NYCFC saw a thrilling finish to 2021, with anMLS Cup triumph over Portland Timbers back in December. The Boys in Blue come out on top on penalties following a 1-1 finish in regular and extra time.
Although finally etching their name into the history books of the MLS at the culmination, it wasn’t plain sailing all season. Ronny Deila’s men struggled for form throughout and at one point went six games without a win. It was their form at the backend of the year though that saw them through to the playoffs, winning 3 of their final 4 games including a 6-0 thrashing of D.C United.
Although they struggled on the road, they made their home a fortress losing just three games in their own backyard all season. This was aided by some exceptional individual performances at both ends of the pitch, with talisman Taty Castellanos ending the season as the league’s top scorer. The Argentinian striker found the net 19 times in the regular season and added another three to his tally in the playoffs.
After such a fine season, many fans are already looking forward to how the team will build on it in their 2022 campaign. To do this, they may take lessons from some of the biggest European teams in the world. But who and what exactly can they learn from?
Tottenham Hotspur – Transfer policy
In recent years, Spurs have perhaps taken the unenviable position of the nearly men. Under various managers they have been thereabouts but never quite reached the pinnacle. This is most evidenced by their 2019 Champions League final 2-0 loss to Liverpool in which many a football prediction anticipated a tight game.
Whilst that was arguably their greatest achievement in the 21st century, Spurs and more specifically those in charge failed to counter on that momentum by improving their squad. They failed to back Mauricio Pochettino in the transfer market and consequently, fell out of the Champions League the following season after sacking the Argentinian. This is where NYC can learn what not to do.
The worst thing for Brad Sims and co to do would be to allow the club to stand still under the assumption that they were good enough then, so are good enough now. Teams up and down the league will be improving their squads to make a push for silverware and NYCFC should be no different. Fresh faces in the team are integral to keeping the club moving forwards and holding on to that MLS Cup.
Serie A – Tactics
Italian coaches have for decades ranked amongst some of the best in world football with the likes of Carlo Ancelotti, Fabio Capello and Arrigo Sacchi all held in high regard due to their tactical nous. Italian sides are historically tough to score against and that is usually down to their unpredictability. Whilst most all managers of course have their own brand of football, Italians have mastered the art of tactical versatility along with revolutionizing the game itself.
It is here where Deila can learn. Keeping your team fresh is one thing but the ability to enact multiple game plans dependant on your opponents is invaluable. This was perhaps one of the pitfalls of NYCFC three quarters of the way through the season during that six-game winless streak.
Training multiple formations throughout the season and drilling game plans if you need to change during a game is incredibly important. As a coach, you can never know enough about soccer so Deila cannot be lackadaisical.
Barcelona – Invest in youth
Despite their off the field troubles of recent, Barcelona remain one of the biggest and best teams in the world. Whilst they may have flown a little too close to the sun with their spending, one place they cannot be faulted for investment is their academy setup.
The sheer number of Champions League, World Cup, Premier league (and more) winners to come from La Masia is astounding. Xavi, Andres Iniesta and of course the GOAT himself Lionel Messi all hail from Barca’s legendary academy.
Unfortunately, the MLS is not financially able to compete with the top European leagues for the best talent in the world, but that does not mean it cannot create world class players. In recent years the likes of Bryan Reynolds, Weston McKennie and NYCFC Alumn Giovanni Reyna have all earnt moves to some of the biggest clubs in the world after coming through the youth system back home.
Reyna and most recently James Sands have proven that there is plenty of talent in The Bronx and Deila, Sims et al should continue developing their homegrown talent to secure the long-term future of the club both on and off the field.