Early Doors

Tactics Bored: How the best tactics won in European football, and politics

Early Doors

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The Champions League final is the pinnacle of football, and the two best sides in the world therefore feature.

That might not always be the case as the BRIC economies grow, and are able to retain and attract the best talent in the world, but for now the concentration of resources means that European sides are almost always the best.

As a result, you can argue that the winners of the Champions League are the best side in the world, and therefore have the best tactics.

It is tactics, far more than anything else, that is the determinant in matches.

Carlo Ancelotti is the best tactician, and anything said otherwise is sophistry.

Following the Champions League, interesting examples were found about managerial heatmaps and player preparation.

Interestingly, there is also a tactics-based explanation for the European elections...


The game was obviously decided on the pitch, because as things stand humans are, depressingly, necessary to play football. One day, it will simply be one club’s tactics expert pitted against the other’s, but until that day, we’re stuck with the players.

However, it is also worth considering the effect the managers had on the day. They are the ones who elected the most important thing on the night - the team formations - but in addition to that they also got involved.

Counter-intuitively, it was actually the most involved manager who ended up on the losing side, perhaps because he was simply too active on the pitch to make astute observations.

You can compare both the heatmaps of the managers, and also the pass completion rate. While Carlo Ancelotti did not attempt any passes at all, Diego Simeone aimed one at Raphael Varane, but failed.

The heatmap also shows that Ancelotti was far more conservative in his movements, whereas Simeone expended energy all over the pitch.

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The amount of preparation a player does before a match is a double-edged sword.

In rugby, Jonny Wilkinson found it simply impossible to switch off. His obsession and determination resulted in a drive towards perfection that was often rewarded with brilliant consistency in a game, but sometimes drove him to distraction - relaxation is often a requirement for recovery.

Similarly, Cristiano Ronaldo has a self-obsession focussed on being the very best.

But sometimes that has a downside. You can see in the pie chart below that in the week before the game at the weekend, how Ronaldo spent his time.

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As you can see from the diagram, this is why Ronaldo absolutely nailed his celebration, stood apart from his team-mates, muscles flexed in a narcissistic photo opportunity having scored an irrelevant goal, but also why he was unable to perform well enough to score when it might have actually mattered.

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While there are other tactics experts who apparently vote Tory, Tactics Bored is about as socialist as they come, believing in diversity, equality and the redistribution of wealth in a fair manner.

With the rise in football blogging, so too was there a rise in the specialist tactics blogger, who appear all over Twitter, on their own blogs and for paid - yes - articles in prominent positions in the media.

Given how intelligent and incisive most tactics experts are, you would expect that they would follow the UKIP line and be ‘too educated’ to vote for them.

Well, apparently not.

The research shows that most tactics experts are in fact UKIP voters or Tories, and it is because of a resentment that there are simply no good Romanian or Bulgarian registi, and they are simply sick of seeing Polish full-backs who are willing to work for less than their British equivalent.

You can see that as the number of tactics blogs have increased, so has the British and other European vote for the far right.

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Of course, in Greece, things are slightly different as Syriza also came to prominence.

This is a far left party, and is perhaps a throwback to Otto Rehhagel’s excellent tactical knowledge.

Although Golden Dawn, a kind of Nazi-esque party (see below), occupy the right hand side of politics, Syriza are an interesting development as they are a classic example of inverting the far right into a far left-winger, cutting in to attack the centre political ground.

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Is it too much to say that football tactical analysis is now coming to fruition in real life, or is that overstating its importance?


Alex Netherton - on Twitter @lxndrnthrton

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