“If You Don’t Like Dull, Then You Won’t Like Them”

Great piece by John Nicholson for Football 365 on the valid arguments to be made on finding Chelsea boring:

It is no different in football where the politics of envy and jealousy are mined furiously in defence of the successful team. Part of Chelsea’s rebuttal of the accusation of being boring is that it is all rooted in jealousy and envy. We all wish we were as successful, had as good a manager and an owner with as much money.

Except we don’t, do we? Not all of us, not by a long way.

Tottenham 0-1 Manchester City

Rahul Dantes for Outside90:

The central defensive pair of Martin Demichelis and Eliaquim Mangala looked lost and were exposed by Tottenham on far too many occasions from a City point of view.

It’s a worrying sign for City. Either they have a plan to recruit defenders or they must hope Kompany and Mangala will step up their game next season.

“Foundations Are There”

James York for Statsbomb:

Meanwhile! A remarkably similar run of results (loads of wins followed by three goalless defeats) has inflicted doubt amongst the Man Utd faithful. The return of treacle-footed former hitman Van Persie made scapegoating an easy job here but by my reckoning, in a sample of well over 2000 matches since 2009-10, I can only find four occasions in which a home team had at least as many shots as Man Utd did on Saturday, failed to score and lost. This was a freak result in the finest Pulis tradition and although it appears that Utd’s positive skew from the run of big match wins has faded a little, their underlying numbers still reflect a very solid team that has improved over time.

Great piece and a good reminder of not judging a team by results only. Especially only one result. If they spend money in the summer Manchester United will be safely in the top four and could even compete for the title.

The Predictable Premier League

Simon Gleave at Scoreboard Journalism:

Once money became the driving factor for success, and a small group of clubs were in a position to get much richer than the rest due to Champions League participation, is when the Premier League became boring. It is no longer at risk of becoming boring. That ship sailed long ago.

Great piece.

Chelsea’s Management a Big Reason for the Title Win

Richard Jolly for The National:

In reality, it started far before that. Fabregas and Costa are proof, long-planned signings who helped remedy shortcomings in the side.

Mourinho recognised Chelsea lacked creativity in the centre of midfield and a potent striker.

He quickly set about addressing both issues. Fabregas was signed on June 12, while they matched Costa’s buyout clause on July 1.

Mourinho had already brought back Thibaut Courtois from his loan at Atletico Madrid.

Other sides were in a state of flux when the season kicked off. Chelsea were not.

This has been overlooked by many. Mourinho took last year to get to know his team and brought in the right players to address the weaknesses he saw. That they came early in the summer was instrumental.

Chelsea Crowned Premier League Champions

Liam Prenderville for the Mirror:

They have led the way at the top since August 30 and have now won four Premier League titles – three of which have come under Mourinho.

Wednesday’s win at Leicester extended the gap at the top to 13 points ahead of Manchester City, before the title was wrapped up in front of their home support.

“Newcastle’s Spineless Surrender at Leicester”

Ian Watson for Football 365:

The manager doesn’t rate his squad; the players don’t fancy their boss; the owner appears unmoved; and the fans hold all in similar contempt. That much was clear before Newcastle’s trip to Leicester, but the Magpies still managed to plumb new depths at the King Power Stadium.

“Synchronized Swimming”

Sam at Howler Magazine:

Fabio Coentrao and James Rodriguez couldn’t wait to get a ball back in play. When their soccer careers are over, the pair may have a future in synchronized swimming.

Rio Ferdinand’s Wife, Rebecca Ellison, Dies From Cancer

Sarah Ann Harris for The Huffington Post:

A statement from Ferdinand, 36, on QPR’s website read: “My soul mate slipped away last night. Rebecca, my wonderful wife, passed away peacefully after a short battle with cancer at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London.

“She was a fantastic loving mother to our three beautiful children. She will be missed as a wife, sister, aunt, daughter and granddaughter. She will live on in our memory, as a guide and inspiration.

Sad news. My heart is with her family and friends.

Juventus 3-2 Fiorentina

Alex Zaia for Outside90:

 Fiorentina were by no means poor, but playing against a high-class team like Juventus away from home, you cannot afford to make any mistakes. The only two errors committed by Neto and Rodriguez were severely punished by a group of players who are accustomed to success. Despite being nowhere near their best, Juve’s ability to grind out results consistently is unparalleled.

Judging Wiggins First NBA Season

Neil Paine for FiveThirtyEight:

 The idea that Wiggins’s scoring and athleticism speak volumes about his potential in a way that can’t be captured by his rookie-season value metrics goes a long way toward explaining the gulf between his subjective reputation and the numbers. Only time will tell which is right, but that differential could position Wiggins as his generation’s Allen Iverson or Antoine Walker — players who served as early battlegrounds in the war between analytics and conventional wisdom.

There is so many good analytics articles floating around for basketball. Wish there was more for football.

Friday Foreplay – Gameweek 35

My regular Fantasy Premier League (FPL) preview article has been published over at All Things FPL (ATFPL):

  Despite failing to deliver in the double Gameweek, Eden Hazard is still this week’s captain pick of choice. With six double digit performances at home and playing against a less than stellar Crystal Palace defence, it is no wonder Hazard has the highest Captain Foresight score of the Gameweek. If Chelsea win this could be the last game Fantasy Managers can safely captain Hazard as José Mourinho will likely rotate, rest, and substitute his key players early with the title already secured — this point was made in Stoosher’s always excellent What We Learned.

Check it out. There’s also loads more good FPL stuff at ATFPL.

We’re Rating Messi’s Hattricks Now

Jason Pettigrove for Bleacher Report:

Thirty-two career triples to date is an insane statistic and only his nemesis Cristiano Ronaldo can compare.

How crazy it is that we are “ranking Messi’s hat tricks”? That both Messi and Ronaldo are around at the same time is likely going to be talked about for the next 100 years. You will not see more prolific players in your lifetime.

“That’s why they’re the greatest rock & roll band of all time”

Out of left field, but hey, it’s Dave Grohl writing about Led Zeppelin:

To me, Zeppelin were spiritually inspirational. I was going to Catholic school and questioning God, but I believed in Led Zeppelin. I wasn’t really buying into this Christianity thing, but I had faith in Led Zeppelin as a spiritual entity.

Bournemouth Promoted to the Premier League

Rob Hughes for The New York Times:

Six years ago, it placed 91st among the 92 teams and was a game away from expulsion from the league pyramid and extinction. It could not pay its taxes nor the 4.4 million pounds ($6.7 million) it owed in unpaid bills. It begged for clemency and began the next season at the bottom of the lowest rank of England’s professional leagues, starting the year with a 17-point penalty as punishment for its financial problems.

Leicester 1-3 Chelsea

Sam Wallace for The Independent:

It was another performance that demonstrated all the hallmarks of a Mourinho plan: a tough away win, one in which they came from a goal behind against a team on a good run and with so much to play for. That the first two goals came from those old stagers Didier Drogba and John Terry will have made it all the sweeter. As usual, Chelsea found a way to win this game in a way that has eluded other sides who were once considered title contenders.

A Sweet One From Torres

Back Page Football:

With more defenders getting back to cover, Torres showed great composure with his finish for what turned out to be the winning goal.

Imperious Terry

Daniel Storey for Football 365:

If you were to trust one Premier League player to carry out a defensive strategy, you’d be a fool not to select John Terry for the task. At the age of 34, he remains the best central defender in the country. It’s not even close.

Against Arsenal, Terry was at his imperious best. Four duels, four duels won. Two aerial duels, two aerial duels won. Thirteen clearances made, more than any other player on the pitch. He also lost possession just five times in 90 minutes.

More love for Terry. I’ll stop now. Promise.

Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea

Henry Winter for The Telegraph:

This was the perfect London day for Chelsea to remind everyone that the league is a marathon not a sprint, that the title is won because of ­powers of endurance and psychological strength. From start to within sight of the finishing line, Chelsea have been consistently resilient, redoubtable defensively and creative when required. They took another huge stride towards the title here as Arsenal hit the wall called John Terry.

Leading by example, Chelsea’s captain was immense, making interception after interception, nipping in to see off danger emanating from Héctor Bellerín, Alexis Sánchez and Mesut Özil twice as Arsenal raised their game in vain late on.

Like him or loathe him, there is no denying he is a superb defender and has enjoyed a fantastic season. The Premier League defender of the year.

Everton 3-0 Manchester United

Tim Simon for The Republik of Mancunia:

Blind was tasked as United’s chief ball recycler in front of the back four but did not do a good enough job. He was far too slow in possession and lacked any sort of presence to dominate that area of the pitch. He proved that he is a better left-back and is not the long-term successor to the absent Carrick. The Englishman has been severely missed by United in the last two weeks.

Carrick’s job often flies under the radar due to the calm and effective way he goes about it but when he isn’t in the midfield, it become noticed. Carrick is able to smell danger and experience in that role has allowed him to position himself expertly. His ability on and off the ball was missed on Sunday and United have a huge task replacing him long-term as he must only have one or two more years at the top level left in him.

The most underrated player in the Premier League in the last ten years. Would love to see United’s win percentage with and without him.

Watford Players Celebrate Promotion on Team Bus

talkSPORT:

And after a run of all so nears, including a devastating play-off final defeat to Crystal Palace, this proved Watford’s year as their rivals both failed to win to spark wild celebrations on the team bus.

Luckily Hornets defender Miguel Layun was on hand to film the scenes on his phone, which you can enjoy below!

Lovely scenes.

Watford Promoted to the Premier League

IANS, writing at Sportskeeda:

Football club Watford has been promoted to the English Premier League as Middlesbrough and Norwich suffered late blows to their hopes of a top-two finish.

Watford maintained top spot and moved four points clear with a 2-0 victory against Brighton in the early kick-off, before seeing Norwich held to a 1-1 draw at Rotherham, while Middlesbrough lost 4-3 at Fulham on Saturday.

Bayern Munich Win the 2014/15 Bundesliga

Bundesliga.com:

Following the Bavarians’ workmanlike 1-0 win over Hertha Berlin, second-placed VfL Wolfsburg had to beat Borussia Mönchengladbach to keep the title race alive, but Sunday’s 1-0 defeat means the Wolves can no longer catch Pep Guardiola’s men with only four games left of the 2014/15 campaign to play.

The title represents the record German champions’ 25th national crown and 24th since the Bundesliga’s inception in 1963.

Southampton 2-2 Tottenham

Dustin Gerber Martin at Cartilage Free Captain:

This was the second consecutive match where a EPL team didn’t press Spurs vigorously in midfield, and Nabil Bentaleb bossed the midfield in both games. I’m sensing a pattern here. Nabil was very good today. Let’s build the midfield around him.

Louis van Gaal’s Methods

A fascinating inside into Van Gaal’s methods, courtesy of Scott at Republik of Mancunia, quoting Fellaini:

Football is about the brain, too, no? Van Gaal has brought that here. He tells us how important it is to read the game. When we have a meeting, he will ask why we did certain things, and then we get his opinion. He has that presence, when he talks, when he shouts. He shouts when he has to, but not much. The training field is most important to him. Whoever we are playing, all week he will say, ‘like that, like that, like that’ and we have to do it — we play 11 against 11 to prepare.

Manchester United’s Future Defence

Scott Patterson at ESPN FC:

But it’s a big few weeks for the likes of Evans and Jones, particularly now that Smalling has his contract extension. If question marks are already above their heads, they don’t want to do anything to confirm to Van Gaal that they don’t deserve to be at Old Trafford next season. United are still in the fight for top four, and hopefully that will only be aided by the defenders fighting for their place at the club.

Champions League Draw

Goal.com:

The two Spanish sides have been kept apart in the final four, with Luis Enrique’s side taking on the Bavarian giants, and the current holders set to face the Serie A giants

Mourinho’s Human Side

Paul at 101 Great Goals:

His joie de vivre was so latent that he decided to play a prank on the club’s media officer Steve, who was running late to the press conference (you had one job Steve).

He got the press gang onside, and told them to play along with his prank: when Steve walked in, they were to pretend the presser was already finished.

With the animosity sometimes on display between journalists and managers, it’s nice to see the lighter side once in a while.

Friday Foreplay – Gameweek 34

My regular Fantasy Premier League (FPL) preview article has been published over at All Things FPL (ATFPL):

You might have raised an eyebrow that Hazard only has the second highest Captain Foresight score of the Gameweek. Who could be rated higher and why? Raheem Sterling is who and fixtures are the reason. While both Liverpool and Chelsea have two away games in Gameweek 34, Chelsea have to travel to the Emirates to face an Arsenal team that seldom concedes at home while Liverpool’s two games offer more opportunities of goals. Sterling has also been threatening away from home, managing a chance every 33 minutes — a bit better than Hazard’s 35 minutes — and averages a fine looking 5.21 points per game. He could be the secret weapon in your mini-league battle this Gameweek.

Check it out. There’s also loads more good FPL stuff at ATFPL.