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World Cup entertainment value could suffer from lack of pressing, diminished field

World Cup entertainment value could suffer from lack of pressing, diminished field

Twenty-five years ago, when quizzed about the differences between club football and international football, legendary Italian coach Arrigo Sacchi had one simple conclusion.

“Football should always be played at the highest possible level,” he declared, “and no club will ever reach the level as an international side.”

That was conventional wisdom back then: International tournaments were considered the pinnacle of football, with clubs playing something of a feeder role.

In recent years, however, it’s become impossible to genuinely believe that international football is a step above club football, for a variety of reasons — and this summer’s World Cup may underline that point more than ever.nfl authentic jerseys cheap

The most significant development in the shift of power from international sides to clubs was the Bosman ruling in 1995, which effectively meant neither domestic leagues nor UEFA were able to enforce three-foreigner laws in their competitions. They could maintain similar rules for non-EU players, but teams from EU countries could, for the first time, field as many “foreign” EU nationals as they wished.38

This completely changed the situation for Europe’s top clubs. Previously their starting XIs were generally comprised of (at least) eight players from their country, with a trio of exciting foreign players to “top-up” their quality. Suddenly, it was entirely possible to field a team of 11 foreigners — and it took just four years after the Bosman Ruling for Chelsea to do precisely that, in late 1999. Top clubs could assemble talents from across the continent, and were free to construct sides far better than national squads could imagine.

A subsequent development was the increased level of financial inequality within top leagues, fueled by Champions League revenue, increasingly sophisticated marketing and, in some countries, scandalously unequal distribution of domestic television revenue. Consequently, the top clubs became even more dominant, often assembling second-string XIs that were superior to mid-table sides in the same division. Again, it inevitably boosted the level of the top club sides beyond what international sides could assemble.

Another crucial factor is the increased level of tactical sophistication at club level. Strategic plans are now incredibly complex in terms of positioning, passing patterns and pressing triggers, and international managers frequently complain they simply don’t have enough time to replicate those training sessions. That’s always been the case, of course, but it’s become particularly apparent over the past decade or so, in an era in which managers are now considered primarily in tactical terms rather than, for example, as man managers or talent spotters.nfl jerseys cheap authentic

But the reason this year’s World Cup might feel particularly flat, at least in the early stages, is the obsession with pressing among top club managers over the past few years. Pressing is not a new concept, of course, but its popularity has grown considerably over the past few decades, morphing from a useful “bonus” concept that proved a side was organised and hard-working, to often being considered a side’s main tactical plan. Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham, for example, were a great pressing side before they offered a particularly strong identity in possession. Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool implemented good counterattacking before good counterpressing.