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.
Like a visiting goalkeeper at Anfield, shots were raining down on me from all sides. Apparently my analysis “lacked direction”, I did not see the impact Sergio Busquets had, and it was even questioned whether I had ever seen him play. I like to promote discussion with my articles, but it seems on this topic, I hit a nerve with a few people.
Within hours of writing my last article I was inundated with Tweets from avid Busquets supporters. Some of the responses proving to be very insightful and informative, with one commentator writing a particularly detailed and lengthy piece to show me the error of my ways.
In my last article I wrote about how Steven Gerrard’s new role may become more common in the coming seasons. It is my belief that Brendan Rodgers always intended to drop Gerrard back, and that this decision was accelerated when Lucas picked up an injury in January of this year.
Gerrard’s deeper role does not offer the same defensive cover as when Lucas plays there, but what it lacks in defence it makes up for in attack. Whilst Lucas’ defensive positioning and interceptions are a little better than Gerrard’s, Lucas’ attacking threat is far worse.
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.
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.