Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Team Philosophy - Team like a Spring

I have found an analogy for how I believe a team should play. It is simple and effective but not intended to be holistic. It is simply this: a team should play like a spring.

When territorial pressure is applied to the side, players - like the springs of a coil - should get closer together, winding ever more tightly. The more pressure that is applied on the side, the closer they should get and the harder they should work for each other. If under mental stress it is similarly important that the side binds together in these moments rather than fracturing. The more you push a spring the more resistance you encounter. Once that pressure is released it springs back. The greater the force applied to it, the harder and faster it bounces back. A football team should also bounce back quickly on the counter attack if put under a lot of pressure.

This is the basic idea. I shall now explain in more detail.

Without the ball it is vital to be compact. The closer to goal the opposition get, the more important it is to remain compact and deny space. The person on the ball must be denied time on the ball and the space closed so that good movement is less effective. The opposition must be made to risk possession. This must be done as a TEAM. In order to remain truly compact the whole team must be in the smallest area of the pitch possible whilst maintaining good depth.

Positioning must also facilitate transitions into the attacking phase. Like a spring, the more pressure that is exerted on the team the quicker this transition must be. This is because a team that has committed more men forwards has left more space in defence. It is this space that the transition must look to exploit quickly. However, if possession has been regained inside the opposition half there are likely to be fewer spaces to exploit. Here it is not so opportune to strike quickly but instead to keep possession.

When attacking the most important attribute is SUPPORT PLAY. How well do those players off the ball support the player with the ball? A team that can provide good options will attack effectively. On the counter attack this is particularly important, but in any event the aim is to exploit any space left by the opposition QUICKLY.

The most important attribute of the attacking team is to be PROACTIVE or, more simply, PLAY TO WIN. Don't play not to lose. Play to win. Take risks, try to be play that killer ball. Make the defence uncertain and nervous.

The other team should spend far more time wondering how to counteract you, than the other way around.

Play to win.

Finally I think formations are already far less important than systems of play and it is easy to imagine a time when formations become obsolete as a way of describing tactics. Teams increasingly must attack and defend together. Spalletti's Roma played a 4-6-0 and this will prove to be the way teams play in the future. Versatile players like Messi, Ronaldo, Rooney, Nasri, Alves, Lucio, and even Wilshere are very much the future of the game. Players must be capable of playing between the lines, as comfortable with the ball at feet as they are defending, as comfortable passing as they are making surging runs forward.

Football is at an exciting moment in its development. The birth of new, more fluid ideas (I have previously referenced the "formlessness" discussed in the Art of Way) mean that tactics are very much enjoying a rebirth: their very own spring.

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