I brought up the topic last night when I interviewed Rodney Marsh for this Monday’s EPL Talk Podcast episode. Why is four-five-one more prevalent now than ever before? Why has the standard of football, as a whole, dropped? Why do we see far fewer matches with free-flowing football that excites and gets us up off the couch?
It’s The Fear.
The fear of losing. The fear of getting the sack. The fear of lost revenue. The fear of the shareholders getting antsy. The fear of the press conference where you take the lumps for an exciting performance but the match ending in a defeat. The fear of relegation.
Playing conservatively reduces the above fears, or so managers think. Play it safe and you won’t get burned. Don’t overextend the team and you won’t be caught on a counter-attack. Play a 4-5-1 and hope for a nil-nil away draw rather than lose all three points.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way. The prime example is Reading Football Club who had no fear. They were one of the few teams this season that didn’t fear Chelsea. They drew Man United at Old Trafford and could have easily won. They played passionate attacking football and drove the fear into other teams rather than internalizing it themselves. They showed that positive football can work.