Saturday, January 28

Martí Perarnau: “Each town plays according to its way of being”

What prompted you to write such a thorough book on tactics?

I started it in 2015 talking about football in Munich with Domènec Torrent and Lorenzo Buenaventura and asking us questions: ‘this, why is it like this? And this, why is it this way? ‘ The bug bit me. And then there came a day when Guardiola, with Bayern, played and beat Cologne with the Cambridge pyramid, 2-3-5, and having dinner with him I asked him if he knew about this system and he said no, tell him Lillo had explained. And from there I was completely curious. And this is the origin. Then, after the Munich era, it was difficult for me to focus on it, but finally I opted to go back to the origins to try to find out why we are playing like this today.

It has a title with a referential vocation, as if it were intended for coaches, but perhaps it is not.

I don’t know if it is for coaches or for people who like football and want to understand why it is being played in this way today, applicable to any team. There is a very good thing and it is that Guardiola arrived in Munich and the idea that his football was countercultural in Bavaria spread. And it was not like that. After all this research you realize that in Bavaria in 1910, 1920 and 1930 a Scottish game of passing was played. In fact, Pep, with his style, went to Bavaria to play as it had been played there many years ago.

The Bavarians, but not the Germans?

Basically, the thesis of the book, which is confirmed by the facts that ancient books and newspaper archives have explained, I have no other argument to justify it, since there are no images, it is that each town plays according to its way of being. That means that very marked game identities are created, understood as a town, a club, a city, a region, a country … There is an English way and a Scottish way. The direct game and the passing game. And it is very marked by the way of being of each other. The English, in 1863, are the children of the imperial elites, the individual heroes, the cavalry launches against the Russian guns with bare chest … How do they play football? Thus, that is to say, 9 forwards, all on the attack, each one plays individually, and this direct English game reaches today with all the evolutions and nuances you want; and the other is the Scottish passing game, which was born in a country of cooperatives, associations, groups, and who decide to play by passing the ball. And both of them carry soccer around the world, and teach how to play as they do. From there, football evolves but always from these two directions. And very strong identities are created.

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“There is originally an English path and a Scottish path. The direct game and the passing game. And both come to this day with all the variations and innovations you want”


And why do you choose the false 9 to braid this story?

Within the investigation, there are a series of things that you already know or intuit but suddenly you discover that the false 9 comes from afar. I was as surprised as everyone else. It was not born from Messi at the Bernabéu … Then you pull back and you see that there was the Hungarian Hidegkuti in 1953. And you pull further back and you see that there were already others, until you reached Piendibene in 1910.

The false 9 exists in contrast to the pure 9, it is understood.

The first 9 English are quite proto-false 9. There is an attack that is the line of the 5 forwards from the 2-3-5 pyramid, we are already in the 80s and peak of the 19th century, and these 5 forwards are organized by a center forward who is a very good player who gives play to the other four. With good technique, therefore the profile of the false 9 is being drawn, and in parallel the battle 9 is born and grows, high, strong, because that is a battle. Lance magazine says that in 1890 there are 29 deaths, apart from fractures of all kinds. Until the penalty is invented in 1891, a defender kills you and you are not whistled or fouled. Either you slip away or you hit.

Marti Perarnau, presenting his new book ‘The tactical evolution of football’ in Barcelona. Zowy Woeten

The book ends in 1945 because he considers that from then on everything has been invented. What would be the party, the team, the movement that ends the era of invention?

The day that Pedernera leaves the River and signs for Atalanta is over, which is 46 and not 45, but the year was not going well for me, by round number. With River’s machine, all the evolution that has taken place concludes. The River puts the seed of total football, that chimera that teams still try today. Hungary, Holland, Guardiola tried it in Barcelona and wherever he goes he keeps trying. Everyone attacks, everyone defends … But it is a chimera, I don’t know if it will reach perfection. And the first to try it is River.

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And from here on, he maintains that everything is innovations.

On these inventions the innovations begin. They are inventions that must be put in the context of each era, we cannot compare a technical gesture from the 1930s with one from today.

“The false 9 comes from afar. It was not born with Messi at the Bernabeu”


Do you think that tactical evolutions are the result of scientific thought or intuition?

Normally, technical gestures tend to come from the players’ intuition, although Panenka explains that he thought a lot about the execution of the penalty, and tactical modules are usually the work of thought: because you saw something on the field that caught your attention, because you saw something to the contrary or just because it arose from a reflection in a football talk.

But he explains that the false 9 arises from the intuition of a player, from Piendibene.

False nines have arisen for a variety of reasons. Piendibene appears by intuition after the arrival of a Scottish midfielder to his team with whom he likes to associate. Bullock, who is the second, has its origin in the offside rule, which makes the midfielder delay the defense and there is a void in the center of the field. When he becomes a coach, Bullock will create a saga of false nines. Hungarians in the 1950s are because the coaches put Puskas and Kocsis, the wingers, ahead. And then tradition: Cruyff makes Laudrup play a false nine because Michels gave him a false nine. And Guardiola puts Messi because he played with Laudrup.

If it’s all made up, it demystifies every coach since 1945.

No, because the coach has a brutal innovation task. How is invented applied. How you train. How it is executed. The potato omelette is invented, but then one comes and deconstructs you.

Martí Perarnau. Zowy Feet

You understand that there are three inventions. Three geniuses.

One of the clear conclusions is that the reference axes of the game are changing. The first tactical inventor is the regulation. Set the rules: the attacking space is wider than it is length, and the match is won by whoever scores the most goals. The first axis are the goals. Then Herbert Chapman appeared around 1925 and implanted the WM as a system, although he did more important things, such as using ends with a different leg, and he is the one who discovers the value of free spaces. And in the 80s, Johan implanted the third great axis: his universe is the ball.

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“Guardiola’s influence on football has not yet been written. It is impressive. To paraphrase Churchill, never have so few influenced so many”


Is it Cruyff and not the Dutch school?

The Dutch school, above all, is more movement than position. The coach Johan changes a lot with respect to the player Johan and Laureano Ruiz explains it. In his great talks with Jany van der Veen, his teacher and coach at the Ajax quarry, he reaffirms a series of ideas that he will apply as a coach and makes the ball the center of his universe.

It does not include Guardiola among the great inventors.

There are three indisputable elements: the regulations, the spaces and the ball. Then there are great coaches. Pep is, without a doubt, among the ten best in history, perhaps among the five best. There have been very good, very good people, innovative in formatting and reformatting things, but like Pep, very few. Pep’s influence on football has not been written yet. It is tremendous, impressive. And to paraphrase Churchill, he is like Chapman: never have so few influenced so many. Chapman influences the thinking of his time and for 60 years; Pep’s influence is barbaric at Barça, in Germany and in England.

Does your football vocation come from a child? You were an elite athlete.

But at 7 years old, on the athletics track of the Hispano Francés, with Fernando Goywaerts [exjugador del Barça] We made 100-meter straights, passing the ball to each other. I have always been a football fan.

But he became an athlete.

I was wrong (laughs). I did that because I couldn’t do the other.

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