“This is football from the 19th century. Pretending injuries; cheating… I don’t know if that’s the right word; the goalkeeper taking time not after minute 70 but in the first minute; 10 defenders in the box, defenders not putting a foot outside the box. All very basic.” – Jose Mourinho after Sam Allardyce’s West Ham held Chelsea to a scoreless draw, January 2014
Sam Allardyce is a dirty word among many supporters because whenever one of his teams come to town, you know you’re going to get a game.
There is nothing fussy about Allardycian football. His teams are drilled to sit deep, soak up pressure, and to stop play as soon as the opposition cross the halfway line. Allardyce has always been the manager of teams with smaller budgets and less technical players. Thus, Allardycian football seeks to negate the opposition’s technical advantage by denying them time on the ball through tactical and rotational fouling. And they limit the time the ball is in play through all of the classic time wasting techniques. “Get a restart” is possibly the best characterization of Allardycian football as I can remember, though sadly I don’t remember where I heard it.
In the attack, there is a similar straight ahead approach: use the space granted by the opposition to attack quickly, if fouled AWESOME because that means a set play, if not, attack in limited numbers with just one midfield runner, and be ready to fall back as soon as you lose the ball.
This tactic maximizes his team’s abilities of heart and athleticism while minimizing the opposition’s technical superiority. He takes smaller, less technical teams, and gets the most out of them. In that way he is the perfect manager for England — a team that is not nearly as talented as their supporters think.
The English national team has struggled to find an identity for a few years now. In the Euros, they were trying to play technical football, to control space in possession, but they often looked lost in attack and clearly lacked the midfield general (until Wilshere came on) to move the ball forward.
Worse, at the Euros players didn’t seem to know their role or which role best suited them. Nothing epitomized this more than the fact that Harry Kane was delivering free kicks instead of receiving them. One thing I can guarantee is that every player on Allardyce’s England will know their role and Harry Kane won’t be taking any corners.
The good news for England supporters is that Allardyce is a master of playing up to player’s strengths and is a great motivator as well. His England sides will give their all for the cause and I’m sure we will get that old “British Bulldog” spirit.
It might seem as if I’m criticizing or making fun of Allardyce but Allardyce has never had great talent at his disposal. And with the English national team he will have the entire country to pick from. He will simplify England’s approach, he will organize the attack and defense, and given the talent pool he can pick from, he will have the best players he has ever worked with.
I expect to see a very similar Allardycian team to all his others: frustrating to play against, sometimes boring, but with lightning counters and powerful set plays. It’s an easy style for his players to adopt, they have been playing that way their entire lives.
As much as some fans love to hate Sam Allardyce, his England side will probably play some of their best football.
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