By John Cartwright
We’ve all become fully acquainted with the confrontational brawls termed football matches here. Players move up and down the field competing with an opponent when in attacking or defending modes. Who is the ‘winner’ of these duals is usually recognized as the player who has out-battled the other physically or has defaulted less than his/her adversary. The use of tactical variations to increase player numbers (overloads) in the area around the ball is a rare occurrence and usually only seen when used down flank positions. Overloading in attacking play should be recognized as equally important and used just as extensively as when bringing extra defenders into play when defending.
The ability to overload attacking situations quickly and effectively can give the most organised defensive systems severe problems. For players to assist in different areas of the field when overloading, requires confidence that comes from individual playing skills as well as tactical intellect. These important playing ‘weapons’, as we well know, are limited in the game here and consequently overloading is a rare occurrence.
The ability for players to ‘step into’ a developing attacking situation to increase passing and possession opportunities should be a part of the game that is developed from an early age. Rotation of positions to join play or to cover back to fill gaps left by ‘overloaders’ should be a common-place in games but isn’t. Our players have been produced from a young age as ‘positionalized performers’ who are uncomfortable outside a ‘familiar’ playing zone and are unable to display playing skills beyond a ‘groomed’ and simplistic level.
Overloading around the ball can occur in all areas of the field; even a Goalkeeper can offer himself as an extra player to offset pressure on back players! If a GK has the confidence and skill with the ball at his feet, he becomes an important ‘starter’ of attacking play and not just a ‘stopper’ of it. In fact, having a GK who is skilled on the ball, offers the opportunity of an 11 v 10 advantage over a team without such an enterprising ‘Goal-player’! Oh I can hear the noise of disbelief from those who see catastrophe in having an ‘attack-minded’ goalie, but if properly developed in conjunction with outfield players who understand and are prepared to cover for him/her, the over-used long punt up-field from ‘goalies’ could be dramatically reduced to allow more certainty of ball possession from back areas.
Throughout the whole length and width of a football field, the opportunities and NEED for overloading to occur is painfully obvious in our game. Delivery of the ball through the field is littered with loss of the ball as players grapple with opponents in singular duals. We have become a pass-pass-pass-pass-pass, mostly backwards and sideways playing nation, unable to penetrate with both precision and poise and as reliant as ever, after playing ‘false keep-ball’, on the good old long, high ball towards a big front player. The use of playing formations that create an extra player to appear around the ball are a rarity and even when used but countered by opposing marking, there is little ‘out of position’ movement by teams’ to increase overloading situations and what was 2v 2 becomes 3v3 etc. – and the ‘fight’ goes on!
The game of football deserves to be played in a thoughtful, attractive and effective way. Winning a game is not the most important thing; winning a game playing with style is the most important thing! The teaching and use of overloading to coaches and players is essential if we are to move forward as a football nation. We must learn to harness and combine our passion for the game with the skills and tactical intellect that top quality football is all about. Overloading correctly used, places players and their teams’ in ‘no lose’ situations. Isn’t it a great feeling when one realizes that whatever the opposing team does to thwart your attempts to play, one has that extra piece of playing quality provided by an extra player ‘arriving’ to secure ball possession and allow an attack to move forward with more certainty and produce better goal-scoring chances? The ability to overload in games requires a combination of individual ability allied to team and tactical intellect; we possess very few of these qualities and consequently, I see little attempt to introduce overloading situations both on training grounds or in match play here. It means we will have to tolerate the ‘fightball’ we have become used to watching and are ‘addicted’ into believing is ‘the best in the world’. I don’t believe it; i don’t enjoy watching it. – Nor should you!