Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Football is finished

El Clásico is no longer Messi versus Ronaldo, it is Xavi versus Carlo. The Manchester Derby is not Rooney versus Agüero, it is Ten Hag versus Pep. The emphasis is not on the players and their ability to find the solution, all of the praise or blame is for the manager.

“Football’s finished and now whatever this is has emerged, I don’t dare name it” is a jolting but fitting start to Manchester City assistant coach Juanma Lillo’s piece in the Athletic.

Lillo mentions that he is “a regretful father” because he feels responsible for helping popularize this way of thinking:

It really is wonderful because we, the managers, have too much influence. It’s unbearable. We have our own ideas and we say that we espouse them to help people to understand the game. Bullshit! It should be for the players to understand the game as they understand it.

People praised Carlo Ancelotti after their win against Bayern Munich for in-game tactical changes even though he alluded to the fact before and after the game that the majority of the problem solving authority was given to the players on the pitch.

The concept that the players are more responsible for the result than the manager has been lost. Everything good that happens at the start and every change during a game is the manager, it can’t be the players improvising. To me, that isn’t fair to the players who come up with the ideas.

It’s funny now how everyone talks about high block, low block… the only blocks that I know are apartment blocks. With a garage? Without a garage? This eagerness to find vocabulary that makes football more difficult to understand pisses me off.

I have become more conscious of this in my writing.

Everyone thinks complicated but the complicated parts of football need to be translated by those that know what to look for into simple terms so that anyone can learn what to look for. The goal should not be to come up with the most complicated explanation.

It’s harder to explain things simply. People should not need to learn new vocabulary to understand what is happening on the pitch or how to apply new ideas. I try to avoid using it.

I prefer talking in phases rather than numerical formations. As Pep Guardiola said, “I thought it was a 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, or telephone number my wife.” A team rarely uses one formation in or out of possession.

Oversimplifying it would be saying X team uses a 4-3-3 with the ball and a 4-2-2 without the ball. The structure is temporary based on the phase of play, the opponent, and the ball. Trying to keep track of the numbers becomes exhausting and confusing. It’s meant to simplify but it ends up being misleading.

These types of voices like Lillo’s need to be around Pep Guardiola at Manchester City during this period of football’s evolution. He has in the past said “Guardiola is like my son.” It might be time for the duo to conquer the very beast they themselves created to keep ahead of the curve.

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