The GoatyGav Column

Strange isn’t it. Was a time when the derogatory phrase would be rolled out with a, tired and worn out, regularity by those who subscribed to the Charles Hughes school of POMO. Based on the ideas of a World War II Wing Commander, named Charles Reep, Hughes, backed up by statistical evidence, promoted a system of play that, he suggested, would increase chances to score goals. With an impressive win ratio while managing the England Armature and Great Britain & Northern Ireland Olympic teams Hughes commanded great influence at the F.A. In essence the POMO (Positions Of Maximum Opportunity) system worked on the premise that most goals were scored with moves containing 3 passes or less that delivered a final ball in to the area from which you would be most likely to score. In other words you get the ball in to forward scoring positions as soon as you possibly can. Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t all Route 1, stick it in ‘The Mixer’ Hoofball. The system advocated getting quality crosses as a main source of supply which, I think, is a productive art form in itself. Can be very entertaining too but, for the most part, it’s an uninspiring system which will only put bums on seats when resulting in ‘winning’ football.

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Associated with the ‘Tippy Tappy’ phrase was a presumption that a ‘soft underbelly’ would accompany. As fans of West Ham we have all heard the various comments from opposition fans who’s team have won trophies down the years. Even down to the level of individual players comments like “he doesn’t travel North well,” were not uncommon. Often described as ‘pretty but ineffective’ pass and move has tended to be out of favour with many at the top of the English game for many years.

All well and good but, time and again, the tactic developed by Charles Hughes has been proven to be one dimensional. For years the England team would underperform against the world’s biggest and best because they were too predictable.

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So where are the critics of passing football now? With 15 goals in the last 3 games Manchester City, with their manager, Pep Guardiola, are one of the main reasons that football that’s pleasing to the eye is now being lauded and not lambasted. Following this weekend’s instalment of Pep’s passing masterclass a goal involving, no less than, a 44 pass move was hailed ‘mesmerising’ by Graeme Souness. And who can argue with him. From the moment that Fernandinho tenaciously won the ball, until Gundogan finished the move off with the goal, all 10 Manchester City outfield players touched the ball.

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Steeped in a long tradition, that began with Rhinus Michels, incorporating the great Ajax Amsterdam teams before being passed to Barcelona by Michels’ understudy, Johan Cruyff, who, in turn, had a huge influence on Guardiola, ‘Tippy Tappy’ tends to, now, be known by the, less derogatory, term ‘Tikka Takka’.

Overall my feeling is that the English national game is finally ‘growing up’ to meet the demands of modern football. As recently as this time last year you could still hear the battle-cry of the POMO merchants stating that Pep’s ‘Tippy Tappy’ style hadn’t won, and wasn’t going to win, the English top tier title. Those guns are now silent and, in this fan of football’s opinion, that’s a great thing.

Key for me is a subtle difference between the two, opposing, philosophies of the game. Whilst POMO produces opportunities to score the, more attractive, clever passing and movement of ‘Tikka Takka’ produces ‘better’ opportunities to score. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Just look at how many goals are being scored by Guardiola’s team.

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As far as I’m concerned I hope POMO is consigned to the dark ages where it belongs. Thankfully we now have a manager who has complete and utter belief in a system of play that incorporates pass and move – and long may it continue.

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Since starting the composition of this article West Ham have been linked with the signing of Samir Nasri. The former French international player’s ability is not as much in question as his actions leading to his doping ban. So should we question his signing. Manuel Pellegrini has managed him before and seems willing to have him back. Is it a question of ‘good enough for the gaffer is good enough for me’ I wonder? I’m sure that other articles will go in to far more detail than I will here and I’ll be very interested to read the various opinions and comments over the coming days here. Next up are MP, and Nasri’s, former employers Manchester City. It’s a game I’m looking forward to watching. I wonder if Nasri will be in the line up to face them?

COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!