The 2013-14 Season Will Be All About Tactical Experimentation and Adaption
Anticipation is building for the 2013-14 season, and it promises to be another cracker.
For the general football fan, there's the optimism ahead of the big kickoff; for the English Premier League enthusiast, there's the fervour of Jose Mourinho's return, Manuel Pellegrini's Manchester City and David Moyes' Manchester United.
The Bundesliga is better than ever, there's new kids on the block in La Liga and the presence of big-spending Monaco in Ligue 1 is sure to cause much intrigue.
All this points to one undeniable prospect of immense experimentation and adaption, and what we see over the course of the next campaign could shape tactical ideologies for years to come.
Seismic change is afoot, and it leaves one hell of a footprint. How will Neymar fit at Barcelona, Pellegrini shape the Citizens and Mourinho affect a dormant Chelsea?
Let's take a look at some of the fun in store.
Bundesliga: Guardiola Fever, Klopp Mania
As soon as the BBC confirmed Pep Guardiola was to become the manager of Bayern Munich back in January, millions of extra eyes descended upon the Bundesliga.
What they found was an enticing, exciting league they'd been missing out on for years, and Guardiola's appointment has finally brought it to the fore.
If preseason is anything to go by, Guardiola has a roller-coaster ride planned for us: He's trialling a new-look 4-1-4-1 (4-3-3) formation and varying player roles so often, it's becoming unguessable, trying to find the right formula to take a treble-winning side forward.
The addition of Thiago Alcantara is very interesting, and his deployment as a holding midfielder between the traditional lines of four even more so: The Spaniard is not defensively equipped, and Pep's thinking behind this move is tough to ascertain.
Philipp Lahm has played central midfield, Toni Kroos has played as an anchor and Arjen Robben's had a run out as a centre-forward. Factor in the fact that €37 million-signing Mario Gotze is yet to make an appearance, and it gives you an idea of how intriguing this Bayern side will be.
Determined not to be outdone is Jurgen Klopp, who's reworked his Borussia Dortmund side to cope with the loss of the aforementioned Gotze.
For once they've spent big, securing Henrikh Mkhitaryan from under Liverpool's noses alongside Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of St. Etienne.
Ilkay Gundogan deputised in the No. 10 role during the DFL Super Cup once again, but will he slot back in once Mkhitaryan has acclimated to the system?
And what of Nuri Sahin, who finally looks at home once again in the deep-lying playmaker role of the 4-2-3-1?
Klopp's got some work to do, but that's his forte: As long as he doesn't spring a 3-5-2 on them without training it during the week, they look set to be a dynamic, varied force.
The same can be said for Sami Hyypia's Bayer Leverkusen who must adapt to life without Andre Schurrle, Borussia Moenchengladbach's new look and more.
La Liga: Bale, Neymar, Martino and More
Looking west, La Liga just got a lot spicier.
Barcelona have made an excellent appointment in Gerardo Martino, who will look to reinstall the pressing and vigour to els Blaugrana's play. While keeping with the Barca mantra, style and possession-based template, he's also got to incorporate the rather individualistic forward Neymar, who just cost the club in the region of €57 million.
Neymar and Lionel Messi together? It'll be some sight, but it will also take a lot of work. With the departure of Thiago, Cesc Fabregas comes into a more established starting role.
In the capital, mass change seems likely.
Atletico Madrid will now adapt to playing without Radamel Falcao, looking to an assortment of players—including Leo Baptistao and David Villa—for goals.
Real Madrid, under the tutelage of Carlo Ancelotti, will switch formations until they find one that sticks and cameo all sorts of different players in different positions.
The potential arrival of Gareth Bale makes that concept all the more intriguing, and fans will be desperate to find out how he, Mesut Ozil, Cristiano Ronaldo, Isco, Angel Di Maria and more fit in the same side.
Asier Illarramendi's arrival creates a headache at defensive midfield not just for the Blancos, but also for his old club, Real Sociedad.
Does Ruben Pardo step up and assume his role in the spotlight, do they recruit a replacement or switch formations entirely?
Premier League: Pellegrini, Mourinho, Moyes
Manchester City will undergo surgical change under a new focused, more modern regime.
Txiki Begiristain and Manuel Pellegrini have shaped the club's future formation at all age levels and recruited players to fit their system, and the Chilean tactician has flexed his options in preseason.
Moving fluidly between shapes, all the new signings have been given every chance to acclimate. There's enough depth and variety to pull off any tactical system and react to anything they're faced with, so City fans can expect consistent levels of variety as Pellegrini uses his entire roster.
David Moyes' first preseason in charge of Manchester United has been a bit of a battle—both transfer-wise and results-wise—and we're still no closer to understanding how his side will line up against Swansea City.
Does Wilfried Zaha play an integral part; do any of the youngsters shining on tour—such as Jesse Lingard—earn a place in the first team, and what basic shape will they use?
With Jose Mourinho's Chelsea, that's decidedly easier to predict, but there are still serious questions circling the status of many of his players. He loves Michael Essien and Frank Lampard is back, but Marco van Ginkel has also been "promised" significant game time.
Change, Copy, Adapt
Copious managerial and player changes are creating an enormous quantity of unknowns ahead of the new season, while the 2012-13 campaign was one of the most tactically progressive.
Combined, it's only made the wait for the big kickoff even more excruciating, and millions of fans yearn to view their team's starting XI on the opening day.
Bayern's shake-up gives Dortmund and Leverkusen a shot if they get off to a good start, while la Real's presence in the UEFA Champions League makes for some refreshing viewing in Spain.
The English Premier League will be drastically different, and all five of Europe's top leagues will be taking tactical notes from the exciting latter stages of last season's Champions League rounds.
With a preseason done, we could well see the rise of the suffoco method continue exponentially, while the 4-2-3-1 formation will likely remain king for at least 12 more months.
The 2013-14 season will be all about change and adaption from a tactical perspective, as hundreds of key transfers throughout the summer window have lead many top teams to go back to the drawing board.
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