A month and a half after the world cup in Africa, the players are gearing up for the next season. For many football fanatics, this signals restoration of normal services. Seeing their favourite players in the colours of their country is odd and rare, and given the standard of football at display at football’s supposed pinnacle, many would have been more than relieved to see the end of the world cup. Spain’s victory has just rekindled the perennial debate among followers: Spanish League vs English League or in short, Beautiful game vs a physical one.
The early 2000’s saw the game in its true brilliance. Manchester United, Arsenal possessed great attacking lineups that could play eye catching football. Spanish League were blessed with the presence of Zinadine Zidane and Luis Figo, who took football to a whole new level with their style and fluidity. As the years rolled by, beautiful football was replaced by a more physical and an effective style that was characterized by tackles and diligence on field with little or no display of flair. Chelsea in 2005 provides the perfect testimony to that fact. The title was clinched, history was created but there was a lingering dissatisfaction among fans. The style of football was branded ‘boring’.
Barcelona FC of late has embodied the spirit of beautiful football with their buildup play, possession football and attack through channels. Spanish League is definitely a footballer’s paradise with its open spaces and average defense. With stars such as Messi, Ronaldo, Kaka, Xavi plying their trade in La Liga the quality is ever on the increase. English football on the other hand is suffering. Not only did their embarrassing loss at the world cup expose their tactical deficiencies, but the league has started losing some of its stars. However, the competition among Spanish League is minimal. Barcelona and Real Madrid with their spending powers are miles ahead of the rest and there is a general lack of even matchups throughout the calendar. When the same topic is broached in context to the EPL, it is a no brainer. English League is highly competitive, throwing unpredictable results, shocks and in general the competition is much more even and spirited.
The top clubs of Premier League are finding it difficult to lure the big names and La liga has become a haven for budding footballers.
The reason for this gradual change can be traced back to the philosophy of clubs in the English League with physicality given more preference than flair. A general English club focuses on winging and tall strikers to nod in the headers, policies that result in “fox in the box” kind of strikers. The teams in the Spanish League on the other hand have developed a footballing philosophy that is centered on possession football; team work and patient build up.
But again, football is a game that is not only won by scoring goals, but also by defending a lead. Inter Milan demonstrated that tippy tappy football can be neutralized through a solid defense and counter attack, a weak point which many clubs have exploited against Spanish oppositions. The English teams flourish in this aspect, which makes European night’s all the more entertaining. When it comes to holding a lead, the English teams outscore Spanish opponents inevitably. The English League is blessed with tactically brilliant managers such as Sir Alex, Ancelloti among others. This debate can rage on and on without much conclusion, and whatever the outcome maybe let us hope that the fans get their due whenever teams from either leagues play.
By: Anerudh Balaji