Tagged: ESPN FC

Arsenal need Unai Emery pragmatism more than Wenger’s idealism

Arsenal need Unai Emery pragmatism more than Wenger’s idealism

Trust Gab Marcotti to make me start to come to terms with this appointment from Arsenal. I would have been actually excited at the appointment of Mikel Arteta or even Thierry Henry as I wouldn’t have known what to expect. Emery’s history is well-known and not exciting in the least.

I wasn’t expecting a title-challenging squad anytime soon regardless of was appointed, and I doubt we’ll get that with Emery. Can he stabilize the squad and produce a solid team that eventually starts winning the big trophies again? I’m still going to take the wait and see approach on that. His time at Sevilla and Valencia was impressive in parts but his away record, record against bigger teams and Champions League failures stand out.

For now, it’s on to the World Cup.

Champions League goals flow freely as art of defending is lost across Europe

Champions League goals flow freely as art of defending is lost across Europe

Some great points throughout, as always, by Michael Cox.

A lot of European clubs, not just the big boys, want to play stylish, attacking football. Or, at least, they want to present the idea that they can. The 1-0 game between Atletico Madrid and Arsenal did seem boring in comparison to the Champions League semis but it was simply a matter of excellent defending by Atletico.  The idea of the club’s brand playing a part in that decision is very interesting and makes even more sense when you compare to international football.

Each continent certainly has stylistic similarities in terms of play but, ultimately, each international teams approaches the game differently. What makes the difference at the club level is that players spend months together learning each others patterns along with being constantly drilled in a specific style by their coach. There is much less time for international teams even during tournaments.

Perhaps that’s another reason the upcoming 2018 World Cup is yet to fully excite. There are sure to be some painful games early on as players, coaches etc get accustomed to each other again after exhausting seasons. Hopefully enough quality shines through and it doesn’t become a case of playing not to lose instead of playing to win.

Soccer in 2017 to be dominated by virtual reality and the continued rise of analytics – ESPN FC

Soccer in 2017 to be dominated by virtual reality and the continued rise of analytics – ESPN FC

I haven’t done a post like this in a while hoping to get back to doing it regularly. If’ you’ve read Soccernomics you know about Simon Kuper. There’s definitely some interesting thoughts in there. I can see the rise in analytics continuing but I don’t know about managers becoming less vital or Western Europe losing it’s dominance. If the latter happens it won’t be for a while yet.

Brendan Rodgers, the beauty of 3-4-2-1 and its potency as a tactical weapon | Jonathan Wilson | Football | The Guardian

Brendan Rodgers, the beauty of 3-4-2-1 and its potency as a tactical weapon | Jonathan Wilson | Football | The Guardian

Some tactical talk from two of my favorite tactical writers. I don’t think 3 at the back will ever become a regular thing in the Premier League but it is interesting that mostly big teams have used it in recent times. That will likely be the tactical trend of the year, in the Premier League at least, especially if Chelsea continue to have such success.

Chelsea’s three-man defence the most intriguing tactical decision of the year

What is the most important position on a football pitch? – ESPN FC

What is the most important position on a football pitch? – ESPN FC

There’s no right answer here. Well, maybe not. I can understand the author’s arguments at the end about goalkeepers but a very strong argument could be made for any one of those positions considered.  If I had to pick one it would be central midfield. They are at the heart of everything and, from my personal view, if you lose the midfield battle you generally lose the game.

Can regional leagues bring Champions League success to smaller clubs – ESPN FC

Can regional leagues bring Champions League success to smaller clubs – ESPN FC

There would be a lot of kinks to work out for this to come to fruition but you can see the benefits. Especially if there is a Super League in the future. It would be interesting to see all the proposed teams in regular competition with each other. I wouldn’t want to see their respective domestic leagues take a big hit as a result and I doubt those leagues would either. It certainly wouldn’t make sense to do this league without it being the primary source of qualification for European competition but again the domestic leagues can’t be fully left out.

It seems like this would only  really come about if the gap between the super clubs and every one else widens as expected given the recent changes in Champions League. We shall see

Antoine Griezmann Paul Pogba or Toni Kroos who would you build a team around – ESPN FC

Antoine Griezmann Paul Pogba or Toni Kroos who would you build a team around – ESPN FC

Interesting question.

Of the names actually mentioned in the article I’d agree with the Pogba decision the most but even then I’m iffy. My only thing is that he is yet to fully convince me in any big game I’ve seen him in. Hopefully that changes soon.  As Gab Marcotti said he has all the tools you want in a player and he plays in the engine room. At 23, he’s younger than Kroos and Griezmann and will likely always be ahead of Weigl and Alli in terms of quality and experience.

That being said, Neymar was the first name that came to my mind. He’s just one year older than Pogba and has already won so much. He’s probably not captain material but he can be a leader and provide that winning mentality from the front. He still has maturing to do, they both do, but he’s already proven himself in terms of big games. True, he’s had Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta to help him out but Pogba hasn’t had any slouches around him.

Javier Chicharito Hernandez from baby faced boy next door to superstar deserving of respect – ESPN FC

Javier Chicharito Hernandez from baby faced boy next door to superstar deserving of respect – ESPN FC


There should be one name that comes to mind when thinking about CONCACAF’s superstar, or the closest thing to it. Hernandez has played for two of the biggest clubs in  football in Manchester United and Real Madrid. That trend in Germany with Bayer Leverkusen. The same club Landon Donovan left to go back to the MLS. Hernandez was a regular until the last season at United until the last season while being pretty productive and did a decent job on loan at Madrid as mostly a sub. And now he’s killing it at Bayer. Yes, he may still have some work to do on his all around game but he does arguably the two most important things for a modern forward really well, press and score goals.

Other than the Dos Santos’ no one else in CONCACAF in recent times has played for such big clubs and neither of them were really regulars. You could throw in Dempsey at Tottenham too. Christian Pulisic is certainly on the way up but has a way to go still.

So, despite lacking the glamour of many, Chicharito is CONCACAF’s best player/superstar.

World Cup Expansion Coming?…..

FIFA’s new boss, Gianni Infantino, definitely picked up some tricks from his predecessor.

It’s a given that campaigning in for any form of office comes with promises that are highly unlikely to be filled, right? One such promise that isn’t going away as far as Infantino is concerned, as reported by the Guardian, is the possibility of expanding the World Cup. In that sense he’s definitely taking things further than Sepp Blatter who seemed to mostly filled with talk when it came to this topic.

Sure, it was nice to see teams like Iceland and Albania perform admirably, or really well in Iceland’s case, in the recently expanded Euros but the flip-side was the overall level of football was very watered down. That was mainly due to team’s eyeing results with a microscope to navigate their way to the knockout rounds in a tournament that f$*#(@g  Portugal won. I wasn’t a huge fan of the CONMEBOL/CONCACAF mashup in Copa America either but it was at least more entertaining. (Admittedly, I think Iceland is no fluke as their start to 2018 World Cup qualifying has shown and that’s down to how they’ve built their program from the ground up in recent years).

Of course, the promise of expansion helps win a few more votes from countries that would very much like the chance to trot out in the world’s biggest sporting event besides the Olympics. At what cost though? Certainly the level of play, issues with scheduling etc. and the small fact that the current proposed deals would see a majority of teams play two years to take part in one game to fly back home. Would those playoffs bring plenty of interest? Yes. One could also argue that the countries new to the experience will get better the more they come up against top opposition. Would that really be the case if the majority of them are playing one-off games to even make it into the tournament proper? I doubt it but Infantino doesn’t.

“Whether it will be 40 or 48, it was a positive discussion. I don’t agree it will dilute the quality,” Infantino said. “I would like to remind you that in the last World Cup, England and Italy were eliminated by Costa Rica. The level of football is increasing all over the world.

“In a 48 team format, the quality would be higher because the 32 teams would have a play off. The quality would improve and not decrease in any way.”

The quality wouldn’t be higher because of one-off games though ratings probably would and FIFA’s pockets may bulge a bit more. And, to be honest, there’s only one expansion that makes sense. If you want more teams, Infantino, and more games and more money(which is what you really want) why not just go to 64 teams and rename it June/July Madness with the same top 2 from each group going through and then a knockout round of 32 onwards? I’m sure one of your successors will bring that up so let’s just get straight to it. Except, we’re forgetting one thing. Increased workload for the players after grueling club seasons would undoubtedly drain the competition of its increased quality.

Let’s not forget that some of these teams already play in playoffs to get to the big show. They may not mind the possibility of an automatic spot but that really wouldn’t be the case as they are likely to be first in line for one of those playoff spots. So what’s the difference?

I should be happy with the idea of more football every four years but seeing as I’ll probably be sneaking to watch those games at work or, staying up late/waking up early, I’m not sure my schedule can take it. I think 32 teams and a month-long tournament is enough, and especially so when we’re talking about a one-game playoff.

I’ve said my piece but the articles below offer some interesting, and contrasting, views on the proposed changes and its something we’ll continue to hear about until a decision is made.

World Cup expansion is reasonable, as long as it works for everyone

Infantino’s 48-team World Cup plan would be funny if it was not so serious