Footballing Tactics: Then & Now

As we know it, modern football is the result of tactical progress over the last 100 years. In the early days of football, a basic configuration consisted of about 7 forwards, 2 halfbacks, and 1 fullback. Midfielders and their roles were not introduced since formations were made up of a mixture of offensive and defensive players. During the 1880s, these formations were commonly employed over the globe, with minor modifications here and there.

The famed Preston North End “Invincibles” team introduced and popularised the “Scottish Style” of football. The team went on to win the 1889 FA Cup and the championship. They employed a 2-3-5 formation with two fullbacks, three halfbacks, and five forwards. The configuration was popular during the period, and many teams used it until the offside regulations were implemented in the 1920s. Arsenal developed a 3-3-4 formation at the same time as a result of this. 

The Passing Game

Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona team, which played directly attacking football derived from the famed ‘Total football’ of the 1970s, maybe one of the most essential styles of football in modern football. The history of Pep’s formation at Barcelona, on the other hand, was first presented in Italy in the 1930s. 

Vittorio Pozo, the coach of the Italian National Team in the 1930s, introduced the Metodo System as we know it now. Two fullbacks, a half-centre back, two halfbacks, two midfielders, and an attacking three with a central striker in the middle make up a 2-3-2-3 structure. The formation introduced the concept of midfielders instead of older formations that relied on halfbacks to move the ball into attacks. 

Modern Day Football

Modern-day football began with introducing the 4-4-2 formation, which is still frequently used as a fundamental shape today. England is widely regarded as the birthplace of this formation, and they may also be the side who misused it.

The prominence of midfielders began to alter the shape in football in the 1990s, and this formation came into play. Fabio Capello is one of the notable managers that favoured and developed the 4-4-2 formation during his time with Milan and later with the England National Team, which did not go well as England was overpowered by a German team who played 4-2-3-1. This formation gave birth to the concept of a holding midfielder and an attacking midfielder.

During the 2000s, the legendary Manchester United club struggled to deal with Sir Alex Ferguson’s 4-4-2 formations against Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side and Mourinho’s 4-3-3 style of play created during his first Chelsea stay. During the 2000s, the three-person midfield became increasingly popular worldwide since it provided a 3Vs2 advantage in the midfield over 4-4-2. As a result, various formations, such as 4-2-3-1, 4-3-1-2, and others, can emerge.

However, the 4-3-3 formation was not unique to this generation, as it had previously been employed by other teams, including Uruguay in the 1950 and 1954 World Cups and several Latin American countries. The most famous of them all was the Dutch team of the World Cups in 1974 and 1978 and Johan Cruyff’s Ajax team in the 1980s. This formation is extensively utilised in modern football by Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, and, on occasion, Klopp at Liverpool. 

Today, change is on the horizon, as aggressive football has reverted to a more compact type of team play than the high-intensity game that dominated the game for the past few years. As the game progressed, formations became less critical on paper as players’ roles became more varied. As a result, more counter-attacking football has become popular around the world in various forms.

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