Friday, December 28, 2007
What do you do when you don't have the ball?
“What are you supposed to do when you haven't got the ball... attack?” - Harry Redknapp, Manager of Portsmouth FC, responding to criticism that his side played over-defensive football.
Arsene Wenger wasn't happy when Portsmouth held Arsenal to a draw by playing over-defensive football, claiming that they had “10 men at the back”. He felt it wasn't good sportsmanship to play blanket defense and deny the opponent any goal-scoring opportunities. Of course, football at a blistering pace would be much more fun to play and watch.
However, remember that Portsmouth, like any other team in the EPL, were out to win points. And to do that, they had to choose the best strategy that would help them do it. In this case, the only way they could salvage a point (by drawing) was to play turtle defense. It was a good win (for many teams, drawing with Arsenal is as good as winning), the only unfortunate consequence being that Manchester United managed to sneak past Arsenal to the top of the table.
Portsmouth's strategy is comparable to what the Romans did when faced by their great foe Hannibal of Carthage. Hannibal (like Arsenal) had the better fighters and better skills. At the early stages of the war, the Carthaginians won many battles and routed the Romans many times.
Many foolish Roman generals, too full of themselves, thinking that they were brilliant, met the Carthaginians head on. They lost. The enemy was simply too strong. It wasn't until Quintus Fabius Maximus came to power that the tide started to turn. Deploying the 'Fabian Strategy', he managed to save Rome.
According to Wikipedia, The 'Fabian Strategy' is “a military strategy where pitched battles are avoided in favor of wearing down an opponent through a war of attrition. While avoiding decisive battles, the side employing this strategy harasses its enemy to cause attrition and loss of morale”.
Thus, the Romans won not by out-fighting the enemy, but by wearing them down and causing them to self-destruct.
The moral of the story is:-
Sometimes, when the odds are against us, it is vital that we turn to the use of strategy for a helping hand. When dealt with unfavourable cards, we can still win if we play the game right.
We do not have to win in style. We only have to win.
Copyright © 2007 by Andrew Chua Tuan Li