So your team just won a game 2-1 and got the 3 points, you pump your fists in the air and look at the league table and see an upward movement. Is everything good? YES
Well, up until you open your social media account or a sports website and see complaints about the manner of victory.
“Oh, we played badly”, “oh we were lucky, drab game”, “why did we park the bus?”, etc and you’re left scratching your head.
What really is the most important thing at the end of the day? Let’s delve into this a little deeper shall we?
Firstly, it is possible to combine preferred style with a positive result, but almost impossible to ALWAYS DO IT.
So why are fans so pressed about “good style” on the occasions when it isn’t possible to combine?
What really is the priority here? In order to try and understand this, I have tried to understand what “style” means.
Everyone knows what “result” means, and in football, it is 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw, 0 for a loss, and winning/not winning any of the numerous trophies on offer at the end of the season. So what is “style”?
I looked up 2 definitions,
1- A manner of doing something
2- A distinctive appearance, typically determined by the principles according to which something is designed
The second one really caught my attention, “…typically determined by the principles to which something is designed”.
Part of what makes football an amazing game is that there are so many different ways to play it/approach a game. Every coach probably has his own way and tailors it to available players.
Over the years, there have been so many styles that have graced this beautiful game; Catenaccio, total football, Heggen-pressing, tiki-taka, defend deep with quick transitions, long balls, etc.
What makes one better than the other? Surely, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the only tangible thing we have is, you guessed right, results.
A look at some of the greatest coaches/teams in history would give you so many different styles;
Hellenic Herrera ( Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid ): Catenaccio ( if there is a definition of defensive football, this was it. He won 7 league titles and 2 European Cups. Catenaccio literally means ” door-bolt” ).
Arrigo Sachi ( AC Milan ): an Absolute legend of the game, played with a high press and solid defense, won back to back European cups.
Sir Alex Ferguson: We all know what he won. Used a mixture of styles according to what he felt was best for him in a game ( bus parking, super fast attacking based on wing play, sit deep swift counter-attacks, etc )
Pep Guardiola: Tiki-taka. Pass and move in a certain zone to draw out opponents, then hit with a killer pass. 6 league titles and 2 European cups
Jose Mourinho ( Porto, Chelsea, Inter, Real Madrid, Manchester Utd): Transition based style. Always looking to provoke a mistake from an opponent, and take advantage of that mistake. 2 European Cups, 1 Uefa Cup, 1 Europa League, 8 league titles.
So many other examples but I won’t go too far. Which style here is the best? Do you really think people did not love Herrera and his Inter?
Or Sacchi and his Milan? Or Fergie and his Utd? Or Jose and all his teams? or Pep and all his teams? If there are people who have loved each, why can one style be seen as “better” than another?
These are questions I believe all football fans should ask themselves as opposed to following popular media narratives and emotions based on who is likable or not.
If all coaches approached the game the same way, what really makes them unique individuals? What makes them unique human beings?
“Oh but it doesn’t look pretty”.. What exactly does “pretty” mean? There are many people who sat down through a Milan derby ( Inter vs. AC Milan ) and absolutely loved it or loved Inter sitting so deep then picking teams apart.
So why is your ‘pretty” the universal standard? I expect a coach to have his own preferred style and always pick which way is best for the team.
Which brings me to a second angle, most times, the preferred style is tailored according to the quality/characteristics of available players.
Let me use an example, say Bolton Wanderers of those Sam Allardyce days; they always gave Arsenal problems and Wenger would complain about the style Bolton employed to win.
You have Pederson, Nolan, Campo, etc vs Pires, Henry, Viera, Bergkamp, etc. Do you really expect Bolton to play a passing game? Try to outpass Arsenal?
Or do what they did best; physical, long balls, 2nd balls, etc? Why would Sam Allardyce prepare Bolton for a game( or even a season ) like that and not pick the best possible approach to win?
Why should big Sam give his players roles they are less comfortable in based on their qualities?
I have seen teams and coaches take up a moral high ground on styles and approach, and it comes mainly from the so-called purists. Anytime they fail to win a game, they complain about the opponent’s style, why?
Football in its pure form was not intended to be restricted to one way, I actually think this really is the purity of football.
Different styles/approaches/ideas, fighting against each other for the common goal; winning. Catenaccio vs tiki-taka, Heggen-press vs long balls, transitions vs high press, etc..This is what makes football beautiful.
There is no wrong style, and the right style is whatever makes your team win. I believe if all football fans got on this page, the unnecessary complaints and comparisons would stop.
I asked a question at the start of this write-up, style vs results, which is more important? The answer results, and will always be. If your team happens to combine your preferred style with results most of the time, fair enough.
P.S: I understand there can be a preference for a particular style, but there is no right style. If you are not happy with the style your team plays, well it’s on your club for appointing that coach.
You’re not going to appoint Herrera and expect Pep football. As long as your team wins, then the coach is justified.
The football fanatic.
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