Let’s fo­cus coach­ing on search for goals

The Football League Paper - - GRAHAM WESTLEY - Gra­ham West­ley

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?!

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

AT­TACK­ING IN­STINCT: Tot­ten­ham’s Chris­tian Erik­sen scores their third goal against Real Madrid in mid­week

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