Football over the years has evolved drastically. The intensity has increased, and the matches are often decided by the group that can maintain those levels throughout 90 minutes.
Throwback to 1900’s, a David v/s Goliath encounter usually played against the smaller teams. Upsets were rare, and if there was one; the bookies would have a field day.
Football of late gives the underdogs an equal chance to stamp their authority on the game. They end up giving the bigger team a stiff competition; and the match is settled by individual brilliance, which is in abundance with the Goliath in this comparison.
Why this change? It’s down to evolution and increased investment into the sport. The concoction of data analysis, technology, more funding and focus on youth systems gives everyone an even footing at the beginning of the season. The profit-crazy nature of the sport has attracted investors from across the world to buy stakes in the football clubs.
A closer look at the results very often seen in the Premier League recently points towards a lot of draws, some of which are goal-less. Most of these teams employ the central approach. They tend to attempt to break down the opponent through the centre. This leads to a scenario where you have the opposition midfield and defence behind the ball, switched on and alert for the eventual pass over, or through the defence, cutting it open. This is short for ‘Park the Bus’. The team that dominates possession is the team that has the ability of delivering these cutting-edge passes; i.e. has creative players that can do so. The defending team plays on the counter. That is how we can perfectly explain most of the games being played in the Premier League of late.
Going back into the 1990’s, we had fast and free-flowing football being played by teams that dominated the Premier League. These teams employed wing-play. Manchester United, Arsenal, Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle had main wide-men who could deliver pinpoint crosses. This in-turn frees up much of the space in the centre of defence. As a midfielder, you were literally spoilt for choice. You could play the ball out wide, or ignore the run of the winger and play a cutting pass through the defence for a forward on the run.
If the attack failed, the team that had committed men forward for the attack need to now track back as the ball is played quickly from the other team’s defence.
Leicester are one of the teams that have stuck to wing-play, with Marc Albrighton and Riyad Mahrez assuming crossing duties. Manchester United might be tempted to use the tactic given the quality of wingers they possess and the option of Lukaku in the middle of the box.
Rest assured, at least as neutrals, it would make for better viewing if both the teams involved contributed equally in attacks.