Google+ Blueprint for Football: The Thinking Game

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Thinking Game

Following Barcelona's elimination from the Champions League, and given the manner of that elimination, there was a rush of people eager to claim that this signaled the end of tiki-taka.  Hardly surprising as this is what always happens when a once dominant team suffers such a heavy defeat with some taking delight in declaring a particular era as dead.

In truth, whilst it might be that Barcelona will struggle to reach the heights that they had scaled in the recent past, what we're witnessing is simply an evolution in tactics.  Barcelona made successful a particular way of playing and now others are adapting it so that it works better when allied to their own characteristics.

Yet tiki-taka will never die.  It will evolve and change, of course, but it will never die: too many people and too many teams have been influenced by it for that to happen

It was quite telling to see Roberto Martinez, Wigan's manager, claim over the weekend that "the players who come to Wigan have to be very specific in terms of their technical ability and tactical awareness. The way we play puts a player under massive pressure to think all the time."  Up till a few years back, if a team with a very tight budget wanted to avoid relegation from the Premier League, the accepted way was for them to look for tough players who might not be the best technically but who would fight for the club.  That often also meant adopting the most rudimentary of tactics where the aim was to send the ball as quickly to the forwards as possible.

Now you get teams like Wigan, Southampton and Swansea that are set out to play football and who get results by doing so.  It is in such teams that Barcelona's echo will survive.

Naturally, however, for such teams to be able to do well they need players who can play such a style of football.  And, to paraphrase Martinez, such players must be able to think what they're going to do with the ball.  There will be increasingly less room for robotic; mechanical players.

Which is why, increasingly there will be less room for those aiming to develop robotic; mechanical players. Barcelona's period of domination might be coming to an end but the revolution they've brought about in how the game is played and players are developed will echo for a long time yet.

This article was originally sent out to subscribers of Blueprint for Football Extra.

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