Let’s focus coaching on search for goals
IAGREED some time ago to run a county association coaching class for aspiring coaches. The time for the session is fast approaching. So this week, I received a plan of our 90 minutes together and the agenda of recommended topics for the session.
There were six suggestions: 1. Creating overloads to play out from the back; 2. How to play against the false No 9; 3. How to play out of possession; 4. Marking and covering techniques; 5. Set-pieces; 6. Compactness in defence.
I was really struck by two things. Firstly, the way in which our 90 minutes together was proposed to be organised.
Secondly, the predominantly defensive nature of the topics that were suggested.
Some years ago, when I was studying for my UEFA A Licence, I took real issue with how coaches were expected to coach. That’s not because I am awkward, but because I felt I knew things that both my education and my experience had taught me about learning. I did not believe that a training ground only philosophy would properly convey a football strategy to a group of players.
When I completed my MA, I studied Neurolinguistic Programming. An essential learning for me was that there are three predominant learning media - auditory, visual and kinaesthetic. What we see, what we hear and what we feel all teach us. But different people have different learning preferences and indeed natural capabilities.
So if you are dealing with a group, some need to hear about what is expected, some need to see it and some need to feel it.
A key skill for any top coach is to recognise what any specific group needs because no two groups will collectively respond to the same methods.
I have always tried to create various learning opportunities to make sure that individual players learn in a variety of ways and, particularly, that messages are communicated on a multimedia basis to support the different learning needs.
Being out on the grass enables certain players to learn. But in my experience, others need the words and visual enlightenment of a class-based presentation to more fully and properly understand the subject matter. So we've agreed our time together will merge a workshop with a grass-based session and I'm pleased about that. Then there is the matter of the topic that we'll work with. I always aim with my teams to play 80/20 football - 80 per cent possession, 20 per cent out of possession. Ambitious? Lacking ambition? I don't know for sure, but that's my vision. It means, to me, that 80 per cent of what I need to coach is around what we are going to do with the ball and 20 per cent of coaching is about what we do without having the ball. It shocked me that twothirds of the topics suggested by the aspiring coaches were defensive in their nature. In this day and age, players are bred to love the ball, to embrace possession-based philosophies and to hunger for possession-based ideals.
A manager or coach leading players predominantly towards a strong defensive ethic is no longer what is wanted by players or, indeed, by clubs.
In a week in which Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool underlined the Premier League's growing attacking capabilities in scoring ten Champions League goals between them, this is particularly relevant to say.
It is the ability of a team to develop co-ordinated movement patterns which disturb defensive organisation that are now the vital factor. It is recognition and exploitation of overload situations that makes the difference.
Yes, there are physical and technical components within the framework but a critical change to football in this country is the tactical dimension.
Tactics are very much a mental process and fluency in tactics takes time and patience. Top footballers need bright football brains in 2017 to grasp the intricate detail required by top coaches.
I'm going to enjoy understanding from the coaches why the emphasis within that coaching group is towards defence.
As our nation moves forwards, hopefully, towards our next World Cup victory following recent successes at youth level, we need to ensure that the fabric of our mentality is about using the ball to score goals, coupled with an ability to defend. Not vice-versa. It is up to us all to keep that message loud and clear and to constantly develop our ideas in that direction. So, guess which topic I'm going to coach? Compactness in defence?!
ATTACKING INSTINCT: Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen scores their third goal against Real Madrid in midweek