Win, Lose or Draw: Finishers take the honors

It was a weekend for ruthless finishers as chance creation took second fiddle to chance conversion. Three high profile match-ups saw teams with all the shots fall short to teams with all the goals. Win: Tottenham Clint Dempsey’s goal proved to be the winner in Tottenham’s first victory at Old Trafford since 1989. His side was quick to strike, as Jan Vertonghen gave Spurs the lead just two minutes into play. Gareth Bale doubled the lead in the 32nd minute as the visitors took advantage of a Manchester United side reeling from the early onslaught and struggling to deal with the energy of their opponents. The defining period of the game proved to last just four minutes, as United came out firing in the second half, lifted by the introduction of Wayne Rooney. Goals in the 51st and 53rd minutes looked to spark United into life, but Dempsey’s goal between […]

They say it wins championships

Until the concession of Joleon Lescott’s header off a Manchester City corner this weekend set off a debate surrounding the merits of zonal marking, the primary talking point surrounding Arsenal’s defense just how stingy it’s been early in the new season. Even with that goal, the Gunners have rarely pulled the ball out of their own net this season, and only as the result of goal-keeping errors, the first a wild bobble from Wojciech Szczesny and the second a missed punch from Vito Mannone. That brings their goals allowed to a league low of two, tied with table-toppers Chelsea. So what’s new? Certainly not the players, as three out of the four regularly starting defenders this season are veterans of last year. Much of the credit has gone to new assistant manager Steve Bould, an Arsenal defender himself in his younger days. Under Bould’s guidance, fans at the Emirates have […]

Challengers and Wannabes at the 2012 Olympics

Olympic soccer may not be the pinnacle of competition that it is for other athletes, but it’s still a great showcase for young players and teams looking to lay down a marker before more prestigious competitions. Over the last 16 years, unlikely challengers such as Nigeria, Cameroon and Chile have stood on the medal stand alongside giants like Argentina, Spain and Brazil.  Olympic gold is there for the taking for whichever team wants it the most, so who will it be in London? Team Great Britain – The team that didn’t have to qualify The mash-up of Team Great Britain makes for an interesting story, but a poor team.  Because England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales compete as separate teams in FIFA competitions, Great Britain has passed on Olympic soccer to avoid qualifying confusion for the last 50 years. As hosts, they can put all that aside this year, but they […]

Chelsea’s Coronation: A breakdown of the Penalty Kicks

As Drew noted in his post just a few days ago, The Chelsea Football Club had been in the position they were in Saturday before. It was 2008, and Chelsea’s season and the Champions League title was on the line. The match between The Blues and Manchester United would come down to penalty kicks after 120+ minutes of football. Manchester United would squeeze out the victory and the crown, defeating Chelsea 6-5 in the penalty shootout. Four years later, Chelsea was back in a familiar position, only this time against Bayern Munich. Didier Drogba’s header in the 88th minute proved to be the equalizer and after 30 minutes of extra time, Chelsea found itself back in a penalty shootout for the Champions title. Would Chelsea learn its lesson from 2008? A sinking feeling had to take over The Blues players as Juan Mata’s first attempt in the shootout was saved […]

Less is More: If Chelsea go to penalties again

Chelsea will venture into hostile territory Saturday as they face Bayern Munich in their home Allianz Arena for the elusive Champions League spoils. The Blues have been this close before, much closer in fact, when they took on Manchester United in the 2008 final, a campaign that ended in a disastrous penalty kick exchange. Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski outline the mind games that took place that night brilliantly in Chapter 6 of their book Soccernomics, a chapter appropriately titled “The Economist’s Fear of the Penalty Kick.” Chelsea had been perfectly prepared for the shootout. With the help of outside research they knew individual player behavior (like the fact that if Cristiano Ronaldo paused in his run-up to the ball he tended to shoot to the keeper’s right), as well as their own tendencies (right-footed players usually took their shots to the keeper’s right while left-footed ones would go to […]