DO TACTICS MATTER?

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FourFourTwo Magazine wrote an article a few months back regarding the importance of tactics in a football match. FourFourTwo claimed that tactics very rarely win a game and that is more down to a mixture of player’s skills and luck. However, in light of the recent win away at Birmingham, putting the Trotters into Wembley for the first time in eleven years, I beg to differ. In this article I will discuss to what extent tactics do win games of football by comparing England’s World Cup fiasco to this afternoon’s game against Birmingham.

FourFourTwo were claiming that managers can do little in terms of tactics to win a game, and control only around ten percent of all variables involved in winning a match in the beautiful game. This can lead one to view the World Cup fiasco in a different light, after admitting that some of the misfortunes were out of Don Capello’s hands. Rob Green dropping the ball and Frank Lampard’s ghost goal can hardly be blamed on Capello, and the seemingly bad tactics such as playing Steven Gerrard out of position worked wonders in the qualifiers, can a man be blamed for continuing a wining formula? However, various decisions were still dubious such as leaving out Adam Johnson and Theo Walcott, or not playing Joe Hart, leaving one to believe that there was some input in the failings from the manager, and the football manager in modern day football is not as innocent icon as FourFourTwo suggest.

Furthermore, one can view Owen Coyle’s decision to start Elmander, and bring Chung-Yong Lee on as a “super-sub” this afternoon as a stroke of genius if we use the power of hindsight. The decision left many confused and slightly disappointed, but with Elmander scoring and the impact at the introduction of Lee along with Mark Davies makes the decision appear a tactical insight and victory for Mr. Coyle.

I would never criticise Owen too harshly as he has been working wonders for our beloved football club, but would he be perceived to have won us the game if Kevin Davies was on the end of the flick-on that led to Elmander’s goal? Did Coyle instruct Lee to run to the middle of the box to fire home the winner, or was it the Korean’s own ability? These questions certainly lead one believe that manager’s control precious little in what does on in a game.

In short, managers can influence a game greatly by their choices in staring line-ups and their substitutions, but they are neither fully responsible for a team’s performance in defeat, in the case of Capello, or victory in the case of Coyle.