6 Tactical Trends to Look for in the Premier League Next Season
Over 38 games in a domestic season, you learn what works and what doesn't.
Plenty of managers made mistakes in the English Premier League last season, while a select few proved to be creative virtuosos in their field.
Next season, the slate is wiped clean. Managers can use the summer to mold systems, formations and tactics to their linking, perhaps tailored to get the best out of the personnel at their disposal.
Here are six things we may well see creep into the English Premier League next season, having found success elsewhere in last 12 months.
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Barcelona, Spain, Swansea, Bayern Munich and Manchester City have set a blueprint for success in European club football.
Possession-based football is in fashion, effective and represents what a lot of football fans want to see.
Brendan Rodgers led his Swans to an 11th-placed finish last season by utilising a mix of good and average footballers in a great tactical system.
He recruited players who would feel comfortable with the ball at their feet, building attacks from the back and remaining patient on the field.
As per Rodgers' interview with talkSPORT.co.uk, we know he will utilise the same system at new club Liverpool.
Michael Laudrup, the replacement for Rodgers at Swansea, is known for playing possession-based football in a 4-2-3-1, as per his time with Getafe in La Liga.
Owing to the recent successes this style of football has achieved in the last four years, expect some managers and coaches to be changing their philosophies and patterns to give this a go.
Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson look likely to switch things around, as their system would have to change following the arrival for Shinji Kagawa.
Expect Aston Villa to become better at retaining the ball now that Alex McLeish and his long-ball tactics have been dispensed with, while new arrivals Southampton are very adept at passing teams to death.
The Death of the Direct 4-4-2
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Following on from the emphasis on possession-based football, the 4-4-2 formation will suffer in England.
The truth is, it really is only utilised in the English Premier League. There were perhaps two teams in Spain who utilised two pure strikers on a regular basis last season, while the Bundesliga is almost completely devoid of regular two-man pairings up top.
The 4-4-2 really isn't built to retain the ball, forsaking possession in an attempt to be more direct, more incisive and more exciting.
You can see Martin O'Neill of Sunderland sticking to his incredibly stubborn guns with regards to his style of play, but most other managers will look at their preparations this summer.
Four in midfield is simply not enough in the modern game, with even Manchester United becoming overrun at times last season.
3 at the Back, Wing-Backs Galore
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Roberto Martinez worked wonders with Wigan Athletic last season, saving them from relegation after losing a potentially unprecedented nine games in a row.
The reason Wigan turned their form around was an astute tactical switch where Martinez employed three central defenders with wing-backs rather than a flat back four.
Italy used a 3-5-2 in their first two games of Euro 2012, drawing with both Spain and Croatia in the process. Despite not winning, they certainly looked impressive.
You need the right personnel to do it, and the most important aspect of it is having tactically aware wing-backs.
It'd be safe to say Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Swansea City amongst others have the players to pull this off.
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Unfortunately, we've not heard the end of this by a long, long way.
Paris Saint-Germain are looking at the possibility of using a "false-nine" now that they have officially recruited Ezequiel Lavezzi, while Barcelona will continue to use Lionel Messi in this way next season.
I wouldn't be surprised if this strange, volatile system found its way to the Premier League next season. It achieved mixed results during the European Championships, but it shouldn't be judged on Cesc Fabregas' attempts to fulfil its duties.
Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez, Bryan Ruiz, Stephane Sessegnon and Robin van Persie all have the ability and attributes to do this effectively.
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Premier League midfields are very stable right now, using clear player roles to indicate what one can and cannot do.
For example, Stiliyan Petrov—before his tragic diagnosis—was used exclusively as an interceptor and deep-lying support player last season. Never was he instructed to move forward and become an integral attacking piece.
Evidence: 2.2 tackles and a league-high 3.6 interceptions per game, yet just two assists and one goal to his name.
The same could be said for Leon Britton, a player who acted exclusively as a midfield sweeper. He would prowl the area behind his two midfielders and two full-backs to provide an out-ball and never was used as an offensive piece.
Evidence: Britton's 2,238 successful passes resulted in zero assists.
However, we may see midfields turn the corner, abandon rigidity and open their eyes to the clearly successful interchanging methods Euro 2012 showed us.
Spain's Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso would interchange, and in turn so would Alonso with Xavi. Italy's Daniele De Rossi and Claudio Marchisio both "offered a bit of everything" and thus never stuck to a specific role.
Roberto Martinez, who it seems is fast becoming a pioneer in footballing methods, unleashed Mohamed Diamé last season, releasing him from a purely defensive role and allowed him to roam the pitch.
To reward his manager, Diamé made some great runs, troubled many players with his pure physical nature and scored some absolute crackers, too.
A Return to Man-Marking
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A big prediction to end on, but nothing I've seen over the past season or so can sway me from the idea of pre-empting the return of man-marking.
All over Europe, we've seen managers dabble with man-marking to counter specific situations.
Cristiano Ronaldo was followed around the pitch by Theodor Gebre Selassie during Euro 2012, whilst Marcelo Bielsa had Fernando Amorebieta track Lionel Messi to the halfway line in the Copa del Rey final.
Mario Mandzukic was asked to step on Andrea Pirlo's toes in Croatia's Group C game against Italy this summer, while Miguel Veloso made Mesut Ozil his new best friend for 90 minutes during Portugal vs. Germany.
After the 2010 World Cup saw football make significant strides toward zonal marking, my thinking is we're moving the other way.