Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Two different worlds: The Premier League and the Football League

 In his debut article for The Football Front, Olly Howells takes a look at the difference in finance between the Football League and the Premier League.

 So, how much is the difference between the clubs who play their trade in the top flight of the footballing pyramid and those who endeavour to join them? What’s the difference between earning success in the Premier League and in the basement leagues of English football? How do football league clubs spend whatever money they have on progressing as a club compared to the footballing elite? I look into how different the running of clubs is between clubs from every division of league football.


Prize money is probably the most understandable way that Premier League clubs earn more money than lower league sides. With an estimated £800,000 given for each place, the winner of the Barclays Premier League scoops an impressive £16,000,000 to go with their title as champions of England. This is compared to the winner of the Championship, just one tier below, where the winner only takes £50,000 in prize money. This is then dropped to just £25,000 in League 1, and an estimated £26,000 in League 2. Then there’s qualification to continental competitions such as the Champions League to add to the equation, a competition where clubs receive roughly £15.7m television rights for competing, with prize money of £7.8m on offer to the winner. 

Television rights bring in millions of pounds to the top clubs in English football, everyone knows that, but how much so? Premier League winners Manchester City received a staggering £60,602,289 for television rights in the 2011/12 season, and this was only for the Premier League, not including the UEFA Champions League, FA Cup or Carling Cup (now Capital One Cup). The lowest earners in terms of TV revenue in the premier league were Wolverhampton Wanderers, but don’t despair for them too much, as they still received an incredible £39,084,461. There is no sign of these figures shrinking either, with Sky Sports and BT recently paying £3.018 billion for the right to televise top flight English football for the next 3 years, over £1 billion a season. Compare this with the bottom of the football league ladder, where teams are not paid the cursory £32.5m to each club such as with the premier league, but on a game-to-game basis, and with a far smaller sum of money, rarely breaking the £100,000 barrier. 

Sponsorships obviously vary from club to club, as well as league to league, but in the 2009/10 season, Manchester United were receiving over £14m a year from their shirt sponsors AIG, a figure which will have only risen when United signed a deal with current shirt sponsors, insurance company Aon. My club Oxford United are sponsored by another insurance company, Bridle Insurance, and are extremely unlikely to be receiving a penny over £100k a year for this deal, although as details are kept much more under wraps than in the higher levels of the game this figure cannot be confirmed. This is also likely to be one of the most lucrative shirt sponsorship deals in League 2, due to Oxford having one of the largest fanbases in the league.  
These are the three main sources of income to football clubs in the English football league, but the most important part of running a club successfully is how this money is reinvested into the club, whether that be behind the scenes or in the playing staff, a decision usually varied by what division the clubs are in due to financial similarities. 

Premier League clubs have a clear tendency to spend the majority of their income on new personnel on the pitch, with a staggering £508m spent on players in the 2011/12 season, an average of £25.4m per team. This appears to be a recipe for success in the top flight, with the highest spenders of the season Manchester City, who splashed out over £76m on players, coming out victorious, and the three relegated sides were all in the bottom half of the table in terms of spending. This spending extends into the wages of these players, with City players receiving an average of £4,486,580 each a year. Players for one of last seasons relegated sides, Bolton Wanderers, averaged a salary of over £1.4m a year, a figure that would be larger than the entire playing budget for a majority of League 2 sides, and even a few League 1 sides. 

Championship sides have a different dilemma, due to the dramatically different financial situations of the clubs in the second tier. With a much smaller amount of money brought into these clubs through television rights and sponsorships, finances are a much more pressing issue to these clubs; especially while clubs outside of the top division seem to be punished more severely for financial frailty. Premier League giants Manchester United are said to be in over £423m worth of debt without punishment, while clubs such as Chester City (formerly of the Football Conference, now Blue Square Bet Premier), were forced into liquidation due to a debt of just £26,125. The obvious example of repercussions of poor financial control is Portsmouth FC, who currently have just 17 players on their books after the club narrowly avoided liquidation themselves, after poor running of the club caused the club to enter administration for the second time in three years, with the club in around £58m of debt. This may seem like an outrageously high figure of debt, but compared to the £423m of debt that Manchester United find themselves in, while still being allowed to remain active in the transfer market, it seems ludicrous that Pompey should suffer so heavily while United remain unpunished. 

These are all reasons why Championship sides have to find a successful balance between investing money into playing and backroom staff, upgrading facilities and keeping their club running smoothly; more so than Premier League clubs. 

League 1 & League 2 clubs have to run even more carefully, with even smaller financial losses leading to equally severe consequences. In the ‘basement divisions’, money often isn’t enough to guarantee promotion or titles, where as we all know how far money will get you at the top level. Swindon Town’s recent success in League 2 does appear to completely disprove my point, with their playing budget for their promotion season rumoured to be an extortionate £3.4m, more than three times the average playing budget in League 2 of roughly £1.1m. This has not often been a recipe for success in the lower divisions though, and is an extremely risky tactic: with wage caps kicking in in a clubs second season in the division, failure to earn promotion will lead to serious consequences, with a majority of clubs best players forced to leave clubs in order to keep wages below wage caps. Rotherham United are looking to emulate Swindon this season, with their playing budget rumoured to be £2.6m, but will find it hard going against the likes of Gillingham and Port Vale, even with far less money being pumped into their playing squads.

Sides in League 1 & 2 often decide to invest more in behind the scenes details than blow their budgets on players’ wages, none more so than Crewe Alexandra, who use the youth academy at the club to keep the club running smoothly through the sales of bright prospects to bigger clubs, and bringing players into their first team from the academy, run by Dario Gradi. When Crewe won promotion to League 1 at Wembley in May, an incredible 9 of the starting 11 Crewe players were products of this fantastically run set-up. Players that have come through the Crewe academy include former England international Dean Ashton, Fulham legend Danny Murphy, current Celtic manager and former Leicester City and Celtic star Neil Lennon, former Wales international Robbie Savage and current Manchester City assistant manager David Platt, who went on to make 62 appearances for England after coming through the youth set-up at Gresty Road. The most recent player to come from this set-up is current Manchester United player Nick Powell, who Crewe sold for £4,000,000 at the age of just 18, after he had an impressive first season and a half with Crewe, including scoring an incredible goal in the play-off final in his last appearance for Alexandra. In recent years they have also sold current West Ham forward Nicky Maynard for £2.25m when he was just 21 and Leeds forward Luke Varney to Charlton Athletic for £2m after he came through this outstanding system. 

Another thing that lower league clubs do to spend money wisely is work on players that the clubs already have, with many clubs boasting strength and conditioning coaches, whose job is purely to get the current squad into the best condition possible. Again returning to my team, Oxford United have made a huge indent into their cash flow in this area, with new chairman Ian Lenagan spending £150,000 on fitness and conditioning. This may seem like a relatively low figure to a top flight club, but in the basement divisions this is an incredible amount of money to be pumping money into one aspect of a club. 

The route to success in English football really does differentiate from division to division, severely so when you compare any league to the Premier League. To summarise, League 1 & 2 have to be run more like businesses, trying to improve while still desperately trying to break even with a minimal income, where as Premier League clubs have to look to reinvest their outrageously high income into their club in a way that allows them to improve as a team, but breaking even is not such a high priority for many clubs, with external investment a regular occurrence for the majority of these sides. The Championship is probably the most difficult division for clubs to operate in, with boardroom staff having to try their hardest to find a successful balance between the two, or end up risking their clubs long-term future if they are unsuccessful. 

I’ve barely scratched the surface of this topic, largely due to clubs outside of the top flight keeping the large majority of their financial details under wraps, making it extremely difficult to compare clubs throughout all of the divisions in depth, but I hope I’ve been able to open your eyes to how clubs strive for success differently throughout the English footballing ladder. 

You can follow and talk to Olly about his article on his twitter: @ollyhowells

Monday, 27 August 2012

Football Tweets of the week 27/08

We haven't done this in a while, but here are our 10 funniest football tweets of this week! (In no order too!)

1.) Joins Man United. Stops loving kids and wife.-  @

2.)   This is brilliant: -

 3.) According to , Man United have bought Arsenal for £24m...
4.) Oh Steven, I love you man -

 5.) Ever wondered what Gary Neville gets up to with his big pen during the game? - @

 6.)  What!? -

  7.) Players who can make a goal from nothing...: @FootballFunnys

  8.) 98 - Barca's away kit looking suspiciously like some of the kits you would design for your FIFA98 custom team. Monstrosity- @OptaParody

9.) This is brilliant! - @Gerrard8FanPage

10.) How does this even happen? Someone needs to have a word with the #mufc kitman. - @

Be sure to follow all these guys on Twitter, you can follow us at @ReviewFootball

See last weeks funny tweets here  

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Arsenal Question and Answer with Luke of Only One Arsenal

Today, The Football Front talks to Luke of Only One Arsenal and Arsenal RT's. 

Thanks for coming on, My first question to you is, what did you make of Arsenal’s season? Did you view it as a success or as a failure?                  

It was a successful failure. Another year without a trophy can not be called success, however after losing both Nasri and Fabregas, and the incredibly bad start to the season, to finish 3rd, above Tottenham, is a good achievement. 

Did you find any player making significant strides of progression last season at Arsenal?

Koscielny, during his first season at Arsenal (10/11) you could see he had talent, but was quite prone to mistakes. However last season he established himself as our best CB and one of the best in the Premier League.

There have been quite a few break through players for Arsenal players, but has there been any Arsenal player who has perhaps disappointed you?

Chamakh, Park Chu Young, Ramsey and Gervinho.

Chamakh is no doubt a good striker, but whenever he played you knew he wouldn't score and I think he knew that as well. We saw little of Park Chu Young, He didn't really have any time to impress or disappoint, but it would of been nice to see more of him. Ramsey is still young; and after that horrific injury plus losing his mentor, Gary Speed who made him the Wales captain, I think some fans expect too much. Gervinho was frustrating to watch, great build up play, but a blind postman could deliver more than he did, he lacked the end product, saying that it was his first season in England and had the ACON, hopefully he will settle more this season.

Jack Wilshere was of course injured all of last season, should Arsenal and England fans be extra concerned by this? Should we be worried that injuries will effect his progression not only now, but later on in his career?

I'm no injury expert, but the fact Wilshere injury was only meant to be 'a few days or weeks' at the start isn't healthy. I think Jack was thrown in at the deep end both for Arsenal and England, I can't see him playing before the new year. Hopefully the club will be cautious, and the FA may not call him to every England game, this should mean once he is back, he's back for good.   
What are your thoughts on the new Arsenal signings?

All 3 signings offer new options.

Cazorla offers something we haven't had since Fabregas left, someone who can open up defences, and is a real playmaker, he is all a marquee signing, after been touted as the best player outside Madrid and Barcelona in Spain.

Podolski looks set to play LW, which will offer a new option, people have unfairly judged him on the Euro's. I hope to see him played centrally as well, as I think he would thrive there.

I haven't seen much of Giroud but he looks to be a good signing, whether he was brought to replace Van Persie, we do not know, we shall soon find out! 

Seeing Arsenal have sold Robin Van Persie, do you feel Arsenal need to be active in the market for another striker?

Yes, I feel Giroud could already of been brought to replace Robin, in that case we need a replacement for Giroud, as I don't think Park or Chamakh are up to it.

Finally, something that bugs fans of other clubs, is Arsenal fans seem to hold a strong negative feeling towards Ashley Cole and Samir Nasri, do you feel the Arsenal fans are right to feel that strongly about it?

Let's start by saying we are not the only team who hold strong  feelings against former players, the other fans that this 'bugs' probably hold grudges against footballers like Arsenal fans do, so it is hypocritical to single out Arsenal fans. 

Ashley Cole was part of the invincible’s and was a Gooner born and bread, he has gone on to be more successful, Despite having a bitter feeling at the time, since I have decided it is best for everyone to move on (including Cole himself.) 

Regarding Nasri, it's not the move which annoys me, it's more the disrespectful comments he has made about Arsenal since, he is clearly big headed and thinks he is above everyone else, this was proven at the Euro's after insulting French Journo's. I feel that every time Arsenal fans move on, Nasri will come out and say something about Arsenal himself.  

What was your favourite moment of the Premier League season?

Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham, the game changed the season for us and Tottenham. It was also hilarious to see the cocky Tottenham fans turn up in the 'Mind the Gap' T-Shirts, and the rest is history. 

Off the field it was nice to see fans and players of all clubs to rally round after the Fabrice Muamba incident. 

Your darkest moment of last season?

Losing 8-2 to Man Utd. Dark, Dark days, also during Arsenal 1- 2 Man Utd when the crowd turned on Arsene like never before, replacing Chamerlain with Arshavin, I was there and at the moment I just wanted to leave, most fans still trust Arsene Wenger, I think most fans were just questioning that substitution but I am against booing our own players all together 

 The One word answer section

So in this section, you can only pick one word to respond with

1.)   Messi or Ronaldo


2.)   Tottenham or Man United

3.)  Ozil or Pirlo

Ummm... Pirlo

4.)  Chelsea or Man City

Man City 

5.)   Adebayor or Nasri

The Idiot (Both) 

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to do this Q&A

This interview took place on 14th of August 2012. 

You can follow Luke on Twitter at @Arsenal_RT's + @OnlyOneArsenal

Monday, 20 August 2012

Liverpool Question and Answer with Jack Widnell

Hi Jack, cheers for taking the time to answer our questions for The Football Front.

So Jack, what did you make of Liverpool’s season?

Obviously last season was fairly disappointing, but the Carling Cup was nice to win and to come so close in the FA Cup was disappointing, but also slightly encouraging. Ultimately it was disappointing for Dalglish and I’m looking forward to seeing Brendan Rodgers in charge.

Why do you think Liverpool struggled in the second half of last season?

Liverpool’s form at Anfield last season was shocking. To think Blackburn had more wins at home than Liverpool last season when they were relegated is embarrassing. But it wasn’t poor performances. In my opinion it was complacency. Luis Suárez already said that at half-time and 1-0/0-0 in some games, the team thought the job was done and often ended up drawing. So I blame complacency, and there’s no excuse for that.

Through Twitter, everyone is pretty aware that you love Lucas Levia! Do you feel his injury demonstrated just how important he is to the Liverpool side?
 Really? Is it that obvious that I like Lucas? In all seriousness though, definitely. Liverpool had the best defence in the Premier League along with City until Lucas got injured. There were also ridiculous gaps between the midfield and defence exploited when Jay Spearing played. It’s good to see Lucas back though and I can’t wait for this season.

And would agree, Liverpool and other fans now see Lucas as one of the best defensive midfielders in the world?

Most certainly. There are some very, very good, underrated defensive midfielders in the Premier League. Most notably Alex Song and Lucas, but Lucas has definitely established himself as one of the leading defensive midfielders in the game.

Besides Lucas, which player impressed you last season at Liverpool?

Martin Skrtel. I always knew he was a good player, but he was extremely consistent and formed a solid partnership with Daniel Agger. Very deserving of the Fans’ Player of the Year award.

The Reds spent massively last summer and in January 2011, do you feel the weight of expectations on these expensive signings took their toll on the players?

Almost definitely. I think the pressure weighed Jordan Henderson down in particular. He lacked a lot of confidence last season. Despite costing £35m, I feel it was less-so with Andy Carroll. Everything he did though was reflected upon his price tag and I think that took away a lot of the positive contributions he made, sadly.

Stewart Downing was one of the most criticised players last season, do you feel he will ever succeed and win over the fans at Liverpool?

I think he can succeed. He had a very positive pre-season and has been known as a ‘second-season’ player throughout his career. He can most certainly be effective and quite often last season the lack of assists were not his fault. Carroll and Suárez were very poor when it came to finishing chances.

It seems, poor results, poor transfers and poor media handling cost Kenny Dalglish his job at Liverpool. Did you see the dismissal coming? Did you think it was right?

I said in March that he was going to be sacked, funnily enough! I did want Dalglish to keep his job, but he had a poor season. In hindsight now we have Brendan Rodgers, I think it was right for Dalglish to go before his reputation was damaged. He’ll forever be a Liverpool legend, but it just wasn’t meant to be this time around.

The Luis Suarez saga was a huge event in the Liverpool season, do you think the conflict has damaged Liverpool Football Club?

I don’t think it’s damaged the football club itself, but it has picked up a name for itself. Some people like to label Liverpool a ‘racist club’ now, but that will soon disappear. People will forget and move on. I just hope it’s sooner rather than later.

Brendan Rodgers has just come in at Liverpool, what were your initial thoughts before he was appointed? Did you want him? Or did you rate him?

I won’t lie, I wanted Rafa Benitez or André Villas-Boas and I was originally a bit underwhelmed when I saw Brendan Rodgers was set to be appointed. I thought he did a magnificent job at Swansea, but I was a little sceptical. But as I began to read about him and listen to what he had to say, I was looking forward to seeing what he could do.

Now Rodgers has been in charge for a month or so, has he impressed you?

I don’t think he’s done anything but impress anyone. Even the most sceptical of Liverpool fans I’ve spoken to have been impressed with Rodgers. But he has to take his talking to the pitch, that’s ultimately where he’ll be judged. I hope he does do well as he seems a perfect fit for the club.

Has the signing of Borini pleased you?
Yes. He’s young, he looks confident, knows Brendan Rodgers’s style and ultimately he can score. Liverpool really struggled in front of goal last season, so hopefully he can help sort that out.

In terms of expectations, what do you expect from Liverpool next season? Where do you think they will finish in the table?

I’m expecting an improvement from last season, most definitely. I’d hope that Liverpool can challenge for the Champions League places, and also try and pip Newcastle and Spurs. People need to keep their expectations realistic. The last three seasons we have finished 7th, 6th and 8th. So it would be silly to demand a fourth placed finish when there are at least four teams who have better squads than us and have spent more too. City, Chelsea, United and Arsenal will be very, very difficult to catch next season, but if we have a good start to the league, who knows? People were tipping Newcastle for relegation last season and they finished 6th. I have a lot of faith in Brendan Rodgers, but I’ll take it as it comes.

As you know, Liverpool have the Europa League to contend with next season, do you feel the Europa is an unwanted distraction for The Reds?

Across Europe, the Europa League is a very reputable competition, it’s only really in England that it’s labelled as a distraction. I think Liverpool will take it very seriously. We have, or should have, plenty of options available for rotation and resting players, so I’m hoping we can do well in it.

If you were the Liverpool manager, what positions and (realistic players) do you think LFC need to fill?

Well if Liverpool sign Cristian Tello, Nuri Sahin and Clint Dempsey, as well as replacing Andy Carroll should he leave, I feel we would have had a very successful summer.

Finally, how long do you think Brendan Rodgers needs to prove and fully implement his style at Liverpool?

I think we’ll start seeing his piece come together around November, but I doubt it’ll be until next season that he’s been able to implement his style.

General Questions

Right, to finish off, here are some random yet trivial questions for you Jack.

If you could work shadow one player for a week, who would you shadow? (and why).
Lucas. I’d like to see him train and how he is in real life. He seems a very nice, positive character and it’s proven that he has a brilliant mentality. Either Lucas or Mario Balotelli.

If you were a referee, which player would you take the most satisfaction in sending off?

Wayne Rooney. No question.

Name your ultimate 5 a-side dream team, can be players from present or past.
I’ll choose players in the present - Casillas; Yaya Touré, Fabregas, Messi, Silva.

You’re at a dinner party, you can invite two footballers, one manager and one wag, who would you pick?

Lucas, Luis Suárez, Brendan Rodgers and whatever Sergio Ramos’s girlfriend is called. She’s unreal!

This question and answer session took place on the 27th of July, 2012.

You can follow Jack on Twitter: @jwidnell

Monday, 13 August 2012

Video: Tony Hibbert scores first goal for Everton and it causes a riot

Tony Hibbert, Everton's loyal one club player. He is a player who has played for the club for over 10 years, but sadly, Hibbert has never been blessed with finishing prowess, so when he scored in his testimonial, Goodison Park went crazy!

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Do Barcelona need Alex Song?

Tom Moseley questions if Barcelona need Alex Song.

Alex Song had a great season for Arsenal last year, you can't really deny that. He can still improve, as I still feel he can be sloppy on the ball and be a bit lazy when getting back, but no one's perfect, right? You should credit where credit is due, and Alex Song deserves credit, he was a key player for Arsenal last year, which is a good thing, until rumours start circulating. One of the main transfer rumours, behind the on-going sagas of Van Persie and Luka Modric, is the rumour that Barcelona want Alex Song, want him they might, but do they need him?

Lets think about who Barcelona currently have occupying their midfield, some of the best midfielder in the world, no question about it. Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas, Busquets and Javier Mascherano, who has recently signed a new deal at the club, now, that's some line-up, would Alex Song really fit in?

I personally think he would, I'm not saying he's a guaranteed starter, but I think the club may see Macherano as more of a centre-back/sweeper now, as last season he made 38 appearnces at centre-back compared to 2 in midfield. Then I think they also prefer to push Fabregas and Iniesta forward into more attacking roles, which again you can see as Fabregas spent only 11 of his 33 games last season in centre-midfield and Iniesta spent 16 of his 35 games there, which only leaves Xavi as the primary centre-midfielder, with Busqets operating deeper. So, he would get games, not as much as he would at Arsenal, but he would get games.

Now, lets move on to the player in question, Alex Song. He should certainly fit into the Barcelona style of play, as it's not too different to how Arsenal play, with the emphasis on possession and 'keeping the ball on the deck'. Which, as we saw from Song last season, he can do, with an average 60 passes per game last season, in all competitions, and a pass success of 83.8%, which could be better,  but then his frequent attempts at 'Hollywood Passes' could be partly to blame for it being relativey low. However, you can complain about his Hollywood Passes being a waste of possession when something simpler was on (like I do) or you can think they were also extremely valuable to his team, as he seemed to have good chemistry with Van Persie, with the two always on the same wavelength, leading to some great goals by Van Persie, because of Songs exquisite passes. He got 11 assists in 34 games last season for Arsenal, a great record, providing the bit of creativity they needed after Fabregas' departure last year. He also finished the season with the most accurate through balls per game, with 0.7, a great achievement, as he despite being more advance than previous years, he is still playing a much more conservative position to someone like David Silva, who finished in 2nd place. Along side this, he also finished with 1.4 key passes per game, another great feat for a more defensive midfielder.

However, I don't think it should be all praise for the Cameroon international. Defensively, stat-wise, he is pretty great, with 2.9 tackles per game and 1.9 interceptions per game, however, I do think he could improve a lot. I think he gives away the ball too easily, with what looks like half hearted passes, or he doesn't track back (quick?) enough, leading to gaps in the Arsenal midfield. If he didn't have the disciplined Arteta next to him, they would have been punished a lot more times than they were and I can't see them being too happy with this at Barcelona, as there is quite a lot of emphasis on the high-pressing, so he couldn't get caught out doing this. However, you could turn that on its head and say he would be more disciplined with a more creative player next to him, like he was with Fabregas. So, I do feel there are aspects of his game that need improving, but they're not things to do with ability, more mentality, which can be better.

What would it mean to Arsenal if he left? I've seen lots of tweets from Arsenal fans on my timeline about this rumour over the past week or so, and the reactions don't seem to be very mixed! The majority of fans don't want him to leave, they think it would be taking a backwards step, even after signing Cazorla. Then, a few others say cash in, he's replaceable. I personally am on the fence. I think he is important, and it wouldn't be great to sell one of your key-players, especially to a team who you want to be competing with. However, I do think he's replaceable, because he does have his faults, so they could cash in, sign someone else and do just as well. It's a tough one, I think it's less about him leaving and more about who would be joining that would help me decide. For example, sell him and sign Yann M'Vila, definitely, he's a couple of years younger and can do the job just as well, but if the replacement wasn't quite as good, I'd be less willing to cash in. It all comes down to how highly you rate Alex Song, because as I've said, he's good, but not brilliant.

So, do they need him?

I think a good point to take into consideration when answering this question is they've just sold Seydou Keita, who could defend and attack and had a bit more physical prowess than their other players, sounds a bit like Alex Song doesn't it? So in signing Song, they would have another player who could do this, who would be extremely useful to them and only 24 years of age.

However, you also have to think Barcelona like to promote their own players and have named their 25 man squad, things can change, but they might prefer it if they didn't, and then give one of their younger players a chance in the role, like Sergi Samper or Sergio Roberto, two La Masia graduates and carry on 'The Barca Way'.

To answer the question, do they need him? Not necessarily. But he would make them stronger, as well as offering something different.   

 This article was written by Tom Moseley, you can follow him on Twitter: @PlayedOfThePark .Check out his website too:

Monday, 6 August 2012

Talking Tactics: Question and answer session with LankyGuy Blog

Today, The Football Front speaks to Jonny Mullins the creator of Lanky Guy Blog, who is one of the brightest young and upcoming football analysts in the blogsphere.

 Hi Jonny, thanks for coming on,

Let’s start off with the Champions, Man City, in your eyes did they deserve to win the Premier League? 

Yeah I think so. They had the best team, the best squad and they were determined even to the last second.

Did you feel tactically, Roberto Mancini got the best out of his players?

Well they won the league so he did pretty well! They certainly progressed in 2011/12, especially in attack. They had a good mix with the work rate of players like Milner and Barry in midfield and the mobility in attack of Silva, Aguero, Tevez and Nasri as well as Toure when he played between the lines. I think Mancini did well with the players available though I think they have weaknesses defensively.

Why do you think Man City struggled in the Champions League? 

Small details really. I don’t buy that they weren’t suited to the Champions League style. They just had problems defensively especially against Napoli’s 3-4-3 shape. In both games they struggled with the way Napoli counter attacked with their three forwards in the space City left and that eventually cost them.

Man City, Swansea, Arsenal and Fulham all played some of the most fluid passing football in the Premier League, do you expect more teams to adopt a more progressive passing game as the years go by in England?

I think England has adapted really well over the years. There’s more and more teams playing more of a passing game as you said and in fact the Premier League made more passes overall than La Liga last year so there has clearly been a progression in style. I don’t know whether we’ll see lots of proactive ‘passing’ sides in the league but I think teams are trying to be more progressive and adapt without losing the directness and speed that is associated with the Premier League.

One man who has been appointed to instil a passing philosophy at a big club is Brendan Rodgers, how long do you think it will realistically take him to implement a successful passing game at Anfield?

It’s noticeable already that Rodgers has got them building out from defence, with the centre backs opening up, one midfielder dropping deep to pick the ball up and the full backs pushing up. However it will take time to try and get it working. There will be matches where the team may lack penetration or where they’ll concede goals by giving possession away at the back. I watched the friendly against Roma and there was a number of sideways passes given away which put them under pressure, especially with the space between defenders. I don’t think there are quite the players available to make it work as well as Rodgers probably wants it too so it will take time.

Andre Villas -Boas pointed out a few months ago that implementing a passing game in the Barcelona mould is not possible in the Premier League, because of the tempo, the aggression and tenacity of the English game, would you agree with this view?

I think so. The Barcelona style is different to anyone else’s because of the way they carry it out. They try to have as much control over a game as possible and that can be difficult against opposition who are aggressive and play at a high tempo. I’m not sure whether it’s impossible – if you have the right quality of players then maybe you can. But if you look at Barcelona’s game - the slow transitions from defence to attack, the continuous switches of play, often playing into pressure etc - then that is clearly very difficult to carry out in general and certainly in England.

Speaking of Villas-Boas, although he had immense success at Porto, his system didn’t exactly work out at Chelsea, do you feel his methods can work at in the Premier League and more specifically at Spurs?

I’m sure he can do well, given time. He has the tactical knowledge, he knows all the small details from his experiences as a scout and manager so he’ll know exactly what he wants. Maybe he made some mistakes at Chelsea with the players but if he can learn from it then he can make Tottenham into title contenders.

One system I saw grow in prominence last season, was the system of playing three at the back, so many sides adopted it from Wigan to Barcelona. Do you feel next season and even further into the future, more sides will adopt a three at the back system?

It’s definitely a possibility. The way 3-4-3 shapes up numerically against your usual 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1 or even 4-3-3 can cause problems for teams. When Man City faced Napoli was a good example. When Man City got their full backs forward, Napoli often left their front three high and let the wing backs close them down which meant that on the counter attack, Napoli often had numerical equality with their forwards. That can be very difficult to play against. Wigan’s shape was also very good to watch because their wing backs were allowed to move very high and wide, especially with the cover of a back three so when they had possession, they were able to stretch the opponent with switches of play and open up space in the middle for the front three moving inside. And if you look at some 4-3-3s, they often move the holding player back into a back three when they have the ball so a three at the back (or five depending on if you wait and play counter attack) is a logical progression.

Last season, I recall a moment at St. James’ Park where Man City took off Samir Nasri in the 61st minute and Mancini put on De Jong. The decision was met by despair by most fans, who could not understand it, as Man City were drawing and needed to win.  Mancini ended up making the right decision in putting De Jong in, as Yaya Toure played in a more attacking role and got the winner. Do you feel fans sometimes don’t understand tactics as much as they should?

Maybe not about understanding but I do think sometimes fans can be too quick to criticise without actually asking themselves why a manager has made a particular decision. Managers aren’t stupid, they make decisions because they think it’s for the best. There’s always room for people to question things like substitutions but it’s always much better to analyse first what they’re doing and then if necessary criticise after.

Was there any manager whose side you enjoyed watching tactically last season?

Outside of the Premier League, I thought Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund were superb. They played with such great intensity, pressed and attacked really well. The way they beat Bayern Munich in the German Cup Final was fantastic, they didn’t give them any time or space to play.

Did any manager positively surprise you in the past year?

Rodgers was definitely one of them. Swansea were a great side to watch and had a solid foundation. I was also impressed with Fulham and the way Martin Jol got them playing was great.

Dream Team

So, what would be your dream XI? (of present players)

Casillas; Alves, Thiago Silva, Kompany, Lahm; Alonso, Xavi, Di Maria, Ronaldo, Iniesta, Messi

Who would be the manager of this team?

It might be cheating because he’s not managing anymore but I would make Arrigo Sacchi the manager of this team because he created one of the best club sides ever to play the game in the AC Milan of the late eighties and I’d love to see what he’d create here.

What league would you play in? 

I’d love to see them try and carry out their style Premier League.

What stadium would you play in? 

Finally, what would you name your team?

Sacchi’s spectacular selection of brilliance.

Thanks for taking part!

You can follow Jonny on Twitter: @lankyguyblog
Make sure you check out his site too:

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Football Tweets of the week 04/08

The Football Front's 10 funniest football tweets! (In no order too!)

1.) Edinson Cavani is picking fights with Craig Bellamy and Micah Richards. He must have absolutely nothing to live for. - @CheGiavara

2.) Didier Drogba moves to China, the following month China wins the Olympic diving event... Coincidence?! -

3.) Charlie Adam's new movie: - @talkSport

 4.) A Swiss footballer has been thrown out of the Olympics for racism. Liverpool have offered him a 4 year contract.- @FootballFunnys

5.) Alex Ferguson has said that Man United still want to bring in one or two more new faces. Wayne Rooney has asked if he can have one. - @MarioBalotelli

6.) Controllers [troll football] - @FootyMemes

7.) BREAKING NEWS: David Luiz declared injured for tomorrows game after having 100's of twiiter followers noses up his backside - @hurricanhigginz

8.) BREAKING: After letting Stuart Downing score, the FC Gomel defenders have announced their retirement from football. - @Liverfool_FC

9.)  Do woman's footballer's swap shirts at the end of the game,or am i sat here just wasting my time? - @GGJ_Gareth

10.) BREAKING: Stewart Downing scores for Liverpool, an unbelievable achievement from a guy who was told by doctors that he'd never score again. - @BBCSporf

 Be sure to follow all these guys on Twitter, you can follow us at @ReviewFootball

See last weeks funny tweets here 

The most hated man in football?

Callum Rivett reflects on Luis Suarez and whether he is the most hated man in football.
 It was the London 2012 Olympic football tournament, Team GB versus Uruguay.
The low cross came in, and he sprang, diving for a header, but instead nearly catching the ball in his hands. The referee blew hit whistle, signalling for a free-kick against him. He got up and protested furiously, saying something (judging by his gestures) along the lines of: “It never touched my hands, honest!” The referee didn’t buy into it. A yellow card was produced from the referee’s pocket, provoking a massive round of cheers and whoops from the watching crowd.
The cheering wasn’t the start of it, nor the end of it, as every time he had touched the ball he had been booed, every time he was tackled there had been cheers, and every time he dragged a shot wide there had been massive jeers.
Was this the most hated man in football?
This jeering and hatred had started due to an event almost ten months previous, which included the player mentioned and a rival player. A charge of racism and an eight match ban was the consequence from the FA; but the thing in tatters, never to be resurrected, was his reputation. 

The game was Liverpool versus Manchester United, 15th October 2011. It seemed like just a normal match - and it was - until the accusations made after the final whistle came to light. It finished 1-1, but the thing it will most be remembered for, unfortunately, is this: Luis Suarez, Liverpool striker, had been accused of making a racist remark towards Manchester United left back Patrice Evra.
There was widespread outrage. Phones rang through to BBC radio football call-in show 606, many callers with the view of an enquiry into the matter, others already calling for Suarez’s head. 
The FA did investigate, then produced a four hundred and fifty-odd page report on the reasoning behind Suarez’s conviction, which was released to the media and public at 5pm on New Years Day. He had already been handed an eight match ban and a £40,000 fine on December 20th, and was just waiting for Liverpool to make a possible appeal. Despite the shows of support towards Suarez - including the whole squad, whilst warming up, wearing a white t-shirt with Suarez’s famous knee-slide celebration, depicted in red on the front with “Suarez 7” on the back - no appeal came. Suarez then served his ban and came back into the Liverpool squad.
This was not the first, nor second, time Luis Suarez was at the centre of massive controversy. 
On the 20th November 2010, in an Eredivise match between Suarez’s Ajax and PSV, Suarez bit a opposition player on the neck/shoulder after appearing to disagree with a PSV players opinion when an Ajax player was sent off late in the game. He received a seven match ban.
Then, on the biggest stage of all, in the World Cup he saved a goal-bound shot by Ghana forward Dominic Adiyiah in the last minute with the score at 1-1. Asamoah Gyan then missed the resulting penalty, causing Suarez to celebrate wildly on the sidelines after being sent off. Uruguay went on to win on penalties. After the penalties Suarez was paraded around on his team mates shoulders. 
When Liverpool played Fulham at Craven Cottage in December 2011, Suarez then put his middle finger up at the Fulham fans in response to the abuse he was getting. He received a one match ban.
In February he then intentionally kicked Scott Parker in the stomach in the Spurs penalty area. No action was taken by the FA.
A professional footballer like Suarez should know better: swearing at fans, racial abuse, blatant cheating, kicking opposition players. Then, when Liverpool met Man United again later in the season, he refused to shake Evra’s hand before kick-off. 
When the match finished (Man United won) Evra then paraded himself in front of Suarez, celebrating madly. He was quickly stopped by the referee and players from both sides, but for once Suarez ignored it and didn’t get involved. Manager Kenny Dalglish did not handle the situation well, and it probably accumulated - along with a poor season - in him losing his job. He backed Suarez to the hilt, but was proved wrong by the FA. 
So I want to know what you think: is Suarez the most hated man in football? 
Follow Callum on twitter: @CJRivett12. You can find more of Callum's work here.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Practice makes perfect: Liverpool and the Europa League

Practice makes perfect, practice makes perfect.

And boy, didn’t Thursday night prove Liverpool need practice? Liverpool in simple terms, were very lucky to get a win. At times, it looked liked a draw was an injustice to Gomel.

The game reinforced how much work is to be done at Anfield.

Anyone you speak to about Liverpool, they will always use one particular word to describe Rodgers and The Reds. The word people continuously use is ‘time’.


Liverpool need time to adapt to their new game. And Rodgers needs time to build a framework, a structure and a methodology for the Liverpool boys to adapt to this new passing game.

But, as always, the Europa League is perceived by many as a drain, a headache and ultimately a worthless cup. To some clubs that maybe to true, but for Liverpool the cons are outweighed by the pros.

The reality is simple for Liverpool. If they are to quickly instil this passing game at Anfield, they will need practice. And with many things in life, whether it’s learning how to drive, or to play pool or to even have sexy time, you need practice to be good at it. The Europa League offers games in abundance for Liverpool to practice, perfect and polish off their new system.

The Europa will teach Liverpool so much about the side and be an indicator of their development. The competition will allow Liverpool’s style to be tested by teams of different approaches, quality and environments. In some respects, the variation in opponents will help Rodgers find weaknesses and strengths in the philosophy and his players.

Furthermore, with the Europa League having so many games, it will allow Rodgers to shuffle his pack, learn more about his players, explore the mentality of them and fully assess how strong the depth of his squad is.

And look, passing football demands the most fluid, coherent and cohesive teams. And at the moment Liverpool aren’t any of those things.

But by playing two games a week, it will offer Liverpool the chance to work on becoming more fluent and more cohesive.

It’s simple, the way for a team to become more fluid is by developing an understanding. And the way to develop an understanding is by playing different teams and testing yourself.

It’s an equation Liverpool have to fulfil if they want to be successful under Rodgers. The Europa League probably will make the Liverpool players tired, it probably will effect their Champions League pursuit. But it’s far more important the Liverpool players are fully immersed into the system so that the players play in a fluent, fluid and functional passing side.

As at the end of the day, if Liverpool have a fixed identity, it will make the team far more united and harder to break down. And when a team have a fixed concentrated identity, success tends to follow.

Thursday night proved Liverpool have stacks of work to do. Liverpool need practice. The Europa League offers that in abundance. It’s up to the Liverpool players to take up the chance.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Video: David Platt's amazing overhead bicycle kick.

This is amazing. Just amazing. Platt, 46 scored a goal in a friendly training match which left stars Aguero, Tevez and Zabaleta in absoulte awe.

His technique was sensational!

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