Real Madrid and the differences between utility and aesthetics
by Arda Alan Işık
ISTANBULJan 14, 2017 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Arda Alan Işık
Jan 14, 2017 12:00 am
I must acknowledge the fact that for many years I have been both a preacher and an inquisitor of some kind of an enlightened despotism of modern football. Barcelona was my church and Pep Guardiola was my holy prophet, whose innovations in football heralded a new era in European football. Indeed, Barcelona and Guardiola turned football upside down and opened a new path with which older methods failed, but other methods kept growing and developing. Real Madrid, on the other hand, were the real enemies of the progressive movement in my view, a heretical organization that must be destroyed by the new revelations. However, as they say, the most fervent revolutionary turns into the most fervent conservative the day after the revolution, and this is my piece of confession and reconciliation with the other side of the aisle.
First of all, arguing for such a strong conclusion, that Barcelona's game is superior to all others, has two difficulties; you have to prove that their game is strategically better than all the others and it is always more enjoyable to watch. The former was my main point for the first four years of my football writing, and I sincerely believed that one can mathematically and scientifically prove the superiority of their game to others. Nevertheless, at the same time I dictated to people that everyone should enjoy watching Barcelona more than watching the chaotic English Premier League which seemed like a tavern brawl to me.However, while counter-pressing and coach Diego Simeone debunked my first argument, I started to question my second argument, and all those other teams I have been bashing for years and of course Real Madrid as the leader of that camp. Fortunately, now I have a less dogmatic view about modern football and embrace all strategies and tactics by evaluating them in their own context. But watching Real Madrid against Sevilla last Sunday made me question the relationship between utility and aesthetics again, as Sevilla were eliminated with one of the most beautiful game play I have seen in recent years.
Firstly, just like his predecessors, Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane also did not change the teams counter-attacking strategy established by Jose Mourinho. He continued to utilize his squad structure, which allowed him to execute incredibly fast counter-attacks with great precision. Nevertheless, they were unable to produce as they used to against Sevilla, who not only crippled Real's attacking waves but also maintained a continuous offensive flow throughout the game. Although Real got away with a win and continued their 40-game unbeaten run, Sevilla managed to win over the hearts of everyone in the stadium and were aptly applauded by everyone.
This fact suggests that the relationship between utility and aesthetics is a very complex one, and it cannot be said that they are directly related to each other. It is true that whenever a team is able to utilize its strategies and tactics in a proper way we see a completed work of art, something we all appreciate. But tavern brawls also have their charm, don't they? Even though Spain's La Liga teams play in much more complex ways, I still enjoy watching the English Premier League chaos more than La Liga. The game is enjoyable when you aim to win and play like a team, but this does not mean that you can't offer something enjoyable without winning. As a result, although I stopped judging people for supporting tactics like that of Real Madrid, something I used to call negative football, I still believe that brave, offensive teams offer more enjoyable football.