Watch and Learn
I recently attended a U17 European Championship fixture between Spain and Austria which was hosted by Bray Wanderers Football Club. The standard of the Spanish team was very impressive, their decision making and intelligence was levels above their Autrian counterparts who were blown away by a scoreline of 3-0 on the day. All three of the Spanish goals came during a devastating first half display. From behind me I could here locals questioning the approach of the Austrians, one man could be heard loud and clear “they are not working hard enough, standing off the Spanish is asking for trouble, look at the time they have on the ball”. With the game at 2-0 the same man could be heard as the Austrian number 11 charged in to close down the Spanish number 5 “that’s more like it chase them down” the man shouted out. The Spanish central defender passed into midfield taking the 11 out of the game with an easy bypass. I sat wondering why the man felt Austria were stood off the Spanish or why it seemed they were not working hard and as time wore on the answer became clear.
Positioning Effects Decision Making
It wasn’t that Austria were not willing to work hard to close the Spanish down, it was the positioning of the Spanish that was leaving Austria with more problems to solve than simply the man in possession. The Spanish use of their surroundings ie the positions and angles teammates created was top class, players would use those passing options to beat opponents through disguised passing or disguised body shape multiple times throughout the game, fake to pass and dribble past your man! Every time the Austrians were forced to change the angle of their press and intensity of it because of the options off the ball constantly being created by Spanish players. It wasn’t just angles to receive, it was angles to help the man in possession. What do I mean by angles to help the man in possession?. That question takes me back to a Sergio Busquets interview with Marca from 2015 were the FC Barcelona legend spoke about the importance of positioning. In that interview Busquets was asked what his best qualities were and one of his answers was fascinating. “In football often beating a direct opponent through dribbling or passing will depend on the position of teammates around you”. That Busquets quote might seem simplistic but when you really study those words and focus on Sergio Busquets and how he plays they make perfect sense in a more complicated way than they seem. How many coaches out there coach angles to receive but fail to mention how those angles can also be used as a disguised pass with intention to bypass through a dribble or by creating new passing options?.
Let Players Know Why
‘Help the man on the ball, give the man on the ball an option’, those are phrases you’ll hear often from a coach, but the detail of why players are doing it beyond simply to receive the ball themselves needs more emphasises. Often you see players frustrated if they create angles to receive the ball but are not used. If more coaches can begin to emphasis how that movement is used in different ways ie effecting the positioning of opposition players that allows a teammate on the ball beat them with a dribble or a pass then perhaps players appreciation of why they are working hard to create passing angles can go beyond simply in order to receive the ball to feet. Studying Spain vs Austria that sunny day in Bray was a text book example of a team ethic approach to movement and work without possession. Each Spanish players appreciation of the effect their angles to receive and movement was having to aid the decision making of the man in possession was exemplary. With a touchline view towards the end of the game I saw the Spanish central midfielder drop into a position that effected the Austrian centre forward, he had to slow his run and change his pressing angle to cut out the Spanish central midfielder. The Spanish midfielder recognised what his movement had done for the man in possession and he could be heard shouting “solo solo” to his teammate in possession. The teammate wearing number 5 as centre back dribbled out into the space created bypassing the Austrian centre forward with ease. All the while the man behind me was still wondering as he shouted to his friend “look at the Austrian forward, look how slow he is pressing, that’s awful”.