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'It is players who win you matches, not tactics'

'It is players who win you matches, not tactics'

PA

'It is players who win you matches, not tactics'

In his autobiography, Managing My Life, Alex Ferguson made an interesting point about tactics.

"It is players who win you matches," Ferguson wrote. "Not tactics."

I thought about this yesterday when I read about Louis Van Gaal's comments regarding the merits of 4-4-2 as a concept versus 3-5-2. "It gives me a twitchy bum," said Van Gaal about 4-4-2.

I'm not a 4-4-2 man. I'm not a 3-5-2 man. I believe in Ferguson's point, that players dictate the outcome of matches more than any formation.

That stems from my playing career when two of the finest tacticians who ever played the game were always able to read the situation on any match day and adjust accordingly.

At home, we attacked. And Kenny Dalglish would play as a centre-forward. Away from home, we had to protect our shape more - so Kenny would drop deeper into midfield and in turn, Graeme Souness would become what people today call a holding midfielder.

Did we win so many trophies because of that formation? Or did we win them because Kenny and Graeme were top notch at their jobs? I don't even need to give you that answer.

Today, more is written about football than ever before. People try to be clever, people who don't necessarily know the game.

Van Gaal does. He knows it inside out. But others - non-football people - are forever theorising about systems and tactics without ever making total sense.

To me, one of the most telling comments about tactics came from Slaven Bilic in the run-up to Euro 2012.

"Formations barely exist anymore," he said. "The game has gone so fluid."

That sums it up for me. The best teams attack as a unit and defend as a unit. 4-4-2 and 3-5-2 are just numbers. Players decide how a game is won. Tactics are for the theorists.

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