How Arsenal must play in order to beat Barcelona in the Champions League

February 21, 2016

“Arsenal’s clash with Barcelona has been billed as another contest between two sides in a continual series, but it’s actually been half a decade since the sides previously met. It was so long ago that Cesc Fabregas was still with Arsenal — never mind him joining Barcelona, being turned down by Arsene Wenger when he wanted to return to England and then winning the Premier League with Chelsea.” ESPN – Michael Cox (Video)

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How will Pep Guardiola assess Manchester City’s current squad?

February 7, 2016

“Predicting Pep Guardiola’s assessment of Manchester City’s current squad is a trickier task than might be expected. Across his time in charge at Barcelona and Bayern Munich there are common themes and obvious concepts he insists upon — the simple concept of possession football being the most obvious example — but his favoured type of player has varied dramatically. It’s worth remembering, for example, that when Guardiola took charge of Bayern three years ago, the consensus was that he’d struggle to find a place for Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben — wingers rather than the wide forwards with whom he’d worked at Barcelona.” ESPN – Michael Cox


What would the Premier League look like if it were a knockout competition?

January 8, 2016

“At this early stage of the year, English football is all about knockout competitions: the busy festive period of league football is over, and instead we have midweek Capital One Cup semifinals, followed by the FA Cup third round. In fact, this year as a whole is also heavily based around knockout football, with the supposed offseason featuring three major competitions: Euro 2016, the Olympics and a bonus Copa America, too. Knockout football is interesting, in part, because it’s more likely to produce slightly unusual winners. Few would argue, for example, that Wigan were England’s best team in 2013 because they won the FA Cup. The element of randomness is precisely what people enjoy, and come to expect; the concept of a giant-killing in the cup competitions is arguably what the tournament is all about.” ESPN – Michael Cox


Euro 2016 lacks a clear favourite as France, Germany, Spain all flawed

December 17, 2015

“Euro 2016 will be the first-ever European Championships comprised of 24 teams, a format that opens up the tournament to the continent’s minnows. Yet assessing the runners and riders ahead of Saturday’s draw, it feels like one of the most closed European championships in a long time. There are three clear favourites who each have something obvious to shout about: France are the hosts, Spain the holders and Germany the world champions. Other than this trio, it’s incredibly difficult to make a case for anyone else triumphing.” ESPN – Michael Cox


Milner best suited to Liverpool wing, despite preference to play centrally

November 24, 2015

“Ahead of Liverpool’s trip to Manchester City on Saturday, all eyes will be on Raheem Sterling. The young attacker’s decision to switch from Liverpool to City was English football’s most protracted, and controversial, transfer of the summer; but, going the other way, there was a more surprising move. James Milner was at Manchester City for five years, winning two league titles and two domestic cups, but elected to make the step down to join Liverpool. In many ways, Milner’s decision was understandable; often overlooked at City in favour of players with bigger reputations and bigger egos, Milner wanted to be appreciated, to feel like a central part of a major club. Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool offered him that opportunity, and Milner was immediately named the club’s vice-captain. The absence of Jordan Henderson through injury has ensured Milner frequently starts with the armband, too.” ESPN – Michael Cox


Football Weekly: Hungary qualify for Euro 2016 as England’s friendly with France goes ahead

November 18, 2015

“The podders reflect on the Euro 2016 playoffs and the rest of the international friendlies. Plus, Raúl retires, Paul Lambert heads to Blackburn Rovers and Jimmy Floyd Hasslebaink remains in high demand. On today’s Football Weekly, AC Jimbo is joined by Jacob Steinberg, Michael Cox and John Ashdown to look back on the Euro 2016 qualifiers, with a bit of help from Jonathan Wilson, who was in Bosnia to see (or not) Ireland’s 1-1 draw with Dzecko and co in the fog, and then in Budapest to witness Hungary qualifying for their first major tournament in 30 years, and is now en route to Slovenia. Because that’s the sort of thing he does.” Guardian – Michael Cox, Jonathan Wilson, etc. (Video)


Mauricio Pochettino is building Spurs from the back, the opposite of Arsenal

November 10, 2015

“Once upon a time, pundits said that great teams were ‘built from the back.’ Concentrating on defence before attack was considered the optimum way to create a winning machine, but this has proved trickier in an era when almost every fan base is determined for their side to play ‘good football’ and managers aren’t given much time to impress. Besides, whereas great defending was once considered the domain of the back four, and maybe a screening midfield player too, it’s now a collective effort. Can great teams be built from the back if the defending starts from the front?” ESPN – Michael Cox