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EPL 2021/22: Luke Thomas at Leicester City - scout report tactical analysis tactics

Appraising the Next Big Tactical Developments in the EPL

If you think back to the early noughties, you’ll remember how Jose Mourinho blazed an innovative trail for other managers to follow in the global game.

Popularising the idea of aggressive counter-pressing and packing the middle of the park with systems such as diamond and 4-3-3, the Portuguese achieved huge success in Portugal, England and Italy while winning two UCL titles.

Of course, fellow innovators like Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have helped to evolve the game further in the two decades since, with a growing emphasis on positional awareness and structured pressing having taken hold in the EPL. It’s also no coincidence that Liverpool and Manchester City are at the very top of the game, and you can utilise the 1xbet bonus code to back one of these sides to win the Premier League next season.

But which tactical developments will next impact the Premier League? Here are some ideas to keep in mind:

The Rise of Flexible Block Heights

A key principle of Mourinho’s teams was effective space control, which enabled them to manage games when out of possession and counter attack more efficiently.

This appears to have been lost as teams have focused more on dominating possession and sustaining attacks through the deployment of a high block, which allows players to win the ball back quickly, efficiently and as a collective during transitions.

The coming years are likely to see a combination of these two tactical innovations, however, as sides look to cope with the increased levels of organisation and adaptability that are prevalent at the elite level of the game. More specifically, sides will become more effective at adjusting their block heights in real-time and during transitions, in order to better control space and negate the quality of the opposition.

However, blocks will remain incredibly compact (both vertically and horizontally), leaving approximately 20 or 30 metres between the defensive and attacking lines.

The Return of 4-4-2 (and Old-Fashioned Wingers)

Football tactics are continuing to evolve with every passing year, and arguably at a faster pace than ever before. Tactical trends also move in cycles, as innovators continually react to new playing styles and formations as they’re deployed.

Arguably, as defensive blocks become increasingly compact and more space appears both in behind defensive lines and in wide areas of the pitch, we’re likely to see sides adopt a more direct approach and return to formations like the classic 4-4-2.

This system could also create a scenario where more teams play with at least one orthodox winger, in order to control the wide areas, create overloads on the flanks and build attacks more dynamically.

This would also create an effective counter-attacking style against possession-based sides that adopt a 4-3-3 formation, while utilising two central strikers who can threaten in behind the defensive line.

The Age of the Roving Defender

Given the way in which teams tend to press incredibly aggressively from compact blocks in the modern game, it’s crucial that sides have players who can effectively beat the press and build attacks.

Typically, there’s a focus on passing through the lines to beat the press, but ball carriers and dribblers are also adept at breaking even compact defensive lines and exploiting space on the pitch.

When playing against a high block, deploying a roving ball carrying centre back can be particularly effective. Antonio Rudiger has excelled in this role for Chelsea, while Erik Ten Hag also occasionally deployed creative midfielder Frenkie de Jong as a dribbling centre back who could step out of defence and launch attacks during his time at Ajax.

Going forward, this tactic will be deployed more frequently by sides that play with either three at the back or a compact four man defence, as teams strive to beat an initial high price and move quickly into attacking spaces and transitions.