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Tactics Tuesday: How Tactics are Born, Part I

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Saw a few comments regarding tactics and formations for the upcoming season. In fact this whole tactics thing has become a bit of a “chic” topic. If you are new to the AC Milan Offside, we have been doing it for a long time specifically Tactics Tuesday, and seeing that it is creeping up in the comments I am going to dabble once again.

The problem I often have with tactics discussions is the lack of knowledge and understanding of how or why a Coach reaches his final determination on formation, deployment, and general tactical approach to a match. Each and every Coach is different, and the factors that go into that choice come match day are nearly infinite, and before we discuss Allegri, Milan and the 4-3-1-2, we should explore the where tactics actually come from. This will be a two part post Tuesday and Thursday and the final diversion before we dive into the inevitable season previews.


Some Coaches base tactics directly on their own knowledge. Say a specific Coach prefers the 4-4-2 and regardless of the players he has at his disposal he sticks with it come hell or high water. A tough sell if you are missing a key function, say wingers, but also a futile effort, because you are putting square pegs in round holes. Other Coaches look at their team, evaluate the personnel and come to a conclusion based on that. They may notice they have players for the wing areas, and they explore formations that use those, ie 4-4-2 or -4-2-3-1. Giving the players a more natural formation to work in and flourish. Players play a large role in this as well, as some are versatile and some are not, if you had a team of Urby Emanuelsons you could probably be a bit more flexible in your formation, but if you are lacking in wingers or fullbacks, it would be crazy for you to even consider a 3-5-2. Skillsets, player confidence, and understanding by both the Coach and Players are crucial.

It is sort of the chicken and the egg discussion, from a footballing perspective. Do tactics and formation come first regardless of players, or do players dictate a Coach’s final decision?