The departure of long-serving manager Tony Pulis from Stoke City has cast an ever growing shadow over the long-ball tactic approach.
Constantly derided by football fans and pundits alike for its boring approach and negative appeal, is the long ball tactic destined to become extinct from the modern English game?
It has been reported that the main reason why Tony Pulis has left by mutual consent is that the club and the fans did not agree with the direction that Pulis was taking Stoke.
It seems the board tolerated the mundane, overtly physical tactics when Pulis was steering his side to a comfortable position in the Premier League table but with the team consistently flirting with danger this season the board felt they needed a change in approach.
So are long ball tactics a dying art? Sam Allardyce, at West Ham United, has always preferred the long ball approach and it has earned his team safety in their debut campaign from the Championship with also some impressive performances. Think back to the battle that gripped Upton Park when West Ham earned a 2-2 draw with Manchester United.
The commitment of the West Ham players in adopting the long ball approach resulted in an eye-catching performance by Andy Carroll who epitomised the sense of strength and intensity that West Ham applied to their game.
That said much of the time the method is tiresome, as the ball is hit from one end of the pitch to the other with nothing much actually happening. Whilst the aesthetics of a team like Arsenal or Manchester United whom prefer an approach that incorporates swift passing and attacking flair is exciting and a joy to watch long ball teams are quite often a real eye sore.
It seems that most of the teams in the Premier League prefer to keep the ball on the deck which appeals to the fans thus increasing attendance figures. It also seems that the age of aggressiveness and teams who want to get dug in is quickly fading out of the Premier League. With referees being far stricter and more liberal in the sense of showing cards clubs prefer a greater emphasis on passing on the floor.
Examples of this include the countless players in the Premier League that play in the heart of midfield but tackling is not their strongest suit. Think Michael Carrick, Juan Mata and Santi Cazola. Compare this to the nineties and early 2000’s when Roy Keane, Patrick Viera and Dennis Wise were playing their trade, it is easy to see the transition that the Premier League has taken.
With grumblings at the Britannia stadium eventually culminating in Tony Pulis’ dismissal, it seems that long ball tactics are extremely vulnerable to blame and castigation. Sam Allardyce should watch out because it seems in the football fashion world a positive attacking approach is in and long ball tactics are definitely out.
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