It's all very well getting giggly and excited about the World Cup, but what of the social cost to Brazil? Do FIFA have a responsibility to ensure accord and sustainability..?
The stark realisation for Manchester United fans is that their Everton counterparts seem much happier without David Moyes. Even more so after their 1-0 win...
One of football's universal truths is that it is better, or easier, to play at home. Always has been, always will.
As evidence for that, since the Premier League began, 42% is the lowest amount of matches won by the home side in a season, a figure that usually ends up hovering somewhere around 45%. That's higher enough than away wins (or draws) to be significant. It is so inbuilt into our sense of logic that it all sounds like I'm just stating the bloody obvious.
This perception of home advantage is why we have two-legged knockout cup ties, 'neutral' venues for finals and accounts for a series of upsets in the our domestic cups. Furthermore, World Cup victories by Uruguay, England, Argentina (1978) and France have all been explained partly due to the benefit of playing 'in their own back yard'. As recently as last year, Great Britain's Olympic medal haul owed much, we were told, from being based on home soil. Home is truly where the heart is.
There are documented reasons for this home advantage perception. Travel fatigue in players, unfamiliarity of playing surface, the atmosphere of outnumbered fans and the supposition that referees will, unwittingly, favour home sides are all cited as potential causes. Is there something in the statistic that since the beginning of last season, Premier League referees have awarded 68 penalties to home sides and only 40 to those playing away?
Well, perhaps, but in the rather sanitised, modern Premier League, should this home advantage effect not have less and less sway? More pertinently, should we not expect more from our teams playing away from home? This season, only two PL teams (Arsenal and Tottenham) have won more than half of their away games.
Instead of blaming external factors for the underperformance of away teams, I'd argue that it is in fact the negative mind-set of managers dissuaded from ambition by the figures from the first paragraph. 'Teams always lose away from home so we should guard against losing', seems to be the mantra, blindly ignoring the evident conclusion that such a mentality simply continues the trend.
Manchester City travelled to Chelsea on Sunday. It was their toughest away assignment thus far, and so Manuel Pellegrini changed his side's formation, playing with a lone striker for the first time this season. In doing so, he broke a strike partnership between Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo that had provided eight goals and five assists in their four previous joint assignments. Whilst City were by no means ultra-defensive (and it was not the sole Joe reason Hart that they lost the game), there is little doubt that Pellegrini's choice was made because City were playing away. At home to Manchester United, the Chilean picked both of his strikers before watching his side dismantle their neighbours with both of his forwards key to the victory.
Whilst Chelsea's fans were reasonably enthused on Sunday, Stamford Bridge was not an intimidating cauldron akin to Galatasaray's Ali Sami Yen stadium. Nor is it situated 3,600 metres above sea level like Bolivia's Estadio Hernando Siles, reducing away players' ability to breathe. City's players would also have struggled to plead travel fatigue given that their flight by club private jet from Manchester to London takes approximately 45 minutes, and fears of being unnerved by an unfamiliar pitch should have been allayed by the fact that the Stamford Bridge surface has exactly the same dimensions as their own at Eastlands. So why was there a need to change the formation and plans simply because they weren't at home?
City are by no means alone, merely the latest high-profile example. Chelsea themselves were guilty of such a lack of adventure, Jose Mourinho effectively playing without a striker with Andre Schurrle operating as a roaming attacker in a 0-0 draw in the visit to Manchester United. Quite what Chelsea fans thought when watching West Brom attack with fluency and desire in their victory at Old Trafford one can only guess.
Historically, without today's modern conveniences and facilities, there was probably a relevant argument for winning your home games and attempting to draw away, but no longer. Whilst Premier League managers have not quite lowered themselves to the attitude of Kevin Keegan ("You can't do better than go away from home and get a draw"), teams are suffering from a paucity of ambition on the road.
In what promises to be a tight title race, those that have the courage of their convictions away from home may well be suitably rewarded. He who dares wins, Rodney.
Daniel Storey - follow him on Twitter
An easy way to see the extent to which travel affects players would be to compare results in away games that are played in the same city (e.g. Liverpool v Everton, City v United) against those that involve travel.- fictionalemu