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Pluhár, 1933: Explaining the W-formation

Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2022-07-19 13:48:56

Data providers: Isaque Argolo.
István Pluhár | 22/10/1933

For years, the football world has been abuzz with controversy over the "W" formation. It is commonplace for us to talk and argue about new ideas, trends, forms and opportunities rather than trying to master them and take advantage of them. Many say that the "W" form of tactics is nothing more than defence. And to win, you have to attack, so the "W" formation is only for a team that has not reached a serious level of play. As if teams playing this tactic never score goals!
They forget that in 1928 the Hungarian team, playing art football, lost 3:1 to the Italians in Rome, who played the "W" tactic, and that was the result of the memorable 5:0 defeat in Budapest three years earlier. The Austrian team scored eight goals in Vienna, even though they played the "W" system, and in the Anglo-Austrian match in London, seven goals were scored, even though both teams were playing this modern method of play. The "W" formation can therefore not only be a defensive tactic, but also an attacking one. The question is when can and when should it be used?
Absolutely, when the two opposing sides are largely equal and one of them is using this tactic. But also when one side may feel weaker than the other, even if the stronger side does not stick to the "W" formation. So in today's match, the Hungarian team should definitely opt for this tactical solution. Whether we believe, as the team managers do, that the young Hungarian team is an equal opponent to the old Italian team, or whether we believe the paperwork, which in the results of Italian-Hungarian matches since 1928 shows that Italian football is better than Hungarian football. And if that is the case, what does this rigid tactic, this "W" formation, demand of the players in each position? We need to say the whole "W", not just half or a quarter of it, as we hear and read all the time. If you want to play in the "W" formation, you have to fully implement the laws of the game of this tactic.
As I say, the "W" formation game is a rigid tactical role-playing game from which no player is allowed to deviate. And this role is as follows for the outfield players.
The two full-backs are in line at about the height of the sixteen-yard box. From there they move in or out, forwards or backwards, as the game requires. But at no time can only one of them stay back or go forward to attack an empty space in his place.
Between the two backs, the centre-half plays third back, so he always holds the opponent's centre-forward. He takes the ball from the centre-forward before the centre-forward gets one. Therefore, Sárosi can hardly cross the half line, he has to hover where the opponent's centre-forward is. And whether the Italian centre is called Meazza or Borel II., Sárosi has to play that role. The same goes for Szalay against Orsi, Palotás against Guarini. Nor is catching the winger a matter of maybe going after the half once the winger has got the ball. You should not let the wingers have the ball. Heading, kicking — often anywhere — away from them or, if all ties are broken, pushing them with your body to throw them off balance, is the wing half's game in defence.
In this tactical system, the two Hungarian insiders, Takács II. and Toldi, are given a similar tactical treatment — and this is the most important thing. Takács' role today is as much to catch and counter Ferrari as Szalay's is to neutralise Orsi. And it is only natural that Toldi is left with the inside right, Cesarini, with whom he will have to fight throughout the match. The forward and backward movement of the linking pairs will shape the "W" and "M" of the forward line.
Together with the goalkeeper, eight people actually serve the defense in this way, but the strict distribution of the remaining three forwards is just as important, which immediately highlights that this tactic is also offensive in nature. This role is as follows: Polgár must stand there, move between the two Italian defenders, so preferably behind Monti. If he receives the ball, he jumps out between them and breaks into the goal, or plays on the wings. He shouldn't even think about getting close to his own goal, and can even go beyond the halfway line, towards home, only in very exceptional cases. Rosetta and Caligaris always dictate his position. But neither of the two wings should get further than the halfway line. They must also wait there for the ball to be played to them by their half-backs, insiders, full-backs or the centre-forward. And the job of the winger in this formation is to break into the goal if he was able to escape from the opponent's half-back. And whoever gets the ball from the three strikers adventuring forward must know the old rule that the striker must always pass the ball through one man.
The insider cannot take a shot? That's fine if the other forwards do the job for him. Otherwise, the insider can go forward, but he must always remember — if he is not dragging the opponent's insider with him — that when the ball that is taken or kicked back to the opponent's keeper, he must already be there with that Cesarini or Ferrari.
There's no question that individual skill prevails in this tactic. And it also determines whether the composition of the Hungarian team is right for it, whether its strength is equal to that of its opponents. If Mikes beats Bertolini, Kemény beats Pizziolo, Polgár beats Monti and can rise above the Italian full-backs, if Takács can beat Ferarri in his duel and Toldi can beat Cesarini, then the Hungarian team can score a lot of goals. And if our half-backs can contain the Italian forwards for — Szalay-Orsi, Palotás-Guarisi, Sárosi-Borel. II — so that Korányi and Bíró only have to kick back the ball that has bounced or fallen in front of them, or tackle the occasional forward who does escape, then the ball will be very difficult to get into the Hungarian goal.
The tactics that are recommended to the Hungarian team in so many ways are not bad. The recipe I described led our college students to success against the Italians in Turin, where they defeated an opponent better than them by at least five goals. It's just a team, the team needs a player who knows this role and performs it selflessly, as our college students did in Turin!