Arsenal are in the midst of a rebuild, and since Mikel Arteta’s appointment in December 2019 a transformation of the Gunners playing style has taken place. Perhaps influenced by his shadowing of Pep Guardiola whilst at Manchester City, Arteta’s philosophy has turned the North London side into one of the most attractive and aesthetically pleasing teams in the Premier League, producing both an identity and improvement in results.
With six wins from their first nine official games, scoring 22 goals, and a friendly win over Atletico Madrid, Feyenoord have had a pretty good start to the season. Especially considering the fact that their new manager Arne Slot is trying to implement a completely new style of play.
After finishing 2nd last season, Shakhtar Donetsk hired esteemed, upcoming Italian manager Roberto de Zerbi. The ambitious and unique playing style demonstrated most notably at Sassuolo earned him acclaim for his tactical acumen, ending his tenure at the Sassuolo with an 8th place finish and a respectable 62 points. This article will investigate the rationale behind his build-up preferences and how that is translating to his new side.
On November 12th, 2020, following a start to the season with just one win out of their first nine, Celta Vigo fired Óscar García and replaced him with 46 year old Eduardo Coudet. In the two months following his appointment, Celta strung together an incredible run of results while implementing a style of play that captivated many fans.
Guardiola’s image in the football world is complex to describe. While polarizing, everyone seems at least to agree that he is an unique innovator. Funnily enough, he is polarizing exactly because of this mutual agreement of critics and fans. The public discourse about his Barcelona team mainly revolved about the positional style of play and – even contrasted with Aragones’ successful EURO campaign with the Spanish national team – was highly focused on his idea of playing football and how it differed from most teams. Building up from the back with passes on the ground and involvement of the goalkeeper even under pressure, overload in the center while maintaining high width and depth, or even their extreme pressure with an extraordinarily high line to enable early regain of possession have conquered football back then (with two Champions League titles in four heavily favored campaigns) and since taken over the ideas of others teams more and more – some of them, Guardiola had started already in his first year as head coach back at Barcelona B.
AC Milan have undergone somewhat of an unexpected revival this season, transforming themselves into surprise contenders for the Scudetto whilst also performing admirably in the Europa League as well. Stefano Pioli is no doubt slowly but surely steering the Rossoneri back to European prominence, with a free-flowing attacking mantra that make Milan thrilling to watch.
Leicester City have made constant progress since the arrival of Brendan Rodgers in February 2019, from securing Leicester’s position in the top six in his first full season to now contesting for the Premier League’s top spot half-way into the 2020-21 season. The improvements are evident and though claims that Leicester are not title contenders are played down by Rodgers himself, their performances this season suggest otherwise. In fact, it would be of much surprise if Leicester were not in the running for a top four finish if not more come the end of the season.
Manchester United have suffered a turbulent start to the 2020-21 season, despite surprising victories against PSG & RB Leipzig that leave them on the verge of qualification from a challenging Champions League group, Ole’s team have stumbled against too many an opposition.
Simone Inzaghi & Lazio enjoyed a hugely successful 2019-20 season, with a Supercoppa Italia to their name and achieving domestic qualification for the Champions League for the first time in five years. The way in which they did so was equally impressive, scoring the 3rd highest goals in Serie A with Ciro Immobile the centrepiece of their attacking prowess.
Borussia Dortmund are in a tough spot. The German powerhouse have established themselves among the best teams in Europe and even more so in the Bundesliga where there is a considerable gap between Dortmund, Bayern Munich, RB Leipzig and the rest of the pack. Dortmund are expected to command the action on the pitch, and they themselves like to be in command.