Tiki-taka to Total Football: Tactics which changed the game

One of football’s most overused cliches is ‘90% of sport is mental’. Now whilst seeing Messi using speed, technique and flair to hammer teams week in week out might make you disagree, there is an aspect of truth.

It’s no understatement to say that tactically advanced teams hold an advantage. So let’s have a look at some of the most successful tactical masterpieces ever to be chalked up.

Total Football

Rinus Michels’ ‘totaalvoetbal’ revolutionised football tactics throughout the 1960’s and 70’s during his tenure with both Ajax and the Netherlands squad. In principle it was simple: any player was trained to play in any position.

It’s strength was that it completely destroyed the defensive ‘catenaccio’ style of play at the time, based on close man-marking. Michels’ team could change at will, confusing defenders who were man-marking and creating space to attack. In defense, the team would press as one fluid unit.

Rinus Michels

Michels’ system propelled Ajax to three consecutive European Cups (1971, 1972, 1973). It worked so well for the Dutch National Team that they were dubbed the ‘Clockwork Orange’ and took them to the final of both the 1974 and 1978 Word Cup.


One of Total Football’s greatest sons, Johan Cruyff, would later become a pioneer of our next great tactic – tiki-taka. Popularised under Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona, the key to tiki-taka was a team small in height, but great in presence. With only Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique the two regulars over 6ft, Barcelona used nimble players to weave intricate passes through other teams. Passing and player movement were the basis for  Pep’s team who proved that height is not needed if the opponent can’t get near the ball.

Tiki-taka’s peak lead to European success for Barcelona, as well as a European Championship for Spain, followed by a World Cup in 2010. Eventually, tiki-taka was shut down with a tactic which has gone on to be used by teams today-the counter-attack.

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Is Racism an Inherent Part of Football?

Racism in football is a problem which never ceases to rear it’s ugly head. Just as it seems we are making progress, another incident makes us think twice. With campaigns like Kick it Out uniting footballers at least on the pitch,does the problem lie with the fans? Particularly our ‘pub culture’ towards football?

Between 2012-2015, 350 racial incidents were reported to UK police, with the majority  from grassroots. This is an alarming sign that racism in football is more a societal problem, a view shared by charity Show Racism the Red Card. Clubs condemn the actions of racist fans, an example being the lifetime ban given to four fans who refused to let a black man on the Paris tube after their game against PSG in 2015.

According to YouGov polls, fans are happy with how clubs act in punishing acts of racism with zero tolerance. On the other hand, the majority of the public agree that fans themselves can do a lot more to prevent the incidents. The problem, arguably, is that clubs can only act in retrospect. The solution offered by players such as OGC Nice striker Mario Balotelli, is to educate fans before incidents occur.

Balotelli claims to have faced racist abuse in every country he has played in and has recieved over 4000 racist messages.

In a CNN interview Balotelli says that racism makes players ‘feel alone’, even in a stadium of thousands. He adds: “It is normal to insult opposition players, but not racist things.”

It seems that whilst racism is being tackled from the top, it is the fans who make up a large proportion of the problem. It is only logical that anti-racism campaigns turn their heads to educating the public if racism is to be abolished completely from football.
Photos licensed for reuse: Google images