Sunday, December 30, 2012

The invasion game the hoarding way

The evolving game usually attracted much attention when tactics changed specifically at Fifa World Cups when millions of viewers got the opportunity to spend some time watching other countries they never saw or heard of playing football. 

For most of all we know, this sport is essentially an invasion game. The longevity of that truth depends on the horizons of your imagination. By default or by design, graphic illustrations of this fact is borne by most of the English Premier League teams as well as Real Madrid.

There is however another phenomenon, known to all but not given rightful attention as the modern game. On a good day, especially during the good old Arsenal days, we saw plenty of it. Harry Redknapp made it a Spurs trademark during his colourful White Hart Lane career. Swansea are exciting people with it but it is the monopoly of Barcelona. We are in the advent of the hording game; the 'catch me if you can' display.

It can be argued that while hording the ball, the intention is to ultimately invade the opposition goal. That becomes as true as institution of a domestic marriage. Couples do not necessarily marry for conjugal rights, though it is the ritual end game.

As for football, like many ball sports, the opposition gets outmaneuvered by precise technical and witty tactical ingenuity surpassing efforts of highly trained secret agents. More so, the game outside England if you discount recent strides the latest transformation made. Even then, it is attributed to foreigners.

Carrying the ball forward and thumping it in 'route one' fashion have been the norm, and seldom with later developments that convinced us that the art of elimination was the answer to everything. In the process, brutal force and sometimes mere determination and team spirit carried the day.

Football needed peeling off this inept syndrome and replace it with a formula that could sustain the two pronged outcome, to produce the results game after game, year after year and for seasons while entertaining the fans. That became the cornerstone of the Spanish's European (twice) and Fifa World Cup success. It took Barca from glory to glory perennially.

Granted, like the pressing of Arrigho Sacchi a few decades ago, it may see its better days, but it will not be anytime soon. Countering the passing game for now, will be a better passing game.

Interceptions in midfield will become better and screening will fade away to give way to winning the ball up field. That is very much physically taxing and tactically not unsustainable. The deliberate short passing game in one channel in order to attract traffic into that channel and then suddenly playing very long and wide to the weaker channel may the next big thing.

This need the Gareth Bales and Aaron Lennons, because they are the players you will need to pick up with that long ball on either channel. Like many systems we toy around with nowadays, these things existed, but occurred unintentionally and much less attention was given to their development as winning strategies.

The need of technically superior players is greatly appreciated the world over and with much better preparation and understanding, the game will continue to be studied and improved until it comes full circle. This is true of how Stoke City resembled Wimbledon sometime back, though is a polished way. They now play the ball on the deck.They have players to do it, but when you are still lulled by the deft skills of the big men, they hit teams with that one ball, kicked or thrown in.

Just how deceptive these guys are, one has to look at their recent victory over Liverpool. When getting into crossing positions, all and sundry would have put their tools on the chopping board for a delivery of a high cross. As an element of surprise, a low ball was met by Kenwyne Jones at the near post for that stylish back heel finish.

Essentially, the sophistication of the game as we know it today has been caused by the intrinsic details that have turned out to be the difference between victors and victims. Small things make the big things happen. Get the details right and everything will fall into place.