June 09, 2021
Functional Football has broadly brought success since Spain’s more proactive European Championship triumph of 2012
Attacking rarely wins international prizes now so what will Southgate do?
International football is different. It’s not like club football. It has gone from being the highest form of the game – the stage on which the average level of the players was greatest – to lagging behind the club game, to being barely the same sport. Elite club sides now are sourced from the very best available parts and fine-tuned over weeks and months of training. National managers have neither the luxury of signings nor time, and so the priorities are different.
The best club sides over the past decade – the Barcelona of Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique, the Bayern Munich of Jupp Heynckes, Guardiola and Hansi Flick, Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool and Guardiola’s Manchester City – have been aggressive and fluent. They have operated with a high press and played largely on the front foot, prioritising the cohesion of the unit. As Real Madrid keep proving, it is still possible to succeed by – and this is an oversimplification – having brilliant individuals doing brilliant things at key moments, but their comparative lack of league success suggests the unreliability of the approach over a sustained period.
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