Those Mad Lads in charge of football’s rule book have done it again.
With one seemingly insignificant tweak of a redundant rule, the International Football Association Board has made football infinitely more nerve-wrecking to watch.
The rule in question is Law 16, also known as the humble goal kick. No longer do the team in possession have to stay outside of the penalty area. Prepare for chaos.
The previous rule was so unassuming that it may as well have been named Callum Macleod from Love Island. Feel free to Google.
In the good ol’ days, if a defender came inside the box to claim the ball off the goalkeeper the referee would stop play and reset the game. No harm done.
Now, the world is playing out of the back’s oyster.
If you’re of a nervous disposition and support a team who favour building from the back- see Man City or Maurizio Sarri’s Juventus- then it’s probably best investing in some sturdy life insurance ahead of the new season.
Dropping two centre-backs either side of the six-yard box is all well and good if they are Aymeric Laporte and John Stones, but the further down the football pyramid you go the more technique under pressure will be ruthlessly examined, and potentially exposed.
Watching Denis Odoi and Maxime Le Marchand demanding the ball off Marcus Bettinelli for 90 minutes during Fulham’s pre-season friendly against West Ham was enough to put me off white boxer shorts for life.
There were no disasters, despite Le Marchand’s best efforts, but the tone it set around Craven Cottage was a decidedly nervous and restless one. For what it’s worth, West Ham employed the same tactic of dropping two centre-backs inside the box, with similarly jittery results.
It’s difficult to shake the feeling that you’re constantly one dodgy pass away from going viral on Twitter for circa 7 hours. Defenders and central midfielders in particular have to force angles that they are not always completely comfortable with in order to open up the necessary passing lanes.
The upside is clear to see. You force the opposition to push further up the pitch, leaving more room for your attacking unit after successfully playing out.
Alternatively, you can bluff the opposition by dropping into the box but kicking long, again leaving space for overloads. Ederson’s gargantuan left foot could wreak havoc by utilising this tactic.
But we’re still watching teams learn on the job. Coaches haven’t yet had the chance to repeatedly hone their methods in live, competitive environments.
You only have to look at Benfica’s ingenious, if potentially illegal, method of playing out against AC Milan to see how much scope there is for variation.
VAR will undoubtedly be the headline act when it comes to things your dad moans about this season, but the visceral panic that is sparked by watching your centre-back receive the ball in his own box won’t be far behind.
Close your eyes and picture Shkodran Mustafi desperately crawling on his hands and knees as Billy Sharp goes through on goal, or Harry Maguire making a mockery of his £80million price tag on his Man United debut.
It’s going to be a fruitful season for all the banter merchants out there.
READ DREAM TEAM’S NEW HISTORY LESSONS SERIES:
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