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Borussia Dortmund - RB Leipzig was a thriller, and had a goal we can’t quite figure out

Plus trouble for Manchester City (?), Pep Guardiola’s wisdom, and more in this week’s Tactically Naive.

Atalanta v Borussia Dortmund - UEFA Europa League Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

No time for introductions this week, friends. We have extremely important news to relate. News that is, in itself, proof that football is good and things are fun and nice. Yes, you guessed it:


Late to the party, but often the most fun, the Bundesliga came back to us this weekend and did not disappoint. The visit of new money upstarts Red Bull Leipzig to noted yellow fetishists Borussia Dortmund looked, on paper, to be the highlight of the first round. And for once, the paper was right. Then the paper caught fire in a flash of sparks that went bouncing all around the room.

Leipzig took the lead in the first minute. Dortmund took this badly. And so Dortmund poured forward in giddy waves and scored four in reply. This included Marco Reus’ 100th goal in the Bundesliga, Axel Witsel’s first for his new club, and this flippin’ thing right here, from Mahmoud Dahoud:

Some goals defy physics. This one looks at physics, sits down, writes a long treatise on why physics is rubbish and also smells, has it serialised in 74 countries and translated into 33 languages, adapted into both a film and television series, and finally placed into a rocket and fired into space. Millions of years from now, when the aliens finally get to this tiny corner of the galaxy, they’ll be able to take note of Mahmoud Dahoud’s extremely compelling argument as to why physics, when you really get right down to it, is a load of drivel.

Then their spaceships will stop working.

Anyway, here are the thoughts of all those involved, at the moment Dahoud broke his neck, the game, and the rules of the universe.

1. Well, I don’t know who is supposed to be picking him up, but I’m starting to worry that it might be me.

2. “Look at that!”

3. What’s going on? What’s happening? I’m stuck staring at the back of this man’s head. Move, man! Let me see!

4. Hey, I saw this in a cartoon once. When the head hits the frying pan, the legs keep running. So cool. I hope a giant anvil doesn’t drop on my head.

5. Here, at this moment of transcendence, I have attained a form that is perfected by its internal contradictions: appallingly and completely wrong, impossibly right. There was no way to do this; there was no other way to do this. I have done it. And I’m only slightly concerned that my legs are swinging up so damn fast that I might end up tackling myself in mid-air.

6. [singing to self] Looking back, over my shoulder ...

7. Did he just run past me from midfield? Oh, I really hope nobody noticed. I’m going to look surprised and pretend he was No. 1’s responsibility. [whistles]

8. Oh my, there’s a cardboard cut-out of a footballer floating across the penalty area. I can see its back. Its just white and empty. I should never have eaten that brownie.

9. [holds out calming hand] No worries, guys. No way that ends up anywhere near the g— oh. Blimey.


One of the consequences of Manchester City’s recent venture into documentary film-making has been a certain de-mystification of Pep Guardiola. When it comes to setbacks, such as this weekend’s dropped points against newly-promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers, we know that he is not what he should be. Instead of ...

Four minutes and 12 seconds earlier, Raheem, you blew some snot out of your left nostril but not your right. This meant that you were off-balance for the subsequent goal kick, which left a space here, Kyle. From that moment on we only had a two-thirds presence in the half-spaces, so obviously we conceded 32 phases later.

... or perhaps ...

By iron and salt we bind this defeat. By blood and tears we seal this defeat. By flesh and by fire we render this defeat unto you, Abaddon, the Despoiler, the Abyssal, He Who Consumes. We call you, and we commend this defeat to you, and we place this sacrifice at your feet. And by water we are cleansed. Oh, that’s Lucozade. Well, it’ll do.

... we get a a speech about how he doesn’t care whether his players hate him or not, as long as they play better next time, and he’ll says “guys” a lot. Then Vincent Kompany will say something extremely earnest, or Fabien Delph will say something kind of swear-y. And then they’ll get back on the bus and turn back into the best team in the country again.

So either the magic all happens off-camera, or there’s no real magic at all. It’s all very quotidian. What’s the point of appointing a wizard, if it turns out that wizardry is just doing normal things better than everybody else?


Then the best bit was Pep Guardiola saying “If you want to be a top, top, top, top, top team, you have to score the fucking goals.”

Here is this week’s lesson: All managers, even the greatest and most golden of the philosopher-kings, are fundamentally Harry Redknapp.


Billericay Town were promoted to the Conference South last season. Billericay Town started this season strongly, with four wins and a draw, before picking up their first loss on Saturday. They were briefly top of the table, and are now in third. Not bad going for a newly-promoted side ...

So naturally, this Saturday Billericay Town sacked their manager.

This will only come as a surprise, however, if you haven’t been following the Billericay story. In December 2016 they were bought by a local businessman, Glenn Tamplin, who installed himself as manager and brought in a clutch of players from the leagues above, including a few with Premier League experience, most notably former Arsenal prospect Jermaine Pennant and Paul Konchesky, once of Fulham and, briefly, Liverpool.

Off the field, things went extremely peculiar, extremely quickly. Most illustrative (literally and figuratively) is Tamplin’s redecoration of Billericay’s home ground with a large mural that depicts, among other things, him in bed, asleep, receiving “The Message Given To Glenn”. A message of trophies and the Premier League, delivered by a pair of giant disembodied hands.

On it, the money brought results in the end, although not before Tamplin first sacked himself, then un-sacked himself — at the request of the players, apparently — before eventually bringing in a manager with some actual experience for the end of last season’s campaign. Harry Wheeler got the club promoted, and all seemed well.

Until this Saturday, when things got weird again. And as if to add insult to strange injury, Wheeler wasn’t sacked after Ricay’s first loss. That would have been far too normal. He was sacked during the loss. Five minutes before the end. By text message. Which is, when you think about it, just another message passed down from the ether. At least Tamplin has remained true to his brand.