Thinking outside the box

It was all doom and gloom for German football at the millennium. Fans were drowning in despair as the national team embarrassed themselves not only at the 1998 World Cup but also at the Euro 2000. Association executives eventually gave the green light to a set of reforms.

This urgently needed transformation gave new meaning and purpose to a footballer-turned-barkeeper who had to retire aged 24 due to substantial knee issues. Thomas Tuchel worked his way up as youth manager and academy director in Stuttgart, Augsburg and Mainz. His scientific approach to the game resulted in victories against teams with much bigger budgets and still inspires devotion in the current PSG coach.

Tuchel’s path into the highest echelons of European football is just one of the many astonishing stories that can be found in a new book. In “Die Zeit der Strategen. Wie Guardiola, Löw, Mourinho und Co. den Fußball neu denken”, Tobias Escher examines Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri’s concepts and the energising performances of Borussia Dortmund during the golden Jürgen Klopp era.

The tactics expert helps understanding the various strategies – from Pep Guardiola’s possession-based, proactive agenda to Jose Mourinho’s passion for counterattacks. Escher looks back on the turning points in the careers of Marcelo Bielsa, Julian Nagelsmann and the other nine coaches featured in this book.

Peter Bosz and Joachim Löw had low-key playing careers but they made a name for themselves as managers. Antonio Conte, however, went from playing alongside ingenious midfielders like Zinedine Zidane and Alessandro del Piero to turning an average Juventus squad into an invincible Serie A powerhouse which even smashed the Italian league’s 100-point season record.

“Die Zeit der Strategen” explains why possession is just a tool for Guardiola. The Manchester City manager – who loves hogging the ball to starve the opposition of opportunity – is the legitimate heir to Johan Cruyff. As Barcelona coach, the late Dutch legend invented a 18-zone theory while Guardiola works with a 20-zone concept, as the book reveals. Escher analyses how Guardiola’s teams have been finding the greatest possible depth to free an attacker.

With “Die Zeit der Strategen”, Escher has once more excelled in deciphering the most complex tactics. The numerous anecdotes about the different managers turn this book into an enthralling read.

Die Zeit der Strategen
By Tobias Escher
Published by rororo / Rowohlt (

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