The ancient Greeks told us, "Everything is in a state of flux."
Without ever delving into it by defending a stance, we often hear fans and misguided sports writers categorically conclude, "they play the game the way it was meant to be played." A curious mind will ask what this means.
Generally speaking, people who assert this do so in defense of an argument about an athlete or team they prefer. Most fans to believe his or her team plays "the way it was meant to be played."
Take hockey in the 1970s. The Montreal Canadiens prevented the Philadelphia Flyers from winning a third straight Stanley Cup in the middle of that decade. It was widely regarded as finesse triumphing over violence. Had the Flyers won the general consensus was that NHL teams were going to adopt the Broadstreet Bullies template.
As I will illustrate shortly, some teams are better suited for certain styles. Every team has their own DNA so to speak. There will always be a clash of, well, sports civilizations.
Let's tackle this notion right here, right now. For this, I will turn to soccer. One can easily apply this to any other sport.
Once upon a time a long time ago in a land far away, the game of soccer differed very much from what we have today. The tactics and formations used would be alien, if not unthinkable in today's highly scientific soccer landscape. Soccer was under the sway of a 1-1-8 or 1-2-7 (in England where individualism or the “kick and rush” strategy prevailed) and 2-2-6 (as was they case in Scotland where team oriented skills were used). Even with the attackers stacked at the front it didn’t necessarily translate into more goals.
Was this how soccer was meant to be played?
From there soccer evolved. And not just in England. Many countries contributed to new ideas and tactics while others perfected systems in place. In the 1920s, the Austrians, the Hungarians and Czechoslovakia took the first steps at building on the Scottish method. Playing a style that predicated on short passing and individual skills, the Danubian school (as it was known) generally employed a 2-3-5 system that had originated in England. By the 1930s, this style earned the term Wunderteam for the Austrians.
Okay. That’s two styles I have introduced here.
Not to be outdone, the Italians under Vittorio Pozzo came up with the Metodo in the 1930s, which essentially asked players to be more responsible at the back end while using a creative midfielder. Result? Italy won back-to-back titles with the 2-3-2-3 formation. It was the beginning of sophisticated tactics that mark the carefully calibrated Italian style that remains until this day.