As the Crow Flies

Date: Sunday 1st August 2010

Set Pieces

Tango asks: Has football followed a fashion trend and forgotten some basics?

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Being actually old enough to remember a much more basic style of football than the one the Italian ice-cream vendors and Brazilian samba boys brought to the world as the way to go; it is still as much a rule in football, as in geometry, that “the shortest distance between two points is a straight line”. In football, that relates to the quickest,, and most direct, route to the opponents net.

Complicated build-ups , of the type that the Spaniards exhibited well enough in the latest World Cup, and the Arsenals’ and others of top-four ilk want to dictate as the Holy Grail game of football, it nevertheless remains a fact that all of it without any direct result in not the ultimate aim of the game that originated as a rough form of a competition where the winners were decided by how many times you could get the ball in the opposition “net”.

Accepting that money is now the ruling god of success in sport, and the Olympic dictum of “It isn’t about the winning but the taking part” is a far back a notion as historical Marathon itself, it follows that some teams will inevitably be better than others in the battle because of the undeniable fact that the money clubs buy all the best soldiers. Because of this a pattern has developed whereby keeping possession of the ball has become as important a part of the game as having a referee or making sure there’s enough energy drinks available on the sidelines for the weary gladiators refreshment. In short, the days of “ding-dong” combat have been somewhat replaced by an opportunity for the fans to shout “ole” at every successful pass to one of your own players even though none of it is actually going anywhere. If a build up results in a goal, or at least an attempt on one; a shot-saved, a near-miss or a direct attack of any sort, then fine, but a disturbing trait seems to have developed where keeping the ball and meandering aimlessly around is being accepted as good football.

The main point of writing this is from noticing a tendency in our beloved white-clad knights of Castle Reebok, of late, to make “passing the buck” class as passing the ball. Too may times our attacks go from midfield, to wing, to opposite wing, inside, back and finish up with a bemused Jussi having to leather the ball hurriedly into touch or back to the opposition. It isn’t my ideal game of football at all. Granted, we are in an experimental stage under a new manager and haven’t yet seen any results of such where it counts, in the Premier League, the observations may seem a little unfair and pre-emptive. Can’t argue with that, but the point remains that the hustling, bustling Bolton of the type the Arsenals’ hated with a passion, I would hate to see depart forever in futile attempts to come across as the Messis’ Riberys’ and Xavis’ of the modern game. We haven’t quite yet mastered the art of space-finding to any high degree, and passing to a well-marked player is about as useful as wellying a goal kick into touch or throwing the ball to an opponent.

None of our said opponents are less than skilful to some degree, and most seemed to have learned that harrying us, a trait we used on them so well in the past, will –and often does- cause panic in our ranks and make us give the ball away. We still have a disturbing trend, Muamba apart, of running off players as we retreat instead of handing out the same harrying tackles that we get in return. We let ourselves be pushed around and driven deeper and deeper into our own half that our workspace becomes thirty percent rather than fifty. A lot of our support are still of the opinion that howling “striker” is the total answer to our problems. Even the very best of that title can’t operate without considerable help. With the introduction of Petrov as a man capable of adding skill and width to that of Lee, and a choice of midfield options, this season may see some of these problems resolved. If Klasnic returns (said with fingers crossed so much I’m typing this with my thumbs) and we start to remember the Bolton we really are, then Owen Coyle may wave the magic wand and get us back where we belong. None of it changes the very basic rule that the best route to goal and success is “as the crow flies”, despite how many “oles” occur along the way. Let’s get back to the want to win, rather than being scared of losing that so-typified Bolton sides of the past.

You may now slash all this to pieces as you will….My rose-tinters are still on despite it all. Wink

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