Do you know your regista from your trequartista? Could you tell the difference between an enganche and a ponta da lanca without whipping out a phrasebook? Not so long ago the only positions on the football pitch you needed to worry about were defence, midfield and attack, but now there seem to be as many varieties of midfielder as there are overpriced, milky coffee drinks at your local Starbucks.
|"A tall, skinny, wet volante, please"|
This new vocabulary is used pretty extensively by those who analyse tactics on a regular basis, such as Jonathan Wilson or Zonal Marking. Detailed analysis is made easier by the availability of chalkboards and, more recently, Manchester City's Analytics data. It's important at this point, I think, to distinguish between tactical analysis and statistical analysis (which I've written about previously). However, with these statistical resources the tools are there for anyone to delve as deep into a side's tactical system as they dare, and there are many interesting tactical analysis blogs out there if you know where to look.
But what is the appetite for in-depth analysis? Match Of The Day pulls in around 3 million viewers each week, but the 'analysis' performed by Shearer, Hansen and their colleagues is barely worthy of the name. Granted there isn't a huge amount of time between the final whistle and transmission in which they can be insightful, but their approach hardly extends beyond describing exactly what the viewer can see with their own eyes. If the most-watched weekly football show in the country doesn't think its viewers want detailed tactical analysis, is this not telling?
In the stands, discussion is rarely about the strengths and weaknesses of playing a deep-lying playmaker against a team with inverted wingers. On a football forum I visit I have seen football analysts described as “over-analysing try hard football hipster twat bell ends”, “autistic smug pricks”, and “some nerdy obsessive losers getting hard about the tactics in obscure matches”. Playing Sunday League each week, tactical instructions seldom go beyond “get stuck in” or “let's up it another 10%”. When Owen Coyle was asked about a Zonal Marking analysis of his Bolton side that suggested they did not play as 'attractive' a style of football as pundits were claiming, he countered that “facts and stats will tell you anything you want but nothing can beat the naked eye in football”.
|That quote again - "nothing can beat the naked eye in football"|
So do the majority of football fans actually want in-depth tactical analysis in the mainstream? Or should it remain more on the sidelines as an alternative for those who want a little more than the 'say what you see' approach that many pundits take? Is there a middle ground, where the current pundits just need to put a little more effort and thought into their analysis, a little like Gary Neville has done? Or even scope for a new weekly show that looks at one or two interesting tactical battles that happened during the week? That's a lot of questions for one paragraph and it's starting to make my head hurt, but with football clubs placing ever more importance on reaching out to and engaging with their fans, perhaps this is an area where the media can follow suit.