The game of football has adapted immeasurably over the past few years, with teams across England appearing to be shifting toward a more fluid attacking philosophy. This has in turn seen as increase in creative and forward thinking ex-pro’s taking up roles as coaches or managers across the various leagues, with their knowledge and experience key in adapting to new philosophies.
Gustavo Poyet and Paolo di Canio have, in particular, been working wonders at their posts with Brighton and Hove Albion and Swindon Town, respectively, securing success for both of their clubs, whilst playing attractive, football. The Amex side in particular have been a breath of fresh air, moving up from League One, whilst sticking to their particular philosophy, in the face of an increased level of quality, in terms of opposition.
Its becoming a rather archaic view that teams down the domestic ladder play ‘kick-and-rush’ football, as the level of coaching and tactical know how within the footballing world increases, due in part to an increased exposure to the continental game. Swansea City have provided a real surprise this Premier League season, replicating their free-flowing, possession based plan in the English top-flight. It’s common to see promoted teams secure a shot at the big time, by playing the game the ‘right way’, and achieving success at Championship level, only to switch to a solid style, and negative, game plan upon their arrival in the Premier League. The Swans have bucked this trend, sticking to their 4-3-3, ‘keep the ball on the carpet’ philosophy, and although their form may have dipped slightly of late, the South Wales club will be a top-tier outfit next season.
Although Paulo Sousa and Roberto Martinez may have built the foundations for the club’s success, Brendan Rodgers has been a big influence, pushing the team on and aiding their development. The Welshman was himself an attack minded player in his short career, and as a result was deterred from playing the typical, and in some ways lazy, English style of football:
“I was a little winger or central midfield player, more technically gifted than pace and power. I played in Northern Ireland youth international teams and they were always teams set up to defend and to not have the ball. I was not that type of player and didn’t enjoy it.” Rodgers told The Independent.
“It was similar at Reading and I just felt there was a better way to play football and I knew there was British talent that could play that way. It’s a lot more difficult to coach players to play that way than just to kick the ball up the pitch. But that was my mission really as a young coach, to go and help players to be technically strong and understand tactically the game. That’s followed me from my very first step.”
It must be said that his words ring true at the Liberty Stadium, with the Swans sticking rigidly to their style, regardless of opposition. Sure there have been defeats at the hands of big clubs, but there have also been memorable victories such as the visit of Arsenal, often heralded as the holy grail of English creative football, who were played off the park by the men in white.
The pragmatic approach to football appears to be entering its twilight years, as the technical ability and pace of modern day players increases. The successes of Barcelona have influenced teams across Europe to crave attractive football, and as a result defensively motivated managers have struggled. With the employing of more and more attack orientated coaches, the beautiful game may become just that once more.
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