It’s 2016, and football coverage is in a slightly strange position right now. There’s more stuff and more people providing it than there’s ever been before, but with competition at an all-time high the demand for views has, for many, become the priority over creating good content. Clickbait and misleading titles are pretty much the norm at the moment, while utilising deliberately controversial opinions just to generate a bit of attention is an approach that some of even the biggest broadcasters and media outlets have taken up. Finding truly high quality stuff amongst all that certainly isn’t easy if you don’t know where to look.
And so that’s why I’ve done this: a list of what are, or at least what will be, in my opinion, the best places to find great football content in 2016. Rather than simply doing a list of ‘the top football blogs’, however, I’ve gone for a slightly different direction. That route is an A – Z, mainly just because it’s a different and quite catchy format that I liked the idea of, but also because it was one which forced me to work in a manner where I had to heavily scrutinise every decision and inclusion that I made.
I do acknowledge the faults of such a format in comparison to another type of list, because of there being just one selection per letter, but if I felt it was detrimental to the overall quality of the list then I would have changed it. Fortunately, though, I confidently decided that all the inclusions are fully justified.
There have inevitably been some quality omissions from this list though – and I should know after having lots of tough decisions to make! So someone or something not being included isn’t necessarily a reflection on the quality of those individual blogs / content producers that have missed out, but rather just how much of a challenge it is to incorporate everyone in any kind of list. Either that, or I simply haven’t come across them in my very long search to put this together.
Regardless of all that, though, I’m extremely happy with the list and everybody featured in it deserves a whole lot of credit. So without further ado, here it is.
Starting off the alphabet of football blogging is, well, in many ways, not a blog – or at least not just a blog, anyway. That’s because Analytics FC has a lot going for it on top of the good writing that’s featured on their site, including a superb podcast (which has had Damien Comolli and Gabriele Marcotti, among other guests, featured on it in the past) and them acting as a private consultancy for clubs. Their focus in football coverage, as you can probably guess, is analytics, and they definitely do it well with intriguing discussions and top analysis easy to find within their content. Well worth a listen / read.
The demand for football of all sorts is almost insatiable nowadays, and a site like BeNeFoot, which concentrates entirely around Dutch and Belgian football, is brilliant for English speakers who hold an interest in the details of two of Europe’s less popular but still very entertaining leagues. Throw in coverage of the same pair of national teams and a podcast too, just to make it even better, and you’ve got a wonderful website.
Michael Caley’s one of the biggest public pioneers of the use of detailed statistics in football, and with so much of his consistently first-rate work available to view (both on Twitter and when he writes for a variety of sites) it’s hard not to get intrigued by it too if you aren’t already. From his expected goals maps to title / relegation projections there’s always a ton of stuff to look at and enjoy, and he helps to provide a real different element to football than the one which is typically offered in the mainstream.
Run by Thom Lawrence, Deep XG (expected goals) is a blog that offers a fun yet simultaneously interesting analytics-based look into football. There’s a couple of great things which are a regular feature of his on Twitter too, namely shot build-up and defensive territory maps, as well his self-designed football stats Google search engine; an incredibly useful tool for locating reading and research materials.
The name Experimental 3-6-1 is derived from a search for originality, and Ben Mayhew’s website orientated around data analysis and visualisation achieves that in a very aesthetically-pleasing and easy to understand manner. Content is predominantly produced around the English lower divisions and is topped off with sporadic sprinkles of more popular leagues, but wherever your interest lies Ben does what he does excellently – and you should look at it.
Dan Fieldsend produced a highly comprehensive ‘100 blogs to follow in 2015’ list for the last calendar year which I’d strongly recommend taking a look at, but while you’re there you should definitely check out the rest of his site, Left-Wing Soccer. There’s lots of other interesting stuff to read, all provided by the great mind of a UEFA B qualified coach who has also, amongst other things, done work as a researcher for Football Manager. I’ve also been privileged enough to read his coaching philosophy, which further reinforced how great a football mind he has.
A licenced coach with a great passion for the game from Scotland, Stevie Grieve is currently based out in India doing a wide variety of football work. The standout thing that’s fortunately available to us all through video medium is his work on TV for The MindGame, a programme dedicated to thorough tactical analysis on which Stevie comes into his own – giving some sensational insight as the pundit on a very enjoyable show. It really is something you should find the time to watch, and you can surely find space for him on your Twitter timeline too.
Keeping up a consistently high standard of writing in long-form pieces is far from easy, but Thore Haugstad is one of the few who manage to do it with great success. His website, Twenty-Minute Reads (which also has some really eye-catching illustrations to accompany the articles on there), is dedicated to such pieces, while if you need something to fill the time in between those then the various tactical stuff which he writes elsewhere is equally captivating.
IBWM do things differently to everyone else. Very differently. But they’re indisputably brilliant at it, and there’s such a unique range of football-based articles on there that you’re bound to be kept entertained for a very long time. Their ‘100’ feature, focused on identifying young talent, is perhaps the pinnacle of it all, and it’s clear that there’s an incredible amount of time and research put into creating one of the best yearly projects around. You should definitely devote some of your own time towards having a look at it all.
Created by Jonathan Fadugba in 2007, Just Football is one of the longest running football blogs around – but even with age it’s continued to thrive. From scout reports to tactical analysis there’s a comprehensive range of stuff on there, covering all kinds of different topics around the football world in a way which just leaves you desperate for more. Jonathan himself is a talented writer, too, which makes the good ideas that are thought of all the more enjoyable.
Finding Spanish football coverage which doesn’t heavily orientate around Barcelona and Real Madrid, despite the sheer amount of interest in La Liga, is actually annoyingly difficult sometimes. That’s where Jamie Kemp and (his own site) El Rondo come in, and thanks to him you can find a variety of detailed and very well-written pieces on some of the more interesting stories in Spain which you won’t find in the more mainstream media.
Created by two brothers, Edward and William Stratmann, Licence To Roam has a highly regular volume of content on it: pretty much all on the theme of tactical analysis. The pieces aren’t heavy reads however, and the two of them manage to successfully go into a decent amount of detail while still maintaining a key element of readability about everything, meaning it’s always easy to enjoy.
Of all the people who regularly write about football tactics, René Marić is undoubtedly right up there with the absolute best. There’s no two ways about that, and you really could spend ages going through his truly insightful analysis. Unfortunately for English speakers a significant portion of his writing is actually in German, but he does still have a number of incredibly detailed English pieces (most of which are for the English version of the superb Spielverlagerung) as well as largely tweeting in English too. So don’t let that put you off at all – or alternatively, just learn German and enjoy everything. It’d be worth it.
A regular contributor for a number of large sites, including Bleacher Report and FourFourTwo, Blair Newman’s speciality – although he’s far from limited to it – lies in Italian football. He’s an excellent writer, making for constantly good quality articles when worked in combination with his knowledge, and he also does some very nice tactical pieces for his own blog (Tactical Calcio) which is featured on The Guardian’s Sport Network.
A highly talented analyst (and coach), Adin Osmanbašić has a magnificent understanding of the game that’s made evident in everything he writes. The little intricacies and details which he notices are things that make reading his pieces – most regularly featured on Spielverlagerung – a real education in football, and if you want to learn more about how to understand the sport then he’s someone who produces work that I can’t recommend highly enough.
Goral Patel has an excellent knowledge of – and interest in – Turkish football in particular, which certainly adds a nice variety to the Twitter timeline wherever your own interests may lie, but on a broader scale she also has a great grasp of tactics and the inner workings of the game that’s played out on the field. As a result that means that, whatever game she’s watching or talking about, you’re bound to get some kind of insightful analysis. Definitely deserving of a follow.
Working out how good a player is forms a huge part of football. It’s probably one of the hardest things to do, too. With GoalImpact, however, Jörg Seidel has designed a system which seeks to do something along those lines – using in-game goal differences to effectively measure a player’s impact on a team and quantifying it with a comparable ‘GI’ score. There’s a really clever algorithm behind it (that brief attempt at an explanation probably didn’t give it anywhere enough justice), but even if you don’t fully understand how it works it’s presented in a way which keeps it interesting to look at and easy to read.
Running The Show is a name which comes out of admiration for the players that are capable of dictating matches, and that focus on what happens on the pitch is something that makes David Selini’s blog very appealing. There’s no drama, no gossip, nothing overly excessive: just the game stripped bare and analysed for what it is at a consistently strong level that’s worth your efforts to spend a lot of time looking over.
Scouted Football, as you can make a fairly good guess at, is basically a big collection of scout reports. It’s a simple idea, but it’s one which has been executed extremely well – with a wide variety of contributors producing an equally wide variety of content on a very nicely designed site. If you’re looking for detailed information about young talents in particular, from people who’ve really watched them, then this is one of the best sites to visit.
I could’ve controversially included my own site for the letter T, but I thought I’d be nice and push some very, very highly deserved praise towards These Football Times. Not only is TFT home to one of the most diverse collections of football articles that you could ever wish to find, but it also has a wonderful team of writers at its disposal who tell many of the lesser-told stories of the sport in a very powerful and elegant way. Everything about it, from the writing to the aesthetics, is just so original; and I strongly suggest you check it out if you haven’t already. Or if you have, do so again.
The Gentleman Ultra is an Italian football-focused website from an English perspective, with some quite incredible writing plastered all over it. One of their best features in recent times is the ‘Serie A alternative club guide’, looking at some of the lesser-known but highly intriguing information about Italian teams, something which has been posted on The Guardian as part of their sport network. If Calcio is your thing, this is a great place to look.
While the majority of Mihail Vladimirov’s work revolves around Liverpool, it’s seriously worth checking out regardless of whether you’re a supporter of his side or not. With an admirable tactical mind on his shoulders, he provides extensive detail in everything he talks about – whether it be on Twitter, when writing for The Tomkins Times, or on the always first-rate tactics podcast he does with Daniel Rhodes.
StatsBomb is one of the real hubs for public, analytics-based football writing, and in Dustin Ward they have a regular contributor who portrays his content in an extremely intelligent, informative and detailed – yet easy to understand – way. He also provides a wide variety of graphics from a variety of leagues on Twitter, too, and he’s certainly doing his part to make analytics available and interesting to everyone.
Yes, I know this one doesn’t begin with the right letter. It doesn’t even start with a letter at all. But finding football-related things with an X at the beginning is nigh on impossible, and leaving out the excellent 13 Steps because of there not being any numbers in the alphabet (or something along those lines) would be pretty unfair. So I combined those two pieces of logic and found a deserved place for the site which plays home to a number of great tactical articles, be it individual match analyses or full-on systematic ones, from some of the best and most thorough writers.
YouTube’s football content is pretty much overloaded by endless goal compilations with some form of progressive house music in the background, but beyond all that is actually some really high quality original stuff. Joel Salamon’s channel, MessiSeconds, is probably the best example of that: and he puts together great, very well researched analytical videos in a truly unique manner. Joel also has two Twitter accounts (his own, @MessiSeconds, and one which he contributes to, @MessiMinutes) which are similarly worth checking out.
Even if a large portion of English football pundits stupidly still seem to need convincing over its use, zonal marking is here to stay. The man who’s made a career in football journalism out of a tactical blog named after it is here to stay too, and though Michael Cox’s own site isn’t updated particularly regularly now the analysis and tactical insight which he demonstrates for a number of highly-respected websites elsewhere is well worth following.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, concludes the list. So, seriously, check out all these incredibly talented content producers – I promise you won't regret it.