The Cult of The Offensive: Tactical and Practical
It seems this summer is the summer of the striker. While Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo are nominally midfielders, their main purpose is to put the ball in the back of the net whether with their own foot or via assist.
Furthermore, big moves for Roque Santa Cruz and Carlos Tevez by Manchester City, along with even larger rumored moves for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, David Villa, and Samuel Eto'o show the trend of transfers both in reality and in the consciousness of teams.
Even the big defensive signing for Liverpool was Glen Johnson, a player known for his abilities to bomb down the wings and spread the field.
Real Madrid and City have set precedents as to pricing and strategy for this transfer window, but it speaks to a deeper current in the sport, a cult of the offensive.
Sure, it is trendy to say that "defense wins championships", but how many fans does it win?
To ignore the fact that football is a business in this day and age is laughable, and to think that fans want to see stingy defenses square off is even more outrageous. No, they want the ball in the net.
Furthermore, the strategy can work to amazing effect. One need look no further than the triumph of Spanish football as of late. Sure, their defenses are top notch, but their attacking lines are simply otherworldly for the most part.
Teams this summer have been searching high and low with insane price tags being slapped on virtually every world class attacker. I mean, 70 million for Ribery? He is a great talent but is that price tag not slightly inflated?
Tactically speaking, it means teams with loads of strikers will fall into two categories:
Those that rely on a playmaker to balance everything on the field
Those that rely on running isolation sets to take advantage of mismatches.
While most teams run combinations of these strategies, the fact that there is only one ball and many mouths means certain formations and schemes will simply be nonviable.
Take the way Barcelona runs their offense. Though Messi is probably the greatest talent on Earth, it is predicated on their midfield duo of Xavi and Ineista along with Toure as their safety net.
In other terms, if the strikers are the bullets and ultimate killers in the cult of the offensive, then the midfield must be the trigger.
Manchester United flourished with an awesome defense and a couple of midfield battlers that would either feed Rooney and Berbatov, or help to isolate Ronaldo. When they ran into a possession obsessed team in Barcelona their bullets were left in the chamber because there was no one to pull the trigger.
That is why the signings by Madrid and City can be considered cult behavior, dogma overriding good sense at times. Even the most casual of observers will note the problem of having too many mouths to feed and not enough spoons.
However, it appears that this cult of the offensive is going nowhere, it attracts viewers and can bring trophies, but done wrong, it is no better than any cult following and doomed to disaster.
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