There are many views about systems of play from a rigid perspective to being unimportant in the minds of others. In this short writing, the idea will be laid out that systems are simply starting points and reference points in the modern game.
Looking at history, the game shows at one point in the game if a player played right back that played in a certain area of the field and for the most part did not deviate from that particular of field. As the game evolved with Dutch Football leading to the idea of total Football whereby players had various characteristics that allow many players within the squad to have qualities that saw players interchanging positions frequently.
Fast forward to the game of today clearly some players have the ability to play multiple positions. While evaluating the system of 4-2-3-1 playing with inverted wingers it is clear players have the ability to play in the central areas of the field as well in the wide areas of the field. Take a think about Raheem Sterling he has the ability to play as a traditional winger taking players on in wide areas or coming inside as a central player. This one movement opens space for another player to fill the space vacated by Sterling. Continuing the ideas of interchanging positions Kevin De Bruyne fills the space opened by Sterling movements which now goes to the point of this article systems in the modern game are starting points and reference points for players.
Going back a few years in the height of Barcelona’s success it is clear that what made the club so dangerous was the ability to use a system as a starting position for players as well as a reference point. The use of possession to dominate the opponent Barcelona needed to exploit the idea a system is a starting point and reference point as a player under pressure would trust the knowledge based on the ball location players would be in particular areas that the player in possession could connect a pass. This use of a system as a starting point for players and reference points for other players is a vital reason why Barcelona could maintain possession at the rate it did during the club’s period of great success. Without question, the quality in Barcelona’s team at the time was a significant factor as the quality in every position allowed the team to make consistent high-level plays.
The idea of systems brings much debate as to which one is best. The truth is systems are important providing players at a minimum opportunity to scan the field seeing the team set up knowing the strong points and weak points of a certain system. When the game starts teams attack and defend some better than others, goals are given up as well as scored with the system and yes, the system has a role in all that, but there are so many other aspects of the game to take into consideration before simply saying the system determined the outcome of the match. The ultimate reality is what players do and do not do on the field determines the outcome. Therefore, it is better to see a system as a starting point for players and a reference point, but the best system for a team is one that highlights the players allowing each to impose ability on the game at a high level providing the team the best opportunity to win the game.