Did you see Liverpool’s 30-pass purpose towards Leicester? The ball pinging up and down the pitch, shifting sideways from flank to flank, dashing up, slowing down, connecting crimson dot to crimson dot, the crimson flank inching upwards in the direction of Leicester City’s purpose virtually imperceptibly, like a gecko crawling in the direction of a moth, until Andy Robertson whipped in a ball that curved throughout the penalty field solely to be met by Diogo Jota’s completely timed run? It lasted 90 seconds from first contact to final, and every of Liverpool’s gamers barring the goalkeeper received at the very least one contact throughout that point.
A fast apart: What is it about petite attacking gamers? They are the sensations of the footballing world. A decade in the past we had the tiny Spanish midfield magicians, then got here the “golden generation” from Belgium who dominated each inch of a soccer area, and now it’s the flip of the unassuming Portuguese who will sneak previous the defensive traces and create havoc.
Why are targets that come on the finish of a cluster of passes so fascinating to followers of the sport? Is it as a result of they signify full mastery of the sport? The truth that each participant in a staff can get a contact, transfer the ball proper across the area after which put it within the web with out the opponents having the ability to intercept it’s proof of astounding dominance.
Indeed, Pep Guardiola, whose trophy cupboard is probably going crumbling beneath its personal weight, says his thought of the proper purpose is one the place all 11 gamers in a staff contact the ball earlier than the striker finishes the transfer. In Manchester City’s record-breaking 2017-18 season beneath him, the staff gave their supervisor the present of the “perfect goal” twice. Once with a 20-pass transfer, and later with a staggering 52-pass purpose towards an totally dumbfounded West Bromwich Albion. That transfer lasted two minutes and twenty-seven seconds — a lifetime on the pitch.
In 2017, these two targets have been glowing proof of City’s total dominance. But it’s not all the time so. Often, a purpose on the finish of 30 passes signifies solely a mastery over the second. When the second passes, that purpose is not any extra good than a purpose that comes from two passes. Think of the 35-pass purpose Arsenal orchestrated earlier this yr. The man who scored was Mesut Ozil. Where is he now? Where are Arsenal?
Perhaps I’m simply bitter, as a result of my most enduring reminiscence of a high-volume passing purpose, a reminiscence that’s triggered each time I see one other one prefer it, is Esteban Cambiasso scoring on the finish of 24 passes, for Argentina, within the 2006 World Cup.
As a die-hard Argentina and Maradona fan, as an individual whose first clear reminiscences of the glories of a soccer World Cup got here from 1986, that purpose wakened the long-dormant hope of an Argentina that might be champions of the world once more. I used to be satisfied that nobody might cease a staff that would rating that purpose. Twenty-four passes! The unimaginable motion on and off the ball! A Jackson Pollock masterpiece! (Remember this was earlier than Barcelona launched tiki-taka, so it was extremely uncommon for a staff to do one thing like this.)
This was additionally the primary time the world at massive received a glimpse of Lionel Messi, then 18, approaching in its place to make his World Cup debut.
Argentina crashed out within the quarterfinals by the hands of stolid Germany, a heartbreak I’ve by no means fairly recovered from.
I’ll concede that numerous passes resulting in a purpose has a sure magnificence to it and a sure enduring high quality — post-match, that is the type of stuff that gives geeky pleasure, an obsessive plotting of passes and motion, the visible great thing about the pitch map with criss-crossing traces monitoring the ball. Jota’s purpose for Liverpool appears like a cross-hatched hourglass laid proper throughout the pitch.
But it isn’t the proper purpose. The good purpose is Dennis Bergkamp whirling previous a Newcastle defender like a twister on the finish of an outstanding move from Robert Pires. Arsenal, 2002. Look it up.