“Tiki-taka is dead! All hail football!” The brigade charged and roared, after the defeat of Barcelona in the hands of Bayern Munich and after the fall of the same German team against Real Madrid, another Spanish team.
Funny though, they had to say it twice, in two different years. Everything can only drop dead once.
The question is: How can it be dead, if it doesn’t exist?
Okay, it might actually exist – but not in the way you may think.
“Tiki-taka” is not a, let’s say, professional word. It was coined by a Spanish football commentator when he saw the maze of passing. “Tiki-taka” – like the sound of a clock, tick-tock. No, it DOES NOT mean “pass and move”.
Which means it does not really depict the actual style employed by the likes of Barcelona of Spain national team. Surely, you cannot just pass, pass, pass and pass to win a match. You have to score. You have to pass well, with intention and excellent execution.
The ‘tiki-taka’ is a pejorative term, to pass the ball just for fun with no intention. I don’t like the expression tiki-taka. We just try to pass the ball rapidly trying to create chances.
– Pep Guardiola
A team, with 10 outfield players, cannot just stands there and tries to thread passes to each other. No “passing football” of “beautiful game” is possible if a team’s shape is stretched or poorly structured.
What Pep Guardiola wants is not simply high possession statistics. He wants his team to retain the ball in order to“provoke”: break the shape of the opposing team, drag them out of their position, then create a chance or a goal. Which means his team will have to complete both tasks: ball retention and efficiency in attacking.
How? Players will have to move. Individually, but not in an individualistic way. The entire team now must move together, must be knitted close to create triangles. Triangles do not only help keeping the ball, it is also necessary to break through lines (Barca has an infamous move: the third-man run). And if the team is closely linked, it can regain possession perfectly right after just losing it, then swiftly launch a counter-attack when the opponent is still unsettled (according to Jurgen Klopp), or keep building up as usual.
It is a system called “positional play”, in which each player has to move in conjunction with his teammate in every phase of play. It matters more than mere passing. Without it, Barca won’t be as structured, won’t be as fluid, won’t be able to dominate opponents and won’t be that formidable.
Positioning matters more than possession.
Thus, “tiki-taka” does not exist as a principle or a system of play. So it won’t die. Because it is not there to kill.