Sporting Lisbon 0-1 Chelsea

Jack Pitt-Brooke for The Independent:

The balance, maturity and imagination of this Champions League display at a raucous Estadio Jose Alvalade were all impressive, with just one flaw: wasteful finishing. The 1-0 scoreline was desperately unflattering. They ought to have won by four or five.

Manchester City 1-1 Roma

Matt Stanger for Football 365:

The rest of the first half belonged to Roma. The Italians frequently left City chasing shadows with their sharp passing and quick counter-attacking through Gervinho, and almost took the lead when the former Arsenal forward slammed a shot at Hart from a narrow angle. While Gervinho’s pace was proving a problem, Jesus Navas was barely given a sniff against Ashley Cole on City’s right flank. The Spaniard was replaced by James Milner at the interval after Cole once again asserted his enduring class.

FIFA To Ban Third Party Trades

Rob Hughes for The New York Times:

It is more than that. It raises the question about payments of taxation on sums of money now into the hundreds of millions of dollars. It asks how faceless groups of businessmen can hijack a sport whose administrators are sleeping.

FIFA now says it will prohibit the practice. However while UEFA talks of a ban for next season’s Champions League and Europa League tournaments, FIFA insists that it will take time, maybe six or eight transfer windows, to unravel the situation.

That means a ban four years from now, at the earliest.

That sounds like FIFA. To be fair, it would be mighty adventurous to take on third party ownership straight on. Mess with the money men and they could make a lot of noise for Blatter. Probably too much noise considering the the criticism of his leadership of FIFA.

Goodman on Derbies

Mike L. Goodman for Grantland:

This round of derbies ended with misery almost all around. Three teams will feel somewhere between mildly and majorly dissatisfied, and the one that’s happy needed an absurd last-minute screamer for it to happen. Derbies aren’t like other weeks. They’re weird. They shift expectations and heighten the importance of results. A point against a good opponent is a fine result, but a draw against a local rival … that’s a huge disappointment.

Stoke 1-0 Newcastle

Start James for The Guardian:

Peter Crouch’s first-half goal condemned Newcastle to a defeat that leaves them joint-bottom of the Premier League and, in the process, brings that bizarre interview Ashley gave to a reporter outside the Golden Lion pub in Soho on Thursday night sharply into focus. Either Ashley has a strange sense of humour or Pardew is toast.

Call me old fashioned but the way Pardew has been treated doesn’t sit right with me. He has done questionable things in the past, heck questionable is kind, but you’ve got to let him either do the job or let him go. Don’t go blabbering about him in the media. But based on the strange interview, he’s a goner. It’s just a question of time.

Arsenal Need a Defensive Midfielder

Janusz Michallik for Bleacher Report:

A couple of quick suggestions: William Carvalho had a massive game against Porto on the weekend, even though by his own admission he has not found the perfect form yet. The protection he would have given Arsenal, had Wenger signed him over the summer, is immeasurable. I thought that Welbeck was a good buy but not exactly what was needed.

The quoted part may sound like every other article about Arsenal’s problems you have read in the last year but it’s worth reading. Michallik always makes sense and makes good points in the article.

Manchester United 2-1 West Ham

Daniel Taylor for The Guardian:

In different times, a visiting side to Old Trafford would have judged this as the point to focus on damage-limitation and avoid an old-fashioned thrashing. Yet the modern-day United now encourage opponents to think there are other ways. West Ham also had a clear height advantage. After 37 minutes, Downing put in a corner and De Gea – possibly impeded, according to Van Gaal – could not get a clean punch on the ball. Enner Valencia had the first effort and when the ball came back off the crossbar Diafra Sakho was first to the rebound to score with another header.

Too much is made of the psychological element of coming to big grounds. Ferguson’s Manchester United weren’t winning because teams thought they couldn’t win at Old Trafford; they were just much better. Sure, perception does carry some weight, but I would guess a lot less than often given credit for.

Arsenal 1-1 Tottenham

Keith Satuku at Off the Post:

If Spurs had more confidence or incision in their attacking positions they would surely have made more of the spaces around Arsenal’s defensive line. They were let down time after time by their forwards miscontrolling the ball, stumbling over or just losing possession at a crucial time.

It looked good for Arsenal, but mostly because Tottenham couldn’t execute on the break. If Arsenal play a similar game against Chelsea they will get hit hard on the counter.

Burnley Lack the Attack to Succeed in the Premier League

Kevin Kilbane for BBC:

The dilemma for Clarets boss Sean Dyche is that if he tries to do anything but contain the opposition then it will leave his side more exposed at the back.

So their midfield is focused on protecting their defenders rather than trying to support their lone striker up front.

The aim of their defensive approach is to keep them in matches for longer but, as we saw against the Baggies, when they go a goal down then they do not have a plan B.

Liverpool 1-1 Everton

Henry Winter for The Telegraph:

Gerrard finished frustrated, his hopes ruined by Jagielka’s missile from the school of rocket science, the best goal Martínez said he had seen in the flesh (some compliment as he was Wigan manager when Maynor Figueroa scored from 60 yards against Stoke City in 2009).

A rather dull game, with two moments of magic. First was Gerrard’s free-kick and second was Jagielka’s thunderbastard. The best goal I’ve seen this season.

Blatter Shitting over Everyone yet Again

Andrew Das for The New York Times:

Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA, insisted Friday that an investigative report into the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups should remain private, despite growing pressure for its release from inside and outside soccer’s world governing body.

Shocker.

Friday Foreplay – Gameweek 6

My regular article at All Things FPL, previewing the upcoming Fantasy Premier League Gameweek, has been published:

Dušan Tadić’s 10 goal attempts and 11 key passes put numbers to what our eyes have witnessed this season. Tadić has been mighty impressive for the Saints with signs of Fantasy returns, especially as he is on penalty and set-piece duties. Southampton are entering a stretch of favourable games (QPR / tot / SUN / STK / hul / LEI) so the Serbian, who is owned by less than 3% of Fantasy managers, could prove a valuable differential.

Check it out.

Everton’s Defensive Weaknesses

The Executioners Bong:

A quick look at our pressing data over the last three seasons shows the amount of times we press opponents and win the ball back is on the wane, maybe due to having more possession or maybe not. The amount of times we won the ball back from opposition per game in 12/13 was 34.5 dropping to 32.6 per game in Martinez first year in charge and this season dropping further to 25.6 per game.

Fantastic piece; a thorough analysis of Martinez’s defence.

Premier League Tactics

Glenn Moore for The Independent:

Which is a pity, because as the game becomes ever more sophisticated players need to follow suit and it would help if ours grew up in a culture that studied the sport rather than just watched it. David Platt, who has played and coached in England and Italy, once observed: “The Italian footballer is stimulated by talk of various systems and the movement of players. These things are of little interest to English players. After about 20 minutes their eyes glaze over.” He added: “If I don’t do a single tactical session over the course of a week the English player either wouldn’t notice or wouldn’t care. [It] would terrify the Italian. To him tactics are an essential part of the game.”

Atlético Madrid Without Costa

Guillem Balague for Bleacher Report:

And then, there’s Mario Mandzukic. What’s most interesting is that with the Croatian in the line-up, Atletico play like the Atletico team of old, which contained Radamel Falcao with lots of crosses into the box.

But they look more comfortable playing with a Griezmann-Jimenez combination because it makes them revert to what they do best; playing the counter with acres of space in front of them.

Mandzukic is much more about holding the ball up and linking with the other attackers, or waiting in the box for a cross.

Interesting, and perhaps highlights how good Costa really is.

Quantifying Marseille’s Pressing

Colin Trainor, writing at Stats Bomb, using his pressing metric (Passes per Defensive Action or PPDA) on Bielsa’s Marseille:

We can see that the data, unsurprisingly, backs up and confirms what our eyes have been telling us; Marseille have been operating a very aggressive press. Indeed their cumulative PPDA over the course of the opening seven games of 8.66 is the lowest in Ligue 1, in other words Marseille are pressing more aggressively than any other team in the league. – See more at: http://statsbomb.com/2014/09/marseille-the-bielsa-press-quantified/#sthash.96s6ClR8.dpuf

Marcelo Bielsa Marseille Top Ligue 1, Can It Last?

Jonathan Wilson for The Guardian:

History suggests Bielsa sides have about six months at their peak before fatigue sets in. His complaints over the depth of his squad suggest he has come to fear that process, although a lack of European competition should relieve the pressure a little. So perhaps Marseille fans should simply enjoy what they have as long as it lasts. There also remains the glorious possibility that Bielsa, the great romantic, the idealist who has not won a domestic trophy since 1998, might at last have his consecration. And if he should do it in the face of PSG, the greatest icons of the modern world of super clubs run by sovereign wealth funds and oligarchs, how much the sweeter.

“Hate Can Be Cancelled out by an Equivalent Dose of Love”

Kelly Welles quoting Andrea Pirlo on racism and Balotelli at The Football Ramble:

Prandelli has given us national team players some firm direction on the matter. If you hear people in the stands disrespecting Mario, run over to him and hug him.” In that idea hate can be cancelled out by an equivalent dose of love. Not a fashionable choice, but a pretty forceful idea.

That is fantastic. Love both Pirlo’s statements and Prandelli’s advice.

“Guava is his Favourite”

The full headline is: “Former Newcastle United star Tino Asprilla releases range of flavoured condoms, guava is his favourite”

Carling Cup Tuesday Round-Up

Chris Deeley for FTB Pro:

Liverpool 2-2 (14-13 on pens) Middlesbrough
17 year old Jordan Rossiter netted just 10 minutes into his senior debut for Liverpool to put them a goal up, but Adam Reach dragged Boro back onto level terms just after the hour mark after he was left with a free header from close range.
The two sides couldn’t be separated in the 90 minutes, but substitute Suso struck to seemingly seal Liverpool’s progress after 109 minutes. However, ‘Kalamity’ Kolo Toure gave away a penalty in injury time at the end of extra time, which was slotted home by Patrick Bamford to take the game to a shootout.
The shootout was a phenomenal occasion – with every single player on the pitch taking a penalty as it extended for an astonishing 30 kicks. Albert Adomah missed the deciding penalty at the end after a masterclass in spot-kick taking.

“Ethical and Moral Questions for the Game”

David Conn for The Guardian:

However, the sheer scale of the challenge of trying to unpick third-party ownership in South America, where it is so entrenched, is a daunting one for Fifa. The practice is so deeply ingrained in Brazil and Argentina, where it took hold in the early 1990s, it is hard to know where an attempt to ban it outright would begin. Scores of funds have invested in hundreds of players, with Ronaldo and Neymar among their biggest paydays.

Fantastic piece.

BBC: Fernando Santos is the New Portugal Manager

Santos, who played for Maritimo and Estoril during the 1970s, has also been in charge of Porto and Sporting Lisbon during his 27-year managerial career.

He has also spent time managing in Greece, including a stint with PAOK, Panathinaikos and two spells with AEK Athens.

He was in charge of Greece for four years but his reign ended on a sour note with his sending off, which followed an altercation with an official at the end of the last-16 match in Recife.

“Why Liverpool Don’t Stand a Chance of Finishing in the Top Four This Season”

Chris Deeley writing at Huffington Post:

And now we near the hub of Liverpool’s biggest problem. Their talisman is gone, and they seem a little adrift without his ability to bail them out. Last year, their defensive frailties didn’t matter too much because Suarez would be on hand to bang in even more goals than they let in.

He’s way too harsh. I don’t see any team challenging Liverpool and Manchester United for fourth. It could very well end up being United, but saying Liverpool don’t stand a chance seems like a statement trying to get attention.

Can Southampton Keep This Up?

Sarah Winterburn of Football 365 thinks so:

They stand on the same points total as Aston Villa and yet the chances of the Saints staying in the top half of the table – or finishing even higher – feel a lot more tangible. With a paucity of attacking options, Villa were living a charmed life that was ended in pretty gruesome style by Arsenal on Saturday; Southampton’s success is based on organisation and hard work married to no-little flair from Dusan Tadic and James Ward-Prowse, drive from Morgan Schneiderlin and goal threat from Graziano Pellè. It’s a sustainable model.

Disgustingly Fantastic Back-Heel Brilliance

Adam Hurrey for Project Babb:

Celta Vigo midfielder Pablo Hernandez (not to be confused with former Swansea and now Qatar-based midfielder Pablo Hernandez) opened the scoring against Atletico Madrid with this speculative dangling of his left heel superbly-executed piece of impudence.

“This Year the Bill Seems to Have Come Due”

Ted Knutson for Stats Bomb:

What happens when Gerrard, playing regista, no longer racks up defensive stats? Apparently, you lose. I think Liverpool upgraded along their back line, with Moreno, Manquillo, and Lovren all improving their quality at the back. That said, most teams have one or two other bodies in midfield to break up opposition attacks. Liverpool frequently have none. Even the best center backs in the league are going to look foolish when facing top attackers running at them constantly. At some point you have to conclude that the problems for Liverpool either lie with the personnel in front of the center backs or that they are systemic, or both.

The Mourinho Stereotype

Richard Jolly for ESPN FC:

This was a reversion to stereotype of a Mourinho team: pragmatic, tactically astute but not overly adventurous. Their formula was also distinctly familiar. While summer signings Costa and Cesc Fabregas started, every other element of Mourinho’s tactics was reminiscent of February’s 1-0 win at the Etihad Stadium.

This was the sequel. It even threatened to have the same scoreline: 1-0. Mourinho deployed the same game plan, the supporting cast reprising their roles. Willian was the hard-running No. 10 again, Ramires a similarly speedy right winger. The emphasis was on industry, not invention. This was a test of his micromanagement, of his strategic prowess

Manchester City 1-1 Chelsea

Henry Winter for The Telegraph:

Lampard brought sanity to the scoreline. It would have been an insult to sporting justice had Eliaquim Mangala, a muscular, mobile centre-half making an accomplished debut, finished on the losing side. It would have been affront had Milner’s tireless contribution of running and passing and tackling not received some reward.

City certainly answered those who had questioned their levels of dynamism and strength of character. They were by far the more assertive side, even if Manuel Pellegrini’s post-match jibe at Chelsea being a “small team” was a cheap shot.

Jose Mourinho has a wonderful knack, if you only care about results, of killing good football games. His teams, like Chelsea today, decided not to go head-to-head against City, but rather absorb the pressure and try to only break on the counter. It was a dull strategy.

Look, I’m not saying it’s not a valid strategy, and especially that being pragmatic is some kind of devilish thing to do (especially after that Manchester United result), but it’s such a waste that a game between these two sides chock-full of talented players be so boring.

Looking at the result from the eyes of a neutral, I’d much rather City win the league, if only to incentivise future managers to play attacking football.

Cox on Vardy

Michael Cox for The Guardian:

Vardy showed tactical intelligence but also tremendous strength and his performance personified Leicester’s approach. Pearson’s tactical nous, combined with some old-fashioned, Championship-style physicality to bully United’s superstars, meant Leicester deservedly won to move ahead of Van Gaal’s side in the table – having played much trickier fixtures.

Leicester City 5-3 Manchester United

Simon Hart for The Independent:

United led both 2-0 and 3-1 and provided an early goal-of-the-season contender from Angel Di Maria, yet their defence was torn apart by a Leicester side just out of the Championship. In the process the erstwhile kings of the comeback lost a match for the first time in the Premier League era after holding a two-goal lead and now sit 12th in the Premier League with five points from five games – two fewer than they had time at this stage last year under David Moyes.

An extraordinary game, and one that United should have won. Despite the howler by Mark Clattenburg, Rafael was first fouled by Vardy and then Vardy dived in the box, with United at 2-3 up they should have at least held on. It was a monumental collapse, one that will have given Van Gaal something to think about.