When Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich team met Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund for the first time in July 2013, the German’s team won the DFD Super Cup 4-2.
Rather than been disappointed by the defeat, the intellectual in Pep was fascinated. His Barça teams could press, stay up the pitch and pass an opponent to exhaustion and defeat. But this Dortmund, they pressed differently, they were relentless and frantic. And they didn’t try to win the ball back so they could keep it. As soon as the ball was won, they made to dispose it, in the opposing goal. Pressing, squeezing (space), and quick lateral thrusts leaving grown men squirming and in need of smelling salts.
The master of control had met the master of chaos. And chaos had triumphed. In the next meeting between the teams, Pep found a way to bypass the press, deploying Javi Martinez as a number 9 and getting the centre backs to play accurate long balls to him for knock downs. So Bayern could play higher up the pitch. Bayern won 3-0.
Guardiola and Klopp have met a further 10 times since then. Klopp holds a slim winning record of 6 victories a draw and 5 defeats. What makes it hard for Pep’s teams to play Klopp’s or for games between their teams to be tactically absorbing is a clash of philosophies. However, unlike the conventional clashes of defensive football against attacking football, this is a clash between two interpretations of attacking football. Two interpretations of pressing; for the Cruyffian school, pressing is necessary to win back the ball as soon as it is lost in order to regain control and “dominate the ball”. For the Swabian School, pressing is to create chaos, win back the ball and immediately attack through the center of the pitch.
At their best, both philosophies are breathtaking to watch and effective. And at their worst, all the questions of a lack of defensive solidity or sterile dull possession in the Cruyffian school come to the fore.
This season, Man City have been imperious in the league only suffering one defeat so far. That defeat came at Anfield against Liverpool. The 4-3 scoreline flattering to the visitors who for a 15 minute period in the second half were left disconcerted by the pressing and attacking movement of Liverpool’s front three. For Man City, the trick will be to find the balance between controlling possession higher up the pitch and having enough cover for when Liverpool break up field. In this sense, Pep’s use of LaPorte at left back and De Bruyne in a deeper midfield role against Everton suggests he knows that trying to stop Liverpool from getting a high goal count and then hitting on the counter as Man Utd did so successfully is the way to go. Klopp will look to attack, it is Anfield, the onus for victory is on the home team and this could leave them exposed at the back.But as the new Terrace chants on the Kop go, they’ve got Mane, Salah Salah and Bobby Firmino… It should be fun.
Article by: Ernest, “Erny B“