How Total Football Has Influenced the Modern Game

How Total Football Has Influenced the Modern Game

So many questions are asked about what the term ‘total football’ really means. Does it mean the pinnacle of how football should be played, or is it the most successful team with the most trophies? One team springs to people’s minds when total football is brought up, The Netherlands team of the 1970s and 1980s. This team has been regarded for decades as one of the best and most exciting team to watch, playing the best football that has ever been played. But how has this incredible Dutch team influenced the modern game?

The man that started it all was Johan Cruyff, regarded as one of the best players to ever grace the beautiful game. Alongside the manager, Rinus Michels, Cruyff created a system which blew all known footballing tactics out the water. Their philosophy was more than just passing the ball up the field in an attempt to score, it was like an art in the way that they played which opposing teams did not know how to play against.

It starts from the back, each outfield player had to be able to play multiple positions to allow space to be created. Centre-backs would become centre midfielders, right-wingers would cover for the right-back who ended up playing as the striker. Players would pop-up all over the pitch with runs in every direction, allowing so much space to be created for attacks. Not only were they a force going forward, but they were also very regimented at the back, not giving any time for the opposition to pick passes. Nowadays this is called counter-pressing, which is something the Dutch did amazingly. Preparing for a match against The Netherlands was a nightmare for coaches, because of the runs and how players were out of their natural position, it was near on impossible for opponents to prepare for their one-on-one individual battles because even they didn’t know who they would be facing. One of England’s top journalists, Henry Winter, 55, was lucky enough to witness this team play through their best years; he believes that this team was the best ever and has had the most impact on today’s football

“No one played football like them, they played with such arrogance like they knew they were the best, and they were. As a football fan, it was so enjoyable watching them blow teams away, it was truly incredible what they did

“In today’s game to see teams such as Manchester City use some of the tactics they used over 30 years ago, so still to this day, their team is making an impact. I think it has been the most influential philosophy in world football.”

Right now, Manchester City are playing some outstanding football and playing teams off the park just like The Netherlands did. They are just one of the teams that implement some of the tactics used my Michels’ men in the 1970s with the amount of movement players have on the pitch. Manager Pep Guardiola has set his team up so that the fullbacks move up the field and inside rather than outside, giving the opportunity for the creative midfield players to push forward and pick passes. As well as this, the attacking players are all switching around, creating havoc for defenders as they get pulled out of position and gaps start to appear. The Manchester City team are now one of the best teams at picking apart the opponent, much like Guardiola’s Barcelona team in the late 2000s.

As we all know, tactics are very important to the top teams, without them the team would be disorganised. But how important is it for youth coaches to be implementing tactics as in-depth as the ones used by the best teams? Jamie Yates, 29, is a youth academy coach for Matlock Town and he believes it’s important for the players to learn certain tactics even at a young age.

“We teach the players to play out from the back and to build the game up slowly and not to rush it, these kids will one day have to learn to do more advanced tactics, so I feel I should be teaching them some of the things the top teams do well

“Having players that can move about the pitch and play different positions makes my life so much easier, not to mention the influence on the pitch”

From youth level all the way up to the top tier of football, the influence that the Dutch left on football is massive. From the top teams adopting their playing styles, to the younger generation wanting to learn to play like the superstars. Cruyff and his men truly left their mark on football.



Pep is just on of the managers to use the Dutch styles of play in his teams.
This shows the movement of the players around the pitch. Players didn’t stick to their positions which made like very hard for defenders marking them
The brains of the operation, Johan Cruyff was a master of tactics.
Players are now being taught how to play like the pros from a young age, even the more in-depth and advanced tactics.