Monthly Archives: March 2016

Chris Smalling (over 6 games, 2015/16 season)

Chris Smalling (over 6 games, 2015/16 season)
Games: vs Newcastle (27/08/15); at Arsenal (04/10/15); vs Man City (25/10/15); at Newcastle (12/01/16); at Liverpool (17/01/16); at West Brom (06/03/16). There’s also a decent sized conclusion at the bottom if you just want to skip down to that.

If you’ve not read one of these before, I look at a centre-back through the broad categories: ball-playing; positioning; awareness; decision-making; speed/strength. These (more here, including ones on Laporte and Alderweireld) are generally over just a single game, but over six here for a more in-depth look.


Smalling is a very bizarre player when looking at his ball-playing. Continue reading


Why the plan to put B teams in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy is terrible – by someone who like the idea of B-teams

Yesterday, Iain Macintosh wrote a great column about the plan to put Premier League Under 21 teams into the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy that’s been reported. The plan, simply, is that sides with top level academies could enter an Under 21 side into the competition in return for a payment to League 1 and League 2 youth development, to compensate them for money they might lose by being knocked out by a bunch of Chelsea youngsters (before they get shipped out all over Europe and introduced to the Chelsea loanee Whatsapp group).

Now, my view on B-teams – Premier League youth teams being put into the league system – is a far, far cry from what I imagine Iain’s is (I quote from his column which I highly recommend reading if you haven’t already, “We do not give a fuck about your Premier League youngsters.”). My opinion is essentially coldly and darkly evil, disregarding the feelings of millions of fans all over the country, but it’s that B teams in the league system would probably help young players develop.
Continue reading

3 things that the magic crystal ball of statistics can teach us, the Muggles, about football* – Champions League 15th-16th March

3 things that the magic crystal ball of statistics can teach us, the Muggles, about football* – Champions League 15th-16th March

[*This is, surprisingly, not a wholly serious title]

1. Football is a funny old game, that generally works out all right in the end.

There were no goals in 210 minutes of play during the PSV-Atletico Madrid, which might on the surface indicate that it was a deathly close tie. Atletico outshot the Dutch side 32-10 over the two legs, for a combined Expected Goals sum (according to Michael Caley’s numbers) of 2.9 against 1.4. This doesn’t mean the score ‘should’ have been 3-1 or 3-2 on aggregate, but it gives a hint that Atletico had the better chances.

Just going on the two clubs’ respective statures, you would expect that the Spanish side would go through too. But after all that time and all of those chances in their favour, when it came down to penalties it looked like PSV might be able to seize a chance the size of which they hadn’t had for the entire tie. Particularly when the spot-kicks went down to sudden death, as similar to the metaphorical coin toss as football can be, it seemed like a team who has muscled in on Spain’s Big Two could crash out at such an early stage. Continue reading

Believe it or not, Van Gaal’s United are improving, but too little and too late

The consensus was that Manchester United’s defeat against Liverpool in the first leg of the Europa League was an abject performance which sums up why Louis van Gaal should be sacked, showing no redeeming features or progress. It certainly wasn’t great, but nor was it completely abject and United’s players (this wording is chosen specifically) actually showed some progress.

For the entire season, Van Gaal has wanted to implement a kind of ‘positional play’ type of season, the sort of thing that Pep’s Bayern do. It takes a lot of discipline and a hell of a lot of teaching time to make these kinds of things happen. When rigorous systems are pulled off, however, they work very well – see Pochettino at Southampton and now Spurs, and both of those took time to come to fruition.

Back in October against Arsenal, in that 3-0 defeat, United were playing a system of pressuring when off the ball that only Bastian Schweinsteiger seemed to understand, below getting a little frustrated with Martial for not following up his own pressing efforts. Continue reading

C’est pas un SOS, mais l’équipe de Strasbourg est un peu (Epi)nul

On dit beaucoup de choses sur les jeunes de nos jours. Généralement c’est négatif. Mais dans le foot, une injection de jeunesse peut souvent fournir une étincelle qui est autrement manque de l’équipe des hommes plus agés et plus sages (bien que cette étincelle peut être assez temporaire). Ihsan Sacko (né le 19/07/1997 – ie, il a 18 ans) n’ai fait pas un impact en termes des buts dans le match de Racing Club de Strasbourg Alsace contre SAS Epinal, après être entré comme un remplacement en le deuxième mi-temps, mais il mérite d’être un focus toutefois.

Racing n’a pas bien commencé le match. Les passes simples mais négligé donné le ballon de l’opposition dans les premières minutes qui, pour une équipe en deuxième place du classement et avec l’espères de la promotion à Ligue 2 ce saison (après la liquidation en 2011), n’est pas bien. Continue reading

Not quite an SOS, but Strasbourg aren’t exactly Racing

A lot is said about the young people of today. Generally it’s negative. But in football, an injection of youth can often provide a spark that is otherwise lacking from the team of older, wiser men (though this spark may be fairly temporary). Ihsan Sacko (DOB: 19/07/1997 – ie, he’s 18) didn’t make an impact goal-wise in Racing Club de Strasbourg Alsace’s match against SAS Epinal, after coming on as a second-half substitute, but he nonetheless deserves to be a focus.

Racing did not start the game well. Sloppy, easy passes gave the ball away to the opposition in the opening minutes which, for a team 2nd in the table and hoping for promotion into Ligue 2 this season (after liquidation in 2011), is not good. Continue reading