We all know that culture matters. It’s not as easy to quantify – either objectively or subjectively – as talent, but we know that at the margins it can make a difference between winning and losing.
It feels right that culture can also influence the way in which we play too. Directors at clubs have often told us, particularly during a head coach recruitment process, that they want to see their team play exciting, attacking football (perhaps under pressure from changes at the top end of the sport). A change of coach might help with this, but more fundamentally a change of culture might be a bigger driver.
We can get a sense of this by looking at the relationship between attacking football and liberal values across Europe: countries that score high on the State of World Liberty Index also tend to see more goals in their top division. In other words, countries that typically have greater freedoms for its citizens also tend to see more open football.
We at 21st Club would be the first to point out when correlation isn’t causation, and there’s certainly that danger here. However, it’s not hard to imagine translating some of these themes into a dressing room scenario. If the players are working in an environment that is ‘open’, perhaps they find it easier to express themselves on the field, which usually manifests in more attacking football. Equally, perhaps a conservative atmosphere leads to more conservative football.
We’re certainly not suggesting that prospective head coaches should be grilled on their political preferences, but it seems reasonable to suggest that playing style is linked to culture. Players are not robots and won’t switch their approach on demand; if we want to realise a certain type of football, we need to foster an environment that allows it to develop.