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English Football Has Evolved to A Monumental Place

Football - Stoke City v Blackburn Rovers Barclays Premier League - The Britannia Stadium - 18/4/09..Blackburn's manager Sam Allardyce Photo via Newscom

After watching the Premier League games on television this past weekend, I realized that we’ve now reached a monumental place in the evolution of English football. Out of the 20 clubs in the Premier League, there’s only one that plays a traditional English style of football. And that is a huge achievement.

In the past, the top flight of English football always featured teams that played an English style, which was to hoof the ball up the pitch and hope for someone to knock it down into the path of a striker who could knock the ball into the back of the net. The hit-it-and-hope style of punting balls into an opposition’s half has worked for more than a century in England. But as the game has become more globalized and managers such as Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson, to name just a couple, have transformed the style of play, the old English tactics have almost vanished.

The last bastion of that style can be found at Ewood Park courtesy of Sam Allardyce. Blackburn Rovers continue to play a style of play which is unique but not pleasing on the eye, and combines a physical nature that you won’t find at other clubs. In the past, football supporters would stereotype Stoke City, Bolton Wanderers and Wolverhampton Wanderers of falling into this category. But if you look closely, Tony Pulis, Owen Coyle and Mick McCarthy have changed the way their teams play and they all now play more silky football with the ball being played mostly on the ground.

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  1. Rami

    September 20, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    I live in San Francisco and I am a HUGE Chelsea fan myself. I know many chelsea fans around here. Never seen any Manchester United or Liverpool fans though. Arsenal fans are common I have to admit.

    Chelsea fans are very organized. We have local fan club in each area where fans gather and watch games together.

    GO Blues!!!!


  2. Joe Chen

    September 20, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    I don’t really mind Blackburn’s style all that much. The Blackburn-Arsenal game was plenty fun to watch in that Blackburn had a player in Diouf with speed to beat the last man. When it’s played well with a player the likes of Andy Carroll or Bobby Zamora, a long ball where the striker receives it and allows his teammates to get involved can be just as entertaining as a 25 pass possession.

  3. F1Mikal

    September 20, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    BOOT IT!

    Glad that it is disappearing.

  4. wavestriker

    September 20, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    Gaffer, I half agree, and wouldn’t use the word “monumental”. More like “evolutionary”. I admit that I had on a Wolves game a couple of weeks ago with low expectations, and was surprised to see them actually put together a decent string of passes in the build up to an attack. You’re right that even the most negative teams seem to be showing some facility with maintaining possession for decent (if limited) stretches.

    However, this last weekend’s matches were a perfect example of why we haven’t reached that “monumental” place yet with English football. Too many times, the Sunderlands, Wigans, and Wolves of the world simply didn’t have enough finesse or creativity close to the box, even when dominating possession. The midfielders and forwards on the non-elite PL teams don’t have the technique that their Spanish and German counterparts do in many cases. It was almost comical seeing Sunderland take it to Arsenal and then kick the ball all over the place when getting close to goal.

    I certainly enjoyed the Man U-Liverpool match, but otherwise I preferred the 2 La Liga matches I watched to the 4 other EPL matches (Everton-Newcastle, Arsenal-Sunderland, Wigan-Man City, Spurs-Wolves). The EPL will get there eventually — at least I hope.

    • The Gaffer

      September 20, 2010 at 4:17 pm

      Wavestriker, I like ‘evolutionary’ better but the headline “English Football Has Evolved to An Evolutionary Place’ doesn’t sound as good!

      The Gaffer

    • virginiawolf

      September 21, 2010 at 1:09 pm

      I think people sometimes assume that the ‘smaller’ Premiership teams like Wolves are bereft of any players possessing skill and thus are only capable of playing lump-it-forward football.

      Last season in one of their wins against Spurs, Wolves managed to string more passes together before scoring than any other team all season.

      A team like Wolves doesn’t have players of the same caliber as the top 4, but with players like Doyle, Jarvis, Fletcher, Guedioura and others they still have the ability to play exciting football which is very pleasing on the eye.

      Yes, they have to rely on hard work, good organisation and the odd hard (but fair) tackle to narrow the gap in overall skill and compete, but this is no less than should be expected.

  5. Rich

    September 20, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    When a team is bereft of any good ideas, then the idea of walloping the ball forward in hope is a good one, particularly if they have strong front men to hold up the ball or flick it on or run onto or whatever, and especially when faced with a shaky keeper with little confidence. Case in point being Saturday’s match against Fulham for about 80 minutes – no flair or real leadership in midfield without Dunn and Schwarzer had a nightmare in goal and should’ve seen red in the first half for handling outside the area. However, had The Gaffer seen Rovers’ previous 4 league games, surely, he would have to admit that although Rovers do punt it up the pitch every so often, a lot of the play has not been half bad and hasn’t been very “English” at all.

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