Cultured Football #128
Avoiding Relegation. Goalkeeper Rotation. The Two Joãos. Union Berlin Fairytale. Moneyball Milan.
This is Cultured Football, where the best football writing of the past seven days is carefully selected, just for you.
By Will Rickson for Sky Sport
What does it take to avoid relegation? What do the numbers say? Some interesting things, actually. Such as this: having a regular goalscorer is not as much of an asset in a relegation battle as you might think.
By David Preece for iNews
Conventional football wisdom has it that you do not sow uncertainty over who your main goalkeeper is; that it is important for your central defenders to build an understanding with the person in goal. Much such conventional football wisdom has been challenged and overturned in recent years but, still, Mikel Arteta's decision to rotate his goalkeepers feels unnatural. It will certainly be interesting to see if this experiment provokes another shift in the game or if, for once, conventional ideas will be justified.
By Robbie Dunne for The Analyst
Both João Felix and João Cancelo joined Barcelona with points to prove, albeit to different degrees. Both are shaping the continued evolution of their new club whilst confirming their worth in the process.
Bonus Pick: Typically don’t like choosing two articles from the same outlet but it would be a pity not to mention this analysis of Preston North End, the unexpected early leaders of the Championship.
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From ‘unpromotable’ to the Champions League: Union Berlin fairytale is perfect antidote to modern football
If your heart doesn’t sing with joy at seeing Union Berlin in the Champions League, then I’m not sure what will. Theirs has been an exhilarating rise; the kind that gives faith to fans everywhere, regardless of how poorly their club might be doing. In a game that is increasingly dominated by those with money, stories like those of Union Berlin are the ones that truly matter.
Bonus pick: Kevin Behrens spent most of his career playing in the German lower leagues before Union Berlin took a chance on him just as he turned thirty. His, like that of his club, is a wonderful story of success against all odds.
Can 'Moneyball' Milan succeed in the Champions League - or is the American owners' data-based approach 'destined to fail'?
By Mark Doyle for Goal
When AC Milan announced the firing of club legend Paolo Maldini as technical director, it caused shockwaves throughout Europe. Yet, for the owner of the team Gerry Cardinale, it was a necessary move for the club to truly adopt Moneyball approach to football, using in-depth data (among others) to identify the value of players. Hardly surprising given the involvement of the father of Moneyball - Billy Beane - in the ownership group.
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Last Week’s Most Read: Xabi Alonso Has Created a Bayer Leverkusen Team That Can Challenge Bayern
By Christian Schmidt for The Analyst
A highly entertaining 2-2 draw away at Bayern Munich confirmed that Xabi Alonso's Bayer Leverkusen are the real thing. Not only is there talent all through the side but there is also the kind of determination to succeed that marks them out as dangerous rivals for the Bundesliga title.