So Euro 2016 has ended and all eyes will now be cast keenly back to the upcoming Premier League campaign. In a tournament that may not go down as one of the most exhilarating, one thing was an ever-present – tactical warfare.
Two of the best teams to come out of the recent Championship were Italy and eventual winners Portugal. Similarities can be drawn between the pair in the sense that neither were considered genuine pre-tournament contenders, nor did they have the most glamorous of squads. Perhaps the most striking comparison, however, is how they were both moulded into fearsome, counter attacking outfits by two astute managers.
One of these two in the form of Italian coach Antonio Conte now finds himself on English shores taking the reigns at Chelsea and he’s not the only Premier League managerial newbie. The last few months have seen an influx of true high-quality managers migrating to England from veterans of the British game in Mourinho to unknown entities in Bilic.
So, does having a world class manager guarantee success for the Premier League’s elite?
In short, no. There are numerous interdependent factors that dictate an English teams fortunes or failings and the manager is but just one of these. Everything from an over-strenuous fixture list to unrealistic, impatient chairmen play their part in hampering the top clubs in European competition.
One thing that these new swanky coaches do bring however is a deeper level in the understanding and importance of tactics. Now this may seem silly but to those who don’t watch Europe’s other top leagues regularly, tactical awareness is something that the Premier League lags miles behind in. Look at the managers that have come to ply their trade here. Each brings their own unique playing style with proven success:
Jurgen Klopp – a genius in reinventing gegenpressing allowing his team to play a fast, exciting counter-attacking style that the man himself dubs ‘rock & roll football’.
Jose Mourinho – capable of completely shutting opponents out through implementing defensive master-classes and turning stuttering teams into serial trophy winners.
Josep Guardiola – a modern day football visionary playing his own brand of passing football, dominating the centre of pitches and indeed every side in his path.
Antonio Conte – showing that a defensive five-some alongside a striking duo is far from outdated whilst being able to get the very best out of notably average players.
Add these names into the mix with the relatively young yet incredibly intelligent Mauricio Pochettino, Ronald Koeman and Slaven Bilic and the old heads of one-time invincible Arsene Wenger and defending champion Claudio Ranieri and you have an implosion of tactical nous.
Despite clear structural issues within the Premier League itself, you’d have to say that although success is never guaranteed, these men posses all the relevant qualities to give our teams the best possible chance in European competition. (That and all the money from the new TV deal!)
Even if continental trophies are still beyond reach in the coming years, the teachings from these visionaries may still bare fruit for the next generation of English talent. Think of Guardiola’s time at Bayern. Reaching the Champions League semi-finals yet never progressing in all three campaigns under his leadership. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.
Still, his brand of football has been ingrained throughout the German National team giving them new concepts and ideas of how the modern game can be played which in turn, led to their coronation as World Champions in 2014.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not for a second suggesting England will emulate such a feat but one can’t help but be fascinated at the lessons that will be embedded in the psyche of future England internationals from the greats of our game.
Never before has expectation weighed heavier on the shoulders of English club football and although success is far from a formality, you can’t deny it’s bloody exciting!