John Terry’s 500th Time as Chelsea Captain

Tom Sheen for The Independent:

But Terry may well be the least popular player in the division’s 20-year history; only Roy Keane rivals the ‘captain, leader, legend’. But if one was to remove all bias, then perhaps Terry, who was arguably the best defender in the Premier League last season and is still captain of the Premier League’s only unbeaten team, deserves to get close to the top.

He’s a controversial figure, but an outstanding footballer.

The Positioning of United’s Full-Backs

Alan Smith for The Guardian:

Luke Shaw may forever be judged by his hyper-inflated price tag but he will have done himself no favours with a performance which, at times, bordered on awful. Not only was he sold softly by Graham Dorrans on the halfway line for Sessègnon’s goal, he was also continuously caught out of position, allowing both Albion players in behind too often. Ángel di María, for all his attacking ability, will never provide much protection but Shaw often got the basics wrong. His wayward crossing posed further questions.

Fair enough, but Van Gaal has certainly instructed both Shaw and Rafael to push forward. The question then is whether Blind is supposed to cover for both or whether United need another midfielder covering also, especially with United’s defence so shaky.

WBA 2-2 Manchester United

Henry Winter for The Telegraph:

United’s rearguard needs strengthening, drilling, arguably overhauling. One of United’s most distinguished ever defenders, Gary Neville, was close to meltdown in the Sky studio. Van Gaal insisted afterwards that he would not temper his attacking inclinations to introduce more solidity.

United were the much better team in the second half, barring the defensive lapses. I think Winter is being a bit harsh, but it’s hard to see Chelsea and City not ripping them to shreds if the give Agüero and Costa chances.

Sandro’s Importance for QPR

Keith Satuku for Off the Post:

Harry Redknapp could not believe how his side finished this game with nothing. Rangers disguised their lack of pace up front by committing enough bodies in attack, they disrupted Liverpool through high pressing, plus Sandro and Karl Henry dominated the central midfield.

In a season in which the Loftus Road club have struggled for both results and performances, they need to concentrate on the positive performance they gave in this encounter because if they repeat it then better results will definitely follow.

Sandro going off was a massive loss for QPR. If he would have finished the game, Liverpool would not have scored those late goals.

QPR 2-3 Liverpool

Rebecca Parry for Metro:

Play is slow, not tying together, and it’s only rare impressive moments that have been letting us off the hook recently. We, as Liverpool supporters, are the first to say that fourth is not what our performances represent.

The game was absolute madness, with the last 10 minutes making the supporters swing from euphoria to bitter sadness back and forth. QPR deserved at least a point from the match but Liverpool got lucky. Only Sterling was impressive from Liverpool’s starters and Coutinho was dangerous off the bench.

Southampton 8-0 Sunderland

Nick Szcepanik for The Independent:

Graziano Pelle, scoring his fifth and sixth goals in six games, and man-of-the match Dusan Tadic, with a goal and four assists, emphasised again that Saints fans never needed to worry about the departures to Liverpool of Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana.

Tadić had four assists and a goal. Four assists.

“Sergio Aguero Is the Finest Player in the Premier League”

Sarah Winterburn for Football 365:

On Saturday against Tottenham, Aguero was irresistible. Manchester City won 4-1 largely because they have one of the greatest strikers in world football while Spurs have Roberto Soldado. The City fans streaming out of the Etihad Stadium loved Aguero even more on Saturday afternoon than they did on Saturday morning. But do the rest of us love him enough?

Manchester City 4-1 Tottenham

Mark Ogden for the Telegraph:

Instead Agüero conducted a virtuoso performance. He scored four – he could have had five at least, having missed one of his three penalties and been thwarted by goalkeeper Hugo Lloris on several other occasions – and he tore apart a Spurs back-line that seemed feeble and fearful of him. Agüero also forced a red card when Federico Fazio tugged the relentless striker back as he attempted to reach an anticipated low cross from Jesus Navas.

“15 Goals from Just Eight Matches”

Gianni Verschueren for Bleacher Report:

Ronaldo’s scoring proficiency in 2014-15 defies all logic. At the time of writing, the 29-year-old was outscoring 17 of 20 La Liga clubs on his own, via That’s not just impressive—it’s absurd.

Next Gameweek’s El Clásico is mouth-watering.

Arsenal’s Lack of Character

Daniel Taylor for The Guardian:

Arsenal have lost 75 league games since the Invincibles era and almost a third of them, 22, have been to United or Chelsea. They particularly tend to crumple when the opposition is from Stamford Bridge and that was an intriguing line from Keane the other day about the modern dressing-room culture of teams posting celebratory selfies on Twitter, sometimes from fairly routine wins, and what it said to him about a “lack of characters and good lads”.

Perhaps Wenger was lucky in inheriting the characters that perfectly complemented his style of play, similar to what I suspect happened at Everton last year. Martinez’s passing game working in tandem with what was left of Moyes’s defensive philosophy.

But that may be giving Wenger too little credit. My guess would be that Wenger was ahead of his time in both a tactical, but more importantly a preparational sense; he was renowned for reinventing Arsenal’s culture, from diet to physical training.

Guardiola on Tiki-Taka

Stephen Fottrell, quoting Pep Guardiola for BBC Sport:

“I loathe all that passing for the sake of it, all that tiki-taka. It’s so much rubbish and has no purpose. You have to pass the ball with a clear intention, with the aim of making it into the opposition’s goal. It’s not about passing for the sake of it.

“Don’t believe what people say. Barca didn’t do tiki-taka! It’s completely made up! Don’t believe a word of it! In all team sports, the secret is to overload one side of the pitch so that the opponent must tilt its own defence to cope.

“You overload on one side and draw them in so that they leave the other side weak. And when we’ve done all that, we attack and score from the other side.

“That’s why you have to pass the ball, but only if you’re doing it with a clear intention. It’s only to overload the opponent, to draw them in and then to hit them with the sucker punch. That’s what our game needs to be. Nothing to do with tiki-taka.”

Neville Interview Mourinho

Gary Neville for The Telegraph, conducting a fantastic interview with José Mourinho:

“I prefer my team to press in a low block, but if the opponent prefers to build from the back, and they are fantastic, it gives them huge stability in their game – I’m going to press there. Liverpool wanted to play with Suarez behind the defenders, Sterling the same thing, and Steven Gerrard in front of the defenders. So I go there, I play Lampard on Stevie G, I play my block completely low. I win. And I’m criticised because I [am not allowed to] play that way. So I am the stupid one. I’m not fundamentalist. And I think some people in football are becoming a bit fundamentalist.”

Game States

Mark Taylor writing at The Power of Goals:

Game state is being increasingly used in football analytics and inevitably the phrase may have different interpretations across different sites. In this blog I have described game state principally as the interaction between the team quality of each side taking part in the match, the current scoreline, the time remaining and any dismissals that may have transpired due to red cards. As a consequence, accurately calculating the game state over even a single match, requires constant re-calculation. Some of the inputs may remain relatively constant, but time elapsed is always moving forwards towards full time.

Interesting, but perhaps for the more analytically minded.

So Berbatov

An oldie, but goodie; the most Berbatov-esque Dimitar Berbatov goal ever.

Walcott’s Importance to Arsenal

Matt Stanger for Football 365:

Walcott’s direct style should still be a huge benefit to Arsenal in the meantime. The 25-year-old scored five goals and claimed four assists in only 13 Premier League appearances last season, underlining his value to Arsene Wenger’s side. With Walcott set to return to full training following the international break, Wenger will hope that it won’t be long until he’s fully fit to fire Arsenal through a packed schedule of 13 matches in November and December.

He’s arguably been Arsenal’s most important player in the last couple of seasons due to being the only one with real pace. Now Arsenal have Sanchez, Welbeck, and Oxlade-Chamberlain has one more year of experience. With Walcott back Wenger could experiment with a counter-attacking setup chock-full of pace, better suited to playing against the top teams.

Serbia v Albania Match Abandoned Due to Brawl

Kevin Brown for Soccer Gods:

In events that unfortunately came as little surprise to anyone – traveling fans were not permitted to buy tickets, on UEFA’s recommendation – a brawl erupted at today’s European qualifier between Serbia and visiting Albania. The two nations have long-standing disputes, due in particular to conflict over the Kosovo region that separates them. The game was abandoned after a drone carrying a flag from Albania flew over the match. The drone hovered closely enough that Serbian defender Stefen Mitrovic was able to grab the flag and pull it down. He was immediately tackled by Albanian players, which lead to a brawl and the eventual end of the game.

Terrible scenes.

Van Persie Should Not Be a Guaranteed Starter for United

Colin Trainor for Stats Bomb:

Given the attacking firepower that currently resides inside Old Trafford I don’t think, in his current form, that van Persie is deserving of a start in United’s line up. With Mata, Falcao, Rooney, Di Maria, and Herrera real possibilities for the five available attacking spots (and that’s even before we consider Januzaj or Valencia), Robin van Persie should no longer expect to be one of first names on the Man United team sheet.

Worrying numbers for United fans but with all the firepower available this isn’t their biggest problem.

Arsenal’s Baffling Transfer Strategy

Mike L. Goodman for Grantland:

Wenger, in his infinite wisdom, went into the season with only six defenders, counting on 19-year-old Calum Chambers as the only backup, both in central defense and behind new right back Mathieu Debuchy. Now Debuchy is out three months following ankle surgery, and — shock of shocks — Chambers is overmatched, has already picked up five yellow cards, and will serve a one-game suspension. Meanwhile, the defensive midfield role is still being manned by the chronically injured and chronically immobile Mikel Arteta, along with Mathieu Flamini, who remains not very good. That (and a Ramsey injury) is how you end up with Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla in support of Flamini in a game against Chelsea.

They just must have failed to get their targets, their backups, and the backups to the backups. I refuse to believe that Wenger considered this defensive depth good enough.

Germany 1-1 Republic of Ireland

Alan Smith for The Guardian at Stadion Gelsenkirchen:

Roy Keane, the Republic assistant, had referred to the Die Mannschaft as “wounded animals” before the game and although the visitors did not quite feel the full wrath of one of football’s greatest beasts, their spirited endeavours bore dramatic late fruit. It took 71 minutes for Germany to find the net through Toni Kroos, their 17th attempt of the evening doing the damage, but O’Shea, making his 100th appearance, met Jeff Hendrick’s pull-back to steal a point.

Ferguson on Manchester United’s New Signings

Nick Akerman for Bleacher Report:

The former United boss also outlined Daley Blind as “one of those common-sense footballers” and Ander Herrera as a “talented young player” who’s “quite aggressive” despite his lack of size.

The piece focuses on Di María, Falcao, and Shaw but I found the above quote the most interesting. I’ve been impressed by Herrera’s passing and movement and, as Ferguson notes, his ability to get stuck in. Blind is never going to be a world beater but will likely go the same route as Carrick; a fantastic player praised by his manager and teammates but underrated in the media.

Ricky Rubio’s Destination

And now for something completely different; wondering where Rubio ends up, a fine piece by Chris Ryan at Grantland:

For basketball fans of a certain generation, he will always be the mop-topped, Spanish Pistol Pete, a merchant of no-look, one-handed bounce passes that find impossible openings and land in the hands of grateful would-be scorers. Real point guard junkies can’t hear the sound of flat shots caroming off iron. We’re too busy singing “Emotionally Yours” while watching skills videos of the hardwood Messi.

Not Messi by a longshot. Still a wonderful player to watch.

Iceland 2-0 Netherlands

Yahoo News:

The win kept Iceland perfect in three qualifiers and left it level atop Group A with the Czech Republic, which got its third straight win by beating Kazakhstan 4-2 in Almaty. Turkey remained anchored to the bottom of the group with Kazakhstan after gaining its first point with a 1-1 draw at Latvia.

A fantastic game by Iceland and a pretty poor one by Netherlands. Lars Lagerback has Iceland playing tight counter-attacking football using the graft of the hard-working Icelandic players as the base for the surprising quality of Iceland’s attackers.

Estonia 0-1 England

Rooney’s 43rd international goal extended England’s perfect start after they had endured a frustrating second half following Estonia captain Ragnar Klavan’s red card three minutes after half-time.

England were dominant in the first half but failed to make it count and, although they were not at their best after the break, Rooney’s strike was enough to secure another three points and they are yet to concede a goal in qualification.

Brazil 2-0 Argentina

Jack Lang for the Mirror:

The evidence here was that his convictions have not changed since his last spell. This was a Brazil side set up to soak up pressure and hit on the break, using the pace of Neymar and Tardelli. Those tactics paid off here, but won’t be to the taste of all Brazilians, many of whom still remember the Seleção’s displays at the World Cup in South Africa all too well.

Still the same Brazil tactically but now with good results, at least for now.

Sour Grapes from Germany’s and Spain’s Loss

David Yaffe-Bellany for In For The Hat Trick:

But here’s the thing: UEFA’s controversial expansion of the Euros, one of the few international tournaments that consistently features exciting soccer, pretty much guarantees that powerhouses like Germany and Spain, which lost 2-1 to Slovakia on Thursday, will qualify. This week’s upsets were exciting to watch – but in terms of the Road to France ’16 (or whatever we’re supposed to call the qualification campaign), they were completely meaningless.

Try to tell Polish and Slovakian football fans that. Sounds like the typical sour grapes from a member of the “big teams” countries. Of course the results matter. It’s just that Germany and Spain are likely to bounce back from the losses to claim the top spot in the group anyway.

The Spanish Divide

Tom Wooding for Opinion Football:

At the top of the tree sit the two Spanish giants Real and Barca, who last season gained the highest TV revenues in Europe, around €140M each (£110M), out of a total of €755M (£610M) that was distributed throughout the rest of the Spanish Primera. The two clubs alone accounted for around 36% of the total distribution amongst 20 teams, earning around 7.5 times more than the clubs with the lowest TV receipts. But new legislation proposals suggest capping this to a maximum of 4 times more than the bottom teams to even the distribution of TV revenues. At the other end of the spectrum, Almeria, Rayo Vallecano, Real Valladolid and Elche all pocketed just €18M (£14M) each and a total of 16 teams receiving less, than the cost of Diego Costa’s transfer of €40M (£32M). Across the 5 main European leagues, a total of 64 teams received less in TV revenues than what Diego Costa was purchased for in the summer.

The numbers make Atlético Madrid’s achievement last season all the more incredible.

Manchester City’s Fluid 4-4-2

Alex Fairchild for World Soccer Talk:

The bottom line is that this is a team full of ideas, understanding, and movement. Pellegrini’s system is not held to a rigid shape in attack, because each player is expected to contribute in different ways, whether that’s pinching inside, moving straight into the middle, or even to the opposite side of the field.