It’s safe to say that this year’s promotion class has been a revelation. Newcastle will of course, always be a top-flight side for whom relegation is an aberration, but both West Brom and Blackpool have been a breath of fresh air in the way they’ve consistently played attractive football. It would be a shame if either went down because this should be the way teams outside the big clubs should play. No more long ball, no more breaking legs. Nobody expects them to be Arsenal but if Blackpool can play quality football anybody can.
If you were told of a club that fields a fluid 4-3-3 /4-2-3-1, with a high line and huge amounts of pressing, that gets men into the box and play balls across goal hard and fast you would be forgiven for thinking Chelsea. The way Blackpool have used offense as defense this season has been revolutionary.
Often, smaller teams sit back, with a deep line to prevent opponents getting in behind them with their lightning-fast, superior players. They defend for dear life and hope to nick a goal on the counter, with whatever scraps of possession are given to them. All this does, however, is invite pressure from their opponents, who flood the opposition half and just boss the game with no thought to conceding. Given that most lower tier teams don’t exactly have Lucio shoring up the defense, they lose anyway.
Holloway said it best, “we can’t shut up anybody’s shop, we have no keys”. Some of the goals conceded by Blackpool have been ridiculous. Losing three aerial challenges in a row in their own box to Birmingham, getting undone from a simple free kick taken quickly against Liverpool, failing to mark the tallest person on the pitch. They have no real defensive quality and they know it. They understand their best hope of survival is to be a mini Chelsea, and go hard at the opponent.
It’s not unusual to use a high line and pressing as a defensive tactic, Barcelona do it all the time. Blackpool are obviously not in that class, but it’s the same principle. They can’t score when you have the ball, and if you lose it, try and keep them penned in their own half for as long as possible.
This season, while still not even halfway done, has been remarkable for the fact that so many teams go places and believe they have a chance to score. Sunderland, Blackburn and even Bolton have played some wonderful passing football so far, and this should definitely be the model for the future.