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The demise of tiki-taka

Monday 16th May 2016
During Pep Guardiola's reign at Barcelona, it was this style of play that captured the imagination of millions around the world. A similar style was then recreated by the Spanish national team, which also proved to be hugely successful. At this time, tiki-taka was drawing admiration from all corners of the globe.

The term tiki-taka is synonymous with Spanish football. The style of play is characterised by short passing, movement off-the-ball, and maintaining possession.

If we move to the present day, tiki-taka is no longer fawned upon by the footballing world. The style of play which was not so long ago seen as the ideal way to play the beautiful game, is now in decline. Many clubs have chosen to take a new direction, leading them away from possession based football. If proof of this was needed, take a look at the current Barcelona team. They have been hugely successful under manager Luis Enrique, but the style of play has changed considerably since the days of Guardiola. So why is tiki-taka in decline?

Johan Cruyff was the man responsible for developing the idea of what we have come to know as tiki-taka. From 1990-1994, Cruyff's ‘'dream team'' captured the La Liga title four seasons in a row. They also won the European Cup in 1992. Signaling the beginning of Barcelona's unique style of play, a system which has come to be famously associated with the club. During this time, Pep Guardiola was a player for Barcelona. By 2008 Guardiola was manager of his boyhood club. He would go on to become the most successful manager in the club's history.

In the four years that Guardiola was in charge of Barcelona (2008-2012), the club won an incredible 14 major trophies. With Guardiola as the mastermind off the pitch, and Lionel Messi the magician on the pitch, this team was virtually unstoppable. Guardiola had arguably created the greatest club side in the history of football. Through it all, he had determinedly stuck to his beliefs, and his use of tiki-taka.

The success of the Spanish national team coincided with Barcelona's dominance. Many of the same players were involved in the national set-up which saw Spain win a World Cup and two European Championships. Players such as Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez, and Andres Iniesta played a huge role in helping to emulate the style of Barcelona for their national side. The results speak for themselves. From 2008-2012, Barcelona and Spain were the envy of the world.
It was during this time that many managers decided to try and replicate the style which had proven successful for both Barcelona and Spain. In the Premier League, it was Arsene Wenger who noticeably switched from his attacking, physical team (The Invincibles in 2004), to a smaller, more technical team. Some of his signings also suggest this, the likes of: Samir Nasri, Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil. All of which would suit tiki-taka. Wenger's change of style brought few results. Arsenal went nine years without a trophy, until their success in the FA Cup in 2014. Although Wenger has persisted with this style of football, Arsenal have now gone 12 seasons without lifting the Premier League trophy. Up until this point in time, Wenger's experiment has failed. This could possibly be because of the physicality of the Premier League, or maybe tiki-taka is no longer as effective as it once was?

For the past three seasons, Pep Guardiola has been the manager of German ‘giants' Bayern Munich. Although he has guided them to three consecutive league titles, the Champions League has eluded him. Bayern Munich have been knocked out of the competition in the semi-finals three years running. Guardiola stuck to his principles, and retained the tiki-taka style while managing in Germany. But if Guardiola can't make tiki-taka successful in the modern day, can anyone?

Spain's success in international football came at a time when tiki-taka was proving to be hugely successful. From 2008-2012, Spain won three major international competitions consecutively. But at the last world cup in Brazil, Spain failed miserably. Sticking to the style of play which had brought them previous success, they were eliminated in the group stage. Which was yet another indication that football was changing. At both club, and international level.

In Luis Enrique's first season in charge of Barcelona he guided the club to the treble. The club was as successful as it had ever been, however, the style of play had been adapted. Guardiola's tiki-taka was replaced by a more direct game by Luis Enrique. The aim now was to get the ball forward as quickly as possible. To the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar, who would then produce their magic. So if the original creators of tiki-taka refuse to continue playing this way, this poses a question. Does Barcelona's recent change of style prove that football has progressed and left tiki-taka in the shadows?
It wasn't so long ago every club's owner, manager, and player's looked on in awe at the way Barcelona and Spain played the game. They all wanted to copy the style, and bring it to their own clubs. Times have changed since then. We have witnessed the success of Diego Simeone at Atletico Madrid. Whose achievements with the club have mainly come from his team being ultra aggressive on the pitch, and defending solidly. In the Premier League we have the likes of Mauricio Pochettino and Jurgen Klopp. Both prefer a high tempo style of play, neither being too concerned about keeping possession of the ball.

So has tiki-taka been replaced as the ideal way for clubs to play? Recent success of managers who don't adhere to this formula suggest that this could be the case. Possession based football has been countered in recent seasons. None more so than in this season's Premier League. With Leicester City winning the title, while only averaging 44% possession, only two teams averaged less (West Bromwich Albion and Sunderland). Football continues to progress year-on-year. At the present time, tiki-taka is becoming redundant, making way for more modern methods of how the game can be played. We will learn more next season, as Pep Guardiola takes charge of Manchester City. If the modern day ‘Godfather' of tiki-taka can conquer the Premier League, it could prompt a resurgence in this style of play.
Danny Glendenning

Passions include reading, sport, and nights out with friends. A football fanatic whose writing career began in May 2016. Now 30 years old, lives in South Yorkshire - local team is Doncaster Rovers, although heart lies with Arsenal. Contributing editor for It's Round And It's White. Current claim to fame is an interview with Ron Atkinson. Always looking for work, either editing or writing. Contact via email: Dannysg1988@outlook.com. Or Twitter: @DannySG1988.



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