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Monday, January 04, 2016

OT: Soccer Thread - January 2016

I remain too lazy to map out the schedule.

No European play.
Transfer Window is open.
FA Cup action.
Capital One Cuppity-Cup Semi-final ties.
Bundesliga break ends Jan. 22.
USMNT Camp Cupcake 2016.

Sean Forman Posted: January 04, 2016 at 08:06 AM | 410 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: football, off-topic, silly-season, soccer, transfer-window

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   1. Spivey Posted: January 04, 2016 at 09:33 AM (#5125069)
No EPL games this next weekend, which is a bummer.

Tottenham's next game is a home game vs. Leicester City. A big game for both teams.
   2. Richard Posted: January 04, 2016 at 09:59 AM (#5125090)
FA Cup third round day is one of my favourite days of the season, up there with the first and last days and Boxing Day. I suspect many fans of non PL English teams would say the same.
   3. Shooty is obsessed with the latest hoodie Posted: January 04, 2016 at 10:10 AM (#5125097)
FA Cup third round is great. My favorite English soccer days are, in order, Boxing Day, FA Cup 3rd round, final day of the season, and then the Championship playoff final.
   4. The Marksist Posted: January 04, 2016 at 10:15 AM (#5125102)
Liverpool just aren't good enough. But we knew that before Klopp arrived, and nothing's changed, so it shouldn't be a surprise. Yeah, on their day, they can clearly run with the big boys, but their days are relatively few. Feels like they're a three good transfer windows away from being a legit contender for the CL spots, which is a depressing thought.

Are they?

They have two very good strikers, and a number of creative/attacking players. Skrtel is a very good centerback. It seems like the main thing they need, to me, is a holding midfielder better than Lucas and maybe some better fullbacks. Arsenal are top of the table with inconsistent fullback play.

So I really think it's a matter of getting a good holding midfielder, like Schneiderlin. I guess the calculus changes a bit if Henderson and Sturridge are done being contributors for them.


At this point, I'm not counting on Sturridge for anything. And desipite having lots of creative midfield types, they can't actually create anything against a set defense. So my (admittedly meaningless and hasty, etc., etc.) judgement was assuming Klopp would want to bring in a couple/few new faces in midfield, a striker he can count on to execute his system (maybe this is Ings?), at least one fullback and at least one center back.

You make good points, though, and I'd be happy to be wrong!
   5. Jose Remains The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: January 04, 2016 at 10:16 AM (#5125104)
I love the FA Cup. It's one of the things that really hooked me on the game a few years back. The only weekends I really dread are those international breaks dominated by friendlies.
   6. I am going to be Frank Posted: January 04, 2016 at 11:14 AM (#5125152)
Rafa is sacked by Real. Zidane is the next person up on the merry-go-round. Rafa seems to not be restricted by geography, so I won't say he's coming back to England. I don't see United or Chelsea interested in him and the other "bigger" money teams seem relatively set. I would guess he goes back to Italy.

Liverpool seem to have players who are "good enough" but not enough to be "match winners." Benteke is decent but may not be mobile enough for what Klopp wants to do. Coutinho has his flashes but he doesn't do it enough. The midfield seems to have good functional players but lacks creativity and goal scoring. Can is still young but Henderson has gotten close to the age where he is what he is.

You can't count on Sturridge and the defense/goalkeeping is very patchy - I don't share the same confidence a lot of you have with Skrtel.
   7. CWS Keith plans to [omitted] at [omitted] Posted: January 04, 2016 at 11:49 AM (#5125192)
Skrtel's a bit of a lightning rod. IIRC, there's quite a few aggregated defensive numbers showing him to not be all that good. On the other hand, I'm fairly sure those aggregated numbers suffer from the same issues that on/off numbers suffer from in basketball, as in, it's tough to parse out the the individual's contribution from the whole.

More subjectively, I think he's cromulent. Ideally you'd like someone better, but I'm not confident LFC would actually be able to identify and purchase that someone. Center-back purchases under FSG haven't fared all that well -- Coates and Llori didn't pan out, Lovren's been better this year but I still don't know why they felt the need to splurge on him. I like Sakho but recognize he's got a gaffe or two in him every few games.
   8. Shoeless Swedish Chef Posted: January 04, 2016 at 11:58 AM (#5125203)
Klopp out, Rafa in!!!
   9. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: January 04, 2016 at 12:22 PM (#5125236)
Liverpool seem to have players who are "good enough" but not enough to be "match winners."

I don't really think the above statement means very much (as I'm sure you'd agree; it is useful shorthand in the sense in which you posted), but even so, I'm struggling to parse such a case which doesn't include the Philippe Coutinho of the last few seasons in this category. There have been more than a handful of games in this period where a lackluster Liverpool have been rescued by either a moment of brilliance or a sustained performance on his part.
More subjectively, I think he's cromulent.[...]I like Sakho but recognize he's got a gaffe or two in him every few games.

FWIW (and it's not worth much), I'm willing to go much harsher than you on these two statements: for my money, Skrtel has been a deeply flawed defender for his entire career, and his "successful" years were entirely due to others in a system which minimized his responsibility. Additionally, I'm actually a huge fan of Sakho, even during his 'pool career - even if you go back and look at some of the big accidents which caused many Liverpool fans to turn against him initially, for my money, they tended to be due as much to crappy positioning from other players/isolating him in difficult positions than purely his own fault. I'm probably too willing to overlook flaws for pure potential (as I tend to be when evaluating defenders, which is a bit weird since cohesiveness is probably my own best attribute), but I'd definitely raise Sakho up a lot more than some other people.

I actually think the Danny Ings injury was a reasonably big moment for the club: I absolutely loved that piece of business (as I've mentioned on too many occasions here, heh) and he's a surprisingly high quality striker who would theoretically offer them real depth up top (I'd start him, but I have a visceral dislike of Daniel Sturridge's game). It's also forced a lot more of the midfield players to take responsibility in pressuring up top, and outside of Firmino and Coutinho, I don't trust any of the rest of the team to not fail miserably here (James Milner excepted, because I'm pretty sure he could play any position well if necessary).
   10. Shooty is obsessed with the latest hoodie Posted: January 04, 2016 at 12:37 PM (#5125244)
Leicester have signed Demarai Gray from Brum. He'd been linked with bigger clubs but I can never tell if those links are real or floated in an attempt to get a better offer. He seems a well thought of prospect, though.
   11. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: January 04, 2016 at 12:46 PM (#5125252)
I have a question about legal streaming services. Does anyone use them? The two I have seen recommended are Fubo Pro and KlowdTV. Although I can't see subscribing to the latter since it has such a stupid name.
   12. The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott) Posted: January 04, 2016 at 12:47 PM (#5125253)
The only weekends I really dread are those international breaks dominated by friendlies.


Even then the only one that kills me is the September one where you're just getting into the season and all of a sudden have to wait 10-14 days AND during the height of the baseball playoff race. I've only been following the EPL for three years, and in two of those years I've totally forgotten about the league because of that break until after the World Series.

Klopp out, Rafa in!!!


Beat me to it!

FA Cup third round is great.


It reminds me of the first weekend of March Madness, where you'll get a ton of mismatches but also a couple giant-slayings. And in some years even better because you can get real contenders matched up against each other through the luck of the draw.
   13. ursus arctos Posted: January 04, 2016 at 12:50 PM (#5125254)
I've heard decent things about Fubo, though it all depends on what your are looking for in terms of coverage.

I would also strongly recommend one trying them before committing. Fubo has been running "free trials" recently. There have also historically been issues of services having difficulty coping with scale as they become more popular.

Madrid press conference called for 19h30 Madrid time.

At least one Spanish paper is reporting that Zidane has asked Casillas to come back, which would be highly amusing.
   14. Mattbert Posted: January 04, 2016 at 01:13 PM (#5125269)
It was mentioned in the December thread that Spurs have no weaknesses. I think that's half-true. They have no obvious weak link players in their first choice 11 plus 3-4 bench spots (when everyone is fit). However, I think they do have a pretty serious weakness as a team and that's finding a way through a bunkered defense. I'm not sure any teams necessarily excel at this, per se, as being confronted with 10-11 men playing behind the ball is a challenge for anyone. Spurs, though, consistently struggle when the opposition (a) has little to no interest in doing any attacking and (b) is at least somewhat organized and motivated to work hard defensively.

It's no secret that Spurs' best scoring opportunities tend to come from transitions, especially when their press generates a turnover in the opponent's half of the pitch. A team that's focused on keeping things tight at the back and limiting mistakes in dangerous areas presents a real problem because so much of Tottenham's attacking gameplan is reliant on forcing their opponent to screw up. If there are very few errors to pounce on, that greatly restricts their best source of supply for scoring opportunities.

This was apparent even during the first half of yesterday's match against Everton when Spurs were utterly dominating the game. They managed just two shot from inside the 18-yard box, both by Dele Alli. One was a header that glanced wide right, and the other was the goal courtesy of a Hoddle-esque long ball from Alderweireld. Yes, they also hit the woodwork twice, but those efforts by Kane and Davies were shots from distance (both from around 25 yards out IIRC) and not particularly high-percentage opportunities. So despite 45+ minutes of dominance that featured their front four receiving the ball between Everton's defensive lines and being allowed time to turn, Spurs generated virtually nothing in terms of genuinely threatening chances. It took two tremendous strikes from well outside the box to come close to scoring and finally a world class assist and finish to actually get a goal.

The previous match against Watford was a good example of this issue as well. Right after Ake's red card, I said (out loud, even), "Well, that's a 1-1 draw. Watford will park the bus now, and there's no way Spurs are getting through." My only witness is my 8-year-old daughter, so you'll have to trust me that I really did say that. She gave me no end of stick when Son ended up scoring the late winner, though! Anyway, prior to the sending off Spurs had 58% possession and generated 8 shots, scoring once (Lamela in transition after a turnover in Watford's half). Four of the eight shots were inside the box, and I only recall one of those being a good chance (Lamela's miss just a couple minutes after his goal). Not bad, but 8 shots in an hour plus isn't great either. In the subsequent 30-odd minutes after Watford went down to 10 men, Spurs had 63% possession and produced *drumroll* 2 shots. One of those was Son's goal of course, which, yay but it was another world class finish and it should've been called back for offside on Trippier's initial cross anyway. The other shot was Alderweireld having a pop from 35-40 yards out...with his left foot. So in half an hour of football with a man advantage, Spurs created pretty close to nothing in terms of legitimate scoring chances. Considering the desperate goal-line clearance by Lloris moments before Son's winner, Spurs were insanely lucky to come away with one point from this match, let alone all three.

Similar story against Norwich, a game that looks great at first glance but has some troubling signs once you dig deeper. Spurs had 60% possession in the opening 25 minutes, but managed to produce just 2 shots (both inside the box, at least). Kane's penalty changed the dynamic of the game, and Norwich had to open up a bit more. In the following 20+ minutes, Spurs had 69% possession and generated 5 shots. That would appear to be an improvement, but...four of those five shouts were headers from corner kicks and the other was Kane's second goal where he threaded the needle inside the far post instead of squaring for Lamela in the center of the box. So once again we see Tottenham in complete control of a match yet failing to consistently generate threatening chances from open play against a team set up to sit back and contain.

I think the book on Spurs is more or less out now, and they need to figure out how to pick the lock against teams that set up conservatively with the intent of forcing Spurs to play their way through to goal instead of capitalizing on quick transitions. And they need to figure it out quickly because the next handful of league fixtures (Leicester, Sunderland, Palace, Norwich, Watford) all feature teams that are extremely likely to defend in numbers and not risk much going forward. Since this Tottenham team doesn't get in behind the defense all that much (not many cutbacks and not many through balls), their best strategy in the short term might be to intentionally give the ball away in the attacking third to lure the opponent into countering and then trying to pick them off in transition when they break.
   15. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: January 04, 2016 at 01:36 PM (#5125295)
I don't really watch Spurs all too much (at least in comparison to most other teams), so I don't have too much to add on the topic, but I just wanted to say that #14 is a really intriguing and well done post, Mattbert, and I'll definitely keep an eye on some of the stuff you highlighted if/when I see Spurs next.
   16. Shooty is obsessed with the latest hoodie Posted: January 04, 2016 at 01:47 PM (#5125315)
I think Spurs, as a whole, still worry too much about losing the ball. It's a group of players who have come of age when Barcelona are touted as the paragons of the sport and I imagine most of them were drilled from a young age that losing the ball was a kind of failure. Poch's philosophy is more about risk everything on offense and have faith you'll get the ball back but it hasn't fully been embraced by the players--old habits die hard, I guess. Alli is becoming the paragon for what Pochettino wants. He's constantly running behind the defense, constantly playing balls forward that most likely won't be completed. The clubs outside the Sky 4 have become really freaking good at bunkering and countering against the possession dominant teams and, from what I can tell, only Arsenal and Man City can consistently cope with this and even they struggle more than they used to.
   17. jmurph Posted: January 04, 2016 at 03:32 PM (#5125418)
I know why they do it (money and ego), but man, the Real Madrid job just doesn't seem worth it.
   18. Spivey Posted: January 04, 2016 at 03:56 PM (#5125438)
I think Spurs, as a whole, still worry too much about losing the ball. It's a group of players who have come of age when Barcelona are touted as the paragons of the sport and I imagine most of them were drilled from a young age that losing the ball was a kind of failure. Poch's philosophy is more about risk everything on offense and have faith you'll get the ball back but it hasn't fully been embraced by the players--old habits die hard, I guess. Alli is becoming the paragon for what Pochettino wants. He's constantly running behind the defense, constantly playing balls forward that most likely won't be completed. The clubs outside the Sky 4 have become really freaking good at bunkering and countering against the possession dominant teams and, from what I can tell, only Arsenal and Man City can consistently cope with this and even they struggle more than they used to.

I think most of the truth is at the end of this. These teams are really good at playing this style of soccer, and it'd be hard for anyone that isn't Barcelona or Bayern to cope with.

Arsenal have only figured it out in the sense they have a striker that's extremely good in the air, and Ozil is one of the best in the world at threading the needle against a bunkered down defense. I think Eriksen is that guy on this team but he's still growing into that Ozil/Silva role.

I mean, at the end of the day, Tottenham are tied for the league lead in goal differential. They're amazing defensively. And they have a few creative players in midfield, plus a top level striker, plus a team that plays really hard.

To me they're clearly the top team right now, while Man City does their thing and Arsenal are dealing with injuries.
   19. Shoeless Swedish Chef Posted: January 04, 2016 at 04:15 PM (#5125465)
I know why they do it (money and ego), but man, the Real Madrid job just doesn't seem worth it.

It's totally worth it as no one will harm their career by flaming out at Real when so many other top names have done it.
   20. jmurph Posted: January 04, 2016 at 04:45 PM (#5125495)
It's totally worth it as no one will harm their career by flaming out at Real when so many other top names have done it.


This is a good point. What a weird situation.
   21. ursus arctos Posted: January 04, 2016 at 04:50 PM (#5125503)
Zidane is a bit different, though.

He's been groomed for this ever since he joined Florentino's team in 2009.

It's far from clear that he has any genuine interest in a long time career on the bench.
   22. jmurph Posted: January 04, 2016 at 04:53 PM (#5125508)
The clubs outside the Sky 4 have become really freaking good at bunkering and countering against the possession dominant teams and, from what I can tell, only Arsenal and Man City can consistently cope with this and even they struggle more than they used to.


When Kompany is leading the line and springing the offsides trap effectively to stop the counters on one end, and when Silva/Aguero/Sterling/Nasri/De Bruyne/etc. are threading nice passes while Yaya is keeping teams honest by bombing away from outside of the box, City do well against that style. But in general, fans of Man City are just as frustrated as you watching their guys try to break those teams down. They lose 3-4 of those games a year even when things are clicking. EDIT: And you look at the dominant possession and shot numbers at the end of the game, and then compare them to MCoA's xG maps (showing few quality chances created), and you wonder how the hell you're supposed to win those games!
   23. Mark Edward Posted: January 04, 2016 at 06:05 PM (#5125563)
I have a question about legal streaming services. Does anyone use them? The two I have seen recommended are Fubo Pro and KlowdTV. Although I can't see subscribing to the latter since it has such a stupid name.


I had a FuboTV subscription back when they carried the (some) Budesliga matches. The streams would buffer/not work way too many times for a paid site. Would not recommend. I know people have issues with Fox Soccer 2 Go but it's vastly superior to FuboTV.
   24. Mattbert Posted: January 05, 2016 at 12:05 AM (#5125739)
Thanks and well said, Arjun, Shooty, Spivey, and jmurph. I wish I'd been watching more Premier League games this season to get a broader perspective on the league-wide trends because I sense that this is the most interesting season tactically that's come along in quite some time. But I have other regular weekend commitments that mean I don't even watch every single Spurs game religiously, so it's rare that I take in more than one game in a day.

I agree that many of the mid-table clubs have become proficient Mini-Mourinhos, and I think that has a lot to do with the money (as was touched on in the December thread). There are, to my eye, far fewer honest-to-god BAD defenses in the league now compared to, say, five years ago. Maybe even just two or three years ago. Most clubs can afford to construct a reasonably competent back four and supplement that with a shielding midfielder or two. And, crucially, many of those same clubs can also afford a handful of players who are swift and talented enough to really punish the other team on the break.

It wasn't that long ago when it was exceedingly rare to find a team outside the top five or six that was reliably sound defensively or a dangerous counter-attacking force, let alone both. Now we've got at least half a dozen, all of which have their own little idiosyncratic tweaks on the basic formula (in terms of playing style and how they spend their money, i.e. scouting and development versus signing finished products, etc.). It's kind of awesome, and it's made the league a hell of a lot more fun to watch because everyone can play or at least tries to for the most part. There are still some sides that are more physical than others, sure, but the teams that just straight up played rugby and took an unwavering "If you can't beat 'em, kick 'em" approach to survival in the top flight ... those teams are pretty much extinct. So thank heavens for that.

Tottenham appear to have been better positioned than most to thrive in this new environment, probably because there wasn't much of a precedent for their style of play other than Pochettino's own Southampton sides from 2-3 years ago. So there wasn't a whole lot of incentive to build and develop a squad that's equipped to deal with that brand of high-intensity pressing, particularly absent confirmation--prior to this season, anyway--that even Pochettino himself could replicate his Soton-style pressing game elsewhere and have it be successful enough to deserve such attention. Why prepare for a novelty act if that novelty act isn't one of the very best teams in the league? Much more efficient to invest in molding a squad that can cope with the possession-oriented style of play favored by most of the other top 6-7 clubs in England.

I think Spurs patching their holes and getting as good as they are as quickly as they did caught the Premiership off guard. Now that the element of surprise has pretty well waned, though, it will be interesting to see if Pochettino can adapt and, if so, how. For example, Spivey mentioned that Eriksen could be the creative playmaker they need to get past parked buses, in the Ozil/Silva vein. I think Eriksen is a fabulous player but more of a scorer and less of a creator than those two; that said, he has the touch and the intelligence to be a top class number ten. Setting my opinion of him aside though, I don't think he can be Tottenham's version of Ozil or Silva unless Pochettino gives him the latitude to play that way. Ozil and Silva are nominally the central man when playing the number ten role but are generally granted almost complete autonomy to drift around and find pockets of space, unshackled by any serious or specific defensive duties. Eriksen, by contrast, is usually deployed in one of the wide positions behind the striker in Spurs' 4-2-3-1 and has to work his tail off to keep the press ticking over. That's the difference between teams like Arsenal and City, who are at their most dangerous when they have the ball in your half, and Tottenham, who are at their most dangerous when *you* have the ball in your own half.
   25. Mefisto Posted: January 05, 2016 at 10:05 AM (#5125854)
Brad Friedel named coach of the US U19 team. Am I wrong or are there few goalies who become head coaches?
   26. Spivey Posted: January 05, 2016 at 10:50 AM (#5125905)
Good post Mattbert. I think the last paragraph is fair. Still a young team, and it will be interesting to see what they look like the second half of the year. Not just if they can get better at creative play, but also if they can keep the pressing up. When thinking about Bayern, who you'd think would deal with insane amounts of bus parking, but they still score a ton of goals.

Obviously Muller and Lewandowski are a big part of that, but when I watch them they have wingers that are so fast they can get to the end line pretty much at will. It makes it really hard to park the bus against them. While I think pretty highly of Lamela's future, I do wonder if a different type of player in his role could be best for the team.

One thing I've really been impressed with the last few years in particular in the EPL is the quality of the low-table teams. Every team pretty much seems to have a good to very good striker, and at least one creative midfielder. While I don't think the top level teams are better than other leagues (in fact, I think Bayern/Barca/Real are clearly better than any EPL team) I think the middle teams have become really, really solid. And also seem both capable and willing of trying to play relatively attractive soccer.
   27. Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: January 05, 2016 at 11:34 AM (#5125968)
Brad Friedel named coach of the US U19 team. Am I wrong or are there few goalies who become head coaches?
</lurk>That seems correct, though Bruce Arena was a keeper.<lurk>

edit: Also Dino Zoff.
   28. Shooty is obsessed with the latest hoodie Posted: January 05, 2016 at 12:02 PM (#5126023)
Steve Nash and Robert Sarver have bought Mallorca. Based on Sarver's work with the Suns I'd say good luck with that Mallorca. Steve Nash is a proper Yiddo, of course, so maybe there's hope.
   29. Mefisto Posted: January 05, 2016 at 12:34 PM (#5126090)
I should have remembered Arena. I'd never have thought of Zoff.
   30. Fourth True Outcome Posted: January 05, 2016 at 04:10 PM (#5126383)
In NWSL news, a Portland soccer reporter says the Thorns are negotiating with Armandine Henry, a 26 y/o French DM who is legitimately one of the best players in the world. This could still easily fall through, but if the Thorns can land her it would immediately be the biggest international signing ever for the NWSL, and I say that as someone who thinks Kim Little is pretty underrated. As a Thorns fan, I'm pretty giddy about the possibility. There has been a lot of talk about the team trying to land a big international mid, but I didn't expect they would have the shot to land Henry.
   31. I am going to be Frank Posted: January 05, 2016 at 04:24 PM (#5126400)
I think the bias against keepers managing is the same bias that keeper pitchers out of managing baseball teams. They're just so different than the rest of the club that it's hard for them to train and relate to outfield players.
   32. Baldrick Posted: January 05, 2016 at 05:07 PM (#5126457)
Wow, would love to see the Thorns grab Henry. Their offseason has already been excellent, but that would really vault it into the stratosphere.
   33. The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott) Posted: January 05, 2016 at 05:13 PM (#5126466)
Coutinho and Skrtel had to be subbed off due to hamstring woes at Stoke. Coutinho will miss at least the Arsenal and Man U matches. #### me sideways.
   34. Mefisto Posted: January 05, 2016 at 09:41 PM (#5126638)
I'd love to see Henry go to Portland, but I'm skeptical that she makes too much money in Europe to fit into the NWSL salary structure. That makes me wonder if this is a leverage ploy by her agent.
   35. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: January 05, 2016 at 09:58 PM (#5126644)
Caitlin Murray is normally spot on, so I definitely believe the discovery claim was filed. Of course, a claim in no way equals a signing.

Henry is brilliant and, if she's willing to take a pay cut (which I actually believe might be possible; the women's soccer fandom in Portland is unlike anywhere else on Earth), Portland's offense suddenly becomes top tier (since I believe Horan is now official). It would definitely be the biggest NWSL free agent signing in the league's history. I'm less sceptical than Mefisto, but it would still be a surprise.

Sonnett is 100% the number one overall pick, right?
   36. Mefisto Posted: January 05, 2016 at 10:40 PM (#5126661)
I'm sure Portland will take Sonnett, though she could go #2 since Portland has both picks. I'm not sure who else they'll take. Doniak? Regardless, Portland figure to give the rest of the league a real run this year.
   37. JJ1986 Posted: January 06, 2016 at 09:40 AM (#5126828)
Does anyone know anything about Brentford FC? I'm going to be in London next week and the only Premier League teams at home are Spurs (sold out and expensive on the secondary market) and some team that's barely out of the relegation zone. Brentford tickets are cheap and available, but I'm not sure what the quality of play will be. They are playing Middlesbrough, who are tops in the Championship.
   38. JuanGone..except1game Posted: January 06, 2016 at 10:53 AM (#5126935)
A little. Brentford is an old rival of Chelsea and I've watched at least parts of 3 matches this year due to a Chelsea loanee (John Swift) there and Chelsea's disaster of a season has me seeking solace in our loan army matches. Very offensive team with good attacking talent in Alan Judge and Vibe but there defense is absolute crap. I know that its a pretty old stadium but I've heard great things about the atmosphere from other Chelsea fans after we last met them in a Cup match. I'm planning a Fall trip to London and am working on tickets for the Bridge, but it is always a pain in the ass to get them. American sports fans have no idea how easy we have it.
   39. ursus arctos Posted: January 06, 2016 at 12:38 PM (#5127110)
Griffin Park is a great old school ground. It is the only one left that has a pub in each corner.

They also are one of the leading "analytic" clubs in England, having common ownership with Midtjylland.

Boro are both good and bring a decent travelling support, so the atmosphere should be good.
   40. ursus arctos Posted: January 06, 2016 at 12:43 PM (#5127120)
I've plugged the podcasts from Howler Magazine before, but I've been especially impressed with a new segment they have that has professionals analyzing significant plays from recent Premier League matches.

Bobby Warshaw, Hercules Gomez and Ugo Ihemelu on Arsenal/ManCity

Warshaw and Cole Grossman on ManUtd/Chelsea

Warshaw (who went to Stanford and now plays in Norway) is quite well spoken, and it is genuinely interesting to hear all of the guys speak about how they look at the game.
   41. frannyzoo Posted: January 06, 2016 at 02:58 PM (#5127337)
I'd love to see Brentford/Boro, especially after watching Boro on TV hosting Derby County this past weekend. In addition to the info Ursus provided, Boro play an attractive style that's topping the league at present, as previously mentioned.

Derby County, on the other hand, have a rather unfortunate kit sponsor.
   42. frannyzoo Posted: January 06, 2016 at 03:56 PM (#5127413)
Everton up 1-0 at the end of the 1st Quarter. If I'm Pep, I don't want to manage City and would take the MUFC job instead. Of course, I'm not Pep.
   43. Fourth True Outcome Posted: January 06, 2016 at 04:04 PM (#5127430)
Sonnett sure seems to be a slam dunk at #1 for the Thorns. The two names I've heard as possibilities for the #2 are Doniak and Roccaro, but both of those are just conjecture, so we'll see. (Horan is indeed now official.)

Henry has followed the Thorns, Mark Parsons, and Equalizer Soccer on twitter, and she and her agent have retweeted some her-to-NWSL related chatter. It's pretty clear that she is either serious about coming to the Thorns or serious about using the threat of her doing so for leverage, but it's anyone's guess which of the two is really the case. She may be willing to take a pay cut to play in front of a crowd you can't get anywhere else in the world in women's soccer, or she may prefer to stay home in France and earn more money. It'll be interesting to see for sure, though I of course am salivating about the possibility of her in Portland.
   44. frannyzoo Posted: January 06, 2016 at 04:17 PM (#5127455)
Lukaku is playing box-to-box striker today v. City. He's a force of nature. Very impressed.
   45. Jose Remains The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: January 06, 2016 at 04:41 PM (#5127492)
I swear he was on the verge of giving Pellegrini a hug as he came off.
   46. jmurph Posted: January 06, 2016 at 04:48 PM (#5127512)
If I'm Pep, I don't want to manage City and would take the MUFC job instead. Of course, I'm not Pep.


Because he'd want a bigger project? Otherwise I can't imagine the case for United being better positioned for near-term success.
   47. frannyzoo Posted: January 06, 2016 at 05:05 PM (#5127540)
Jmurph: Not a MUFC fan myself, but I'd take that job over City for a few reasons (and that's despite my love for David Silva and Jesus Navas): 1. What's wrong with a project, especially as that project is "replace Sir Alex" and there's been two bodies thrown under the wheels to ease transition now; 2. City still strikes me as a 11 players, 11 cabs organization, which leads to...3: no petrodollars (i.e., no Chelsea/no City). Are the Glazers complete jerks? Uh...yeah. Still, in the uncomfortable world of "big clubs," you choose your jerks relative to even bigger ones. There's so much competition.

So I choose MUFC, if I'm Pep. But I'm not Pep. This almost sounds like a segue to a Radiohead song, doesn't it?
   48. jmurph Posted: January 06, 2016 at 05:14 PM (#5127548)
Oh sure, that's all fair. Just wasn't sure what you meant. I also wouldn't choose a petro team, but, alas, I picked them when they were merely owned by a plucky Thai war criminal.
   49. Spivey Posted: January 06, 2016 at 06:01 PM (#5127615)
Let the record show I am willing to work for a petro team for $25million per year.
   50. Spivey Posted: January 06, 2016 at 06:07 PM (#5127627)
I also think I maybe choose MUFC.

I could be wrong - someone's point earlier is fair that Man City have finished top twice and second twice in the last 4 years with iffy managing.

But they seem to be an aging group and I think a fair amount of their roster should be overhauled frankly.

I absolutely don't think they have the kind of players that would implement his pressing style.
   51. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: January 06, 2016 at 07:55 PM (#5127756)
I may have mentioned this before, but Griffin Park is flat out my favourite park in London. Brentford fans are fantastic and fun also.
   52. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: January 06, 2016 at 08:09 PM (#5127768)
Roccaro or someone random/a reach like, say, Westfal or Carson Pickett seem more likely to me just because of open positions: Doniak is probably the #2 talent in the draft, but Portland have forwards and this draft is supposedly deep in defenders. Sonnett would fill one hole immediately, but, even with a Henry paired with Dagny at the base of midfield, I'm not sure I'd trust Portland's backline really, particularly with a Crystal Dunn or Christen Press running at it in an NWSL playoff.

Additionally, if the Henry thing is real, whither Allie Long? I've never rated her the way a lot of Portland fans do, but she does have real supporters in the league. Trade bait for a starting RB or CB? Insurance for the Olympics?
   53. Fourth True Outcome Posted: January 06, 2016 at 08:41 PM (#5127799)
Well, maybe, but it also depends what Portland thinks will happen with the Olympics. They could easily have Horan and Sinclair off at the Olympics, at which point having someone like Doniak would help them avoid the situation they were in for swaths of last season, where their offense up front was Shim and Long, who are much better scorers when the defense has to concentrate on other players which lets them find the seams and rebounds. Also, Portland's backline is pretty good. Menges is one of the fastest defenders around and improved a lot as a CB last year. A lot of Portland's defensive issues stemmed from bad midfield giveaways that put the defense in a bad position, Angerer coming off of her line too aggressively, and Rachel Van Hollenbeck's loss of any pace she had last season, none of which should be issues this season. Despite those things, they were one of the top defenses for a lot of last season. Sonnett should be great, but I think they don't need another defender unless they really like someone at #2.

As for Allie Long, I think her primary issue is that she is decent AM but a bad DM, but because of her size people want her to be a better DM. She's a bit overphysical, which you can get away with better at AM than DM because you're fouling defenders, which they often don't call, rather than offensive players. If she's in a place where she is a secondary defensive option and isn't being played as a DM, I think she's a very useful piece. If you try to make her your DM, it's not going to go well. That said, I don't see how she starts if Henry shows up. She's a pretty good sub, but I think it would behoove them to flip her for a wing piece. I also wouldn't be shocked if the Thorns make another move or two, though, given that they have three international slots available right now.
   54. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: January 06, 2016 at 09:28 PM (#5127845)
They could easily have Horan and Sinclair off at the Olympics, at which point having someone like Doniak would help them avoid the situation they were in for swaths of last season, where their offense up front was Shim and Long, who are much better scorers when the defense has to concentrate on other players which lets them find the seams and rebounds.

Is Jodie Taylor still with the Thorns? England isn't at the World Cup and, while she can't really be counted on for health, she's an excellent offensive creator; I had in my head that she'd lead the line with Sinclair (and Horan? I'm not sure how Ellis rates Horan, though she's been great in recent friendlies) gone. If not, then I can definitely see the need for a backup.
Also, Portland's backline is pretty good. Menges is one of the fastest defenders around and improved a lot as a CB last year. A lot of Portland's defensive issues stemmed from bad midfield giveaways that put the defense in a bad position, Angerer coming off of her line too aggressively, and Rachel Van Hollenbeck's loss of any pace she had last season, none of which should be issues this season. Despite those things, they were one of the top defenses for a lot of last season.

How much of that is stylistic/structural, though? Riley's three-back had the Thorns playing slow *a lot* and dropping their midfielders fairly deep to cover (if anything, they had some major issues with support to the frontline) - many of the awful midfield play you referenced was in deeper areas than one would hope (as a comparison, the Spirit tended to give the ball away in midfield a decent amount as well, but Krieger and Lohman would be far enough ahead that Washington would be set behind them, though Washington loved the sharp counter anyway). You rarely saw Portland attempting to ding the ball around, or seriously push their defensive midfielders forward and, while Parsons built a really strong defense in Washington as well, I doubt he'll play structurally conservatively given the team around him.

I plum forgot about Emily Menges! I totally agree that she improved a great deal as a CB last season.
Sonnett should be great, but I think they don't need another defender unless they really like someone at #2.

The other thought I had was regarding Parsons and potential player development: we've seen in the last few years, particularly through players like Megan Oyster and Maya Hayes, that Parsons and his team are capable of quickly extracting defensive talent (Oyster, in particular, developed well beyond what most analysts had expected). I wonder how of much of that is Parsons and the coaching staff (my gut says a great deal). If so, do you give him more "projects" in the hope it's replicable? I'm not sure.
She's a bit overphysical, which you can get away with better at AM than DM because you're fouling defenders, which they often don't call, rather than offensive players.

This is a really good point, and one that matches exactly with everything I've seen of her.

My concern with Long is that I worry how much she can create for others offensively in that AMC role. You look at someone like DiBernardo, and you see a player with a more expansive passing range than Long (who is actually a decent passer, mind), but more than that, someone with a better passing *eye* than Long. Long does really well when she can get into the box/play at defenders and bully them physically; additionally, she's really good at the Carli Lloyd late-box-run (if anything, Lloyd might be the model for Long).* This isn't an issue for Portland, because this might actually be what they need, but it could be an issue if, say, they tried to flip her to SBFC for one of their bevvy of wide players.

Your point regarding international slots is a really good one: man, if Portland grab some more international players, they could reall ybe a juggernaut!

*In other words, I completely agree that she could be really useful as a secondary defensive (and offensive) option.
   55. Mefisto Posted: January 06, 2016 at 09:42 PM (#5127860)
Is Jodie Taylor still with the Thorns?


Yes, but she was not good at all last year. Most likely that was due to the team's overall problems, and she could play a role this year if she can stay healthy.
   56. Mefisto Posted: January 06, 2016 at 09:44 PM (#5127864)
I just finished watching the Barca/Espanyol game. It felt like a Scottish League game: 12 yellows, 2 sent off, and there could have been more (Pau Lopez should get a suspension for a stomp on Messi which the refs somehow missed).
   57. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: January 06, 2016 at 10:06 PM (#5127898)
Yes, but she was not good at all last year. Most likely that was due to the team's overall problems, and she could play a role this year if she can stay healthy.

Thanks! I can't remember much about her last season, save right towards the end, where the team as a whole had picked up a bit.
   58. Fourth True Outcome Posted: January 07, 2016 at 01:35 PM (#5128457)
Yeah, she was forgettable last year, in part because of nagging knee issues. She may well be back to her old form this season, but I wouldn't count on her out of the gates, or build with the expectation that she will of course be able to play that role well.
   59. The Buddy Biancalana Hit Counter Posted: January 07, 2016 at 01:40 PM (#5128465)
I've plugged the podcasts from Howler Magazine before, but I've been especially impressed with a new segment they have that has professionals analyzing significant plays from recent Premier League matches.

Bobby Warshaw, Hercules Gomez and Ugo Ihemelu on Arsenal/ManCity

Warshaw and Cole Grossman on ManUtd/Chelsea

Warshaw (who went to Stanford and now plays in Norway) is quite well spoken, and it is genuinely interesting to hear all of the guys speak about how they look at the game.


Thanks for the heads up. I'm not a fan of George Quraishi's enthusiastic ignorance so I've been skipping the episodes without David Goldblatt, but that new segment sounds intriguing.
   60. JuanGone..except1game Posted: January 07, 2016 at 04:34 PM (#5128618)
Lukaku is playing box-to-box striker today v. City. He's a force of nature. Very impressed.


Now you're just rubbing it in.
   61. Spivey Posted: January 07, 2016 at 05:14 PM (#5128663)
Lukaku is so good. I think that if Hazard is healthy this is really the year that Belgium break out.

I think I'd take them (with a healthy Hazard) over all non-German teams in the Euros.
   62. Shoeless Swedish Chef Posted: January 07, 2016 at 05:46 PM (#5128692)
Fredrik Ljungberg is the new coach for Arsenal's 15-years olds.
   63. Shoeless Swedish Chef Posted: January 07, 2016 at 06:47 PM (#5128730)
Platini is no longer a candidate. The best laid plans etc...
   64. Shooty is obsessed with the latest hoodie Posted: January 08, 2016 at 10:33 AM (#5129068)
I just ordered The Blizzard's book about Ernő Egri Erbstein, the coach of Torino's Il Grande Torino teams of the 40's. What a story this man's life was.
   65. JuanGone..except1game Posted: January 08, 2016 at 11:52 AM (#5129178)
Lukaku is so good. I think that if Hazard is healthy this is really the year that Belgium break out.

I agree. He was really struggling with his first touch last year, but it's gotten ton's better. Also, he just seems a little bit slimmer which appears to my eyes to be better fitness. It speaks to my love for Mourinho that I suffered in silence when he let him leave, because I probably haven't fallen in that much love with a prospect on one of my teams since Grady Sizemore.

Is there any chance that Klopp gets Goetze? I'd be interested in how they set up with him and Coutinho, but that seems like it could be a great move..
   66. I am going to be Frank Posted: January 08, 2016 at 01:27 PM (#5129310)
If Lukaku was willing to be a backup to Costa or go out on loan, then he'd probably still be at Chelsea. Players want to play, and young players need to play to develop. Mourinho always had problems with rotating, but he won his title and got a good amount of money for Lukaku. With the way Chelsea gobbles up players and then loaning them out, they're going to lose out on some great players, but I'll shed no tears for them.
   67. Shooty is obsessed with the latest hoodie Posted: January 08, 2016 at 02:37 PM (#5129418)
Klopp is fielding almost the weakest side he possibly can today. With their injuries and fixture congestion I don't blame him but the BBC might want to rethink how they schedule these matches in the future.
   68. The Marksist Posted: January 08, 2016 at 03:16 PM (#5129464)
Sure seems like they chose this fixture for the drama of the difference in league position (76 places!!!!111) without considering (or caring about) Liverpool's incentives.
   69. CWS Keith plans to [omitted] at [omitted] Posted: January 08, 2016 at 04:45 PM (#5129574)
Has Joao Teixeira been hurt this year, or is he just not good enough? I was impressed from what little I've seen of him(*), and IIRC he played quite well when he was on loan with Brighton (?).

(*)Disclaimer: I also bought in hook, line and sinker into the Suso hype, so take my opinion with a large grain of salt. I think Suso's now on loan from Milan at one of the Genoese teams.

I just ordered The Blizzard's book about Ernő Egri Erbstein, the coach of Torino's Il Grande Torino teams of the 40's. What a story this man's life was.

The Blizzard had a 15 minute or so podcast about this. Incredibly fascinating and highly recommended.
   70. Jose Remains The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: January 10, 2016 at 11:29 AM (#5130339)
Christian Eriksen ate his Wheaties this morning.
   71. frannyzoo Posted: January 10, 2016 at 12:10 PM (#5130358)
In a nexus of Brits Invade La Liga past and present, Real Sociedad 2, Valencia 0. I don't know if this British Invasion has much more lasting power.
   72. He who brought the butter dish to Balshazar (CoB) Posted: January 10, 2016 at 12:59 PM (#5130383)
Anyone who wishes to witness the perfection of "possession without incision" should be shown the last 65 minutes or so of that Tottenham vs Leicester match.

And, as is only appropriate*, for their sins, Spurs find themselves with yet another match to play.

I really do like the players on this Spurs team, but tactically, they're so often soporifically sterile. It's actually rather amazing that that much running and effort so rarely leads to anything resembling a quality chance.

*courtesy of a ludicrously given handball penalty ...

   73. The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott) Posted: January 10, 2016 at 02:14 PM (#5130434)
Lukaku is playing box-to-box striker today v. City. He's a force of nature. Very impressed.


I love Lukaku, and I'm wildly happy that Everton choose to spend the money for him. Upper-midtable teams like Everton being able to get legitimate stars makes the league so much more interesting.
   74. He who brought the butter dish to Balshazar (CoB) Posted: January 10, 2016 at 03:26 PM (#5130496)
Of course, a lot of that came down to Mourinho deciding that Lukaku was "surplus to requirements", as they say.

Oops.
   75. frannyzoo Posted: January 10, 2016 at 08:01 PM (#5130743)
In other La Liga news, is Eibar really sixth right now? Amazing and very cool. Hell, the way Celta is playing, they might make fifth. I love it when unpaid taxes by one team lead to another team making Europa League, or so it possibly seems.
   76. ursus arctos Posted: January 10, 2016 at 10:29 PM (#5130802)
Indeed they are.

They started well last year, only to fall off a cliff in the second half, but appear to be more solid this time around.
   77. I am going to be Frank Posted: January 11, 2016 at 09:05 AM (#5130888)
I honestly don't know how ridiculous this rumor is - Pato going to Liverpool. He's apparently played somewhat decently in Brazil and I don't know if he's shed the "prone to injury" label. I guess he also draws a fairly high salary so he's been linked to England for a while. He's not young any more and I don't know if he's Klopp's kind of player, but I think he would be a better fit than Benteke.
   78. Shooty is obsessed with the latest hoodie Posted: January 11, 2016 at 09:34 AM (#5130908)
Corinthians and/or Pato's agent are flogging him to every team in the world so I wouldn't take any rumors about him seriously until he actually signs a deal.
   79. Jose Remains The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: January 11, 2016 at 09:35 AM (#5130910)
Between Pato and Sturridge Liverpool would get up to 15 games of quality striker play.
   80. Randy Jones Posted: January 11, 2016 at 09:37 AM (#5130913)
Corinthians are pissed that he refused to accept the deal with the Chinese team. That was more money than anyone in Europe will pay for him.
   81. Shooty is obsessed with the latest hoodie Posted: January 11, 2016 at 09:41 AM (#5130915)
Can't blame Pato for not wanting to go to the Chinese SECOND division.
   82. Shooty is obsessed with the latest hoodie Posted: January 11, 2016 at 09:43 AM (#5130916)
   83. Randy Jones Posted: January 11, 2016 at 09:43 AM (#5130917)
I don't, but I still don't know why Liverpool would want him. The stuff I read suggests he hasn't really been all that good in Brazil. Although I guess he has actually been healthy.
   84. Shooty is obsessed with the latest hoodie Posted: January 11, 2016 at 09:47 AM (#5130923)
I think Pato will probably end up at a midtable club in one of the big 5 leagues. I really doubt Liverpool want him. If Klopp wants to take a chance on a mercurial striker, there's always a certain player at loan in Italy they could bring back early. He is still, technically, a Red.
   85. Shooty is obsessed with the latest hoodie Posted: January 11, 2016 at 02:14 PM (#5131206)
Messi and Carli Lloyd are your Ballon d'Or winners.
   86. Shooty is obsessed with the latest hoodie Posted: January 11, 2016 at 02:26 PM (#5131219)
Well, if Spurs can get by Leicester in the replay, they'll have a winnable tie against Colchester in the next round. Big if, of course.
   87. Shooty is obsessed with the latest hoodie Posted: January 11, 2016 at 02:30 PM (#5131228)
The "big" clubs all with pretty easy draws except for Liverpool who get West Ham if they win their replay. Arsenal get Burnley, Man U gets Derby (which is actually pretty tough), Man City get Wycombe or Aston Villa and Chelsea get Northampton Town or MK Dons.
   88. Baldrick Posted: January 12, 2016 at 02:20 AM (#5131712)
Messi wins his fifth Ballon d'Or, Lloyd wins her first. Deserving winners, both.

In other news, saw Colin Trainor linking to this...the thesis of which seems to be: "I don't know anything about soccer statistics. Therefore, no one knows anything about soccer statistics."
   89. Shooty is obsessed with the latest hoodie Posted: January 12, 2016 at 07:17 AM (#5131726)
Transfer news! IN addition to securing Juan Iturbe on loan, Bournemouth pick up Afobe from Wolves and Grabban from Norwich. My Bournemouth supporting mate is worried about A) where the money is coming from and B) Why Eddie Howe is ignoring the defense. Speaking of defense...Steven Caulker is going from QPR to Liverpool on loan after having his loan to Soton cancelled. He is the personification of cromulent but will provide some needed depth. Jonjo Shelvey is headed to Newcastle for 12 million pounds. I don't know, I guess Shelvey is good at something or other. He's got a couple of golazos in him every year but other than that he just seems to barge into people a lot.
   90. The Marksist Posted: January 12, 2016 at 09:19 AM (#5131783)
I kind of love watching Shelvey play, but I'm glad he doesn't play for my team. I think someone here described him similarly, but he always looks like his body is being controlled by an intelligence that doesn't quite know how a human should move and is just kind of brute-forcing its way to a solution.
   91. ursus arctos Posted: January 12, 2016 at 01:42 PM (#5132132)
On the Ballon d'Or, there is a good argument to be made that Sasic was a better candidate than Lloyd over the course of the season, but it certainly wouldn't be the first time that the outcome was determined by an outstanding performance in a major tournament (or, in Lloyd's case, the knock out stages of a major tournament).

One can think of Sasic as getting Cannavaro'd, though at least Fabio had also had an excellent club season with Juventus (before it was wiped out by Calciopoli).

Jill Ellis also benefited from Lloyd's brilliance. It's quite striking for a manager who was widely thought to be out of a job half way through a tournament to end up winning this award. I would have voted for Mark Sampson, who over-achieved with England, and would also have picked Sampaoli over Luis Enrique for rather similar reasons.

The FIFPro XI gets more and more ridiculous each year (not that one can really expect than a name recognition contest given their polling of tens of thousands of professional footballers).
   92. Mefisto Posted: January 12, 2016 at 02:19 PM (#5132219)
I agree with 91.
   93. Baldrick Posted: January 12, 2016 at 02:54 PM (#5132276)
Also agree with 91. Lloyd was a worthy winner of the award as it has historically been understood. She wasn't really being the best player of the year; she just had the best performance in the most highly-regarded moment of the year. That said, she really was exceptional in the final game, and very good over the knockout stages. And decent-to-good over the course of the NWSL season, which isn't a huge selling point but also not a disqualifying performance either.

Ellis winning is far less defensible, even by the terms of the award. Getting the best (or, at the very least, the second or third best) group of players to win a tournament is good, but...it's not really that impressive. And we don't need to rehash the debate all over again, but it's certainly arguable that the tactics that finally kicked the team into gear were an accident of circumstance that were forced on her, rather than an intentional choice.
   94. frannyzoo Posted: January 12, 2016 at 04:02 PM (#5132385)
Howler alert at Aston Villa and it helps the bottom dwellers. 1-0 AV against Palace.
   95. Shooty is obsessed with the latest hoodie Posted: January 12, 2016 at 04:13 PM (#5132403)
man u under some pressure here.
   96. Shooty is obsessed with the latest hoodie Posted: January 12, 2016 at 04:23 PM (#5132417)
Today is turning out crap for Tottenham. Poo.
   97. Shooty is obsessed with the latest hoodie Posted: January 12, 2016 at 04:34 PM (#5132427)
Van gaal out!
   98. Shooty is obsessed with the latest hoodie Posted: January 12, 2016 at 04:35 PM (#5132429)
Villa win!
   99. Spivey Posted: January 12, 2016 at 04:39 PM (#5132431)
Isn't Man U dropping points against Newcastle a really good result for Tottenham?
   100. Shooty is obsessed with the latest hoodie Posted: January 12, 2016 at 04:40 PM (#5132433)
Timing is everything.
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