What is Total Football in Ted Lasso? Ted’s New Tactic Explained

In Apple TV+’s sports comedy ‘Ted Lasso,’ the AFC Richmond players and coaching staff are the narrative’s focus as the team tries to conquer the footballing world under the stewardship of the titular free-spirited coach. In the third season, the team makes a stellar in their new campaign, but their form quickly dips. As the team goes on a winless streak, Ted is forced to find inspiration outside the sport in hopes of turning his team’s fortunes around. Therefore, Ted develops a new tactical playing style, “Total Football,” to bolster the team’s performance. If you are curious to learn more about Ted’s latest tactical masterpiece in ‘Ted Lasso’ season 3, here is everything you need to know! SPOILERS AHEAD!

What Is Ted’s New Tactic?

In the third season, Ted and his coaching team are suffering from the absence of Nathan “Nate” Shelley, who left the team to coach West Ham United. Without Nate, the responsibility of formulating the team’s tactics is taken up by Roy Kent with the help of Coach Beard. However, the arrival of Zava, a superstar striker, boosts the team’s performances as AFC Richmond goes on a 5-game winning streak. With Zava, Richmond plays the 4-5-1 formation, with all plays directed towards Zava, in the “Target Man” style of play. However, in the fifth episode, the team’s performances take a hit, especially after losing to Nate’s West Ham. Moreover, Zava announces his retirement from professional football, leaving the coaches and players in peril.

In the sixth episode, titled ‘Sunflowers,’ Ted journeys to find inspiration in Amsterdam after drinking a drug-induced tea. Ted visits a museum and sees paintings of Vincent van Gogh, which inspires him to start from scratch, and the painter’s spirit encourages Ted to be resilient in the face of adversity. Later, Ted visits a burger joint that reminds him of home, and he watches an old basketball game where the Chicago Bulls annihilate their opponents using the “Triangle Offense.” The style of play inspires Ted to develop a new tactical system for his soccer team derived from basketball. It features play moving fluidly and freely across the field, interchanging their roles. Later, Coach Beard explains that the style Ted developed already exists. It was invented in Amsterdam during the 1970s and called “Total Football.”

Total Football, Explained

Total Football is a tactical system in the sport of soccer that was popularized in the 1970s by the Dutch club Ajax and the Netherlands National Football team. However, a similar style of play had been employed by clubs such as the Austrian National team, the English club Sunderland, the Argentine club River Plate, the Hungarian National team, the English club Burnely, and the Brazilian side Santos between the 1930s and 1960s. English coach Jimmy Hogan is widely credited as the architect of Total Football. The style of play involves players in a team replacing each other when one of them goes out of position. As a result, creating spaces and tactical mastery of different positions is integral to the successful implementation of Total Football.

In the 40s, the style was implemented at Ajax by English manager Jack Reynolds, with some of his successors, such as Vic Buckingham and Rinus Michels, continued expanding upon the strategy during the 50s, 60s, and 70s. One of the most successful exponents of the Total Football system was the Dutch forward Johan Cruyff, who won the Ballon d’Or three times in 1971, 1973, and 1974, playing for Ajax and the Netherlands National team. The style peaked during the 70s but has become relatively less utilized in the modern era. However, Spanish manager Pep Guardiola’s “Tiki Taka” style of play is widely considered a modern successor of Total Football.

Meanwhile, Ted’s version of Total Football is likely to differ from the classic iteration of the style. It will more likely be rooted in Ted’s core philosophy of believing in each other and yourself. Hence, the component of creating space could be replaced by giving your teammates space. The same is hinted at during Ted’s explanation of the tactic to Coach Beard, where he notes the team has been playing in a rigid formation for most of the season. Hence, a tactic like Total Football allows players to express themselves freely on the pitch. Moreover, the AFC Richmond team has already demonstrated they possess unity in diversity, which will add a whole new flavor to the style.

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