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Guardian - Tactical Review

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They seem to of started to do a tactical review so far and we get a nice name check for our muscular pressing




Pressing and possession


Tiki-taka began to lose its lustre last year as people grew bored of Spain's sterile domination, but this was the year when a genuine alternative emerged. Or, perhaps, to be more accurate, a variant to the strangulation by possession that characterised Spain at the World Cup. The destruction of Barcelona and Real Madrid by Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League semi-finals offered the symbolic moment of change, but the revolution was less one of style than of degree. Both Bayern and Dortmund press, both look to win the ball back high up the pitch, both look for rapid transitions; the difference to the Spanish model is that they do it quicker, with greater muscularity and with a greater willingness to lose the ball with a risky vertical pass.


That pressing does not have to be allied to an obsession with safety-first passing is perhaps best exemplified by Southampton. According to stats at WhoScored.com they have made the third most tackles per game of any Premier League club this season – an indication of the ferocity of their pressing – and, even after their recent wobble, have had the second most possession in the division, and yet they have also played the joint most long passes and have only the 10th highest pass success rate. They win the ball back, look to get it forward quickly, and dominate possession not by looking to retain the ball but by reclaiming it efficiently.


Looking at Premier League possession statistics, there is an intriguing gulf: Arsenal have had the ninth-most possession this season with 54.7%, while Stoke have had the 10th-most with 47.9%. There will be anomalies and variants in individual games, but that suggests the Premier League is essentially split almost down the middle: nine clubs look to dominate the ball; 11 are prepared to sit back and absorb pressure.

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We've seen this sort of article several times now and it's a clear indication of a sea change in the perceived way to play in the Premier League.


We've made a lot of clubs take notice of the way we play, but not every club (and I include some "top" teams in that) could adapt: it takes high fitness levels, organisation in pressing as a team, the skill to break quickly when the ball is won in the opponents' half and very fast transition from pressing to attack.


The team is successful because they can do these things, but (when all fit) can still fall back in a tight defensive formation when the pressing fails.


Our long-ball statistic comes mainly from the number of longish diagonal balls played out to the wing: it's no indication of hoofball.


Other teams will slowly try to adopt similar tactics - it's happening already - but we are leading the way. I remember the first match where the pressing was really noticed was when we pinned Man U in their own half for most of he second half at OT and SAF called us the best team to at there. That was before the Spanish teams got their Champions League lessons.

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