Cultured Football #112
Xavi. Altona. Arne Slot. Martin Ødegaard. Under 20 World Cup.
Welcome to Cultured Football where the best football writing of the past seven days is carefully selected, just for you.
By Matias Grez for CNN
Barcelona won the La Liga title for the first time in four years after a turbulent period and despite an uncertain future. What's most surprising, however, is that Xavi's team is set to break the record for fewest goals conceded in a season thanks to a more defensive approach to overcome the team's inexperience and lack of identity.
By Alex Wilson for Kult
As the current season winds down, like most fans I’m already looking at the next one. Specifically, I want to take in some German football in person next season. Pieces like this that describe the magic of a trip to see Altona further fuel that dream.
By Neil Fredrik Jensen for Game of the People
If Napoli’s success in the Serie A was one of Europe’s most surprising triumphs, that of Feyenoord in Holland isn’t far behind. Much of the merit for this goes to manager Arne Slot who, in doing so, has become one of most in-demand coaches.
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By Ali Tweedale for The Analyst
From his early teens, Martin Odegaard was spoken of as a future star, with one former coach comparing him to Lionel Messi and David Silva. His initial impact with professional football, however, was harsh and he looked set to become another child prodigy who failed to fulfill his potential. Yet that not how his story has turned out and Odegaard has been able to overcome setbacks in his career to become one of the most complete midfielders in the Premier League thanks also to a tactical switch by his current manager.
By Will Unwin for the Guardian
The U20 World Cup kicks off this weekend, a competition interesting largely because it should signal the emergence of some future stars. And, plenty of interesting stories. Like that of the Japanese full-back who grew up in Catalonia and could have represented either Argentina or Spain.
Something Else We Loved This Week
Union Berlin are on the verge of qualifying for the Champions League. And yet, their fans are - rightly - not getting lost in this wonderful moment their club is living through but using the platform that they have to protest against the DFB’s proposed search for more money to commercialise the league (whilst also having a dig at their city rivals). The banners raised at their recent game go “if remaining competitive means losing your values, then we’ll do without - and if you don’t get that, you can go to Hertha!”
Photo by Uersfeld. Story picked off Twitter via Matt Ford. More details of DFB plans and why fans are protesting here.
Last Week’s Most Read (Tied): Plymouth Argyle’s promotion to the Championship is a tale of bad luck, hard work and two owners
By Daniel Storey for iNews
Plymouth Argyle have just won League One with a massive 101 point. Significantly they did so without an owner bankrolling them to success. Theirs is one of the great story from this season that everyone should know more about.
Last Week’s Most Read (Tied): AZ Alkmaar use BrainsFirst test to identify best young talent and it has helped them win UEFA Youth League
By Adam Bate of SkySports
Surprisingly, AZ Alkmaar won this year's UEFA Youth League by scoring 19 goals and conceding only twice in the knockout stages to thus announce themselves as one of Europe’s best academies. This success is due to their process of establishing which players they invest time in, which is based on a decade of studying the brains of players as young as 12 to understand their potential. For them, the idea of being able to predict future performance is not a dream but an ambition.