Is there football on today?
Europa League matches, about 24 in total. Which is a lot. Too much? I am not a judge of these things, but yes.
Anyhoo, I’m not to pretend to be in my element here, but if I were you, I’d maybe take in Anzhi vs Tottenham at 12 noon EST, and then Trabzonspor vs Lazio at 1 PM EST, although there are few others that you might pick at for a while. For the sheer curiosity factor, you are also obligated to try out Wigan vs Maribor at 3:05 PM.
Or, you know. Don’t do that.
Also if you want a full results sheet from last night’s Champions League stuff, here.
What’s the big story today?
Man City keeper and England No1 Joe Hart sucked a bit last night on two goals conceded against Bayern Munich at the Etihad in City’s 1-3. This was of course made slightly more awkward/hilarious by the fact that part-time England coach and part-time genius Sky pundit Gary Neville commented on the performance during the live broadcast. This is specifically what Neville said:
“You have to say Joe Hart’s got to do better again at that near post. That’s twice he’s been beaten there tonight. He’ll be disappointed again.”
Neville’s remarks have spurred all sorts of speculation on a possible alternate choice in goal for England during the upcoming international break. But isn’t this the kind of thing you can work on a bit? Or could it not even be a case of some poor luck over the last run of games? Do you really shoot Old Yeller because he drooled a bit on the carpet?
I think everyone is far more fascinated by the fact that the England coach is able to comment, live, on players he oversees for the national team. Which, in truth, is odd. Perhaps unprofessional? It’s only a game maybe.
Okay, any other interesting bits of news?
Not to dwell on the City game, but I thought Arjen Robben’s comments on the “easy” match Bayern played were very interesting:
“It is a compliment to our team but we expected more from City. We didn’t give them any space, we pressed them right up to the goalkeeper and they just kicked it away. Sometimes they gave us too much space and we used space well.”
Permit me to wear my tactics hat for a moment, but this to me is one of the major dilemmas teams face when they’re up against a side with technically-gifted players who have been well-drilled on a 90 (or I guess 70 minute) minute press. You have the ball, three seconds you are surrounded by three players. You have no passing options, unless you want to give the ball away. What do you do? Last night I heard “pack the midfield” was the answer, and many wondered why Pellegrini had two strikers out there in Aguero and Dzeko. But then how do you generate meaningful lateral movement with nine hundred midfielders? Shrink the pitch? Help me out here, I’m dumb.
Moving along, more backroom politics over the Qatar 2022 summer/winter debate. Blatter has a come to Jesus moment and realizes FIFA can’t just move the World Cup up or back six months without discussing it with “stakeholders.” Fine.
Gareth Bale with a bit of the old in-out with Wales.
And expect disciplinary action for Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas who said the FA decision not to ban Chelsea forward Fernando Torres for cat scratching Jan Vertonghen was “farcical.”
Enough of this. Where are my GIFs?
First, yes, I stole these from Reddit. Second, remember how Bayer Leverkusen are sometimes a very good football club? Jens Hegeler remembers, here in a game-winning FK against Real Sociedad:
And Thomas Mueller, the best. But the assist was something else as well:
Any interesting reads this morning?
Barney Ronay, if he’s your thing, wrote a good one late yesterday:
If the success under Jupp Heynckes was based around the imposing rhythms of that thrummingly high-spec midfield, this was never likely to be diluted under Guardiola, who in his wonder years at Barcelona finessed the idea that football is now a sport of midfielders, the best teams comprised almost entirely of a collection of strolling mini-generals.
This is the thing about this Bayern team: they do not just want to score more goals than you, they want to out-run and out-pass you through the centre of the pitch. The opposition are not simply beaten: they are Bayerned – and City were at times entirely Bayerned as for long periods the German champions played a de facto eight-man midfield, with both full-backs imperiously pushed on and the revolving bank of red shirts pushed right up on to City’s defence.