The beautiful game. Proper football. Total football. We’ve all heard those phrases over the years.
We’ve all heard the plaudits for the top managers for playing the ‘right way’, and we’ve heard the comments about managers who play more direct.
But my question in this article is, is there a ‘right way’ to play the game?
This is something that has always fascinated me.
Every football fan likes to see the game played in a certain way, or so we are told.
Playing out from the back, in between the lines, ball on the floor. Quick, flowing, passing, entertaining football.
Like the famous Brian Clough once said, if God wanted us to play football in the clouds he would have put grass up there.
But for all the tika taka expansive football, there is the other side of the game.
Your other managers who play direct, into the striker, back to front, over the top, running the channels.
They do that because that is the best way they think they can win with the tools at their disposal.
So it all boils down to what matters most, style of play or points.
We’ve all been told football is a points business and also we’ve been told it is about entertainment.
The first part is true, but the latter part is as well. Maybe a bit less so than other forms of entertainment.
In theatre you don’t go and watch a play and see a great performance, and then want the three points at the end of it.
But in football you do, so there is a fine balance to strike.
So personally, I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to play football matches.
You play football the way you think you and your players can win points.
In the current situation, if United won every game 1-0 between now and the end of the season by playing direct football, and then won the league, would United fans care?
Would you rather see your side try and play free flowing football and get tonked, or play long ball football and finish up the top?
I know I would opt for the second option.
And the other argument is that its about tools in the armoury.
Pep has millions to spend on top quality players, so he can play that fast flowing, intricate brand of football.
Whereas someone in the Championship with the smallest budget in the league, two big centre halves and a bulky centre forward and quick wide players, can’t play that way.
He has to play to his strengths.
If you’re a self employed builder with one white van, a ladder, a box of tools and you work for yourself, you’re not going to put in a bid to win the contract for London’s next big sky scraper are you.
You have to play with what you’ve got. Deep down every manager wants to play what is perceived as the ‘right way’.
But they can’t.
And on a tangent from that, players at recreational level are now being told to play this expansive style, setting up with tactics.
What is all that about.
If you’re playing recreational football with your mates, you don’t need a tactical talking to.
You need four at the back, four in midfield, and two up front. That’s all you need, not a manager who thinks he is the local Mourinho.
So for all the above points, I don’t think there is a ‘right way’ to play football.
Yes there is maybe a prettier and more attractive way to play, but football isn’t about attractiveness it is about who has the most points and who win the most games.
And it doesn’t matter how you do it.