Most managers, myself included, prefer aesthetically pleasing brands of football. We are not content with merely winning a game, we want to win in style, preferably a grand style. Okay, I am not really sure if this applies to most managers, but it bloody well applies to me. I blame my Dutch genes for that little quirky trait. The Dutch are quite apt at losing games but declaring themselves the moral winners because their style of play looked better. I mean, Van Gaal anyone?
We played beautiful football! It’s not like that Portuguese wanker is doing any better…
Anyway, enough of my ranting and back to the topic at hand as promised in the title. What many people seem to forget is that there can be beauty in clean defending. The same ideas and principles so often associated with the attacking phases of football are just as easily applied to the defensive phase. The fluidity of positions, rotations and covering your teammates, maintaining a tight and cohesive formation, it’s just as much a hallmark of a strong defense than it is a characteristic of a strong offense.
That brings me to the concept of the phalanx. As an avid gamer, I played my fair share of the Total War series and well, you can’t play these games without picking up a thing or two regarding shield walls, testudo’s or phalanxes. The phalanx formation was a close-rank, dense grouping of warriors armed with long spears and interlocking shields. The Spartan phalanx was legendary in classical antiquity and renowned for hammering home the importance of keeping one’s shield up. It was not for the protection of the warrior carrying it, but for the warrior at his side. When the shield was dropped it created a gap in the impenetrable defense, which could be exploited.
A classic phalanx formation screenshot Rome 2 Total War.
I want to apply the concept of the Greek phalanx to how I organize my teams defensively. If that sounds intriguing (or just sufficiently hipstery), read on!