How football should be played

by James Burn

There has been much debate in recent times regarding the tactics and style of play in different teams across the globe. Many great questions have been brought up surrounding these topics. Could Barcelona beat Stoke on a wintery day at the Brittania? Should teams adopt the philosophy of Arsene Wenger or the likes of Sam Allardyce? Questions such as these and hearing the opinions of many different people have allowed me to come up with my own conclusions.

When thinking of the football teams who are considered to play attractive football, one thinks of the likes of the current Barcelona side, the dutch team of 74 with the likes of Neeskens and Cruyff or Brazil of 82 with Socrates and Zico. Being an Arsenal fan, I have become accustomed to watching great football over the years with the likes of Bergkamp, Henry and Fabregas. As I am sure many of you will be able to point out though, that for all the great football there hasn’t been a trophy to sing about since 2005. Another thing which is noticeable is that the fantastic Dutch team in 74 didn’t win the world cup; neither did the Brazil team of 82. These examples highlight that you can play fantastic attractive football and yet be far from the most effective team in terms of winning football matches.

Then there is the other side of the coin. Stoke and Tony Pulis get a mixture of acclaim and criticism for their success with a less aesthetic style. This is similar to Sam Allardyce’s Bolton who also did extremely well when he was in charge. Jose Mourinho is one of the most successful managers on the planet. He beat Barcelona in the Champions league playing very defensive football with Inter Milan. He has done the same with Real Madrid defeating Barcelona in the Copa Del Rey final (last year). I don’t know how many times I have watched Arsenal get 60% + possession and be undone by a counter attack or set piece for all their great pass and move football.

Why can’t we have these different styles? If every team played the same way, it would be extremely boring. As much as I love watching Barcelona and Arsenal’s possession football, I just as much enjoy watching a lightening counter attack resulting in a goal. I am also definitely partial to watching a bullet header from a corner! A team can only play to the capabilities of their playing staff. If Rory Delap et al started trying to knock the ball around like the Spanish national team; they will be saying hello to the Championship very quickly. It would be intriguing to see Barcelona visit the Britannia and see how they cope with the tough tackling and direct style. Unfortunately I can’t see those two meeting anytime soon, so maybe it isn’t worth thinking about!

Different clubs have different morals and philosophies with which they want their club to stand by. Barcelona will play their ‘Tiki Taka’ football which is trained within their La Masia from a very young age. Similarly Real Madrid are starting to get tired of the negative tactics of Mourinho as that is not want Real Madrid want to be represented by. Many clubs have these morals and philosophies but most of them can only maintain these due to their huge history, success and being able to attract the most talented players on the planet. Maybe if Stoke maintain their current year on year climbing of the league table they will attract some of the continent’s most technically gifted youngsters and start to breed a philosophy of possession football, who knows…

Many sceptics of the style of Spanish Football claim that they would get kicked off the park if they came to some of the more physical sides in England. Although that may be true in terms of aerial challenges and 50/50 contests, if a player intentionally goes against the rules to gain an advantage they should be punished. This being the case, surely Robert Huth would not be able to get away with hacking Messi throughout the game. Likewise Dani Alves should not be allowed to get away with diving with the inevitable many last ditch tackles of Ryan Shawcross. The question of who would win the fantasy match between the two can only be determined if you imagine a perfect refereeing performance, (there rarely ever is one) so again it’s probably not worth thinking about!

It is what you want your club to be represented by in the end that counts. I personally am proud that Arsenal play attractive football and don’t spend vast sums of money. Similarly I am sure Stoke fans are equally proud of their club surging up the English league in recent seasons, regardless of their style of football. I would like Arsenal to incorporate some of the passion of the Stoke fans as well as some of their fighting spirit. Similarly, I am sure Stoke might one day prefer occasionally to try a Messi jinking run to the Delap long throw! Do we all dream of our club playing great football and winning many trophies? I am sure we do, but it is not necessarily in every clubs capabilities. I prefer my club to go about itself in the way it does because it can, but I embrace all the different styles of the game.

There isn’t a correct way to play football, and we all have our different tastes. Thankfully there are many different dishes on the menu and good luck to all the clubs going about their style in different ways, it is what makes the game so interesting and long may it continue.

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