The underdog theory
It’s been a remarkable week for footballing underdogs: on Monday Leicester City completed their astonishing title charge, while 24 hours later Atlético Madrid reached a second Champions League final in three years.
Theories abound as to the reasons for their extraordinary success, ranging from team spirit to the degree of luck enjoyed. A discussion of these is too long for this piece ,but one notable aspect is the distinctiveness of each club’s playing style relative to their closest rivals.
The theory goes that to beat the best, you have to do something different – especially when you have limited resources. On the field, neither Leicester nor Atléti resemble the slick, sophisticated styles of Europe’s richest clubs. Their modus operandi is to disrupt such teams, in the same way any successful start-up has taken an unconventional route to shake up an industry – think Uber or Airbnb. They play guerilla football.
Off the field, much has been written about management style and the search for competitive edge. Understanding this, coupled with a study of the teams that have tried to be different but failed, will only help broaden the lessons to be learnt from these unprecedented achievements.
While the football world follows the most fashionable trends, Leicester City and Atlético Madrid have dared to be different. That in itself deserves appreciation.