One Man, One Game: Per Mertesacker (Arsenal vs Barcelona, 23 February 2016)

If you know what you’re looking for, there’s a lot you can tell about a player from a single game of football (crucially, if you know what you’re looking for, you also know what you *haven’t* learned about a player from a single game as well). In the hopefully regular ‘One man, One game’ feature, I do just that. If you enjoy this, please consider backing my Patreon to enable more of this work to be made.

 Per Mertesacker has a lot of fans. Partly it’s for things like this.

Partly it’s because he might – and here the narrative voice slightly trails off into the higher pitch of uncertainty – be Arsenal’s best central defender. I’ve liked Koscielny for a while and they’re different types of centre-backs, so it’s neither an easy nor obvious comparison. Possibly more relevant to Arsenal is the fact that the alternatives to Mertesacker during the BFG’s injury are all more naturally aggressive players, so the Koscielny-Mertesacker balance is harder to replicate without him. Continue reading

Bumper centre-back analysis Patreon party

If you know what you’re looking for, there’s a lot you can tell about a player from a single game of football (crucially, if you know what you’re looking for, you also know what you *haven’t* learned about a player from a single game as well). As a celebration for my Patreon getting to the $20 a month goal, I’m doing a bumper analysis article on *takes deep breath*

–          Kalidou Koulibaly

–          Antonio Rüdiger

–          Nathan Aké

–          Ben Gibson

–          Alfie Mawson

Enjoy.

  Continue reading

One man, One game: Pepe (Napoli vs Real Madrid, 03 March 2017)

If you know what you’re looking for, there’s a lot you can tell about a player from a single game of football (crucially, if you know what you’re looking for, you also know what you *haven’t* learned about a player from a single game as well). In the hopefully regular ‘One man, One game’ feature, I do just that. The first, on John Terry’s first game of the 2016/17 season, is here.

 

Pepe’s reputation precedes him. This isn’t (I think?) so much to do with his defending as his tendency to kick people. In fairness to him, this is a major part of defending, and so he should be respected for continuing the noble tradition of the centre-back. But, with his Real Madrid now over and a move to Turkey already completed, it seems like a good time to consider how good he still is.

In hindsight, the second leg of a Champions League tie where Madrid were already 3-1 up was not likely to give a representative picture of Pepe as a defender. That said, it showcased some useful little features of his game. Continue reading

The Confederations Cup – A curious weather vane for the world

Smoke, or steam, or some other white smokey substance, billowed forwards and upwards from the road. The gathered crowd began to run backwards, away – away from the cloud, away from the slowly oncoming line of riotgear-clad police officers. It was tear gas, dispersing protests in Brazil in 2013 which surrounded the Confederations Cup.

There are those who say that the Confederations Cup is a meaningless non-event (barring the boring tests of footballing infrastructure in the next year’s World Cup host nation). This is incorrect.

FIFA go home

***

2001: South Korea and Japan Continue reading

Watch his feet – John Terry’s first game of 2016/17

The Wall Street Journal’s Sam Walker has a theory, in his book The Captain Class, that the truly dominant teams of sport all have one thing in common – their captain. World class stars, one-of-a-kind managers, and bags of money come and go, but in all of the truly Greatest Of All Time teams their period of dominance (he says) coincides with the presence of a particular captain’s time with the side.

Whether you believe that or not, captains are generally thought to be emblematic of their team, a representative in sporting achievement as well as spirit. John Terry is Mr Chelsea, and the defensive pragmatism of their twenty-first century successes matches up well with his image as a player.

The pendulum can swing both ways though. Chelsea started the 2016/17 season limping, struggling through games in what looked to be performances which were below their true powers. And Terry looked much the same.

Watching their first game of the season, at home against West Ham on the 15th of August, hindsight plays on the mind as Terry jogs across the screen. Is there anything there which would indicate why he would never fight his way into the side following his injury in September, relegated in the pecking order behind Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz, and Gary Cahill? Continue reading

Patreon – just launched

So, I’ve set up a Patreon. What that means is that you can contribute a small amount per month and get some exclusive juicy content, as well as generally helping me out. I’ll copy and paste the ‘About’ section of my Patreon page below:

“If you’re on this page then you probably know that centre-backs, and telling people what those centre-backs are actually good at, is kinda my thing.

With Every Team Needs A Ron, I care about three things:

  1. 1. Quality analysis
  2. 2. Making sure fans get this quality analysis in a way they can enjoy
  3. 3. Making sure I’m able to *provide* this quality analysis

This last one means getting some money out of it, because quality takes man-hours.  From just 2 dollars a month (that’s only $0.50 a week), patrons will get *exclusive* thoughts on goings on centre-backs and other footballing things, AND EVEN MORE depending on what reward tier you choose.

Huge thanks to anyone that pledges and, to steal a line from Juan Mata, hugs. If you appreciate my work or find it interesting or valuable, I’d be truly touched if you contribute something towards it.”

 

Why am I doing this? This stuff costs time and most people have grown up with the expectation that everything on the internet is free. But, as we can see from journalism, that isn’t a good model. An awful lot of time is put into work that people (not just me) do, and as cringe-inducing as it is to use this phrase, ‘time is money’.

To be honest, this is also something of a test run for others in the vague circle of the football community who may be thinking of doing something like this. I’m aware that a fair number of writers and YouTubers already have Patreons, but this doesn’t seem to have crossed over much into the football domain. It makes sense, I think, to set something up for myself rather than to try and create a website which pays writers – I can bear paying myself £1 per hour’s work of Patreon backed money if the campaign doesn’t get off the ground to any great extent, but I couldn’t allow myself to do that to other writers.

Anyway, if you enjoy what I do, please shove in a couple of whatever currency you use if you can spare it. The lowest tier is just a handful of pence a week, so it isn’t too much. If you don’t, or can’t, back monetarily, then please share the Patreon page around. Eternal thanks and may love(ren) be with you, Mark.

Virgil van Dijk – a write up

Virgil van Dijk is a wanted man. Liverpool tapped dat (up) and then got punished for it, and Chelsea are circling around him as well, although there’s a sense that he’s a bit of a fall-back option in case they fail to coax Leonardo Bonucci to their boudoir.

Why is he so wanted? Back in January, I made a video about him (-> here <-), but some people prefer the written word to a six-minute montage of moving pictures.  This is largely a written version of the video – the conclusions are the same at least – but I expand on some things here and there.

 

Southampton – A cause for caution Continue reading