Bayern Munich and the 5 of the Best High-Pressing Teams in European Football
World football is fast-moving toward a state in which high-pressing and winning the ball back as high up the pitch as possible is becoming the norm.
The godfather of pressing, Arrigo Sacchi, has seen his hard work appreciated and developed by prominent managers such as Pep Guardiola and Marcelo Bielsa. Now there are several teams across Europe that subscribe to his footballing mantras.
Who joins Bayern Munich in this list of top European pressers?
Honourable Mention: Barcelona
Under Pep Guardiola, Barcelona would have been top of these rankings.
But under Tito Vilanova, their pressing game has stalled, and it's one of the first things the club must seek to rekindle if they are to clamber back on top of the footballing pyramid.
It's still there deep down, but the players are struggling to pull it off. After a disappointing, limp aggregate victory over Paris Saint-Germain, it became clear els Blaugrana could never hope to win the UEFA Champions League without rehabilitating this area of their game.
One of the things Frank de Boer has picked up off Barcelona is the high-energy pressing game, and that's helped Ajax dominate this season.
They've conceded very few goals on the way to the title (31), while they've scored an absolute tonne (81).
A young, effervescent squad is important to the philosophy, and it remains to be seen how they'll cope after losing key peripherals this season.
Mauricio Pochettino's pressing game is famous, and he wasted no time installing it at Southampton.
The Saints' young, vivacious squad can handle the rigours of the strategy, and Jack Cork in particular is thriving in midfield (via The Daily Mail):
"It does feel like you need two hearts to play like that. It is hard work but you can see the result and hopefully if we can keep that standard going, we can hopefully do that every week."
The Argentine demands passing football and high-energy pressing; Saints fans absolutely love it.
3. Bayern Munich
Rather than execute furious, fast pressing all over the pitch—á la Barcelona—Bayern Munich use different tactics depending on the opposition.
Their use of reserved/fake pressing against Barcelona was absolutely superb, standing off at the right times but setting the line of engagement in exactly the right place.
Their ability to squish play, close down space between the lines and stick together in banks is excellent.
2. Athletic Bilbao
Any Marcelo Bielsa side commits themselves to exhaustive, furious pressing—perhaps to the extent where the players cripple themselves.
An amazing 2011-12 season saw Athletic Bilbao reach two cup finals, but seemingly crumble in a physical sense after being driven by their Argentine coach all season long.
This season, they've pressed fiercely, maintained possession and look every bit a Bielsa side, but have suffered from Iker Muniain's lack of form and Fernando Llorente's departure.
1. Borussia Dortmund
Borussia Dortmund's pressing is just frightening.
Imagine playing in midfield against Juergen Klopp's side and seeing Marco Reus, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Mario Goetze steaming toward you, giving you no time on the ball and forcing mistakes.
The speed at which this side recover the ball and the intensity at which they play has been widely lauded across the globe and rightly so—they are now one of the most entertaining sides to watch in world football.