Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"Good Soccer"

A hot topic of debate among coaches is whether teams play 'good soccer' or not.

Most of the interpretation is in the eye of the beholder - whether that coach feels that their team plays an attractive style of soccer or not.

In most cases, attractive soccer is regarded as one with the ball on the floor - moving around quickly and with precision and creativity. Possession-oriented with a lot of numbers in the attack tends to be more aesthetically appealing.

The alternative to 'good soccer' tends to be when the game is direct - played more back-to-front than with the same precise passing in a possession-oriented style of play.

The reality is that a lot of the aesthetics come down to the decision-making of the individual players on the field, and of their coach who instills their system of play.

The battle of words between Arsenal's Arsene Wenger and Aston Villa's Martin O'Neill had put a lot of attention on the 'style versus substance' debate in the English Premier League. Gabriele Marcotti of the Times chips in on this debate between the two managers.

We are conditioned to assume that technique, passing and creativity constitute "good" football, because those qualities are aesthetically pleasing. If that's your definition, it's pretty obvious that Arsenal play "good football". Can you play "good football" if your technique, passing and creativity are not as good as Arsenal's? I would argue that you can.

But I'd go further than that. You can be direct and counter-attacking and still play "good football". "Good football" has to be a means to an end, otherwise it's pointless football. "Good football" to me means essentially "execution". Do you have a game plan, do you execute that game plan well and does it bring results? If the answer is "yes" then your football is "good".

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