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World 2018 43 2011 In Review: Best Masterminds 30503638 Josep Guardiola, FC Barcelona Josep+Guardiola%2C+FC+Barcelona World

Guardiola could wait for the world to catch up to Barcelona then adjust. That is how it's traditionally done, and there's a logic to it. Why proactively address something you're unsure will ever come?


It's one of the things that separates Guardiola. Rather than implicitly relying on convention to protect him should he stay the course, he changed. He's tackled his opponent's tendency to sit deep in numbers by moving from four to three in defense, more readily using Dani Alves in an advanced role, and pulling Lionel Messi back from a crowded line and into midfield, where his best player is less likely to be squeezed out of matches.


There've been some casualties along the way. David Villa's role has been diminished. Pedro Rodriguez is also in danger of losing time. Those are two full-fledged Spanish internationals, but to acquiesce to their resumes would be relying on convention; something Pep has shown himself unwilling to do.

- Getty Images
World 2018 43 2011 In Review: Best Masterminds 30502772 Oscar Washington Tabarez, Uruguay Oscar+Washington+Tabarez%2C+Uruguay World

If one manager stood out this year, it was Tabarez, who received attention for not only taking Uruguay through Copa America but playing a key part in the team's record-breaking 15th title.


If you were to watch Uruguay once, nothing special would stand out. Over the course of the last year and a half since the South Africa World Cup, Tabarez's influence is clear. There is a paranoid determination in defense that serves as the bedrock for everything La Celeste does, a constant sense of urgency that allows Tabarez to rely on pragmatism instead of style going forward.


Perhaps that's a luxury of having players like Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan, though one need only look to others in South America to see talent can deceive. As Uruguay transgressed the likes of Brazil and Argentina, we saw Tabarez's influence - the man who's made a country of three million into the best side in CONMEBOL.

- Getty Images
World 2018 43 2011 In Review: Best Masterminds 30502770 Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United Sir+Alex+Ferguson%2C+Manchester+United World

Manchester United hit January undefeated in league but still looking for answers. A series of draws against weaker opposition, more than one conceding late equalizers, made United the most precarious unbeaten side in memory. It was only just that the Red Devil's run was broken by Wolverhampton.


It was around the same time that Manchester United started finding answers. Ferguson benched Dimitar Berbatov despite the Bulgarian leading he league in goals. Former left wing Ryan Giggs and the much-maligned Michael Carrick became the midfield tandem. Park Ji-sung was given a more prominent role than he's ever been afforded, and in a day and age where 4-4-2 is decried as a relic of `90s England, Ferguson made the old reliable work.


In the Champions League final, his unwillingness to change from the system undoubtedly hurt him, but given what United had shown coming into 2011, it's remarkable the Red Devils made it to Wembley. The difference wasn't new signings or players noticeably playing better. It was about Ferguson doing what he always does: Getting United to turn a corner as the calendar turns.

- Getty Images
World 2018 43 2011 In Review: Best Masterminds 30502777 Jose Mourinho, Real Madrid Jose+Mourinho%2C+Real+Madrid World

His first Clasico was a disaster, his Merengues routed at the Nou Camp. By the time the teams met (and met and met and met) in the spring, Real Madrid had closed the game thanks to Mourinho's tweaks. Madrid would sit deep and respect Barcelona, but in their down half, three central midfielders would pressure through the middle, with Pepe being moved out of central defense stymying Barcelona on the way to claiming the Copa del Rey.


While Pepe was on the field, Real Madrid outscored Barcelona, 2-1. The major flaw in Mourinho's plan: Pepe couldn't stay on the pitch.

- AP Images
World 2018 43 2011 In Review: Best Masterminds 30502776 Jurgen Klopp, Borussia Dortmund Jurgen+Klopp%2C+Borussia+Dortmund World

Bayern was set to give the league back, having won the Bundesliga in 2009-10, but Borussia Dortmund did more than just fall into a title. BVB blistered out of the gate in the fall of 2010, building a lead that couldn't even be threatened after Dortmund lost Shinji Kagawa mid-year.


The Japanese attacker was one of Klopp's masterstrokes, as it would have been easy for the coach to take it slow with a player who was transitioning from Japan's second division. Instead, Klopp showed the same faith in Kagawa that he did the rest of his young team as was rewarded with a performance that spurred the team into 2011.


Dortmund would go on to win the Bundesliga by seven points, allowing only 22 goals in 36 games despite starting two 22-year-old central defenders, and although BVB's stumbled in Champions League, they've proven themselves capable of taking a second straight title. On November 19, Dortmund used a 65th minute goal from Mario Goetze to win at the Allianz and are only three points behind Bayern Munich at the league's mid-way mark.

- AP Images
World 2018 43 2011 In Review: Best Masterminds 30502773 Jose Manuel de la Torre, Mexico Jose+Manuel+de+la+Torre%2C+Mexico World

Belief is a nebulous thing, and even if it exists, it's impossible to track who's instilling it. Sometimes, though, there are few other explanations.


True, Mexico had the more talented team in this summer's Gold Cup final, but after El Tri fell behind 2-0 early to the United States, we were reminded that the more talented team doesn't always win. Steering a squad relying on a young, inexperienced attack, 'Chepo' de la Torre was en route to a learning experience.


Looking back, it seems impossible that Mexico could have lost that game. The team roared back and won 4-2, with Giovani dos Santos' memorable, audacious chip over the US defense exemplifying the confidence the team maintained despite their early stumble. Is that belief? The belief that you will come back and not only win but win comfortably? It's something Mexico was missing before Chepo.

- Getty Images
World 2018 43 2011 In Review: Best Masterminds 30502771 Massimiliano Allegri, AC Milan Massimiliano+Allegri%2C+AC+Milan World

When Leonardo guided Milan to third place in the 2009-10 season, the campaign was considered a success, with the Rossoneri icon instilling a new, positive approach to a side historically known for prevention. Competing at the top of the table for much of the year, Milan was a factor again under Leonardo, not merely a team that used Champions League preference as an excuse.

Replacing Leonardo, Allegri upped the ante and had to reshape his team to do so. He built his team around a new arrowhead, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, discarded Ronaldinho in the process. Incorporating the likes of Kevin-Prince Boateng, Antonio Cassano, and Mark van Bommel, Allegri took the disparate parts others had cast off and made them into a team that broke Internazionale's reign at the top of Serie A.

This year the revolution's continued. Andrea Pirlo was allowed to leave. Pato, Robinho, and Cassano have not had the same effect, yet Milan is arguably more impressive. The team's on pace to score a whopping 83 goals: the most in Italy since 2006.

- Getty Images
World 2018 43 2011 In Review: Best Masterminds 30502774 Bruce Arena, Los Angeles Galaxy Bruce+Arena%2C+Los+Angeles+Galaxy World

Stack them up player-for-player against New York, Seattle, and Salt Lake and it's hard to see Los Angeles as more talented than the rest of Major League Soccer. On the contrary, Arena has had to rely on a number of recycled players in vital roles. When LA Galaxy claimed the MLS Cup in November, the likes of Todd Dunivant, Mike Magee, Adam Cristman and Chris Birchall played major roles. Would any of those players see time for Real Salt Lake?

That Arena has fooled many into thinking LA’s ‘supremely talented’ is a testament to his management. In addition to making journeymen into commodities, he's created an environment where each of his stars can perform to their capabilities; be they their biggest names (Donovan, Beckham, Keane) or their young contributors (Gonzalez, Franklin, DeLaGarza, Juninho).

No weak links, and by the end of the season, nobody underperforming at the end of a season that had begged everybody to place Los Angeles among the best of all time.

- Getty Images
World 2018 43 2011 In Review: Best Masterminds 30502775 Rudi Garcia, Lille Rudi+Garcia%2C+Lille World

Lille hadn't won the league since 1954 and hadn't claimed a Cup since 1955. Rudi Garcia stopped both streaks the same year, and as a result, had his team raided this summer. Adil Rami completed his move to Valencia. Gervinho jumped to Arsenal. And Yohan Cabaye went to Newcastle. At all three levels of his 4-3-3, Garcia had work to do, and as crucial to Lille's style, they'd lost two of the their most creative players.

Add the increased demands of a Champions League campaign, nobody would have faulted Lille if they regressed. Instead, Lille find themselves only four points behind big spending Paris Saint-Germain, and after stumbling to start the season, LOSC looks as strong as any side in France.

They still have Moussa Sow, and they still have Eden Hazard, but central to it all, Lille has a man who can ensure no matter who comes and goes, the team will have a consistent, successful style.

- AP Images
World 2018 43 2011 In Review: Best Masterminds 30504596 Alberto Zaccheroni, Japan Alberto+Zaccheroni%2C+Japan World

When Zaccheroni was hired by Japan after the 2010 World Cup, it was assumed the former Milan, Inter, and Juve man would instill the 3-4-3 that had become his favored set up in Serie A. Japanese officials trumpeted their willingness to embrace it when hiring the (then) 57-year-old, though they would scarcely need to.

Zaccheroni took a team that had played striker-less while impressing in South Africa and instilled a 4-2-3-1, pulling Keisuke Honda into a playmaking role, relying in him at the same level as Dortmund star Shinji Kagawa. In doing so, Zaccheroni attacked assumptions that Japan needed to play differentenly from the rest of the world, playing to strengths that had been fostered in relative football isolation.

January in Qatar, Zaccheroni showed those assumptions misplaced, though it was a shift back to 3-4-3 in the middle of the Asian Cup final against Australia that arguably won Japan the title.

- Getty Images
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