The modern English game is one fully loaded with new style continental flair and dribbling prowess partnered up with the hard hitting, high tempo old school ways of yesteryear, but does this often deadly combination sometimes cause a hole that can ultimately cost survival and with it a breathtaking amount of cash?
Hull City AFC are the first team that come to mind when considering these points. A surge in attacking threats have entered the frame at the KC in recent times and not many sides outside the top six can afford to leave the likes of Thomas Ince and Sone Aluko out of match day squads with names such as Abel Hernandez, Nikica Jelavic, Hatem Ben Arfa and Gaston Ramirez battling it out for the starting spots. It is this type of attacking threat, from a club so often referred to by main stream media as small, that makes the Premier League what it is today.
Not only have Hull signed very shrewdly in the attacking department, they also now have a squad that holds defensive ranks containing former England centre-half Michael Dawson, pundits favourite Curtis Davies and newly capped highly rated Welsh international James Chester. Combine these areas of the pitch together and you can see the Modern English game in one side – A whole host of attacking threats from across the globe, alongside typically British, solid and traditional centre-halves. But, that still leaves the question; do they lack the art of closing out a game?
There is no such thing as a guaranteed formula for closing out a game. Recent times have seen the holding champions Manchester City look to the likes of Gareth Barry, Javi Garcia and Nigel De Jong to do this job, whilst the current dominant force Chelsea have used Claude Makelele, Michael Essien and Jon Obi Mikel. It seems that in modern football this type of player is being used less and less. In fact, out of that list, Mikel is the only player still at one of the aforementioned clubs, but even he is used very rarely. It seems the lack of this type of player, exciting as it is, could be a destroying factor for those who cannot spend the money these sides can.
Even teams like Arsenal are so obviously crying out for a defensive-minded midfielder, while Liverpool have turned to one of their greatest goalscoring midfielders in Steven Gerrard.
Looking at Hull, as an example of a lesser Premier League club, they currently lie in 11th place after eight games. Whilst this is a position that Hull fans should be ecstatic with if they can hold on to it until the end of the season, it is easy to believe that they could be much higher.
This campaign has already seen the Tigers throw away very late leads in the league to draw 2-2 with West Ham, Newcastle and Arsenal, whilst also exiting the Capital One Cup with a 3-2 defeat to West Brom, despite leading 2-1 with minutes remaining. A quick look at the team sheet and you can see the defensive solidarity in Dawson, Davies, Chester and even Bruce and McShane to some extent, with the almost guaranteed goals which are putting them into these leads through the previously mentioned attacking options, but it is the middle of the park where these leads are lost.
The names in the middle are not necessarily at fault for the leaking of goals, but merely a style of play that is trying to feed the forwards rather than protect the defence. Jake Livermore’s energy, Mo Diame’s power and Tom Huddlestone’s ball-playing skills are great and provide entertainment, but they are surely lacking somebody to simply break up the play, steal the ball and hand it to those in front.
Sometimes playing football isn’t all that is important – clubs need someone there to stop teams from playing football and provide that 5-yard pass to allow others to play. Enter Mikel, Makelele, Garcia and Barry. Hull are the perfect example, given the recent results that they have had, but many others fall in to the same category.
By bringing in exciting attacking exports to the English game in such an abundance, we are risking teams becoming ‘same-y’ and losing the competitiveness and foundations of our great league, which culminates in tactical nous and the ‘art’ of closing a game out.