I’m going to cheat ever-so-slightly and include the 11 and 3/4 months wherein this blog was called “The Footy Blog.” Anyway, some posts from our regular contributors to jog your memory for the year that was over on this site. Think of it like one of those classy 1980s sitcom clip shows.

Borussia Dortmund and the Need for Speed by James Horncastle

Already in the 1950s, the great Willy Meisl noted football’s “fetishisation of speed.” More than ever, it has become one of the principal focuses of the game at the highest level. Not so long ago, Roberto Mancini claimed that, whereas the tactical development of the game has perhaps reached its limits, football’s evolution now lies in pushing physical and mental boundaries.

A lot of that is seen in Klopp’s Dortmund. He insists that a team’s “optimal mileage” is 130km per game with each outfield player covering 13km. He dismisses the claim made by several high profile coaches that they train exclusively with the ball. “That’s nonsense,” Klopp told Der Tagesspiegel.

“Stamina can’t be developed with the ball but with running, running, running. The better a player’s stamina the more they can concentrate on their role on the field. At our level you have to be trained exceptionally so that you can stay mentally focused.”

Lionel Messi is Three Players in One by Michael Cox

As a teenager I played football with a classmate named Steven, who went onto play at a decent standard in the English football pyramid. He was so superior to everybody else involved in our Friday afternoon matches that we were forced to restrict his movement. He played as a holding midfielder, and so he wasn’t allowed outside his own half. Bizarrely, he and his side accepted the request, safe in the knowledge he remained the best player on the pitch, and the game was more balanced.

Messi won’t encounter such constraints, but I’d love to restrict his movement for three separate matches. First, I’d let him operate only in the final third, to showcase his shooting. Second, he’d have to stick to one flank, to highlight his dribbling. Third, I’d restrict him to the centre of midfield. to demonstrate his passing.

In three completely different roles, I’m confident he’d remain Barcelona’s key player. And that, in a roundabout way, shows why Messi is so devastating: he is three world-class players combined.

The 100 Greatest Footballers by Kristian Jack

It has come down to this. The final installment is here. Numbers 10-1 in The Footy Blog’s top 100 footballers. Three months ago I came up with this project and thanks to the help of the panelists and you, the Footy Show fans, it has grown into something bigger than I ever could have imagined. I was absolutely delighted with the respected minds who agreed to be apart of this project. If you are still not aware of them or are not following them on twitter I suggest that you do so. The game is better for having these guys covering it.

How Michael Bradley became Chievo’s Captain America by Paolo Bandini

Off the pitch, Bradley has endeared himself further to the club’s fans by giving talks at local schools and opting to sit among the fans in the stands—along with his team-mates Cyril Théréau and Boukary Dramé—during a recent suspension. “All one big family,” declared one of the many thrilled callers to a phone-in on Radio Verona after the match. “This is the football that I adore.”

Bradley has taken to life in Verona, claiming it was “love at first sight” for he and his wife when they first saw the city, and expressing similarly great enthusiasm for the local risotto. He credits his English-speaking Slovenian team-mates Bojan Jokic and Bostjan Cesar for helping him settle, but he’s also applied himself to learning Italian, declaring from the outset that to do was “crucial” for being able to communicate effectively with team-mates on the pitch.

Most importantly of all, though, he is enjoying his football. “That’s when the magic starts,” he said when asked by a student at the Istituto Aleardo Aleardi (an international school) what goes through his mind at the opening whistle. “I always feel it inside me because in that moment I am doing the thing I love to do.” In Verona they love to watch him do it, too.

Is MLS really all that good for Canada? by Duane Rollins

The effect of the increased exposure could be seen this past summer and fall during Canada’s failed World Cup qualifying campaign. Although most people would like to see bigger crowds at the games, the crowds that did turn out were historic in context. There has never been as much attention, nor as consistent a pro-Canadian turn-out, as we saw in Toronto for the men or in Vancouver in women’s Olympic qualifying.

The increased interest in the Canadian national teams is related to an increase in interest in the sport. And, that’s directly related to an increase in interest in the club game.

This is a good thing, of course. However, it’s also a little on the surface. An argument can be made that the sport would have grown to its current level regardless of the arrival of MLS. It might have taken a bit longer, but the sport was already breaking through to the mainstream in 2006 when TFC was born.

The more important question for Canadian fans then is whether having MLS in Canada is helping Canada get better in the sport.

Barcelona switch focus from Xavi to Cesc by Ben Lyttleton

Fabregas was impossible to mark, because he moved all over the pitch. “I lost the idea of being responsible for my position at Arsenal,” he said, “but at Barcelona, all players are where they are supposed to be.” He described his style as chaotic, a bit like Mesut Oezil at Real Madrid, who has freedom to move anywhere he feels he can create danger.

But that doesn’t work at Barcelona, or at least not in Guardiola’s Barcelona. Their game was more lateral, a game where possession was more important than position. Fabregas has learned to adapt, to respect ‘the philosophy’ of the team, and he knew, despite being captain of Arsenal at 21, and a former captain of Spain Under-21s, that he would have to spend some time on the bench. A few years ago, he could not have managed that, but this is a mature Fabregas, one who can look at the long-term.

The Least Popular Post I will Ever Write by Richard Whittall

I don’t want to hash out a long legal argument over the limits of free speech in the face of bigotry (Wikipedia, as ever, lays the arguments on either side quite succinctly). I’m a writer (no really), so I tend to side with Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s famous dictum: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” I don’t have any personal sympathy with the man (who would?), but I don’t think it’s healthy for a modern democracy to criminalize speech, which is merely kinetic thought.

The use of such laws is clearly meant to be a deterrent, but any time the state can prosecute you for expressing what you think, no matter how vile, it does little to address the core problem: bigotry itself. Rather it gives the illusion that the state will take care of it, so you just keep calm and carry on. But bigotry is a problem of culture, not the law. Once you criminalize a belief or a thought, you give it the dubious honour of being ‘subversive.’ You don’t allow a forum for the haters to expose themselves, or the means for a culture to address the problem from the inside out.

It’s Zlatan’s World and We’re All Just Living in It by Devang Desai

Ibra slotted home four goals in a masterful performance that will leave England supporters around the world saying ‘too good’. I have no words. His final goal was special. Like, stupidly incredibly fantastic need oxygen oh my goodness special.

Dalglish, Suarez, and Liverpool Football Club are sadly, profoundly in the wrong by Jerrad Peters

This is a club that, as soon as Suarez was banned, released a statement not only defending the behaviour of a player adjudged to have committed racism, but also shifted the blame for the whole affair to Evra, whose character they astonishingly brought into question. As if that wasn’t enough, they had the gall to parade their players in Suarez t-shirts in the match following the guilty verdict, as if a display of solidarity would show to the world just how victimised Liverpool Football Club were by the whole ordeal.

When their fans booed Evra mercilessly in an FA Cup clash at Anfield in January it showed directly on the club’s conduct. They had enabled it.

This is a Diary of Love/Hate: Premier League Week 5 by Andi Thomas & Alex Netherton

If there’s anything that should cheer up any football fan, or indeed human being, then the increasing transparency on the Hillsborough tragedy and conspiracy should be close to the top. Given that ninety-six people died, pointlessly and unnecessarily, and their families have been denied both the truth and justice, nobody can resent the recent developments. The Hillsborough report last week laid bare the lies, conspiracies and wilful failures of the government, press and police in England. Nobody was surprised, despite the revelations that at least forty-live lives might have been saved had people been aware of their responsibilities. Nobody was surprised, despite the extensive miscarriage of justice carried out by the South Yorkshire police force. Nobody was surprised, despite the callous treatment of football fans from Liverpool by a rampantly despicable Conservative party.

Suarez may have a case about diving, but we’re still allowed to make fun of him by Ethan Dean-Richards

When is a dive not a dive?

Perhaps it’s when Luis Suarez has been tripped in the penalty area, drops to the floor, and screams like someone might do in a horror film but is in fact physically fine, at which point everyone shouts at each other for a while. It’s a dive, but yes, it’s also not—the contact was ‘real’, the foul may well have ‘existed’ and the penalty probably should be given. Who cares though? It was technically wrong that Suarez didn’t get a penalty last week at Norwich, but, as a one off, it’s okay to not care. Despite all the theatrics, it ain’t no tragedy.

You see, in a tragedy, the audience feels for the protagonist because they have a flaw which, in the end, sees them lose everything. Macbeth in the eponymous play is overly ambitious and, as a result, gets a bit dead. In Suarez’s case, however, the flaw is his entire personality rather than one aspect of it, and the ‘downfall’ is in fact a light tumble on a relatively soft surface. Which part of that are you supposed to get on board with—the minimal impact that his being a cheat actually makes or the part where he isn’t very nice?