Disjointed, vulnerable and slow: Barça exposed by Chelsea’s tactical rigour | Jonathan Wilson

Chelsea stifled Barcelona’s key players, proving that the Spanish side should not be so feared as they once were

The first leg, you suspect, went just as Antonio Conte would have wanted it to go – apart from the bit about not playing a square ball across your penalty area to Andrés Iniesta with 15 minutes remaining. But that’s the problem with great tactical plans: they always rely, ultimately, on that most fallible of species: humans.

Lionel Messi’s equaliser has tipped the tie Barcelona’s way, but Chelsea can draw great encouragement from that first leg and, having operated like the away side, can play the second in much the same way (another reason, incidentally, why the away goals rules should be scrapped: the way a team sets up these days is far more conditioned by resources than where the match is being played).

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via Football | The Guardian

Antonio Conte says he needs to settle differences with Chelsea board to stay

• Manager expects ‘several different’ job offers if he leaves Chelsea
• Conte: ‘In our line of work we always have a bag packed’

Antonio Conte has admitted he would need to settle his differences with the Chelsea board if he is to see out the final year of his contract but would expect “several different scenarios” to open up at rival elite clubs should he depart in the summer.

The Italian masterminded an impressive display from his side in Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 first-leg draw against Barcelona, when Chelsea were the more threatening side despite the visitors’ monopoly of possession. Conte, relatively becalmed over recent weeks as a season of disputes behind the scenes, largely over recruitment, appeared to take its toll and the team’s results stuttered, was back to his firebrand best on the touchline.

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via Football | The Guardian

What is the longest acrostic spelled out in a football table? | The Knowledge

Plus: more players who made a sharp exit, revisiting some finals played in extreme weather and a 26-club journeyman. Mail us your questions and answers or tweet @TheKnowledge_GU

“Has there ever been a longer acrostic spelled out in a table than the oft-recurring ‘Table’ from the Premier League this season, or ‘Lawns’ from League Two?” asks Marco Jackson.

“After skimming through all 33,000 end-of-day league tables in the history of English league football and cross-referencing them against the 123,000 most common English words, by my reckoning there have been somewhere in the region of 450 five-letter words, 38 six-letter words and one seven-letter word hidden in league tables across all divisions since 1888,” writes uber-statto James Clarke.

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via Football | The Guardian

Gareth Ainsworth: ‘It’s a unique model but it works for Wycombe’

Wycombe Wanderers have no academy, reserve team or goalkeeping coach but the club have gone from turmoil to second in League Two

It is Tuesday, just after midday at the Wycombe Wanderers training ground, where an end-of-session shooting drill is coming to a climax. Gareth Ainsworth, the manager wearing a pink bib, smiles after missing the target. “I still join in,” he says at ease in his office before lunch in the canteen. “But I’m way gone now of keeping up with the boys.”

At 44, Ainsworth, technically, is the player-manager but the success of his small squad, moulded over five years, means his swansong at Northampton 18 months ago is likely to be permanent, though he would play if he “had to”. Ainsworth’s team is a hybrid of “generals”, seasoned professionals and youngsters, many enjoying their first taste of regular football. Wycombe are second in League Two, unbeaten in eight games and have scored 21 league goals this year, more than any team in the country.

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via Football | The Guardian

Football transfer rumours: Arthur and Jorginho to Manchester United?

Today’s fluff is making it up as it goes along

Back in the good old days before the Mill even knew what football was, the name Arthur was pretty commonplace among players in this country. According to our research (thanks Wikipedia), a total of 22 have played for England since records began, although all but three were born in the 19th century.

How times have changed. Not since Arthur Milton won his solitary cap
against Austria in 1951 has one pulled on the Three Lions shirt, while the
arrival of West Ham’s Arthur Masuaku in 2016 was the first player of that
name to feature in the Premier League.

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via Football | The Guardian