I’m sure many remember watching Italian football in the 1990s feeling they were being treated to something high brow and exotic where only the very best from this part of Europe were invited to participate.
However, for those youngsters who are too young to recall, most fans soon switched off and reverted to the ‘unsophisticated’ rough and tumble of our own league. English football may be less graceful, but it’s decidedly more interesting than the overcautious hyperdefensive chess-like tedium of 1990s Italian football where score lines of 0-0 and 1-0 were standard fare and managers lauded for their negativity. This was the kind of nonsense that forced FIFA to introduce a range of new rules aimed at saving the beautiful game including three points for a win and no passing back to the goalie.
But now, the latest from the ‘never give an inch’ Italian stable is Luigi Allardichi with his ‘innovative’ false number nine system that has been widely applauded as a stroke of genius. However, for others, this is simply football at its most negative – playing without a striker! We knew that with Big Sam we would trade some beauty for efficiency, but this latest development is an atrocity too far!
So, let’s start with the positives: Barcelona and the Spanish national side have in recent times employed this formation to good effect. You are unlikely to ever get overrun in midfield. The system dispenses with the need to employ overpriced and moody strikers. The English game is so stuck in the dead-empire tradition of 4-4-2, it will undoubtedly leave most teams totally befuddled and wandering aimlessly and confused around the pitch wondering who to mark or where to position themselves. And it worked against Spurs.
However, the negatives are pretty abundant: The formation provides zero penetration of the opposition’s defence and serves mainly to clutter midfield and reduce the game to a series of set pieces with virtually no free-flowing football in between. We are conceding humongous quantities of possession which can only hurt in the end. The only proven goal scorer in our midfield is Kevin Nolan who lacks the pace to create his own chances but rather uses his experience to feed off knock downs and other scraps but these require a target man who can create these opportunities. Strikers score more goals than players from any other position and goals win games.
So let’s call it what it is – the ‘headless mindless brainless 3-8-0 mega midfield’ formation. Apart from Tottenham, we have underperformed and have no design to our attack.
We are reduced to set pieces and opposition errors for scoring opportunities and even then defenders and midfielders don’t have the precision needed to score the volume of goals that is required to thrive at this level.
Sure, our defence has been really solid, but it says something that our best performer this season has been Jussi Jaaskelainen.