Peter Bosz has defied plenty of football fans’ expectations and, for the past year, has turned PSV Eindhoven into one of the most exciting teams in European football. Bosz’s tactics, sometimes criticised in the past, are at the heart of this change.
As PSV inch closer to their first Eredivisie title since 2018, we look at Peter Bosz’s tactics and how the Dutch manager has turned his career around after a number of unsuccessful spells in charge of big-name clubs.
Peter Bosz’s career prior to managing PSV
Peter Bosz has been in charge of a number of high-profile clubs over recent years. However, before that, he was a respected midfielder with a lengthy career, spent mostly in Holland. His most high-profile tenure was with Feyenoord, the Netherlands’ second biggest club, where he played from 1991 to 1996. Throughout his career, he also earned 8 caps for the Dutch national team.
However, Bosz’s biggest football achievements came from the position of manager. He spent his first years in the profession managing lower-league clubs such as VBV De Graafschap. A three stint with Vitesse was enough to convince Ajax Amsterdam to hire him as manager for the 2016/17 season. The team reached the Europa League final that season.
His appointment with The Netherlands’ biggest club may have been cut short after one season. However, he then managed Bayer Leverkusen and, briefly, Borussia Dortmund and Lyon.
Peter Bosz’s tactics have always helped him stand out. Not always for the greatest reasons, however. Although he has managed important clubs over his recent career, he has often come under criticism. His appointment at PSV was no exception. Certainly, the fact that Bosz had also managed or played for the club’s rivals, Ajax and Feyenoord, didn’t initially help fans warm up to him.
The fact that Peter Bosz is part of the generation of Dutch players that prioritized an attacking style plays into his tactical decisions. Bosz likes his team to play entertaining football, to create goal scoring opportunities and to outplay opponents. In that matter, he is devoted to the classic Dutch model, the kind popularized by Rinus Michels or Johan Cruyff.
Still, of course, outscoring opponents is easier said that done. The past has shown that Bosz’s plans can come undone because of the type of players he has at his disposal, or his interaction with them. When Bosz managed Dortmund, the team scored 2.13 goals per game. When he managed Lyon, the team managed 1.72 goals per game. Both were below the average registered by the team in previous seasons.
However, PSV have averaged 3.47 goals per Eredivisie game. This is above the league average of 2.66 goals. PSV have also conceded only an average of 0.4 goals per game. This all proves that personnel is an important factor in the success of Bosz’s teams.
Tactics at PSV
Peter Bosz is indebted to offensive, esthetically pleasing style of Dutch football. Ideally, his teams press high, engage in quick transitions, and fight to control possession. Yes, this short definition could fit many modern, successful football clubs.
Still, Bosz has rarely shifted from his principles. And when these have worked, his teams have greatly impressed. An aggressive Ajax Amsterdam, with players performing well off the ball reached the Europa League final. His Dormund side engaged in constant gegenpressing and played quick, penetrating passes. And, eve his Lyon team look to prioritize quick transitions and clever use of the ball.
Bosz’s tactics look to be working this season, managing PSV Eindhoven. It includes a number of the traits employed in previous jobs. The team engages in intense high pressing. PSV’s midfielders like to play direct passes and use of their skill is encouraged. The team utilizes its full-backs to launch lighting fast counter-attacks.
Formations and adaptability
Like his teams’ attacking mentality, Peter Bosz has also been consistent with the type of formation he uses. PSV tend to line-up in a 4-2-3-1 that can easily be adapted into a 4-3-3 formation. Less often he has played with one pivot in a 4-1-4-1. The manager has used this setups, or variations, of them throughout his career as a manager.
Ideally, using this formation allows PSV to play free-flowing, fast-paced football. Players are encouraged to switch roles and positions. Unlike many other modern clubs, Bosz does not like to play with two pivots, or to be overly cautious. Still, PSV will not be drawn into all-out 90 minute attacks and vary their tempo to take advantage of opponents’ fatigue.
Bosz’s success or ongoing throughout his career has largely come down to the players he has been able to work with. The Dutchman wants intense, relentless pressing from his players as well as creativity.
Sometimes, the best recipe to ensure the squad is receptive to these ideas is to build around young players. Sergino Dest, Ricardo Pepi, Yorbe Vertessen or Armel Bella-Kotchap are among the youngsters that play a crucial role in PSV’s current setup.
PSV in defence
Like his country, Erik ten Hag, Peter Bosz continues to have his critics. PSV’s recent run of good hasn’t quite convinced them to get on board with his tactical philosophy. The points brought up most often are that Bosz will play the same kind of attacking football regardless of personnel, as well as the fact that PSV’s rise came during a notoriously poor spell for their rivals, especially Ajax.
Bosz’s teams almost always lineup in a back four setup. He encourages fullbacks to overlap while wingers like to move in the half space. PSV’s Dest and Jordan Teze have worked well within this approach.
As expected, PSV’s defensive approach is a risky one. The Dutch team plays with a very high line. Space between the lines is compressed. The team’s singural pivot player tends to drift in between the central defenders in a bid to always create superiority against an opposition’s striker.
Like Jurgen Klopp‘s gegenpressing, PSV’s players are expected to win back the ball within seconds of winning it, and recycling it into quick counter attacks.
And, while PSV’s high pressing can make them vulnerable, the approach has worked so far. At present, they’ve conceded only 8 goals in 19 Eredivisie matches. The Champions League has been another matter. PSV conceded 10 goals in 6 matches, and had their attacking flair to thank for their qualification.
How PSV build up
While PSV do like to adapt their playing tempo, the team mostly likes to play quick, vertical passes. The two full backs create width and passing options. Meanwhile, the wingers like to play into half spaces. Once the ball is brought into the final third, the exceptional technique of players like Joey Veerman, Johan Bakayoko or Ismael Saibari helps the attackers create goal scoring chances.
However, a direct approach should be confused with tossing long balls over defenders. Bosz’s teams have always emphasized tight control, and PSV is no exception. The need to win the ball back within 5 seconds of losing it, also means that PSV’s players need to be switched on at all times.
The team likes to create overloads and move the ball quickly and with intent around the opponents’ defensive area. There’s a degree of risk to this approach as well. However, players like Veerman, Bakayoko or Hirving Lozano all recorded over 80% in terms of successful passes.
Bosz’s attacking tactics
As I mentioned earlier, Peter Bosz has been adamant about using certain attacking principles. The approach has worked with PSV, o when he brought Ajax to the Europa League final, or when eh helped Bayer Leverkusen qualify for the UCL. It hasn’t worked as well when managing Dortmund or Lyon.
In a nutshell, Bosz want his team to play entertaining football. The ball needs to be on the ground and players are required to bring skill and flair to the approach. But they also need to marry it with good tactical awareness. Players switching places on the pitch in order to confuse their markers is a frequently used tool.
In the case of PSV’s attack, Bosz has opted for a mix of experience and young exuberance. Veteran Luuk de Jong is their most successful striker. He has managed 17 goals in 19 appearances. His ability in aerial duels and tactical acumen have been a tremendous help.
Attacking midfielder Guus Til and forward Bakayoko have also produced a healthy number of goals. How are those goals typically scored? PSV like to attack quickly and with intent creating superiority in areas around the yard box. Luuk de Jong will sometimes act as an attacking pivot recycling the ball to the edge of the box for a shot. Or, the ball will be crossed for de Jong to try and head it.
PSV’s players are often under heavy pressure. Eredivisie teams also tend to press high up and avoid sitting in a low block. The technique and speed of Bosz’s players, however, has helped make them very successful in attack. Of course, stronger opposition in the Champions League knockout rounds will provide the ultimate test.
What next for Peter Bosz and PSV?
Peter Bosz has redeemed his reputation as a top football manager. Winning the Eredivisie title, regardless of Ajax’s poor form, would be a major achievement. At nearly, the halfway point, this looks increasingly likely.
Can the team sustain this success in the Champions League, or next season? That remains to be seen. Playing such a demanding style is a high risk – high reward situation.
Bosz has shown that he is a manager determined to stick one tactical approach regardless of consequences. This will help his reputation. Is it possible that high-profile suitors will come in for his services? Yes. In fact, Jurgen Klopp’s imminent departure from Liverpool, might make him a candidate for managing one of the Premier League’s biggest clubs.
Regardless, Bosz is responsible for managing one of the most entertaining teams in the 2023/2024 season and he has done enough to earn the trust and respect of PSV’s fateful.