Lately, there has been a paradigm shift largely orchestrated by the mainstream media towards attacking football; with this paradigm shift came an overblown condemnation of the defensive approach to the game. These custodians of how the game should be played believe anything other than expansive and attacking football is an utter aberration.
However, the champions of attacking football forget that there is no perfect way to play football; it depends on the coach’s preference, which is also largely affected by the personnel at his disposal. In their campaign of calumny against defensive sides, the term ‘negative football’ has been bandied around to portray defensive football as a distortionist approach to the beautiful game. Most fans have also taken this narrative hook, line, and sinker and are quick to turn against any coach that doesn’t deliver ‘entertaining football.’ They are always quick to point out that goals win games, and you do not score if you fail to attack. As flowery as it sounds, this is not entirely correct because winning games goes beyond scoring goals; you win games when you outdo your opponent, not necessarily scoring many goals without being able to defend them. This means opening up a defensive side or keeping out an attacking side.
Another misconception about defensive sides is that it is easy for them to sit deep and let the other team do all the playing. This is bemusing because it takes a lot of team effort to maintain defensive solidity and organization over the course of 90 minutes to simply dismiss a defensive master class as parking the bus. At all times, a defensive side has to be switched on to nip attacks in the bud, to cover pockets of space, thus disrupting the opponent’s movement and overall play.
Ultimately every successful football team attains success through a mixed approach – blending the two approaches. An ultra attacking side with a frail backline will suffer for it in the long run. A certain Pep Guardiola with his array of attacking talents came unstuck when their defense failed to contain an inferior Arsenal side that defended resolutely. It would have been stupid for Arsenal to go toe to toe against such a superior side having been thrashed 3-0 twice this PL season already. Arsenal got their win in the most ‘unArsenal’ way by ceding possession and snuffing out Manchester City’s attacks almost effortlessly.