European
January 31, 2017

Gegenpressing, in simple terms

How does the tactic work and where did it originate?



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When Jürgen Klopp arrived in England, he brought along with him the tactic of gegenpressing: the style of play he got known for, with Borussia Dortmund.

“Why the fascination with gegenpressing?” He asked, wondering. It was essentially a development of the style of play that had dominated English football in the 1980’s. Other coaches have used variations of gegenpressing, the likes of Thomas Tuchel, Pep Guardiola, Marcelo Bielsa and Mauricio Pochettino.

History of gegenpressing

Gegenpressing was mainly used by the USSR & The Netherlands, in the 1960’s. Simply put, it revolves around multiple players closing down the man who’s in possession with the football.

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Of course, that led to many other players being wide open for the pass, but the pressing had been so intense that it was nearly impossible to hit an accurate long ball, over the top of the pressing.

This had led to be a main feature of English and Scandinavian football in the near future.

In-depth:

Gegenpressing is winning the ball back as soon as it is lost. The player who has just won the ball, may still be vulnerable because he may be still getting the ball under control. He doesn’t know where his team mates are, and that leaves him & the entire team vulnerable again.

Jupp Heynckes implemented a more logical variation: one man closed the ball carrier down, while the other team mates nearby closed down any available recipients. Taking away the percentages, if you will. Jurgen Klopp, the man who used it to it’s full strength with Dortmund and a few months later at Liverpool, surrounds the man and allows him no space to breath or to get his head up to pick out a pass.

Pep Guardiola on the other hand, closes down the passing lanes and applies no pressure, which is why it’s not a more known gegenpressing tactic and more of a possession tactic.

No matter which variant you’re looking at, it all bases off of the same things; Speed, organization and looking to panic the man on the ball. Looking to gain the ball back as quick as possible, and as high up the pitch as possible. “Countering the counter-attack.”

The risks

The biggest problem, is knowing when to slow down and take control of the game. You should stop hunting and fall back into defensive shape, maybe let your strikers/wingers chase the ball down. It may have been a very good tactic, but the amount of open-play goals scored in the Champions League in the last 10 years has halved.

If you do have a team playing out from their fullbacks, it’s going to be a field day for the attackers/wingers. They target the fullback the least comfortable on the ball, and hunt him down like Real Madrid hunter down the Champions League last season. With the goal line and out of bounds line right behind him, he’s cornered.

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