Sunday, 24 October 2010

Asserting Yourself

It is important for a side to have a clear identity. This is a large part of the reason why Mourinho has so much success: his sides have a clear identity and the mental resilience to enforce it no matter the score. This is important. In any game there will be one team reacting more to the other. If your team is reacting more then you have a problem. If the opponents are reacting more then you are doing something right. The team reacting less is generally the team with momentum.

What does it mean to react to the other team? There are three broad ways this can happen. Mentally, physically and tactically. You mentally react to a team if you believe they have a better chance of getting a positive result than you do. Forcing the other team to react is a matter of self belief: who can say "we will win" with more steel?

Physically reacting is a matter of assessing characteristics such as speed, strength and agility. If your team believes they will be out-muscled, out run and lose more 50/50s than they win then they are reacting to the other team. Arsenal frequently react to Chelsea physically. A good way to get your side to impose themselves on the opposition is to highlight the importance of the first few challenges. This makes the other side more cautious about entering into physical battles with you. If you know the opposition have a few key players then putting a player with a strong physical presence up against him could be a good idea. Last season Bassong had Drogba in his pocket at White Hart Lane. He was too physical for him from the off. That is rare. If we're picking on Drogba then remember how Lucio ran rings around Drogba in the two legs last season? It is one of the best defensive displays I have ever seen:

From the first challenge in the opening minutes Lucio goes in hard but fair on Drogba. He knows he's in for a game. By the end of the game he is helpless: look at the expression on his face at 3:25. And again at 5:04.

For more mental strength, check this out:

The guy is a beast and exceptional at getting the opposition to react to him. Half the battle is mental.

Finally to reacting tactically. This does not mean creating sensible contingencies to limit the attacking force of the opposition. This is sensible. This means forsaking your game plan haphazardly to contain the opposition. Inter's deep defending against Barcelona at the Nou Camp last season was not reactive in the sense I want to use the term. It was responsive. If anything Barcelona's increasingly frantic attempts to break the fortress was reactive. They no longer seemed to be exhibiting a clear tactical plan and instead seemed to be forcing the ball forwards anyway possible.

Reacting tactically is about abandoning structure. It is about losing form. It is generally accompanied by panic. If a team can remain calm and stick to the plan come what may then they have shown a level of resilience and are more likely to get a positive result. This is particularly true at lower levels. At higher levels of the professional game it more often comes down to how clearly thought each team's gameplan is.

So having a strong identity is about have the courage to assert who you are. At times this can mean being brash. At others it means having the composure to keep going when all around you are losing their heads.

1 comment:

  1. Jurgen's Clansmen24 October 2010 at 19:01

    "Last season Bassong had Drogba in his pocket at White Hart Lane. He was too physical for him from the off. That is rare. "

    Truest! Good article. The Clansmen lost 10-6 today without you paulinho!