AC Cesena: A Love Affair with Mediocrity


Kyle Hulme discusses his new-found love affair with AC Cesena, and the fortunes of Italy’s Serie B…

Life, it could be said, is measured not in monetary wealth, but in the attachments, the bonds and the relationships we forge during out short time on this planet. For it is these bonds that shape us, mould us and help make us the people we are. And, this time last year, I would never have thought I’d form such a bond as I did with a seahorse.

Okay, so not a literal seahorse per se, but a figurative one. AC Cesena, a side who proudly sport a seahorse on their crest, had caught me hook, line and sinker.

Though that wasn’t the first time I’d been aware of their existence. My usual side of preference in Italy – and a side I am still very much affectionate towards – are Juventus, and I witnessed La Vecchia Signora do the double over the plucky minnows from Emilia-Romagna. And all the while, I couldn’t stop thinking about that startled seahorse on their badge. So whilst my beloved Juventus swept all before them and finished unbeaten in the league, I made a conscious decision: Cesena, the team that finished rock-bottom with a mere four victories all season, would be my official Serie B team. Continue reading

What’s next for Marcelo Bielsa? Five jobs for football’s tactical fundamentalist


Greg Johnson rustles up five potential new dug-outs for the man behind “vertical football” to takeover this summer…

Marcelo Bielsa needs a new job. Although cited by Jonathan Wilson as the progenitor to football’s current obsession with ball retention and worshipped as a sort of tactical deity by his fans, he is currently unemployed after parting ways with Athletic Club of Bilbao.

Having masterminded Athletic to two finals last season, losing out as runners-up to Atletico Madrid and Barcelona in the Europa League and Copa Del Rey respectively, this year the man they call El Loco hasn’t fared so well. With the loss of Javi Martinez to Bayern Munich and a distracted Fernando Llorente dropped from the starting line-up, the €40M received from the German champions did little to help plug the gaps left by such vital players due to the club’s Basque-only recruitment policy.

Now the eccentric former Argentina and Chile coach is left searching for a fresh project to work his idiosyncratic ways on, but where can he go?

Too head strong and unpredictable for the Real Madrid hot seat, and too alternative to be short-listed as Ancelotti’s successor at Paris Saint-Germain, he’s a manager whose methods are better suited to open-minded underdogs and sides just outside of the established big club orthodoxy.

Here are five jobs that may interest football’s tactical fundamentalist. Continue reading

“A coat, a coat, my kingdom for a coat!” Reviewing the Ligue 1 Season

Paris Saint-Germain

With the French top-flight set to dominate the headlines this summer, French Football Weekly‘s Chris Luxford-Noyes reviews the Ligue 1 season…

It’s the day after the night before. We now know the winners and losers in this season’s race for glory in Ligue 1.

As forecasted by many pundits, PSG came out top dogs with 83 points, 12 ahead of 2nd placed Olympique Marseille. PSG didn’t have it all their own way thankfully, as the occasional draw here and there, along with a handful of losses – most notably away to Sochaux and Reims – ensured that the title race was kept fairly interesting for those fighting it out at the top. Their slip ups over the course of the season offered up a few small but regular morsels of hope to the chasing pack behind them (and the more casual, neutral observers tuning in to watch).

In the end they achieved exactly what they had expected of themselves, securing a league title and another tilt at the Champions League next season, albeit possibly without Carlo Ancellotti at the helm and question marks over Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s future in Paris.

OM finished runners-up, and although they hadn’t exactly been written off back in August they certainly weren’t expected to do as well as they have done. Early season wobbles had many questioning their resolve. Second behind PSG and a Champions League place? They would have snapped such an offer out of anyone’s hand at the beginning of the season, then again, so would’ve most teams. Since succeeding Didier Deschamps last summer, Elie Baup has done well with the team, guided them into the Champions League, and will likely be rewarded with a contract extension thought to already be in the offing. Rumour has is that Joey Barton has been offered the chance to become a permanent fixture in Marseille, with a 3-year deal on the table if he wants it. With a return to relegated QPR  now even less appealing for the controversial Englishmen it makes sense for him to stay. Barton is enjoying his time at OM and recently told the press, ‘for the first time in my life, I’m very happy, really content’. Continue reading

The 23 Transfer Target Strikers to watch this Summer: from Lewandowski to Andy Carroll


With a host of top clubs on high alert for a new frontman to lead the line, David Dodds looks at the 23 strikers making up the most sought-after shopping list in world football this summer…

This summer is going to be fun. After the failure of last year’s transfer window to deliver the gross manifestations of über-affluence we’ve now come to expect, plenty of clubs will be looking to splash out this summer. One thing this window looks likely to be defined by is the lucrative movement of blockbuster strikers to the titans of contemporary football. And, as always, cash-strapped teams will also be on the prowl for a new man up top.

So here’s a look at some of the men whose painfully-protracted transfer sagas are likely to dominate media narratives this summer: players whose exorbitant transfer fees we’ll either be laughing about or lauding this time next year; cheaper options whose progress is worth keeping an eye on; a crop of youngsters so good they’ll leave you questioning how the striker could have ever been declared dead; and just a jolly good chance to acknowledge the entertainment value of speculation. Whether such media pressure lifts them to the status of icons or causes their careers to crash and burn is another story all together. Continue reading

Champions League Final: Who needs Mario Götze when you’ve got Marco Reus?

Reus Gotze

The news regarding Dortmund’s Bayern-bound wonderkid’s Champions League final lay-off has been overplayed in the pre-match media hype. With Marco Reus, Dortmund have the ideal man to fill the gap both tomorrow night and in the seasons to come argues Scott Jenkins

As news broke of Mario Götze’s injury and likely absence from the all-Bundesliga UEFA Champions League final between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, the sporting media broke out into a typical frenzy. Such a reaction is only natural you may think, after all this match is the highest profile game of the domestic football calendar with the player in question the current golden boy of German football. The subject of a controversial pending €37m summer switch between these two teams, and already hailed as the “German Messi” by Franz Beckenbauer, to casual eyes it seemed as though Dortmund’s most vital player had been snatched away from them even sooner than they had anticipated.

There can be no doubting that losing a player of Götze’s calibre is a loss for Dortmund, but what has been missed are the advantages his accelerated removal from the starting lineup could bring to BVB.

Step forward, Marco Reus.

The high flying, bleach-blond attacking midfielder was brought back to the club by Jürgen Klopp in July 2012 following a pre-contract agreement made during the previous winter break. Originally a product of the Dortmund youth set up, he left for German third division side Rot Weiss Ahlen in search of first team football. The risky move paid off with one of Reus’ goals for the club leading to promotion to the second tier of the Bundesliga on the final day of the season. At the end of the following campaign Borussia Mönchengladbach came calling and Reus’s first goal for them was a highlight reel 50 metre solo run against Mainz 05. Ninety seven games and thirty six goals later, including a run of seven strikes in twelve matches at the start of the 2011/12 season, Dortmund beckoned once more after meeting the €18m fee required to buy-out his contract. Continue reading

Premier League 2012-13: A Season of Sorrow, Part 2 – Unequivocal Misery


In part two of his dissection of this season’s Premier League woes, James Dutton looks at the bottom half of the final table…

If the top-of-the-table is defined by a mixture of disappointment and regret, then the bottom-half can be viewed simply in terms of unequivocal misery.

All teams below 10th finished with under 44 points, which is an extraordinarily low figure. It doesn’t signify a feisty, competitive mini-league, but rather a large pool of potential relegation fodder.

It remains a great shame that only three of them could go down. Continue reading

Premier League 2012-13: A Season of Sorrow, Part 1 – Shades of Grey


Finally the Premier League has put us out of our misery and decided to end the season. There’s been little excitement and little to remember, James Dutton wonders what the hell happened, and whether anyone can be happy about this…

The 2012-13 Premier League season has undoubtedly been a damp squib.

The exceptional events of a year ago seem to have hoarded all the drama and intrigue the Premier League can provide.

For the first time since 2006 there was nothing meaningful to decide at either end of the table – save another “epic” battle between Tottenham and Arsenal for fourth, with the wretched Reading and QPR the worst of a particularly sorry bunch of bottom-half sides this year.

It’s been a season defined by regression; the first time since 1996 there has been no English team in the quarter finals of the Champions League, an artificially dramatic “Fight for Fourth” and a title race that was, for all intents and purposes, sewn up before Christmas.

Misery reigns from top to bottom.

Are there any teams in the Premier League that can argue to have had a good season, be content with what they have achieved, or how far they have progressed, since August? Continue reading