Julen Lopetegui

The Lopetegui Way of Playing

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Incoming West Ham boss Julen Lopetegui is a possession purist, and fans can expect a new era of intricate passing and controlled dominance at the London Stadium.

Lopetegui‘s preferred formation is a flexible 4-3-3, where midfield is the heart of the operation. A three-man central midfield trio forms the engine:

The Anchor (Defensive Midfielder): Provides the foundation by dropping deep to create a three-man backline during build-up play. This allows the full-backs to push forward without leaving the defence exposed.
The Orchestrator (Playmaker): The creative spark, responsible for keeping the ball ticking over and unlocking defenses with incisive passes.
The Engine (Box-to-Box Midfielder): The dynamic force, constantly flitting between defence and attack, offering passing options, carrying the ball forward, and providing an outlet for quick one-two moves.

Lopetegui’s philosophy emphasises building play from the goalkeeper. The defensive midfielder’s deep positioning creates a safe option for the goalkeeper and central defenders, allowing them to initiate attacks calmly and reducing pressure. Full-backs are encouraged to push high up the pitch with the confidence that the midfield anchor provides cover.

Lopetegui’s teams are patient in attack. They lure opponents out of position by overloading one flank, creating space for a diagonal switch pass to a winger on the opposite side. This tactic might remind West Ham fans of Declan Rice’s long balls to Jarrod Bowen. If the switch isn’t on, the team works the ball meticulously through the midfield, probing for weaknesses in the opposition’s structure and exploiting space on the flanks, in the channels, or behind the defence.

When attacking, Lopetegui’s men prioritise creating numerical superiority (overloads) and exploiting space through constant movement. Wingers drift inwards, pulling defenders out of position and creating gaps for teammates. The striker has the freedom to roam and disrupt defensive lines, while full-backs aggressively bomb forward to deliver crosses into the box. (An example of this philosophy in action was that Sevilla, under Lopetegui in 2019/20, led La Liga in crosses per game.)

It has to be said that Lopetegui’s possession-based approach, with its focus on a dynamic midfield, methodical build-up play, and attacking fluidity, is a significant (and perhaps welcome) departure from West Ham’s recent style. The coming season will be fascinating as Lopetegui attempts to translate his past successes onto the Premier League stage, and West Ham fans can expect a brand of football built on control, patience, and a constant domination of the ball.

It is all beginning to look rather good!

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  • Bonzo says:

    Sounds great. I expect us to be playing like Manchester City, Barcelona, Bayern Munich or Liverpool next season then.

  • Jimbo says:

    Just when I thought I’d heard it all. Apparently Simon thinks we can transition from the Moysie way to playing possession based, dominant attacking football in no time. The significant change to the playing squad this morph will require, not to mention the financial investment which won’t be made available in 10 windows let alone 1, means it is wholly unrealistic to suggest we can either mimic or compete with the likes of City or the other 15 premier league teams with a greater possession ethos than us any time soon. When i read i can expect West ham to “dominate the ball ” i lost a little bit of wee i laughed so much.

    • Danielson79 says:

      Jimbo, we’ve spent 2 seasons bemoaning the waste of good talent we already have particularly in attack. How do any of us know how well they will adapt to a more possession based style? Maybe this is what they’ve all been waiting for, maybe, as all the armchair experts keep saying, it was Moyes tactics holding the players back?

    • Paul says:

      We are way ham and ALWAYS are optimistic.
      It’s been the same for me since 1955.
      I can’t stand negative comments. Let’s believe this could be IT the same for me for decades 🙅🏻‍♂️

  • Tallpaul says:

    My god there’s some negative people amongst us. Let’s just give j-Lo a chance COYI’s

  • PlaistowPundit says:

    Just let J Lo bring in a change!
    Rome was not built in a day.
    Nobody said we would be Man City but change is needed and we should support this new direction.

  • D.f.butcher says:

    Let’s hope the other side don’t play the same way then, I might be an idiot and maybe not a tactical genius but how about playing football that could turn out to be quite radical ?

  • Ruislip Hammer says:

    Sounds good to me – but it absolutely requires full-backs who can 1) bomb forward and 2) actually deliver good crosses when they get there.

    None of our current options possess both these capabilities, so I’m hoping this is at least as big a recruitment priority as the striker, central defender positions..

  • Ian says:

    I’m pleased you do read our comments from time to time ,and take note ! Therefore I don’t wish to read churlish but you have overlooked a crucial element. . management should always RESEARCH
    the opposition thoroughly . finding weaknesses and strengths , then applying tactics accordingly, including pre-practises .

  • Paul Adamson says:

    we played some dreadful stuff last season, i have been a supporter since 1990 & feel like we brought in some really decent new players who weren’t comfortable with the style (or lack of it!) of play. some early performances were good and before & over Christmas we looked OK then lost all our forwards and Paqueta at the same time.after which were shambolic on more than one occasion. new start for everyone COYI ⚒️⚒️⚒️

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