Adroit footballers operating in several positions throughout their career is not a modern phenomenon. John Charles, arguably the finest dual-threat player ever, was both a world class centre forward and centre back; often during the same game. Likewise, players have historically operated across a back four, in midfield or attack in several defined roles. However, recent developments from both a technical and tactical perspective have seemingly taken this versatility one step further. Multifunctional players are determining European Cups and league titles and the trend looks set to continue.
Looking back at Claude Makélélé’s time with Chelsea provides the perfect juxtaposition to the modern holding midfielder. The man who is the only footballer to have an actual position named after him was the perfect defensive midfielder. Makélélé possessed a positional sense that few have ever matched, married with superlative defensive instincts. He was the battery in an expensive watch and naturally the ‘Makélélé Role’ was coined.
In a time where teams were still largely operating on a 4-4-2 basis Makélélé provided the platform for José Mourinho’s devastating counterattacking football. His role was simple and overlooked by those who ran Madrid. Their loss was undoubtedly Mourinho’s gain and Makélélé enabled Chelsea to dominate the Premier League for a two-year period. As the game evolved the requirements of the midfield anchor man deviated from those of a purely defensive failsafe. The birth of the regista (at least in the consciousness of mainstream football) gave prominence to artistic brilliance and the passing acumen of Andrea Pirlo. It even led to a domestic clamour for the conversion of David Beckham into a ‘quarterback’. Continue reading →
Todd Pemberton looks back on Sylvinho’s second stint in English football and his season-long stay at Eastlands…
My club, Manchester City, has always been full of stark contrasts and juxtaposition. Never has this been more summed up than when we signed Brazilian Sylvinho on a free transfer from Barcelona. His final game for the Catalan giants was a victorious Champions League final where he played a full 90 minutes; his first game for Manchester City was against Scunthorpe in the League Cup, as Wayne Bridge’s understudy. A fall from grace or merely a neat anecdote surmising the sometimes strange nature of life in the Blue half of Manchester? Continue reading →
Simon Smith reflects on some of the tactical trends from last season…
The summer of speculation is fully underway as gossip, exclusives, breaking nonsense and rumours replace the reflections team of the year lists and player reviews. It can only mean one thing: enough time has passed for us to properly look at the last year from a few steps back and assess a season that wasn’t quite.
In entertainment terms that is. In tactical terms, quietly and under the radar, there were some big changes taking place. Perhaps the biggest season in four or five years in terms of the changes to playing style at the highest level, 2012-13 won’t be remembered as a classic but certainly will be remembered as the year tiki taka lost its sheen. The event of the season for the purist must surely be Bayern Munich’s demolition of the much heralded Barcelona in the Champion’s League, an outcome some had predicted but executed in so brutal and total a manner as to surprise world football in general. The death of tiki taka was the talk of the internet, but it was clearly premature. What we can say with more clarity is that the dominance of tiki taka is over, and even if nothing as coherent and successful has come along to replace it, the one system hegemony of the Xaviesta era is probably over now. Continue reading →
Guest writer Rob Brown looks at what happened to David Villa, as El Guaje enters a career crossroads…
The date is November 29, 2010. Camp Nou is full to capacity and Barcelona lead Real Madrid by three goals to nil. Nearly 100,000 Culés plus a global audience of millions are enthralled by one of the greatest team displays ever.
David Villa, assister of Barça’s second goal and scorer of their third, stands in front of his team’s left-back, Éric Abidal, as Madrid keep the ball on the opposite flank and try desperately to find a way back into the game. Possession eventually turns over and Villa begins to run forward.
On the opposite side of the pitch, Lionel Messi receives the ball from Sergio Busquets. He immediately turns and drives at Ricardo Carvalho and Sami Khedira. As Messi reaches them he darts to his left, skipping past the German midfielder, and Villa sprints through the blind spot of the Madrid right-back, Sergio Ramos.
Right on cue, Messi pings a perfect diagonal through-ball between Pepe and Ramos, leaving El Guaje one-on-one with Iker Casillas for the second time in three minutes. He lets the ball roll for what seems like a millisecond too many and then stabs it under the onrushing Casillas for 4-0. Continue reading →
With Barcelona listing in open waters after a brutal broadside from Bayern Munich, David Wild declares that the Bavarians themselves will soon be replaced by a true, footballing monster born in the fire of the Potteries…
In the post Champions League battlefield, as the dust comes to rest, we see a world where Tiki Taka is dead. Bayern Munich were an obvious showing of the way that football is moving, with an emphasis away from silly distractions such as 83% possession and 9000 Xavi passes a game. However theirs is but a stepping stone to the next tactical and technical zenith of football. Now that Bayern have vanquished Tiki Taka from the football landscape it is only a matter of time before their own swift passing game is replaced by the next unstoppable force.
Picture a world where the Arabian consortiums had scoured the footballing landscape and plucked from obscurity the humble town of Stoke. It was to be their oasis of the beautiful game. Limitless funds would be made available and the only demand was that the club stay true to Tony Pulis’ tried and tested principles. Imagine, if you will, a world where Stoke City F.C. could buy whoever they wanted but still insisted on playing as if the pitch is made of lava and the ball will melt if left on the ground for longer than 4 passes. Welcome to the Stokelacticos. Continue reading →
No contenders please, we’re English. James Dutton looks at a Champions League quarter-final lineup harking back to its halcyon days…
The bell tolls. Last orders gents.
There has been something of an overreaction to the lack of English teams remaining in this season’s Champions League. Of course this is the first time since 1995-6 that there has been no English representation at this stage. Blackburn Rovers were the sole flag bearer then and endured a miserable experience. Until Manchester City’s woeful performance this season, it was the worst English campaign in Champions League history.
Though it is significant that this is the first time since the expansion of 1999-2000 that any number of English entrants have failed to progress beyond the Last 16, that ship sailed long ago for the other top European leagues. La Liga in 2005, Serie A in 2001, 2002 and 2009 and the Bundesliga in 2003, 2004 and 2006.
Many have been ready and willing to proclaim the respective deaths of Italian and German football since the turn of the millennium but neither prediction has come to pass. Boom and bust is part and parcel of the sport. Continue reading →