Grigor Pasha writes: I wrote, in my previous post, of my interest in retrieving tactics from the past — specifically I wrote about reviving WM. I’ve also been undertaking some archaeology on the tactics used by the Hungarian team that famously defeated the WM of England in the first half of the ’50s.

The moving image

It’s difficult to work out exactly how the Hungarians set up. You can watch extended footage — and it’s fascinating and wonderfully entertaining to do so — but I find one can only infer so much: the film is typically grainy, so it’s often difficult to work out who is; and the camera angles are limited.

Maybe a tactically astute analyst could work out how the Hungarians set up, but it’s beyond my mental resources. I guess you’d have to go through the footage second-by-second. Maybe someone should do a doctorate on it, though it won’t be this early-leaver from school.

What I glean from YouTube is a sense more of style than of formation. They liked to have the ball. They looked to move it forward, but not via hoof ball. They didn’t dally. It was all very fluid and there was plenty of energy. And, despite the movement, they knew where each other was likely to be.

But that only gets us so far.

Which formation?

I read about that Hungary team. But the sources contradict each other. The Conventional Playmaker has them playing 4-2-4. That can’t be right. I saw teams play that way when I was a boy and the Hungarians that you see in the films from the ’50s looked nothing like that.

And if they did ever use a 2, Hidgekuti wouldn’t have been the defensive one. Any more than Glenn Hoddle would have been.

FM Pivot, writing in the context of Football Manager — which I gather is some kind of computer game: really, these guys should grow up and get a life! — has them as an MW, which means that on each flank you have a wing back pushed up and, just ahead of him, a winger. And only two at the back.

I love the wackiness of this, but it isn’t how Hungary set up. It really isn’t. In the films you do see the full backs get forward, but wing backs they were not.

smp20 has the formation as an MM, which entails two fairly central defensive midfielders. I think that’s more like it.

And I like his sub-title: ‘Somewhere between a 4-2-4 and a 3-5-2’. I guess part of the difficulty of nailing the problem is that they really weren’t that structured. It was a bit of a goulash.

Which reminds me, I wish to credit to dickedecke for generously making the image from Vienna that I’ve used as a header available under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 licence.

The most informative film I’ve watched was not of an actual game, but rather a discussion of how the tactics were decided. Unfortunately I can’t now locate the clip. But the gist was that the coach would give a brief briefing on the morning of the match, but much of the tactical decision-making was left to the players on the pitch — especially Puskas. I suspect that today’s tactical commentariat miss that, because we now live in an age of the master-coach.

On the Black Sea littoral

In the second of our Coastal Combination matches (that is, in the pre-season league we’re hosting at Pomorie) I went with the formation illustrated below.


But the experiment was ruined by the boy Zhekov getting sent off half way through. We lost 3-2, but I blame Zhekov more than the Magyars for that.

We’ll go again, as oft-defeated managers like Pardew and Bruce are fond of saying.

To date, my main conclusion is that all this would be easier if we only could have Puskas.


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