Evolution of the Sport: Anti-Football

At the end of the night, all they’ll remember is the win. Whatever the sport, defense will win you championships. Great attacking abilities are always given the credit for wins because of flashy talent and ball control. We must remember and credit the ones who break up the play and distribute the ball to the front players.

Just to name a few examples for a need for defensive minded players:

The last time Arsenal brought home some silverware was also the last time they had a true defensive midfielder in Patrick Vieira. Liverpool’s current slump came sharply after they separated their CDM pairing of Mascherano and Xabi Alonso. Barcelona have been very successful in the past few years with the addition of the skill-less gump, Sergio Busquets, while last year Inter Milan put together a historic season and gathered The Treble with the elderly DM pair of Cambiasso and Zanetti.

The derogatory term ‘Anti-football’ has been a frequent topic in the last few years since Jose Mourinho came into the spotlight. He took U.D. Leiria, a bottom table Portuguese team, to a 4th place finish then took control of FC Porto the following year, bringing in the UEFA Cup and Champions League Trophy the following year.  His usage of the reducer roles and overall style of Anti-football allowed him to finish a record season at Stamford Bridge having only conceded 15 goals all year. In under 10 years, Mourinho has accomplished more than any other current manager with multiple league cups and league titles, but most of all 2 Champions League trophies. His use of Costinha, Makelele, Zanetti, and Cambiasso have brought him success, but far too many do not appreciate their roles.

The role of the ‘reducer’ is to break up plays by sniffing out passes and tackling at will. The reducer is not known for their skill, keen vision, nor their scoring ability, but rather their bulldog mentality, eye for the tackle, and simple passing. Every great European team has made use of the reducer role and during those time periods have taken home some silverware.

At The Santiago Bernabeu, Mourinho is now being called out for his boring, defensive style that the fans of Los Blancos are not used to. The fans have become used to flashy football, outstanding individual efforts, and a shelf full of decade old trophies. In his first 7 competitive matches with Real Madrid, they managed to score only 9 goals, far from the old Real Madrid standard. Fans booed and jeered until their most recent win of 6-1 in La Liga. None of these fans took a second to realize that 6 of their 8 competitive matches have been clean sheets. With 15 goals for and only 2 goals against, the new Real Madrid already looks to have improved on paper.

Efficient is an adjective that isn’t used enough when characterizing teams, but I guarantee that this year’s Champions League winner will be described by that word one way or another.

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One Response to Evolution of the Sport: Anti-Football

  1. Cai Ignacio says:

    I whole-heartedly agree with this article. Some find anti-football boring, but I think it is one of the most beautiful tactics to watch at play. It takes a certain amount of football knowledge to fully appreciate the importance of having “reducers” and knowing how to park the bus, and I praise Mourinho for using these tactics with utmost efficiency.

    Flashy is entertaining. But fire is effective. I’d rather build my team on fire than flash any day.

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