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The Fear in Football

fear poster med The Fear in Football

It’s something that most Premier League clubs have and it’s ruining the game. It’s called The Fear.

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.

Will more teams adopt Reading’s approach next season or will they play it safe to avoid relegation and to rake in the millions of pounds in cash. The latter is most likely, which is a crying shame.

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About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
View all posts by Christopher Harris →

3 Responses to The Fear in Football

  1. Anonymous says:

    Why is playing conservative soccer looked down upon so much? Sometimes a team needs to face reality and go for a the point against tougher opposition rather than risk playing for 3. For example, if either of my clubs, the LA Galaxy or Liverpool, are playing a tough team away and go for the draw (and are able to achieve it), that is usually a satisfying result. It really annoys me when people complain about unexciting football; it should only be the neutrals that do this, supporters of a team should be satisfied if their club gets a point rather than nothing against tough opposition.


  2. Anonymous says:

    Honestly, I think France’s success in the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 playing this formation made it vogue. However, they had midfielders like Zidane and Vierra who understood their roles and would push up to create scoring opportunities. The 4-5-1 famously flopped for France in Korea/Japan 2002 when Zidane was injured and Djorkaeff played in the midfield. I think the US played the 4-5-1 in the 2006 World Cup because the US has used 5 or more midfielders in every World Cup match since losing to Brazil in 1994. England played the 4-5-1 because of injuries. At least I think that was the case.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Reading drew with United at home. When they went to OT, they played without fear and lost. Still an entertaining game, and I’ll root for Reading (except when playing United, of course) because of it.

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