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.
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.