When the words long ball are read or heard, many conjure up images of Sam Allardyce and Tony Pulis utilising the likes of Peter Crouch and Andy Carroll in a hit and hope battle. However, many fail to consider that this tactic can be hugely effective when executed correctly.
Gone are the days of hoof it upfield with no intended recipient of the ball in the hope one of your players may be fast enough to run on to it, long balls have more intention in them nowadays, they have developed into either a long pass intended for a specific player, or a ball into space where the passer knows his intended recipient can get into to latch on to his pass.
If you stop and consider the levels of players in a lot of teams, it is obvious that it is not the style of play that is to blame, rather, it is those who are trying to play it.
Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce are masters of this direct style of play. Neither has won the league and probably never will, but they are two of the most established, effective managers in the Premier League era.
Even though Allardyce may be a fan of using a lone target man as the focal point of his attack, he brought West Ham from the Championship to the top half of the Premier League within three years.
Southampton were another side who boasted a fairly large number of long balls per game. The difference between them and teams lower down the table who favoured a direct style of play is that the Saints had the quality to use it effectively.
Playing a long ball into an open space is really not that different to playing a defence splitting through ball into space for a player to latch on to, but nobody ever berates a manager for playing through balls.
No one is arguing that long ball football is the most attractive way to play and at times, if the opposition are set up to deal with it, it can be difficult to get it to work.
However, if a more direct approach wins you games then there is no reason why it should be looked down on so much; Boro fans wont be complaining cosidering the position they are in.
Yes it is lovely to see small, fast strikers weaving their way through the defence or poking home following a lovely tiki-taka move, but if your front men are a powerful target man or a big bustling forward with some pace and your midfield is not the leagues most creative then why not use a long ball?
A wonderful, well-crafted loss is far less satisfying than a win courtesy of a long ball or two. Just ask Mr. Pulis.