3 Things 2016 Has Taught the Football World

It’s been a funny old year. And by funny I mean horrendous, for politics, the environment, and for celebrity deaths. But never mind all that, one thing that never fails to give us a reason to smile is football. Here’s three things that the beautiful game has taught us over the past year.

Never Doubt an Underdog

The first half of 2016 belonged to Leicester City. Under the wing of Claudio Ranieri, they became Premier League Champions at odds of 5000/1. If there is one thing that Leicester’s famous title win taught us, it is that even in an age of bewildering transfer fees and super-clubs, any team can still win.

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Leicester provided one of the biggest upsets in modern football history.
Since then Leicester have seemingly inspired more teams around Europe to challenge the dominant clubs. At the end of 2016, RB Leipzig are a win away from Bayern Munich. In Ligue 1, OGC Nice sit five points above last year’s runaway winners, PSG.

When Done Right, Three-at-the-Back is a Winner

As covered in last week’s article, Conte’s 3-4-3 is currently tearing up the Premier League. Few managers have flirted with similar formations before, and fewer still have succeeded. Pep Guardiola is proof that even the best coaches struggle, with his attempt to rotate between a three and four man defence at Bayern Munich being hit-and-miss at best. When coming up against Barcelona in the Champions League, Bayern found out the hard way that the best teams will exploit any extra space left by an absence of full backs. This makes Chelsea’s 2016 squad all the more impressive as they have shown the rest of the world how it’s done.

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Brilliant? Yes. Invincible? Not Quite.
Some are just in it for the money

The news in July that Graziano Pelle swapped Southampton for Shandong shocked and angered many. The Chinese club offered Pelle an eye-watering £260,000 a week, making him the sixth best-paid player in the world. With Carlos Tevez now making the swap, China now has four out of the top ten best paid players in the world and throws up arguments to debate (and possibly future articles…). The fact remains that for all the passion in football, some are just in it to make a living.

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Probably looks cheerier now he makes enough to buy a Ferrari every week.

Photos licensed for reuse: Google images 

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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.

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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.

Tiki-Taka

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.

Photos licensed for reuse:Google images