Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and English football’s cultural leap

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On SoccerPep Guardiola has turned Manchester City into one of the best teams in the world. Jürgen Klopp has done the same at Liverpool. But are their methods really changing English soccer?Pep Guardiola’s ideas about how teams should play are finding a receptive audience in England’s lower leagues.Credit…Glyn Kirk/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesNov. 8, 2019ROCHDALE, England — Alfie McLellan was grumbling as he walked out of the low-slung, lopsided stadium that his team, Rochdale, calls home. It was not so much that Rochdale had lost that bothered McLellan. Rochdale fans like him know, from long experience, not to expect to win, especially not when playing a team like Ipswich Town, arguably the best team in League One, English soccer’s third tier.No, what concerned McLellan was the manner of the defeat. “We were just slogging it forward,” he explained to a friend. As it chased the game, he felt Rochdale had done what teams at this level have done for years: played the sort of direct, muscular soccer that passes for a traditional English style. “That’s not a game plan,” McLellan said. “We don’t need to play like that.”As evidence, he cites a goal Rochdale scored against Southend earlier this season: a sweeping move spanning the length of the field, 16 passes in all, before the forward Ian Henderson tapped the ball home.It was a mesmerizing sequence, especially for League One. But though Henderson was invited onto national radio a couple of days later to discuss Rochdale’s transformation into a mill-town Barcelona, he did not receive all the credit. Nor did his teammates or even his manager.Instead, when a clip of the goal went viral on social media, it was in tribute to someone who, most likely, had never seen Rochdale play: Pep Guardiola. Together with Jürgen Klopp, the Liverpool manager, Guardiola has helped transform the Premier League over the last three years. It is hard to dispute, as Guardiola’s Manchester City prepares to face Klopp’s Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday, that the best two teams in England are now the best two teams in the world. Increasingly, though, it has become an orthodoxy that they have transformed more than just their teams and their league. There is a sense that Guardiola’s ideas, in particular, have resonated far beyond the Etihad Stadium.He has been credited with inspiring a cultural shift across English soccer, one that has encouraged even the likes of Rochdale to envisage a style based on more than “slogging it forward.” Even Gareth

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