Richard Whittall, Devang Desai and James Bigg discuss the good and the bad of Hull in the Premier League right now, Ramsey’s reception at Cardiff City, and their starting XI of the Premier League’s most disappointing players.
Posted by Richard Whittall under Counter Attack Podcast on Dec 02, 2013
Posted by Richard Whittall under The Football So Far on Dec 02, 2013
Quote of the Weekend
“It was a privilege to manage Fulham, one of the great clubs in the Premier League or anywhere in the world. I’m disappointed in this season but know there are better days ahead for Fulham and its supporters. I will always treasure my experience here and want to thank Mr Khan and everyone at Fulham for the opportunity.” -Martin Jol after being sacked as Fulham manager by chairman Shahid Khan and replaced by Rene Meulensteen, following Fulham’s 3-0 loss to West Ham. The full statement can be read here.
Five Things We Unlearned This Weekend
1. Spurs’ failure to score is sure fire evidence that Villas-Boas can’t coach
It’s become conventional wisdom over the last few days that Tottenham’s low shooting percentage, which has been pretty poor since the start of the season, is likely the fault of the crappy management of one Andre Villas-Boas. As an stats-minded ESPNFC columnist wrote a few days ago:
Chances are being created. In fact, Spurs have had more shots (18.3 per game) than any other team in the Premier League having averaged the third most possession (58.8 percent). So they are keeping the ball, and are they are doing so high up the pitch, with a highest proportion of their play in the attacking third of the pitch (32 percent) in the league. This is leading to plenty of chances and the worst conversion rate in the league (4.1 percent), but the quality of those chances is part of the problem.
After which we learn from the writer that that Spurs tend to shoot from further out than other EPL teams, with the third highest number of shots from outside the 18 yard box at 57%, and the third lowest inside the 6 yard box at 4%. Which all sounds like “case closed” until we look at the other teams posting those kind of lopsided numbers. Newcastle, with 8% in the six and 60% outside the 18 have 19 goals, have 8 more goals than Spurs and the 7th highest total in the league. Even Aston Villa, with 58% of shots from outside the 18 and only 1 % in the six, have 13 goals, two more than Spurs. And neither of those teams comes close to Spurs in shot volume, both in total shots and shots on target. Yet for all that, Spurs have had the lowest shooting percentage in the league since the start of the season.
So what gives? Are Spurs’ just really bad at shooting? Maybe, except we know from regression analysis that team shot percentages are more a function of random variation or luck than of skill.
Which brings us to Tottenham’s 2-2 draw at Man United. While one game isn’t much evidence of anything, Spurs’ performance could be seen as a slight regression in their shooting percentage. Tottenham enjoyed ten shots (only two more than United) with four on target. With two goals, using the on-target shooting (as one should in measuring shot percentages), that gives as a shooting percentage of 50%. Both goals were from outside the 18 yard box, too.
While this won’t exactly mean an end to Villas-Boas’ travails in the Premier League or anything (their high save percentage seems to be regressing too with 8 goals in two games!), it is perhaps a reason not to blame AVB and the Spurs forwards for their terrible shooting just yet…though he sure is in fighting form.
2. Gareth Bale at Real Madrid, eh? What a flop!
Remember the reason why Spurs were supposed to be so terrible this season? Yes! The Welsh Wonder Gareth Bale had disappeared into the wilds of La Liga leaving Spurs to flail about without their sure thing in front of goal (often from long distances). For a time though, it seemed angry Tottenham supporters could at least take comfort in the travails of Bale in Madrid, at first waylaid by injury and then slow to come off the mark with Ronaldo racking up the plaudits.
Now, in early December, Bale is up to 7 goals and six assists in 9 league matches for Real Madrid. Those numbers are inflated a little, from Bale’s spectacular hat-trick against Real Valladolid this weekend.
Sid Lowe wrote on the feat for the Guardian, noting that Bale is only the second British player to score three goals in a game in La Liga, after Gary Lineker for Barca. But he quotes from a Spanish journalist who has it just right:
“He does not ‘play’, because orchestral football is not his thing,” ran Pepe Samano’s match report in El Pais. “But he scores goals and that’s no small matter. He assists too. He is an interesting case. He does not shine minute by minute but he is like an ant who is leaving a mark, step by step. He did so again against Valladolid, who were demolished by the British player who is paving the way with goals. This game was Bale, Bale and more Bale.”
3. Modern football is hopelessly partisan, unlike in the good old days
Cardiff City vs Arsenal should have been a rough affair for Arsenal, at least in terms of their reception in the stands. After all, Arsene Wenger’s side arrived with the in form Aaron Ramsey in tow, a player who last visited in 2009 only to be subbed off in the 59th minute after a fierce reception from the home team.
Perhaps it was Olivier Giroud’s moment of (perhaps unintentional) fair play after he refused to attack a through ball in an offside position after a touch from Mesut Ozil which the linesman missed, but things were downright polite following Ramsey’s powerful header in the 29th minute of play. After a raucous response from the away end and his team mates, Ramsey elected not to celebrate. And in turn, Cardiff City supporters stood and applauded, a standing ovation for a player their club had nurtured to maturity. Ramsey explained after the match:
“I was really pleased the way that the fans reacted, I thought they were fantastic. And hopefully I put on a performance for them.
“This is where everything began and hopefully they’ve seen the player that they produced. They realised that I needed to make the next step, I think, and they were really respectful. And I gave them my respect as well by not celebrating.”
Commentators often point to the evils of modern football as if the last hundred years of the sport were not marked by similar, if not worse, acts of selfishness and brutality. In much the same way, they believe the gentlemanly sport of old is long gone. And yet there it was on Saturday, on satellite and broadband and gif’d to the hilt.
4. The Panenka is dead
This past October, Pato stepped up for Corinthians in the quartefinals of the Copa Do Brasil, in a penalty against Gremio that would have seen the former Milan player’s side progress to the semis. Perhaps feeling he had something to prove, Pato erred on the side of the audacious–he went for the Panenka, and he failed. Miserably. Here’s James Horncastle on the spot kick from hell:
It’s a double-edged sword, the Panenka. Score and you humiliate the keeper. Miss and you appear even more foolish than if you’d blasted it wide, over the bar, or made the `keeper work harder to make a save by going for either corner. Pato fell on that sword.
That notion of not making the goalkeeper work hard enough reflects on the taker as well. The nonchalance required to feather the perfect Panenka means that, should it not come off, the player can come across like he doesn’t care, like he is taking the situation too lightly and not treating it with the seriousness it deserves.
Pato is not the only player to have failed in the attempt. Gladbach’s Branimir Hrgota may have faced threats of decapitation after his saved Panenka sent his team out of the DFP Cup. Before that, Jackson Martinez failed to score his against Rio Ave. In a digital age, it’s remarkable anyone still tries it.
Except of course for Zlatan, who likely feels he has nothing left to prove:
This was no small match either, for PSG against Lyon (PSG won 4-0). What is remarkable too is the placement would have been difficult even if the keeper had reacted, throwing into doubt the idea that the Panenka is inherently risky. It’s back, if it ever left us, that is.
5. Unbeaten streaks are inherently good
In the 2003-04 season, an Arsenal team consisting of Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and other greats inherited the name “Invincibles” from the 1889 Preston North End side that finished the inaugural football league season undefeated. What few pundits bother to mention is the team’s points total: 90. While impressive, the total was five points shy of the highest all-time Premier League points total earned by Chelsea FC the next season, the first under manager Jose Mourinho. Chelsea won three more games than Arsenal in 04-05, but they lost once by a single goal, 1-0 to Man City. And yet that 03-04 Arsenal team won “Best Team” in Twenty seasons in the Premier League.
This is not to besmirch that storied Arsenal side, but rather to point out the value we place on teams going undefeated. This past weekend, Roma salvaged their current unbeaten streak in Serie A after Kevin Strootman scored in the final seconds the of their away match against Atalanta, making the score 1-1. While pleased at the outcome, after the match Strootman was careful to put the emphasis on wins. “It is impossible to always win,” Strootman said, “but it’s very good to be still unbeaten.” Is it?
Juventus are currently three points ahead of Roma in the table on 37 points, and, crucially they have one draw compared to Roma’s three. No doubt they don’t mind their single blemish so far this season, a 4-2 loss to Fiorentina, because they know the math: three points for a win, one for a draw. One win is worth three ties. Should Roma somehow draw the rest of their matches this season, they’ll finish on 58 points, which would have been good enough for 8th place last season, ahead of Catania. While going unbeaten is an honour, far more important is to push on for the wins, even at the risk of exposure at the back.
Sean Ingle has a really great column up this morning in collaboration with Prozone looking at data that supports the idea that the era of long-ball and direct football in the English top flight is for intents and purposes over. You should read the entire post, but here’s part of Ingle’s explanation as to why this is the case:
So what explains these changes? Clearly the influence of foreign managers and players in the Premier League era is considerable – immigration in English football, as so often in human history, has brought considerable benefits. But such influences were apparent a decade ago. I suspect it is the success of Barcelona and Spain, allied with improved technique, that has provided a blue (and-red-and-yellow) print for others to aspire to and follow.
Analytics is slowly having an effect, too. We know, for instance, that corners have a much lower success rate than once thought, as detailed by Chris Anderson and David Sally in The Numbers Game. That, as Colin Trainor has shown, headers from the same position as shots in the penalty area have a lower chance of going in. And that Reep’s original analysis, which sowed the seed for long-ball football by claiming 80% of goals are scored with five passes or fewer and that possession was not particularly important, is somewhat simplistic.
This got the old gears in me noggin cranking away, thinking about what, at least anecdotally, appears to be an improvement in form among some promoted sides to the Premier League, as typified by Swansea a couple of seasons ago and Saints under Pochettino. Hull for example beat Liverpool 3-1 this weekend, but the goals for the home side weren’t entirely the work of direct football. Jake Livermore’s opener came from some nicely work short passes on the right flank. Hull’s second was the result of a long pass into the box, but not after some short, relatively patient interplay which ended with David Meyler’s goal. Though keeper Allan McGregor did often send deep passes to the front man Yannick Sagbo, Hull were anything but one note in this approach. Long ball isn’t dead, but rather it’s become integrated with a wider palate of tactical options.
Goal of the Weekend
Yeah. It was Sandro for Spurs:
Good Read of the Day
Bobby McMahon remarks on the upcoming World Cup draw this Friday, and how the World Cup seeding will be unfair, but not for the reasons you might expect. Instead, the group stages matches could resemble Around the World in 80 Days:
Next summer the vast majority of the 32 countries will zig-zag across the country and many will also have to also cope with extreme temperature changes, sometimes from game to game.
Let’s take the unfortunate country that will be drawn into position E4. Country E4 will start in Port Alegre (average day time temperature 68) and then fly 340 miles to Curitiba (avg temp 66) – so far so good. But then follows a 1,700 mile plane ride to Manaus, the heart of the Amazon for the final group game in 83% humidity and a temperature of 90F.
Posted by Richard Whittall under Counter Attack Podcast on Dec 01, 2013
Send us your football related questions! Either leave them here, or send them to email@example.com, or use the Twitter hashtag #CAPodQs. Please have them in no later than tomorrow at 10:00 AM EST. Thanking you in advance!
Posted by Richard Whittall under The Story So Far on Nov 29, 2013
What should I watch this weekend?
Good question! On Saturday, the Premier League is a tad dry, but if you were to pick from one match, maybe…Cardiff City vs Arsenal at 10:00 AM EST?
Elsewhere on Saturday it’s pretty garbage bag. Lots of big club vs little club action in the Bundesliga, and it’s kind of the same story in La Liga. They can’t all be gang-buster weekends, you know?
On Sunday, things spice up slightly in the Premier League with Spurs vs United at 7:00 AM EST, which is the test for both managers, or so the legend says. After that, Chelsea vs Southampton at 11:10 AM EST might be cool.
In Ligue 1, PSG face Olympique Lyonnais at 3:00 PM EST. And in Serie A…oof. Juventus vs Udinese at 12:30 PM? Eredivisie at least serves an old classic, which has lost its bite considering the odd point spread in that league, Feyenoord vs PSV at 8:30 AM EST.
What’s the big story this weekend?
The match-fixing story continues as two men originally from Singapore are arrested in the UK for “plotting to defraud bookmakers.” The fraud reportedly happened between November 1st and November 26th of this year. Arsene Wenger has responded to the news of regional match-fixing by claiming, “I think that 99.9%, the English game is completely clean.”
“Once you don’t know if everyone is genuine out there any more, that is something absolutely disastrous.
“I think we absolutely have to fight against that with the strongest severity to get that out of the game. Maybe the lower divisions are a bit more under threat because it is a bit more anonymous, there is less money so it is easier to buy people, but I don’t think that exists in the Premier League at all.”
Any other news?
The Guardian says Andre Villas-Boas got a fan moved from his seat for singing “sacked in the morning” during Spurs’ Europa League match against Tromso last night. Meanwhile the Mail continues its campaign against the Portuguese manager.
AC Milan vice president Adriano Galliani is resigning from the club after 25 years in the position. Good timing, bud!
And Wenger ducks the usual questions about his contract extension with Arsenal.
Any fun stuff?
This goal was disallowed, for what, being awesome? Yoann Gourcuff for Lyon against Real Betis:
Any good reads?
Yes! Football Italia quotes from Horacio Elizondo’s account of awarding Zinedine Zidane a red card for headbutting Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final:
“It was all done over the headset. When Materazzi fell to the floor, the ball was up the other end of the pitch and of course I was keeping up with play over there. I whistle for a handball and give a free kick.
“Then play switches and goes back into the half of the pitch Materazzi was lying in, but on the other wing, and I remember it was at that point that I saw him lying on the floor. I wait to see whether he gets up — he doesn’t get up… doesn’t get up… doesn’t get up — and I stop the match.
Posted by Richard Whittall under Tactics on Nov 28, 2013
Is secrecy important when it comes to pre-match tactical preparation?
Take the fury last weekend directed to the Bayern dressing room “mole” by manager Pep Guardiola. Apparently Bayern’s team sheet and some rudimentary tactics were leaked to German tabloid Bild ahead of the match. “It does not matter who it is, heads will roll,” Guardiola reportedly told his team after the Dortmund game, which Bayern won 0-3. “I will throw him out. He will not play under me again.”
Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge piled on, telling Sky: “We will obviously not bring in the NSA to find out who it is. But I advise him to stop doing it or he will have a serious problem not only with Pep Guardiola, but also the entire club.”
The details of the leak itself that appeared in Bild are very difficult to find and don’t appear in most news reports on the story. Rafael Honigstein however was kind enough to fill in the blanks:
— Raphael Honigstein (@honigstein) November 28, 2013
So, not exactly a chalkboard drawing then with man-marking assignments etc.
As Honigstein wrote in his initial column on the story, this fits in with a larger pattern of paranoia from Guardiola on team leaks:
Being fairly open about tactics and lineups is also not an exclusively Bavarian phenomenon. All Bundesliga clubs still have (some) open training sessions, and local reporters usually have a very good idea who is playing well in advance. Guardiola, however, has been unhappy about this kind of transparency. Last month, the Catalan ordered the erection of a fence and giant sun shades around one training pitch to shield closed training sessions before matches from the view of reporters and opposition scouts, who used to congregate on a little hill top behind Säbener Strasse compound.
As for the game itself, Bayern did in fact employ long-balls in order to play slightly deeper and circumvent Dortmund’s famed counter attack. But as Juergen Klopp noted, this was but part of the strategy, as Guardiola brought on the “1.70m boys” (a reference to height), Goetze and Thiago Alcantara, in the second half. The point is Bayern has options, and money helps pay for those options.
But I find the element of secrecy here interesting. In some ways, Guardiola’s concern about the leak was more to ensure players don’t break the manager’s trust in the dressing room than allowing an opposing team to gain an advantage. But Pep seems serious enough about it that it merits asking:
Does revealing your tactical strategy ahead of time affect the result?
Of course many of you who believe in the importance of football tactics are likely to say yes. And even if the effect isn’t big, why risk giving your opponents any edge at all?
I’m not so certain I agree. To use the Dortmund vs Bayern game as an example, it was clear through Klopp’s post match remarks that he had read Bild and was aware of Pep Guardiola’s ‘long ball’ strategy. Putting aside a few major no-nos in the statistical world, let’s cherry pick some data from the first half. Bayer managed to outshoot Dortmund 5 to 4, and got one more shot on target. So it appeared Bayern’s strategy worked, right?
But, hang on. A forty-five minute sample can’t be used to determine much of anything because of the influence of chance or random variation, right? Moreover, how do you separate out the innate talent of the individual players from the effectiveness of the overall tactical plan? And what, if anything, did Dortmund do to counter Bayern’s long ball strategy? And doesn’t this inscrutability mean “tactics” are useless?
Well, no, of course not. But I think the influence of chance, individual talent and other factors along with an opponent-specific game plan in a single game should make us rethink the purpose of football tactics as they pertain to specific matches.
That’s because many people regard soccer tactics as commensurate to military plans ahead of a battle—deterministic, causal, vital. This, however, is a poor analogy. Military battles involve specific terrain, flexible number of troops, and an infinite array of choices. Does the general use artillery at this stage of the battle, or later? Do they wait until the reserve regiment arrives, or charge the outpost now while the enemy regroups? While luck and factors beyond anyone’s control certainly affect outcomes in battles, military commanders have a much bigger palate of options to work with. This is why military plans must be kept secret.
In football, you are bound by a field, a set of rules, a selection of eleven players, and a ninety minute time limit. Within a single match, the manager is limited in what they can do. Which formation? Which players? Which strategy? Who marks whom? These choices are no doubt important, and may affect the result. But within the confines of a game, detailed, opponent-specific tactical plans can be undone by a single, unlucky opening goal (as may have happened to AVB and Spurs against City last weekend), or a completely unexpected opposition set up.
What if, for example, Dortmund had never read Bild but decided to throw off Bayern by dispensing with their counter attack plan and instead employ a deep lying defense coupled with build up play in attack? Would the Bayern starting XI sort of stop and stare at Pep in panic? Or would they just adjust because they’re Bayern?
This is why I think tactical preparation in football is ideally about getting what you can out of your players over the long term and not just for specific games, and instilling in those players a measure of flexibility and an ability to read a match and adjust. In this set up, tactics need not be secret to be effective, because players would be able to adapt regardless of the opposition.
Posted by Richard Whittall under The Story So Far on Nov 28, 2013
Any games on today?
Why yes, Johnny. It’s the Thursday Europa League fixture dump. And so because I don’t want to pretend I know what’s going, here’s the deal. First, check the group standings, one by one. Next, check the fixture list. Make some mental notes. And enjoy your afternoon!
Alright, in all seriousness, Swansea hosting Valencia at 3:05 PM today could be interesting…
What’s the big story today?
Six people have been arrested as part of an ongoing investigation into an international match-fixing ring targeting English lower league football matches. The suspects, thought to be held at a police station in the Midlands, reportedly include current players and the former Premier League footballer turned agent Delroy Facey.
The arrests, made by the new National Crime Agency over the past two days, mark the first time that police in the UK have amassed enough evidence to arrest those involved in seeking systematically to fix matches to make money in the vast illegal Asian betting markets.
“Six men have been arrested across the country as part of an NCA investigation into alleged football match fixing. The focus of the operation is a suspected international illegal betting syndicate,” said the NCA on Wednesday night. “The NCA is working closely with the Gambling Commission and the Football Association. This is an active investigation and we are unable to provide further detail at this time.”
Though the allegations don’t involve Premier League matches or clubs, let me just be as clear as I can: don’t be naive.
As for the investigation itself, it should be noted that it seemed to have been sparked by the Telegraph’s undercover work. Which begs the question…should this kind of thing really be left to the broadsheets? Do investigative bodies have the resources they need to tackle this sort of thing?
Any other news?
Coverage continuesafter the World Cup stadium accident in San Paolo which claimed the lives of two workers. As ESPNFC notes:
It was not the first problem with World Cup stadiums in Brazil.
One worker died during construction of a stadium in the capital Brasilia last year and another in the Manaus venue in March. Also in March, heavy rains flooded the construction site of the Maracana Stadium, forcing the cancellation of a FIFA inspection visit at the time. In May, a small part of the roof at the Salvador stadium fell in after it was not able to sustain the large amount of water that settled on top of it.
The BBC takes an unfortunate alarmist stance.
Ryan Giggs is old but still very, very good reports the Mail.
Dortmund’s Sven Bender takes Gerard Pique’s place as football’s pre-eminent bleeder.
And if you ever wanted a story that encapsulated everything you need to know about football culture, here it is.
Any fun stuff?
Douglas Costa’s lovely strike from Shakhtar’s 4-0 win over Real Sociedad is a thing of beauty:
Any interesting reads?
Yes. Law in Sport ran this article last October but it’s worth reprinting now in light of match-fixing allegations in the UK. While it uses Finland as a case study, many of the hallmarks remain the same. A sample:
In the era of internet and new technologies i.e. smart phones and tablets, potentially anyone can place bets on football matches played anywhere. The same goes with bookmakers; Finnish monopoly bookmaker Veikkaus does not enjoy exclusive rights to offer Finnish football matches for betting but those can be offered freely by any bookmaker online. It is often thought among the general public in Finland that the relevant (and the only) bookmakers offering Finnish football for betting are located in Europe. Many even believe that the only such bookmaker is Veikkaus. That is not the case, however it is rather easy to see the roots of this general misconception.
The Story So Far – Nov 27 Media dislike for Andre Villas-Boas goes beyond his failures on the football pitch
Posted by Richard Whittall under The Story So Far on Nov 27, 2013
Any games on today?
Yep, Champions League Part Deux. Before I get into the particulars, this is when you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the group standings.
The early kick off (12:00 PM EST) is CSKA Moscow vs Bayern Munich, which is only important insofar as it will determine the first place finisher in Group D. Unless some crazy things happen.
Then at 2:45 PM EST we have Bayer Leverkusen vs. Man Utd, which is quite important for United’s European ambitions (and Bayer’s as well), particularly if Shakhtar manage to get a result against Real Sociedad.
Elsewhere Juventus is in desperate need of a result against Copenhagen as second place is very much up for grabs. Then PSG and Olimpiacos will tussle for points at the higher end of Group C. Neither will want a draw lest Benfica defeat Anderlecht.
Then there’s Man City vs Plzen. Tumble weeds unless the early game is interesting.
What’s the big story today?
Well there are a couple of stories about that rascal Mathieu Flamini cutting off his sleeves in the Champions League in defiance of a nonsensical club tradition in which the players must wear the same shirt as the captain, but that’s not QUITE as interesting as what the Guardian’s David Hytner dug up late last night:
André Villas-Boas is clinging to his job at Tottenham Hotspur after Sunday’s 6-0 hammering at Manchester City prompted the north London club’s hierarchy to question whether he remains the manager to establish them in the Premier League’s top four.
The Portuguese was cut to evens by bookmakers on Tuesday to be the league’s next managerial casualty, with the City result being considered not as an isolated blot but as the most worrying sign of a malaise.
Now, I’m a bit sensitive on the subject of Andre Villas-Boas, so permit me a short sermon. First, I think there may be some good, empirical evidence that AVB hasn’t taken full advantage of what should be one of the more exciting, dynamic midfields in the Premier League. It maybe something worth sacking him over. But there is something else behind the venom in some circles for Villas-Boas that goes beyond any mistakes in the technical area or the training ground.
I’ve heard recently that Villas-Boas is not the most, well, earnest manager in the business, and may even be a little duplicitous when dealing with the media and even those within his club. But there is a certain paper, let’s call it the Daily Mail, that has had a target on the Portuguese gaffer since his Chelsea days. Maybe it was anger at the man for being a self-serving bender of truth, but it may also have to do with their slavish dedication to the cult of ‘Arry, a much more charming megalomaniac at White Hart Lane than AVB, but a megalomaniac all the same. So I hope you’ll forgive me for dismissing almost everything Martin Samuel has to say on the man.
As for Hytner, who played his own small part in Gareth Bale’s eventual departure from Spurs in his columns for the Guardian, I understand he is in a difficult place with regard to his sources within the club. But there are aspects of the above story that verge on editorializing, and while yes, it’s just sport, the report has the air of public subterfuge on behalf of elements at WHL who don’t want their names made public–as was the case with the Bale columns.
For all of football’s largesse, it is a small sport in which the tail can wag the dog. Spurs are well within their rights to sack AVB, and on the evidence, they have a strong case. But there are aspects of this that are drifting toward something a little more ugly.
Any other news?
Zahir Belounis, the footballer “trapped” in Qatar, will finally be able to leave the country reports the BBC.
Joe Cole, cheesed at his early substitution at West Ham in their 3-0 loss to Chelsea on the weekend, may be looking for a way out.
Man United have a rough landing ahead of their Champions League match against Bayer Leverkusen.
Defoe to Toronto FC is a thing that is happening apparently maybe we’ll see.
Jose Mourinho takes blame for Chelsea’s loss to Basel in the Champions League yesterday.
Any fun stuff?
Jack Wilshere has fun against Marseille last night:
Any good reads?
Well, ahead of the Champions League, Musa Okwonga is worth a read on Man United’s challenge against Bayer:
The question for Moyes is whether he retains faith in this combination or brings in Phil Jones, who is set to make a quicker-than-expected recovery from a groin injury, either as a replacement or an extra man in midfield. Jones and Cleverley played together in one of the team’s most impressive passages of play this season, the opening stages against Fulham in the Premier League when they took a three-goal lead in 22 minutes, and though Cleverley was outperformed by Fellaini on Sunday he is a far better complement for Jones’ disruptive talents. Rafael , who has declared himself fit for this match, could usefully return to the side. If he were selected, he would replace Chris Smalling, who has occupied that right-back role with no little diligence but also, it must be said, no little discomfort.