Diego Simeone and Atletico Madrid are set for change – their story looks close to an end

“‘How are things at Atletico Madrid at the moment?,’ The Athletic asked a former club employee last week. ‘Bad. Bad. Really bad,’ was the reply, delivered with a grimace. ‘Not just the results, but the play, the feelings. It’s not like before.’ That same downbeat and anxious tone was a feature of many conversations with over a dozen sources close to Atletico last week, each requesting anonymity to protect their positions. …”
The Athletic

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The Juventus scandal is awful for the whole of Serie A. It could be crippling


“Only in Serie A. It’s a common refrain, sometimes jocular — ‘Ah, those crazy Italians’ — and all too often dispiriting at what goes on in Italy’s biggest league. Some fans consider it a part of its appeal. All the dysfunction, the scandals, as if it were a football version of a true crime podcast or one of those shows about cults that top the Netflix charts. …”
The Athletic

Why Juventus are in crisis

In November 2022, Andrea Agnelli, the Chairman of Juventus, and the rest of the board announced they were resigning. Agnelli had been the Chairman for 12 years. They had decided to leave following an investigation into Juventus’ finances. Why were Juventus’ finances being investigated? What did the investigators find? Why did it cause the board to resign? What happens to Juventus now? James Horncastle explains. Philippe Fenner illustrates.”
YouTube

At Juventus, a Strange Season Takes Another Turn



“The start of Juventus’s season was miserable. A raft of injuries ravaged the club’s squad. The team’s results, in those first few weeks, were flecked with disappointment. Barely a month into the campaign, Manager Massimiliano Allegri was having to smooth over the impact of an interview in which he had suggested “something was missing” from his side, alienating several of his players. …”
NY Times

Serie A 2022-23 Predictions: Rest of the Season

“Napoli are bossing things in Italy, right now. The Naples side are eight points clear of second-place Milan as the Italian top-flight returns to action following the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and our supercomputer is struggling to see past a third Serie A title for them in 2022-23. Their chances of winning their first scudetto since 1989-90 thanks to the brilliance of Diego Maradona are rated at 88.7%, while Napoli fans are almost certain to enjoy UEFA Champions League football again in 2023-34, with the supercomputer rating their chance of finishing outside the top four places in Serie A at just 0.06%. …”
The Analyst

How Good is Enzo Fernandez?

“On 2 August 2022, 21-year-old Enzo Fernández made his Benfica debut in a UEFA Champions League third-round qualifier against FC Midtjylland. He was uncapped at senior international level for Argentina and his move to Portugal was his first foray into European football. 138 days later, the young midfield maestro is a world champion with Argentina, was named the FIFA Young Player of the Tournament in Qatar, is an integral part of a Benfica side that is top of the Primeira Liga, has gained passage into the UEFA Champions League knockout stages helping As Águias top their group ahead of Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus, and he has yet to lose a single match for his new club. It’s fair to say that Enzo Fernández’s rise has been nothing short of meteoric. …”
The Analyst

Serie A 2022-23 recap: Where were we?

“It has been six weeks since the last Serie A matches, so let’s have a reminder of where the races for the Scudetto, Champions League, Europa and relegation spots stand. The fixtures kick off again on January 4 with a full slate of 10 games on that day and it’ll pick up with a big clash between leaders Napoli and title chasers Inter. Luciano Spalletti’s men went into the break for the World Cup sitting a massive eight points clear at the top of the Serie A table, trailed by Milan on 33 points and Juventus on 31. …”
Football Italia

Roma’s early momentum dissipates to leave Mourinho pointing the finger

“The players were in the tunnel ready to emerge for the second half at the Mapei Stadium, but José Mourinho was headed in the opposite direction, returning from the dugout to the changing room. Roma were drawing 0-0 with Sassuolo but just for a moment that was not his priority, as he went to retrieve a team shirt to give to a young supporter in a wheelchair he had noticed beside the pitch. …”
Guardian

European roundup: Filip Kostic inspires Juventus in defeat of Internazionale

“Filip Kostic set up both goals as Juventus beat Internazionale in Serie A on Sunday in a challenging game where both teams had chances to win. Kostic took advantage of a cleared Inter corner and raced into the box, where Adrien Rabiot guided the assist elegantly into the bottom corner in the 52nd minute. Kostic then fed an unmarked Nicolo Fagioli six minutes before full time for the second goal. Juventus are fifth on 25 points, 10 behind leaders Napoli. Inter are seventh on 24 points. …”
Guardian

The Instant Legend of Kvaradona


“BATUMI, Georgia — They used to worry that the Adjarabet Arena, with its sinuous arches and illuminated exterior, would turn into something of a white elephant. Batumi, after all, is a quaint resort town; it had little need for a 20,000-capacity stadium. Dinamo, the soccer team that was to call it home, generally required seating for only half that number. And then, at the start of April, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia arrived. …”
NY Times

Italy’s northern dominance and why it could be broken this season

“Italians often describe their country as being split in two, north and south. Outsiders find it hard to believe that a country can have such contrasting customs and values depending what end of the ‘stivale’ one finds themselves in, but the origin of this cultural divide dates back centuries. For a country so rich in history, it won’t come as a surprise that past events are still defining elements of Italy’s present society. Unification only occurred in the 19th century, and a glance at a map of Italy before this date shows a striking resemblance with what the average Italian would describe their country as now. …”
Backpage Football

Italy: Serie A, 2022-23 season


“The map page has a location-map of 2022-23 Serie A, along with 3 charts. The location-map features each club’s home kit [2022-23]. The map also shows the 20 Regions of Italy. And the map also shows the 11 largest cities in Italy (2020 metropolitan-area figures) {Metropolitan cities of Italy}. The cities’ population figures can be seen at the top of the location-map. Also, the map shows the locations of both the 3 promoted clubs and the 3 relegated clubs from 2022…Promoted to Serie A for 2022-23: Lecce, Cremonese, Monza; relegated to Serie B for 2022-23: Cagliari, Genoa, Venezia. …”
billsportsmaps
Guardian: Milan bounce back against Juventus to give Allegri a slap in the face
The Analyst: Italian Serie A 2022-23 Season Stats

UEFA Champions League Preview: Big clash in Lisbon, while Juventus need a win

“While Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez claims there are too many inconsequential matches, the Champions League group phase pushes ahead with matchday three. Matches that look quite appetising can be found right across Europe, from London to Leipzig to Lisbon. …”
Game of the People

Juventus and Allegri struggles go on as Spalletti and Gasperini take centre stage


“A different coach has won Serie A in each of the past four years. A different team has been crowned champions in each of the past three seasons. On the one hand, this serves as a reminder of Italy’s strength in depth in the technical area. On the other, it highlights a renewed domestic competitiveness. Serie A went down to the final day in May and looking at the table now I can’t be the only one scratching my head, musing on who will be celebrating the Scudetto come June. …”
The Athletic

Arkadiusz Milik sparked bedlam in Turin. But then the real chaos

“Arkadiusz Milik knew the punishment but still committed the crime, ripping off his shirt and throwing it in the air as he barrelled toward Juventus’s supporters behind the goal. They came tumbling down the stand towards him, delirious and disbelieving. In the 91st minute, their team had trailed 2-1 at home to Salernitana. Now, in the 95th, Milik had scored to put them 3-2 ahead. …”
Guardian

European roundup: Bayern held by Stuttgart, Napoli and Milan grab wins

“Bayern Munich conceded a stoppage-time equaliser scored by the VfB Stuttgart striker Serhou Guirassy from the penalty spot, as the champions endured a third consecutive Bundesliga draw. The game started well for Bayern, with Mathys Tel scoring their opener in the 36th minute. The France youth international Tel, who at the age of 17 years and 136 days became the youngest player to start a league game for Bayern, had already scored in the German Cup first round. He scored his first league goal by drilling in a low drive from an Alphonso Davies cutback. …”
Guardian

Why Leroy Sane’s late runs into the Inter box were so crucial for Bayern Munich

“On Tuesday evening, an Italian side playing 3-5-2 were defeated by the runs of a speedy attacker — starting deeper and narrower than you’d expect, but going in behind. Kylian Mbappe scored the opener for Paris Saint-Germain against Juventus and got the second goal, too. On Wednesday evening, an Italian side playing 3-5-2 were defeated by the runs of a speedy attacker — starting deeper and narrower than you’d expect, but going in behind. Leroy Sane scored the opener for Bayern Munich against Inter Milan and forced the own goal that was their second. …”
The Athletic – Michael Cox

Champions League: Michael Cox’s tactical guide to this season’s leading contenders

“Judging by the bookmakers’ odds, there are eight sides who stand a decent chance of winning this season’s European Cup. Broadly speaking, they look familiar from last season — few clubs have undergone a dramatic overhaul in terms of their starting XI and only one of these eight clubs appointed a new manager in the summer. If you haven’t watched any of the favourites since last season, here’s the lowdown on their approaches for 2022-23. …”
The Athletic

How Sandro Tonali’s shifting roles helped decide a rollercoaster Milan derby


“If you are riding a rollercoaster, there are always ups and downs. And that was certainly the case in this weekend’s Derby della Madonnina between AC Milan and Inter Milan. Inter took the lead, Milan equalised, then dominated and scored twice to go 3-1 ahead. Then Inter hit back and, but for some miraculous goalkeeping by Mike Maignan and a tactical tweak by Stefano Pioli, could well have salvaged a point. … In this piece, The Athletic breaks down the key tactical battles from the game…”
The Athletic

Rating the best and worst of Europe’s 2022-23 kits: From stunners to zany stripes

“We’ve rated the Premier League home kits. We’ve rated the Premier League away kits. So now it’s time to go Euro. It’s a big ask to review the design choices of an entire continent, but The Athletic has broad shoulders and is very happy to take on the job. Someone has to — you may think that this is not something that is absolutely vital for the smooth continuation of public discourse, but unfortunately, we’ve checked, and actually, it is. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Why the through ball is becoming a dying art in European football


“The number of through balls in the UEFA Champions League dropped 50 per cent between the 2018-19 and 2021-22 seasons. In Europe’s top five leagues, the number of through balls dropped on average 30 per cent over the same period. In the Europa League, it dropped 24 per cent. The through ball is not extinct, but it is endangered.Before examining why, we need to define the term. FBref data define a through ball as a: ‘Completed pass sent between the back defenders into open space.’ It is a complex pass to complete, hence the number of through balls is never particularly high and is in fact lower than the goals-per-game total in Europe’s top divisions. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Mafia Madness and ‘The Miracle of Castel di Sangro’

“Stay with me here: You need  to read a 400-page nonfiction book about an inconsequential Italian club you’ve never heard of, from an inconsequential area you’ve never heard of, with inconsequential players you’ve never heard of, under an inconsequential manager you’ve never heard of, that had one improbably inconsequential season in Serie B from the 1990s. …”
Football Paradise
amazon

The Biggest Serie A Wins


“The biggest win in Serie A history remains Torino’s 10-0 destruction of Alessandria in May 1948. This was the era of the Grande Torino – the five-time champions of Italy (in successive seasons) and the backbone of the Italian national team. This legendary team scored 125 goals in Serie A 1947-48 – 49 more than any other team, while they won the league title by a massive 16 points despite playing in the two points for a win era. The 10-0 victory against Alessandria saw Ezio Loik score a hat-trick. …”
The Analyst

A.C. Monza


Associazione Calcio Monza is a professional football club that is based in Monza, Lombardy, Italy. The team plays in the Serie A, the first tier of Italian football, following promotion in the 2021–22 Serie B season. The club was founded in 1912 as Monza F.B.C. and on multiple occasions in the 1970s came close to promotion to the Serie A. Between the 2000s and 2010s, they faced financial issues and were declared bankrupt twice, in 2004 and 2015. Following Silvio Berlusconi‘s 2018 takeover of the club, Monza returned to the Serie B in 2020 after a 19-year absence and reached promotion to Serie A for the first time in 2022. …”
Wikipedia

Paulo Dybala and the Problem With Italy



“Paulo Dybala did not, particularly, look as if he were ready to say goodbye. As the lights at the Allianz Stadium in Turin, his home for the last seven years, flashed and flickered, and Tina Turner’s ‘The Best’ began its crescendo, he started to cry. Not in the sense of a single, elegant tear rolling down the cheek. He sobbed. He racked. His chest heaved as he gulped for air. …”
NY Times

The Dust Settles: The Biggest Changes in Stats Perform’s Power Rankings Over the Course of this Season


“So that’s that. Another season in the books. Lots happened, but in some ways, lots stayed the same. As tends to happen, European football’s hierarchy tightened their stranglehold on silverware. Real Madrid, the very definition of footballing heritage, won their record 35th La Liga title and a 14th European Cup/Champions League. Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain continued their domestic league dominance. Elsewhere, it was a renaissance season for AC Milan, who won their first Scudetto in 11 years and returned to the Champions League for the first time since 2013-14. Forty-two years after winning the UEFA Cup in 1980, Eintracht Frankfurt won the famous trophy again, beating Rangers in the Europa League final. …”
The Analyst

It’s the Bandinis 2022! The complete review of Serie A’s 2021-22 season


Serie A lost some stars, but the football on the pitch still sparkled. Without Cristiano Ronaldo, Romelu Lukaku, Achraf Hakimi, Gianluigi Donnarumma or Antonio Conte the league simply had to make do with one of its most compelling title races for decades. It ended as a duel between Milan and Inter, two halves of the same city, clubs who share a stadium and the black stripes on their shirt but are divided by the red and the blue. Rivals who have emerged together from a decade in the wilderness, reminding themselves and each other that this league did not always belong to that lot down the road in Turin. …”
Guardian (Video)
W – 2021–22 Serie A

Silvio Berlusconi-backed Monza will play in Serie A for the first time in their history


“Silvio Berlusconi slouched down in his seat and appeared to take a nap. It had been a long day and, at 85, he is getting on a bit now. Rather than dozing off at his Arcore estate, though, Berlusconi was in the stands at the Arena Garibaldi, where the noise was enough to wake the dead and the tremors may have caused the nearby Leaning Tower to lean a little bit further. A pitch invasion was going on down below and the home side, Pisa, suddenly believed in promotion again. …”
The Athletic (Video)
W – Silvio Berlusconi
Silvio Berlusconi is a long shot for Italian president — but a likely kingmaker (Audio)

In Milan, an Iconic Stadium Isn’t Going Down Without a Fight


Camilla Ferrari
“As he watched the soccer game playing out on television, the Milanese writer and actor Gianfelice Facchetti felt an emotional tug that he thought might be leading him toward his next book. It was during Italy’s first coronavirus lockdown, and Facchetti’s favorite team, Inter Milan, had been forced to play its matches behind closed doors. The decision left its longtime home, the 80,000-seat Giuseppe Meazza Stadium, more commonly known as the San Siro, devoid of atmosphere, and amid the silence Facchetti’s mind began to drift. …”
NY Times

How Mino Raiola Became a Super Agent


Mino Raiola passed away in April 2022 at the age of 54. He had become the most infamous football agent in the world, broker deals for some of the games biggest player, including Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. But how did he become a footballing super agent? How did a restaurant worker from Naples connect Serie A with the Eredivisie? How did he inspire such loyalty in his clients? James Horncastle writes, Philippe Fenner illustrates. …”
YouTube
SI: Mino Raiola Was an Unorthodox, Transformative Force, Adored by His Players – Jonathan Wilson
W – Mino Raiola

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


“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

Andrea Pirlo Is Timeless


“Officially, whenever Andrea Pirlo has watched soccer over the course of the last year or so, it has been for work, rather than merely for pleasure. It might be almost a year since his first foray into management was ended, abruptly and unceremoniously, by Juventus, but being a manager is less a job and more a lifestyle choice, like being a monk, or a double agent. It cannot be switched off. …”
NY Times

Serie A: Five players who could decide relegation race including Genoa’s Mattia Destro, Cagliari’s Joao Pedro


“The Serie A season is fast approaching the finish line, and there are still many teams left with something to play for. While the title and European races are open, with multiple teams still competing for spots, there is also a very exciting relegation battle with many teams involved. At least six teams that have yet to mathematically guarantee themselves a spot in next year’s Serie A, and they are desperate to not finish in the bottom three and see their future be in Serie B. … Here are players who will be critical if their team is to stay up. …”
CBS Sports

Serie A Season Predictions


“Whilst there were no direct clashes between the title contenders in Serie A across the last matchday, the situation at the top has changed a lot following the results. 2021-22 is proving to be one of the most exciting Serie A seasons in recent memory in the battle for the title, with Milan, Internazionale and Napoli all separated by just two points. Never before in the three-points-for-a-win era has the gap between first and third in the table after Matchday 32 been fewer than two points. The previous closest came in 2001-02 (two). …”
The Analyst

European roundup: Barcelona earn late win at Levante, Milan held by Torino


Barcelona striker Luuk de Jong scored a header in added time to give his side a 3-2 win at struggling Levante after a remarkable, end-to-end game in which his side gave away three penalties. Levante began the game in 19th place but took a deserved lead against lacklustre opponents in the 52nd minute. The captain José Luis Morales scored from the spot after a foul by Dani Alves and moments later the hosts earned a second penalty, for a handball by Eric García. This time striker Roger Martí stepped up to take it and his effort was saved by Marc-André ter Stegen. …”
Guardian

Andrea Pirlo: The Metronome


“Il maestro, il arquitecto, il metronomo. Andrea Pirlo was a metronome. The beating heart of every team he played for. He’d get the ball, he’d give the ball. Flair and guile, dependable and unflappable. Andrea Pirlo had the authority to dictate the game. Seb Stafford-Bloor remembers Pirlo, Marco Bevilacqua illustrates. …”
YouTube
W – Andrea Pirlo

An Ode to Francesco


“It’s the 1992-93 season and Roma are not having fun. Vujadin Boskov replaced Ottavio Bianchi as manager in the summer but the team, despite the presence of some illustrious names, are not performing. The Giallorossi will go on to finish the season with 31 points (in the two points for a win era), just four more than the four teams relegated to Serie B. On 28th March, Roma are away at Brescia – one of the four teams who will finish in the drop zone. They are already out of Europe but they are through to the semi-final of the Coppa Italia. …”
The Analyst

Notorious match-fixer Solti’s game of fine margins echoes down the years


Liverpool – Ron Yeats
“For Liverpool, Wednesday’s Champions League tie against Internazionale will inevitably conjure memories of 1965. Leading 3-1 from the first leg of their first European Cup semi-final, Liverpool went to San Siro and lost 3-0 in a game that players insist was fixed. The first Inter goal was scored direct from a free-kick they believed to be indirect, the second after the ball was nicked from the goalkeeper Tommy Lawrence as he bounced it before clearing. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Inter vs. Roma: five things spotted in Mourinho’s Meazza return


“It wasn’t Mourinho’s first match at San Siro since his return to Serie A. It wasn’t even his first game against the Nerazzurri this season. However, he had never returned to Milan to play against his ex club since he left in 2010 to join Real Madrid. It was meant to be a special night for José Mourinho and, to some extent, it was a night he would never forget. However, his first game as an Inter opponent in Milan did not end as he wanted as his Roma side were eliminated from the competition. The disappointment was visible in his eyes while he walked inside the tunnel after the final whistle. …”
Football Italia

Serie A: How Does Each Team Play?


“Internazionale have recovered well from the loss of manager Antonio Conte and star player Romelu Lukaku this summer, as they top the Serie A table by four points with a game in hand on the chasing pack. Despite the arrival of Simone Inzaghi as manager, Inter have largely stuck to the playing style that served them so well in 2020-21, with the club remaining one of the slowest and most intricate in style this season. However, it’s Napoli who have become the most patient in building the play in Serie A this campaign since the arrival of Luciano Spalletti in Naples – a change from last season’s more direct style under Gennaro Gattuso. …”
The Analyst

A New Wave of American Buyers Has Set Its Sights on European Soccer


“Last May, Venezia FC celebrated its improbable return to Italy’s top tier, Serie A, for the first time in exactly two decades, completing a remarkable five-year rise from the fourth division. Players celebrated with a ferry ride through Venice’s storied canals, steered by gondoliers wearing traditional candy cane uniforms. Among those celebrating in the victory parade was Duncan Niederauer, the club’s American president and majority shareholder since 2020. Niederauer, the former CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, had been part of an American ownership group that first bought into Venezia in 2018, two years after the club emerged from its third bankruptcy in a decade. …”
The Ringer

Milan draw with Juventus as De Jong scores late winner for Barcelona


Frenkie de Jong
“La Liga leaders Real Madrid fought back from two goals down at home to rescue a 2-2 draw against lowly Elche thanks to a last-gasp Éder Militão goal in stoppage time. Real wasted a golden opportunity to widen the gap at the top of the table after second-placed Sevilla stumbled at home with a draw against Celta Vigo on Saturday. …”
Guardian

Football and cryptocurrency sponsorship: is the free-for-all over?


“Up until now, football’s relationship with cryptocurrency sponsorship has felt like a complete and utter free-for-all, with no rules whatsoever. Slowly but surely that is starting to change. This week the UK government announced plans to crackdown on misleading ads for cryptocurrency companies, which would treat them like ads for other financial products, a move that could have far-reaching implications in the world of football which is increasingly dependent on the booming sector. Meanwhile Spain is leading a similar charge in the EU. …”
The Athletic

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


“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)

Roma 3 Juventus 4 – unpicking the chaos and fallout from an instant classic


“It was a match to savour before new restrictions come into effect in Italy which will limit attendances at Serie A games to 5,000 fans for the next fortnight. Either the Italian Football Federation consented to it or prime minister Mario Draghi was prepared to shut down the league until the international break at the end of the month as cases of COVID-19 continue to spike. Roma supporters have been turning out in droves for games at the Stadio Olimpico this season. …”
The Athletic

UEFA Champions League round of 16 classics


“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)

Ultra: The Underworld of Italian Football – Tobias Jones


“… In Ultra: The Underworld of Italian Football, Tobias Jones charts a way of life reviled by polite society. Although football hooliganism and ultra culture can be found in many societies, it takes a distinctive form in Italy. As a previous author of fiction and non-fiction with Italian themes, and a devoted fan of calcio, Jones is an expert and sympathetic guide to this strange and tenebrous world. Although helpful, an interest in and knowledge of football is not required to profit from reading the book, because it is about a bigger subject: what the author describes as the ‘vanishing grail of modern life: belonging’. The book traces the genealogy of ultra culture, which originated in the anni di piombo (‘years of lead’) marked by political violence from the far-left and the fascist right and by Mafia murders. …”
Book Review: Ultra: The Underworld of Italian Football by Tobias Jones
FT – Ultra: The Underworld of Italian Football — fandom and the far-right
amazon

The Premier League Chose Festive Fixtures Over Safe Fixtures


“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

Can Napoli, Italy’s Romantic Title Challengers, Keep Their Dreams Afloat?


“It seems to be a law of football that, in each league and each cup competition each season, there must be a romantic challenger: a team that may not necessarily have the best chance of success, but plays the game in such a way that they attract the affection of the average fan. In the past couple of years in Serie A, it has been Atalanta; this year, that mantle has passed to Napoli. Coached by Luciano Spalletti, whose trademark of thrilling football was first widely evident at Udinese in the mid-2000s, the Southern Italian side has much to love about it. …”
The Ringer

WTF is Group G?


“… Needless to say, there was plenty more where that came from. Rightly or wrongly, the prospect of Lille, Sevilla, Red Bull Salzburg and Wolfsburg going head to head over the next four months was not exactly setting pulses racing. For The Athletic, that was only ever going to mean one thing: watching every minute of every Group G match. If you thought that would be a slog, prepare to be disappointed. Two Champions League records were set inside the first 45 minutes of the opening game, a Bulgarian referee made the worst penalty decision in living memory, a manager was sacked, a 28-match unbeaten run came to an end and a teenage striker showed why he is on the radar of every top club in Europe. …”
The Athletic

What Do We Mean by Good Soccer?



“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 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

Zenit St Petersburg’s Ozdoev strikes late to deprive Chelsea of top spot


“Once again Thomas Tuchel was left to reflect on Chelsea’s inability to take care of the small details. The European champions are not playing with the right attitude at the moment and although they almost got away with it this time it was not a surprise when they ended up relinquishing top spot in Group H to Juventus after this chaotic draw with Zenit St Petersburg. …”
Guardian
Guardian – Champions League roundup: Atalanta v Villarreal snowed off; Juve top Group H
YouTube: Zenit St Petersburg vs. Chelsea: Extended Highlights | Group Stage

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


“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

16 football clubs sitting outside the elite


“Should European football ever morph into a super league structure, the landscape will be substantially changed, no matter how any new league might manifest itself. For the past decade, a set of global, elite players have evolved, but beneath the top layer, there are a number of clubs who have scale and presence, some with back stories that belong to a more democratic age. Some of these glorious names may be dominant forces in their own backyard but do not have the financial clout to compete with Europe’s gargantuan institutions. Others were once feared names across the continent, metropolitan clubs from major cities such as Lisbon, Amsterdam, Rome, Rotterdam and Glasgow. …”
Game of the People

Juventus’s season is going from bad to worse … on and off the pitch


“After losing 4-0 to Chelsea, Juventus’s week only went downhill. Tuesday’s Champions League drubbing was followed up by another loss at home to Atalanta on Saturday. In-between, the club’s offices were raided by police, who seized documents relating to player transfers and financial accounts. A statement from the Turin prosecutor Anna Maria Loreto explained on Friday that these searches were part of a wide-reaching investigation. The present focus, she explained, was to assess whether Juventus, a publicly listed company, had issued false communications to investors and invoices for non-existent transactions. But Loreto noted that further matters were also under scrutiny, including services offered by agents and intermediaries. …”
Guardian

Italy: Serie A, 2021-22 season – Location-map, with 2 charts: Seasons-in 1st-Division & All-time Italian Titles list.


“… The map page has a location-map of 2021-22 Serie A. The location-map features each club’s home kit [2021-22]. The map also shows the 20 Regions of Italy. And the map also shows the 11 largest cities in Italy (2019 metropolitan-area figures) {Metropolitan cities of Italy}. The cities’ population figures can be seen at the top of the location-map. Finally, the map shows the locations of both the promoted clubs and the relegated clubs from 2021… Promoted to Serie A for 2021-22 (Empoli, Salernitana, Venezia); relegated to Serie B for 2021-22 (Benevento, Crotone, Parma). The right-hand side of the map page has 2 charts. The top chart shows each of the 20 clubs’ total seasons in Serie A, with consecutive top-flight seasons also listed. The other chart is the All-time Italian titles list (1898-1915; 1920-43; 1946-2021). …”
billsportsmaps
W – 2021–22 Serie A

Why you should be watching… Napoli


“Luciano Spalletti is crafting a Napoli side with the characteristics of his recent predecessors. Possession-based and quick in attack, like the side of Sarri. Ruthless in defensive with a cohesive press, like the sides of Ancelotti and Gattuso. And as Alex Stewart explains, the first title since 1990 isn’t out of the question. Illustrated by Henry Cooke. …”
YouTube

Examining Gasperini’s Tactics & Their Influence on Serie A, Part I: The Seeds of the High Press


Roma’s 2016/17 side played a classic Italian style that was Gasperini’s own introduction to senior football as a player in the seventies.
: “A Dutchman praising an Italy side beating his home nation is still a rare sight in football, but you heard the sound of that very pin drop after Louis Van Gaal’s praise this week. ‘For the first time,’ Van Gaal enthused at a Firenze press event, ‘I really loved watching an Italian team play.’ Roberto Mancini’s Italy walked away 1-0 winners against the Netherlands but, for those of us who’ve stuck with Serie A through its 21st century makeover, the manner of Mancini’s foot-ball—one featuring a team effort to win the back high and early—was nothing new. You could say current Serie A coaches Paulo Fonseca and—for a far longer spell of paying his dues over the last fifteen years—Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini have a hand in it. …”
Part I: The Seeds of the High Press
Part II: Moving From Year Zero to Club Legend
Part III: Building a Club Institution

A mid-season midfield partnership between Javier Pastore and Gianluca Mancini helped draw opponents into pressing Roma’s makeshift 4-3-3 phase while building up inside the Giallorossi half.

Cox: Italians are defending free kicks differently to the rest of Europe – is it a good idea?


“When an attacking side have a wide free kick, around 40 yards from goal, there is a very established way to defend that situation. The defending team positions themselves in a line, holding an offside trap to keep the opposition away from goal, and then run back and attempt to head the ball clear. Here’s Liverpool doing that away at Atletico Madrid in midweek. This is how almost all big clubs defend this type of situation. Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Inter, Paris Saint-Germain all do pretty much the same thing. Chelsea and Manchester City are more aggressive with their positioning, defending higher up, but it’s the same idea. But now, there are outliers — and they’re almost all in Serie A. …”
The Athletic – Michael Cox