There are many fundamental issues with talk of ‘style of play’.
I’ll state two (which are intimately linked):
1) You can’t ‘copy’ a style of play. (on the coaching front)
A ‘style of play’ is a specialty – like neurosurgery or cardiovascular surgery. Yes, it’s all medicine, and yes there are overlapping competencies, but one practitioner can’t just up and do the other with the same degree of expertise.
He essentially has to start from ground zero, spend years and years on it, and in all likelihood will never be as good as the guy who’s already dedicated his life to it. Not just because of the head start, but because of all the existing influences and habits developed.
And there’s the confortable allure of going back to ‘what you know’ instead of the suffering, sacrifice, and series of failures required in the transformation.
2) You can’t ‘copy’ a style of play. (on the player front)
How a player plays is tied to his culture.
How he moves, how he thinks about the game, how he executes on the field. It is why generally a Brazilian does not play the same way as an Argentine, who does not play like a Mexican, who does not play like an Englishman. It is why a player ‘fits’ or doesn’t ‘fit’ with certain teams and coaches.
Amateurs don’t understand this.
Especially number 1. Not really, anyways. They think problems are obvious, and solutions are obvious.
Amateurs seem to think because something is linguistically or intellectually simple, that there isn’t a glacier of complexity. Unless, they’ve been educated otherwise.
* If you’ve got an irreparable heart, the solution is simple; replace the heart.
But of course in matters of medicine, the layman – the amateur – has been ‘educated’ from birth that these things are not simple. That terrible complexities exist, and that they are not qualified to analyze them. Sure you have a god given right to your opinion, but it is not on par with those who have dedicated their life to the subject. And everyone accepts that. Everyone has been trained to accept that.
* Want to send a man to the moon? Simple. Build a big rocket, point it to the moon, and fire!
Why would this take decades, and the mobilization of an entire nation?
Many of these and other professions/subjects are pretty universally accepted as “hard”.
As such, it’s pretty wacky to think you know medicine because you were a patient or caregiver. Or that you can do orbital mechanics for a deep space mission.
You have been ‘educated’ to know it’s not simple. And you can envision your ignorant paralysis if you were given a scalpel or a differential equation.
Similarly, there’s a range of subjects and disciplines we’ve all been conditioned to view as easy.
* Flipping burgers at McDonalds is the prolific example.
Then of course, we’ve all got concepts of the occupations in between ‘rocket science’ and ‘flipping burgers’.
Somehow we got it in our heads that coaching soccer is simple.
Perhaps it’s because anyone can quickly become a coach?
Well, anyone can quickly become a parent. Is that simple?
Anyone can be a writer. Is that simple?
Anyone can give a speech. How simple is that?
But back to the simple view of coaching …
Meh … pick some drills from a book or the internet, have the players do them, scrimmage, and say a couple words.
Meh … pick 11 players, put them on the field in some formation, and off we go. Maybe you make a couple subs. The team with the better players usually wins.
Meh … just get the “best players”.
Meh … keep the players happy and motivated.
Now, now, of course many will say …
“No Gary, we know there’s more to it than that.”
And I know some people get that. But I also know they have no clue how deep the rabbit hole goes.
If they did, they would never think that a coach can simply ‘copy’ a different style of play after he’s specialized in his own. They would know it would require an enormous effort for many years to approach the success of a colleague already specialized in that style.
A successful change in style – especially a huge one – requires a departure from how you been training for say 20 years, how you’ve been managing games and players, and how you’ve been identifying the ‘best players’ for your style.
And the whopper: a cultural shift.
You can’t just flip a switch!
You will have to go through years of trial and error.
And it won’t be the same process as that of a newly minted coach either. You will have the added baggage of 20+ years of doing things the old way. Not to mention, your assistants and the circles you run in, have got the same baggage. You gonna change them to?
Now, there’s a ton of reasons for you not believing this, but perhaps foremost among them is that unlike other professions, you haven’t been educated in this one – in soccer.
And there’s a ton of reasons for that as well, perhaps foremost … demand.
You Won’t do it!
Whereas above I said: “you can’t copy ‘a style of play'”, now I say:
When you’ve been ‘successful’ with your product, do you tear it down and fix it? Even if evidence suggests or proves there’s something better or a changing trend?
You think Bruce Arena or Sigi Schmid are going to transform themselves?
Check out what Sigi said on January 16th, when asked about his philosophy on picking players in the draft:
“At the end of the day uh … you know best athlete …”
Only to immediately “correct” himself;
“or best soccer player, not best athlete, but best soccer player, is what we’re looking to pick”
Doh! Yeah, nice try buddy.
You think that college coach who’s won some things (or whose job doesn’t depend on winning) is going to change?
You think that youth coach with prestigious tournament titles, or a secure job, or doesn’t really care either way, is going to change?
But suppose one would like to. Let’s say a high level youth coach with 20+ years experience in jungle ball with an enormous trophy case has a coming to Jesus moment and wants to produce a product like ours.
Thinking he can match our expertise in our style is insane! We have decades of experience over him. Understand this: We are decades more qualified than Bruce Arena in our style of play. As he is in his (whatever that may be).
This is a major reason why Barcelona (and others) ‘share’ what they do. They know exactly what I’m telling you now.
You can’t just copy it!
You’re going to have to work on it for a long time. So the sooner you start, the better. And best if you get a mentor.