James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: Why I’m worried about tactical gridlock
Go to the game. Buy a Bovril. Scream, shout and perhaps even swear a bit. Then go home.
Now there are other things to fret about. Like formations and tactical masterplans. Perhaps even conjuring-up a label for the gaffer if, God forbid, he finds itself on the wrong end of a bad result.
Negative Nigel? Do me a favour. The bloke has won nearly 56 per cent of his games.
It’s not only Egyptologists who obsess over pyramids. Diamonds are no longer just a girl’s best friend.
At Bramall Lane, for example, many fans seem absolutely engrossed by Sheffield United’s predilection for playing with just one up front. Shove two up there and more goals will inevitably follow. Well it ain’t necessarily so.
Deploying a lone marksman might, it is possible to argue, actually enable you to be more creative.
Packing the midfield could guarantee more possession, provide full-backs with greater freedom to roam forward and thus cram more bodies into the opposition box.
Then again, it might not. Which is why, being perfectly honest, I couldn’t give a stuff about the merits of 4-4-2 versus 4-5-1 or whatever the latest fad is.
Football is fluid rather than fixed. Team shapes, however they are explained on paper, seldom stay the same as the action ebbs and flows. Chelsea, for example, ask Diego Costa to patrol the halfway line when they’re defending their own penalty area but watch the likes of Eden Hazard, Willian and Oscar go when they’re not.
Still, for fear of sounding melodramatic, I’m growing increasingly concerned that this pseudo-scientific mission creep could further hasten the demise of the English game.
By encouraging the notion that players should be bound by their positions on a whiteboard. Try telling that, if it was possible to Rinus Michels, Gusztáv Sebes or Stefan Kovacs.
Think I’m over-egging this particular punditry pudding? Working myself into a state about the cult of the coach?
Have a look at how some clubs are now schooling their youngsters at academy level. They’re actually dividing pitches into grids.
Here’s hoping tomorrow’s FA Cup first round tie between United and Crewe Alexandra is entertaining. In planning terms, a sheer, unadulterated and imaginative mess.