Most exciting teams in Europe in 2012

2 Jan
Erik Lamela profited the most of Roma's attacking style

Erik Lamela profited the most of Roma’s attacking style

Here is the list of some of the most exciting teams in Europe in 2012. I am sure I’ve missed some, either because I haven’t watched them enough, or on purpose – like Real Madrid or Barca, because, well, everyone knows about them and everyone has seen them a lot. Unfortunately, some of these teams aren’t as great in this season as they were in previous.

If he scores as much as Toni, celebrates like Toni...

If he scores as much as Toni, celebrates like Toni, he must be… Michu!

So, let’s start with Swansea – last season with Brendan Rodgers and now with Michael Laudrup. Rodgers spent some time in Barcelona in previous years, studying Guardiola’s approach, wanting to emulate it. Rodgers said he wants to use passing and possession to make opponents chase the ball [and eventually tire]. He is now trying, with less success, to apply the same to Liverpool.
Swansea managed to beat Arsenal and City in style last year, and all of that resulted in Rodgers’ dream move – to one of the biggest teams in the World, Liverpool. Laudrup, after good seasons in Getafe and not as good episodes in Spartak Moscow and Mallorca came to Swansea this summer. He, like Rodgers, always insisted that the team will continue trying to win games by dominating possession, playing technical football. Even at times when Swansea was closer to the bottom than the top, Laudrup said they won’t give up their style. Swans are always looking to play the ball on the ground, even when they are at their own half, under pressure, even if it means taking a big risk. There are only 4 teams in the league with better possession stats than Swansea [55.3% on average], last season they were even better. They have an impressive Spaniard Michu [among other good players], who last year had a great season at Rayo, being the midfielder with the most goals scored in La Liga. In Swansea, he plays closer to the goal and so far, he is the best goalscorer in Premier League.
It is always great to see a small team playing this brave, attacking and technical football. Swansea probably won’t win any trophies anytime soon, but with the approach they have, they will most certainly bring more excitement and are well worth your attention in 2013

Meier and Inui

Eintracht Frankfurt is possibly the biggest surprise of the season in all top 5 European leagues. Lead by Armin Veh, former coach of HSV and Wolfsburg where he didn’t enjoy much of a success being sacked before the end of the season in both clubs, but with Eintracht, Veh is doing great job. Former German champions and Champions Cup finalists from 1960 were promoted from Bundesliga 2 this summer, signed a lot of new players so naturally there weren’t a lot of people who expected them to perform as good as they did. Also, Eintracht is a fairly young team. Their high pressing, attacking style of football has brought them a lot of fans this season, and they’ve played some great matches this season – like that against ruling champions Dortmund that ended 3:3. They were also very good, despite the 2:0 loss, against Bayern in Munich. In the last game of 2012 they’ve beat Wolfsburg away 2:0 with goals of 2 of their best players – Alexander Meier [his 11th of the season] and a Japanese Takashi Inui [5 goals, 5 assists so far this season]. Eintracht is currently 4th in Bundesliga having scored 33 goals [same as Dortmund, only Leverkusen and Bayern scored more] and conceded 27 – obviously their games are very entertaining and if you haven’t already, be sure to watch them when Bundesliga returns.

Borussia Monchengladbach had a great last season, that they finished 3rd. They were last season what Eintracht is this – the biggest surprise in Bundesliga. They did that mostly thanks to one of the best players in Europe at the moment – Marco Reus, but also other fantastic players like Arango, Herrmann, Hanke and of course, ex-Hertha coach Lucien Favre. Swiss is a great, underrated coach that believes in planning, in rehearsing actions and moves until they become automatism that players can routinely deploy on the pitch. Their killer counter attacks, brilliant one-touch moves were a joy to watch last season, and seeing some of those actions, you could easily mistake Borussia for Barcelona at times. Watch the video below and enjoy [especially Hanke’s goal against Schalke, one of the best goals from last season, somewhere around 2:20], though of course, some of those are from 2011, but I don’t think anyone will mind.

Shakhtar isn’t some new team that just surprised us all by playing bravely, attacking strong teams – they are around for a decade now, winning Europa League in 2009.

Willian, Willian, it was really nothing

They have invested a lot in their team, now full of very talented players mostly from Brazil. Fernandinho, Willian, Srna, Mkhitaryan, Luiz Adriano – those are players that could easily play for some of the best teams in Europe, Hubshman, Rat, Teixeira, Ilsinho etc. are not far behind. They are lead by a great Romanian coach Mircea Lucescu, who 20 years ago coached Brescia, and later for a short period of time Inter. He’s at Shakhtar since 2004. Shakhtar have been impressive in this season’s Champions League, they only disappointed in the last round against Juventus. They outplayed Italian champions in Turin, they were dominant against Chelsea in Donetsk, deserved the win in London too. They played good football before this season too, but now they are acting like a big team, a team that has enough confidence to attack Juve and Chelsea away, do dominate against the strongest teams in Europe. In Ukranian championship they are irresistible, having lost only 2 games in last 2 seasons, they had a 24 games long winning streak, they’ve already secured the title [no mathematically, of course]. And their Champions League 1/8 finals duel with Dortmund will be a spectacle – probably the most interesting one, despite the draw pairing teams like Real Madrid and Manchester United, or Barcelona and Milan.

Not even Disneyland can make ‘Il Boemo’ smile

Roma – with new, American owners came new people in the club. Most importantly, Franco Baldini and Walter Sabatini. They decided they want Roma to be a team that plays unlike Italian teams. they want attacking football, that will make their fans enjoy the time spent with the team. They’ve tried with Luis Enrique last season, but it didn’t work as good as they hoped. And even though Baldini and Sabatini were probably ready to give Spaniard another season, he decided himself that it’s best to leave. Roma chose Zeman as a new coach, and you know that if you have Zeman, you have fun. Roma fans don’t always have fun, because of the fact that Zeman teams are vulnerable, and so was Roma – quite a few defeats, some of them after 2:0 leads at home, against teams that are weaker than Rome. That must have been frustrating, but – oh, well. For those of us who are more or less neutral, it was extremely fun. Their best game was probably that against Fiorentina, another team that plays great, attacking football. It ended 4:2 for Roma, could have easily been 7:4.

Pescara – another Zeman’s team. Dolphins had a fantastic season in which they won Serie B, playing spectacular football and scoring 90 goals [30 more than second most scoring team]. Pescara had 3 great, very talented players in Verratti, Insigne and Immobile – Immobile was league top scorer with 28 goals, while Insigne scored 18. Like Roma this season, Pescara didn’t start all that great, but little by little, they started playing better, and in 2012 it was a spectacle, Zemanlandia at its best.

El loco

Athletic Bilbao is, unfortunately, another team that was much better in the first half of 2012. This season, they are not nearly as good as they were last season. But last season, they were among the most spectacular teams in Europe without any doubt. Lead by another coach with cult status among football fans, like Zeman – Marcelo Bielsa, Athletic brought so much fun to all those who followed them last season. They’ve reached 2 finals, but lost both – in Europa League and in Copa del Rey. Their most memorable wins are those against Manchester United, when they dominated both on Old Trafford and San Mames and could have won by a much bigger margin. The best game of last season’s Athletic was probably the one from 2011, against Barca at San Mames, which ended 2:2. Their crazy high pressing was at its best in that game. They suffered the fact that there wasn’t much depth in their team, so the high pressing they’ve tried to deploy in every match finally caught up with them – they were looking exhausted towards the end of the season, especially in 2 finals they were in.
First part of this season wasn’t as good. Without 2 arguably best players from last season – Javi Martinez, who went to Bayern, and Llorente, who is still at the club until June, but was effectively punished for not renewing his contract, so he was mostly used as a back up player.

Finally, Dortmund [which is not to say there weren’t other great teams]. I traditionally don’t like Dortmund. It started in 90’s, when they had those hideous fluorescent shirts. But it’s hard to dislike them now, when they play such a great football. It’s 3 seasons now that they are playing like that, even though before every season they lose their best players – first Sahin, then Kagawa. They are well behind Bayern on the Bundesliga table, and most probably won’t win the title 3rd year in a row, but they were impressive in Champions League, winning the tough group with Real Madrid, Manchester City and Ajax. As I mentioned before, and as everyone knows anyway, they will play against Shakhtar in the 1st knockout round of Champions League and that will be, without a doubt, a fantastic 2 matches. It’s probable that Dortmund will sell some of their other great players soon, most probably Lewandowski, but with the club’s good financial state they certainly don’t have to rush to do that, and with great job that Director of Football [and former Dortmund player] Michael Zorc and the coach Jurgen Klopp are doing, introducing new, young players every season, there is no reason to doubt that Dortmund has every intention to become one of the best teams in Europe in next few years.

Fiorentina is another team that really plays exciting football, lead by one of the most underrated players in last decade – David Pizarro, as well as Borja Valero, Jovetić and others. I already written about Fiorentina, and will in future again [a lot], so I won’t go in depth about them now. Montella’s previous team, Catania, also played great football last season. Let’s also mention Bayern, Real Madrid and Barca, who are probably the 3 strongest teams in Europe, even though Madrid doesn’t have great form this season. Also, worth mentioning are teams like Tottenham, Napoli, Rayo Vallecano, Ajax etc.  who played very good in 2012, but some of those I haven’t seen enough times to be able to say a lot.

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