1. FC Köln – Coming Back Stronger

If goats could talk, and indeed, used their new-found ability to tell stories – a pretty wild premise, I grant you – the gaze of the world would surely fall upon Kölner Zoo. Hennes VIII, the eighth iteration of 1. FC Köln’s world-famous goat mascot, could take time from his busy schedule of filming for adverts and television series to sit us all down, and tell us a story of Köln’s recent history: an unlikely triumph, followed by the most disconsolate of relegations.

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The ancient phrase of ‘catch the ball, boot it up’ and the evolving art of the goalkeeper in the modern game

“Goalkeepers need an element of insanity.”

These words from former goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, one of the most successful German players in recent history, have been repeated many times over the years.

As someone who has played in goal I can understand that sentiment. You’re expected to be alert every second of every game, make the important saves, constantly talk to your defenders and be prepared to throw yourself in front of anything. As Peter Cech found out in 2006, that last one can sometimes be painful.

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Assessing Domineco Tedesco’s FC Schalke: ‘The cycle goes on’

5WFootball editor Barney Stephenson has brilliantly traced the phoenix-like rise of the fortunes of German football through the lens of Philipp Lahm. It began from the ashes, ‘the worst team to ever make a World Cup final’ to the sky-high heights of that night in Rio de Janeiro in 2014, where an elite German outfit bested Argentina, led by the greatest player to ever play the game. This rise, he suggests, had both its antecedents and repercussions in and for the German kingpins, Bayern Munich, whose players made up six of the German starting eleven in the final. Bayern’s rise and dominance are well documented. They have won each edition of the Bundesliga since the Klopp-led triumph with Dortmund in 2012/13, winning fourteen of the last twenty Bundesliga titles. But, despite what your dad says, the Bundesliga isn’t a boring one team-league filled with Bayern; Porsche engineers from Baden-Württemberg, pilsner brewers from Saxony, and hipsters in Berlin.

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Why are Manchester United already unrecognisable under Solskjaer?

So why exactly do Manchester United appear such a different outfit under Solskjaer already? Why have they scored five goals in a match for the first time since the Ferguson era? Is it as simple as escaping the authoritarian clutches of evil dictator Jose and bounding into the warm loving embrace of a smiling Ole? Is it because they have played three teams that wouldn’t be out of place in the Championship? In all likelihood, it’s a combination of several factors – ‘the new manager bounce’ most definitely has a part to play. But there are already specific differences in United’s style of play and tactics that have become evident in the small sample of games we have seen so far. There seem to have been three key changes… Continue reading “Why are Manchester United already unrecognisable under Solskjaer?”

Why are two-footed players so rare and does it really matter?

By Andrew Misra

Sports psychology aside, football is a game predominantly played with your feet. Cheers, Geoff. But really, most of the time it’s predominantly played with one foot. Go to the nearest recreational football ground at the weekend and this will become abundantly clear not just visually, but verbally too.

The right-back tracking the tricky opposition left winger will routinely be told to “show them onto their right”. Continue reading “Why are two-footed players so rare and does it really matter?”

Why full-backs are crucial to Pep Guardiola’s style of play

By Lewis Steele

Manchester City lost three games in December, which put a good few nails in their bid to become the first team to retain the Premier League title for over a decade. The reason mooted by many is complacency, the loss of Fernandinho, or simply a bad spell of luck, with many conceded goals being ‘screamers’. Given Guardiola’s meticulous nature, there is no such thing as ‘luck’, good or bad, and the issue always lies deeper. Continue reading “Why full-backs are crucial to Pep Guardiola’s style of play”

The renaissance of the English 4-4-2

By Joe Davies

English football was once a game of partnerships. Big man, little man – one guy to hold it up, one to work the channels and play on the shoulder – was the dominant strike pairing across all British sides. Managers lined their teams up with two pacy, outside wingers, and two box-to-box midfielders in the middle, with one going while the other stayed and vice versa. In defence, you would have two imposing centre-halves, one covering while the other marked tight, and full-backs would adopt a similar strategy to the central midfielders in order to make sure there were always three staying back in possession. This is the way all English school kids grew up playing football on the weekend, and is still the dominant shape in Sunday-league football today. Football was simple.

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