There is much talk in football about the 12th man. Whether that is the fans singing their hearts out on the Kop, the referee who appears to be giving everything to the opposition, or a rogue beach ball that has bounced on to the pitch and has yet to be removed. It is said, this 12th man gives you the advantage, but it is a strange term to use when the teams are not even utilising the 11 that they have on the pitch.
And so we head in to extra time. Following on from part one and part two, we now turn our attention towards development, recruitment and a vital skill that all great managers possess. The 90-Minute Manager has provided me with the spine of these articles, and as ever, all quotes are from that publication unless otherwise stated.
STRUCTURE AND FOUNDATION
In order for any project to be successful, the groundwork has to be laid first. The foundations must be solid, and if they are not, success will either be extremely short lived or very difficult to achieve. If a club is solely reliant on a billionaire owner then what happens when that owner decides to leave, or the money dries up? The club goes into free fall. Look at Portsmouth languishing down the bottom of League Two. Just five seasons ago Portsmouth were playing against the Likes of AC Milan in European competitions. How times change.
Continuing with my football related posts I have now turned my attention to the figure in the dug out. Arguably the most important, and the most difficult role in modern football, the football manager needs to be inspirational, tactically astute and calm under pressure.
A book I have recently finished reading, named the 90-Minute Manager, looked to compare the running of a business to the management of a football team, and although the book has its flaws and is a little dated, it is a pretty decent read. It has provided me with the inspiration for these articles where I focus on the role the manager plays, outside of the implementation of tactics and beyond the lone figure we see on match day.
At Christmas I received a wonderful book entitled Football and Chess. It is written by Adam Wells and looks to analyse and compare the two games. It may seem like a bit of a mismatch, but in all honesty Wells couldn’t be more correct in what he says. The book is very well written and each point he makes is explained with examples from real football games, and real chess matches. Within two days I had read the book three times, making notes as I went through. My chess skills, and knowledge, are quite a bit below that of my football skills and knowledge, but I believe that this book has improved my understanding in both of these games. It really is a fascinating book and I encourage anyone interested in either chess or football to pick up a copy.
Ever since I first read Inverting The Pyramid I was convinced that Jonathan Wilson had correctly predicted the future of football tactics. For those that haven’t read it, and I advise that you do, here is a brief synopsis. Wilson traces the tactics of football back through history, starting in the very early years whereby teams played with seven or eight strikers, through the sixties whereby four strikers were preferred, through the nineties where there was a front two, and on to present day.
As the name suggests, football tactics have slowly inverted. The emphasis has shifted and the original idea of having a small amount of defenders and large amount of strikers have now been reversed. Wilson goes on to predict that at some point in the future teams will learn to play with no strikers at all. The book completely changed my outlook on football, rather than viewing football in terms of who had the best players, I began to see football as who had the best system. It is tactics, and not players, that bring success. You need only to look at David Moyes struggling at Manchester United after inheriting Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad, or Jose Mourinho’s repeated success at whatever club he moves too, Porto and Inter Milan’s Champions League victories in particular, to see that the real genius on the pitch, is actually the man off it, sat in the dugout. The final chapters of Inverting The Pyramid hypothesises that the future of football will be to play without a striker.