Football and the obsession with attacking

Manchester City v Liverpool - Carling Cup Semi Final First Leg


Whether a team leads the hunt for trophies or languishes at the foot of the league table, it seems as though every club has come to demand an attractive brand of football from their coaches and players. Is it feasible? Well not always, yet despite living in a result-oriented age where even the slightest stutter can cost someone their job, the obsession with playing expansive football is at its peak.

It presents a bit of a dilemma for coaches who must tussle with pleasing the fans and keeping the old heads in the boardroom happy. The argument has always been that playing attractive football and achieving the desired results don’t necessarily go hand in hand but then Barcelona, and Spain by extension, came along and proved that it could be done. Not only did they dominate but they did so consistently and thereby laid out a blueprint for so many others to adhere to.

The thinking in modern day football encourages the lesser sides to adopt a gung-ho approach which gives them a chance. It’s a risk no doubt and it leaves them vulnerable but so often you see their bravery rewarded. Even if they take a beating, they’re lauded for playing ‘the right way’.

Meanwhile, most of the bigger clubs already played their own brand of attacking football before Barcelona took the world by storm. However, there’s a sense that they’re so much more conscious about their style now and extra focused on maintaining or improving their game while constantly reiterating their intention to play a certain way.


Mourinho has a reputation for delivering success, yet there have been concerns over the club reverting to the pragmatic style of football they employed during his first stint with Chelsea that yielded so many 1-0 and 2-0 victories. Similarly, David Moyes has come under scrutiny at Manchester United with many fearing that he may be incapable of replicating the attacking football Sir Alex Ferguson produced for 26 years.

Turn your attention to the Premier League and you notice that despite it being arguably the most diverse league across Europe, it has seemingly settled into a common trend and those that don’t follow suit are criticised or ridiculed.

Stoke City, for example, have been sarcastically referred to as a rugby team on occasions because of their physical style of play and reliance on their aerial threat. The fact is that Tony Pulis took a club of little means and established them in the top flight by consistently finishing in mid-table and even guiding them to an FA Cup final in 2010. However, The Potters chose to sack Pulis at the end of last season presumably in a bid to alter the team’s style of play.

Organised and physical robust, they have nurtured their creative side to deadly effect. It’s no wonder that the German national team today is one that’s admired and revered when it was once simply feared.

With respect to Brazil and their recent Confederations Cup triumph, what made it sweeter was the fact that the tournament marked the return of the Samba style of attacking football that they’re renowned for, but seemed to go missing over the last few years.

This is not to protest against attacking football, not in any shape or form, but to simply highlight the impact it has made on the game. On the bright side, it attracts fans, makes for spectacular viewing and increases the popularity of the sport. It also encourages the development of creative players.

Ultimately though, the realisation must be that while the fixation on attractive football has had its advantages, too much of a good thing isn’t healthy. A balance must be struck and one team did find the perfect balance last season and reigned supreme on all fronts. While Bayern Munich plundered goals aplenty, they also broke the record for the least conceded last term.

They played some great football but perhaps were not as attack oriented as Barcelona or even Borussia Dortmund for that matter. They defended expertly but hardly camped inside their own half. The equilibrium they possessed was second to none. The balance the Bavarians boasted within their team is something to aspire to.


Read Brendan Cotto’s entire article here on

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