A Football Manager’s Philosophy: Jürgen Klopp Channeling His Inner Arsenal

Arsène Wenger comes in for a lot of criticism about his stinginess. “It’s not even his money,” his critics say as they chastise him again and again for refusing to spend incredible sums of money for the next big thing, the next savior for the team. But it has always seemed apparent to me that this debate simply indicated a difference in managing philosophy, itself suggesting a profound difference in worldview. Put simply, for Wenger, it is not the result; it is the journey. It is not winning at all costs, but how you win. It is not about a … Continue reading A Football Manager’s Philosophy: Jürgen Klopp Channeling His Inner Arsenal

Sometimes People Have To Understand We Are Human Beings

Following football passionately as I have recently, it is somewhat unsettling to see the venomous, fickle criticism leveled at players by pundits and fans alike. People who are unlikely to have the heart, dedication and perseverance to walk in the shoes of their targets. It is so much easier to write, or talk, than to do. What is most remarkable is that the criticism, often hyperbolic, is quite unfair and mean-spirited, it’s central purpose to sell papers, or advertising, or a brand. It’s the time we live in. Yaya Touré really seemed to suffer an extraordinarily bad year last season … Continue reading Sometimes People Have To Understand We Are Human Beings

Player of the Season: Francis Coquelin

Arsenal would be a disaster without Alexis Sanchez. He runs and runs and runs, as if he has something to prove. If all the Arsenal players had the heart and work rate of Alexis, the team would be invincible. Özil, after a second major injury in as many years, decided that he had to grow up a bit and came back a completely different player. He’s put on heft, and sometimes you have to look closely to confirm that it’s him you see chasing down the ball. Özil realized that he had to play the game in a different, more … Continue reading Player of the Season: Francis Coquelin

Football’s Lonely Position

This past weekend, Reading’s goalie, Adam Federici, by all accounts, kept his side in the semifinal FA Cup game against Arsenal with save after save. Goalies have a way of single-handily changing a game in this way. I did not like Reading, to be honest. Their approach to Arsenal was to bully and foul — what we have grown accustomed to as teams’ general tactic against Arsenal. But Federici’s display was unaffected by this borderline thuggery. He was stellar and outstanding. Except for that final moment. When he wasn’t. When a ball dribbled slowly off his body and slower still … Continue reading Football’s Lonely Position

The Look of Friends

Ronaldo gets such a hard time for being Ronaldo, and the insufferable Football press and punditry similarly take apart Bale and play up the tension between the two. But the look on Ronaldo’s face when Bale became injured this past weekend dismantles all that — I think. It is a look of genuine concern that is quite moving. This is exactly how your friend would look standing over you.   Continue reading The Look of Friends

What Umpires Still Get Right When They Get It Wrong

We act as if we tell ourselves enough times that it doesn’t exist, then it doesn’t. That if we tell ourselves that something crazy and unfair didn’t happen for that reason but some other, then we are right and it’s all good. But the truth is, in infinite, infinite ways, there is a difference. There are tiny (and not so tiny) pinpricks. The race of the pitcher, we found, also mattered, but not as much as other factors. Umpires were 10 percent less likely to expand the strike zone for African-American pitchers than for Caucasian pitchers, but race did not … Continue reading What Umpires Still Get Right When They Get It Wrong

Heart and Spirit

In England, they call it spirit.  We call it heart.  You can have all the skill, all the intelligence in the world, but without it, you will crumble. Arsenal found some yesterday, tying Man City 1-1, both teams missing goal opportunities that could have won it. And yesterday, Chelsea, well, let’s let Mourinho tell it– We lost against a team who are difficult, but against a team who were better than us in terms of spirit and mentality. That’s the last thing my teams are usually guilty of: normally, they don’t lose because the opponents are stronger in terms of … Continue reading Heart and Spirit

Arsenal: Fourth at Best

Last week I fretted that Arsenal’s squeaker victory over struggling Tottenham was a sign of being on borrowed time. And this weekend, the club celebrated its one thousandth game under Arsène Wenger with a shellacking–its own–from what they had declared, from coach to player, the most important game of the season. It was over in five minutes, with Chelsea’s second goal, and certainly within fifteen, when a red card for a penalty-area handball reduced the side to ten and the consequent penalty increased the lead to three. But to be frank, even the first goal seemed to give Chelsea an insurmountable … Continue reading Arsenal: Fourth at Best

Arsenal v. Tottenham, 1-0: Living on Borrowed Time

It is difficult to feel assured by Arsenal’s first North London derby victory yesterday over Tottenham at White Hart Lane in seven years. There was nothing of the controlled, counterattack football of a Chelsea, which can make countering football seem dominant; but instead we witnessed a type of frantic, hold-on-to-your seats school-yard defense that prevailed in Man United’s annoying win over Arsenal earlier in the season: hanging on for dear life to a lucky first goal that came early the match, in this case around the minute mark. Lucky not in the sense that Rosicky’s goal was not brilliant, because surely … Continue reading Arsenal v. Tottenham, 1-0: Living on Borrowed Time

The Way Out: The New Gladiators

By BRYAN MEALER Published: February 2, 2013 WHEN the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers take the field during the Super Bowl today, the teams will have five players who come from a small, conflicted region in the northern Everglades known as Muck City. The dark, silty soil surrounding the Florida towns of Belle Glade and Pahokee, some 45 miles west of Palm Beach, creates a fertile region for agriculture. Many of the black residents of the area were drawn there by the opportunity to work in the vegetable fields that surrounded the towns. The migrant workers, who by … Continue reading The Way Out: The New Gladiators

How To Measure An Athlete: Understanding Linmetrics

With eighteen seconds remaining in the 1982 NCAA Basketball Championship game, a scrawny freshman received the ball right of the free throw line and rose straight into the air.  The rest we know as remarkable history.  Michael Jordan would leave North Carolina his senior year (after playing on the 1984 Olympic Team) and become the best basketball player ever.  He won six NBA championships and made one of the most profound, seminal sports commercials of all time in which he recounted the number of last shots he had taken—26—and missed.  It was a quintessential statement not only about sports but … Continue reading How To Measure An Athlete: Understanding Linmetrics

Everything Tiger

Tiger Woods, if anything, is quintessentially American, and like all elemental things, his experience tells us much more than we know, or may want to know, or concede about the whole. When he crashed and burned a couple of Novembers ago, the world seemed to crash with him. Certainly we learned more about the man than we knew (although some of us did suspect), but it told us much more about us. How do we create, think about and nurture our heroes and icons and greatness. “I am Tiger Woods” repeated person after person in a momentous commercial from a couple of years ago. We will never see that commercial again, however, we suspect that its claim still remains true. Continue reading Everything Tiger