• Crystal Palace Are Starting To Take Their Manager’s Shape

    On February 2nd, Seb Stafford Bloor wrote, Sam Allardyce looked weary at the end of Crystal Palace's 2-0 win over Bournemouth. Addressing the media post-game, Allardyce was not in the kind of self-celebratory mood which he has sometimes been prone to and neither did he pulse with any victorious bombast. ...

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  • A Brief History Of: Norwich City 1992/93 Season

    February 2nd Iain Macintosh recounts Norwich City's brilliant and bemusing 1992/93 season. Norwich City were the "proto-Leicester" of the inaugural Premier League season, and Macintosh tells of the highs and lows of the mighty canaries. ...

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  • Saido Berahino and The True Effectiveness of Stoke’s Celebrity Policy

    On February 3rd, Blair Newman wrote, Mark Hughes’ arrival as Stoke manager in 2013 coincided with a desire for something new and fresh. Tony Pulis led the club to the Premier League and kept them there, but after five years in the top flight his uncompromising, defence-first style of play was wearing thin even with his own supporters. And managerial change came hand-in-hand with a new transfer policy aimed at providing greater excitement. ...

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  • By The Numbers: What Is The Value Of Chelsea’s Winning Run

    On January 25th, Dan Levene wrote,  Here at ‘By The Numbers’, we like to respond to reader queries – for one thing, it stops me needing to come up with column ideas on my own. Someone (and my sincere apologies, but I can’t recall who) asked me to look at average points hauls for Premier League Champions, and so here you go (whoever you were). ...

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  • Emre Can or Emre Can’t: Should Liverpool Offload German Midfielder?

    On January 27th, Jack Lusby wrote, Amid all the impressive back-slapping and audible sighs of relief which accompanied the announcement of Philippe Coutinho signing a new Liverpool contract, there were still murmurings and mutterings in the background surrounding the other players set to be offered lengthened terms. Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren seem set to be next in line, despite both still splitting opinion to one extent or another, but before either of the former Saints duo’s deals end, Emre Can’s Anfield career could yet be over. ...

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  • Steven Gerrard’s Return: How Liverpool’s New Youth Coach Can Shape The Academy

    On January 23rd, Jack Lusby wrote,  Two months on from the announcement of his retirement from professional football, Steven Gerrard was appointed to a new role in the Liverpool academy, taking up his former club’s offer to become youth coach. ...

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  • Whiteboard Football: Deportivo Maldonado & Third Party Ownership

    Deportivo Maldonado are a club in the second division of Uruguayan football. The club has an average home attendance of just 208, and some of its best players never make an appearance for the club. This video explores some people's alleged reasons for that, and seeks to explain the FIFA-banned practice of Third Party Ownership. ...

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  • How Do The Historic Liverpool Sides Inform The Future Of This One?

    Liverpool are much improved under Jurgen Klopp compared to when the former Borussia Dortmund manager took over midway through 2015/16 season, but as battling for the top four instead of the title in the league and being out of both domestic cups intimates, there’s still a way to go. Often accused of remembering the past rather than looking ahead, Reds fans could be forgiven for wanting to ignore much of what has gone on at the club over the past half a dozen years, but there have been iterations of the team in the not-too-distant past which can teach Klopp’s side a thing or two about where further improvements can be made. In 2013, of course, Brendan Rodgers came within a game or two of the title. In 2009, Rafa Benitez’s side finished the campaign on a five-match win streak, which still wasn’t quite enough to snare the title from Manchester United. And, just two years beforehand, the Reds almost conquered Europe again under the same manager, with a Champions League final defeat denying Steven Gerrard and Co. and second winners’ medal in three seasons. All of those variations of the same side had somewhat different strengths and weaknesses, and while Klopp isn’t going to—and shouldn’t—copy any particular manager’s approach, there are aspects of the 2007 side in particular Liverpool which would benefit from incorporating. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugE5ybYIwec Rodgers’ runners-up, of course, had Luis Suarez. There isn’t much to be learned from that side...unless it’s that having an elite player, a truly world class talent, improves your odds of landing silverware significantly. If the Liverpool hierarchy haven’t yet cottoned on to that particular fact, it would be worrying. But during the middle section of Benitez’s reign, where cup finals and being in the latter stages of the race for both league and Continental success, the side had something far more important: balance throughout, structure, defensive resilience. And absolute belief. The latter point is something Klopp has repeatedly tried to drive home: The fans have to believe in what we’re doing. A particular player has to have belief in his own ability. He himself believes the team is improving. It’s a slow, cyclical state, easy to destroy with a few bad results and the ongoing state of immediacy in world football, but Klopp certainly believes he can turn the team into title-winners. Benitez could rarely delve into the very elite end of the transfer market, but his signings consistently had iron-clad mental resilience. Even when they weren’t the greatest in the league on a technical level, any group of players from that era could rarely be beaten, one-on-one or over 90 minutes: Javier Mascherano, Momo Sissoko, Dirk Kuyt, Bolo Zenden. Try and bypass that midfield quartet with ease, without them giving up, without them fighting every inch for possession and position. It simply wouldn’t happen—and then there was the small matter of playing the likes of Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso between and around them. The technique and creativity came from those players, but the desire, the expectancy of victory came from every player in the XI, without fail. That’s a big area of improvement for Liverpool to make. Games like Norwich City, Borussia Dortmund and others in 15/16 began to make fans and players alike believe that more was possible, but it hasn’t yet been seen on a week-to-week basis. Incoming players to help the team grow further, in summer 2017 and beyond, have to add not just the speed and technique in the final third which is the hallmark of this Klopp team, but also the determination and mental resilience which was the biggest trait of Benitez’s sides. When it comes to beating the smaller sides, the teams who have given Liverpool trouble this season, it’s not simply down to using space, playing with tempo, getting bodies in the box. All of those are contributing factors, but over and above that has been the mental aspect of the game: failing to hold positions in the moment of transition, and too easily giving up goals...followed by not really believing in the team’s own capacity to get back in the game. The importance of mental power at the elite end of the game cannot be underestimated. Yes, Luis Suarez was a genius, a tremendous goalscorer and an irrepressible all-round talent for Liverpool, but his biggest reason for succeeding was the relentlessness, the drive and the absolute refusal to countenance defeat which came from within him. That’s what Liverpool need, that’s what Klopp must find, to make the next leap from having a great record against the teams at the top, to having a great record against everyone.

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  • Revisiting Ryan Giggs’s Perpetual State Of Reinvention

    When Alex Ferguson, long before his knighthood, first saw Ryan Giggs play football he knew he had seen something special. "I remember the first time I saw him. He was 13 and just floated over the ground like a cocker spaniel chasing a piece of silver paper in the wind." ...

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  • Crystal Palace’s Uplift Is More Than New Manager Bounce

    The ‘new manager bounce’ is a widely accepted phenomenon in football. By now, we know the drill. A club, hurtling down the table due to a bad run of form, sacks its incumbent manager. Then, either with a new manager in charge or a caretaker destined to get the job, the form rapidly improves. What looked impossible just weeks before then looks possible. Perceptions change. ...

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