Fall of Individualism in Football - Rise of Tactical Systems

Fapuccino

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Ik a lot of people disagree, but personally I think there is a huge decline of individual quality in football. People say it's only Serie A, because they have something to compare it too, but I think as a whole the great international football sides are declining.

Ok Neymar is a good player, but can you compare him to Ronaldinho? Can you compare Oscar to Kaka? As good as he is, he is never going to win ballon d'or. Fred to Ronaldo? Jo to Adriano?

Or Totti/Del Piero to Immobile/Balotelli?

Viera and Makelele to Matuidi? Henry to Benzema? Thuram to whoever they have at CB? Zidane to Valbuena?

Yes, I know, back then they had shit players too, but not as much as today. And yes, monster made a good point about romanticizing past players, but compare these international teams to 2006, and you can still see the big teams have taken a huge huge massive hit in terms of individual stars.


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I remember watching a Man Utd training video where Rooney was doing some crossbar challenges and shit like that. And someone in the comments wrote, "this guy gets paid millions and he can't even aim a ball at a bucket?", and the reply was "he doesn't get paid to put balls in buckets, he gets paid to play football". And he's right.

Fact is individual technique has been declining greatly while team work has been increasing. There are no great crossers anymore. Where are the Beckhams? Where are the amazing Roberto Carlos and Juninho free kick takers? All wingers pass straight to the feet or whip it in. Back then you had Ronaldo dribbling players, leaving them for dead, now today forwards can beat one guy and cross, and it'd be amazing. You can see how Messi and Ronaldo sacrificed their dribbling skills simply to be more "efficient" for the team (tap ins and penalties) *Im only half joking*.

I recall having a conversation with a family friend who worked as an engineer and said engineers back then were a lot more versatile than today because they had no computers (of course they weren't that good with computers : ) ). But in Math/Science they were a lot more rounded. You had guys who had graduated school 50 years ago, and still could do calculus amazingly fast. Today, they forget it in a matter of seconds unless they're involved with research.

Computers have made everything easier, and the tasks a lot more specific. PHDs are a lot more specific. Where we had amazing blacksmiths and craftsmen that built entire artifacts alone, we now have monotone factory workers that do 1/100th of a job.

And that's not to say that the stuff produced today is bad. It's actually way better. But it isolates the workers from the product. You have millions of people working towards one product.

However, the responsibility of each person is almost insignificant. Their personal tasks are very VERY specific. They lose their all-roundedness.

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Some people say BvB is the definition of modern football and I agree. Why that is, is because it's all about the system. Players all have a specific task, and are not expected to carry teams like Zidane and Maradona had done. Each player has a specific task/responsibility.

However, how many times have we seen players struggle to maintain their form out of Dortmund? or players struggle to retain their form out of Barca?

Look at Bojan. How well he looked in Barca compared to other teams? or how well Kagawa looked in BvB compared to now.


These are players trained to work well in a specific system. (Kagawa might work well in Japan/BvB but not Man Utd where he's expected to have a brain of his own). But out on their own, they struggle. They don't have the all roundedness.

Players today are designed to perform well in a specific setting with specific responsibilities, and struggle outside. They are trained to be excellent in very specific tasks.

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Clubs today are certainly stronger than clubs back then. What they lack in individual technique, they make up in stamina and most importantly chemistry.
The big clubs are not even affected by the individual quality crisis because they can simply buy players.

But these players that are so well trained in their club systems, to perform specific tasks (some are great at it), might have very different responsibilities at international side.

While Messi's task was to score a boatload of goals at Barca (even though he didn't start off as a pure striker), he never developed the all roundedness that Maradona developed. While Maradona might not have been as an efficient goalscorer, he was a lot more rounded as a player. He could create a lot better, and lead teams, something that Messi has failed to do.

Why I love players like Ibra is because they make players around them look better. Remember Nocerino goalscoring? What happened to that when Ibra left? Remember Boateng the great physical #10? What happened to him after Ibra left?

While this "specific task" style of play is beneficial to clubs, when these players go to their national clubs, they can't replicate the same performance, unless they play very similar styles to their club (Spain/Barca).

Clubs make up for that individual all roundedness with team chemistry, something that international sides don't have the luxury to.

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All in all, I think with time we are getting better athletes but worse footballers. Just like factory workers, we are getting footballers trained to perform very specific tasks within a great system. While the factory product is superior, in the way we are losing the great artists, the true blacksmiths who can develop amazing artifacts on their own. The true well rounded footballers like Ronaldo, Cruyff, Maradona, etc...
 

thatdude

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Great article, I think the modernization of the world and technology in general has much to do with the lack of technique you see in some players these days. You may never see another player with flawless technique like a Ronaldinho or Maradona because they are not outside playing from sun up till sun down. They are texting, facebooking, etc. These distraction weren't there for previous generations, especially not in poorer countries.
 

Armes

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Completely agreed. I've been thinking the same thing for quite some time.
 

wambam

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I completely agree, although I don't necessarily see it as a loss. I prefer superior teamplay to individualism.

Having said that, there may still be room for the Ronaldinhos of the world, it just has to be in a really specific team that allows them to flourish. The reason they're less common now is, where players like Ronaldinho were brought up allowed to express themselves, similar talents today need to play more to the strengths of the team, as you said. CR7 is a great example, he only truly started reaching the heights that he's reached when he stopped playing for the highlight reel (all those stepovers and roulettes and chops), and just focused on getting a good end product.
 

Pimpin

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I too agree, there are 2 players who are marketable and faces of franchises others not so much
 

Dylan

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3, Neymar is definitely there on marketing terms.
 

victor_inter

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And balotelli.
great article fapp.
 

Armes

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I completely agree, although I don't necessarily see it as a loss. I prefer superior teamplay to individualism.

you can have that superior team play with the complete freedom of one magical player to be individualistic. that's what makes the game beautiful, having the good the bad and fenomenos. otherwise might as well just watch kasparov play with deep freeze for hours. CR7, Messi, Neymar and mr 100M Eu are mostly posterboys, with Messi being somewhat more reserved on that aspect. I could never compare them to the old ones I grew up watching because they are simply dynamical pawns in a tactical scheme, instead of uncontrolled geniuses that will make you enjoy even the most boring match simply to watch them play. i feel that the game is loosing balance between individual beauty and tactical discipline from the coach, because, as you said it, the 'great ones' of today are not allowed much freedom anymore. there's no more "unexpected", no more surprises that come from a players mind and make the game a million times more interesting, because the they are heavily instructed and just given a job, so to speak.

Remember Ronaldo, when he got the ball, you could have a hundred guesses of what he ws going to do with it, and you'd be wrong because he'd go with #101 and make everyone jump. now everyone is too predictable, studied and statistified in every angle - battle of the coaches, tactics and subs. this world cup convinced me even more so.
 

Devious

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Fappy article fap.
 

monster09

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Yes, I know, back then they had shit players too, but not as much as today. And yes, monster made a good point about romanticizing past players, but compare these international teams to 2006, and you can still see the big teams have taken a huge huge massive hit in terms of individual stars.

I agree with lot of points but not this one.

You are comparing the teams that have declined.

For example,

Germany 2014 >>> Germany 2006. In fact that Germany was average, not sure how they got 3rd place.
Spain 2014 >>> Spain 2006
Mexico more or less same.
Croatia 2014 > Croatia 2006
Chile 2014 >>>>>>> Chile 2006
Colombia 2014 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Colombia 2006
Japan 2014 >>>>>> Japan 2006
Ivory Coast 2014 >>> Ivory coast 2006
Belgium 2014 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Belgium 2006

What you have done is concentrate on few players and came to conclusion that general quality has regressed, whereas what I believe is there are countries like Belgium, Colombia, Japan, African teams who are producing better players than ever. So the talent belt is spread out rather than concentrated only in Brazil, Argentina.
 

wambam

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you can have that superior team play with the complete freedom of one magical player to be individualistic. that's what makes the game beautiful, having the good the bad and fenomenos. otherwise might as well just watch kasparov play with deep freeze for hours. CR7, Messi, Neymar and mr 100M Eu are mostly posterboys, with Messi being somewhat more reserved on that aspect. I could never compare them to the old ones I grew up watching because they are simply dynamical pawns in a tactical scheme, instead of uncontrolled geniuses that will make you enjoy even the most boring match simply to watch them play. i feel that the game is loosing balance between individual beauty and tactical discipline from the coach, because, as you said it, the 'great ones' of today are not allowed much freedom anymore. there's no more "unexpected", no more surprises that come from a players mind and make the game a million times more interesting, because the they are heavily instructed and just given a job, so to speak.

Remember Ronaldo, when he got the ball, you could have a hundred guesses of what he ws going to do with it, and you'd be wrong because he'd go with #101 and make everyone jump. now everyone is too predictable, studied and statistified in every angle - battle of the coaches, tactics and subs. this world cup convinced me even more so.

It all comes down to what you enjoy. Me, I watch the game with the eye of a coach. The most beautiful thing for me is a "training ground goal", a team move that you can tell was rehearsed a hundred times over. I applaud good tactical fouls and I jeer aimless (even if artful) dribbling.

I can certainly see your point, and before I grew into the oddball freak I am today, I was all about the individual geniuses. Maradona is the reason I started watching Argentina and Ronaldo is the reason I started loving Inter. So basically, I'm the worst person to be posting in this thread.
 

Fapuccino

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I agree with lot of points but not this one.

You are comparing the teams that have declined.

For example,

Germany 2014 >>> Germany 2006. In fact that Germany was average, not sure how they got 3rd place.
Spain 2014 >>> Spain 2006
Mexico more or less same.
Croatia 2014 > Croatia 2006
Chile 2014 >>>>>>> Chile 2006
Colombia 2014 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Colombia 2006
Japan 2014 >>>>>> Japan 2006
Ivory Coast 2014 >>> Ivory coast 2006
Belgium 2014 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Belgium 2006

What you have done is concentrate on few players and came to conclusion that general quality has regressed, whereas what I believe is there are countries like Belgium, Colombia, Japan, African teams who are producing better players than ever. So the talent belt is spread out rather than concentrated only in Brazil, Argentina.

Yeah and San Marino 2014 >>>>>> San Marino 2006. Unless Zidane went to these teams from France, your point doesn't make much sense.

Look at the players in 2006

FW: Ronaldo, Henry, Adriano, Totti, Luca Toni, Del Piero, Ronaldinho, Rooney, Kaka, Klose, Ibrahimovic, C. Ronaldo, Messi, Torres, Villa, Raul, Robben, Ribery, Shevchenko, Trezeguet

Mid: Zidane, Makelele, Viera, Lampard, Pirlo, Gerrard, Beckham, Alonso, Riquelme, Figo, Deco, Xavi, Fabregas

Def: Cannavaro, Thuram, Materazzi, Zanetti, Lucio, Roberto Carlos, Zambrotta, Cafu, Puyol

GK: Buffon, Barthez, Lehmann, Dida

I can go on for days. I'm sure I have forgotten some more. You can even take out the players who were too young and hadn't peaked and you'd still have way better squads.

The sad thing is also that the majority of stars in this world cup were from 2006 as well (robben, ronaldo, Schweini, lahm)
 

wera

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there is a lot of individual quality in todays football

like RVP being a better dribbler than any Inter player

but he doesn't show a lot of his dribbling skills in actual games, because he doesn't have to, he doesn't need that to be successful

the game really looks like it changed, for the better.
 

Fapuccino

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there is a lot of individual quality in todays football

like RVP being a better dribbler than any Inter player

but he doesn't show a lot of his dribbling skills in actual games, because he doesn't have to, he doesn't need that to be successful

the game really looks like it changed, for the better.

RVP along with Robben etc... represent the old guard that I'm talking about tbh. People that came from the <2006 era.

However, RVP is not that good of a dribbler don't exaggerate. If he had dribbling as an asset, you would see him beating defenders. You're making it sound as if though dribbling is a useless skill. Robben uses dribbling all the time with great effect, why doesn't RVP?


P.S. I am not saying that there is no individual quality today, I'm saying that quality is much more "system-specific".

I feel when it comes to technique, passing with the inside of the foot (if that can be considered technique) is increasing a lot, while every other skill is decreasing i.e. dribbling, crossing, beating defenders, free kicks, individual spontaneity.

Footballers are sacrificing their individual know-how and brains for the collective team, and are increasingly becoming nothing more than what someone already mentioned a "tactical pawn". I'm not saying those players don't exist anymore, but they are becoming a rarer breed.
 

Y&h

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True, there's a decline in quality which is evident when a country like Brazil struggles these past few years to produce a reliable forward other than Neymar.
 

TheNetworkZ

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Great article. Before you posted that Capello article I was about to say that a lot of this today is because players are trained through the youth system and up how to play the clubs game tactically instead of nurturing their abilities. Coaches like Zeman and even Garcia are great for getting what they want from their players, especially the former. Look at his former Pescara players.

The game has also changed a lot.
 
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