Man City and Liverpool prove that what teams do off the ball is now more important than ever

I’VE heard a lot recently that tactics are secondary to winning the ball, that they only become important when in possession and on the front foot.

But, to put it simply, you need tactics to get the ball in the first place.

And no two teams prove this more than Manchester City and Liverpool.

In a modern game where many teams tend to favour counter-attacking football over possession, what teams do off the ball is more important than ever.

Pressing is nothing new, but Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have taken it to new levels, so it’s no surprise to see them so far ahead in the table.

Some teams press as individuals with little thought behind it, with two pressing the ball while four sit off for example.

But that’s no good, as any decent side will be able to play through with ease.

Football is more about the collective than it ever has been, and what makes Liverpool and City stand out is the method behind their press and how they all sing off the same hymn sheet.

Both City and Liverpool press with six at near enough all times in the opposition half.


So when the opposition lose the ball they are faced with so many bodies in their own half it becomes near impossible to strike on the counter.

Your first touch will be under pressure and you will have no time to pick a pass.

So invariably you go long just to clear your lines to an isolated front man or go back to your keeper.

It becomes incredibly difficult to break out and they will keep coming back at you relentlessly for the whole 90 minutes.

Both of them have the one who starts the press as soon as the ball is gone.

It’s normally the one closest to the ball, so if Mo Salah starts it for Liverpool he knows Roberto Firmino will immediately be with him, and then Sadio Mane or a midfielder alongside.

It ends up a domino effect – but it can only work with everyone in unison.

But as important in a press is knowing where you are trying to send the man on the ball, inside or out, depending on where you are on the pitch and the state of the game.

And then once you’ve won it back it’s about what you do with it, which City and Liverpool are both exceptional at.

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The best way to beat them is to play through their relentless press, but to do that you need at least three players who are excellent on the ball in your defensive third.
But other than City and Liverpool themselves, few if any teams in the league boast that.

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