Ready for some club football? Enjoy these four huge derbies on Saturday

The big leagues are returning in style with four big derbies: Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal, Roma v Lazio, Basaksehir v Galatasaray and Atlético v Real Madrid By Martin Laurence for WhoScored?, part of the Guardian Sport Network The first North London derby of the season gets the ball rolling again in the Premier League this weekend as Arsenal aim to keep pace with Spurs after the clubs’ fortunes were well and truly reversed last season. While Mauricio Pochettino led Tottenham to their second successive top-three finish, Arsenal dropped out of the Champions League places for the first time under Arsène Wenger’s management. Continue reading...

Nigel Pearson: ‘Would I do one or two things differently? Yeah, of course’

The manager on why the job brings out the best and worst in him, the enjoyment of working at OH Leuven in Belgium’s second tier for the Leicester owners who fired him and what he thinks of being associated with an ostrichIt is a beautiful autumnal morning at OH Leuven’s training ground, the sunshine beaming down over the top of the trees that flank the practice pitches as eight men, one woman and a black labrador watch Nigel Pearson’s players put through their paces. Give it a few more weeks and OH Leuven’s coach will probably know the spectators by name. “Normally I’d spend five minutes having a chat with them,” says Pearson, smiling. “They were a bit down this morning, on the crest of a slump, bless them.” Back in work since the end of September after the best part of a year in the wilderness – Continue reading "Nigel Pearson: ‘Would I do one or two things differently? Yeah, of course’"

Andrea Pirlo’s five greatest assists

Andrea Pirlo scored a lot of goals and won a lot of trophies – the World Cup and Champions Leagues among them – but his passes were his greatest triumphs By Emmet Gates for The Gentleman Ultra, of the Guardian Sport Network Carlo Ancelotti once said: “Pirlo spots a pass in a split-second that lesser players could spend a whole lifetime waiting to see.” Ancelotti is a better judge than most, given he coached Pirlo for almost eight years as he blossomed from a player with huge potential into one of the most elegant midfielders of his or any other generation. While his great contemporary Xavi said he wanted at least 100 touches of the ball per game, Pirlo was an entirely different animal. He embodied the regista position, orchestrating attacks with outrageous, long passes that were hit with unnerving accuracy. With his ability to spread perfectly weighted Continue reading "Andrea Pirlo’s five greatest assists"

Andrea Pirlo’s five greatest assists

Andrea Pirlo scored a lot of goals and won a lot of trophies – the World Cup and Champions Leagues among them – but his passes were his greatest triumphs By Emmet Gates for The Gentleman Ultra, of the Guardian Sport Network Carlo Ancelotti once said: “Pirlo spots a pass in a split-second that lesser players could spend a whole lifetime waiting to see.” Ancelotti is a better judge than most, given he coached Pirlo for almost eight years as he blossomed from a player with huge potential into one of the most elegant midfielders of his or any other generation. While his great contemporary Xavi said he wanted at least 100 touches of the ball per game, Pirlo was an entirely different animal. He embodied the regista position, orchestrating attacks with outrageous, long passes that were hit with unnerving accuracy. With his ability to spread perfectly weighted Continue reading "Andrea Pirlo’s five greatest assists"

The 10 most improved players in Europe’s big leagues this season

As the big European leagues take a week off for the final international break of the year, it’s a good time to praise the players who have stepped up this season By Martin Laurence for WhoScored?, part of the Guardian Sport Network Not to be confused with Dortmund Borussia forward Maximilian Philipp, Augsburg left-back Philipp Max is enjoying an excellent season with the club. Signed as a replacement for Chelsea-bound Baba Rahman in 2015, the 24-year-old had not really secured his place in the first team until this season but he is realising his potential now. Continue reading...

The English managerial success story shunned by the Premier League

Graham Potter has performed minor miracles in seven years with Swedish club Ostersund but never gets mentioned when a comparable job becomes available in England Graeme Jones knew there was something atypical about the full-back who had joined him in signing on for a League Two season at Boston United. It was 2003 and winter was, for different reasons, drawing in on both men’s playing careers: Jones had been a prolific goalscorer in the lower divisions but was 33 and had half an eye on what was next; Graham Potter was five years younger and had never quite strung together a few consistent seasons in the top two tiers with Birmingham, Stoke, Southampton and West Bromwich Albion. There was a sense of disillusionment in Potter but there was more, too: a spark behind it all that, in 10 years as a professional, Jones had rarely seen in a team-mate. Related: Continue reading "The English managerial success story shunned by the Premier League"