Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

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Football is less attractive

Football has fewer entertainers than it did before because the physicality is higher, the spaces are smaller, and the schedule is more demanding. We get more football, but it is becoming less and less attractive, as Marcelo Bielsa said.

Our narrator for this summer of football, Uruguay manager Marcelo Bielsa:

Football has more and more spectators, but it is becoming less and less attractive. What made this game the best game in the world at the time is not prioritized today. Then this process will be finished. No matter how many people watch football, if you don’t ensure that what people watch is something pleasant, it will only benefit the business because the business only cares about how many people watch it. But in a few years, the players who deserve to be watched will be fewer, and the games produced will become less enjoyable. This current artificial increase in spectators will come to an end.

While I agree that football is becoming less attractive, that doesn’t mean it is not entertaining. You pay to watch the team, you don’t come to watch one player anymore. The problem is deeper rooted.

I have more hope than Bielsa because of how boring the Manchester City versus Arsenal match in April was, it was an inflection point for me. Zero progression, defensive, rigid rational occupation of space, side-to-side play. No one wants that type of game on a regular basis. When you watch France, England, or Portugal in the Euro’s, we are getting that type of painfully dull game.

I don’t blame the managers; they have to win. The players are the tactics; the players available determine the way the team plays. Flair has become more precise and automated, and the process of building robots starts young. I blame the coaches who taught the players not to express themselves. Those coaches had to sacrifice expression to focus development on quickness and strength to build physical athletes who would follow a playbook.

It is turning into American football, with players running preset plays, but the entertainment in that sport comes from being a physical freak. The problem football has is that William Saliba can’t rugby tackle Phil Foden. Pepe would love that too much. Football is more about technique.

Figure 1.1 - Playing out, irrationally occupying space, against a rigid 5-3-2 formation.

We need to win; we can’t just entertain. That is the nature of the sport. One-two, quick pass and move, technical play forward is the only way to counter this and win. Embrace the tight space by making it tighter to entice the opponent in, play out, create more room, and disrupt the structure of the defense. It seems counterintuitive, but it is proven that it opens space. The dribblers, the forward thinkers, the playmakers, and the entertainers need space. Michael Jackson can’t moonwalk in a phone booth; he needs a stage.

They will come up with solutions that will bring back the entertainers, and that style of football is more attractive.

Marcelo Bielsa:

Football is popular property. The poor have very little ability to access happiness because they do not have money to buy happiness. That football, which is one of the few things that the poorest maintain horizontally, they no longer have.

Football needs to be free and accessible for all and the kids need to be given a platforms to express themselves, find their own solutions, and practice spontaneity so we can have more entertainers in the future.

Translation credit to Juani Jimena

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