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Modern styles of play


JohnCresswell
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cicottrell writes:

Watching todays game on Santana Sports (its a bit rough round the edges, not rivalling sky anytime soon) a thought occurred to me: Over the last 5 - 10 years, the top clubs have been more consistent and there has been a lack of a good challenge from the much smaller club - today there is no Leicester City (circa MON) or Ipswich Town (when they finished forth). And I think I've found out why. The best clubs get the best players. Obviously. The best players have better control and better passing. The 'also-runs', of which I include Villa, can't get the best players. So they get good players, with a bit of bite, a will to win. They get stuck in. In the good old days, if you wanted it more, even if you were less talented, every now and again you would gain points. Think Matt Elliot and Steve Walsh for Leicester City 10 years ago. The physical side of the early premiership was brilliant. Put crosses into the 6 yard area and your big centre forward would bag 10 goals a season minimum. Think Dion Dublin, Duncan Ferguson etc. Midfielders would snap at the ankles of better players.

Today, the quality gap between Villa and Liverpool was obvious, but we more than matched their work rate and desire to win. The difference was that while we snapped at ankles, got stuck in, Liverpool passed with quality and precision. They don't go diving in. 10 years ago, todays game wouldn't have had a single yellow card. Today it had 6. The tightening up of refereeing standards has removed a large part of a footballers ability to win games. The art of the tackle has been lost, and the game as a whole is a lot poorer in my opinion because of it. I'm not making excuses for our defeat, we deserved to lose fair and square over the 90 minutes. Its the fact that we're denied the chance to complete that annoys me. If you don't have the best players, organisation, spirit and desire all count for less these days because of over zealous refereeing.

The second area where refereeing has blackened the game is challenging the goalkeeper. It is effectively banned. Any challenge what so ever, the keeper always gets a free kick. Always. Look at Crouch for England over the last 2 seasons - he's been pulled up hundreds of times just for competing in the air. Why have Liverpool brought a skilful, passing footballer to replace Crouch this year? Why will Man U play with the 2 smallest strikers in the league? Because they know that pure pass and move football is the future, and the days of physically bombarding your way though the defence are behind us. Great for the teams that can afford and attract the top names, big problems for everyone else. Its a spiral that has made it harder and harder to complete with the top four and I see no end in sight.

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Good piece. I disagree that the clamp down on tough tackling and "bite" has been a bad thing. Passing teams like arsenal are what I want to see. I don't want to watch physical sides like bolton.

The top four have adapted better because they had options whereas the lower teams depended on kicking lumps out of the opposition.

I do agree that the goalkeeper gets way too much protection and that tall players like carew and crouch get screwed just becuase they are tall.

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I think the balance has been just right (in the premiership) over the last few years, except for the GK situation, where keepers are protected too much. The problem is with the application of the rules, refs get it wrong far too often IMO.

However I do fear the premiership becoming too continental, where any type of hard physical challenge is usually given as a free kick. If that happened a large part of the game I love will be lost.

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I think you have hit the nail on the head - but I think you are looking at it from an English bias.

English football has always been a bit rough and tumble. Physical. Driven. Demanding, even. But as you are now attracting more foreigners to your league, they are raising the technical side of your normal game. Here, the "better" players you mention were brought up in a culture of move-and-pass, not blood-and-thunder. it's not so much kicking a ball in anger as it is coveting possession and caressing passes.

This makes it difficult for the English players. Especially for those who have come up through the lower divisions - where it is still 100 miles an hour death-or-glory stuff.

So is it a matter of the rich clubs never being caught by the also rans? No. Not if you start educating your youth in a more technical brand of football. Until that happens, though - you will only see 4 teams ever challenge for the title.

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I firmly believe the the likes of Barry and Petrov are excellent passers of the ball. The difference between Liverpool and Villa was the movement of the players and the passing styles of the teams. Villa play a more direct passing style, mostly aimed at Carew (who was poorly) to hold up the ball and Agbonlahor to run onto the ball behind the opposition defense. This is all good if your frontmen are at the top of their game, but Gabby is hardly the most intelligent runner off the ball so if he is shut down we become one-dimensional as the ball will keep going to Carew. Also we will play more stray passes then arsenal, man utd and liverpool because we are passing the ball long distances which are having to go past more players and require pinpoint accuracy and weighting.

Liverpool do play quite direct, however they play lots of safe sideways and backwards passes with the aim of pulling players out of position and then their players exploit the openings that makes with the precise long passing of Alonso and Gerrard. They don't commit to many bodies forward, which works against us as we score most our goals on the counter attack when their is lots of space to exploit.

Man U play a fast paced short passing game, every player (with the exception of the two CB's) are constantly moving when not in position looking for the space and making themselves available to receive the ball, the full backs are always looking to overlap, the Def mid is always in a position to receive a backwards or sideway pass from the attacking mids, the wingers happy running down the wing or infield and Scholes late runs into the box and very clever movement mean that he always finds space and time. In addition Rooney's movement pulls players out of position making openings for Ronaldo and Giggs to run into. Plus when starting attacks the two centre mids are looking for the two frontmen, and wingers making forwards runs to aim long passes at, so the attacking play is varied and with the superb movement of Rooney, Giggs, and Scholes, the direct running of Ronaldo and Excellent support play of Carrick and in the past, the master Keane.

The point I am getting at is that Liverpool's style of play is perfect for modern premier league football, where most teams look to sit back against to big sides pack the midfield and look to hit them on the counter attack. It means Liverpool don't lose many games, because in the past they haven't had the attacking talent of Man U or Arsenal they have to be patient going forward and try to lure the opposition into losing patience or tiring to make openings. They invite teams to try and press them so they can pull their players out of position. Alonso was schooled in this type of football in Spain (it is the archetypal continental style of play), the fact is european footballers are thinking footballers and English football is traditionally hardworking, physical and instinctive. The foreign players are better tactically as well as technically. Diving is not just about winning freekicks and penalties, but winding up the opposition (English players fall for it hook line and sinker), breaking up the play and disrupting the flow of the game. It means they can play the game at their pace and style rather than the oppositions.

In the premier league (at the top teams - Man U, Chelsea, Arsenal) we have a mixture of the two styles, attacking players that have great movement pace and/or strength, with skill that can pull players out of position and make time and space for the centre mids to control the game, it means they have more time to think, to observe whats going on further up the field and pick their passes better. This is why the best attacking talent cost a bomb, because attack really is the best form of defense.

At villa we cannot attract that kind of talent, but we have 3 or 4 young players the potential to achieve that, and that what MON is working on. Our movement is vastly improved under MON and with more games, and experience it will improve further. The reason why it takes time for teams with lots of new signings to play well is because they have to learn how they move, how they like to receive the ball, and when they like to pass the ball.

The best players have more intelligence on the pitch, they see the space sooner, they outsmart their markers and because they are so technically proficient they don't think about controlling the ball they don't even need to look at the ball (unlike Gabby and how McCann used to, however I have noticed that Gabby is working on that) it gives them more time to analyse the game and plan their next move. It's not simple enough to say that the top teams pass it better, its their most movement and touch that make the biggest difference. The top players are alway one step ahead of their lesser counterparts and as a result when your McCann's are flying in for a tackle your Alonso's and Torres', can see him coming a mile off and play for the foul. Roy Keane would be charging down players before they even got the ball because his reading of the game was impecible. MON is investing in the players he feels are young enough to improve and reach that level of on field intelligence and that have the hunger to continuously improve their game and never give up, because thats the kind of attitude a player needs to reach the top.

MON is doing everything right, however like all the great managers have had he needs a bit of luck to turn a good team into a great one.

Your point that the referees crackdown on aggressive play is not valid, because the banning of the tackle from behind, the crackdown on two legged challenges and the protection keepers get is fair. The two footed challenge and tackle from behind are extremely dangerous and are likely to cause serious injury, as they are very difficult to pull off safely, and a lot players careers will be saved because of it, after all our player are massive investments for our clubs. Keepers have to be the bravest players on the pitch, the amount of time we have seen keepers concussed, cut and unconscious is numerous. I do believe that the crackdown on challenging keeper rules out many fair challenges, however in a crowded box how hard is it for the ref and his assistant to see what is a fair challenge and an unfair one? I don't envy them having to make such decisions. I do think that when goals are scored or denied in which their standing can be questioned TV replays must be used, if that was the case England might have won a european championship or gone further in a world cup or two.

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Tightening up of refereeing standards? I must admit i didn't think the standard of Mike Riley's refereeing on saturday was of a good standard at all, in fact it was an absolute joke and cost us the game. I think this could be said of many refereeing performances last season, and also this season so far. Referees need to be more accountable than they currently are and made to pay for their mistakes. At the moment the FA does not hold it's referees to account and there needs to be some seperate body that clubs can go to that will be more objective in dealing with legitimate complaints from clubs and players.

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I have to agree with most of the original author's comments, I have thought for ages that pass and move football is better football, and certainly more efficient for putting goals in the ol' onion bag. It's more exciting to watch then clobbering tackles, although a good tackle does make me tingle inside.

I'd like to comment how what I'd like to see Villa do more of. And that's pass and run. "Pass and move" as Andy Gray says in Fifa07. We showed alot of good pass and move towards the end of last season and some of our pre-season matches. For example Barry's goal with Carew at Columbus, great little One Two, and Bang, back of the net. Also, Berger's goal against Sheffield United last match at Villa Park of the season. That was great seeing players go on runs and work together in a "telepathic" way. That's what futbol is all about, being telepathic, being on the same page as your teammates and even more so - down to the same sentence as your opponents. Foreseeing where a player runs or where a player has a chance to block a pass is essential to the game. We obviously didn't do this against Liverpool - not to the extent I had seen in the pprevious matches in Toronto and Columbus. I know alot of you will say that "oo they're just MLS sides". Sure they are, but that doesn't change the fact that anyone can stop a pass or foresee the threaded ball. The MLS, Liga, Calcio, Eredivisie, the Premiership all have these players and they all know how to use it, otherwise they wouldn't be handpicked to play for these teams.

So what's the problem then? We have the talent and the desire, I think what the problem was NERVES. A few of the players, namely Young and Gabi, looked nervous and unsure of themselves when finishing out a run. So many times Young got the ball on the side, or Gabi, and just didn't believe they had what it took to make it past Carrager or Agger, etc. Then we'd have to play the ball back and deal with setting up a new play. That was the most frustrating part about the match beause often times we would lose possession!

I think that if Villa would have started out with an away match, the pressure and nerves would have been considerably reduced allowing them to play more freely and confidently. The boys have the skill and talent to cause anyone havoc, I don't care if it's Derby or Chelsea. I see the same thing as MON, raw talent just ready to be unleashed, and I completely agree with MON that they didn't have the self belief last match, a shame. I really hope that their confidence isn't too battered after the first match of the season because if it is, we won't get that start we so desperately need. Keep your chin up boys! We believe and you, now believe in yourselves!

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.....Remember this game is all about opinions and as some of the Football greats have said" football is a simple game, so keep it simple"

My humble opinion of Saturdays games was this....they did not allow us any time or space to play the ball, they forced in to panic mode ....when we got the ball they were crawling all over us....... conversely we were more than benevolent and when they got the ball we stood off them by and large.... allowing them to display their undoubted skill.

Reading gave a perfect example of my observations at Old Trafford and didn't allow Man Utd to get in to their stride or rhythm, by pressing them and closing them down.... just like we did at The Emirates last season

Not pretty I hear you say..... but at this stage of our development, what do we want.

Obviously, having two big players in Laursen & Carew poorly did not help the young players confidence, but hopefully they will mature.

My worry is even if Martin O'Neill wanted to emulate Steve Coppell's game plan ....some of our players could do it but many could not.

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Good article. Yes, i agree. Especially with the bit about the GK's being over protected. Tall players are always penalised because the refs are far to eager to give to GK's a free kick. Good player examples.

Also, I'm fed up with seeing refs giving far to much advantage to the bigger teams. When are the FA gonna do something about it? We see it all the time with Man u, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool etc. It happened in the game on Saturday and cost us point. Liverpool basically had an extra man for 90 mins. :?

UTV!

www.astonvillafc.ws

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Agreed with a lot in the main pst and in Philosopher's post. GK's completely overprotected. Carew was blown up for a foul on Saturday when it was the keeper moving into him, not the other way round. I think there's still a place for the target man in the English game though, but the way he is serviced has changed a bit. The "big man with good feet" has replaced the lump with elbows and almost every team seems to want at least one - Crouch, Voronin, Ashton, Drogba, Adebayor, Berbatov, Viduka, Carew. We lacked a decent service (balls to feet or chest) on Saturday, but more painfully, there wasn't enough good movement. I wonder what JPA would have been lke alongside Carew, with pacy players like Young and NRC breking from midfield. At the moment, we lack two players to make us tick and help us keep the ball and keep it on the floor - a passing midfielder (Barry does a really good job, but he needs help in there and Petrov doesn't move enough or particularly intelligently) and a clever striker. Moore has goals, Gabby have pace and the odd goal, but we lack a clever striker. MON needs to find his Larsson. Maybe that will be somone at the club in good time, but we might have to look elsewhere.

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disagree with this article.

Nowdays the premiership is a joy to watch because football is about skill.

in the bad old days, football was physical, which i have no desire to watch.

so glad referees clamp down on tackling, so that skill can be allowed to show through.

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disagree with this article.

Nowdays the premiership is a joy to watch because football is about skill.

in the bad old days, football was physical, which i have no desire to watch.

so glad referees clamp down on tackling, so that skill can be allowed to show through.

ummm, tackling is a skill!

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Good article. We lack gullie upfront as well. We doesn't have enough players who can run with the ball at pace. like Giggs or Ronaldo (Winker).

I think we need to find our own next Luis Figo to make the different in our team. He is a clever player.

We seem to do better against european team and struggles too much against the big 4. I think it is a shame we never get the chance to see Angel and Carew together.

We need to find a suitable partnership upfront.

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