It seems that attacking football’s the in thing again and in fact, it’s so popular at the moment that even the Italians are joining in on the fun. It’s actually becoming hard to stereotype footballing nations these days because of all the changes in playing style. Germany is no longer robotic and it seems England and Italy have reversed roles. This has all been in evidence during the European Championships over in Poland and Ukraine.
For the most part, teams that have gone out to attack and to win games instead of simply not losing them, have been the most successful in the tournament. There has been the odd occasion where the reverse is true, such as Greece beating Russia, but in general, attacking football has produced results. France, England, Greece, and the Czech Republic all offered up pop-gun attacks in their respective games against Spain, Italy, Germany, and Portugal and deservedly paid the ultimate price for their endeavours.
It may seem that defensive football was always a likely tactic at Euro 2012 since Chelsea managed to pull off last year’s Champions League trophy playing this way. But thankfully these displays of parking the bus haven’t been rewarded at Euro. The four teams that made the semi-finals, Spain Portugal, Germany, and Italy all play an attack-oriented style. It’s true, fans often get on Spain due to their endless back and forth passing, but it’s still not a defensive style as they’ve always got the ball.
The teams that sat back and attempted to soak up pressure inevitably ended up letting in a goal sometime during the match, or were put out of their misery in a penalty shootout, such as England. Chelsea got away with it against Bayern Munich and Barcelona in the Champions League, but it hasn’t been successful since. The most enterprising teams seem to be the ones currently winning the games.
In total, England, Greece, the Czech Republic, and France had just 24 attempts combined at their opponents goal in their quarterfinal matches, while Germany and Italy alone had more than that. In fact, Italy had 33 per cent more in their game alone with 36 attempts. Perhaps this is the best example of a team shedding its stereotype. Italy was known as a defensive team for decades and was well known for grinding out unattractive 1-0 victories.
The question is, will the national team’s performance rub off on the country’s Serie A team. Italian manager Cesare Prandelli seems to have the right attitude by saying that managers need to start playing attractive football instead of just looking for results. He predicts this is what the future of football holds and needs. Euro 2012 failures have led to the resignations of Bert Van Marwijk from Holland and Laurent Blanc of France so far.
But while attacking football has been featured for the most part, there hasn’t really been any new stars seen on the horizon. Twenty-one year-old Alan Dzagoyev of Russia was a bright spot, but the Golden Boot winner could theoretically win the award with just three goals and be shared by several players. In addition, for all of the chances created, the Italy vs England game and Portugal vs Spain contest didn’t produce a single goal between them in four hours of combined play. Some players, such as Wayne Rooney and Samir Nasri were disappointing and are perhaps overrated as football players although they each managed a goal.
It’ll be interesting to see how Premier League teams react this season to the sudden explosion of attacking football. Will we see teams at the bottom of the table try to suffocate the elite clubs or will they finally try to win games by giving it a shot? Perhaps they may realize if they’re going to lose any way they might as well put an effort in and go down fighting.
As for Arsenal, they’ve always played an attacking style under manager Arsene Wenger other than the odd occasion in Europe and that’s at least something supporters van be thankful for. The results might not always be there, but attractive football is usually always on display. It might even be more attractive this season if Robin Van Persie stays to play with Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski. While many fans don’t always agree with Wenger’s team selections, formations, tactics, and other things, at least he’s never gone the defensive route on a consistent basis.