Monday, 25 January 2010

Is There Right Way To Play?

As Arsenal crashed out of the FA cup to Stoke on Sunday, many Arsenal fans and neutrals may have complained about Stokes 'long ball' tactics and that they don't play the game the 'right way'.

But is there a 'right way' to play football? I prefer Arsenal's brand of pass and move football to Stokes and deep down, I bet most Stoke fans do. But that doesn't make it 'right'.

With Football Clubs increasingly being run like businesses it could be fair to say that the 'right way' to play is whichever way can get you the most points/victories. This could be viewed as either a game at a time, where Stoke obviously played the 'right way' in the FA cup clash. Or it could be viewed over a long period of time, where Arsenal would be seen as playing the 'right way' given their lofty position in the league and success in competitions. Although there are many other factors such as money and facilities available (again making the link between Football Clubs and businesses) to take into account in the long term view.

What I find baffling is how often this conversation of the 'right way' to play arises. Teams have been playing long ball, direct football and defending for 90 minutes for years and years.

The most noticeable difference is Stokes 'secret weapon' that is the the long throw of Rory Delap. But every team knows what is coming when he wraps the towel around the ball and takes several steps backwards. So there is no point fans or managers complaining.

It may not be beautiful, and it definitely isn't anything new. But if it works, teams will continue to use those tactics. The real challenge is for the intricate passing teams to find a way to counter this tactic. Something which Barcelona seem to have achieved under Pep Guardiola. But then again, I don't think his Barca side has faced a team quite like Stoke City yet.