Pep leading a tactical revolution
There has never before been such a gathering of managerial talent in English football – perhaps never before in any country. An extraordinary sequence of events means that managerial giants Pep Guardola, Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte are new appointments at top clubs, just as Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp is set to start his first full campaign in the country. That quartet boasts a combined 19 top-flight league titles. That figure swells to 23 once you chuck in Everton’s Ronald Koeman and Southampton’s Claude Puel, and includes Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, the Bundesliga, Ligue 1, Eredivisie and Primeira Liga titles. Europe’s greatest managers are gathering together in the Premier League – and this doesn’t include those in their current jobs at the start of last season: Mauricio Pochettino, Arsene Wenger – oh, and the reigning Premier League champion, Claudio Ranieri. It’s such a fascinating situation, not merely because of their tremendous reputations, but because of the huge differences in their tactical approaches. Guardiola preaches possession football with plenty of cohesive movement in the final third. Wenger and Puel, also footballing romantics, share that philosophy and will be determined for their sides to dominate whenever possible. Then there are managers primarily concerned with pressing. Pochettino’s Tottenham side rightly received plaudits for how quickly they recovered possession last season, an approach that his successor at Southampton, Ronald Koeman, will take to the Everton job. Klopp is concerned with pressing in a different manner: counter-pressing, winning the ball immediately after it’s been lost, rather than closing down relentlessly, high up the pitch. Some coaches, though, want to play on the break. Mourinho will have to play relatively attacking football at Manchester United, but he doesn’t care about his team dominating possession for the sake of it. Expect quick transitions from defence to attack. Ranieri, meanwhile, has re-written the counter-attacking rulebook. Antonio Conte remains arguably the biggest mystery. He preaches the importance of attacking football and his Juventus side recorded extremely high pass completion rates, but he’s also determined to protect his defence keenly, and at Euro 2016 his Italy side played primarily on the break. The fun doesn’t stop in the top half, with fellow heavyweights Walter Mazzarri at Watford and Francesco Guidolin at Swansea. With so many talented coaches from across Europe, the Premier League will become more tactical and more varied stylistically than ever before.