Tag Archives: Serie A

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

Luciano Spalletti – Napoli – Tactical Analysis


“Since taking over from Gennarro Gattuso in May 2021, Luciano Spalletti has turned Napoli into one of Serie A’s most formidable units. While a fifth place finish in the 2020-21 season was a fine result for Gli Azzurri, it wasn’t what they had hoped for, nor what they could have achieved. In came Spalletti and POOF(!) the team are now on an unbeaten run at the start of the 2021-22 season, winning seven from seven. After Inter Milan broke Juventus’ long-standing record last season, the Napoli faithful will now be hoping Serie A might be theirs for the taking this year. Here is a tactical analysis of Luciano Spalletti’s new-look Napoli. …”
The Mastermindsite
Forbes: Luciano Spalletti’s Napoli Top Early Serie A Table, But Can They Challenge For The Scudetto? (Video)
Napoli appoint Luciano Spalletti as new head coach
W – Luciano Spalletti
The Moments that Cost Roma the 2010 Scudetto (Video) (April 2020), Where Did It All Go Wrong for Luciano Spalletti? Part II: 2008-2017 (Video)

Chelsea’s loss at Juve illustrates the challenges Tuchel faces in fighting for titles domestically and abroad


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

Champions League roundup: Sheriff Tiraspol shock Real Madrid


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

Marcos Alonso and the Genius of Thomas Tuchel


“Things got so bad, at one point, that even Marcos Alonso’s father was telling him to go. His fallout with his coach at Chelsea, Frank Lampard, had been spectacular and it had been total. Alonso had been substituted at halftime during a game at West Bromwich Albion, but instead of dutifully filing out to support his teammates, he had instead skulked off to wait on the team bus, stewing at the injustice of it all. When Lampard found out, he was furious. First, he rebuked Alonso for his disloyalty, his petulance, in front of his teammates, a public shaming that often functions as soccer’s nuclear option, and then he ostracized him entirely from his team. For four months, Alonso did not play so much as a minute of soccer. …”
NY Times
W – Marcos Alonso

Why are Americans buying Italian football clubs?


“There is a wave of American-owned clubs in Serie A currently. Roma, AC Milan, Fiorentina, Parma, Spezia, Bologna and Venezia are all under US or Canadian control, meaning more than a quarter of the clubs in Italy’s top flight are owned by individuals from North America. Why do Americans want Italian clubs, and why is the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) allowing them to purchase these clubs at such a rate? Also, is it working out for them?”
The Athletic (Video)
Fortune: Despite ‘zero chance to win a championship,’ American business tycoons continue to pile into Italian soccer (March 2021)
Fortune: The Great Serie A Sale: Six Italian Soccer Clubs Are Currently Looking For New Ownership (Audio – Aug. 2020)
Understanding ‘Football’ in Italy By Rick Steves and Gene Openshaw
W – List of Italian football club owners

2021–22 UEFA Champions League


“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

The Blueprint: Five Tactical Trends to Look out for in Juventus vs. Milan


“It’s official. The Blueprint’s gone continental. This week, we’re headed to Turin for a Serie A clash that pits the league frontrunners against an old superpower that has since faded. But maybe not in the way you think. Milan travel to Juventus with the sides in two very different frames of mind.  Juventus’ start has been troublesome to put it kindly, and downright dreadful if we are being less kind.  Defeat to Napoli last Saturday left Massimiliano Allegri’s side with just one point from their opening three fixtures, and they sit in 16th place. It’s the first time they’ve failed to win at least one of their first three Serie A matches in 52 years. …”
The Analyst

The Parable of Inter Milan


“The first alarm rang in February, a warning from thousands of miles away. Jiangsu Suning was one of the mainstays of that strange period, five or six years ago, when soccer awoke — almost overnight — to discover that China had arrived, its pockets bottomless and its ambitions unchecked, intent on inverting the world. At first, Europe saw this new horizon as it sees everything: as a market. China’s corporate-backed clubs were, as Turkey’s and Russia’s had been years before, a convenience and a curiosity, a place where they could offload unwanted players from bloated squads. …”
NY Times

Money, Power, and Respect at the Champions League Final


“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)

When Andriy Shevchenko’s move to Chelsea failed under Jose Mourinho


“To many Andriy Shevchenko was one of the best strikers in the first decade of the 21st century. His career spanned a host of big clubs, where he scored a lot of goals for them. While he’s now the manager of the Ukrainian national team and qualified them for the Euros, he isn’t quite renowned as a manager yet. His playing days might be well behind him, but he is still well-remembered for that. His best spell came before he came into the bigger spotlight. Dynamo Kiev was the place where he first broke onto the scene. Having initially played for the Reserves side, his goalscoring exploits saw him rise through the ranks and later earn a big move to Milan in the summer of 1999. …”
Football Pink

Claudio Marchisio, Andres Iniesta and football fans’ false memories

“This month marked the end of an era for Juventus, with former midfield general Claudio Marchisio ending his 25-year association with the club. ‘A thousand thoughts and a thousand images accompanied me throughout the night,’ the 32-year-old wrote of his decision to part ways with the club he joined as a child. Marchisio’s exit might have been overshadowed to a degree by Gianluigi Buffon also leaving Turin this summer, the World Cup winner having opted to see out his career with Paris Saint-Germain, but there’s something a little different about the departure of a man who has known no other home in his professional career.” The Set Pieces

Ronaldo’s wait for a goal continues as Juventus edge past Lazio

“TURIN, Italy — Along with the iconic Mole Antonelliana, Cristiano Ronaldo can see the tricolour dappled pylons of the Allianz Stadium from the balcony of his hillside “mega villa” overlooking Turin. Ever since the 33-year-old moved in, Juventus fans in the city below have been in reverential awe of him as if the green slopes behind the Gran Madre church were Piedmont’s own Mount Olympus; the home of a god, not a footballer.” ESPN

Grounds for closer inspection, part 10: Genoa and Milan

“The 1986 FIFA World Cup was supposed to be held in Colombia. In late 1982, the prospective host withdrew from its commitment, citing ‘economic difficulties’ (read as asymmetric internal armed conflict) and Mexico was awarded the privilege in their place. From the perspective of the sport, the tournament went on to be a great success – the collected images of Diego Maradona are some of the most iconic of the sport – but it’s been said that the physical infrastructure was found wanting.” Football Pink