Thomas Hobbes is famous for a lot of things, with the use of his name for a popular 1980s-90s comic strip leading the way. But if you were to ask a philosophy undergrad to sum him up, chances are they would mention something about how government is one long corrective to mankind’s rather ugly state of nature, wherein life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Ta da! Hobbes!
I would argue that English top level football has its own state of nature, which could be described as “quick, sloppy, naive and adventurous.” And how do we know this is the case? Well, speaking as a fan of soccer analytics, we don’t really, at least not definitively. But speaking as a romantic, I think the last two nights of Capital One Cup play have been pretty demonstrative.
Away from the tactical minutiae of the continent, or the noxious, moneyed seriousness in the top quarter of the Premier League table, the League Cup hovers right on the border between competition and friendly. It’s like football as if it were fun. Of course it matters—Brendan Rodgers is sure to get banged up in the next soccer news cycle for Liverpool’s 3-1 loss to his former club Swansea—but it doesn’t usually linger in the history books. After all, Kenny Dalglish won it last year, one more trophy than United won that season, and yet Sir Alex Ferguson is on the FIFA coach of the year shortlist while Kenny is not.
And so we get English football reverting back to the way it wants to be played. A ludicrous 7-5 victory by Arsenal against Reading, in which the Gunners overcame a four goal deficit. A ding-dong-as-you-please 5-4 victory for Chelsea over Manchester United, also gloriously AET, with at least a little less (but not much less, although this time it involved one person not actually on the field of play) controversy than the last time around.
Sure, it’s a style of play that might not be taking the Champions League group stages by storm, and neither is it allowing for any one club to take a clear lead in the Premier League standings (heaven forfend!). But it’s ugly as sin, and far, far more fun than a lot what we see and analyze to death every weekend in the English top tier.
Aron Winter lashes out at Earl Cochrane and Paul Mariner [Sportsnet].
Paolo Bandini on Paul Pogba’s ruthless performance for Juventus against Bologna [the Guardian].
Tim Stannard’s take on the latest row developing at Real Madrid between Mourinho and the Castilla head coach [La Liga Loca].
Bundesliga Fanatic rounds up the latest events in the German Cup [Bundesliga Fanatic].
Sporting KC are the next big thing in Major League Soccer [Fox Soccer].
Poor, poor Robbie Keane [Dirty Tackle].