The Secret Footballer writes that It is time we gave up on our tackle obsession in The Guardian:
In the early part of my career the only things you’d hear a manager shout were “let him know you’re there early doors”, “win your tackles” and, slightly less violently, “if in doubt, kick it out”. It’s taken a long time but any fly on our dressing room wall today would hear, “keep the ball”, “make sure of your passes” and “don’t go to ground unless you have to”, because with the speed of the game, going to ground means a player is temporarily out of action.
Admittedly I play football a million tiers below the level being written about, but even at the amateur level I’ve noticed a similar change in attitude.
I’m all for it even though I think that my club mates at Reigate Priory FC would say that my main strength is tackling. While there’s some (ok, a lot of) satisfaction in putting in a last-ditch goal-saving tackle or winning a crunching 50-50, I agree with Xabi Alonso, quoted in the article, that tackling “is a [last] resort and you will need it, but it isn’t a quality to aspire to”. Given my limitations, I’ve worked harder instead on smarter positioning to allow me to intercept a pass or prevent it happening in the first place. If I have to tackle, it’s down to an individual or team failure somewhere else.
I know there’ll be complaints in some quarters that football’s a contact sport and tackling is part of that. But as a player, even as a defender, I’d much rather be playing a game where the emphasis is on skills and tactical awareness rather than athleticism.