Pep lead­ing a tac­ti­cal rev­o­lu­tion

Australian Four Four Two - - CONTENTS -

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.

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