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Imre Schöffer, 1934: Modern football tactics

Author: Isaque Argolo | Creation Date: 2022-07-25 15:36:05

Data providers: Isaque Argolo.
Imre Schöffer | 03/10/1934, Salerno

It is ten years since the new offside rule was introduced and Hungary is still in the W-system. The Italian fourth-placed team knocks the Hungarian champions out of the Mitropa Cup and then at home they talk about open game and cultural football, saying that we are sticking to the principles of ten years ago.
In the World Cup, when we were knocked out by the Austrians, they kicked the ball into touch in the second half, even though we were playing with nine men. They didn't care that Pataki and Blum said it wasn't football, they stalled and went ahead and not us, with the open helmet.
And at home they can't solve either the forward game or the defence. They keep talking about the W-system, even though the W-system is now an outdated position, but they refuse to see that modern football has to be played with three full-backs and two half-backs.
If a letter is absolutely necessary, then let them spearhead the "M-system" of defence, because at least it is not an outdated dogma, but a legal consequence of the new stall rule.
Who should be the third back depends on the available half-back. If the centre-half is more destructive, let him be, if he is more controlling, let one of the wing half-backs be the wing full-back and the full-back be the "centre-back". The two half-backs can play this role alternately. For example, when the right half-back goes forward to attack, the left half-back moves back and sits next to the opposing right winger.
But let's not give up hope that the ideas of the modern forward game will one day take hold on the Hungarian fallow land and let's repeat them briefly again for the benefit of the receptive souls.
Let us state: the new rules have not changed the style of play, the scientific game, because it remains what it was: a rational game played by technically skilled players.
The team that passes flatly changes tactics and not style when it lifts the ball on the muddy pitch; the forward line changes tactics when the insiders stay back for shorter or longer periods and destroy instead of building, the defence changes tactics when the halves play third or fourth back for a while.
The aim of the game of football is to score goals, so a sensible style of play is to create as many goals as possible. The new rule has brought new tactical possibilities, allowing faster action, so the most effective style is the one that exploits tactical opportunities to create goal-scoring chances without wasting the least time.
Under the old rule, the forward line was forced to move forward in single file. Every player had the instinct to run forward, but could not do so because of the high risk of being run down. Today, the five forwards no longer have to attack in such a frontal line. Today every forward is as forward as he can be. And the new rule offers great opportunities here. Of course, the one who starts the attack is always at the back, and the forward line usually takes a V-shape.
Pure V-shape if the ball is at the centre (I), straight if at the wing (III). When one insider starts the attack, it would be completely unreasonable for the other insider to stay behind (just for the sake of W-formation).
If the attack starts from the half-court and is led by five forwards of a special class, so that every pass is pinpointed even at a fast pace, the closer the ball gets to the goal, the more men are cut off, leaving only one or two for the goal. This is how such an action looks like in a raid (the solid line is the ball, the dashed line indicates the path of the forwards).
The attack is initiated by the right inside forward (2) and the ball passes from the feet of the centre-forward, the left inside forward and the left winger to the incoming right winger. Of course, the forehand has to be taken care of now! If the left winger sees the right winger lying in wait, he should pass backwards to the inside players running behind him, so that the attack is not blocked.
Of course, you don't always have five forwards of special class, the passes are not always accurate, the partner is forced to stop, hitchhike and other variations of the combination triangle play have to be used, but then you can't create a goal-scoring situation as easily as the quick, space-filling way described above, so this is the ideal attacking mode to aim for.
But good forwards are not embarrassed, even if the forward line is a shambles. For example, if the insiders are just too supportive of the pressed defence and the ball is suddenly forward. Take the case of the left inside forward bringing the ball out of the siege. What should the insider do? If he sees a free insider in front, he should advance the ball to him without thinking, not take it. But if he catches the three forwards in front, he has to take it and play it into the hole in a sudden, surprise move. The partner is expecting him to jump away from the opponent and with the ball he is already on the brink of a goal. For example:
The left inside forward (4) has played into the hole, the centre-forward has run onto the ball, has advanced it to the left winger, who has also run forward, and the right winger has cut it to the right, and the incoming right winger can shoot. But close to the goal, the outrushing centre-forward can score himself. The winger can also run into the hole, if it is agreed to avoid confusion — he is closer to the insider.
This triangle play there are countless variations of this triangle in modern football. The starting point is usually one or another insider, the two of whom can move around the whole width of the pitch (not just the length), dribble, collude, change places and, as the link between attack and defence, play into a sudden hole at the appropriate moment.
This was a game Arsenal developed to great perfection, through two brilliant inside players with wonderful technique, James and Jack, the two of them so good at putting their other three teammates in scoring positions that they stopped going forward and stayed behind throughout the game. Of course, the copycats thought that it was enough for the insiders to regularly fall behind and win, as Arsenal did. But it turned out that without the pinpoint accuracy and unexpected passing of the inside players, this tactic was useless. When, after Chapman's death, Arsenal's youth-obsessed managers dropped the two old inside players, Arsenal failed to win. In the cup game against Derby County, they put Jack back in and that was enough to win the game.
Every team must learn to play with a short forward line, but it should not be overdone unnecessarily. If the opponent is on the attack, then the forward line must also retreat, but if, for example, the opponent's full-back is having a bad day, then it would be foolish not to take advantage of this. Then the centre-forward should stand on the necks of the defenders, watch the opportunity, but if he sees that he is not doing well, then just come back immediately and continue the team's normal play.
All this is of course only principles, because each match has its own history, its own battle plan. A real player figures out during the match where the opponent is strong and weak, where to focus attention in defence and where to maximise the power of the attack.