Getting hold of possession and winning back the ball are two completely different facets of the game. While the former involves no special skillset, the latter requires ferocious closing down and relentless pressing of the opponents.
English Premier League is yet to be fully submersed in to the European style of play where aggressive pressing and winning back the ball quickly is of the ultimate priority.
In a way, Premier League has been about being incisive and direct, using the width and put telling balls in to the box for strikers to feed on and score goals. Over the years, English teams have been keen on keeping the ball to themselves and naturally the hunger to win the ball back was missing.
Even the great yesteryear teams from Manchester United and Arsenal were not too keen to rush their opponents to win the ball back. Instead their play was more based on what they did after getting the ball back.
This season, however, we have witnessed a slight change with more European managers coming in to fray and asserting their style of management. In Liverpool and Tottenham, we have witnessed two possessed and hungry teams willing to press their opponents out of games.
Spurs were described as “animals” by Mark Hughes and Alan Pardrew who claimed that Tottenham were the most difficult opponents for their teams this season.
Mauricio Pochettino prides on his players pressing higher up the field and dictating the play. Even Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen are asked to keep pressing and force their opponents into making errors.
Jurgen Klopp has also brought the high pressing style to Premier League this season and has transformed Liverpool in to a pressing machine. Klopp’s first few weeks in charge were prime example of how Premier League teams were not used to the pressing style of play.
Liverpool often played well until the hour mark but then managed to lose their shape, strength and energy in latter parts of matches and gave away too many points.
Since Klopp’s arrival, Liverpool have conceded the most number of points from winning position this season. However, after some hard work on the training ground Liverpool now look like a team who speak Klopp’s language out on the field.
Their energy levels are infectious for other teams and they would indeed be a hard team to play against next season.
Tottenham and Liverpool could be the benchmark for rest of the league to follow next season; however, managers need to be mindful that the high-pressing game may seem lucrative but it is not easy to replicate.
If it was feasible for all teams to play with that system, teams like Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal or Manchester City would have followed the same path by now.
Instead they are patient and rely on their players to come good after getting the ball back. Every team has their own playing style and it is best to stick to what works for them unless a new manager comes in and decides to shake things up.
Next season, we are awaiting the arrival of Pep Guardiola, Antonio Conte and presumably Jose Mourinho, which would further enhance the European impact on Premier League and perhaps we would witness more teams trying to adapt the aggressive pressing style in coming seasons.
P.S. – I could not help but replace the phrase “Cup of Tea” with “Coffee” after enjoying a delicious cup of cold coffee at the most serene of locations.
Image Credit: Getty, EPL Index