Strategy Is About Choice.
Choosing to change the formula of a successful team playing in the single biggest game of the club's history was a massive gamble.
You know your competition inside and out; this was the third meeting of these teams in all competitions in just the last six weeks. Chelsea's masterclass was two-fold. They knew how City would play. And with great discipline, they executed the perfect plan.
The book 'Playing to win, how strategy really works' (AG Lafley/R. Martin) is a masterclass in breaking down strategy. Not sports strategy, business strategy. Co-written by the former P&G CEO, it presents a framework for a strategy that is logical as it is empirical. I can summarise three key takeaways from the book:
- Strategy is about choice.
- You choose where to play.
- You choose how to play.
Points 2 and 3 are at the heart of strategy. In this illustration from my own career, I cite how Sony chose where to play (Spain), and how to play (positioned as entry to the then new DVD format) with PlayStation 2, by also using their core competency in that market.
In the book, there are many detailed examples from the P&G portfolio of these points in action.
If we apply them to the football game, we see Manchester City's managers' (Pep Guardiola) strategy is evident for all to see.
Pep chose not to use a tried and tested formula in his team selection that had served him and the team so well in recent years. Surprising many by choosing to not have a defensive midfielder and going for an all-out attack (offence), he left the last line of defence exposed and ultimately the team looked more vulnerable defensively as a result.
That played right into Chelsea's hands. As City chose to play an all-out attack, Chelsea chose to soak up the pressure and hit City fast and hard on the break, knowing they were more vulnerable at the back in defence.
They only needed to win by a 1 goal margin which leads me on to the next key point. Core competency is at the heart of what you can achieve.
Chelsea has defensive competency in abundance, they knew from previous meetings how to play the game against City. They knew their strengths and played to them. City underestimated the threat on the break and how Chelsea would work so hard to break their usual control and pass-and-move of the ball.
It reminded me, there's sometimes more than one way you can win but usually only one way to increase the odds of winning. [quote format]
A few years back in my career, I witnessed an incumbent multinational company that was number 2 to us in a particular category and market. They managed to get to over a 50% market share within three months. But how?