The tactical hybrid between Guardiola and Klopp now dominates European football | Premier League

sPerhaps the most remarkable thing this season from a tactical standpoint is the degree of consensus. Money can skew games and there’s always the possibility of a brilliant player upsetting the theory by doing something great, but for those clubs that have an idea of ​​a core playing philosophy it’s pretty clear what it looks like: a high offside streak, a coordinator of pressure and the ability to hold possession when the need.

There has been a tendency to portray Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp as opposite poles, one focused on holding the ball and the other on getting it back. That’s not unreasonable, even though they have both progressed towards the other over the past two seasons. Perhaps most importantly, no one really questions the axis by which they are judged. The age of attrition, Greece’s Euro win, Jose Mourinho, Rafa Benitez and Alex Ferguson in the Carlos Queiroz years, seems a long time ago.

Football changed in 2008, and not only when Guardiola was appointed coach of Barcelona. Before then, it was the knockout stage of Champions League He scored more than three goals in a match only once; Since then the average has only once fallen below three.

Then a number of factors came together. Improvements in pitch, kit and ball technique have meant, for a time, that at the highest level the first touch can be taken for granted. The liberalization of the offside law led to a decline in defensive lines. Intimidation tactics have largely been eliminated. This meant that there was more room to allow the diminutive technical midfielders who might have been bullied before out of the game to thrive.

Suddenly it’s possible for bigger teams, relatively bigger than they used to be, to exercise greater control over the games than ever before, to worry about space manipulation, Guardiola juego de posición, rather than having to scrap in order to survive in midfield. This in turn led to great annoyance when the big parties came together and one found oneself unable to get the ball. One of the reasons Manchester United players lost discipline in the 2009 Champions League final was to feel humiliated for having ‘only’ around 40%.

The following year, Mourinho’s Inter Milan showed that it was possible to win (or at least Losing by a narrow enough to win on aggregate) with a possession of only 19%. Sitting back, holding the position, and letting the opponent have the ball but only 30 yards or more from the goal has become a viable way to fight the possession sides. Football began to look in times like handball. But there was another way, and that was the one issued by Klopp, who disliked the passivity of refueling, hoping that no one would press far into the top corner or suddenly dribble past a three-man cross to score. This was pressing hard and high in a coordinated way and looking for quick twists and turns.

Pep Guardiola's victory in the 2009 UEFA Champions League Final marked the dawn of a new style of football
Pep Guardiola’s victory in the 2009 Champions League final marked the dawn of a new style of football. Photo: Lluís Gené/AFP/Getty Images

Guardiola’s teams pressed but not with the same intensity or with the same direct vision of the rebounding ball. They would break if the opportunity presented itself, but if not, Guardiola was perfectly happy that his side would reset and start the process again, something he said could take 15 passes. Guardiola was about control and Klopp was about chaos.

But with Guardiola’s Champions League hopes regularly dented by opponents playing into the break, he has had to adapt to face the counter. It appears in part that there is a clear intent to keep five players off the field behind the ball at all times, but there is also more gegenpress, which in turn increased the threat of the City on the counter. In the meantime, Klopp saw the accumulated fatigue – both physical and mental – of heavy metal football, and took steps to control matches even more, which was one of the drivers behind his signing of Thiago Alcantara, perhaps Guardiola’s most distinguished player.

Thomas Tuchel, Antonio Conte, Stefano Pioli, Xavi, Julian Nagelsmann, Thomas Frank, Brendan Rodgers, Gian Piero Gasperini – the vast majority of contemporary managers fall at some point on the same scale. Exceptions, among the major clubs, are rare and tend to be the result of fascination with celebrities, often accompanied by hideous mismanagement. Even if he had more power, Ralph Rangnick would have struggled with a side struggling to accommodate Cristiano Ronaldo, whose destabilizing presence at Juventus has been the reason for them returning to the familiar comforts of Max Allegri.

Real Madrid have been, thus far, a great example of how great players can suddenly turn matches that seem to be going against them, but Paris Saint-Germain is the most intriguing example of celebrity culture, and acquiring a luxury front three entails hiring a grim industrial midfield that contrasts with fluency. The only real philosophical is Diego Simeone at Atletico Madrid, although with each passing season the sense grows that this is a reactionary project diminishing returns.

It’s rare in a modern game that the lines are so clear. Guardiola applied a style of play that took advantage of changing conditions, and Klopp found a way to counter it, Guardiola responded and what followed was a combination of Gegenpressing And juego de posición.