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Dublin: 2 °C Tuesday 22 January, 2019

Arsène Wenger, a godfather of sports analytics and BOD; this week's best sportswriting

There’s also room for the story of Scotland’s greatest win and a study of box kicking in rugby.

Wenger managed his 1000th Arsenal game yesterday.
Wenger managed his 1000th Arsenal game yesterday.
Image: Getty Images/INPHO

1. “The greatest moment in Scottish football history. And the most bittersweet one, too. Seconds after the restart, Kennedy nearly planted a header into his own net while doing his best to make a royal balls of clearing a dangerous cross out for a corner.

“Scotland cleared the set piece but the tide refused to be dammed, and 202 seconds after Gemmill’s masterpiece, the old Dutch master Rep launched a 30-yard worldie into the top left.”

Writing for the Guardian, Scott Murray relives Scotland’s unforgettable win over Holland in the 1978 World Cup, a tournament in which the Dutch went on to reach the final.

2. “While Beane may not be a superhero, he is a titan in the sport, and on March 15 in Phoenix, I got the chance to pick his brain about the state of his franchise in particular and the game in general.

“During a wide-ranging, two-hour sit-down with Beane and A’s owner Lew Wolff, the two innovative thinkers talked up the rise of big data in baseball, the importance of having a manager who buys in to what the front office is doing, the value of continuity when running a team, the challenges of ballin’ on a budget, and much more.”

Jonah Keri of Grantland sits down with the man who brought sports analytics into the mainstream thanks to his work with the Oakland A’s, inspiring the Moneyball book and film.

3. “Mike Ross was many people’s choice for best tight head of the tournament, not bad for an old fella written off as past it last season. Adam Jones was his usual immense self and Martin Castrogiovanni unfortunately broke his rib as well as the record for most Italian caps, 107, against Ireland.

“O’Driscoll is the obvious choice here though, admittedly more for his work in the loose than in the scrum.”

The Waisale Times outline their choices for Six Nations team of the tournament, taking into account the balance of the XV instead of choosing the bigger names.

4. “On the day it all began, with a game at Blackburn Rovers in October 1996, Arsène Wenger‘s first win ended with a mutiny among his own players. Wenger sat at the front of the coach, filled with satisfaction for the journey back to London.

“At the back, the players were taking in the news that life at Arsenal was never going to be the same again. Tony Adams, Ian Wright and a few others decided enough was enough. “We want our chocolate back,” they started chanting.”

In the build-up to yesterday’s clash against Chelsea, which was the Frenchman’s 1000th in charge of Arsenal, Daniel Taylor of the Guardian told Arsène Wenger’s story.

5. “I was listening to an excellent RTE Radio tribute programme the other day with Eddie O’Sullivan and Shane Horgan and both were remarking on how O’Driscoll took the incident in his stride and moved forward without a backward glance.

“With respect to two of O’Driscoll’s greatest friends and supporters, I’d beg to differ slightly on that one. Christchurch 2005, in my opinion, changed O’Driscoll the rugby player forever.”

Lots and lots has been written about Brian O’Driscoll in the last few months, and there is likely more to come, but this piece by Brendan Gallagher for The Rugby Paper offers more insight into the man than most.

6. “The most common use for a box kick is as an exit option from within the 22 where the ball can be kicked directly into touch. But why use a box kick instead of a pass to a kicker behind the line who should have more time and angle to make a longer kick?

“There are two answers to this question; the pass back to a kicker nullifies some of the potential distance gain over a box kick; and the other players are normally in front of the kicker so can’t start chasing until they are put on side.”

Something a little different here, as Scott Allen of Australian website The Roar takes a close look at the use of the box kick in rugby.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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