In this new feature, I’m writing about what I’m reading about.
Why Write About Football ( 21 December 2010)
The thoughts of a wide-eyed wanna-be career sports journalist. His conclusions? For the beauty, the psychological and social aspects, particularly relevant in Britain, and the desire to be insightful, incorruptible, fair, and everything else that the twenty-four hour media is not. My vote is for the unmentioned international-camaraderie passport you get for free as a football fan. It’s so much better than that smoker sympathy pass I used to have, and it works equally well for all ages (though not for both sexes). Though this blog is now defunct (blame grad school), it has some gems in the archives.
Zonal Marking: Palermo 4-3 Inter: Gasperini’s 3-4-3 exposed (Yesterday, September 12, 2011)
If you watched the match, it was not difficult to see Palermo’s counter-attacking strength, nor Sneijder’s discomfort on the left flank, but this is a must-read for a better understanding of how Inter’s experience was overcome by Palermo’s energy. ZM doesn’t sugar-coat Inter’s vulnerabilities: the 3-4-3 formation that doesn’t play to the team’s strengths, a weak backline, and an average age on the pitch of 30.5. In some ways, Palermo’s strategy was a bit confused, but their tactics worked in this case, particularly in the second half when they stopped pressing and started counter-attacking.
The title says it all. This is the reason listed on Zonal Marking for why he writes about football. And he does it to perfection.
Football line-ups (website)
A helpful reference. In this case, I’m looking at the favored formations for different coaches. I’m getting a little worried about Inter though; looks like is will be hard to get Gasperini to change his 3-4-3 system to something more suitable for his players.
On Hating Barcelona (September 15, 2010)
Gasperini’s inflexible tactical stance reminded me of another stick-in-the mud, Pep Guardiola, who has played 4-3-3 for sixty-nine percent of his career matches. In case you are like me, and feel a twinge of annoyance at the stylized sleep-inducer that is Barcelona, this is a decent introduction to the holier-than-thou aura surrounding the team off the pitch. However, like most posts from The Run of Play, it’s word-dense but fact-poor. The author either writes dissertations for a living or loves the sound of his own voice (err…his own keyboard?). I liked this comment more than anything the article had to say: “Hate is merely the other side of love. Barça is a team to which one cannot be indifferent.” One day I will brag that I was able to watch them every weekend on TV and chose not to, just like I chose not to read the Harry Potter books when they came out. But could it be just a matter of time?
Barcelona 0-0 Chelsea: Doubt, Chance, and Mutability (April 28, 2009)
Why does every post in this blog start with a literary reference? Anyhow, this article, though centered around the aftermath of a Chelsea-Barcelona draw, still stands well out of context and time. The author plays devils advocate and posits that while Barcelona is beautiful, it doesn’t not represent all the forms of beauty that the modern game can present. Barça does not have and its team cannot support “the kind of player for whom the joy lies in flying rather than lockpicking.” As usual, the comments contain as many good metaphors as the article itself. It’s also curious to read this now, because at the time of writing, Barça was just starting to become invincible in the world and were widely accused of not having been sufficiently tested in the two-horse race that is La Liga. We now know this is not true. I was most blown away by their destruction of Man U earlier this year in the Champions League.
Barcelona and the Idea of the Beautiful Game (April 30, 2009)
The best of the three Run of Play articles. Asks if playing to an ideal is arrogant and absurd in what is ultimately a competitive game. Also brings into play the question of what makes the beautiful game beautiful, a perennial question, but maybe an exploration for another day.
Barcelona eats the world, Mourinho looks on (30 August, 2010)
Not much to read here, but I like the description “X-Box team.” The commenters are not so empathetic, but raise a good point. Isn’t Real Madrid an X-Box team too? Yes, but in a different way. Real Madrid is a fantasy team you can put together on your actual X-box. And they play that way too: inherently flawed as a cohesive team because of their pre-programmed talents. On the other hand Barcelona plays like it’s on some kind of default setting. In other words, Real v. Barça is like watching a human v. computer chess game. Barce is right most of the time, but my human eyes can see in the short term what Real is trying to accomplish with each pass of the ball, and I that’s ultimately what I enjoy.