Best weekly football writing, Sept. 25 - Oct. 1 / by Justin Salhani

 Shout it from the mountain tops, Sheva!

Shout it from the mountain tops, Sheva!

Each week, Guerrilla Magazine’s EIC, Justin Salhani, will bring you links to the best writing about football from around the internet.

To Hull and Back
Tom Williams, Bleacher Report

Hatem Ben Arfa is a player who seemingly keeps his cards close to his chest. This illuminating piece portrays Ben Arfa as a driven but misunderstood player. “It's the least you expect, for someone to run around, and the most frustrating thing for us was that you could see the ability that he had,” Hull center half James Chester said in 2015, as quoted here. Such quotes illustrate that Hull was a square hole and Ben Arfa didn’t fit -- not because he’s a round peg, but because he’s a 3-D jigsaw puzzle piece crafted by Pablo Picasso.

A player with talent arguably only surpassed by one Messi, Lionel, he’s struggled to hit the career heights piqued for him while a prodigious youth. His time at Hull was the low point of his career, despite starting brightly. But it eventually led to his resurgence at Nice and his current struggles at PSG, where Unai Emery looks disinterested in giving him the same playing freedom he was granted under Claude Puel.

Francesco Totti at 40
Sam Diss, Mundial Mag (republished on Squawka)

It was tough to choose between odes to Il Re di Roma, but this one was the best. Few quotes better sum up the arrogant brilliance of Totti better than what he told his teammates before scoring a penalty against Edwin Van der Sar in Euro 2000. “Totti turned to his teammates and calmly said ‘Mo je faccio er cucchiaio’. The line later became the title of his autobiography: ‘I’m going to chip him now’.”

I remember the first time I saw Totti play. It was the Euro 2000 final against France and he strutted around the pitch like a regal peacock. I immediately hated him. But that hate turned to admiration as he became one of the best players of his generation. And despite coming close to joining Real Madrid at one point in his career, he never left the city that made him. “Everyone who has kicked Francesco Totti will die,” Diss writes, “but he will remain the Eternal Player in the Eternal City.”

Pescara must turn good performances into good results in order to stay up
Dave Selini, Running the Show

Pescara is new to Serie A and they’re expected to make waves after emerging from Serie B with a sparkling reputation.

“In Serie B they spoke of a Barcelona-like Pescara, of tiki-taka,” manager and former Italy right back Massimo Oddo said. “But my priority are vertical balls, not possession. My models are Sassuolo and Napoli, who can execute that best.”

Oddo’s comments (though they are translated from an interview in La Gazzetta Dello Sport) on how he wants Pescara to play are the highlight of this piece. “When we’ve got the ball, I want an organised chaos. We must be as unpredictable as possible, never static. We must be thinking by ourselves. And we need quality runs, because it’s important to pace ourselves.”

El científico que controla el sueño, la dieta y las lecturas en el Dortmund
Jaime Rodríguez, El Mundo

For the Spanish speakers, we have a piece on the holistic coaching approach of the hipster’s favorite coach, Borussia Dortmund’s Thomas Tuchel. The German coach’s intricate attention to detail (going as far as to monitoring sleep temperature) and variation in training (including having his players experiment with different sports) is blazing a new trail in the world of football.

Moving Analytics from Moneyball into Football
Matthew Stanger, The Set Pieces

Despite the persecution of football data analysts by proper football men (we’re looking at you, Craig Burley), it’s hard to travail the backrooms of a major European club without finding them. This is an interview with Bill Gerrard, a data analyst at AZ Alkmaar, a professor of business and sports analytics at Leeds University, and a former colleague of Billy Beane at the Oakland A’s (of Moneyball fame, you know that Brad Pitt baseball movie you didn’t see cause you were too busy not watching sports that aren’t football). In it, he provides some insights about the use of data in football and how it is the practice of “using all the evidence and the data to try and compensate for that resource gap and not just relying on gut feeling. It’s forcing people to justify their decisions and their recommendations.”

Some of us grew up under the beration of proper football men whose tough attitude (often paired with an accent acquired from formative years spent on the British Isle) gave us all the analysis we thought we needed (“run harder”, “work harder”, “kick...harder”). Those days are coming to an end. Gerrard says, “the players now are the ‘Prozone generation’, so when they go into coaching they’ll have spent their entire playing career having their data tracked and analysed.” Welcome to the future, on the right, you’ll see Thomas Tuchel reading lullabies in a temperature controlled chamber locked at 19 degrees Celsius.

Jonathan Wilson and Joe Devine, Tactics Explained

In Gegenpressing, the author of football books, including Behind the Curtain and Inverting the Pyramid, explains the pressing tactic made popular by Jurgen Klopp in a three and a half minute video. The tactic is broken down by illustrations showing clear and simple tactical diagrams, and gives insights (such as Klopp’s version of the pressing tactic as opposed to Guardiola’s and how LVG targeted Spurs’ Danny Rose because he’s bad at having the ball).

Other links:

  • A profile on Leicester City’s Nigerian forward Ahmed Musa
  • reakdown of why Tottenham signed Georges-Kevin N’Koudou (answer: he runs a lot)
  • An interview with Arsene Wenger’s brother to celebrate 20 years of Le Prof at L’Arsenal
  • Robert Pires gave an interview with L’Equipe about being substituted in the 2006 Champions League Final (translated to English here)
  • Remember Daniel Amokachi? He’s coaching in Finland...for free.