Cultured Football #129
Innovative Defensive Techniques. Ajax Crisis. Napoli Own Goal. St Pauli Take On Agents. Girona's Surprise Start
By Kevin Martin by Total Football Analysis
Some tactical changes tend to be easy to pick up, others more subtle. This falls into the latter; the way that defenders position themselves when they are facing shots from outside the penalty area. A bit academic but fascinating insight that will have you watching games differently.
Bonus pick: Paris St Germain lost Lionel Messi and Neymar in the summer yet they have not been impacted negatively. If anything, things are getting better. Why?
By Matt O'Connor-Simpson for Goal
With the club languishing close to the relegation zone and fans rioting after a humiliating home loss to bitter rivals, this is arguably Ajax’s worst crisis in the club’s modern history. For a side that has always needed to be clever to succeed, this all stems from a number of stupid decisions and actions.
By Mayowa Quadri for Versus
Speaking of clubs shooting themselves in the foot, Napoli’s treatment of Victor Osimhen is exceptionally moronic. For any official account to release a TikTok video openly mocking any player is extraordinary; to do so for your star striker flabbergasting especially when you fail to properly apologise. Underlying all of this is perhaps the feeling within clubs that some players should be grateful that they’ve been allowed to make a name for themselves.
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By Matt Ford for DW
On the face of it, this is not much of a story. St Pauli, everyone’s favourite counter-culture club, has decided against dealing with intermediaries when it come to young footballers to avoid their exploitation. Sounds very typical of them. Yet as with most things that St Pauli tackle, this highlights a very serious problem: the industrialisation of youth football where hopes are inflated despite terrible odds and players treated as cattle.
The sight of Girona - a regional club a little over a decade back and in only their fourth season in the Primera Liga - fighting it out at the top of the Spanish league should be a heartwarming one; a tale of an underdog biting away at the heels of the giants. Yet with Girona being part of the City Football Group (as well as Pere Guardiola), there is more than meets the eye here. Even so, it is hard not to appreciate some of the stories of the players who have delivered this early season rush or that of a manager who was previously been seen as a promotions specialist.
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Last Week’s Most Read: 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.