Category Archives: Football

How much of an insight can Leicester’s pre-season friendly against Celtic give us?

How much of an insight can Leicester’s pre-season friendly against Celtic give us? Defining it definitively is probably a recipe for being dredged up in three months when the current (English) Premier League champions are doing something completely different. However, there were aspects which were striking.

Leicester lined up in the 4-4-2 that was their usual in 2015-16.

Leicester line up

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Liverpool’s centre-back rebuilding job is one I do not envy

Liverpool are in a tricky spot regarding centre-backs. Skrtel’s agent has said that he’s 90% sure to be leaving, Kolo Touré seems like he might be going too, and Mamadou Sakho is awaiting a ban which may lead to the club Sakhing him (sorry).

That leaves Dejan Lovren, unpredictable under Rodgers but more solid under Klopp, and Joel Matip as the players on the board for next season. At the least, Liverpool will have to bring two more central defenders into the first team squad.

This would be a difficult task at the best of times, but this season will perhaps be the all-time peak in terms of centre-back transfers among the top clubs. Manchester City, Manchester United, and Chelsea will all definitely be in the market around Liverpool’s level, and Everton may be too depending on how they choose to reinvest what seems sure to be a large amount of money they receive for John Stones. Arsenal might want to bring someone in as Koscielny and Mertesacker age. Leicester might want to upgrade their centre-halves and, hell, there’s a slim chance Spurs might want to bring in another young back-up to Alderweireld and Vertonghen as well. Continue reading

England’s centre-backs: vs Turkey

The match against Turkey, for Cahill and Stones, was generally a quiet affair. You could probably count the times they had to tax themselves to deal with the opposition on your fingers.

Turkey’s goal, in the 13th minute, was one of these, although really it should only count as a half-example. It was more a case of running and basic positioning than reading the game in a more advanced way.

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Liverpool vs Sevilla – Europa League final match report

From the start, this Europa League final had been a disappointing affair for Liverpool Football Club. The 10,000 tickets for their fans, and these fans being warned that accommodation in Basel was all sold out, can now be re-written as signs from the footballing gods. The comeback against Dortmund too, defying all reasonable odds and expectations. “You weren’t meant to be here”, they whisper through the fabric of time, “You weren’t meant to be here”.

At half-time, though, Liverpool will have felt like they were exactly where they belonged, winning a European final. Oh, how the gods like to toy with us.

The first period of the match, until Sturridge’s fantastic strike, was a fairly even affair. Neither side had really clicked, and there had been very few real chances. Sevilla seemed to want to play direct, but ran into the Liverpool defence and midfield, who were also counter-pressing whenever they lost the ball. Continue reading

Pick a number, any number… – A random number generated FM save

It is with hate-tinged thanks to Alex Stewart and his new Moneyball meets Football Manager series with Livorno (a previous series with Bristol City is here) that I opened up FM16 again. The last save on the game I had ended with a superficial finger injury after snapping a biro in frustration.

I decided, though, to return, but to do so with a challenge. This way there’d be less pressure to succeed because, y’know, you can just blame the challenge for hindering your inner Sir Alex Ferguson. I decided that my challenge would involve, before every match, letting a random number generator choose my formation.

Now, I’m not so ridiculous as to let it choose the number of defenders, midfielders, and attackers for me, ending up with some odd 6-1-3 combination; instead I drew up a list of base formations, which gives me a degree of flexibility Continue reading

The 2015/16 Premier League centre-back ‘not really awards’ awards

So that’s it; the Premier League season 2015/16. We draw the final curtain and await our favourite players to take their place in the spotlight for their round of applause (or pantomime boos), before we leave the theatre and excitedly discuss the show we’ve just witnessed on the way back home.

There are, however, certain actors on this greatest stage of all who get pushed to the side as the company take their bows, destined never to know the dazzle that comes with true limelight. No, this is not a “Mark Noble for the Euros” shout, I’m talking of course about centre-backs.

It’s been a strange year for the breed. Previous stars of the position have been struck by injury (Kompany), age (Terry), no longer having a defence of ten players in front of them all weighed down by the crushing spectre of extreme dullity (Smalling), or just a bit of an average season (Koscielny). Continue reading

Sensible Stats round-up 07/05/16

This column aims to look at use of football statistics in the more mainstream areas of the online world, good or bad, and explain why they’re good or how they could be improved. (headings for articles may not be exactly the correct headline but are summaries, and anyway headlines have been known to be like hospital passes for some articles).

Sky Sports, Leicester vs previous champions

This is quite fun, showing how different Leicester’s style is to the norm. I think, as a collection of statistics, this is one of the more easily understandable lists that Sky Sports has put out. The stats are all focussed around a single story/point, rather than what sometimes happens with a couple of stats looking more like hopeful plunges in the grab-bag. Continue reading