In this modern day and world it is OK to admit to being a fan of computer games without being outcasted as a social leper so announcing so will not be a shock to many of you. I would call myself a recovering addict, in the past 3 years I have had little time for the delights of Pro Evolution Soccer, Grand Theft Auto or the once upsettingly addictive Football Manager. EA Sports FIFA series has become one of the most popular platform games in living memory and without shame, even pros like Messi, Fabregas and Rooney are avid fans.
So with an idea stuck in my head and a little time on my side I blew the dust off of my FIFA disc and placed it delicately on my fragile Xbox tray with the idea of creating a ‘tika-taka’ side.
I randomly chose a team in the Football League (Derby County if you care) and went on a Brendan Rodgers style cull, selling any player who didn’t have a short pass attribute of 75 or more and signing various talents with the proceeds who possessed example short pass abilities to the tune of 77, 81 even 85.
It lead to the high quality arrivals of big names such as Anis Boussaidi, Oscar Sielva, Alessandro Frara and Thomas Broich (I imagined the little virtual crowd shouting ‘WHO’ when the tannoy announced the team line-ups). Even my goalkeeper had to be able to pass the ball with Yann Sommer the perfect candidate, another well-known name.
So, did it work?
Yes and no is the answer.
Whilst I sprayed the ball around like Barcelona, barely conceding possession it soon dawned on me that several of my players had fatal flaws. Sommer wouldn’t catch the thing, Boussaidi couldn’t tackle, Sielva was weak, Frara was unfit and Broich tortoise slow.
It was obviously a small paradoxical experiment but it does make you wonder just how difficult arranging a ‘tika-taka’ team really is. In my virtual world scouting was easy, click a few buttons and away you go but out there in the real world searching for the players capable of playing the current in-thing for football is like locating the proverbial sewing instrument in agricultural product.
Unless you adopt a system whereby your players are brought up to play a certain way, Barcelona, Athletic Bilbao and recently Swansea in the UK, developing a brand of high pressing possession football with great passers and all-around players at your disposal is highly difficult.
So next time you find yourself frustrated with the exploits of Brendan Rodgers, Roy Hodgson or even Roberto Di Matteo spare a thought to my rabble of virtual players daintily prodding the ball around Pride Park whilst losing 3-0 to Bristol City; albeit with a possession score of 75% to 25% before judging them too harshly.
image: © markus unger