Clubs Like West Ham Can Benefit From Liverpool's Tactical Vanity
There seems to be an odd idea floating around footballing circles at the moment, particularly in the media, regarding playing football the ‘right way’. The ‘right way’ to play football is, according to current fashion, the tiki-taka style popularised by the current Greatest Team Ever™, FC Barcelona. Within the English Premier League, one of the key clubs that this discussion seems to circle around is Liverpool, and their manager Brendan Rodgers’ ‘philosophy’ – or, as it was known until very recently, his tactics.
Now perhaps I'm just an old school football fan, but as far as I'm aware, the aim of the game has changed little since its laws were first laid down in 1863. The aim of the game is and has always been to score more goals than your opponent within the allotted time frame. Nothing more, nothing less. How you do this, provided that it is achieved within the limits of the current laws of the game, is really up to you.
Want to play a team of ten attackers and a goalkeeper, hoping to outscore your opponents and not worry about defending? Fine. Want to play with ten quick defenders and hope to catch the opposing team out with pacey counter attacking? Go for it. Barcelona play the way they do because they have the players capable of doing it, and are no doubt a magnificent footballing spectacle. But there aren't enough Iniestas, Messis and Xavis in the world to allow every club to play in that way.
Brendan Rodgers is, of course, entitled to set his team up any way he wishes and, in the long run, provided that he is given the time and funds required to craft such a team, I'm sure that this will work wonders for Liverpool. To allow this transition to happen, Liverpool’s owners, Fenway Sports Group, will need to write off the mistakes that were made during the tenures of the previous managers. The policy to buy players based on stats rather than their suitability for the team has set them back years.
That's all well and good, I hear you cry, but what has this to do with this article's headline club, West Ham? Well, as far as I see it Premier League clubs who concern themselves less with the artistry of their football and more with playing football that will allow their team to have the most chance of actually winning games can find a remarkable amount of talent within the cluster of Liverpool players outcast by their current manager.
Take Joe Cole, for example. The thirty-one year-old may not have lost some pace but his strength on the ball and ability to put in crosses with such great precision (a skill that was clear for all to see in his second Hammers debut against Manchester United this past weekend) mean that he is a perfect addition to Sam Allardyce's squad.
West Ham are a physically strong side that relies heavily on the height and muscle of its strikers. The combination of Cole and the towering height and aerial ability of Liverpool loanee Andy Carroll – provided that the latter can regain and maintain fitness – could be a blisteringly good bit of business for Big Sam.
Likewise, other clubs could perhaps benefit from the stylistic indecision that followed Liverpool's most recent change of ownership. Could Fabio Borini do a job for Newcastle, allowing Papiss Cissé to play ahead of him? Could Stewart Downing shine at Norwich, providing pace on the wings and balls into the box for the height and strength of Grant Holt?
The answer to these questions could still be a resounding ‘no’, but in my mind, football management is far more to do with assembling the right bunch of players for the right set of tactics as it is about playing the specific type of football that happens to be in vogue at any particular time. After all, History remembers the winners, not the pretty but ineffective losers.