Football matches are won on the field, but the framework for those wins is set up earlier on by the managers. The abilities of the players to put their manager’s strategies into play is essential to a win. However, a really capable manager can push even struggling players to compete above their natural level.
That’s why when considering which teams to bet on, it’s important to look beyond just the players. It doesn’t matter if a team has a Salah or a Ronaldo if the manager doesn’t know how to deploy them properly or if their talents don’t fit within the manager’s preferred deployment. Considering who the manager is and what their strategic style is can make a big difference when you’re placing a bet.
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This article will rank some of the best tactical masterminds in the English Premier League. Just because a team isn’t at the top of the table doesn’t mean their manager doesn’t have a tactical edge. Oftentimes, budget plays a huge part in a team’s ability to be competitive. That’s why our list isn’t just the top teams in the EPL.
Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp is the obvious choice to lead our list. He has brought The Reds to almost unprecedented success. He has taken a team full of highly talented individuals and turned them into an actual team. Although egos still flare up from time to time, he has created a team environment that celebrates and thrives on effective cooperation rather than showboating.
His tactical genius is based around gegenpressing, also known as counter-pressing. This technique, in the simplest terms, is all about forward momentum. When possession is lost, instead of falling back and trying to regroup, the team simply fights to regain possession. With a confident team that can work as a unit, such as Liverpool, it is a highly effective style of play.
Much of Pep Guardiola’s success has come from being able to take an established style of football and innovate effectively. His tactical style has been described as the ‘agnostic grandson of Total Football’, a title that gives some indication of how far he has brought the game.
Manchester United has benefited from Guardiola’s willingness to challenge the meaning and roles of each position and his willingness to shift players as necessary to fulfil his plans. One of the most important elements of Guardiola’s tactics has been his ability to adapt in response to other managers’ approaches. For example, as high pressing became common in the EPL, he altered how his defenders and goalkeeper cleared the ball.
Antonio Conte’s success as a manager can’t necessarily be tied down to one specific tactical style or strategy. Rather, he has seen continued success with the teams he has managed thanks to the amount of effort and research he puts into developing strategies for the moment. He has described his approach to managing as ‘continuous study’ and this constant work has paid off. His time at Juventus and Chelsea saw both teams achieve greater success than they had in years.
Off the field, one of his tactical strategies is to maintain a fairly tight rein over his players’ activities. Before matches, their diets are monitored, and they have strict curfews. His ability to control his players on and off the pitch shows how much devotion and trust he inspires in them.
Lastly on our list is Thomas Frank, manager of Brentford. Brentford is currently sitting at 11th on the table but that doesn’t negate Frank’s abilities as a manager. In fact, he was the manager responsible for Brentford’s promotion to the Premier League. While Frank is not known for one preferred tactic, his ability to communicate and inspire his players is where his strategic prowess lies.
Another aspect of his strategy that shouldn’t be overlooked is his ability to look beyond a player’s current stats to see what they could become under his leadership. The current example of this is Christian Eriksen. The Danish player had struggled to find a team willing to take him on since his cardiac arrest. At Brentford, he has already helped reshape the team into a stronger unit.