Often Partisan


One of the biggest discussions I’ve seen among Blues fans is the whole possession argument. Blues have very much set up as a counter-attacking team and  one cannot argue with the results – it has definitely worked. How important is possession anyway?

Before I go any further, I wanted to share two things I read yesterday. Firstly, from FourFourTwo Magazine:

Birmingham City under Gary Rowett are averaging 1.67 points per game from less than 45% possession – the best ratio in Europe.

Secondly, is a quote attributed to Chilean coach Jorge Sampaoli (but I’m uncertain if he actually said it)

One night, I went into a bar, I was with a woman. We talked all night. We laughed, we flirted, I paid for several drinks of hers.

At around 5am, a guy came in, grabbed her by the arm and took her to the bathroom. He made love to her and she left with him. That doesn’t matter, because I had most of the possession that night.

Football is a funny game. I actually quite like our counter-attacking style – mainly because when Blues do attack, they look dangerous every time. Who can’t like seeing a winger like Dimmy Gray, David Cotterill, Jacques Maghoma or even Viv Solomon-Otabor flying towards the goal at pace, leaving defenders in their wake (or in Viv’s case on their arse in the penalty area). Blues strike into the opposition defence with purpose and although we don’t see much of the ball – when we do we make the most of it.

Of course, it falls down a bit when teams shut up shop and invite us onto them Gary Rowett has said that the challenge is now to instil into the players how to break teams down when we can’t counter without giving up that facet of our game. It’s not going to be easy – mainly because we are limited with the players we have. It’s not a reflection on them – if we had players who could do everything they wouldn’t be playing for us – they’d be at a top team in the Premier League or similar.

I do sense though that football is changing. Even Pep Guardiola, the master of the “tiki-taka” phenomenon at Barcelona has disavowed the tactic, looking for a more direct style of play at Bayern Munich. I think people have cottoned on that while passing teams to death is great when you have the players, most teams just do not have enough skill to do that and that a more direct style is more entertaining for the fans anyway.

I think it’s like the whole 4-4-2 argument. From a personal perspective I think it’s dead as a formation – I don’t know many teams that still employ it because it’s seen as old-fashioned these days. I know a lot of people talk about Blues playing two up top at home but again, I don’t think that is necessarily the answer; I think if Blues are to impose themselves more at home it’s more about the midfield three creating pressure, forcing mistakes and exploiting the gaps. Sure, maintaining possession is one way to do that but I think it’s also about continual movement – a quick tempo game can make a weaker team chase shadows – and from that the gaps come about for the forwards to exploit and make the most out of.

One thing is for sure in my eyes. I believe in Gary Rowett to be able to rise to the challenge – and I’m more excited than I have been for a long time about Blues and where they are going. Possession? Who needs it!

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40 Responses to “Possession”

  • the badger says:

    at our level the longer a team has the ball its only a matter of time before a missed pass. This give the other team the chance to break. We’ve seen this down St. Andrews when Cotterill tries a crossfield ball on the half way line! Those stats say it all.

  • ChrisG says:

    I’ve always hated the tika taka style it drives me nuts, when you watch a game on tv & you see teams make pass after pass around the box & you think ffs someone just have a shot!!!. Managers have always said that it takes time for players to adjust to “their” style of play & after a year of GR being in charge I think we’re starting to see the fruits of his phylosophy. I know the players have already adjusted to his style but I think we’re getting much better at it. I agree with Dan in the fact there’s nothing better than seeing a player flying down the wing & us scoring from that move, definately edge of the seat stuff.

  • Brian king says:

    If you haven’t ant got the ball you can’t score, the more you have the ball the more chance you have of scoring. If the apposing team having got the ball they can’t score. Keep the ball and controls the game.

  • StaffsBlue says:

    I’ve disavowed “tiki-taka” forever and a day. It’s bores the bo11ox off me and I avoid watching it like the plague.

    I’m quite happy with the counter-attacking style. I’ve always loved teams who break at speed. As I said the other day, the best way to break down the opposition, is to get behind them. When we’re up against teams who park the bus, it’s incumbent on our wingers to be more direct and hit that byline. The most dangerous pass/cross in football, is the one pulled back from the byline.

    • Shirley Blue says:

      Totally agree. I think our biggest problem at home is just not getting enough men into the penalty box when we are in positions to cross the ball especially when we play the three central midfielders. None of them naturally make runs into the box. That usually means we only have Donaldson and possibly the wide attacking player from the other side in dangerous positions. I think we will see Toral in the team tomorrow so should be less of a problem. I still think one of the two holding midfielders has to risk making a late run in to give us options and numbers.

      • StaffsBlue says:

        Regarding not getting enough bodies in the box SB, often, when our wingers break, the rest of the team are still defending, which means the front 3 are up there on their own. I think if the wingers were to go for the byeline more, it would allow other players time to get up in support.

        It pi$$es me off to see wingers constantly cutting inside to shoot. That’s ok for wingers like Cotterill, who aren’t blessed with pace… but for the likes of Gray, Maghoma and Solomon-Otobor, they need to use their pace more. Pace is the one thing in football that scares the crap out of teams. If you’ve got it, flaunt it.

        • ChrisG says:

          I’ve said for a long time that i’m not in favour of playing a left winger on the right & right winger on the left because you don’t get crosses from the byline, like you say staffs they always seem to cut inside & i’m like you I like to see a player run to the byline & whip a cross in.

          • StaffsBlue says:

            Too many so-called wingers today are no more than glorified left or right sided midfielder. Sick of seeing ‘wingers’ having to check back before crossing the ball.

            It’s simple. If you can’t beat the full back on the outside… you’re not a winger. If you can’t cross the ball on the run… you’re not a winger.

  • Blues have got a good squad of players , and we do need to be able to hold possession more , Europe is full of midfield players that can keep possession , at the moment we are bound for money ,so we have to edge our way upward , but it will come , but taking it a bit at a time enables you as GR has said find the right players and get them in , we need all Bluenoses to be scouts, to achieive this .

  • Bluenosesol says:

    Brian Clough used to say the best form of defence is attack. If we are doing so well from a scoring ratio, then surely this in spite of our possession tactics rather than as a result of them. I do get agitated when the first time we engage the opposition is when they enter our half of the field. This gives the opposition loads of thinking time. I for one would like to see us pushing the opposition back and not allow them to play lounge football with incessant square passes at the back until they cross the half way line. These tactics have caught us out at many home games this season, when the team has only come to life after being behind in the last 20 minutes or so.

    • Shirley Blue says:

      Brian Clough had top quality defenders like Kenny Burns he could rely on. I don’t think GR has enough confidence in the back four too feel we can play a high pressing game and leave us exposed to counter attacks. He prefers that they defend deep with plenty of midfield cover in front of them. He would be a brave man to significantly change from the tactics which have been very successful results wise. I think a change of tactics will only come with better players. At present he gets them to play a system that suits what we have got and is getting results and that is all you can ask of a manager IMO.

  • Dave Mann says:

    Watching us destroy Fulham in our last game was very satisfying , every time we went forward we looked like scoring , counter attacking with pace and clinical finishing was a joy to watch .. Fulham had the ball more than us but we’re not as good and no where as near as dangerous .. We beat reading 6-1 with 35 per cent possession …it means nothing if your doing nothing and that’s why we sit back away from home and then BANG we hit them and it’s lovely to watch .. Sort the home form out and score early in home games and its playoffs at minimum all day long , no argument. Kro

  • Bluenose_68 says:

    Tactics and formations go in cycles as coaches are always trying to counter them…..

    442 was always the tactic of choice for most British coaches as it put bodies in the box and allowed us to attack quickly……but then it was beaten by foreign coaches who realized that if you just keep the ball (tikataka) and retain possession for long periods, you can pick the 442 apart quite easily as players are constantly out of position and tire easily when chasing the ball

    Tikataka was successful for a while but has now been defeated frequently by teams – blues and Mourinhos chelsea- who sit in and allow the opposition to have the ball but clog up the pockets of space they used to enjoy- then they counter effectively using fast players

    The problem now is working out the next tactic that beats teams sitting in and allowing possession- one that GR has to find a solution to as so many are looking at blues and taking a similar approach

  • Dave Mann says:

    Our manager said that 4-4-2 allows us to get steam rolled in midfield so that’s why he and most bosses now don’t play it … The players we have can play 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 or 4-1-4-1 so we can forget the old formation unless that’s plan D . Kro

  • Mitchell says:

    Our danger players are Gray, VSO,Maghoma and Cotterill. All wingers. Plan A-Z simple-get the bladder out to them. No magic formula only for goalkeeper and anybody else to supply them.

  • Dave Mann says:

    I’ve always said its a simple game complicated by fans and managers insight .. To many opinions , to many of us think we know it all .. Pass the ball and put it in the net when you’ve got it and try and get the ball back or stop it going in your net when the other team as it , simple really ! :-) kro

  • Jon says:

    If you take a look at bigger teams (Dortmund are a good example) that deploy the 4231 (mainly away), they all seem to switch to 433 when home or looking to attack more and with little change to the starting 11. Of course we do not have the world class players of Dortmund etc but they should be adaptable enough to make the switch, therefore 433 would be the home formation of choice IMO.

  • martin weston says:

    We had 40% possession against Fulham and won 5-2, so I’ll settle for 40% every time if we use it the way we did against Fulham. Hitting teams on the break is absolutely fine when it works as well as it has done for us – as others have highlighted, the problem is when teams set up to play the same as us, particularly at St. Andrews, but Gary is aware of this and is working to solve the problem, and I for one am not going to question his tactics. On another note, I see that Charlton have got a 6 feet 7 inch striker playing tomorrow, so it will be interesting to see how we cope with him, particularly as we struggled in defence, most notably Spector, when Fulham brought on a similar sized forward. Here’s hoping for the feel good factor to continue.

  • Dave Mann says:

    I remember it well staffs… Just a pointer .. Listening to Frank Mclintock on sky sports saying about players being tired and needing a rest … In Aresnals double season in 1971 I think he said he played 79 games in all competitions in that season and subs were limited in that day …they play 40 now and there worn out , pathetic really .. Soft as Shite mate . Kro …. And they still played 90 mins back in that day to, amazing !! Kri

    • StaffsBlue says:

      Sorry mate, but all this tired bollox is just that. Bollox. At most, they play 2 games a week… that’s 180-200 minutes out of 10,080 (minutes in a week.) For physically fit young men, that should be a doddle. Like you said, soft as shite!

      (in Arsenal’s double year, there was only 1 substitute allowed)

      • Dave Mann says:

        Exactly, can’t understand what all the fuss is about .. Pussys !! Kro

      • Bluenose_68 says:

        Not exactly a fair comparison given the game is massively different to the 70s

        1) the fitness levels and athleticism of top flight players has changed dramatically where body fat and weight and height are all all far different to the seventies

        2) players cover and avg of 10-12k a game but most of that now is high intensity sprinting-which is different to games in the past where they were far slower

        3) the levels of analysis over ever component of a players fitness is measured these days which it wasn’t in the past

        The game now is so much about small marginal gains and the difference in performance of a player who has some Fatigue compared to someone who hasn’t is significant

  • Mitchell says:

    Forgive me for digressing from footy for one moment-but I have just heard Andrew Neill’s message to the Paris attackers on you tube made last night. What a brilliant 2 minutes. Proud to be British and of course a bluenose. Thanks for airing this Daniel.

    • Dave Mann says:

      Totally inspiring .. Great retaliation ! Kro

    • almajir says:

      This is a politics free zone, so please talk about that elsewhere. Thank you.

      Also – Message for Tony. I deleted your comment – I don’t tolerate racism of any kind on this site and I’m reasonably sure I’ve warned you about it before. I don’t want politics discussed on here and I certainly don’t want comments like that.

  • David L says:

    Appreciate that stats don’t lie and plan A is doing fine….but

    1. We do need a plan B for when other teams do the same to us

    2. Square passing for minutes on end is indeed one of the most boring ways of playing – but in the same way as our ‘absorb pressure then break quickly’ style is a slow/slow/quick quick/slow style so can tikataka be.

    By which I mean I saw a game recently when one team bored the pants off everyone with possession stuff – but after an hour the other side were knackered chasing them, so the possession lads started to launch quick incisive attacks and scored 5 in the last 25 mins to win 5-1.

    Ultimately, don’t much mind which way teams play provided there’s enough 18-yard action that both keepers have to get their shirts and knees muddy (oh, and most importantly, we win!).

    Great Chilean story!

  • Dave Mann says:

    Really, wow!!

  • Mitchell says:

    What a great statistic released by FA regarding points gained by top Champ. Clubs. Middlesbrough 91′ Derby 81′ Ipswich 81 and Blues 80. this all since the day GR took over. With Burton Albion success behind him and now this release he must fancy his chances of not dropping down a peg.Just need to consolidate that cushion of 5/6 th.

  • So fans are not happy with wingers racing down the wing and crossing with not enough players in the middle , and fans are sick of wingers cutting in to try and score , don’t you love fans , the facts are that more successfull clubs have found that it is more productive goalwise to cut in and go for glory than trying to place a cross on to one man’s head thirty yards away at speed with wind and two 6 ‘ 2″ centreback marking him , how many beckems have we .. go for glory

  • Bluey says:

    Counter-attacking football is fine when you`re away and the onus is on the home side to come at you. But at home if the oppo sits back you have to have the nous to break them down and that`s where we might struggle a bit (Rotherham?). Today`s game will be interesting because i can`t see Charlton doing anything but sit back and try to catch us on the break.

  • Paul says:

    See today’s result against Fulham,with the exception of QPR when we go behind …we lose
    Sad but true

  • Paul says:

    Please read Charlton not Fulham

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