How many times can you kill tiki-taka?

Published 03.07.2018 01:09

Both the Spanish national team and Barcelona's performance have experienced serious ups and downs in the last 10 years. Each and every time they failed, football columnists killed tiki-taka, and when they prevailed, they revived it.

What these two teams did was simply create a philosophy in football, a new way of rendering teamwork. Nevertheless, it appears that columnists saw a revelation in this approach and expected it to prevail over each and every type of opponent and strategy. But the truth is, tiki-taka, just like counterpressing or counterattacking, is a strategy that can be successful in certain contexts.

First, before attempting to kill tiki-taka, we need to identify it properly. Tiki-taka is not an aimless series of passing, which is what Spain did against Russia. Each and every pass in tiki-taka must serve a purpose, it could be shifting the wings, creating space for a teammate or simply tiring a pressing opponent. But it is definitely not an endless cycle of side passing in defense while the opponent is willingly defending their penalty box.

Proper tiki-taka strategy with good set-pieces would not lose time with side passes, since they serve no purpose in attacking. Rather, it would focus on creating time and space for the key players in their strategy and circulate the ball accordingly. What differentiates a good tiki-taka strategy is the rate of success of doing that.

So, let us try to determine whether Fernando Hierro's Spain played a proper tiki-taka against Russia. Ninety nine percent of the 1100 Spanish passes in the game were far from the Russian penalty box. Which means, not having a decent strategy to open up the Russian defense and not knowing what to do, so the Spanish players aimlessly circulated the ball in midfield, hoping that somehow Isco would pull a rabbit out of a hat. As you can see, this premature and chaotic strategy has nothing to do with the purposeful strategy that we described above. So, let us make this point clear, Hierro's Spain had nothing to do with tiki-taka against Russia.

However, if you are still determined to kill tiki-taka, we should also talk a bit about its evolution. Football, just like life, is a field in which there is a continuous clash between strategies to survive. Only the fittest can survive, and strategies keep evolving and adapting themselves to new conditions to stay fit. If tiki-taka prevails, counterpressing adapts itself to new conditions and challenge tiki-taka, and vice versa.

The categorical difference is not between tiki-taka and the rest, but between collective strategies and individualistic strategies. As a rule of physics and mathematics, eleven players operating as a whole, with a superior mindset, will always perform better than a bunch of individuals not knowing what they are going to do together. Therefore, next time you try to kill tiki-taka, try to think of the fundamentals of the game.

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