“Ninth time lucky!” – Five things learned as West Ham stun Manchester United in EFL Cup upset at Old Trafford

September 23, 2021


“West Ham rolled up to Old Trafford in the EFL Cup without either of their best centre-backs in Kurt Zouma and Angelo Ogbonna, and given the Hammers were in siege defence mode for basically 80 minutes, you would have thought that would come back to haunt him, but it didn’t. United piled on the pressure, sending crosses and passes into the box but in the end it was Dean Henderson who made the bigger saves. That’s down to Craig Dawson and Issa Diop. The centre-back pair were colossal, getting their heads and feet to everything United put in. …”
Squawka
Guardian: West Ham’s Lanzini strikes to knock Manchester United out of Carabao Cup
BBC: Manchester United 0 – 1 West Ham United


2021–22 UEFA Champions League

September 22, 2021


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


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

September 13, 2021


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


2021-22 UEFA Champions League Group Stage

September 11, 2021


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


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

September 11, 2021


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


Which Premier League team has the best goalkeeper?

September 10, 2021


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


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

September 8, 2021


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


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

September 4, 2021


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


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


No surprise Leeds lost to Manchester United, just look at the wage bills

August 19, 2021


Marcelo Bielsa
“The easy thing is to blame the manager. It has become football’s default response to any crisis. A team hits a poor run or loses a big game: get rid of the manager. As Alex Ferguson said as many as 14 years ago, we live in ‘a mocking culture’ and reality television has fostered the idea people should be voted off with great regularity (that he was trying to defend Steve McClaren’s reign as England manager should not undermine the wider point). Managers are expendable. Rejigging squads takes time and money and huge amounts of effort in terms of research and recruitment, whereas anybody can look at who is doing well in Portugal or Greece or the Championship and spy a potential messiah. Then there are the structural factors, the underlying economic issues it is often preferable to ignore because to acknowledge them is to accept how little agency the people we shout about every week really have in football. …”
Guardian: Jonathan Wilson
Man United 5-1 Leeds – Tactical Analysis – Pogba’s Masterclass
YouTube: actical Analysis : Manchester United 5 – 1 Leeds United | Solskjaer’s Tactics vs Bielsa


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


No fanfare: Raphaël Varane’s Manchester United arrival is typically low-key

July 31, 2021


“In the 10 years since Raphaël Varane joined Real Madrid, he hasn’t done much. Apart from win the Copa del Rey, three league titles and four European Cups. There’s the World Cup, too; 360 games at the biggest club of all, and 79 more for France. But that’s about it. In his first clásico, a Copa del Rey semi-final at the Camp Nou, he cleared one chance one off the line, stopped Lionel Messi taking another and scored a superb header; in the second leg he scored again, taking Madrid to the final. He was 19, and it was all downhill from there. Varane is 28 now, has racked up 18 winners’ medals, and has gone. …”
Guardian
Raphael Varane to Manchester United: The deal that even surprised the club and what to expect for the player and his team-mates
W – Raphaël Varane
YouTube: Raphaël Varane Welcome to Manchester United


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


Manchester United lack clarity on and off the pitch – nowhere is that clearer than in the centre-back department

August 26, 2018

“DIEGO Godin, Harry Maguire, Yerry Mina, Toby Alderweireld… as each Brighton goal flew in on Sunday, Manchester United’s inability to land a centre-back came to seem more and more of an error. United were shambolic at the back, lacking leadership and organisation, an open door through which Brighton seemed not quite to be able to believe they could keep walking. For United that is a deeply worrying sign, for if there is anything Jose Mourinho has historically been good at, it is organising his back four.” Unibet – Jonathan Wilson


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

August 18, 2018

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


Talent Radar: 5 breakthrough players to watch in the Premier League

August 10, 2018

“As is the case every year, a brand new Premier League campaign already has an aura of excitement around it. Along with this comes the chance for young players to break into the senior sides. Here are 5 breakthrough players to watch this season.” Outside of the Boot


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


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


A case of Dejan vu all over again for Lovren the Liverpool fall guy

March 13, 2018


“A long ball. Dejan Lovren steps tight to Romelu Lukaku, tries to shove him, fails to move him and drops off. Lukaku wins the header and Marcus Rashford scores. A long ball. Lovren steps tight to Lukaku, fails to unsettle him. Lukaku wins the header and Rashford, after the brief intervention of a block challenge on Juan Mata, scores. For Liverpool it was a case of Dejan vu all over again. This was not as bad as his performance at Wembley against Tottenham, when Lovren played as though dazed, but it was another game in which Liverpool conceded goals that, from a defensive point of view, came through the Croat. …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


The Inverted Sheepdog

February 27, 2018

“I’m standing just outside the Barcelona dressing-room door at Wembley, about an hour after Manchester United have been defeated 3-1 in the 2011 Champions League final. The dancing, singing and beer-drinking in the Catalan dressing-room have only just died down. I’ve been charged with interviewing two of the winning players, with the trophy, for the final Champions League Weekly television programme of the season and there is a desperate need for a player to emerge from the fiesta. Getting them agree to the damn request is another thing again. …” The Blizzard (2012)


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


Mourinho’s Pogba problem deepens after Benítez overcomes his old foe

February 13, 2018

“The end was chaotic, Newcastle camped in their box with every block and clearance being roared to the rafters, but the tension of that final minute of injury time, and the similarly desperate scramble at around 80 minutes, should not allow the narrative to take hold that Manchester United were unlucky to lose. Rather they were desperately drab, short of inspiration, their forward line a strange bodge job of sparkly parts that do not really go together. …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


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)


Red Rebels: The Glazers and the FC revolution by John-Paul O’Neill

January 26, 2018


“‘Revolutions only effect a radical improvement when the masses are alert and know how to chuck out their leaders as soon as the latter have done their job.’ This quotation – from George Orwell – is aptly used by John-Paul O’Neill at the conclusion of his exposé on the running of FC United. What begins as a hope-fuelled guide to starting a team from scratch turns into a crime sheet of mismanagement as O’Neill attempts to evidence how ironically dis-united the fan-made club became. …” WSC, amazon


Mourinho’s charismatic authority brings success and instability

January 19, 2018

“Last season Eden Hazard observed that the main difference between José Mourinho and Antonio Conte was that Mourinho does not practise ‘automisations’. He does not have players practise set moves they can perform almost unconsciously that can be deployed at great pace when the situation demands. He organises his defence and leaves his forwards to improvise. That has been taken by some as evidence that Mourinho is no longer at the forefront of coaching – and perhaps it is – but it is also a detail that explains his entire methodology. …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


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


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


The Three Epic, Early Champions League Showdowns

December 14, 2017


“The draw for the Champions League round of 16 is set, and even though the first games will not be played for two months, we already know that at least one true European power will be eliminated before the quarterfinals kick off, and a couple more elite clubs could be in trouble. This is because the Champions League draw pitted some of the best teams in the world against each other in early clashes. According to Soccer Power Index, six of the nine best teams to make the knockouts have been drawn against each other. These three matchups — each of which consists of two games, one at each club’s home grounds — should give the Round of 16 a new level of drama. … ” fivethirtyeight, NY Times: Real-P.S.G. and Barcelona-Chelsea in the Champions League, YouTube: The Three Epic, Early Champions League Showdowns


Tactical Analysis: Arsenal 1-3 Manchester United | Heavy man orientation and poor spacing

December 6, 2017

“The Gunners vs The Reds. A fixture once regarded as the pinnacle of English football in the mid to late 90s has been relegated to second rate status. The teams were the dominant Premier League sides around the turn of the century but both have dropped off in the last few years. Arsenal started as expected with their now customary 3-4-3 system with Lacazette starting (in a big game finally). Arsenal’s game plan was to play a cautious possession game where they got men forward in limited numbers and hoped to score. …” Outside of the Boot


Jose Mourinho ready to renew rivalry with Rafa Benitez, the man he hated first

November 17, 2017

“The last time that Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benitez had one of their many flashpoints, back in that odd exchange in the summer of 2015 when the Spaniard was Real Madrid manager and his wife Montse even had comments about how they ‘tidy up his messes’, it wasn’t actually the Portuguese who was most bothered. Mourinho’s loyal long-time assistant Rui Faria seemed to care the most.” Independent


Tactical Analysis: Manchester United 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur | United Secure An Important 3 Points

October 31, 2017

“Against Tottenham’s press, Jose Mourinho’s troops relied on a direct approach build up as one of their approach was to play a lot of deep passes to Lukaku and Rashford in the last line. The aim was simple, access the depth and make quick entries into the box at full speed. …” Outside of the Boot


Is José Mourinho’s negativity a product of his failure to make it as a player?

October 27, 2017

“It is a sad indication of the recent state of Liverpool that over the past couple of weeks they have seemed more significant as a test case for others than in and of themselves. José Mourinho took his Manchester United side to Anfield and, as he waited and waited and waited for the game “to break”, the watching world waited and waited and waited for something vaguely resembling action to break out. It didn’t and the game finished 0-0. Given Liverpool’s vulnerabilities and given Manchester City’s remarkable form, that felt even at the time like two points needlessly squandered. …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Jürgen Klopp eases Liverpool’s pressing game in the search for solidity

October 15, 2017

“It is not something you often have to consider but what if José Mourinho was right? What if, on Saturday, there was for once no bluff or manipulation, no attempt to provoke or deflect attention: what if the analysis he gave of Manchester United’s 0-0 draw at Liverpool was straightforward and correct? …” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Premier League results: Man City win at Chelsea, Fellaini and Kane score twice

October 1, 2017

“The top three all won in the Premier League on Saturday as Manchester City defeated Chelsea in the late game to reclaim the top spot that had briefly been taken away from them earlier in the day. Kevin de Bruyne smashed a stunning second-half strike past fellow Belgian Thibaut Courtois as Manchester City leapfrogged Manchester United on goal difference with a slender 1-0 victory. …” BBC


Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ fail in first attempt to increase their TV share

September 28, 2017


There has been a plot by Man Utd, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and Man City to grab more of the Premier League’s television billions
“The row over a plot by Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City to grab more of the Premier League’s television billions intensified after their rivals rejected an offer to resolve the dispute. A secret meeting of the other 14 top-flight clubs discussed a proposal put forward by the league to change how its overseas rights revenue is allocated following mounting pressure from the so-called ‘Big Six’ for them to be awarded a larger share of the cash. …” Telegraph


Manchester United’s ugly win the perfect preparation for CSKA Moscow mission

September 25, 2017


Romelu Lukaku scores Manchsester United’s winner past the despairing dive of Fraser Forster.
“For more than half an hour, José Mourinho sat waiting on the Manchester United team coach outside St Mary’s doubtless basking in the comfort of a job well done after extending his side’s unbeaten run to eight matches. They displayed a callous efficiency and a charming stubbornness in an unforgiving and occasionally ugly performance that earned United victory and a fifth clean sheet in six Premier League matches. Romelu Lukaku, though, was still stationed inside in doping control, and, such is the ruthlessness of this United team at present, they left for Southampton airport without him. …” Guardian


Leeds United: Are Championship leaders finally set for Premier League return?

September 25, 2017

“As Leeds United’s supporters celebrated at the traditional gathering place of The Old Peacock just a short walk from Elland Road, one of English football’s institutions had taken another small step on the long road to recovery. A 3-2 win over Ipswich – a game almost designed to play on nerves frayed by 15 years of trauma – kept Leeds top of the Championship on goal difference going into Tuesday’s game at third-placed Cardiff.” BBC


Global Series | Top 10 European Players of 2015: Busquets, Kane and De Bruyne feature

December 19, 2016

“… 2. IVAN RAKITIC Rakitic 2016The Croatian superstar has had a super debut season at the Camp Nou. During his initial days, there was a bit of disbelief that confronted the notion that either Xavi or Iniesta would have to sit out matches to accommodate Rakitic. All of this died down very soon, as Rakitic let his feet do the talking. While he isn’t the most prolific in front of goal, he doesn’t really need to be, and he does the job of keeping the likes of Messi, Neymar and Suarez well fed very efficiently.” Outside of the Boot


Manchester City bounce back to leave Wenger fuming – Football Weekly

December 19, 2016

“It must be (nearly) Christmas, because on today’s Football Weekly, my true love sent to me AC Jimbo, Barry Glendenning, Paolo Bandini, and Barney Bloody Ronay! … We then brush aside the Premier League and turn our attention to Italy, where Juventus saw off Roma in a top o’ the table Serie A clash. Finally, we hear from our long lost pal Sid Lowe about Real Madrid’s victory in the World Club Cup final and the state of play in La Liga, which has downed tools until the new year. Rafa Honigstein will be with us for Thursday’s show, so if you have a question for the World’s Greatest Bavarian, post it on the blog below.” Guardian (Video)


Tactical Analysis: Everton 1-1 Manchester United | United’s build up play and Everton’s compact structure in defending

December 8, 2016

“Everton hosted Manchester United at Goodison Park as the two teams were desperate for a win following a poor run of results. Everton had only one win in the last eight matches while United had one in seven. Languishing beneath the European spots with the teams above them racking up points consistently, it was imperative that both teams look for the win in order to stay within touching distance of those at top.” Outside of the Boot


Jose Mourinho is a fraction away from turning Man Utd into title challengers – just get rid of that walking suicide note Marouane Fellaini

December 5, 2016

“There was a moment in the second half at Goodison Park on Sunday which suggested Jose Mourinho’s permanent look of sour misery may be about to change.His Manchester United side unleashed a sequence of first-time passes, pinging the ball around with genuine fizz. As passes spun with training ground precision from Matteo Darmian to Anthony Martial to Michael Carrick to Ander Herrera, it was possible to see exactly what the United manager is trying to achieve with his team.” Telegraph


Diego Costa’s cheery scowl shows Chelsea are in a good place

November 26, 2016

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“Unless the rest of his life is one enormous bluff, it is safe to assume Diego Costa is not a particularly successful poker player. It is never hard to know what he is thinking: he is an open book whether he is scowling in anger, scowling in frustration, scowling in irritation or, as has increasingly been the case recently, scowling cheerily.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Team Comparisons: Good (and Bad) in the Premier League

November 26, 2016

“Twelve games have passed in the Premier League and there’s value in looking at comparative historical numbers at various points. It’s a good time to take stock because a) it’s starting to become a vaguely decent sample and b) I have a load of numbers stored at twelve games because i’ve written this before. This is the eighth season of Opta data that has been published publicly around the place and with every season that passes, the more interesting the outliers become.” Stats Bomb