September 28, 2016

Thomas Tuchel: The next Pep Guardiola?

How does the new Dortmund don differ from Jurgen's heavy metal brand of football?


It’s been a year since Jurgen Klopp had departed the Signal Iduna Park in search of pastures anew. It can be argued that Dortmund with its incredible football, fantastic fans and well known players were brought to our attention by the German manager; it would be hard to argue against that. Dortmund under Klopp’s final season finished 7th although throughout the entirety of the campaign they were touted for a relegation battle. The charming German was up against the wall with continuous criticism of his team and the way they were playing that season. Reminded me of Moyes if i’m completely honest, terrible prospect.

Things looked incredibly bleak for the German club and you would ask yourself, “Now what?” Are they going to fade into oblivion now that their talisman manager isn’t at the helm? Are they going to get relegated? Are they even going to get someone even half as good as Klopp? Then came Thomas Tuchel. Another relatively unknown German coach who, like his predecessor was also the coach of Mainz.

People, like me, figured that Tuchel if he even proves to be a good appointment would take time to settle into the side and for the players to figure out what he wants his side to do. Boy were we wrong… From the very first game he took charge, you could instantly feel the difference in the way Dortmund approached the game. There was a sense of control in their pressing, there was a feeling of a plan in how the play was to be carried out and gone were the ‘heavy metal’ football of their old manager. This Dortmund were mindful of the opposition, they kept their shape and picked their moments.

Tuchel has always been known to be a huge admirer of Pep Guardiola, going on to say that the Spaniard’s Barcelona is one of the greatest sides in modern football. The way they played and the way they maneuvered and pinned the opposition back with their relentless pressing and structured play was something the German was a big fan of, and the same has started to show in his Dortmund side too… more so than at Mainz.

Klopp’s Dortmund were dangerous on the break with their quick transitional play, with little tactical awareness at times. This approach meant less sustainability and more time for the players sitting in a hospital bed having soup. With Tuchel, a few tactical changes were made into the side along with a Plan B, making the side very difficult to play against. He made them more compact in possession, being able to adapt to the opposition’s set up. They countered in a 4-3-3 formation with incredible pace and numbers while they maintained possession and played in the veteran 4-2-3-1 formation.

Pep when he took over at Barcelona had two extremely talented central midfielders at the helm, who led the way for that dominant Barca side: Xavi and Busquets. It also seems Tuchel is taking a leaf out his book in regards to their own central two. Gundogan (now Rode/Castro) was the runner of the two midfielders, dictating and latching on the end of things with his runs from deep. The other was the German revelation, Julien Weigl. The young German has taken world football by storm, controlling play from deep, recycling possession and positioning himself well to defend similar to the role that Busquets played for the side. Both of them understood their roles which weren’t overly defensive, but rather winning the ball up high between the lines and switching play quickly. Dictating tempo and passing it onto the three creative and deadly players upfront.

Tuchel also copied Pep in his terms of playing his forward players, by giving them freedom in the final third. Sure, they had their tactical instructions in the middle third of the field. They were told to press and keep the structure compact when Dortmund didn’t have the ball, when they did the formation changed and the roles did too. The reason both Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan had wonderful seasons was because of the freedom and interchangeability Tuchel’s forwards had. The players were creative, deadly and to be honest so sodding fun to watch, carving teams open at will.

Thomas Tuchel has introduced himself to the world of football in fantastic fashion with his new ideas and positional play. This Klopp/Guardiola hybrid may have just started out as a new comer but with time, I truly believe he can be one of the best and most sought after managers in world football. I’m keeping a close eye on him – So should Arsenal in all honesty!

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