On Sunday the 31st of May 2015 Napoli lost 4-2 at home to Lazio in their final game of the 2014-15 Serie A season. The result finally ended Napoliâ€™s slim chances of qualifying for the Champions League in the next season as they finished 5th. To make matters worse (so it seemed) head coach Rafa Benitez was set to leave and take over at Real Madrid, and with Lazioâ€™s emergence under Pioli, Napoli fans could be forgiven for feeling pessimistic. It was an all too familiar feeling of uncertainty for the Napoli faithful only two seasons after Mazzarri left for Inter after guiding them to their highest finish since their Scudetto winning campaign of 1989-90.
Whilst Bayern Munich leadÂ a 2-team group ahead of Borussia Dortmund at the top of the Bundesliga, Hertha Berlin have quietly been making strong performances and find themselves in 3rd place, holding a 4-point advantage over 4th-placed Schalke. The side from the capital have developedÂ a strong team despite finishing 15th last year – just one place above the relegation play-off position.
Throughout this season however, we have seen a significant turnaround in performance under coachÂ PĂˇl DĂˇrdai. In this article, I’ll be aiming to take a closer look at what has seen them hold such a strong position in the table.
Pressing, Gegenpressing, total football â€¦ those are all terms usually associated with the Dutch national team from 1974 or, recently, with Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona and Bayern Munich. But, during history, there have been other divisive figures who contributed to modern football. Valeriy Lobanovskyi has long gone underappreciated but he put his mark on the sport, and his USSR team gave a strong contribution to the game.
Bologna have really exceeded expectations this season since former Azzurri head coach Roberto Donadoni took over the job last October.
Tottenham have really exceeded expectations this season. With Leicester deservingly taking most of the back page headlines this season, the heroics Mauricio Pochettino and his men have performed so far this season have arguably gone slightly under the radar. They have just come off the back beating 2014/14 champions Manchester City, putting them in second place just two points behind leaders Leicester. Spurs shouldn’t only be given credit for this league position they find themselves in, but also for the style which has delivered them this success.
Over the past 3 seasons, PSG have come to dominate the French first division and have now all-but secured their 4th consecutive title for 2016. Supported by the riches of Nasser Al-KhelaĂŻfi who bought the club in 2011, the Paris side have assembled a squad filled with excellent players. Over time, this technically-strong side has been molded into a strong possession-based system by Laurent Blanc after Ancelotti’s counter-attacking focus.
Real Madrid has long been a club varying between extremes. Following the firing of Rafael BenĂtez, La Madridâ€™s board appointed no less than ZinĂ©dine Zidane as their new head coach. The former playmaker and superstar of the 1990s and 2000s is set to revitalise a stumbling team of modern superstars.
With just 8 goals conceded in 18 La Liga matches this season, Atletico Madrid have conceded the least goals of any team in the ‘big 5’ European leagues this season. They are at the top of the table however unlike their La Liga title rivals, Barcelona and Real Madrid, and the other single-figure conceding teams in Europe this season, PSG and Bayern, Atletico don’t compete to break transfer records every summer. They’ve spent a net ÂŁ12million in transfers over the last four seasons.
Since joining the club he played for between 1987 and 1991, Alan Pardew has designed an attacking-minded Crystal Palace side who have performed largely above expectations and sit 7th in the Premier League. This is even more telling when you consider the strength of the teams they have already faced, with Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham all featuring in their first 8.
Four games into the 2015/2016 Bundesliga season and Borussia Dortmund sit at the top of the table with a 100% record, 15 goals scored and just 3 conceded. Under the new management of Thomas Tuchel, the former-Mainzer has rejuvenated a side who looked lost just a matter of months ago with Jurgen Klopp.
Just how has the prodigal coach turned Die Schwarzgelbe around?