In the very early days of football attack was the name of the game. Teams would typically play with 2 wide men, an inside right, an inside left, and a centre-forward. Skillful and tricky players would take up the wide rolls supplying the crosses for typically big and tall centre forwards to get on the end of. Such approaches to the game must have been easy on the eye with results often ending 11-7 or the like.
As time progressed however and with foreign influences different approaches were being developed. The Italians would go on to develop the more defensive approach, which we know so well today with a bank of four another bank of fours then two strikers. This approach, having produced a fair degree of success, would go on, in a small amount of time, to become adopted as the international standard.
Foreign coaches were still bringing fresh approaches though and an early Hungarian team would bring the world the first example of “Total Football” where player’s positions were less static, the idea being quick interchanges between the positions and to attack as a whole team when in possession.
By this time a few different main tactics had been developed. South American teams would base their game of flair and skill, attacking with finesse. Italian and Spanish teams were favoring technical ability too but with slow passing build ups, this approach becoming known as the continental style. The English game being more frenetic and aggressive with more tackles and the ball in the air for more time.
Despite the 4-4-2 formation probably still being the popular, a number of other formations have been employed to good effect in recent times. Wingers have been dismissed in favor of wingbacks in many cases and in the last few years playing 5 across midfield with a solitary striker has been a tactic of choice particularly in away games.
Managerial approaches will no doubt keep evolving over the coming years bringing still more strategies and tactics to the game. Exactly what these new approaches will be is yet to be seen, but this avid follower of the game at least, will certainly be following developments with interest.