The pressure to attack
All clubs recognise that football is a results industry, but many would also say that providing entertainment is more important than it has ever been. Clubs and leagues’ competition is no longer just other teams or even sports, it’s often TV box sets and video games.
This shift has coincided with an era of coaches at the top of the game – most notably Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp – who feel a duty to exhilarate fans as well as deliver trophies. As some of the most prominent faces in the industry, they have inadvertently created pressure on clubs who want at some level to emulate their brand of football.
Our World Super League model illustrates this; every team going back 15 years has been awarded an attack rating and a defence rating, based on the amount of goals they scored and conceded at the time. José Mourinho’s Chelsea in 2005, for example, had a strong attack but a miserly defence, and so were considered ‘very defensive’. Nearly 50 of the world’s top 100 teams back then were considered defensive, and less than 20 considered attacking. In 2018, this position has nearly reversed, with nearly 50 attacking teams and fewer than 25 defensive.
This chart focuses on the top of the sport, but is indicative of something we hear from boardrooms at the clubs we work with, up and down the football pyramid. Results are the priority, of course, but the fans should go home having enjoyed the day – something that attacking football tends to provide.
The important thing for key decision makers at clubs though is that strategic decisions around the club’s philosophy and direction are anchored on objectivity and reason, not because it’s the latest trend. Indeed, Leicester City and Atlético Madrid’s recent success shows that there is merit in being disruptive and going against the grain, certainly when it comes to playing approach. Smart clubs will forge their own way; after all, how can you win if you’re just copying bigger, wealthier opponents?