Between 2008 and 2012 Barcelona and Spain’s possession-heavy playing style led to unparalleled domestic and international success. Tactically, the game across the continent shifted, led by an effort to mimic some of the best aspects of these teams.
What people also noticed was that Spain and Barcelona were winning trophies with players well under six foot (183cm) tall, and consciously or otherwise other national teams followed suit. The chart below shows this trend; the average height of international footballers has fallen by a couple of centimetres in recent years.
These tactical and physical trends illustrate how football often finds it much easier to follow the crowd and copy what seems to be working elsewhere – sometimes at the cost of disregarding what is suitable for one’s own situation. This doesn’t just apply to tactics or youth development as in the example above; over the years we’ve seen teams playing catch up in approaches to sports science, recruitment and analytics.
Developing a clear philosophy has obvious benefits, even if it means going against the grain. Because we can be sure that as long as we’re following the trend, our competitors are opening up new avenues for success.