It is not always easy to differentiate between strategy and tactics. While one is undoubtedly conducive to the success of the other, the former is about planning and the latter is about execution.
British military history is littered with damning evidence of what happens when the ground between the two is muddied; General Haig’s leadership at the Battle of the Somme in 1916 stands out as one the more damaging blunders.
The problem with the stubborn Sir Douglas, however, was that he refused to embrace new ideas and therefore failed to adapt to a type of warfare the likes of which the troops under misguided command had never seen.
Fortunately for West Bromwich Albion, manager Tony Mowbray is not so entrenched in his views. He re-iterated that his Premier League strategy – to play skilful, passing and attacking football – will not change but he insisted his side’s tactical approach to games would.
He said: “We won’t change our style when we have got the ball. When we have it we can dictate the play and that’s why we recruit players who are comfortable on the ball, not in a rush to get rid of it and believe in themselves as footballers.
“Out of possession we need to be better. We have to deal better with that transitional phase when we do give the ball away. We have to be better structured.
“Last year we spread the pitch out and waited for the opposition to give it back to us. That’s why we scored lots of goals. But I imagine the opposition this year will not give it back to us so quickly so we have to be different tactically.
“Last season we didn’t really ask our players to chase back behind the ball and get into position because we could win games by hitting teams on the break. In the Premier League that won’t be as easy.”
Mowbray is aware that Albion’s ranks need boosting ahead of the new season. An all-round powerhouse midfielder is at the top of his wish list, although he concedes there are not many around.
“I want a holding midfielder who can pass it,” said the manager. “I saw that Arsenal were asking about the guy [Marcos] Senna who played for Spain in the Euro Championships and they were quoted [a price of] £20 million. But that’s football these days.
“You want the players who can run, pass, destroy and create but they cost a lot of money.
“Somewhere down the line you have to compromise on facets of their game, depending on how much you want to spend. Sometimes you get athletic non-passers who will compete for you all day and at other times you will get a great passer who can’t run or tackle.
“That’s why I have looked at many players in lots of different positions and, as staff, we have analysed what they can and can’t do. You are still hoping to find that diamond that nobody has picked up on, where you like all his attributes and decide to take a gamble on him.
“But as the window moves on you may decide to get a certain type of player for a certain position and have to fall back on what you have been working on but there’s always hope that you uncover that diamond somewhere.”
* Albion have appointed Peter Grant, the former Norwich City manager, as first-team coach. He will replace Craig Shakespeare, who left to join Nigel Pearson at Leicester City two weeks ago. Grant, 42, has held his Uefa Pro Licence for four years and used to play alongside Mowbray at Celtic.