Diego Forlan writes a weekly column for The National, appearing each Friday. The former Manchester United, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid striker has been the top scorer in Europe twice and won the Golden Boot at the 2010 World Cup. Forlan's column is written with the assistance of European football correspondent Andy Mitten.
For all the attention on the two Manchester clubs and their star managers at the start of this season, neither of them are first and second in the table.
Liverpool and Chelsea are, with eight wins from their first 11 games. They, too, have star managers in Jurgen Klopp and Antonio Conte. Spain may have the best players in the world and the best teams, but England has more of the best managers.
The shifting tactics of Chelsea and Liverpool intrigue me. When I played in England, 4-4-2 was the default formation. Manchester United had been successful with it for years, they won the treble playing it, but I arrived at the club at an interesting time. Alex Ferguson was trialling a 4-5-1 system with Ruud van Nistelrooy as his main striker. That wasn’t always ideal for the other strikers as opportunities were limited, but Ferguson was trying to find a way to move with the times, especially in Europe. It didn’t really work out and United next won the Uefa Champions League again, in 2008, playing a trusted 4-4-2.
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Liverpool have not won the league since 1990, but after Leicester City won the title last season, I see no reason why another side not used to winning it cannot do the same. Liverpool just need to keep going and have luck with injuries. Having no European football helps, and their players have gelled together well. They do not have a player in the class of Luis Suarez, but Philippe Coutinho is very good.
Liverpool have done well against some of the best teams this season, but have struggled in recent years against lower teams. They have games against Southampton, Sunderland, Bournemouth, West Ham United and Middlesbrough coming up after the international break, so we will see if they have overcome their issues about beating sides below the top eight.
Klopp has an advantage over Mourinho and Conte as he has been at his club for longer. His players are confident and have scored more goals than any other team in the Premier League. My only concern for them is that they concede too often – letting in more than any other team in the top seven.
Klopp famously had an image on the wall at Borussia Dortmund showing where all his players should be on the field. He used a 4-2-3-1 system, which is a popular formation now. With players like Robert Lewandowski, Mario Gotze, Ilkay Gundogan and Marco Reus and lots of arrows coming out of them towards the opposition goal, it was enough to unnerve opponents.
This Liverpool are not as good as that Dortmund, but Klopp gets his players very fit, they work very hard and believe in their manager. At Dortmund, the team pressed when they did not have the ball and they were always ready to counter-attack. They twice won the German league-and-cup double and reached the Champions League final as they became one of the best teams in Europe. It makes for exciting football and using similar tactics has made Klopp very popular with Liverpool fans. Playing a 4-3-3 is brave of Klopp, but he alters his tactics depending on the opposition.
After a poor first few results when they drew at Swansea City, lost at home to Liverpool and then 3-0 away at Arsenal, Conte has changed Chelsea to how he wants them with great effect. Since that defeat at Arsenal in September they have won all five league games, scoring 16 and conceding none.
Conte looks settled. His Juventus and Italy sides were built on a brilliant, experienced defence, which knew how to come out with the ball. They played a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2. They also had Andrea Pirlo, a key player, who could see everything and make crucial passes. He rarely lost the ball.
Conte has started to play 3-4-3 in the Premier League and it is working, a surprise to English sides who are used to four defenders. He has played three at the back ever since that defeat to Arsenal. Without changing many of the players, he has got the team looking formidable.
It is important that players have a chemistry with the manager and know what he is trying to do. I had a really good chemistry with Javier Aguirre, the current manager of Al Wahda, who I played under at Atletico Madrid. It is hard to explain, it just happens and if enough players feel the same you start to get a buzz about the squad.
It is not only about formations. As a manager, you need to know which type of players you have because you will not always have the same players to play a particular style of football. It is OK saying that you want to play like a Guardiola side, but you need players like Lionel Messi or Kevin de Bruyne to do that.
As a striker, I like 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-4-1 or 4-4-2. I played these with Sergio Aguero at Atletico. Both of us scored lots of goals and worked hard for each other. I am fine playing up front alone, or as a second striker with the freedom to run either side of the main man.
I do not like 4-3-3 as much, unless you have the best players in the midfield, players who can keep the ball and do the job of four players. It is the most difficult formation to play.
We tried it a few times with Uruguay in friendly matches, but never really in big games. It takes fitness and talent. Klopp thinks he has enough of both, and I admire that. Conte, with his three defenders, believes so too. It is these two foreign manager making waves in England.
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