Pressing football has been a particular feature of the Spanish game in recent years, with the most successful advocates being Barcelona and the Spanish national team, but now it is making an emergence in English and European football. Could it be the way forward?
The performances of Southampton this season have been eye-catching to say the least. They have introduced an interesting, high-tempo, pressing game under Argentine manager Mauricio Pochettino that has paid dividends; they are fifth in the English Premier League, have only conceded three goals (second least only to Roma in the top five European leagues), and have recorded impressive results away to both Liverpool and Manchester United.
However, this is no revelation. It is a brand of football that was employed by the successful Barcelona side managed by Pep Guardiola - arguably the best club side the world has ever seen.
It is, in part, the loss of this pressing side of their game, under manager Tito Vilanova, that led to their demise in European football, and that 7-0 aggregate walloping at the hands of Bayern Munich.
Furthermore, this style has been seen at other top European clubs like Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, both this season and in previous years, although less consistently than it had been seen used by Barcelona.
Is this style the way forward?
There is no doubt that it can be successful, as demonstrated by Barcelona and now Southampton, but would it work for every team? It requires immense work rate, fitness and a sheer willingness to go chasing after the ball and win it back.
It also requires the team to be well organised, tactically aware and it goes hand-in-hand with a short, methodical passing game when in possession of the ball.
Moreover, it does carry a big risk of being counter attacked, particularly if it is not utilised correctly. This would suggest that it may not be for everyone.
In terms of players, there are some that are just not willing to work off the ball (Dimitar Berbatov springs to mind) and certain teams and managers will not want to use it because it does not suit their style or vision, particularly ones that suit a long, direct passing style.
To conclude, there is no doubt that this style of play can be used effectively and successfully; Barcelona and other top clubs have shown this. However, now Southampton have started using it, it has shown smaller clubs, not in European football, that they can use it and use it effectively.
On the other hand, it might not be every club's cup of tea, they may favour a totally different style to utilise effectively the players that they have. Therefore, it is certainly a way forward, and it almost certainly will become more popular in football generally, particularly if Southampton manage to maintain their current form, but it is not the only way forward.
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