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Caught offside

In the midst of a season, it can be hard to think about our club’s strategy in the context of a changing sport. Saturday’s result, somewhat understandably, is the priority.

Nevertheless, developments like FIFA’s transfer market reforms help bring into focus how we as a club over the coming years should be strategising on areas such as the loan market or utilisation of agents.

Similarly, we should be asking where the main areas of growth are for our club, perhaps with a mind on the increasing likelihood of a European Super League. Is an extra academy-developed player actually going to be worth more than an extra league position, for example?

Then there are changes to the game itself. Video assistant refereeing promises to bring increased fairness to the sport – but it could also have an impact on how the game is played. Every single major western European league that has implemented VAR has seen a drop in the number of offsides per game, probably because assistants are encouraged to keep their flag down on tight calls.

While an offside would be called in the event of a goal in the first phase, this doesn’t currently apply to second phases of play (e.g. if the ball goes out for a corner). Could we therefore see teams dropping deeper – perhaps the above suggests they already have – thereby making pressing styles of play less effective and opening up space in midfield? What could this mean for the way we develop our young players, or the types of coaches we recruit?

Smart clubs over the years have planned and reacted well to changes in the sport – whether it is the Bosman ruling, the backpass rule, or simply the explosion in transfer fees. Just like our players need to prepare for and react on a Saturday, key decision makers at clubs should be ready for the way the game is going.

About Omar Chaudhuri

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