The Barclays English premier league kicked off yesterday on the 16th of august, for the 2014/ 2015 season. What fans and football lovers are keen to watch in this season is the style of football the respective teams will bring into the new season. In 2010, Spain won the World Cup by defeating the Netherlands 1-0 after extra time. For avid football followers, the result signalled the birth of a new tactical era, the tiki – taka style of possession football.
Such a conclusion may have been exaggerated and hasty since it has long been in the making but it certainly underlines the fact that the World Cup is more than just some tournament football lovers obsess over for a month but one that changes the face of the game worldwide. The World Cup is where we come to learn about how the game is to be played. And while the footballing world becomes more and more homogenised with each passing year, Brazil 2014 was no different.
Let’s take a look at what one month of football in Brazil taught the football world and how it will impart the Premier League starting:
More aggressive Goalkeepers
The increasing effectiveness and popularity of the aggressive goalkeepers is an example of a trend growing long before the World Cup, gaining wider prominence because of it. From Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris to a lesser degree, Everton’s Tim Howard under the tutelage of Roberto Martinez, goalkeepers have been becoming increasingly proactive in attempts to snuff out opponent’s chances on goal for a while. But in Brazil, it became mainstream – the norm, even.
While such a trend has been in the making for the past few years – with formations becoming more and more fluid – its effectiveness was emphatically displayed by Germany’s Manuel Neuer performance against Algeria. With Algeria frequently orchestrating quick counter attacks – taking advantage of Germany’s high defensive line – Neuer left his line time after time, touching the ball outside his own penalty area a phenomenal 19 times.
While Neuer’s dramatic performance against Algeria isn’t likely to be replicated anytime soon, the trend can be seen elsewhere through more subtle techniques – with goalkeepers throughout the tournament charging to close down shot angles and taking other preventive measures to aid their team’s defence of goal.
Three-Man Back Line
Following Spain’s dominant performances in 2010, the 4-2-3-1 formation was quickly adopted as the preferred formation of most major European clubs – with a few notable exceptions. But after Spain’s failure, some have concluded that the tiki taka style of play which they propounded has been exposed and somewhat done it’s time. And that failure has brought about the success of teams using the three-man back line – such as Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands, Chile, and Costa Rica.
The use of variations of the formation by both the Netherlands and Chile ensured they defeated the defending champions- Spain in convincing fashion.
Even though the three-man back line is not a new tactical innovation in European football, it will be interesting to see what effect the formation’s World Cup success has on domestic leagues.
Having Van Gaal set to implement the system at Manchester United, there may well be more and more managers opting for the tactical advantages. However, how managers perfect it’s success in league known for its pace and tactical discipline is left to be seen.
While the World Cup gives us lessons on how to play the game, it also provides lessons on how to control the game. One such lessons has been the use of the vanishing spray – allowing referees to better control free-kick situations. The use of the vanishing spray has helped to prevent opposing defenders creeping closer to free-kick takers. While the 2014 World Cup helped introduce vanishing spray on a global scale, the product itself has been in existence since the 1980’s.With vanishing spray, matches undoubtedly become easier for referees to control – avoiding time-wasting while ensuring the integrity of the sports’ rules.
The failure of Spain to advance out of the group stages has led many football lovers to attempt to locate the next tactical innovation to be adopted from the 2014 World Cup. Some have settled on the aforementioned three-man back line. And while such a formation may see an increase in popularity, it is unlikely to be adopted on the same scale as Spain’s 4-2-3-1 after 2010.
However it is noteworthy to point out that those who remained rigid and inflexible with regard to their style of play, like Spain and Brazil, had relative failure and embarrassment.
Everton manager Roberto Martinez, in a response that truly sums up this point of view, said:
“What we saw in South Africa was a real understanding of trying to keep the ball, trying to base your football in possession and the 4-2-3-1 system became very much the way of playing. Now I think there’s going to be a real change in that; there’s a more dynamic approach, you need to be flexible with your tactical awareness. As a manager, you need to find what suits your players rather than trying to be trendy with your approach in games.”
With the football world becoming a more tactically varied environment, the ability to adapt to both the needs of your team and the demands placed on your team by your opponent will be paramount in finding success at the domestic.