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What is Hansi Flick’s football ideology? An in-depth analysis

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Photo courtesy: X/FC Barcelona

It is a summer of change at FC Barcelona as they announced the appointment of Hansi Flick as their new manager earlier this week.

The German tactician takes over from club legend Xavi Hernandez, who was relieved of his duties by Barcelona president Joan Laporta following a disappointing campaign which ended without any trophy.

With Flick taking over the reins, there is expected to be a sea of changes at Barça, starting from the way the team plays, to the training methods, and a lot of other aspects.

Here’s a detailed look at what Hansi Flick, a sextuple winner with Bayern Munich, would be bringing to the table at Barcelona.

Preferred system and tactics

Hansi Flick’s preferred system is the 4-2-3-1 formation. It is the structure he used both at Bayern Munich and the German national team. As such, It cannot be ruled out that, at Barça, he could opt for this formula.

However, during his time with Die Mannschaft, Flick also used a formation with three centre-backs or 4-3-3 as an alternative.

But it is the 4-2-3-1 system that defines him as a coach and which he trusts the most. His teams have been characterised by being very proactive in terms of intensity, pressing and playing more vertically than horizontally.

A model setup of Flick’s teams.

Hansi Flick likes his teams to press very high and in pairs in order to condition the opponent right from the start.

The pressure signals are very clear and there is little hesitation in the manoeuvre. All players have the responsibility to defend from the front.

In other words, if a player leaves his mark to jump over the goalkeeper or another opponent, it is the responsibility of the player behind to pick up his mark.

When the opponent starts playing with the goalkeeper, they do not give up the pressure but the player closest to him is responsible for covering him.

Flick’s teams are known for their intense pressing.

Barcelona got to witness the pressure of Flick’s teams first-hand during the ill-fated 2-8 loss back in 2020 against Bayern Munich.

In that quarter-final against Barcelona, Bayern achieved 48 turnovers and the average height of those turnovers was 42.2 metres.

Physical aspect a key factor

For Flick’s tactical plan to work fluently, it is essential that the team is compact and that the players have the optimal physical strength to be able to combine their efforts.

It does not necessarily mean that they are made up entirely of physical players, but that the team as a whole has to be powerful.

Playing from the back

Barcelona are a team that adhere to the tradition of playing from the back and prioritise retaining possession with quick and precise passes.

As for Flick’s teams, they want to build up play from the back but don’t take excessive risks.

In terms of exit mechanisms, there is one that is always repeated: centre-backs spread wide, full-backs go high and one midfielder drops down to pick up. The other stays higher to set up.

How Flick’s teams try to build from the back.

That is why, normally, one of the two midfielders has a creative profile (Thiago or Joshua Kimmich at Bayern). The goalkeeper is involved as an extra player.

How do Flick’s teams attack?

On the ball, Flick’s Bayern Munich did not stand out as a highly combinative team but as a team with depth.

Obviously, a team with Thiago, Joshua Kimmich, and Serge Gnabry, among others, has its share of the ball but the premise was always to look for quick attacks.

Flick’s Bayern always looked for quick attacks.

Especially by getting the ball to the flank so that the wing-backs can play one-on-one on the outside or start driving inside. Whichever way they went, speed and dynamism were prioritised. This is clearly his preference in the offensive phase.

In the final third, Flick’s priority is not to attack in positional play (he doesn’t rule it out either) but to look for the definitive action. To do this, at least three players always occupy the penalty area – forward, midfielder and wide player on the opposite side.

His Bayern Munich team of 2019/20 scored 43 total goals and averaged 21.9 shots per game in the Champions League. Since then no team has equalled such records.

Flick prefers to have at least three players occupying the box.

Lamine Yamal has been one of the biggest positives of the 2023/24 season for Barcelona and all eyes will be on the plans that Flick has for him next campaign.

The fact that the German likes winger profiles with overflow should be seen as a big advantage.

At Bayern Munich, he played Kingsley Coman, Serge Gnabry or Ivan Perisic and for Germany 2020 he called up players with same profiles: Leroy Sane, Jamal Musiala or Gnabry himself.

In other words, Lamine Yamal will continue to be the main protagonist.

Flick also likes to take advantage of the flight of the full-backs if they are attacking and with the ability to track back.

Flick likes his full-backs to attack.

This is why his teams have always generated a lot of 1vs1 and 2vs1 outside options. In these sequences, the winger comes inside to leave the lane.

What about the defence?

This offensive proactivity of Flick’s teams and the need to attack by finishing forces them to put a lot of players up front.

In other words, they play with plenty of space behind them. That is why their teams are used to attacking but are also somewhat vulnerable in space.

In 2019/2020, Flick’s Bayern won the Bundesliga with great authority but conceded 32 goals in 34 games and, in 2020/2021, conceded 44 goals (1.30 per game).

Flick’s teams can be vulnerable defensively.

This is why powerful defenders who can run at the back like Ronald Araujo or Jules Koundé can be important to him.

What about the other aspects of his management?

One of the biggest tasks that Flick will have at Barcelona is to manage the dressing room that is filled with some top players as well as young prospects in the early stages of his career.

The German tactician, however, has a reputation for good dressing room management, which will be music to the ears of the fans. Two facts work in his favour:

For starters, he has experienced all the roles necessary to understand management (footballer, 2nd coach, 1st coach and Sporting Director).

Secondly, he comes with the experience of another big club like Bayern Munich.

Meanwhile, Flick is known to like to use video to prepare or correct aspects of the game, whether it is for match preparation or for other football tasks.

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