Modern day football is evolving every day. Gone are the days where one formation or style used to reign supreme as the modern day tools make it easy to single out deficiencies in one’s approach. Take for example Leicester, a team who were so direct last season and won the title, have struggled to repeat the same this season and have been brutally exposed away from home and find themselves in the bottom half of the table.
Styles are different in different parts of Europe and Liverpool’s upcoming clash against West Brom will perhaps summarise it in the best possible way. West Brom, led by Tony Pulis and his direct style approach, will face a Jürgen Klopp side who have taken to the German’s ‘gegenpressing’ philosophy like a duck to water.
Pulis’ style has never been eye-catching to say the least as fans rarely get to see the attractive passing or build up play that one would pay to watch. They sit back, defend deep, ensure that they first get the point, and then make calculated forays in trying to nick the game. It’s not surprising that the scored the second least number of goals last season (only behind Aston Villa) as their approach was extremely cautious.
Liverpool, on the other hand, try to defend, but do so using the ‘gegenpressing’ template. You‘re automatically a defender when you don’t have the ball, and that’s the blueprint the whole system is based on. As soon as the players lose the ball, they press and harry their opponents and the system is a much more heart pounding one for the fans rather than the Charles Hughes approach of defending deep and going long.
But are fans right in criticising Pulis for his approach?
It’s understandable to adopt a defensive approach when you don’t have incredible money to spend and have to play in a reactive way to get points. West Brom have spent more than decent money and the duo of Rondon and Chadli alone cost them a combined 19 million quid, which even in the modern day football, is pretty high.
Pulis hasn’t tried to change the ideology, which you could criticise. But it’s worked out well for him. His work at Stoke City, Crystal Palace and West Brom have helped stabilise the clubs. He’ll forever remain as a gaffer who can stabilise teams.
Klopp, on the other hand, started out on a similar note, but has refined his philosophy and achieved success. When he took over at Mainz, they were directionless and were in dire trouble. Klopp, after the pain of missing out on promotion twice with Die Nullfünfer, took them to the Bundesliga and did enough to attract the biggest sides in Germany to hunt him down for a managerial role. In the end, Borussia Dortmund secured his signature and the rest, as they say, is history. His team played some scintillating proactive football and almost won the Champions League as well.
In the last decade or so, there have been plenty of examples of both. While Jose Mourinho and Diego Simeone have achieved greatness with their pragmatic styles, Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp have shown how to win titles that will instantly earn the adulation of the fans.
This Saturday, two different philosophies will go at war and we all know which one the football purists will be rooting for!