August 29, 2021


Tactical corkscrew turns as Tuchel's Chelsea keep Liverpool at bay (Jonathan Wilson, 29 Aug 2021, The Guardian)

Step back from football and amid various ups and downs, backs and forths, check-backs and dead-ends, the first 100 years of its development after the modern laws were first drawn up in 1863 can be seen as comprising roughly linear development. We started with seven forwards and one defender and we slowly moved players back until we had four defenders and two forwards. We went from a chaotic charging game, through man-marking to zonal marking. By the mid-60s, football was mature.

The changes since have been incremental. There is far less sense of forward momentum. A style of play or shape becomes modish and enjoys success, and then a system arises to combat it. At elite level in particular, tactical development can seem cyclical, although our knowledge of what has gone before means there is still forward momentum: football's tactical evolution is perhaps best imagined as resembling a corkscrew - although one subject to the whims of geniuses and to technological advances in boots, balls, pitches, nutrition, physical training and, perhaps most pertinently today, data analysis.

Saturday's game at Anfield felt significant in that regard as a meeting of two variant strands of the modern German school. On the one hand, the bearishly ebullient J├╝rgen Klopp playing his high octane, hard-pressing football based on ferocious surges guided by detailed analysis: fast, direct, thrillingly vertical. The emphasis on regaining the ball, whether consciously envisaged as such or not, emerged as a direct challenge to the possession-heavy style implemented by Pep Guardiola at Barcelona.

And on the other, Thomas Tuchel: wanly cerebral, with a style that has risen from a similar environment to that which shaped Klopp (to such an extent that, as Klopp is always keen to remind people, it was he who gave Tuchel his big break at Mainz) but which inclines a little more to the Guardiola model. His football is not so direct as Klopp's. He is more risk-averse, a little more inclined to recycle possession and control the game, rather than attempting to trammel chaos.

Posted by at August 29, 2021 8:18 AM