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Has fortune favoured Premier League's brave?

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Alistair Magowan - BBC Sport | 11:21 UK time, Friday, 21 January 2011

While the top of the Premier League might have a familiar look to it this season, a more interesting story appears to be emerging when you cast your eyes down a little further at places six to 10.

In recent seasons this is where you might usually find the likes of Liverpool, Everton, Aston Villa, or perhaps Birmingham and Fulham, all chasing European places with more than half the season gone.

Not this term. Those sides already mentioned are further down the league. Six to 10 in the table currently reads: Sunderland, Bolton, Stoke, Newcastle and Blackpool.

A lot can still change between now and the end of the season, but there are suggestions that these teams, which include two promoted sides, have benefitted from playing in a positive manner.

"The teams that have come up [Newcastle, West Brom and Blackpool] have shown no fear and have tried to be attacking," Blackpool boss Ian Holloway told BBC Sport.

"That's the very nature of how we all tried to get out of the Championship."

West Brom aside, are their positions a coincidence or a reflection of how attacking play has been rewarded this season?

Adam's passes show that he gets the ball wide and quickly

Much has already been written about Blackpool's playing style this season, which has relied on in-demand midfielder Charlie Adam spreading the ball wide so that the attack can penetrate quickly from the wings.

But their approach has been a lesson in what taking the game to another team can achieve if it is done in the right manner.

"I've watched the Premier League since it began and there are very few promoted teams that can play that way and get away with it," said former Liverpool defender and Match of the Day pundit Alan Hansen.

"You can count many sides that have come up and tried to play openly; Burnley last season and they got decimated, Derby two or three years back, but Blackpool have done it and got the results as well.

"That must mean they have a semblance of organisation, and going forward, they have guys who can score goals and create goals too. Everybody says they have been a breath of fresh air and I would go along with that. It's been a fantastic style of football and obviously terrific to watch."

Blackpool are in the Premier League's top 10 for average shots per game this season (10.9), and as if to underline their entertainers status, of the 14 matches with the most shots this term, the Seasiders have been involved in eight of them.

Also showing positive signs are the other promoted teams. West Brom have taken more shots per game on average than Manchester United (11.7 compared to 11.4), and Newcastle are second only to Wolves in the average number of attempted crosses per game. Bolton are also in the top 10 for average number of shots per game (10.9).

Elsewhere, Sunderland are 10 points better off than they were at the same stage last season, which has coincided with their decision to play with two strikers more often.

Steve Bruce's side face Blackpool at Bloomfield Road this Saturday attempting to banish the memory of the reverse fixture in December where despite 32 goal attempts to Blackpool's nine, Holloway's team ran out 2-0 winners.

Even though they will do so without last season's top scorer Darren Bent, who joined Aston Villa for £24m earlier this week, there are signs that the Black Cats might be able to cope without him in the longer term.

Bruce was indebted to Bent for his 24 league goals last season which went a long way to keeping Sunderland in the Premier League, but when he was out injured in November, Bruce scrapped his lone forward system and called on strikers Danny Welbeck and Asamoah Gyan to lead the line in tandem.

The effect was devastating as Sunderland produced a memorable performance to beat Chelsea 3-0 at Stamford Bridge, with Welbeck and Gyan both on target.

The shackles actually came off prior to that game when, fed up with his team's first-half display at Spurs when they were goalless at half-time, Bruce made the switch, resulting in a 1-1 draw.

The difference was clear, though, with Sunderland having 18 shots in the Chelsea match compared to seven against Spurs.

Sunderland had 21 shots vesus Chelsea when they played two strikers from the start compared to eight shots against Spurs

Bruce told BBC Sport after the Chelsea win: "Everybody who comes here plays just one striker and Chelsea are so used to it, and so patient, eventually they will break you down.

"So we just thought why not have a go? We were better against Tottenham in midweek so we thought we'll not change it."

Bruce has stuck with this policy since, at one point using Bent, Welbeck and Gyan in the same side, but with Bent gone and Welbeck now injured, he will hope that new £3m target Ricardo Fuller can step into the breach.

Thankfully, the more positive approach the Black Cats have shown has also come at a time when their defence has improved.

Sunderland are only matched by Manchester City in keeping 11 clean sheets this term, four more than they managed for the whole of last season.

That might be a more telling statistic than the decision to play two forwards, but there is an argument to say that by being more positive in attack, the defence will have less sustained pressure on them. Attack is the best form of defence, so the saying goes.

This theory could also be backed up by Blackpool's record which shows they have kept the highest number of clean sheets away from home this season (five).

Hansen says that although teams like Blackpool and Sunderland have added to the drama of the Premier League, it is their balance which have ensured profitable seasons so far.

"If you are the manager and you play openly against the bigger teams you are ultimately taking a chance, but sometimes these chances pay off," he said.

"And because it has paid off for Blackpool or Sunderland it might pay off for a lot of other teams that traditionally might go and play tight.

"You wouldn't expect the bottom sides to go to Arsenal and play wide open because they would get trounced. We saw that at the start of the season with Blackpool where they lost 6-0 at the Emirates and I think Ian Holloway learned from that.

"He is still going away from home and playing open but you've got to get the balance right between attack and defence.

"Some people might say I'm cynical, but I think this is the first season since the Premier League began where the lesser teams have played openly and have got away with it, and it might be because the top four aren't as good as they used to be.

"For example if you played against Manchester United a few years ago when they had Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney playing, you would get absolutely annihilated. I think the only team that is capable of doing that now against the lesser sides is Arsenal."

Hansen points to West Brom as an example of a promoted team who have been playing openly and have suffered five straight league defeats around the turn of the year to leave Roberto di Matteo's team close to the relegation zone. But before that run they memorably beat Arsenal 3-2 at the Emirates in September.

So with promoted teams Blackpool and Newcastle in the Premier League's top 10, Sunderland sixth and Bolton showing a resurgence under manager Owen Coyle, has positive play been rewarded?

Is this why the Premier League is so open and exciting this season?

You can also send your ideas for future analysis to me on Twitter


  • Comment number 1.

    Who wants to watch Man City when they play away from home? Look at their games against Chelsea (home) & Arsenal (away) which were very boring to watch! Blackpool are the entertainers and are brilliant to watch. The problem now is that our stadium isn't big enough to get everybody in who wants to watch. It's all down to Ollie though. Up the Pool.

  • Comment number 2.

    "...cast your eyes down a little further at places six to 10. In recent seasons this is where you might usually find the likes of Liverpool..."

    How inaccurate and embarassing for a BBC journalist. Final league positions last 10 years - 3rd, 2nd, 5th, 4th, 5th, 3rd, 3rd, 4th, 2nd and then 7th. How long have you been watching football exactly?

  • Comment number 3.

    2. At 1:24pm on 21 Jan 2011, Johno_LFC wrote:

    Typical Liverpool fan, not every blog on the BBC is about you!!! If your team knew how to play attacking football you might not be 12th!

  • Comment number 4.

    3. At 1:29pm on 21 Jan 2011, Wayne Rooney - The Missing Link wrote:

    Typical United fan. Instead of acknowledging (or simply ignoring if you can't do manage simple statistics...) my very valid and reasonable arguement, attempts to pick a fight. Seriously.

  • Comment number 5.

    @ Johno_LFC

    Dude, I'm a Red Scouse fan, too. Get over it! So, it wasn't completely accruate! It wasn't like he was suggesting we were battling relegation every season.

    Anyway, it has been a treat to watch Newcastle, Bolton and especially Blackpool this season. Very nice to see open, attacking football reap such rewards.

    If King Kenny doesn't stay, do you think we could get Holloway?!

  • Comment number 6.

    "Typical Liverpool fan, not every blog on the BBC is about you!!! If your team knew how to play attacking football you might not be 12th!"

    Actually, that is a fair observation.

    Hodgson's tactics of sitting back and absorbing pressure have been completely found out by anyone willing to test them - that's why he failed so miserably.

    Not only was it dull, the inability to change tactics against an attacking opposition has proved to be a complete disaster.

    It's also where Chelsea have failed recently - no one is scared of them any more.

    Man United are the only team who have managed to get away with it.

  • Comment number 7.

    Blackpool will still be relegated!!

  • Comment number 8.

    I'll second Johno_LFC on that one as a Blackburn fan. Last 5 seasons we have finished 6th, 10th, 7th, 15th and 10th, generally always above Sunderland and Birmingham (when they are in the Premier League).

    If you are going to write a blog for BBC Football surely a few minutes research and thought can't go a miss.

    Begins with a sweeping statement of league positions and ends in a flurry of quotes all about Sunderland.

    The original idea is good just content lacking.

  • Comment number 9.


    You are right about the end of season positions but I'm talking about now - just over halfway through the season. A quick glance at this time last year shows that Liverpool were in fact...6th.

    To the point of the blog though. As as Liverpool fan, did the Reds suffer for being too negative under Hodgson? And have you sensed that under Dalgish the team will be more attacking?

  • Comment number 10.

    @ Johno_LFC this blog was simply using Liverpool as an example not belittling your league positions in recent years but as a Spurs fan I am fed up with how Liverpool are classed as a big team when they haven't won the league since Kenny was last in charge(before anyone starts hurling comments my way I'm not saying we're a big club either just cos we finished 4th last year for me there's only a big 2 in utd and chelsea as Arsenal haven't won title in recent years either). The blog was just highlighting how refreshing Blackpool and Sunderlands attacking approach has been to the Premier League this season. Maybe all the big teams can learn from that and then all the games would be exciting to watch not like the bore draws seen recently ( City-Arsenal Spurs-Utd)

  • Comment number 11.

    Haha, I like how I'm the bad guy because this hack can't do his research properly!

    In terms of the rest of the article - The top teams have become complacent and, Liverpool one of the biggest culprits, have come to expect a top 4 finish. This season has been a massive learning curve I feel - any 'lesser' team that turns up with a positive attitude and works their socks off can get a result.

    Full credit to Blackpool, Newcastle, West Brom etc for giving it a go.

  • Comment number 12.

    You wouldn't expect the bottom sides to go to Arsenal and play wide open because they would get trounced. We saw that at the start of the season with Blackpool where they lost 6-0 at the Emirates and I think Ian Holloway learned from that.

    I'm certain the only thing Holloway learnt was that away to most teams, if you don't have 11 vs 11 for the 90 mins you are likely to struggle.

    Holloway will go to EVERY PL side and play open, attacking football he pledged this after going against his ethos vs Chelsea very early on in the season.

    ps. I don't remember Derby in 07/08 trying to play attacking football. They were just downright poor. As for Burnley, I don't recall them ever being "Decimated" regularly when playing positively under Owen Coyle. Laws took over and played distinctly defensive and negative, the inevitable results followed.

    Blackpool are a good kick back to the early days of PL life. When teams played with 2 strikers, both of whom usually bagged a few goals. Even the lower teams used to have strikers scoring. I'd say between 1993-1996 you'd be looking at Le Tiss, Shearer, Cole, Sutton, Ferdinand, Fowler, Sheringham, Holdsworth, Cottee, Wright, Saunders, Rosler all getting decent amounts of goals.

    We should encourage 4-4-2. The Mourinho era has kind of ruined football in a way as most teams now use his strategy as a template for success. Even on the international scene, the good old Striking Partnership is becoming extinct.

    The two team that encouraged this in the recent World Cup Uruguay and Germany got amazing results from both of their front men. Villa completely overhsadowed Torres for Spain, and elsewhere I cannot think of a productive Strikeforce. Regrettably, it looks like it is being phased out in favour of defensive solidity

  • Comment number 13.

    # 2&3

    This season and last season and recent seasons and in recent seasons you finished 7th and are currently 13th. so accurately you can say "at places six to 10. In recent seasons this is where you might usually find the likes of Liverpool..."

    And to be fair you will be lucky to finish in the top 10 this season

  • Comment number 14.

    7. At 1:41pm on 21 Jan 2011, jacksk1 wrote:
    Blackpool will still be relegated!!

    Doubt it

    West Brom
    West Ham

    There is your bottom 3

    I reckon Blackpool will finish 10th/11th along with Stoke

    Top 10 will be (in order)

    Manchester United
    Manchester City
    Tottenham Hotspur
    Sunderland AFC
    Bolton Wanderers
    Stoke City

    Botton half

    Aston Villa
    Blackburn Rovers
    Newcastle United
    Birmingham City
    Wolverhampton Wanderers
    West Bromwich Albion
    West Ham United
    Wigan Athletic

    That would be an interesting prospect

  • Comment number 15.

    Full credit to Blackpool this year. They are open and attacking. Someone posted this on the West Brom 606 page the other day and it has many articles on it about Blackpool and the way they play. Interesting read.

    I hope they do stay up, but it's fascinating how someone like Stoke play a different game and stay up.

  • Comment number 16.

    lol@Petshop - you have no vision, this is pretty much the table as it is now!

  • Comment number 17.

    "(before anyone starts hurling comments my way I'm not saying we're a big club either just cos we finished 4th last year for me there's only a big 2 in utd and chelsea as Arsenal haven't won title in recent years either)."


    Obviously winning the premiership twice, a league & cup double, and unbeaten season followed by another FA Cup in 9 years is just not "recent" footballing history terms (130 years of the F.A.) I'd say the last 10 years is pretty recent!!!

  • Comment number 18.

    We are in fact only a little over half way this season, I'll wager most of these teams playing 'attacking football' will fade in the second half once the stronger teams adjust to their style.

  • Comment number 19.

    I know with a tweaks though

    Chelsea to finish 5th, a resurgence by Villa & Wolves, Liverpool & Newcastle to slip a bit more.

    I felt like tipping LFC for relegation but couldn't bring myself to be that mean (or get the BBC predictor to do it using a set of realistic results)

  • Comment number 20.

    lol, not biting.

    Chelsea will finish second. Teams to bounce back will be Villa, Everton, Liverpool, Birmingham, Blackburn.

    Teams to slip will be Wolves, Blackpool, Bolton, Spurs, West Brom, Sunderland.

  • Comment number 21.


    We should encourage 4-4-2. The Mourinho era has kind of ruined football in a way as most teams now use his strategy as a template for success. Even on the international scene, the good old Striking Partnership is becoming extinct.
    Playing a different formation does not mean ruining football, Barcelona play a 433 but would you accuse them of ruining football? The good old striking partnerships have become extinct because they mean the midfield can be overrun and it allows the other team to dominate possession, not because Mourinho ruined them. It is because that method has been found out rather than it being unfashionable that not many teams use it anymore.

  • Comment number 22.

    It takes only one Liverpool supporter to hijack a blog and turn it into a Liverpool conversation. It will take time to realise they're not big anymore and they have to work hard to go where they were 20+ years ago.

    Actually, if there's any message there from Hansen is that Liverpool didn't play as attacking football, but this is a different issue well covered repeatedly.

    The issue here is that teams that know how to defend and use the width of the pitch are doing well this season - quite contrary to Liverpool's misfortunes.

  • Comment number 23.

    We (Liverpool) completely suffered under Hodgson 'negative' approach. Once the ball was into midfield (when we actually retained possesion) the passes stopped going forwards, it was usually sideways or backwards.

    However, under Dalglish, I do think we will be more positive. Proof in the pudding was how Meireles played against Everton. Alas, I think it is too little, too late for us to challenge for a Euro position. I think we will hit 9th this year, once things start rolling under Dalglish. Touch wood.

  • Comment number 24.


    i cant see arsenal finishing second,i feel a late rally by chelsea will push themselves to 2nd and 3rd/4th/5th will be between arsenal spurs n city,saying that though glory glory UNITED to be CHAMPIONS!! :D

  • Comment number 25.

    I don't think Chelsea are strong enough to finish second. If they survive the 5th position, it might do them good actually to finish 4th, as Abramovich might see sense and get some quality players to the squad they have this season. There has been talk about a new Lampard injury; Essien looks out of sorts; something is wrong in their attack. It might be a testing second half of a season for them. City look stronger this season, while Arsenal haven't lost the plot, at least not yet.

    I would expect Everton to climb up positions. I don't know how the Bent issue will affect Sunderland who seemed to be strong up to now. I am expecting Liverpool to climb to an 8+ position. Why the hurry though? It's a fascinating campaign that hasn't taken shape yet and it might not till the very end of the season - great for the fans.

  • Comment number 26.


    No - You are wrong.

    My point is that yes, it will be effective if the players you have are capable of still dominating like this. Ie If you are Barcelona or Chelsea and have world class players then yes, they will make the difference.

    But it has ruined football, because the lesser teams also attempt to play this way, without the resources. What it the result, absolute drivel to watch and the defeats that go with it. However, the teams who are going for it by using an old fashioned system are reaping the rewards, they don't require this extra "Holding" midfielder, as they have two good all round midfield players.

    Personally, would you change the system Bolton are playing and swap either Davies or Elmander and drop in John Obi Mikel?

    No I don't think so.

    The result is that playing a 4-1-3-1 system inevitably benefits the performances of one or two players. Mikel could not look the same in a 2 man centre midfield, as he simply does not have a good enough all round game.

    Holden and Muamba are decent players but not top class by any means, yet they are competing against these 3 man midfields with relative ease and Bolton look dangerous. Arsenal do not need Song, they need the days when they were winning things with two up front. Bergkamp with Anelka/Henry. Wiltor with Henry. Difference was they had Peit/Vieira, Vieira/Ljungberg.

    Liverpool and Gerrard excelled when he was teamed with alonso, two good all round players. Mascherano comes in and looks brilliant, yet Liverpool stop winning things.

    Chelsea can afford this system as in Drogba, they have a striker best suited to playing alone up front.

    To sum up, if you have 2 capable central midfield players, then you will benefit from playing 2 up top.

  • Comment number 27.



    I think you mean 4-2-3-1 ;)

    When you speak about Liverpool suffering with Mascherano, I must disagree. Liverpool excelled with an Alonso/Mascherano midfield forwarded by Kuyt/Gerrard/Rodriguez. We finished 2nd in the league. Our highest finsh since 2001 and got to the Champions league semis. Liverpool suffered once we sold Alonso. Simples.

  • Comment number 28.

    Sad how a positive blog has been dragged down into a converation about Liverpool

  • Comment number 29.

    26. At 2:59pm on 21 Jan 2011, tomefccam wrote:

    Not sure you can relate it all to tactical decisions, whilst this is a huge factor there are other reasons for the respective teams sucess.
    Blackpool in particular benefit from a manager that instills a certain amount of belief in the players and only recruits those that buy into his football philosophy. Teams like Liverpool have suffered from playing too negatively in the middle of the park and have lacked direction from the top down for a number of years. This has been masked by the passion of Rafa Benitez and some of the senior players but they lack a football philosophy throughout the football club.

    Others have commented on this phenomenon such as Klinnsman on Football Focus not too long ago. He was talking about the German national team and how he wanted to create a football philosophy of how the game should be played. He received wide backing within the Bundasliga and I think its clear that they have reaped the benefit as the results in the last World Cup show. Holloway himself has said that he expects the youth and reserve team manager to provide him with players that fit into his vision. Blackpool play like this throughout the different levels and have therefore reaped the rewards.

    I believe its this type of thinking within a club that creates a success, provided its backed all the way from boardroom to tea lady. Don't get me wrong its not going to win Blackpool the premiership, but over a long period of time it might just secure their survival in the premiership long enough that they can start to have greater ambitions.

  • Comment number 30.


    My mistake. Good spot on the old formation.

    It was however meant to read 4-1-3-1

    I'd have to say that yes this was effective but again, the emphasis was then on the performances of Mascherano as Gerrard was no longer the central midfield player, more a support striker to Torres. Plus I am sure you didn't mean to include Maxi who didn't join til 2010

  • Comment number 31.

    "Sad how a positive blog has been dragged down into a converation about Liverpool"

    Your missing the point. Liverpool are probably the best example where attacking football has favoured the braver teams this season.

    Now it's also happened to Chelsea.

    Both teams will bounce back however.

  • Comment number 32.

    People seem to have been ignoring the best part of this whole story: Blackpool are poor and don't pay anyone over £10k per week, but they're still getting results again much bigger and richer teams and looking good to carry on in the top half of the Premiership. Hopefully other teams will look at Blackpool and realise that what makes a club good is not spending vast amounts on so-called 'top quality' players with poor attitudes and no work ethic (case in point: Man City and Mario Balotelli), it is a united team with a united vision and a style they can all agree on. Maybe it gets a little one-dimensional sometimes, like how Blackpool got hammered when they tried to play 4-5-1, but that doesn't matter if they play well enough to flummox everyone regardless.

    Blackpool to finish 8th-10th.

    Liverpool 10th-12th. I think it's too late for Kenny to turn them round properly, and their squad just doesn't have the talent, the direction or the motivation right now. Those take time to instil, and it won't happen before next season at the earliest.

    Chelsea to finish 5th. I think it'll do them good. Maybe then they'll actually get busy buying in some unproven talent and giving them a chance to prove themselves, like they did a few years ago when they were regularly winning things. Who had heard of Kalou, Malouda, Essien before they came to Chelsea? They need to find the next batch and build a new team. If they can focus on that for just one year they'll be the better for it.

  • Comment number 33.

    30. At 3:29pm on 21 Jan 2011, tomefccam wrote:


    My mistake. Good spot on the old formation.

    It was however meant to read 4-1-3-1


    You did it again. Does your 2 key not work?

  • Comment number 34.

    I stopped reading when you trotted out the old 4-4-2 = having a go argument. Is this what the BBC deems tactical analysis? You're not fit to wipe down Jonathan Wilson or Michael Cox's chalkboard.

  • Comment number 35.

    Maybe Tomefccam has had a man sent off or just prefers having 9 outfield players.

  • Comment number 36.


    I give in.

    Here we go:


    2 full backs, 2 centre backs
    1 holding Midfielder
    2 central midfielders
    2 "Wingers" usually a poor performing striker (Kuyt, Malouda, Rooney (2006-2009)Balotelli, Kalou, Anichebe etc)
    1 Central Striker

    This is no slight on any team I have mentioned, as my club, Everton have insisted on it despite having a really good squad for the first time in over a decade. Since Moyes has been a bit more positive in recent games, we have seen the rewards.

    Out of Arteta/Rodwell/Fellaini I belive we have a midfield duo capable of taking on the best teams, and Beckford is the type of striker who, if playing with a partner will score huge amounts.

    For the Mourinho tactic to be effective outside of the top 4 it is essential you have a player up top capable of being consistently world class on his own (Drogba) and strong, attacking full backs (Maicon)

  • Comment number 37.

    Who had heard of Kalou, Malouda, Essien before they came to Chelsea? it.


    Loads of people had, Kalou had been voted Dutch prospect of the year and Malouda & Essien both played for a Lyon side that had won back to back titles to complete 4 in a row with Essien being approached for a move to Manchester United so they were hardly unknowns that were signed the way Joe Hart or Ben Foster were when City/ United picked them up

  • Comment number 38.

    All credit to Blackpool and Ian Holloway! I can't be said enough what good football they are playing! And on a shoestring budget too!

    As an Arsenal fan I'm looking forward to our game at Bloomfield road to see if the seasiders learnt from their 6-0 drubbing at our place. Should be a classic with two attacking teams going for it!

    I'm also betting that Blackpool end Man U's unbeaten run under the floodlights on Tuesday night.

  • Comment number 39.

    Disagree with # 7, you need to analyse the situation realisticly, as for # 14 and 32, completely agree with their analysis of the probable positions at the end of season, as I was brought up in blackpool as a lad I am really chuffed to put it mildly of the success that has been achieved so far, you have to give the credit to Ian Holloway, his philosophy and attacking tactics coupled with his ability to bring out the best out of his players and the enthusiam of the fans if not the whole town population has made the difference to in theory what should be a team struggling to keep their heads above water of the regulation zone, he is the ultimate man manager and this holds good for any industry or business when you have everybody pulling together for the success of all, if he is not named Manager of the year I would consider it an injustice.
    As for the remarks made about all the prima donnas at MC if it wasn't for Tevez were would they in the table right now? Blackpool should have been the winners at that 3-2 match, but thats how it goes ! also congrats on a very well written and timely blog, should be a great game tomorrow and don't forget about tuesday !!!!!! Cheers to all from Brasil

  • Comment number 40.

    I wouldn't read too much into Blackpool's success. Without the lucky timing of facing the worst Liverpool in 50 yrs, then the same team minus Gerrard at home, they'd be on 22 pts and right in the drop zone. Fair play to them for taking advantage, but they won't get those 6 pts ever again.

  • Comment number 41.

    #40 that isn't necessarily true as there is no guarantee that Liverpool would have beaten them at anytime over the last 3-4 seasons especially when you were noted for dropping points at places like Stoke and Wigan

  • Comment number 42.


    Bonkers :o)

    I think you are forgetting that Chelsea looked invincible in the first quarter of the season. They will make a couple of signings and be right back up there.

    As for Blackpool - Championship sides often have a successful surge built on enthusiasm. Hull did this. It won't last however. They will fade to near relegation, just like West Brom have done.

    Liverpool have plenty of talent and are only a few points adrift of the upper top half. Probably too late for 4th with the competition as it is, but with Dalglish at the helm they'll easily make top six.

  • Comment number 43.


    As for Blackpool - Championship sides often have a successful surge built on enthusiasm. Hull did this. It won't last however. They will fade to near relegation, just like West Brom have done.

    People said this about Stoke and it didn't happen and given the form of the current top 6 + a few beneath them I still think Liverpool will be lucky to finish 10th.

    Sunderland and Bolton will fight tooth and nail to hold on to their league placings as will Stoke, Blackpool and Newcastle. LFC may surge again next season but they won't this season

  • Comment number 44.

    @ #41

    Just saying, petshop, for all the flair and fun, without the results over Liverpool they are in the drop and still 2 games vs Man U on the schedule. I actually like Blackpool and Ollie a lot. But I also see three losses in the last four for Blackpool and, unfortunately for their supporters, they can't go up against a pathetic midfield like Liverpool (i.e., Lucas and no wing play) every week.

    Of course those results are real and they earned the pts, but I am just saying don't read too much into it. There's more than one way to survive, as noted about Stoke.

  • Comment number 45.

    @#42 dogeared

    "Liverpool have plenty of talent and are only a few points adrift of the upper top half. Probably too late for 4th with the competition as it is, but with Dalglish at the helm they'll easily make top six."

    As a diehard Liverpool fan, let me assure you Liverpool will be nowhere near the top 6 until they overhaul their midfield. A good start would be to get Johnson on the right wing, but they desperately need a physically and mentally strong ballwinning defensive midfielder and it is unlikely to happen in the next 10 days.

  • Comment number 46.

    32. At 3:35pm on 21 Jan 2011, sheffieldharry wrote:

    Who had heard of Kalou, Malouda, Essien before they came to Chelsea?

    Just about everybody whose interest in football extended beyond the confines of England !

  • Comment number 47.

    Blackpool's attacking philosophy has been a breath of fresh air in the Premier League this season. I think it was probably dictated by the fact that fans, the manager and the board were fully expecting to be relegated at the end of the season so they might as well enjoy themselves while they're here.
    #40 The Blackpool squad are probably less technically gifted than Liverpool but they play with heart and as a team. That's why they took all 6 points and could do so next season provided neither side is relegated.
    #42 + #45 - Can you see any top players wanting to sign for Liverpool at the moment - They want Champions League football which I fear is many years away now.

  • Comment number 48.


    The word 'RECENT' was used... and did you say 7th last season... that sounds between 6 and 10 to me, and very recently too!

  • Comment number 49.

    Bolton are slipping down the table, and will probably end up an unremarkable 11th or 12th.

    Blackpool may not be relegated, but they'll certainly, in terms of points, finish nearer to 18th than they will to 10th.

    I don't mean to temper the enthusiasm of people who enjoy these ''plucky'' clubs playing good football, but let's be honest, they just haven't got the personnel to trouble the top half of the table, let alone the European spots, over the course of a full season.

    Once these teams get found out - and in Bolton's case, it looks like it has already happened - then they haven't got the resources to cope with this.

    We saw this a couple of years ago with Hull, and last year, with Bolton.

    Hopefully, Blackpool's excellent performances in the first half of the season will have given them enough points to survive their inevitable slump in form in the latter stages, but they really will be easy pickings next season - unless they find a billionaire Russian or Emirati benefactor !

  • Comment number 50.

    49. At 6:03pm on 21 Jan 2011, The_soul_patch_of_David_Villa wrote:

    We saw this a couple of years ago with Hull, and last year, with Bolton.


    * and last year, with Burnley !

  • Comment number 51.

    Good to know others have appreciated Blackpool's endeavour this season. Some of you rightly point out that things will no doubt change before the season is out but this blog was intending to see if there were any growing trends.

    I can appreciate that Blackpool, Bolton, Newcastle and maybe Sunderland will slip down the table, especially with the loss of two strikers in a week for Steve Bruce's side, but they have all been playing some decent football and even West Brom have drawn plaudits for their passing this season.

    But it is strange that Liverpool, Everton and Aston Villa have all had average first halves to the season. Then you add in Chelsea's blip, Manchester United not playing at their best and Manchester City going for the stealth approach and it seems to have been left for these sides from 6-10 in the PL table have been rewarded for going for it.

    On the other hand, Alan Hansen says above, it might just be that the top four teams aren't as strong this season. But then he does admit that is a cynical view.

  • Comment number 52.

    #42 + #45 - Can you see any top players wanting to sign for Liverpool at the moment - They want Champions League football which I fear is many years away now.


    @#47 lagranja

    Certainly that matters, but also consider:

    1 - Liverpool have the currently 5th highest wage bill in the Prem. The owners have also said they are looking to increase this fwiw. So they can afford top wages for a whole squad still.

    2 - Liverpool don't need big names. They have quality up front with Torres, Gerrard, Kuyt to carry the team but it is the supporting positions behind that need to be upgraded. Required are players like Arbeloa and Reina -- not household names with huge price tags, just solid footballers who can compete at the top level.

    3 - The new manager has not been confirmed yet and this may factor hugely as soon as this summer, for better or worse. Same for the new CEO guy as well as Comolli's scouting staff, all yet to be hired.

    Things are still in flux at Liverpool.

  • Comment number 53.


    None of the teams in this article have a 'physically and mentally strong ballwinning defensive midfielder'.

    They are winning through attacking, not defending.

    They are winning from having a team mentality, not relying on individuals.

    The reality is that Liverpool have only lost two key players in recent years. The rest is down to leadership, tactics and morale.

    The fundementals of those problems are now fixed. The recovery will happen ;o)

  • Comment number 54.

    51. At 6:33pm on 21 Jan 2011, Alistair M - BBC Sport wrote:

    I can appreciate that Blackpool, Bolton, Newcastle and maybe Sunderland will slip down the table, especially with the loss of two strikers in a week for Steve Bruce's side, but they have all been playing some decent football and even West Brom have drawn plaudits for their passing this season.


    The way I see it, is that this attacking style of football, from so-called lesser teams, relies on the element of surprise.

    Teams aren't expecting this gung-ho approach from a team such as Blackpool, and I have to say it's admirable the way that Blackpool get so many bodies forward during an attacking opportunity, without compromising their defensive capabilities too much.

    The problem comes when these teams are inevitably found out, and where the quality of their players, and their playing philosophy, will not be able to cope with the better quality teams exerting their superiority and playing with a bit of tactical nous.

    These sides are great for putting the cat amongst the pigeons in the first half of the season, but will ultimately sink down the table in the long-term unless they have the personnel to back up their attacking philosophy, eg. Tottenham.

  • Comment number 55.

    Love the blackpool kit. Akin to the dutch national team, they are playing exciting stuff. I would love more teams to go for it. After the english euro ban, there was a lack of matches against continental teams and their more defensive tactics. The makalele position was born and became the blueprint for success in europe

    I think a team could win the prem playing an attacking 4-4-2 without a holding midfielder, but it wont work against top euro teams in the champs league

    So they would have to play different formation in league matches and revert to the more defensive strategy for europe. Spurs are sort of doing this but they seem to be unsure of which tactic suits them best

    Attack is the best form of defense. But the team needs to be great in possession. I hope blackpool continue doing great and more teams take a leaf out of their book and go for it with attacking formations. 4-3-3 and attacking 4-4-2 please!!!!! LFC could do with trying this out quickly

  • Comment number 56.

    I'm amazed that someone thinks that Blackpool will still get relegated. That would be a disintegration of mammoth proportions. They are probably a mere 2 wins from staying up, 3 would certainly do it.

  • Comment number 57.

    None of the teams in this article have a 'physically and mentally strong ballwinning defensive midfielder'.

    They are winning through attacking, not defending.

    They are winning from having a team mentality, not relying on individuals.

    The reality is that Liverpool have only lost two key players in recent years. The rest is down to leadership, tactics and morale.

    The fundementals of those problems are now fixed. The recovery will happen ;o)


    @#53 dogeared

    I admire your optimism, however in my opinion it is over the top. To reply point by point:

    - I was discussing top 6. Liverpool will not get back there without a better DM as I mentioned. To be a top team you must be capable of stifling the opponent's play as well as attacking.
    - The teams in this article win by attacking -- yes, sometimes they win. To be at the top you must do both. If you only do one, that's fine and you might survive the drop. Doing neither gets you relegated fast.
    - Liverpool have lost and not adequately replaced both CMs and both fullbacks and it is making them very leaky at the back. Johnson has been attractive going forward but the dropoff defensively from Arbeloa is shocking. Aurelio has injured a lot and Insua was like Johnson, good going forward but prone to mistakes. We also lost Benayoun and Riera and with them any adventure on the left wing (Maxi and Jova have little pace). We have lost more than two, sad to say it.

    It is not rocket science. No team can finish top 6 in the EPL with a slow, poor tackling midfield like Liverpool's. Kuyt, Lucas, and Maxi are all being played out of position and are slow, slow, slow.

  • Comment number 58.

    Blackpool have been a breath of fresh air, they ar similar 2 burnley last season where they play attcking exciting football, except the difference is that they have scored more goals and there defence is more resolute. I have liked sunderland 4 a few years, even when roy keane was in charge, i think the signing of gyan was a stroke of genius, im surprised a bigger club didnt come in 4 him, losing bent is a huge blow, think that he has thrown his toys out the pram and just got up and left but welbeck has been class this season and has all the qualities to be as good if not better than bent.

  • Comment number 59.

    I'm an Arsenal fan and a lot has been said about Nasri being player of the season so far. Some have said Bale, Nani, Elmander, etc. For me one player and one player only has been player of the year: Charlie Adam. He deserves to be playing in the Champions League. He is the reason for Blackpool's success. Of course 'Olly has done good and yes attacking football is paying off or more accurately, playing without fear. You just watch, once United looses one, it'll be a nose dive (because teams will have a real go at them) and we'll all suddenly be saying United need to strengthen, the same way we're suggesting every Chelsea player is now past it.

  • Comment number 60.

    You honestly think Liverpool are going to finish 14th?
    Have you forgotten Hodgsons gone?

  • Comment number 61.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 62.

    Ian Holloway is God.

  • Comment number 63.


    It's quite flattering that you are unable to comment on any BBC post without mentioning Liverpool.

    Surely a closet fan.

  • Comment number 64.

    So Gerrard would have made all the difference at Bloomfield Road would he ?

    Didn't he play at Anfield when we beat you fair and square , we play attacking football and fear no~one UP THE TANGERINES !!!

  • Comment number 65.

    While the opening post may not have been 100% accurate, I do think it raises interesting questions at least.

    Sunderland are benefitting from moving from playing a lone striker to playing 2 and sometimes 3 on occasion, (how will that work now that Bent has gone and Wellbeck is injured?)

    Newcastle looking good no so much because they are attacking, but simply they are a decent and settled side and teams have problems coping with them when their better players, (Carroll, Barton and Nolan), are on song, (I can't believe this but Barton is their best player and actually looks like a decent footballer).

    Blackpool.... well I will be honest and just admit that I don't know what the hell is going on there. I saw Charlie Adam play a glorious first time reverse cross-feld ball the other week that literally left me staring with my mouth open as if it had been pinged by Alonso, Hoddle or Molby. I keep expecting their bubble to burst but it never does and I keep expecting DJ Campbell to suffer a crisis of confidence when he narrowly misses, (agaain), but he and they just seem to never lose the faith and they keep forcing the passes and making the runs and creating the chances. I bet training with the Blackpool is an absolute riot and they are living the dream and just working harder and harder each day because they are enjoying it so much. Injuries to some of their key guys might cause them latter half of the season issues, but because they win when they are good, rather that draw or sometimes even lose, then losing games has no fear to them now. Converseley, if you are playing Blackpool soon you must be all to well aware that you will have to take your chances because the chances are they will create and take a few of their own.

    Man Utd are certainly not as dominant as they were with Ronaldo, (nor as good to watch), but they conceded significantly fewer goals. That they are not playing well is a bit of a media-led myth. I think theor defence is simply outstanding and more than makes up for the slightly miss-firing attackers. Chicarito certainly doesn't seem to be missfiring and when Berba fires he fills his boots.

    Liverpool play almost as many defensive midfielders as Chelsea, (and not quite as many as City), and with just about as much width recently.

    Arsenal are looking more like the real deal than pretenders to the throne.

    Spurs...... well I am biased here so will not bore you, (but it's looking good so far).

    I think some/a lot of this is down to the manager and staff on the training pitch. It is not just about "attacking" football, but also confidence and mental strength. In the past, teams with decent players such as my own Spurs, Arsenal under Wenger, and other decent sides with talented players, have failed to go on to the next level simply because of a lack of...... "something". Bottle, mental strength, confidence, call it what you will. There has been something missing that now seems there in Arsenal and might just be there a little in Spurs too.

    It's the sort of thing that was there in that Liverpool team that won the Champions League and just seemed like they were never beaten. The old Arsenal team with all them old codgers at the back and the more recent one with all the Frenchmen. A range of Utd teams have had it and remember that Everton team that Ferguson played in, they had it too.

    Ingredient "x" we will call it.

    Chelsea and Liverpool don't have enough of it. Blackpool, Spurs (and Sunderland before Bent was sold), have it coming out of their ears.

  • Comment number 66.

    Nice to see the usual over sensitive bunch here, Nice blog, nice analysis and some poetic licence, get over it, point is some teams are attacking and are ahead of those defending. You lot don't have to take it personally.

  • Comment number 67.

    60. At 8:49pm on 21 Jan 2011, Rob918 wrote:
    You honestly think Liverpool are going to finish 14th?
    Have you forgotten Hodgsons gone?
    Yep, must be 18th so!

  • Comment number 68.

    Holloway has been fantastically tactically with Blackpool this year. Although Charlie Adam has been the star on the pitch, I think Holloway's managerial skills have been a huge part of why the seaside club have been so successful.

  • Comment number 69.

    i think sunderland will strat to slope down now, losing darren bent and all. hope im wrong though :)

  • Comment number 70.

    Liverpool for the drop and Blackpool in Europe I say oh yeh and United winning it lovely jubbly lol

  • Comment number 71.

    Holloway as next England manager. I think his all out attacking style might benefit the English way. The English league has a fast tempo to it which I don't think many other leagues have.

  • Comment number 72.

    Bruce is good enough to be England manager! Sunderland can beat anyone on their day, reminiscent of Sparky's Blackburn 3/4 seasons ago!

  • Comment number 73.

    It's all very well talking about an attacking approach, but people forget that a defensive style isn't always doomed to failure. Look at my team, Stoke. Understandably, we have not really been included in this blog as our team is built around a strong defence (Huth, Faye, Shawcross etc.). Teams like Bolton therefore struggle to get anything from games, esecially at the Britannia, and with the extra attacking quality that has been added more recently (Pennant, Jones, and Tuncay) mean we winning games against these attacking sides (last week Stoke 2-0 Bolton) and are up there competing for a Europa League spot.

  • Comment number 74.

    this is happening lower down the leagues too.

    interesting that both norwich and leeds, who were promoted from league one last season, have adapted to playing in the championship by playing almost all-out-attack football. not only is it fun for the fans to watch and exciting, but you sense it is fun for the players too. it reminds them of kicking a milk carton around the playground with jumpers for goal posts - it makes football enjoyable for the players and because the focus is on scoring goals and not defending as a priority, when we do concede as a fan you always sense there is a route back into the game and so do the players.

    certainly my club, norwich, have on numerous occasions witnessed lambert hoist five strikers onto the pitch - not just if we are losing but if we are drawing! its his attitude of 'going for the three points' which is truly refreshing and even though it doesn't always work out, i'd not swap it for winning 1-0 every week. sounds odd perhaps, but i've felt just as proud of my team when they've lost but really gone for it than when they've hung on for a victory. i bet leeds fans feel the same about graysons positive approach - both young managers have refreshing views of how the game should be played - its good to watch too, none of this long ball rubbish, it can be patient at times, building from the back, but our full backs spend more time in the opponents half than their own and often the opposition can't cope.

    we shall see how far it takes both clubs...

  • Comment number 75.

    Very interesting point superman

    Makes you wonder if many teams have adopted a more negative approach over recent seasons. Playing one striker and packing the midfield has been in vogue for a while now and while I can understand the reasons for this, sometimes it does mean a team can lack a cutting edge.

    My team certainly went through a period where under the previous manager it looked like a point away from home is all he was after and that lack of ambition put me off a bit. Neil Warnock is another manager who has said he will be going for wins at QPR and I like that bold approach.

    What's the point of going for a draw and maybe losing when you can go for all three and maybe get a draw? That method might also end up in a defeat but like you say, at least the fans will recognise you've gone for it and provided some entertainment along the way.

  • Comment number 76.

    i'm of the belief that football across the globe in recent years has been more about not getting beaten than winning matches. it is this mentality which led to the most boring world cup in living memory. perhaps what we are witnessing from managers such as holloway is so refreshing because we have become used to stale football? i mean, it wasn't like that in the early 90s was it!

    not that i'm sure i would like to see it but it does bring up the argument for four points for a win to encourage teams to go for the win or 'goal-incentive points', where if a team scores 3 they get a bonus point. i'm personally of the opinion that there is nothing wrong with the points system, but it may change managers thinking. its also important to remember that defending is a crucial skill and shouldn't be ignored - great teams can be built on great defence and there is nothing in the rule book to state a certain way of playing the game is the right way. this doesn't depend on resources available - norwich have few resources to buy good players but it hasn't stopped them playing good football. it all depends on which manager you appoint and their philosophy.

  • Comment number 77.

    This reminds me of an article which seems to be widely quoted around the web: Malcolm Gladwell's New Yorker piece on "How Underdogs Can Win".

    It's an account of the "full court press" in basketball, but it seems to me there are some intriguing parallels with the theme of this blog. Even if not, it's still worth a read. :)

  • Comment number 78.

    Wanna hear the real trend this season?
    7 out of the top 10 are northern teams ;-)

  • Comment number 79.


    There's no denying that the World Cup was awful, and made more so by the negativity of many of the teams, but although they didn't really perform as well as they could have done, it was still won by an attack-minded side in Spain.

    Add to that an excellent Euro 2008 filled with superb attacking football and I think it's a bit unfair to criticise international managers too strongly.

    On the main topic, I don't think it's THAT unusual for a promoted side to come up and have a go - they just usually get punished for it. West Brom under Tony Mowbray tried playing attacking football, but simply didn't have the goalscoring power Blackpool have.

    I'm more interested in why the managers of the big teams (Arsenal excluded) have turned to more negative tactics in recent years. Liverpool under Benitez, for example, were rarely scintillating as he played two defensive midfielders EVERY game. This ultimately cost him with too many draws against inferior opposition - I honestly believe Liverpool would have won the league two years ago if he had been more flexible in his formations.

    Of course, everyone points to Mourinho, but he had such a wealth of attacking and defensive talent at his disposal that he could virtually guarantee getting a lead and holding it against most teams, and it was enough to win him two titles. The question is, has Mancini got the balance right? How will his strategy of not trying to beat the big teams play off across the course of 38 games? It might ultimately prove costly, or it might be the difference between his team and another in May.

  • Comment number 80.

    I wish I could get £1 each time someone said or wrote "Blackpool/WBA have been a breath of fresh air" this season.

  • Comment number 81.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 82.

    #81 Haha! You're.not the whole football world, though. The rest of us judge Blackpool by how they play instead of their manager's interviewing style.

  • Comment number 83.

    Alistair - I think your blog article is extremely important and valuable, especially in that it raises the issue of not only tactics, but how tactics impact on entertainment.

    For example, at Man City's Eastlands for the 4-2 FA Cup replay win against Leicester last Tuesday, there was only a crowd of 27,700 for a stadium that holds 47,700, i.e. 20,000 empty seats, despite massive ticket price reductions, of only £5 for under 16s, and I think £12 for adults.

    As it happened, it was one of the most exciting games of the season, and of course the point is, that one leg knockout competition games like in our FA Cup force both teams to try to win, and thus engage in open play at least until they are ahead.

    So your question is it appears to me if the "who dares wins" SAS style approach to football, or as you say "attack is the best form of defence", is actually a more successful tactical strategy than what I regard as the "Italian style" defensive "score on the break" style of play which has infected the Premier League over the last so many years.

    My answer would be yes, it is, but only if you stick with it.

    i.e. if you start out with "SAS" style, "parachute in and shoot 'em up" football, but then you go a goal down and get scared, then if you lose your attacking philosophy, you'll probably get decimated as happened to Blackpool in the game you mention.

    I didn't see that game as far as I can recall, but my guess is that is what happened to them. You see it in tennis also, routinely, because it's much more obvious in a one-on-one situation, when one side is firing a lot of ammunition and hitting the target, and the other starts putting up the shields not wanting to get "hurt" any more, and therefore stops attacking, gives up the fight.

    So in other words, if you lose your nerve, you'll no longer be able to follow any attacking strategy, which will then appear to be a failure, but possibly only because you didn't keep your nerve, and carry on fighting.

    The midweek Man City FA Cup match V Leicester, was in fact a good example of that, because Leicester didn't give up when Man City were 3-1 up, and got back to 3-2, and nearly equalised, before City finished the game with a 4th.

    And in fairness to Leicester and Sven, they were without Vassell through injury, and another key player, Gallagher, went off injured, who scored the first penalty, which I mention only to say that Leicester's attacking style, might well have got them a victory had they been at full strength as City were, playing Tevez in the kind of a game that in theory Mancini would have rested him in if he felt sure he could win without him, which he clearly therefore didn't.

    My impression also is that Man City's upturn in recent weeks, is due to the fact that Mancini himself has become more positive, wanting to play effectively 2 strikers, Tevez and Balotelli (injured for now) or Tevez and Dzeko, so it will be interesting to see if that continues.

    But if it does - and today's game against Villa will be a very good test - it will be proof of your suggestion that a more positive attacking style of football than we saw from Mancini in the early part of the season is now paying dividends for him, providing he does stick, as I've said, with this attacking approach.

    I think what a number of Premier League teams are now waking up to, is that even big teams like Man U or Chelsea get scared when the opposition is brave enough to run at them.

    Just thinking of the numbers after all, if a team is playing 8 or 9 defenders, then surely, the team attacking can afford to throw in 7 or 8 attackers, with 2 men to cover the lone striker on the break?

    The problem we see then however becomes the "forest of legs."

    Teams like Arsenal when faced with a very tough defense like Man U's, often fall down at this stage because they try to work goals with intricate passing movements, through this "forest of legs", which doesn't often work.

    What is required then is for individuals to run at the defence, taking players on like Tevez does, as when he's allowed to does Adam Johnson.

    Tevez is not the great player so many pundits are currently making out - he's a very good one, but not a Messi, or a Johann Cruyff, but what Tevez does is run fearlessly at defenses, which scares the pants off them.

    A number of other players are now doing this also - e.g. Bale, though less directly - and it really does pay dividends, but once again, only if you stick with the policy. Because nobody, even a George Best, gets through a defense every time, it's all a numbers game, a question of percentage play.

    But what is not in doubt is that this style of attacking football, as played by Tottenham, Blackpool, and Man U and Man City on their good days, is far more entertaining for the fans, and clubs need to think about that. Because although I suppose you can blame post-Christmas shortage of money for the 20,000 empty seats at Eastlands last Tuesday to some extent, a lot of clubs are regularly failing to fill their stadiums nowadays, except for the very big games.

    I suppose we have to blame the typically extortionate ticket prices for that too, but if you aren't even guaranteed entertainment, the "thrills and spills" that come from open play and attacking football, the average ticket price now is an awful lot of money to spend on being bored.

    In fact, supposing I and the like of Ian Holloway of Blackpool are wrong, and attacking football is proven by experiment not superior to this mass defense and score on the break style football that the big teams favour, then I think the only thing that can be done is to take away the 1 point for a draw absolutely, and like boxing or tennis, award points and progress only for a win (or maybe 4 pts a win, 1 pt a draw).

    But in conclusion, my philosophy on football is that one wins a football match by scoring more goals than the opposition..

    As Adam Johnson said this week in an interview, I don't think the fans will complain if City win all their remaining games this season 4-3, like against Wolves last week.

    Either way, as far as I'm concerned, it's a club's duty to entertain people who mostly work hard all week to be able to afford their ticket fee for a game at the weekend, and both clubs and the FA should think about that.

    For my money, we're seeing far too many cagey games when the top teams play each other which end in 0-0 or 1-1, because they are too scared of losing to have the courage to take it to the opposition and win.

    But then a lot of fans nowadays think winning is everything, and whether it's entertaining or not is a secondary issue, which seems to me to have lost the spirit of what sport in general, not only football is all about, i.e. the pursuit of extraordinary skill and excellence in athletic performance, which then naturally is thrilling to see.

    A dull game of players passing it around and getting a few tap in goals on the break, doesn't come into that category, as far as I am concerned.

    Why should fans watch players performing in a mediocre way, that they (if young and trained) might well be able to do themselves?

    I hope the lesson learned eventually, is that whether attacking football is superior or not to the defense-based can, it certainly does a better job of filling stadiums and selling team shirts.

  • Comment number 84.

    Well briefly as a PS to the above, now the Man City game is over, I think we saw the proof of what I said above - i.e. if you are going to play attacking you've got to stick to your guns, and Mancini didn't, and thus lost 1-0.

    He went back into defensive mode, put Adam Johnson back on the bench and suffered as a consequence.

    The Man City team play showed exactly the faults I highlighted above - too much intricate passing, which broke down continually against the tight-packed Villa defense - the "forest of legs", as I expessed it above in comment 83.

    When Johnson came on, City looked much more dangerous, and he set up 2 or 3 chances which could or should have been goals, but as Mancini seems to have insisted he passes and not dribbles so much, the solo efforts which are part of Johnson's natural attacking, entertaining game were mostly missing.

    But the 2 or 3 runs he did, produced the most danger to Villa, and Mancini in my view is such a poor manager, frustrating this naturally attacking and dribbling young player, he has once again paid the price, and thereby proven the premise here, that just as attacking, daring play, pays dividends, likewise, to inhibit attacking, daring play, brings you to defeat.

    Johnson should be given the freedom by Mancini to play his own game - running at defenses and dribbling to beat men to get into a shooting position.

    And finally, Mancini and other negative football managers have to learn that you can't win Cups and League titles by drawing, which was the best that City could have hoped for today, under the circumstances, of Mancini taking such a negative attitude from the outset, thinking in terms or not losing, instead of going all our for a victory, even if you let a goal or two in, as long as you score higher than the opposition, which as I said above, is how to win a game.

  • Comment number 85.

    Attacking football is fun to watch no matter which teams are playing or who you support. I would love to see every team going for it but it all depends on what you have at your disposal as a manager. If you don't have good enough attacking players then it's hard to pull it off. Which is why Man City is such a mystery, they have the players but they never use them...

  • Comment number 86.

    @NDC 57

    "It is not rocket science. No team can finish top 6 in the EPL with a slow, poor tackling midfield like Liverpool's. Kuyt, Lucas, and Maxi are all being played out of position and are slow, slow, slow."


    Still saying that after the Wolves match?

    Obviousy not.

    The reason being that Liverpool played attacking football - the midfield broke forward at every opportunity, where as under Hodgson they were ordered sit back.

    Same thing happened to Bolton last night against Chelsea.

    As I predicted - these teams are getting found out and will sink down the table.

    Liverpool and Chelsea will surge up.


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