Total Football Explained


It’s probably fair to say that no style
of football has had as much influence on the modern game as Total Football. The style is most associated with the Ajax and Dutch national teams of the 1970s, and in fact got its name from
the 1974 Netherlands World Cup side. But it had its antecedents in the Austrian
national side of Matthias Sindelar in the 1930s and Puskas and co.’s Hungarians in the 1950s, and the lineage of Ajax’s way originated with two English coaches, Jack Reynolds , who managed
the club in three spells between 1915 and 1947, and Vic Buckingham, who managed them
twice between 1959 and 1965. Then came the pairing who really created the
style, Rinus Michels , who had played under Reynolds and replaced Buckingham in the dugout,
and Johan Cryuf , perhaps the most significant figure in European football ever
– it was then continued by Stefan Kovacs, under whom Ajax became the greatest club side in the world for a time.
Total Football has perhaps two key concepts: the utilisation of space, and the fluidity of positions. Both were aided by Michaels’s
fanatical work rate and discipline, with fitness a significant focus alongside skill work with the ball. Space is key – make the pitch
big when you are attacking and small when you are defending.
In order to make this work, Ajax also pressed. At times, they pressed almost manically –
there was less an emphasis on pressing into passing lanes than an efort, often led by
the wonderfully tenacious Johan Neeskens, to swamp
the opposition player in possession. In order to facilitate this, Ajax also played a very high defensive line, compressing space yet further. The formation most associated with Total Football
is the 4-3-3, becoming a 3-4-3 as the libero steps up into midfield, a feature that
persisted in Dutch football with players like Barry Hulshof , Horst Blankenburg and Danny Blind , and started largely at Ajax by the Serbian
Velibor Vasovic . This allowed the defence to begin attacking moves, but also ensured that there were spare markers for the opposition
centre-forwards and that Ajax could match a four-man midfield. As Jonathan Wilson notes, while other sides
had engaged in horizontal positional switches, such as wingers dropping inside, or mild vertical
ones, like Nandor Hidegkuti dropping of from the number 9 position and swapping with
an attacking midfielder, Ajax and the Dutch national side were the first to engage in
wholesale positional switches up and down each flank. In this way, the 4-3-3 or 3-4-3 saw players on either flank push up and drop of, fluidly interchanging to create baffling attacking
patterns. The team’s spine in the most successful
period of the early 1970s was Blankenburg, Neeskens, and Cryuf, with Heinz Stuy in goal.
The wide players, Wim Suurbier, Arie Haan who later became an accomplished sweeper, and Johnny Rep on the right, and Ruud Krol,
Gerrie Muhren, and Piet Keizer on the left, all swapped with each other knowing that this
spine would hold and cover, but Cruyf also dropped of and moved wide at will.
Pressing meant that, as long as players were pushed up and everyone could defend as well
as attack, the fluidity of the team did not compromise its defensive shape. Of course, the attacking system could be negated, as Berti
Vogts and West Germany showed in 1974, by aggressive man-marking and flooding the midfield,
but when Ajax were on song, it was nigh- on impossible to stop them.
The influences of Total Football show up in the coaching of Marcelo Bielsa and, via Michaels
and Cruyf’s spells at Barcelona, in the positional play of Pep Guardiola . Guardiola’s
positional play, which relies on vertical overloads, is only possible if players can change positions. And both Bielsa and Guardiola encourage their teams to control space, interchange, press,
and have encouraged players to play in roles they’re not used to, where their skills
as midfielders allow them to be attack-minded
defenders, for example. The legacy of Total Football is not just in the beauty of Ajax
and the Netherlands in the 1970s – it lives on in
some of the best football of today.

100 thoughts on “Total Football Explained

  1. Why can't Herrera who was more of a CAM when he came work well with Matić?We cannot create without Pogba or Fellaini for some reason.

  2. Bruce Arena's tactics at the 2002 World Cup with the USMNT. Yes, players like Mathis, Friedel, O'Brien, Donovan, Beasley and Reyna helped us achieve a quarterfinal finish after finishing last in 1998, but Donovan and Beasley were only 20 and everybody else, besides Reyna, played far better than their skill level. Arena got the team to perform as a collective unit and greatly helped Donovan and Beasley, more so Donovan, grow up quickly on the pitch. Donovan went from a decent performance against Portugal to being the best player on the pitch against Germany. If only he could have put away one of his chances against Khan. If only….

  3. Total football is not tiki taka that was by guardiola more pressing and passing more triangles and possession less positional interchanges and more and intelligent movement of the ball the aim of tiki taka is to draw opposition out of position the aim of total football is to out fox man marking

  4. Pep guardiola's Barcelona – tactics explained….
    or Arsenal's Invincible Tactics explained….
    or Galactico tactcics explained
    or Clas of 92 tactics explained …
    any of these 4 would be fantastic

  5. 1. Can you please break down how the Total Football was defeated by West Germany in the final of WC in '74 (2:1) and Poland in the Euro '76 Qualifiers next year (1975) ?
    2. We have the Total Football, maybe now the Catenaccio?

  6. It is said that the system came to born into football naturally, when Dutch players heard about their shares of winnings from dutch FA and mastercard, and couldn't hold their ground on the pitch because of excitement.

  7. Why can't you pronounce names of non-english footballers correctly? It's pronounced Shindler and Fushkash. Regardless of how it is spelled.

  8. please do a video why pople think van gaal was a great manager, and how he fall from grace.
    like a combination of "a history of" and "tifo tactics" please.

  9. Tifo Football is absolute genius!!! Can you please make a video on the Spanish National teams tactics from 2008 (Euro)-2010 World Cup thereto the 2012 Euro Cup (or whatever time frame you think best)?. I would really appreciate it. Thanks for all these magisterial uploads.

  10. Excellent one ! can you do Rinus Michel's in a separate video ? Want to explore more about the FIFA COACH OF THE CENTURY !

  11. can you explain how Germany thwarted this tactic in the 1974 fina
    03:31 can you analyse that 1974 final as Brazil got controlled whereas Germany outbattled

  12. i thnc totul ftbul z lstng thu furst plaurz (6) n ordur uv hw much luv tha ned & hw much rspct tha sem t gt ucordng t thu prsn hoo px thu sturtng scwud

  13. maybe yo can send me the theme of this video to my e mail because that is a very relaxing theme answer me

  14. Total football is the best game ever played. Unfortunately for the Netherlands, although they were the best team in all the three final world cups they played, they lost and it seems that they are jinxed. There is no team that can match Ajax of the 70s. Never was, never will. Do you know that Johann Cruijff had received death threats that prevented him from playing the 1978 world cup ! And, do you know that the referee of the 1978 world cup was on the side of Argentina? But who will know that today !!!! and who cares anyway. The Netherlands are a great team. They will bounce back. Their day will come, surely and I will start watching football again when that time comes.

  15. These videos are awesome. The best thing a manager can do is recognize players’ true positions and natural tactical talents instead of forcing one style of play.

  16. Total Football was a beautiful concept but it can't be really done permanently without total talents and total DOPING

  17. Total football instructions in football manager :
    Defensive line high
    wider
    mentality fluid
    close down more
    play underlap
    work ball into box
    get stuck in
    roam to position
    passing normal tempo higher
    exploit the middle
    formation : 4-1-2-3 Dm wide or 3-4-3

  18. I agree with most of the video allthough as a manager myself I must note that Pep Guardiola at Barcelona was absolutely fanatic about players keeping their position in attack. Total football can only work if everyone on the pitch is in top form, covering spaces and oportunity for the pressed players to pass. You say that Germany countered this by overloading the midfield with say 5 players in a 4-2-3-1. How could you counter that counter? Thanks.

  19. The real origins of 'Total Football' go all the way back to the Queen's Park side of the late 19th century, they had a group of players that were comparatively small and lacking in physical presence so they adopted a possession based passing game that was completely different to the highly physical game played in Scotland and England at the time.

  20. Will total football work for a mid table club? Will it work for a team fighting relegation?

  21. Great as always but Guardiola, Cruyff and Bielsa have stated that positions have to be kept, the evolution since Michels is precisely that players do not change positions.
    Nice work though

  22. Referring to the spine , Neeskens was right half not center half which was Haan. The reason the Dutch lost to the Germans was that did not play total soccer with pressure. As van Hanegem stated the team had split in their thinking into two halves of which one halve wanted to go forward and the other wanted to move backwards.

  23. TOTAL FOOTBALL, was a made up term created by journalists. Michels began to built Ajax in the mid 60's. He never stated that the process would end up in playing Total Soccer. If you read autobiographies of the Dutch goalie of '74 Jongbloed, van Hanegem and Johnnie Rep, they wll tell you that the team following certain Ajax concepts finally fell into place during the WC'74. The dutch team played poor soccer and barely made qualifiers on disputed off side call agains Belgium. No one talked about the great dutch team before the WC'74 during the qualifiers for they stunk…The team just happened to begin to jell after their first world cup game against Bulgaria….It was after that game things began to fit together…..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *