In a recent Irish Times article Jim McGuinness explained the subtle but definitive changes to the Dublin system, writing about how they have abandoned their man-to-man defensive principles.
But for club coaches there was a very interesting line.
“Most teams take their lead from the top teams – and Dublin are the most frequently imitated.”
This writer has yet to see any club side attempt to play anything like the Dubs. Without doubt, the role of the goalkeeper has been heavily influenced country-wide by Stephen Cluxton and his ball retention; a specialism.
Club sides this writer has witnessed may have been encouraged by Jim Gavin’s team not playing a sweeper and allowing defenders to be isolated and go man-to-man. Maybe this has vindicated their belief in traditional football.
Maybe the Dubs’ style is what teams want to imitate. Attacking football with flair. Wasn’t it Ruud Gullit that called it sexy football? In fairness to the Dubs, when they get into their stride in Croke Park they are absolutely intoxicating.
Maybe some coaches and clubs hate systems or are too lazy to learn how to coach a modern defensive unit? Maybe they think by having this philosophy they are imitating the Dubs.
By thinking that non-systematic defensive structures is a philosophy similar to Jim Gavin’s is doing large disservice to the work done by Gavin and his team. Yes they play with a swagger in Croke Park but they are very methodical. Their movement off the ball is incredible. They cover vast areas just to make a run and drag defences all over the place. When the ball is in different areas there are triggers for movement; almost basketball-like or American football-style plays.
Of course this attacking philosophy is tied up in a culture of excellence. Their attitude to work to ensure their bodies are primed for football is second to none. Add this to exquisite skill and delivery and it is a frightening prospect to compete with and defeat.
Is there a debate that they play the way they do because of the abundance of attacking options? Of course they have the players. But they also have the entourage. A vast team of specialists and experts working on the finer details.
Interestingly, in soccer coaching circles it could be suggested that Gavin and Pep Guordiola hold similar styles of play, or at least principles. Guordiola too surrounded himself and his players with specific experts. This is core to both their plans; facilitating the individual to strive for their best.
My point is simple. There are many teams taking the lead from Jim Gavin and his team. There are many delighted that such an attack-minded coach is surviving amongst various defence first coaches. But this writer has yet to see any team attack the goal with as much intent, ease and methodogy as the Dubs at club level. This writer would argue that Donegal, Kerry and the modern defensive structures are being coached in a more widespread fashion than the Dubs’ methods.
It is a credit to Gavin and his team. His philosophy is lauded and certainly imitated but the method is not. This shows the detail in which they work. Coaches struggle to see the work that goes into this attacking unit. Think of the amount of scores Dublin get that look very similar to the previous score. Is this coincidence or sheer quality of players with a huge amount of coaching?
This writer would say the coaching staff could answer that one.
What Gavin is doing with Dublin will probably be the next phase in the evolution of coaching and it will be interesting to see how this manifests itself at club level.
Shay Murrin, Pundit Arena