DAVID PYE: There's something wrong when professional footballers need to be told how to play the game
5:20am Friday 28th February 2014 in Sport
TACTICS have been high on the football agenda this week.
Robin van Persie has suggested Manchester United got theirs all wrong in the embarrassing Champions League defeat at Olympiacos in midweek, while Wanderers fans were delighted with the decision by Dougie Freedman to deploy two strikers in last weekend’s impressive victory over Watford.
You could argue both games were decided by the application, or lack, of those tactics but is it more a case of player performances – a point Freedman always stresses when questioned about his gameplan or formation?
There is no doubt United’s players underperformed in Athens and in contrast, Wanderers put in arguably their best home display of the season last weekend.
So would the outcomes have been different if the tactics had been the same but those same individuals had different levels of performance?
I am a big believer in the latter and concur with Freedman to some extent.
In any sport, best-laid plans can fail if athletes have an off day. Once they have crossed the white line and all that. I am not saying tactics do not play a part – if that were true we would not need managers. But, ultimately, it is the players on the pitch who decide the outcome of a game.
Van Persie may have a point that United got it wrong but shouldn’t he take some responsibility and use some initiative out on the pitch? Surely there is not the fear factor for those United players under David Moyes that there was under Sir Alex Ferguson, so why not just act on impulse?
I doubt Moyes would criticise players going against his plan if it meant his side won and likewise with any boss around the country.
I feel for managers at times because the buck stops with them. Win and the players were magnificent; lose and it is they who got it all wrong.
They obviously have a huge role to play; you can tell that by how a team changes when the managerial hot seat gets a new occupant.
Virtually the whole of that United team strolled to the league title last season but the same players are pale shadows of that side this season under new management.
On the flip side, look at the effect Tony Pulis has had at Crystal Palace and how he has hauled them away from what looked an inevitable relegation back to the Championship.
Managers have differing styles that have an impact, but you can never really teach an old dog new tricks.
When seasoned professionals need a coach to tell them how to play the game and organise themselves, then I worry.
It’s more about man-management these days at that level and when players aren’t performing, I think it’s more about their relationship with the boss than bad tactics.