History of the evolution of tactics in football

Football is the most popular sport all over the world. Today millions of fans follow the game. They cheer for their teams, go to their games, and make football predictions for each match.

Not all fans of this sport know that football has changed significantly over the years. It is not only about the rules but also about the tactical schemes of each team. Today, tactics have evolved from the usual “kick and run” to the extremely complex “tiki-taka”. 

Kick and run tactics

It can be schematically depicted as 1-2-7. It was chosen because of the rules of football at the time. Initially, in this sport, there was a ban on forward passing. Therefore, the ball to the goal was mainly delivered through dribbling. Backward passes were very rare. The main tactical highlight in this scheme was the backup of the understudy. This allowed when losing the ball to pick it up by other players and continue its progress.

Of course, it is difficult to call this game a tactic. There was more of a constant running and chasing the ball carrier. However, in 1866, the rules were changed, and pass forward was allowed to give. In this case, the addressee of the pass must be further away from the goal than at least 3 players of the opposing team. This rule was the first interpretation of offside. Bay-run tactics became the foundation for the further development of positional football.

British pyramid

The reason for the appearance of this scheme of the game was several losses of the England national team in the match with Scotland in 1870-1875. The Scots used an unfamiliar for the opponents scheme 2-2-6 and against it, the usual “take-away” did not work.

After another loss British coaches began to develop a more relevant scheme and developed 2-3-5. Visually it resembled a pyramid. That is why this tactic is called the British Pyramid. It was very effective and was used until the 40s of the 20th century.

The main change in the British pyramid was that 3 midfielders had to not only help in the attack, but also in time to retreat to the defense. This ensured that the number of defenders meeting opponents was the same as the number of forwards. Winners of the first World Cup in 1930, the Uruguayan team used this scheme.

An unusual variation of such a pyramid was the “metodo”, which was invented in the 30s by Italian Vittorio Pozzo. He decided to shift 2 forwards closer to the center of the field and the scheme became 2-3-2-3. Thanks to this the Italian national team won 2 World Championships (in 1934 and 1938). It is interesting that different versions of “metodo” are used by modern coaches. For example, Pep Guardiola adores it and used it both in Manchester City and Barcelona.

Brazilian System and Catenaccio

This tactic was used by the Brazilian national team at the 1950 World Cup. Against teams playing “metodo”, they started to use the attacking scheme 4-2-4. But in case of an attack, 2 edge defenders were sharply moved forward and it was transformed into 2-4-4. Also, 2 center forwards of the team were ram-type forwards. They swept away the defenders, making room for maneuver for creative players like Pele.

However, this scheme had several disadvantages, including:

  • the difficulty of moving the edge defenders;
  • the forwards did not have time to change to the defense when they lost the ball;
  • the center of the field often sagged and through it could organize counterattacks.

Therefore, the Brazilian scheme began to be transformed in 1962 and the 4-3-3 scheme appeared.

The Italians tried to oppose this variant of tactics. They invented a scheme called “catenaccio”. Its task was to organize dense pressing on their half of the pitch. Three defenders played individually against 3 forwards. If one of them was passed, the libero came to back up. Schematically catenaccio was 1-3-3-3.

Classic tactics

After the 1966 World Cup, the new 4-4-2 tactic from the tournament winners England became popular. It is still used by most coaches today. The main feature of this scheme is the saturation of the center of the pitch to tightly organize the attack and form a defensive bridgehead in defense. 

Also, in this scheme appeared the position of number 6 or “wave cutter”. He had to concentrate on helping the defenders and quickly interrupt the opponents’ attacks in the backfield. In the game with the breakwater, the scheme changed to 4-1-3-2.

Total football

In the 70s of the last century, the tactic of total football 4-3-3 was used. It was played by physically strong teams, and players could quickly replace each other’s functions. It was scored by completely different players because situationally even a defender could be in the forward position.

It was used especially often by the Dutch national team with Johan Kroef. However, it also has shortcomings. First of all, these are:

  • the difficulty of recruiting players of the right physical condition;
  • players cannot go through the season without slumps;
  • this tactic will work perfectly in some matches, but not over a long season.

In modern games, on which users make football predictions, total football is used only in the most important matches. But in the short term, it is an ideal scheme to confuse the opponent and win an important match.

Modern Tactics: Tiki-taka vs Football Bus

There are many technically strong players in modern football. But also weaker teams need to find ways to beat such teams. That’s why almost all teams are divided into playing football bus and tiki-taka schemes.

Tiki-taka is mainly used by technically strong teams (e.g. Spain 2008-2014). It is based on the constant movement of the ball, controlling it, and using short passes. The opponent simply runs after the team’s players and it is exhausting to play football without the ball.

For several years it was very difficult to counter such teams until extremely defensive tactics appeared. Teams settled in their half of the field and did not let their opponents near the penalty area. As a result, players playing tiki-taka rolled the ball around the field, but approaching the goal could not do anything. The only thing left was to hit the goal from afar, and it did not always give the result.

This tactic was called a football bus. It was used very often against the technical teams by Jose Mourinho. Schematically it is 6-2-2. Because of the presence of several lines, this tactic was also called a double-decker bus. However, it allowed Mourinho to win the Champions League twice.

As you can see, the football world has evolved a lot tactically. Somewhere the transformations have been influenced by rule changes. But mostly it is coaching decisions to find an antidote to stronger technical players. There are a lot of unusual tactics in football, because over the years some roles have changed a lot, and there are those that have disappeared altogether (for example, libero). Perhaps after the next continental championships there will be new tactical schemes that can be added to this list.