Football Tactics For Beginners:How To Watch Football-Part 2

You can read the first part here Defensive Phase I always try to analyse the defensive phase of a team before the attack. Most professional managers...
Andrew Clayton
Third year Literature student with a passion for 80s music and football

Latest Posts

Serie A’s Last Outsiders Part 1: Hellas Verona, 1984/1985

With the 2020–2021 Serie A underway, there is a general sense of uncertainty about a league that has fallen from the heights of its...

Have Opponents Got Used To Liverpool’s 4-3-3 Formation This Season

Liverpool are conceding goals at an alarming rate when you consider that they only conceded 33 Premier League goals throughout last season’s title-winning campaign....

A brief history of the footballing aesthetic (and its gradual death)

The death of football at its most beautiful peak, is nigh ‘Football is the beautiful game.’ A statement we have heard since childhood. Words which...

Southampton 2-5 Tottenham: Mourinho’s reply to his doubters

For the first time in his storied career, Jose Mourinho started a league season with a defeat. Facing a freshly reinforced Everton at home,...

How will Gareth Bale fit in at Spurs-A look at Mourinho’s 4-2-3-1 formation

Multiple top-tier sources including BBC and the current Tier 1 Journalist Fabrizio Romano have confirmed that Spurs are in talks with Real Madrid over...

Fulham 0-3 Arsenal:Tactical Analysis – Willian, Gabriel superb in Arteta’s 3-4-3 formation

Lineups and Formation Fulham Fulham lined up in a 4-2-3-1. Rodak was preferred to new signing Areola in goal. The back 4 had Odoi (right), Bryan...

The European Resurrections of Ever Banega

It seems fitting that Éver Banega’s final bow in European competition involved him lifting the Europa League. Barring a surprise reversal in the future,...

Football Books

Foul- The Beautiful Game, An Ugly Truth [Book Excerpt]

The clip-clop of football boot studs on concrete echoed through the tunnel over the hum of distant crowd noise. A drenched team of players...

Best Football Analytics Books

We have compiled a list of the best football analytics books for the casual football fan. Football analytics and data science/machine learning in general...

The Best Football Books of 2019

It's been another eventful year in the world of football. As we look forward to 2020, we have compiled a list of the best...

The Best Football Books of 2018

It's been another eventful year in the world of football. As we look forward to 2019, we have compiled a list of the best...

5 Books every Soccer fan needs to read before the FIFA World Cup 2018

The FIFA World Cup is just around the corner and it's the perfect time to brush up your history and facts about the World...

The Diminishing role of the Stopper Center Back in the Premier League

Defending and its place in the modern game has spawned a quagmire of critical debate. Back in 2014, when Gary Neville’s article in the Telegraph declared the death of the ‘proper defending’, his words represented an ever-growing grumble about the League. The emphasis on blindingly fast attacks seemingly leave no place for the old-fashioned ‘stopper’: a physically-imposing, no-nonsense defender whose purpose was to block, tackle and clear, if stuck with the ball. Whilst the demand for these stoppers has certainly diminished in recent times, alongside a rugged approach to defending, this is not to say that they have lost their important role in the modern game.

The physicality of football, particularly in England, has always been present in talk about the game, from its nascent years up to present. The sturdy centre-back perhaps best embodies this, in a role that relies on intimidating forwards and throwing themselves on the line to prevent goals. In Jonathan Wilson’s 2008 book Inverting the Pyramid, he notes the conception of the central defender from Herbert Chapman’s formative W-M formation. The centre-half became the first player on the pitch, besides the goalkeeper, with solely defensive duties in mind, revolutionising the game and dawning an era in the interwar period of defensive and often proclaimed, negative, football.

Since, meanwhile, the role has blossomed into one that was tactically crucial to the game. Instead of one centre-back, teams began using two, or three. Whilst individual technical ability developed alongside tactical nuance, the stopper remained an indefatigable figure. The hard-men of the 1970s, such as Tommy Smith, Ron Harris and Norman Hunter, were phased out in the 80s, 90s and into the early 2000s, with the stopper role best represented by strong, tall players such as Tony Adams, Jaap Stam and Sol Campbell. These centre-backs were not only fearless but also tactically aware; as the FA’s judgment of fouling grew stricter, players began taking more responsibility in watching a forward’s movement and timing the tackle for a clean dispossession.

Managers were aware that fielding two stoppers was not always tactically necessary, leading to a now-traditional approach of, in a 4-at the back scenario, one stopper alongside a ball-player. Whilst both were adept in their defensive duties, the centre-back who could stride forward and spray passes was always covered by his fearless partner. This coupling proved successful in English football during the 2000s, as partnerships such as Terry and Carvalho at Chelsea and Vidic and Ferdinand at Manchester United highlighted a balance that worked. Arguably, the no-frills, stopper centre-back was indispensable, even as the game became faster and more technically impressive.

Back in the present, however, several pundits have noticed a change in the water. Writing for the Guardian in August of 2017, Jonathan Wilson claims: ‘Intimidation has all but vanished from the game (…) There’s not merely an expectation now that defenders should be able to pass, but a growing acceptance that if they can pass it may not matter too much if they aren’t especially good at more traditional defensive skills such as heading, marking and tackling.’ Whilst Wilson doesn’t encourage a thuggish, old-school style of defending that was thankfully phased out, his views challenge the sudden emphasis on centre-backs who are more confident in possession than when facing an attacker. Defenders such as David Luiz and, the perennial piñata for the English game, John Stones, are more renowned for their time spent on the ball rather than their work in gaining it back. Stones has been criticised more than once for his attempts to bring the ball out, even under Guardiola’s tutelage, whilst Luiz’s recent defensive errors for Arsenal have been roundly criticised.

This does not mean, however, that the stopper is no longer present in the Premier League. Leicester City famously won the title in 2015-16 with Wes Morgan and Robert Huth playing at the heart of the defence. Neither were fast or technically brilliant, however, they were both physically imposing, heading away crosses and stepping in front of shots to help the Foxes become champions. Despite their ages, both Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka have made a name for themselves as captains of their respective clubs, playing with passion and throwing themselves on the line to keep the ball away.

It’s likely that Wilson, Neville and co are right; the standard of no-nonsense defending has slipped. Problems with Liverpool, Everton and Manchester City, in particular, all seem to begin at the back. Yet, although the art of fearless but clean defending has diminished, it’s yet to finally disappear from the English game. So long as goals win games, there has to be players willing to put their body on the line to prevent their team from losing.

Related

Total Football and it’s impact on the modern game

The popularism of the “Catennaccio” in the 1960s by Helenio Herrera was game-changing in that it focused its tenets on defending and the art...

Football Tactics for Beginners: The Low Block

What is the low block? The low block is generally referred to a football team's defensive shape without the ball. Generally the low block consists...

Football Tactics for Beginners: Defending Corner Kicks

We are all afraid of it. It is the 90th minute, your team is up by one goal and the opposition is about to...

Football Tactics for Beginners- The Sweeper Keeper: From Lev Yashin to Manuel Neuer

Germany’s Manuel Neuer has been widely credited as one of the finest goal-keepers of his generation, and quite rightly too. The Bayern Munich shot-stopper...

The art of the long throw and how to counter it

Since the dawn of time, mankind has yearned to to throw stuff really far. Rocks, spears, shapes in the night club, to be human...

Football Tactics For Beginners-The Christmas Tree Formation

  Football is a result oriented business. Whatever succeeds, earns fame for itself and for its conceiver. And if it captures the imagination of spectators...

Football Tactics for Beginners: Tactical Periodization

What is Tactical Periodization? Tactical Periodization is a coaching methodology which is used to train football players with respect to the tactical context of the...

Football Tactics for Beginners-Compactness

If you have the ball you must make the field as big as possible, and if you don’t have the ball you must make...

Football Tactics for Beginners- Juego de Posición

The main principle behind "Juego de Posición" is to always look for superiority on the football pitch. This superiority can be achieved by being...

Latest Posts

Serie A’s Last Outsiders Part 1: Hellas Verona, 1984/1985

With the 2020–2021 Serie A underway, there is a general sense of uncertainty about a league that has fallen from the heights of its...

Have Opponents Got Used To Liverpool’s 4-3-3 Formation This Season

Liverpool are conceding goals at an alarming rate when you consider that they only conceded 33 Premier League goals throughout last season’s title-winning campaign....

A brief history of the footballing aesthetic (and its gradual death)

The death of football at its most beautiful peak, is nigh ‘Football is the beautiful game.’ A statement we have heard since childhood. Words which...

Southampton 2-5 Tottenham: Mourinho’s reply to his doubters

For the first time in his storied career, Jose Mourinho started a league season with a defeat. Facing a freshly reinforced Everton at home,...

Don't Miss

Dr. Carneiro or: How I should learn not to stop the game and love the boss

Hundreds of journalists this week have condemned Jose Mourinho for his treatment of Eva Carneiro and Jon Fearn after they wrongly ran onto the...

FC Start and The Death Match

“Without belittling the courage with which men have died, we must not forget those acts of courage with which men have lived.” – John...

Hungary – The Golden Team that never quite made it.

When you look back at the history of past World Cup winners and European Championship winners the usual names by in large stand out....

Football And Alcohol

      “When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading.” Football and booze go a long long way back, in...

Barcelona Vs Real Madrid:The Dream Team vs The Galacticos

An imagining of a match between two famous El Clasico sides. The 1992 European Cup winning Barcelona team, known as “The Dream Team” versus...

Transfers

How will Coutinho fit in at Arsenal: Arteta’s new look 4-2-3-1 formation

English outlet, Express are reporting that Arsenal are considering a loan deal for Barcelona's record signing, Philippe Coutinho. The report indicates that Coutinho might have...

How will Pjanic fit in at Barcelona? A look at Barcelona’s 4-3-3 formation for next season

As the deal between Barcelona and Juventus regarding the transfers of Arthur Melo and Miralem Pjanic has almost been finalised, let's take a look...

Three best Premier League transfers of all time

The Premier League is famous for its lavish spending on player’s transfers. Top clubs like Liverpool, Manchester City, and Manchester United have been spending...

Where will Kai Havertz play for Chelsea? A look at Lampard’s exciting 4-2-3-1 formation for next season

There have been several rumours surrounding Kai Havertz's transfer to Chelsea and Havertz's current boss, Peter Bosz has indicated that the winger might not...

Man United expected lineup against Sheffield United: Pogba & Bruno to start together for first time

Manchester United salvaged a draw against Tottenham in their first game post the lockdown. Their performance improved after the substitutions of Paul Pogba and...