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


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

December 27, 2021


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


The Premier League Chose Festive Fixtures Over Safe Fixtures

December 23, 2021


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


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

December 22, 2021


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


Who are the 10 best players in the Premier League?

December 17, 2021


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


What Do We Mean by Good Soccer?

December 11, 2021



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


The Data Day No 15: Our Rolling Football Blog

December 10, 2021


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


The rise of the underlap

December 9, 2021


“Imagine you’re Andrew Robertson in the Merseyside derby and you see Sadio Mane up ahead about to gather a loose ball at the corner of the box and dribble at the defence. You’ve got a quick decision to make. One thing you could do is hang back and let Mane try to beat his man one-on-one. After all, you’re nominally a defender, and if Liverpool lose the ball someone will have to stop Andros Townsend and Richarlison from counter-attacking up your flank. …”
The Athletic (Video)


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

December 4, 2021


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


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

December 2, 2021


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


Manchester City 2 – 1 West Ham United

November 29, 2021


“Manchester City midfield pair Ilkay Gundogan and Fernandino were on target as Pep Guardiola’s Premier League superiority over West Ham continued. City have now won 10 of 11 top-flight meetings with the Hammers under the Spaniard. In a game played in a snow-storm before half-time, skipper Gundogan provided the decisive moment after 33 minutes when he turned home a deflected Riyad Mahrez effort at the far-post. It was the Germany midfielder’s third goal of the season – and his second in four league games – and was followed up in the final minute by Fernandinho, who had only been introduced three minutes earlier to tie the game up. The veteran Brazilian had not scored a Premier League goal since October 2018 but found the target from the edge of the box. …”
BBC (Video)
YouTube: Victory in the snow! | City 2-1 West Ham | Man City Highlights | Gundogan & Fernandinho goals!


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

November 23, 2021


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


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

November 1, 2021


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


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

October 31, 2021


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


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

October 30, 2021


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


Why Can’t Man City Fill Their Stadium?

October 29, 2021


“Following the high octane clash between Man City and RB Leipzig in the Champions League that ended with 9 goals, Pep Guardiola called out the fans for their lack of attendance. And there were a lot of empty seats, but why? Written by Seb Stafford-Bloor, illustrated by Marco Bevilacqua. …”
YouTube


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

October 28, 2021


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


‘Why Always Me?’ 10 years on: The fireworks, the 6-1 and the madness of Mario Balotelli

October 23, 2021


“Amid the rolling countryside of rural Cheshire, the village of Mottram St Andrew belongs to a footballers’ enclave known locally as the ‘Golden Triangle’. Prestbury, the neighbouring village, was once calculated to have the highest number of millionaires per head in the country. Wilmslow, a couple of miles in the other direction, is another place for the people who could be described as the haves and the have-yachts. Nowhere, though, is showier than Alderley Edge, where car enthusiasts gather every weekend to take pictures of the souped-up Ferraris and Lamborghinis that roar up and down the high street. … Then, on the night of October 21, 2011, the peace was shattered. …”
The Athletic (Video)
W – Mario Balotelli
YouTube: Manchester United 1-6 Man City – Highlights & Goals – Mario Balotelli: Why Always Me?


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