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Why Attacking 'Flair' Is Ruining The Top Sides

Posted Sep 28, 2010 by Shaun Edwards

Cole is the best in the world

With glamour and riches becoming more and more prevalent in the game, and £250,000 a week attackers grabbing the glory, it seems that more and more of the top teams are rendering the art of the defender almost irrelevant in their pursuit of trophies.

Don’t get me wrong here, there’s nothing like watching a fluid, magnificent attacking player running at defences and tearing them to shreds.  It’s one of the most thrilling parts of the game.  However, whilst watching pure attacking football is a thrill, total focus on it has become damaging to the top teams.  Sides such as Manchester City and Arsenal make a big emphasis on thrilling their fans – something which should be applauded in one sense – but again and again they are sacrificing trophies to do so.

Now it seems that Manchester United may be slowly falling down the same route, turning the Premier League into essentially a one horse race this season.  Whether United’s defensive frailties are as a result of a lack of training, preparation or emphasis is up for debate.  However, it is remarkable that a side boasting Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic should look so flawed when pushed back. 

The simple fact is that whilst United’s enforcers might have done the job in previous seasons, the modern game is played so wide that the two central defenders end up looking exposed in much the same manner as England’s central defenders were at the World Cup. It’s gotten to the stage where the right and left back positions are almost the most important in the game, and yet no-one puts any emphasis on them.

If you need further proof, then take a look down the list of the Premier League’s greatest ever teams: The United treble winning side possessed both Gary and Phil Neville at their best, Arsenal’s unbeatables had both Ashley Cole and Laurent on the sides, and Chelsea’s current team also has Ashley Cole as well as Branislav Ivanovic.  Yes, Ashley Cole is an odious human being, but he’s the finest full back in the world and his presence in both those superb teams is not a co-incidence by any stretch.

Compare the current Chelsea full-backs with Arsenal’s and United’s: Arsenal boast Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy, and United currently employ Patrice Evra and either Fabio or an ageing Gary Neville.  The difference of quality down the right and the left is massive, and this is the difference between Chelsea hammering teams that United and Arsenal struggle against.

The more teams emphasise the wide men when attacking, the more important that the full backs become.  Unless United, Arsenal and the other contenders really invest some time and money into these positions, then they will both continue to struggle whilst Ashley Cole and Chelsea waltz away towards another title.


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