Boring Winners and Long Ball in England Boring Winners and Long Ball in England

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Robin van Persie, of Manchester United.
“Earlier this month, Louis van Gaal, the manager of Manchester United, showed up at a press conference armed with an unusual prop: printouts of statistics from his most recent match, a 1—1 draw against West Ham United. West Ham’s coach had accused van Gaal of playing “long ball,” a tactic that involves repeatedly sending long, searching passes forward to opportunistic strikers, hoping for a lucky bounce or knock-down near the goal. Long ball eschews the beauty of intricate passing play and coördinated counter-attacks for trial and error: more often than not, the passes are headed out of play or kicked back down the field by the opposing team, caught by the keeper, or go out of bounds. The approach calls for tall, muscular center-forwards who can overpower defenders to win the ball; the rest of the team hangs back so that they can immediately launch the ball forward after the play and try all over again. While long ball can be very effective, particularly for teams of lesser technical ability, it makes for deadly dull viewing.” New Yorker

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