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Thread: The Coaches Corner III: Teams Without Destinations

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    Dr. Raed St. Claire
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    The Coaches Corner III: Teams Without Destinations

    Hello and welcome to the third edition of the Coach's Corner. May all the idiots stay away from this topic and I welcome all the intelligent people to participate in this topic.

    This is triggered by a topic several of us here have touched on before but without in-depth analysis and full investigation. Amid the serious turn of events this week and with the season is almost over but right before the trophies are lifted I want to discuss with you the difference between teams who have a defined system, where the ball is circulated in a manner to reach a certain destination (player x) vs teams that have an undefined scope, open to the creativity of the players.

    Consider, but do not limit yourself to, these if you may: AC Milan, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Arsenal, Inter Milan, Chelsea, Bayern, Dortmund, Lyon, and Marsielle.

    Consider fomrations: Roma's/Man U's 4-6-0, Madrid's 4 2 3 1/4 3 2 1, Udinese's 3 5 2, Barca's 4 3 3, AC Milan's 4 3 2 1/4 1 2 1 2, Juve's 4 4 1 1, some English's team 4 4 2.
    May permanent peace be brought to the Arab world. My heart goes out to the families of those who have lost loved one(s). I wish and hope those who are creating religious, racial, regional, and tribal divisions among/within the Arab nations would be defeated in their quest for the destruction of the Middle East.

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    Legion of Doooom
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    Is Sadberry that boring?

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    Napoli's and Udinese's 3-5-2 remind me of the late 90's when almost all Italian clubs used this formation (or variations of it). This formation allows the team to transform to 5-3-2 or 5-4-1 when defending, and 3-4-3 or 3-4-1-2 when the team goes forward. We can say it's very old Italian school.

    The classic 4-3-3 with two wingers is characteristic for French schools, Arsene Wenger being a follower. Guy Roux had the same philosophy as well as most of the academia in France. It also allows some transformation: 4-1-2-3 when attacking and 4-5-1 when defending. PSG and most French teams use it. Lyon doesn't though.

    And yes, 4-4-2 was typical for English clubs in the 80's and 90's, but today you rarely can see it, because of the globalisation of the league. SAF has developed a bit different 4-4-2, with their attacking 4 (usually Nani, Young, Rooney and Wellbeck) swapping their places all the time.

    Barca's style is a modern (more technical) variation of the Ajax total football, with Cruyff's influence and Guardiola's read of the game. The formation basically revolve between 3-4-3 and 4-3-3 but it's hard to put in some form. Mourinho's style is also a combination of different styles, but you probably know this better than me

    Im impressed of Borussia M'glabdach's manager too

    Do I look like a nerd now? Certainly YES. Damn you Raed


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    Buccaneer
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    What about Villarreal's magical rectangle 4-2-2-2?
    -Cave Johnson. we're done here.

    Remember that one time that Christopher Nolan decided to make movies? That was the best day ever.

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    Dr. Raed St. Claire
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    Quote Originally Posted by Guardian View Post
    Napoli's and Udinese's 3-5-2 remind me of the late 90's when almost all Italian clubs used this formation (or variations of it). This formation allows the team to transform to 5-3-2 or 5-4-1 when defending, and 3-4-3 or 3-4-1-2 when the team goes forward. We can say it's very old Italian school.

    The classic 4-3-3 with two wingers is characteristic for French schools, Arsene Wenger being a follower. Guy Roux had the same philosophy as well as most of the academia in France. It also allows some transformation: 4-1-2-3 when attacking and 4-5-1 when defending. PSG and most French teams use it. Lyon doesn't though.

    And yes, 4-4-2 was typical for English clubs in the 80's and 90's, but today you rarely can see it, because of the globalisation of the league. SAF has developed a bit different 4-4-2, with their attacking 4 (usually Nani, Young, Rooney and Wellbeck) swapping their places all the time.

    Barca's style is a modern (more technical) variation of the Ajax total football, with Cruyff's influence and Guardiola's read of the game. The formation basically revolve between 3-4-3 and 4-3-3 but it's hard to put in some form. Mourinho's style is also a combination of different styles, but you probably know this better than me

    Im impressed of Borussia M'glabdach's manager too

    Do I look like a nerd now? Certainly YES. Damn you Raed

    No I love you for a little history lesson. It is nice for it to precede my long ass post right now that I am preparing. And La Furia, yes it is boring here and the fact that the arguments on this forum has turned so silly has made my life even worse. NOW SHARE YOUR OPINIONS ON TACTICS!!
    May permanent peace be brought to the Arab world. My heart goes out to the families of those who have lost loved one(s). I wish and hope those who are creating religious, racial, regional, and tribal divisions among/within the Arab nations would be defeated in their quest for the destruction of the Middle East.

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    Notorious Demagogue
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    It all depends on the quality of the players. I wouldn't try playing a random EPL team with a Barça-like lineup, with the flow of the game basically decided by the players on the pitch. They'd get crushed and it'd be a mess.

    Or like Cruijff said, "4-4-2 is a good formation for a limited team"

    Barça is playing a sort of variation of the dream team formation at times. Back then Cruijff played 3-4-3 at times with Sergi bursting up the left wing with his position being taken over by a midfielder, more or less like Dani Alves does for the current team, but less offensive. The point back then was to create space and to have a man more situation when recovering the ball. Though the current Barça team is much better of course. Basically every starting 11 player right now is better than the players in the dream team.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Raed View Post
    No I love you for a little history lesson. It is nice for it to precede my long ass post right now that I am preparing. And La Furia, yes it is boring here and the fact that the arguments on this forum has turned so silly has made my life even worse. NOW SHARE YOUR OPINIONS ON TACTICS!!
    Actually I do want to seriously contribute to this as I'm bored too but right now my neck is fucked up and I'm in too much pain to be serious, so I'll stick with the snarks for now.

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    Dr. Raed St. Claire
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    REAL MADRID’S TRADITIONAL SYSTEM

    Introducing 4-5-1:

    A long living tradition of Real Madrid is to play their famous 4-5-1 (most commonly used in 4-2-3-1 form) and its variations, which include an unconventional 4-3-3. Under the presidency of Florentino Perez, Real Madrid have frequently changed managers, introducing formations and tactics that were not familiar at the Bernabeu such as the dreaded 4-2-2-2, known as the magic rectangle.

    Without indulging too much into the past with the arrival of Jose Mourinho, a quick study of the club’s resources and assets, Mourinho has maintained the original tradition of playing the familiar 4-2-3-1 and it is sub variations of 4-3-2-1 and 4-3-3.

    Understanding the 4-5-1:

    The formation has seen relative success in the CL, as well as in the league with for Madrid have reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League, an achievement considering the previous 6 years, and has ploughed through many teams in the league, winning the Copa del Rey.

    Mourinho’s task was to bring back order and stability to the team, define a strategy, locate the strengths of the squad and build the team with respect to its best assets. Under the guidance of Manuel Pellegrini the team was perhaps out of phase, two styles were clashing within one system.

    The beauty of the 4-5-1 is that it minimizes a player’s duties, balances the sides of the pitch vertically and horizontally. It also fixates each player in his own position covering a dedicated area to operate from within.
    Playing the 4-5-1 in the form of a 4-2-3-1 cuts down the empty area, no position is cluttered, and the ball is always within a safe passing distance. However every player is partnered up to ensure no loss of possession.

    The idea of the 4-5-1 is to have two functioning teams in one, one part defends and repels waves of attacks and the other is to attack ferociously. Defending through compact lines, closed channels and physical harassment. The attacking is through shear speed and moving the ball quickly between lines, or through the flanks.

    The Structure of the 4-5-1

    Because this system is vertically structured, players can be introduced in at any time and perform without much confusion. The vertical structure of the formation diminishes the integration time, speeds up the ball movement, easily contracted and expanded (as illustrated in Inter’s match against Barcelona in the CL of 2009-20120), and compliments the player’s natural instinct to advance the ball towards the opponents net in attempt to score.

    The strength of this system is that it allows limited players to focus on their own strengths, while containing their weaknesses. Therefore, naturally if lesser talented teams adopt this formation, they form a strict defensive wall, manage order, and allow lesser talented players to function at a very high level without exposing their weaknesses.

    Contract, expand, attempt at goal and contract again. This is the cycle that this formation is dependent on. Mourinho’s teams are notorious for their ability to work like a powerful machine, defensively solid and offensively sound.

    Ozil’s Spanish was very limited, an obstacle coupled with his lack of fitness, has seen him as a misfit in his early days in Madrid but over the summer his fitness has improved yet there is doubt over his Spanish. However, due to the system’s refined roles, Ozil has exploded on the scene as the top assist man in the league this year. A characteristic of the system is to establish a destination or objective for each player, and for Ozil, as well as Benzema that is Ronaldo, a mobile animal and a lethal finisher.

    Rigidity and Predictability:

    The problem with this formation is its inability to flex, blend, or adapt to many situations. Because the ball is moved in specific routes, specific direction, the players are confined within a certain area, it 1. limits the more talented players 2. susceptible to explosive failure. When your prized assets are beyond your average players, and your most explosive asset is not centralized, the formation loses its structure and with it, stresses its elements.

    Naturally the destination is centralized, horizontally and vertically, meaning that the flanks operate in balance and commence their duties in sync, the ball distribution is from the center, be it from the deeper line or the advanced line of midfield.
    Under pressure, the deformation is not elastic; meaning so long as the pressure load on the formation is within the team’s defensive capacity, there is absolutely no room for the opposition to go anywhere. When the opposition maintains their pressure and strain the formation beyond its capacity, an explosive destruction of the lines is exhibited, resulting in confusion, ample amount of space to concede. Should a player abandon his position for whatever reason, a massive gap in the team’s structure acts a vacuum, and result in a confusing chain reaction of player’s losing position. Not because the players are lacking awareness but because the approach does not encompass complex player rotations.

    Real Madrid’s system is predictable in that Ronaldo is the ultimate destination. No other player is looked out for more than Ronaldo. Marcelo, Ozil, Benzema, Xabi and to a lesser extent Di Maria, all laser beam to Ronaldo. His super human ability to run into space, find space, and get to impossible positions have worked remarkably well, because he is a ruthless goal scorer, rare combination of technical ability, physical fitness, lethal finishing and mobility. However, Ronaldo, the destination, operates from the left wing, and not a centralized position. Ronaldo has abandoned any chance of becoming a technical playmaker/winger in favor of goal poaching, which in return has, imbalanced the system, exposing Madrid’s weaker side defensively. The team has become a super attacking threat from the left, a super defensive force from the right. When the formation’s ideal behavior is to have balance over its vertical axis and to split the duties over its horizontal axis.

    Under extreme pressure, or frustration players who are commanded to exert a lot of energy, Xabi, Pepe, and Khedira have resorted to questionable behavior in critical situations, fueling more rage among other players like Ramos, Arbeloa and Marcelo (or Coentrao).
    This investigation into the system is not to negate Ronaldo’s accomplishments, or question his importance, but simply a study to alternative theories in which the system could be better worked, mainly to support to the defense and prevent reactions of frustration. It is also to look into other options to centralize the system more. One option in the presence of Ronaldo is to remove the defensive midfield and add another central midfielder. This will allow slow down the team, an option Mourinho was not comfortable with and cheekily complained that system bored the fans. However, considering that the 2 midfielders in system play side by side, not vertically means that their duties are not in balance, their frame or sight is not equal.

    Abandoning the long ball technique, or the long range passing might test the patience of the players, but allows them to build confidence on the ball, trust to pass the ball to a team mate, hold onto possession in order to minimize pressing, and eventually allow out of position players to rush back into place.

    1200 words in, I can continue but I am sure this will appear a wall of text and none will read it so I will continue later.
    May permanent peace be brought to the Arab world. My heart goes out to the families of those who have lost loved one(s). I wish and hope those who are creating religious, racial, regional, and tribal divisions among/within the Arab nations would be defeated in their quest for the destruction of the Middle East.

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    In Defense of Direct Football
    And How an Italian Novelist Can Help

    In football, the aim is pure: shift the ball from one side of the field to the other, with a view to putting the ball into the net. Over the years many systems have been devised as the best way to do that. But broadly speaking, for me, there are two schools of thought: the pragmatist view (under which I would file the Italian catenaccio system, and typical "English" football), and those who do not treat the playing of football as a means to scoring a goal, but as the goal itself. Here I would include most Latin countries (in particular the current Barcelona and Spain side, the samba futebol of Brazil, and some English sides - mainly Arsenal, but also, to an extent, 1980s Liverpool).

    Often the battle between the two schools has been one of opposites: football/anti-football; attractive/boring; tidy/physical; indirect/direct. It is the last dualism here that I'm particularly interested in, the notion that "direct" football is unattractive, and the wrong way to play the game.

    The English Envy

    I attribute the English media's obsessions with the current Barcelona side; the current Arsenal side, with a footballing envy: English football has never been attractive, right from the days of when we stuck with a physical 2-3-5 whilst the rest of the world began to change; through to the likes of Graham Taylor, Sam Allardyce, Roy Hodgson, and Steve Bruce. What hurt the most, presumably, was that all the while Scotland were doing it much, much better. From the days of Queen's Park in the 1870s, who developed a passing game which worked wonders against the English system (a system based on physicality and dribbling); right through to the wave of great Scottish managers in the 1900s: Bill Shankly, Matt Busby, Jock Stein, Mr. Alex Ferguson; even newer managers such as Owen Coyle are proving themselves to be more tactically adept than their English counter-parts.

    This envy manifests itself in either a begrudging admiration for so-called "pretty" football, or a passionate defense of how the Premier League is the "best in the world". Neither of which, I believe, is the right attitude to have. Instead the English must reshape their concept of direct football: rather than it being a "hoof it up to the big man, see what he can make of it"-direct, direct football should become minimal, sleek; full of lightness: the true end is scoring the goal, and that should come about at any cost - but nowadays, football is not so physical, not so brutish. There is no longer a need for a big man: the big man must adapt his game, become useful with the ball at his feet, and create chances for himself. Importantly, one must reshape one's notion of beauty.

    Exactitude

    For the ancient Egyptians, exactitude was shown as a feather that served as a weight, on the scales for weighing the souls of the dead. For Italo Calvino, in his 1988 book, a collection of writings on what he believes the pillars of modern literature should rest on, exactitude is defined as three things:

    (i) a well defined and well calculated plan for the work in question
    (ii) an evocation of clear, incisive, memorable visual images; and
    (iii) a language as precise as possible both in choice of words and in expression of the subtleties of thought and imagination

    Where does this tie in with football? Well, the great Bill Shankly once said that “football is a simple game based on the giving and taking of passes, of controlling the ball and of making yourself available to receive a pass. It is terribly simple". It's not hard to see where the two philosophies overlap: in the pass-and-move Liverpool side of the late 80s we saw both "clear, incisive, memorable visual images" (that is to say, the passing of the ball, the movement) and a "well defined and well calculated plan for the work in question".

    When Rafa came to Liverpool, we saw glimpses of Calvino's exactitude. Beauty for me was redefined: football became again about scoring goals in the most direct way possible. With Alonso acting as a quarter-back, spraying passes out to the Kuyt and Riera, we became a machine; a sublime force that dominated teams all over Europe. But our football wasn't the most traditionally attractive, there wasn't any neat tricks, and none of the players were particularly skillful (certainly with players like Mascherano, Lucas, Kuyt and Arbeloa, we had a great work-rate - something crucial). But when we got going it was a sight to behold, for me even more so than Barcelona doing their neat triangular passes and dominating possession. We stretched the opposition, pulled them about like waves crashing into a ship, before finally playing the incisive pass; the killer blow. There was simply no need for what my mother would describe as "dilly-dallying" on the ball.

    Less is more. And this is true of football. I dream of a team where the ball is passed around the back-four, slowly advancing to the midfield, until the opposition is dragged so out of position that only 3 passes need to be made until the ball is in the back of the net, simply because of the brilliant off-the-ball work by all players. Whilst this sounds alarmingly like Graham Taylor or Charles Hughes, I can assure you it is not. The long pass may be used occasionally, but a team must look to have the ball on the ground as much as possible. Crucially, all players must have great control and passing technique. As Bill Shankly says:

    "Above all, the main aim is that everyone can control a ball and do the basic things in football. It's control and pass, control and pass, all the time. At the back you're looking for someone who can control the ball instantly and give a forward pass. It gives them more space and time to breathe. If you delay, the opposition have all run back behind the ball. It's a very simplified affair, of course, very economical."

    Adaptability and fluidity is also key. Whilst I don't think a totaalvoetbal method is entirely the way to go - and there are flaws there - the ability for a defender to come into attack, and a forward to drop back into defence is crucial, not only to keep the opposition guessing, but also to create the impression of an advancing unit, and to manipulate the shape of the pitch.

    Final Thoughts

    A philosophy of exactitude creates a team; a unit - they all carry out largely the same duties (in both attacking and defending). It allows for a system, of which new players can come in at ease. It creates a beautiful contradiction: one must be direct, but also patient (for the final ball). And it also allows for maximum fitness levels. When off the ball squeeze the space; press. When on the ball, slow the game down, and then speed it up again. The back four in a system of exactitude should be great passers of the ball. In essence, the roles are completely reversed. The midfield and attack do all the pressing, hounding to get the ball back. The ball is then placed back to the back four, who can pass the ball around whilst the midfield either regain energy or create space. Then it's all about timing. Quick passing and moving up the pitch, and a goal is scored.

    Direct play has gotten a lot of (correct) bad press in the past. But I argue that that was not direct football. The aforementioned, in my view, is direct football, and it's not a bad thing at all.
    Last edited by AnfieldEd; 24th March 2012 at 12:25 PM.
    "Its not about the long ball or the short ball, its about the right ball."
    Bob Paisley.

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    Dr. Raed St. Claire
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    So you are in favor of an organized strcutured system for Liverpool?
    May permanent peace be brought to the Arab world. My heart goes out to the families of those who have lost loved one(s). I wish and hope those who are creating religious, racial, regional, and tribal divisions among/within the Arab nations would be defeated in their quest for the destruction of the Middle East.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Raed View Post
    So you are in favor of an organized strcutured system for Liverpool?
    Any structured system at the moment will do

    I certainly don't believe that if you don't play the "barca way" you automatically play anti-football.

    Football is like art and its beauty takes shape in many different forms thus the different types of tactical and organisational structures have their good points and bad points.
    Last edited by AnfieldEd; 25th March 2012 at 12:40 PM.
    "Its not about the long ball or the short ball, its about the right ball."
    Bob Paisley.

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    Notorious Demagogue
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    What do you think about Inter's 5-2-2-1 then Ed? Like they played in the 60s.

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    Adolfo Valencia
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    Interesting topic and some good reads so far. Although i dont like the huge focus on the formations here, but also in other tactical discussions. For me its just one part of the puzzle that defines a teams tactics. And its even the one that matters the least in this special discussion that is already dubbed 'Konzeptfussball' (concept football) vs "Heroenfussball" (heroes football) in germany, b/c the formation is what usually doesnt distinguish both approaches, as both use one and even often the same (as the 4231 is very common these days).

    Tactics is far more than choosing a formation. You also decide how to do the build-up, like passing low/short vs. passing long/high, playing over the flanks or through the center, using a high or a low defensive line, pressing aggressively or only starting it right outside your box. Choosing to attack with 6-7 players, or only using 'the front 4'. Using midfielder as playmakers or letting defensive players do that job. Or even more generally being rather strict about your tactics, i.e. giving every player a rather restricted set of tasks or let the players be very flexible, switching these jobs fluently (the total football approach) etc. etc. And then there is still the opponent that requires adaptions to your tactics.

    Whatever and back to the topic: its in heavy discussion in germany as i already mentioned. Teams that decide for a specific system and build their teams towards this 'concept' for a while now (usually 2+ years under the same coach) are having nice success lately. Now its not 100% true for Gladbach, where Favre just made perfect use of the players that were already there, but see Mainz, Freiburg, Hannover and ofc Dortmund there. The latter is the best example for a club, coming from almost nowhere (they were close to being smashed due to almost bankruptcy in 2005 btw) with a coach having a plan and putting it into practic by getting the right players and esp. training young players into what he needs for his system. That also meant discarding players being not compatible to his system like the classic box-strikers and Dortmund heroes Petric and Frei (who is doing good in Basel nowadays). And Dortmund now get the full reward for it, perfectly showing that football is still about synergies and that a harmonic set of 11 players beat a non-synergetic set of 11 individually better players - like they won the last 3 matches vs Bayern!

    Bayern on the other hand is (still!) the complete opposite. The major reason perhaps is the management playing the decisive role in the club and also affecting operational work much unlike in Dortmund, where the management gets a coach and lets him do what he wants and buy what he needs. The Bayern management dont want to lose grip on the squad for example, i.e. they are the ones buying the players or extending their contracts. Pair that with a high volatility about their choice of coaches - old-school player friendly, defensive playing coach Hitzfeld being replaced by motivational coach Klinsmann being replaced by systems-orientated, discipline fanatical coach van Gaal being replaced again by an old-school defensive coach Heynckes - and you get anything but sustainability. And the coaches have to get around with those players the management quite randomly gathered together ... You think its synergetic to have Ribery + Robben with Gomez in the same squad? Two wingers extraordinarily good at rushing foward with the ball at their feet and moving into the box from the flank? Paired with a striker who is best at being sent forward into open space with a long ball from the center (for those who dont know: Gomez is NOT a box striker, he just scores so often b/c he is still a strong finisher and just gets a lot of chances)? Probably not. Its also hard to play possession based offensive football w/out having a single CENTRAL offensive player that is good on the ball (i.e. 1st touch and dribbling) like Dortmund have in Götze and Kagawa or RM in Özil or Barca in ... well several players. But they still want to play like that ...

    The continuing success of Dortmund over Bayern, going strong for their 2nd title in a row is good evidence for the superiority of 'concept football' over 'heroes football'. Bayern still have the overall better players, but they have an inharmonic set of players, having players that dont fit together when you want to make best use of their individuals strengths, while on the other hand missing out in key positions. I also see that being decided on a higher level, i.e. on a strategical level other than tatical (thats why i did not mention any formations in the comparison). To me its actually decided by the role that the management takes over and its decisions regarding choice of coaches and players. Bayern is not the only good example ... see Chelsea and City there too, while RM seem to get more sustainabilty lately under Mou, esp. after he got rid of Valdano.

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    Very informative post, but Bayern started a concept with van gaal and they are still carrying the his imprint somewhat, which will probably be gone next season when heynckes is fired.
    I think Van Gaal is a genius, a shame that he apparently is not able to get along with people for an extended period of time, but still i think Bayern should have given him absolute power, its amazing how much he changed in a short period of time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jayzsa View Post
    Very informative post, but Bayern started a concept with van gaal and they are still carrying the his imprint somewhat, which will probably be gone next season when heynckes is fired.
    I think Van Gaal is a genius, a shame that he apparently is not able to get along with people for an extended period of time, but still i think Bayern should have given him absolute power, its amazing how much he changed in a short period of time.
    Well, Van Gaal is a 1 season coach. He transformed Bayern into an amazing team in 1 season, but made them explode the season after <_<


    "We have to play with humility and respect to our opponents because if not we will be given a scare."

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    “The results come from humility and work..."
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