Archive for the ‘Bundesliga’ Category

Everton v Arsenal - Barclays Premier League

The Premier League

The Winner: Everton! Literally, and in the spirit of this little mini round up piece as well. Arsene was right: with glory in football basically having boiled down to qualifying for tournaments that pay big TV money, the race for fourth is a distant but important side show to the incredible three way dogfight up top.

As far as that goes, Everton are now a single point behind Arsenal who are still clinging to fourth, after defeating the North London side 3-0 in a game where Lukaku scored a fairly decent goal and Everton looked fairly comfortable throughout. If you want to boil down the game to a single moment (not possible but let’s pretend), this would be it:

That’s Seamus Coleman forcing Santi Cazorla to question his purpose in life.

As for the future fortunes of both sides, a certain graphic has been making the rounds supposedly hinting at future form. Everton though face the (slightly) tougher opposition in the weeks ahead, though I’m being charitable and including Man United in that group.

The Loser: Chris Hughton, sacked after Norwich lost 0-1 to West Brom. And here too is an unfortunate case of a manager falling victim to the high variability of shot and save percentages—Norwich City are 11th in the league in TSR but dead last in PDO. In short: Norwich aren’t as crap as a miserable squad replete with a dour faced Ricky van Wolfswinkel often appear to be.

Oh sure, there are probably other things Hughton could be doing better, but with the Canaries now five points off the drop, the idea that the now ex-U18 coach Neil Adams will offer a marked improvement between now and the end of the season doesn’t seem to be part of a deeply thought out long-term strategy. Football!

The Takeaway: With Liverpool still top of the table after a badly reffed but solid 1-2 win against West Ham this weekend, and with City with a pair of games in hand, all eyes will be on Anfield when the sides meet next Sunday (on rather poignantly the 25th anniversary of Hillsborough).

Also, that business about Chelsea not being good and needing strikers will get a waiver as they ran through Mark Hughes RED HOT STOKE three nil (you get “red hot” affixed to your team name if you win three times in a row). As for the relegation battle, it could be that the incompetence of the lower mid-tablers will be saved by the consistent awfulness of Sunderland, Cardiff and Fulham (despite the latter’s 1-2 victory over a sorry Aston Villa).

La Liga

The Winner: Atletico Madrid. Without Diego Costa, who is now apparently being carved up like Solomon with a baby for a transferin’ by the money twins Chelsea and Monaco, Atleti could have stepped into the match against the 7th place Villarreal and slipped up ahead of Barca’s weekend fixture (they defeated Real Betis 3-1).

Instead they overcome a slight shot deficit to beat the Yellow Submarine 1-0 via Raul Garcia and remain top the league with the Champions League still very much in play. Do I write this every week?

The Loser: The Spanish national team. Things are looking ugly as the season progresses between the usual Barca/Madrid suspects, and now Iker Casillas has promised to “slap” Busquets next time they meet over his alleged head stamp on Pepe from the last El Clasico. It’s ridiculous.

The Takeaway: The Mexican standoff continues at the top of the table as the three contenders face fairly mundane competition next weekend after their midweek Champions League deciders. Elsewhere the battle for fourth continues to be interesting, with Sevilla winning 4-1 against Espanyol after having dropped all three points the week before.

Bundesliga

The Winner: Bayern. Despite all the empty headlines about the shock 1-0 defeat to Augsburg ending a 53 match unbeaten run, a game in which they outshot their opponents 16 to 11, they are still, somehow, champions. Moreover, Pep’s side have sowed the seeds of doubt after the first leg Champions League quarterfinal tie with Manchester United, only to further give their opponents false hope.

The Loser: Sami Hyypia. The Bayer Leverkusen boss and former Liverpool defender was sacked after a 2-1 defeat to Hamburg on the weekend. As quoted in the Guardian:

“After a lot of thought and because of the ongoing crisis we reached the conclusion that a change at this point could help us turn things around urgently,” the Leverkusen chief executive, Michael Schade, said.

Which is totally how this works. Football again!

The Takeaway: The battle for the final CL spot is intense, and perhaps even more up for grabs by Wolfsburg, Gladbach and Mainz. That, and the relegation battle, is all that is left to care about in this league, essentially.

Serie A

The Winner: Unknown. I mean, Roma perhaps for staying in it with a 1-3 win over Cagliari (a Destro hattrick!), adding to their midweek spoils against Parma. Then Parma for knocking off Napoli to stay in the hunt for the Europa League. Fiorentina for stopping a short skid by beating Udi 2-1. But I can’t tell you until after the Juventus match against crappy Livorno tomorrow.

The Loser: Managers. Diego Lopez was sacked by Cagliari after the above defeat, and Catania fired Rolando Maran for the second time this season.

The Takeaway The sackings likely aren’t done yet…Walter Mazzari may be ready to go after Inter’s 2-2 draw with Bologna. Other than that, Roma will need a miracle to press Antonio Conte’s Juve as the season winds down.

Swansea City v Manchester United - Barclays Premier League

Yesterday, the DFL rejected the implementation of goal-line technology after a meeting of the 36 clubs comprising the top two divisions in Germany:

The proposal failed to gain the necessary two-thirds majority, with nine Bundesliga clubs and 15 Bundesliga 2 sides voting against the introduction of goal-line technology. In order for the vote to be passed, 12 clubs in each division would have had to have voted in favour of goal-line technology.

Dr. Reinhard Rauball, President of the League Association, confirmed that every club in the top two divisions had voted and had been informed of the arguments both for and against the implementation of the technology.

What’s interesting is that while this debate has often been cast in terms of conservative vs reformer, the real reason for the vote seems to have nothing to do with the efficacy of the technology, but its cost relative to its benefit. Here’s Hamburger managing director Oliver Kreuzer:

“We debate over one, two or three decisions in a season. Sometimes you are on the right end of things, sometimes not. It evens out. On the other side, you have extreme costs. It doesn’t pay off.”

Perhaps we’re used to the “We Can Pay for Anything” Premier League, but the costs don’t seem to match the benefit. But interestingly, the cost of goal-line tech in the Premier League run by HawkEye seems to be substantially lower than the Bundesliga proposal from German company GoalControl. The Premier League’s contract is £475,000 for five years, while the Bundesliga company GoalControl was going to charge just under £420,000 for three years.

Cost is the number one issue with goal-line tech. MLS rejected implementing the technology for that reason. Turns out the best argument that anti-GLT advocates could have used had nothing to do with conserving the roots of the game, but with the enormous cost.

Brighton & Hove Albion v Crystal Palace - npower Championship Play Off Semi Final: Second Leg

When is it practically impossible to bungle a managerial press conference?

When you’re Bayern Munich, and you’re unveiling Pep Guardiola at a time when the club has won a historic treble which included the league and European Cup. That’s when the press will lob you obvious questions and you can lob back charming patter. The future is a blank slate. The world is Pep’s oyster.

Elsewhere, the picture is not so rosy. The Joe Kinnear debacle rages on, with the director of football possibly planning to attend a fan-friendly forum: Newcastle’s answer to the Airing of Grievances. He claims his beef is with the media and not the fans; historical revision aside, it’s not always certain the two can be so easily divided in the era of Twitter. Nor is it certain that Geordies can be so easily placated this time around with a bit of sycophancy mixed with Kinnear’s rags-to-riches tale which supposedly only Tyneside’s halt and lame will understand as a reason to claim achievements that were not his own.

If hirings can be such a delicate matter, what then of firings? It’s certainly possible that Gus Poyet lied on air when he claimed on the BBC while on Confed Cup punditry duty he wasn’t informed earlier in the day of Brighton and Hove Albion’s decision to sack him for an on-going breach-of-contract dispute. Yet even so, his club might have better foreseen the fallout that came with releasing the statement while the manager in question was live on air, ready to give his immediate response. The inevitable sacking (Poyet has been involved in a drawn out dispute with the board over a number of matters) suddenly provides a headline story where one need not have existed.

It’s all an important reminder that there is often no actual brain in parts of football’s brain trust. As if you needed another one.

Borussia Dortmund v TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - Bundesliga

As expected, the Bundesliga ownership model is being touted ahead of the all-German European Cup final this Saturday. This isn’t a bad thing of course; the 50+1 fan ownership rule ostensibly promotes a saner, community-based approach to football finance, and despite the skepticism of soccer economists like Stefan Szymanksi, the lower wage-to-turnover rates and availability of lower ticket price ranges isn’t a bad thing (although as Swiss Ramble pointed out a while ago, the figures have been exaggerated a bit).

This doesn’t make the Bundesliga a footballing utopia. Szymanski has raised the point before that league-enforced spending rules sometimes ossify club hierarchies, which means a lot of the same few teams winning all the time. Although that’s hardly different than what fans have witness in the Premier League in the past two decades, so the point may be moot.

Here’s David Conn on the German model and its relative financial responsibility:

Bayern, without doubt one of Europe’s mighty with €202m commercial income including booming corporate sponsorships, stormed their way to Wembley with a wage bill, a reported £140m in 2011-12, below that of Manchester City, United, Chelsea and Arsenal. Dortmund’s wage bill was £68m for Jürgen Klopp’s fine young squad, £134m less than City spent in 2011-12 and lower than seven Premier League clubs including Aston Villa. While Premier League clubs spent 67% of their huge income on wages, Seifert said the Bundesliga clubs spent only 38% of theirs on players’ wages, despite their lower income.

Which is interesting, although as cited in the earlier Counter Attack post above, that 38% figure may be misleading. In any case, Conn as others before him has done the work of touting the Bundesliga’s apparent financial superiority, and sort of left it there. And of course, this isn’t without a touch of schadenfreude aimed at England’s money men:

What goes unsaid in all of these articles however is just how exactly a similar model might work in England. What would be the best way to transition from the current free-market approach to Premier League ownership to a club member/stakeholder option? Who would have the best political authority to implement these kinds of changes? Would it be best to work through the Football Association? Or promote the supporters’ trusts? Should politicians be drawn into the conversation?

Further to that, are there elements from the Bundesliga model that could more successfully exported than others? Does the FA enjoy the kind of authority the DFB and DFA have in implementing top down policies on finance? Are there better financial incentives for companies to own up to and including a 49% stake in a football club but not the ‘whole enchilada’ as it were? If not, how can fans challenge owners in conceding a legally-enforced stake in the teams?

“Why don’t you write that article, you asshole?”, you might be thinking. Well maybe I will one day. But the point here is that both the Football Supporters Federation and the Supporters Trust movement might begin to sit down and start a public conversation that involves these basic questions of strategy, and those interested voices in the media might start exploring these questions seriously.

Simply holding up some figures to the establishment and shouting, “See!” to random passers-by isn’t going to get us much beyond the “Gee wouldn’t that be great?” stage.

FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA--WOLFSBURG-DORTMUND

The last time a high-profile German player faced Bayern Munich in a final before joining the club was in 1984. Back then, Lothar Matthaus was 23 and playing for Borussia Moenchengladbach, but he had already agreed to join Bayern the next season. Who should Moenchengladbach face in the German Cup final at the end of the season? Bayern Munich.

The game finished 1-1 and it went to penalties. Matthaus stepped up first and smashed his shot over the bar. Moenchengladbach pulled it back when Klaus Augenthaler’s shot was saved, but Bayern went on to win 7-6 after the shoot-out. The memory of the game had been doing the rounds in Germany this week, at least until Bayern-bound Mario Goetze was ruled out on Wednesday through injury. If the game went to penalties, how would he feel, and would he take one?

Goetze may not be the only Dortmund star heading to Munich after the game, even if, as a German player who has spent his whole career at the club, his departure hurts the most. The reason the two clubs fell out earlier in the season was over the future of Robert Lewandowski, the Polish forward whose four goals in the semi-final first leg against Real Madrid marked one of the most complete individual performances in the competition’s history.

Lewandowski has always denied that any deal has been struck but it has been reported that he told Dortmund this week that Bayern will be his next club either this summer, when he has one year left to run on his contract, or next summer, when he is a free agent. “My future will be solved after the season,” is all he would say to Polish paper Przegląd Sportowy this week. “I will decide then and speak out. It’s not the time to discuss this, I’m fully focused on the final,” he said. “I’m a professional. Who I’m playing against makes no difference, the most important thing for me is the team I play for.”
Read the rest of this entry »

FBL-EUR-C1-BAYERN-DORTMUNDA special live blog for the Counter Attack faithful this afternoon. A preview of May 25th’s Champions League final takes place at Signal-Iduna-Park. The league has long been decided, with Bayern Munich 20 points ahead of Dortmund, but this match takes on special significance thanks to this week’s events.

The lineups:

Bayern Munich: Starke; Rafinha, van Buyten, Boateng, Contento; Tymoshchuk, L.Gustavo; Shaqiri, Pizarro, Can; Gomez

Borussia Dortmund: Weidenfeller; Grosskreutz, Subotic, Santana, Schmelzer; Kehl, Sahin; Kuba, Gündogan, Schieber; Lewandowski

Three starters for Bayern, seven for Dortmund. Gareth Bale scored again for Spurs today. He’s Munich bound, surely. Read the rest of this entry »

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Stefan Szymanksi, the noted co-author along with Simon Kuper of Soccernomics, wrote a Tweet this morning in response to an op-ed in support of the Bundesliga in the Independent today:

Szymanksi for his part wrote a small critique of the Bundesliga, particularly addressing the notion that the league’s ticket prices are substantially more affordable (I’d show it to you but Szymanksi’s site looks a bit borked at the moment; here’s the cached version). Kieron O’Connor, author of the incredible Swiss Ramble blog which has recently rumbled back to life, added this important correction to the Indy piece as well, which cited a wage to turnover rate in the Bundesliga as 37.5%:

This kind of skepticism is very important, particularly with the rash of pro-German model op-eds that will inevitably precede the likely all-German final at Wembley Stadium. The venue will also provoke comparisons to the laissex-faire Premier League, and it would be easy (and I’ve done it too in the past) to attempt to use the one to bash the other.

Even so, it would be overly stubborn not to point out the benefits of the Bundesliga model, in which all but two teams have a 50+1 fan shareholder rule and all clubs are under a break-even licensing agreement. The Bundesliga model shouldn’t be grafted on other domestic league wholesale, but there is evidence that it provides club stability, reasonable profitability for private, minority investors, and competitive relevance in Europe.

The problem is football is a really bad marriage between sport and business. What works in the free market doesn’t usually graft on well to clubs locked in a promotion/relegation league system over a century old now. There is confusion over the purpose of a club-slash-business—is it to turn a profit for owners and investors, or to win trophies for fans? These two goals aren’t always mutually exclusive, but often the one comes at the expense of the other.

The Bundesliga model seems to have carefully addressed this precarious balancing act by letting private capital in the door to enjoy the rewards but not to steer the ship. It’s not perfect. I don’t know for certain but I suspect that Szymanksi would point out that the break-even requirement is one of the main reasons why Bayern Munich’s continued domestic dominance is assured for years to come (it’s not particularly good that the club bailed out Dortmund a mere decade ago when it faced bankruptcy). Bayern’s national popularity and rich history give it a built in advantage in revenues, an advantage nearly impossible for other Bundesliga clubs—who cannot spend wildly in excess of turnover on players—to circumvent.

Except this financial disadvantage is to some degree mitigated by an excellent academy system revamped following the disastrous 2000 Euros that in part built the Dortmund side that is in the Champions League final and which beat Bayern in the league last year. Yes, the club is set to lose one its premiere players in Mario Goetze to the league champions, but the mere fact that Stuttgart, Dortmund and Wolfsburg have all finished first in recent years indicates that money, whilst vital, is not an absolute guarantee of permanent success.

So beware the lure of the “England should adopt the German approach wholesale” argument. But don’t let your inner skeptic dismiss it out of hand, either.