Sunday, 2 September 2007

Totally Beautiful

I frequently hear football referred to as "the beautiful game". And yesterday my lover said that Arsenal play 'beautiful' football.

Easy words to say, but just what does 'beautiful' mean in footballing terms?

Certainly I can't pretend I saw much that I would describe as beautiful yesterday (apart from the rather swarthy looking fan wearing a retro LCFC shirt), although as I said there were some moments of flow and grace.

Arsenal, it would seem, base their style of play upon a system pioneered by the Dutch, and in particular exemplified by Johan Cruyff (we have met him before), called Total Football. The basic principle rests on the idea that other than the goalkeeper players are not 'fixed' in their positions, allowing a more flexible response to the narrative of the game as it unfolds.

If, for example, a defender sees an opportunity to attack and take the ball forward, they would be 'back-filled' by another player. Sounds like the perfect example of team work to me but it must take time to build with a team. The key, apparently, is space and how it is used.

It contrasts with a system I have been reading about in "How Soccer Explains The World" (yes, we have talked about that before too) called Catenaccio. This system makes use of a 1-3-3-3 formation, including the Sweeper position (further revision reference) and the emphasis is upon strong defence. The idea was to score as early as possible then defend strongly to protect the position. It is not particularly fashionable any more, not least as it can lead to somewhat pedestrian and negative football. Like the baby and the bathwater, however, it should not be discarded completely as it can still be an effective strategy in the right situation.

I wonder which school of thought our new manager will favour.

1 comment:

Lady in red said...

most teams these days seem to favour either the christmas tree formation or 1,4,4,2 formation. most youth teams favour the latter. It is a brave and sometimes foolhardy manager who will allow his team a free reign. The team my eldest played for mostly used 1,4,4,2 with occasional changes according to the opposition. There were times when my son originally a fwrd then left winger but in the end left back as he was best player for that position was given free reign to go where he needed to and others fill in for him. opposition would not be expecting a defender to run up the wing and make a brilliant cross or run through the middle and score. most of the team had been together for 10 yrs so they were aware of each other.