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  • Counter Attack

    • Why Gary Neville’s take on simulation is just as moralistic as the anti-diving crowd

      By Richard Whittall in Arsenal, West Ham on Wednesday, Apr. 16, 2014

      Right now, the Daily Mail is leading with four stories on today’s Copa Del Rey final between Real Madrid and Barcelona. This is how we know it’s a big deal. Real Madrid face a Barcelona in canned crisis, while Carlo Ancelotti are without Cristiano Ronaldo, opening up the requisite British angle with the heart-shaping Welsh anime character Gareth Bale.

      This means a lot of English journalists and fans will witness Pepe and Busquets attempting to lessen our collective faith in...

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    • Some brief thoughts on Daniel Gordon’s 30 for 30 doc, Hillsborough

      By Richard Whittall in Hillsborough on Wednesday, Apr. 16, 2014

      Last night, ESPN’s 30 for 30 series aired Daniel Gordon’s long-anticipated two hour documentary Hillsborough. The film documents the 1989 stadium disaster in Sheffield during Liverpool’s FA Cup semifinal against Nottingham Forest, and the efforts by the South Yorkshire Police—with an assist from the Sun newspaper—to paint what was essentially a deadly failure in crowd control as the tragic result of hooliganism.

      Thought the story is not new, rarely has the moral of Hillsborough been made so clear. Hillsborough is...

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    • Financial Fair Play, analytics, and the basis of good decision-making in football

      By Richard Whittall in Soccer Analytics on Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2014

      This week, if the Telegraph is correct, Manchester City and Paris Saint Germain will be handed down a punishment for violating rules meant to prevent clubs from spending in excess of what they earn to compete in Europe. Readers should err on the side of caution, particularly as UEFA will not comment officially on the matter.

      The news comes just before the apex of the league season, around that time of year when assembled newspaper transfer hounds pick up faint...

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    • Is it wise for Man United to break the bank on a star Bayern Munich midfielder?

      By Richard Whittall in Bayern Munich, Manchester United on Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2014

      So it appears Man United already have their eye on summer improvements, and their pursuit of Bayern’s star midfielder Toni Kroos is intensifying per Jamie Jackson:

      Manchester United are offering Toni Kroos £260,000 a week as they continue to try to prise the midfielder away from Bayern Munich this summer. While David Moyes understands it may be difficult to take the 24-year-old from the German club as Bayern maintain he is not for sale, the United manager believes that...

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    • Eight cool things that happened in football this past weekend

      By Richard Whittall in General on Monday, Apr. 14, 2014

      1. Steven Gerrard burst into tears

      One of the most iconic images in English football is that of Sir Bobby Charlton weeping at the final whistle after England beat Germany 4-2 to win the World Cup in 1966. He later said the tears were spurred by memories of playing football as a child—”I never cried when we lost.” That feeling after an incredible, long sought after win is what players wait their whole careers for.

      Steven Gerrard has played his...

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    • Five recent Champions League semis that were better than the final (or at least as good)

      By Richard Whittall in Uefa Champions League on Friday, Apr. 11, 2014

      Earlier this morning I made the bold claim that Champions League semifinals were often, if not usually, better than the final itself. So for some proof, let’s look at a few CL semis from recent years.

      1. 2012-13, Bayern Munich vs Barcelona (7-0 agg.)

      Bayern’s incredible performance against Barcelona solidified the moment when the locus of power in European football shifted from Catalonia to Bavaria. This was even before Pep Guardiola took over as head coach, a masterful two leg...

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    • What to expect in the Champions League semis

      By Richard Whittall in Uefa Champions League on Friday, Apr. 11, 2014

      So some quick thoughts on the Champions League semis, to add to the giant pile you may have already consumed this morning.


      Some, if not most, Champions League years are defined by incredible semifinal match ups. It makes sense; at this point the best of the best meet at the summit, though there is often a dark horse in the mix somewhere (I’m talking about Chelsea of course). This will be one of the years where we will hear...

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    • Is Arjen Robben faster than human consciousness or should Man United have tracked him better?

      By Richard Whittall in Bayern Munich on Thursday, Apr. 10, 2014

      To be fair to United's defence, Robben took them by surprise there with that new move where he cut in with his left and shot.

      — Baha (@LifeOfBaha) April 9, 2014

      This was the joke making the rounds on Twitter last night after Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben sealed his team’s Champions League progress against Man United with a third goal in their 3-1 second leg win. This, of course, is the move that defines Robben as a player (outside...

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    • What’s wrong with Arsenal? Its players (allegedly) have a theory…

      By Richard Whittall in Arsenal, Arsene Wenger on Thursday, Apr. 10, 2014

      The Telegraph’s Matt Law has a bizarre piece on the site now, which begins with this saucy paragraph:

      Arsenal players believe that manager Arsène Wenger’s refusal to work on the opposition has cost them a shot at the Premier League title this season. The defeat at Everton last weekend meant that Arsenal have lost away from home against all their immediate rivals, conceding 20 goals.

      This alleged difference of opinion between players and manager is reiterated throughout, except there...

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    • How understanding Game State effect can help in the Champions League

      By Richard Whittall in Atlético Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United on Wednesday, Apr. 09, 2014

      "Now it's about protecting what you've got"… is it? Really? Can't help feeling that +ve game state + risk aversion only invites pressure

      — Blake Wooster (@BlakeyGW) April 8, 2014

      Champions League second legs would, in theory, offer an interesting case study for Game States.

      A definition of Game States: Statistically speaking, teams leading by a goal tend to shoot less than their opponents but with a higher shot conversion rate, while teams trailing by a goal will shoot...

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    • Watch Zlatan and Mourinho share a telling moment after Chelsea’s PSG victory

      By Richard Whittall in Chelsea, Demba Ba, Paris Saint-Germain, Zlatan Ibrahimovic on Wednesday, Apr. 09, 2014

      First, a reminder that football can be fun, as if last night’s fixtures weren’t enough to convince you. But here in the face of our own understanding of the game in which players and managers are in perpetual show down over rivalries, playing opportunities, perceived snubs and all the rest of it, a pleasant moment between two monsters of the game:

      Second, do we need to haul out the small sample size song again?

      Demba Ba likely felt this...

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    • Why basing season ticket ‘value’ on goals is dumb; here are 9 far better ways to properly price football

      By Richard Whittall in General on Tuesday, Apr. 08, 2014

      It is a graphic perfectly suited for the split second, scan and upvote experience that often defines Reddit.

      Under the presumptuous and awkwardly worded title, “Who has the best value season ticket?”, we see pounds fans paid for home team goals scored, the idea being that the enjoyment of watching a football match is entirely defined by the ball crossing the line for the good guys. This is a more absurd, more dangerous reduction than all the advanced stats analyses...

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    • Did Moyes use Rooney as a pawn in an old gambit against Bayern?

      By Richard Whittall in Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Wayne Rooney on Tuesday, Apr. 08, 2014

      Subtext is everything!

      As in, the subtext of David Moyes first declaring on Friday, without a hint of subterfuge to be fair, that Rooney was “touch and go” for the Champions League second leg quarter final this week:

      Moyes said: “Wayne is injured. He has a badly bruised toe so he won’t be involved [against Newcastle]. It will be touch and go for Wayne for Wednesday. With a lot of toe injuries you have to make sure there isn’t...

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    • Your list of winners, losers and what to take away from this past weekend in the Big Four European leagues

      By Richard Whittall in Bundesliga, EPL, La Liga, Serie A on Monday, Apr. 07, 2014

      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...

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    • Six books you should read ahead of the World Cup

      By Richard Whittall in World Cup 2014 on Friday, Apr. 04, 2014

      The World Cup is fast approaching (duh duh duh). While most of us are steeped in Football Think 24/7, the World Cup offers a moment to reflect on the history and meaning of the game. As such, whether you’re a hardcore football nerd or a relative beginner, this is a good opportunity to some reading in order to better appreciate the four week tournament in Brazil. Here therefore are six books worth your time ahead of the big show in...

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    • Wenger’s comments shed faint light on Barcelona transfer ban

      By Richard Whittall in FIFA on Friday, Apr. 04, 2014

      Unless FIFA has issued a statement that has yet to make it to press, we’re still officially in the dark over the specific reasons FIFA went back and decided that 10 Barcelona minors signed between 2009 and 2013 were ineligible under Article 19 of the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players.

      The rules state that clubs cannot make international transfers for players under the age of 18 unless they meet at least one of three exemptions (for background...

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    • The Counter Attack Podcast! Recapping the Champions League and USA vs. Mexico

      By Devang Desai in Atlético Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund on Thursday, Apr. 03, 2014

      Devang Desai and Richard Whittall sit down to discuss the U.S – Mexico friendly, this week’s Champions League action and Jose Mourinho’s striker problem.

      You can download the podcast here and subscribe on iTunes here. You can also find the RSS Feed here.

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    • USA 2-2 Mexico: What you missed last night

      By Richard Whittall in MLS on Thursday, Apr. 03, 2014

      Scuttlebut ahead of the Game

      Is it a World Cup warm up? A B Team exercise? A little cash grab? Probably the first option. Despite USMNT coach Juergen Klinsmann’s anger at a few MX Liga clubs for not releasing players, it’s hard not to see the core of this USA midfield in Brazil.

      There was the usual Dos a Cero stuff:

      ICYMI—#USMNThas beaten Mexico 2–0 eight times, making “USA 2, Mexico 0” the most common result in team...

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    • Some unanswered questions following the Barcelona transfer ban

      By Richard Whittall in Barcelona on Wednesday, Apr. 02, 2014

      If you haven’t heard the news:

      Barcelona have been banned from making any signings for two consecutive transfer windows, as FIFA announced Wednesday that the Spanish club is being punished for breaching its rules relating to the transfer of players under the age of 18.

      You can read the ruling in its entirety here.


      FIFA has a set of rules that clubs must respect on the transfer of players, Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players...

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    • Forget Zlatan: PSG’s best player is the bus driver’s brother in defense

      By Paolo Bandini in PSG on Wednesday, Apr. 02, 2014

      Nobody seems to doubt Zlatan Ibrahimovic these days. Thirteen goals in 16 Champions League games for Paris Saint-Germain have undermined old claims that the striker could not perform on the biggest stage, and yet, curiously, it was the four that he scored in a friendly against England in 2012 that seemed to do most to rehabilitate his image. Perhaps because it was the British sporting press that had most stubbornly denied his gifts in the first place.

      One way or...

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    • After the Guardiola hissy-fit, is it fair to ask what post-match pressers are for?

      By Richard Whittall in Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Uefa Champions League on Wednesday, Apr. 02, 2014

      What are press conferences for?

      The ostensible purpose is for the media to gather information about a topic of public interest. So, ideally, when a manager or a player sits down in front of a little table facing rows of sitting reporters, the reading public have an opportunity to learn how they prepared for a match, their impressions of a game, their future plans for the squad, etc.

      What has of course happened over the last, say, fifty years (an...

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    • How Liverpool’s deadly counterattack takes ruthless advantage of score effects

      By Richard Whittall in Liverpool, Soccer Analytics on Tuesday, Apr. 01, 2014

      Resident hockey expert Justin Bourne wrote a stellar piece on “score effects” in hockey this morning. Here is a good definition of score effects via the popular Toronto Maple Leafs blog, Pension Plan Puppets:

      Teams that are behind tend to get more shots and scoring chances because they press to get back into the game, and often the team with the lead naturally sits back and absorbs pressure. Conversely when the game is tied, or close (within a...

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    • Is there an unofficial bidding war for Qatar’s 2022 replacement?

      By Richard Whittall in FIFA on Tuesday, Apr. 01, 2014

      Some quiet news out of Japan yesterday:

      Tokyo (AFP) – Japan is ready to hold the 2022 World Cup if FIFA strips Qatar of hosting rights over corruption allegations, the country’s football chief told AFP.

      Japan Football Association (JFA) president Kuniya Daini said the country, whose capital Tokyo will stage the 2020 Olympics, would step in if required.

      “If FIFA look for an alternative country, we already have the stadiums that would meet the criteria to host it,” he said...

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    • Why Juergen Klinsmann is tinkering with the USMNT two months ahead of the World Cup

      By Richard Whittall in USA on Monday, Mar. 31, 2014

      So in case you missed the news, today Juergen Klinsmann followed through on a shake up of the USMNT, bringing in Azerbaijan national team coach and German national Berti Vogts as a special advisor to the team and dropping assistant coach Martin Vasquez with U-20 coach Tab Ramos stepping in as the replacement.

      So what gives? Why these important personnel changes so close to the World Cup?

      For one, some context is needed. Though the USMNT coaching staff has stayed...

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    • What mattered this past weekend in football, and what didn’t

      By Richard Whittall in EPL, La Liga, Serie A on Monday, Mar. 31, 2014

      Liverpool’s crushing 4-0 victory over Spurs

      Does it matter?: Yes, but probably more for Spurs and the future of Tim Sherwood than it does for Liverpool’s title aspirations, which are as strong as they’ve ever been in the second half of the season as Luis Suarez continues to finish with dangerous precision and the whole team runs about with purpose in the opposing third.

      That may seem an odd thing to say on the day that Chelsea’s stutter against...

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Scoreboard for April 20
Scoreboard for April 21
Scoreboard for April 26
7:45 AM EDT
10:00 AM EDT
Hull City
West Bromwich Albion
10:00 AM EDT
West Ham United
Swansea City
10:00 AM EDT
Aston Villa
Stoke City
10:00 AM EDT
Tottenham Hotspur
Manchester United
12:30 PM EDT
Norwich City
Scoreboard for April 27
7:00 AM EDT
Cardiff City
Scoreboard for April 22
Atlético Madrid
2:45 PM EDT
Scoreboard for April 23
Real Madrid
2:45 PM EDT
Bayern Munich
Scoreboard for April 29
Scoreboard for April 30
Scoreboard for April 25
2:45 PM EDT
AC Milan
Scoreboard for April 26
12:00 PM EDT
Inter Milan
2:45 PM EDT
Scoreboard for April 27
Verona 6:30 AM EDT
Torino 9:00 AM EDT
Sampdoria 9:00 AM EDT
9:00 AM EDT
9:00 AM EDT
Atalanta 2:45 PM EDT
Scoreboard for April 28
2:45 PM EDT
Scoreboard for April 20
Rayo Vallecano 3  
Betis 0 57' 2nd half
Sevilla 1:00 PM EDT
3:00 PM EDT
Scoreboard for April 21
4:00 PM EDT
Scoreboard for April 25
3:00 PM EDT
Scoreboard for April 26
Granada 10:00 AM EDT
Rayo Vallecano
12:00 PM EDT
Real Madrid
2:00 PM EDT
Betis 4:00 PM EDT
Real Sociedad
Scoreboard for April 27
Espanyol 6:00 AM EDT
Scoreboard for April 23
Red Bulls
7:30 PM EDT
Scoreboard for April 26
Impact 4:00 PM EDT
Sounders FC 4:00 PM EDT
DC United
7:00 PM EDT
FC Dallas
7:30 PM EDT
Sporting Kansas City
7:30 PM EDT
Red Bulls
Real Salt Lake
9:30 PM EDT
Whitecaps FC
10:30 PM EDT
Chivas USA
Scoreboard for April 27
Dynamo 3:00 PM EDT
Scoreboard for May 03