Europe's top clubs gear up for 2013-14 with different coaches but same ideas | sports | Hindustan Times
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Europe's top clubs gear up for 2013-14 with different coaches but same ideas

Getting an idea of how Barcelona could play under new coach Gerardo Martino proved a lot easier than getting to Bangkok’s Rajamangala National Stadium from Siam Square. Dhiman Sarkar writes.

sports Updated: Aug 11, 2013 03:59 IST
Dhiman Sarkar

Getting an idea of how Barcelona could play under new coach Gerardo Martino proved a lot easier than getting to Bangkok’s Rajamangala National Stadium from Siam Square.

Despite wide roads and a huge network of flyovers, traffic in Thailand’s capital is one serious test of patience. The drive of less than 14 km took over two hours and people were still locating seats on Wednesday evening when Neymar scored his first goal in a Barcelona shirt.

By then Barcelona had settled into a familiar pattern of play. Martino’s sticking to 4-3-3 with Barcelona pressing up the park seemed like a continuation of what Pep Guardiola did. It fits that Guardiola and Martino were influenced by the Argentine football strategist Marcelo Bielsa.

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It was after a long conversation with Bielsa in 2006 that Guardiola embarked on a career with Barcelona that fetched him 14 titles. And Martino played as a midfielder under Bielsa at Rosario’s Newell’s Old Boys.

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The top clubs in England, Spain and Germany have a new manager or coach this season but through the appointments of David Moyes, Guardiola, Martino, Manuel Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho they seem to have opted for continuity even while pitching for change.

If Martino is sticking to Guardiola’s style, Moyes shares more than a Scottish working class background, a fiery temper, intense involvement in the job and the first football team (Drumchapel Amateurs) with Alex Ferguson.

Like Ferguson, the former defender took his coaching badges early having shown an interest in the job at Drumchapel. And if Tony Blair’s close aide Alastair Campbell counts Ferguson as a friend, Andy Burnham said Moyes was an inspiration while contesting for the leadership of the Labour Party in 2010.

Burhham said he admired Moyes for loyalty, stability, lack of showiness and sticking to principles. Traits synonymous with the English Premier League’s most famous knight you would think.

Blending in
By speaking in German at his first media interaction, Guardiola showed he would waste no time in trying to blend in. Between Bayern Munich and Barcelona, the similarity in ethos is difficult to overlook. On-field statistics too bear this out: in Europe’s top five leagues over the past two seasons only Barca have had more possession and played more completed passes than Bayern, according to Jonathan Wilson, author of the Inverting The Pyramid: The History Of Football Tactics.

Pellegrini too would be expected to lay the framework of the Barca way at Manchester City whose appointment of former Spain winger Txiki Begiristain in 2012 was their first step in that direction. After Guardiola, Pellegrini was the next best choice, according to football pundit Sid Lowe.

“In 2008, Barcelona had just finished third, beaten to the runners-up spot by Pellegrini’s Villarreal…. Begiristain insisted on a very specific model in Guardiola: the same model City are now seeking — an attacking game based on technique and possession, a stable project and a willingness to bring through youth,” Lowe wrote in the Guardian.

Like Guardiola, Pellegrini, a qualified architect whose buildings withstood an earthquake that destroyed most of Santiago, is known to be a meticulous planner. Both prefer their teams playing on the ground. Again, like Bayern’s new coach Pellegrini has interests outside football.

“He’s a cultured man who can talk books, places or films,” said Diego Forlan whose career was revived by the Chilean. His stint at Real Madrid summed up by a red card in the last match, Mourinho is coming home so both Chelsea and its ‘special’ coach know what to expect of each other.

With Carlo Ancelotti, it does look like a fresh start, one Real Madrid desperately need after Mourinho. Alternately, it could be an attempt to go back to the time of the amiable Vicente del Bosque who coached the club to their last Champions League title. “It does seem he (Ancelotti) has been appointed more for his personality than his tactical philosophy is a fit with the players in the squad,” wrote Wilson in the Guardian.

Despite reasons that made the clubs opt for them, it will be just like starting over for these coaches. Didier Drogba’s not around anymore and Mourinho will hope his reputation of getting strikers to perform to potential will prevent another underwhelming show from Fernando Torres. Like Ancelotti, he too has notoriously fickle employers and Pellegrini’s bosses aren’t that far behind on that count.

Like he did with Paraguay in the 2010 World Cup finals on way to which they won onemore game than Brazil, Mart-ino will have to tighten Barca’s defence possibly with a good buy. He will also have to figure out a way to preserve Xavi and Andres Iniesta and that, by extension, could mean giving Cesc Fabregas more game time.

With a plethora of midfield players, Guardiola is trying to get Bayern used to the 4-1-4-1 formation as he tries to improve a team that was the best in Europe by a distance. And Moyes has a difficult start to the season, playing Chelsea, Liverpool and City in his first five games.

He also has to deal with an unhappy Wayne Rooney and live with the fact that United floundered the last time a long-serving manager retired.

New innings, new challenges
The build-up to the new European club football season has seen hectic activity as some of the giant institutions have gone in for a change at the helm and installed new managers. With the spotlight on the football’s most powerful men, HT looks at the challenges they are expected to face in their new roles. Read more...