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Monday, 16 November 2015

Football is a different game to the one fans play

In football now the roles of players have changed. For full-backs their attacking ability is considered more important than their defensive ability, the traditional English centre-forward has all but disappeared and wingers and now inverted with right footers on the left and left footers on the right.

A striker has to assist, distribute and defend as well as find the time to score all without a strike partner to lay the ball off to while the goal scoring burden is now often carried by an attacking four. It is the striker who determines the success of this attacking quartet with his movement. The position a striker takes in a build-up determines the direction midfielders run in.

Far from being a central centre-forward a modern day striker has to operate all the way along the back line, it is his role to pull defenders and create space for his teammates to run into. The attacking midfielders must have the vision to see these gaps or know where potential gaps might appear if a striker makes a particular run. He can then either run into the gap or make a curved run to maintain the space as long as possible and meet the ball played into it at the optimum time.

The key space, if it can be determined that, is the space between the defenders and the keeper, this is the danger zone for the defence. The optimum pass is one in behind defenders for an onrushing player. We can regularly see this best when a ball is played inside a full-back (between him and the centre-half) for a wide man to run diagonally behind the full-back and bare down on goal. In these instances, you would want your striker central keeping the centre-backs occupied. Riyad Mahrez  performs this inverted winger role for Leicester City, scored against us with a diagonal run at goal and is the joint-second highest Premier League goalscorer this season. 

It is the most difficult ball for a full-back to defend as you then have the defenders running back towards their goal. It is easier to defend and build a quick counter-attack if you are defending facing forwards. Thus defenders facing their own goal are in total defence mode, free-kicks, corners and throw-ins high up the field become common results, in addition to strikes at goal, of course. 

We have seen recently the importance of midfielders positioning themselves on the bling side of their opponent. Gibbs for Arsenal was on the blind side of Walker who had to tuck in central and in a previous game the very same happened with Danny Rose.

Kyle Walker continually looked to play the ball inside the opposing full-back when we had Aaron Lennon but we don't seem to see the ball that much from Tottenham now, it is more often played when we are close to the box now. It is a ball that is played a lot against us as we are set-up to defend centrally and push sides wide.

Midfielders have had to evolve. The greatest exponents of the changes for attacking midfielders was Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, each scoring 20 goals a season in their pomp. The wide men are now expected to score more goals with perhaps a minimum target of 50 goals for the front four.

The days of a front two and a 4-4-2 formation are gone, it is a rare tactic now, but still prevalent on a Sunday morning in the park. The two games and the playing roles for each game have never been further apart.


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