The Lead

It appears we’re all (the media, I suppose) still pretty stupid when it comes to understanding the importance of football tactics. This applies both those who dismiss the subject out of hand, and those who purport to embrace it.

I write this because today news emerged that Brazilian website Globoesporte spent some time rooting through Chelsea’s locker room trash following their 1-0 loss to Corinthians in the Club World Cup final. They discovered what most papers are calling Chelsea’s “tactical secrets“:

The website has published photographs of crumpled print-outs showing where Chelsea’s players should be positioned at both attacking and defensive corner kicks, exhorting players in large red capital letters to “be aware of counter attack” while pushing forward, and to “immediately [push] up after we clear first ball” when defending set-pieces. The pictures also show that Chelsea’s cornertakers were told to signal where they were planning to send the set-piece by either raising or lowering their arm.

The Daily Mail‘s headline meanwhile screams, “Can [Chelsea's tactics sheets] now help Leeds pull off a cup shock?”, as if this was akin to Nikita Krushchev leaving the location of all the Soviet warheads on the kitchen table in Hyde Park on his visit to Eleanor Roosevelt.

First, some fairly conventional, game-specific, dead-ball tactical instructions aren’t exactly going to offer Chelsea’s opponents the keys to the kingdom. And while these crumpled papers are a curiosity, it’s sad that no-one has recognized their utter uselessness in trying to pick apart Rafa’s approach, beyond the bare-bones fact that it’s meticulous and he prefers man-marking on corners.

This insanity surrounding some bits of paper indicates the belief among many in the media—that managers are generals with complex war-plans, not UEFA license holders who try to win games through sensible preparation and planning, and that tactics are some sort of mysterious trick that cannot be let loose to “the enemy”—lingers on despite the Wilsons and Cox’s of the world preaching otherwise.

Canada

Canada to announce interim coach very soon.

England

Journalists find papers of Chelsea’s tactics in trash cans.

Brendan Rodgers
says lack of funds will restrict Liverpool’s January signings.

Still no commitment from Arsenal’s goalgetter Theo Walcott.

English artists unite and create charity song for the families of victims of the Hillsborough disaster.

Italy

Napoli players banned 6 months for match-fixing involvement.

Juve’s Bendtner sidelined until the end of February.

Spain

Messi extends contract with Barcelona until 2018.

Zaragoza reduce debt.

Germany

Mainz says it won’t part wit Tuchel after coach linked with Schalke.

This week’s Bundesliga Fanatic Podcast discusses Schalke, Kiessling and the end of the world.

Bit and Bobs

Zenit dismisses wishes of fans group, calling them ludicrous and discriminating.

Benzema is French Player of the Year for second consecutive year.

Sydney in talks to extend Del Piero contract.

Jonathan Wilson with a detailed update on Drogba and his future.

Talk about an early new year’s resolution as Ronaldo sheds 37 pounds.

Thanks to Alima Hotakie for compiling today’s links.