Let us see the influence of this tactic over the years.
Since Ralf Rangnick’s arrival at Manchester United, the term ‘Gegenpressing’ is being talked about a lot. Gegenpressing means counter-pressing in the German language. This term refers to an intense type of football that involves high press from a team when out of possession. The idea is to close down your opponents quickly and retain possession by not giving them any breathing space.
Ralf Rangnick introduced this style of play in Germany and is regarded as the “godfather” of modern German football. Over the years he has been able to perfect his gegenpressing tactics. Rangnick’s tactics made a huge impact on teams such as Schalke, Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig as these sides completely transformed into a solid unit. Rangnick was inspired by this technique during his playing days when he faced a Dynamo Kyiv side that wouldn’t give him a second to react.
Rangnick has inspired many German coaches such as the likes of Jurgen Klopp, Thomas Tuchel, Julian Nagelsmann, Marco Rose and many others. As Klopp explained, ‘The best moment to win the ball is immediately after your team just lost it. The opponent is still looking for orientation where to pass the ball. He will have taken his eyes off the game to make his tackle or interception and he will have expended energy. Both make him vulnerable.’ Klopp’s Dortmund followed the same strategy as Dortmund won the Bundesliga title and made it to the Champions League final.
Klopp has transformed Liverpool into a world-class team, with his offensive style of play and a strong defensive backline. The attackers start the pressing and try to close down the opposition defence to prevent playing out from the back. Pep Guardiola’s Man City and Ernesto Valverde’s Barcelona were the major victims of this tactic as Klopp’s Liverpool made history during those Champions League nights. Klopp’s Liverpool has been very successful with the counter-pressing technique in recent years, winning the Champions League and the Premier League but he originally learned it from Rangnick.
Thomas Tuchel and Julian Nagelsmann are two of those coaches who were inspired by Rangnick. Tuchel’s tactics are different from Klopp’s but they have a similar approach in terms of intensity and aggressiveness for their game plan. Tuchel’s arrival transformed Chelsea into a European giant as they won the Champions League this year. Julian Nagelsmann Bayern is the favourite to win the Champions League this year after an unbeatable group stage campaign. Nagelsmann’s high press kept Barcelona at a bay as Barcelona failed to build any attack from the back. The intensity, hunger and aggressiveness for ball retention need to be there throughout the game otherwise a lapse of concentration might be a game-changing moment.
Despite such influence over German football, Rangnick hasn’t won a major title in his whole career besides the DFB Pokal and DFL Supercup. Tactics have flaws that are needed to be recognised quickly. Gegenpressing helps the team to retain possession in the opposition half but if the opposition can get past the high press, then the high-line defence gets exposed very quickly in the form of a rapid counter-attack.
Ralf Rangnick’s influence at Red Bull was immense both on and off the field as the clubs rose in market value from €120 million to €1.2 billion during his time as director of football. Manchester United have signed him on a six-month deal until the end of May and a consultancy role at the club for two years. Rangnick already has an expensive and world-class squad at his disposal but it remains to be seen whether he will be able to break the trophy drought.