“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 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)
“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
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
“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
“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 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