By John Cartwright
The use of Play-rounds in football—there are four—has only been a more visible part of the game here in recent years. A more consistently used attacking tactic has been the overuse of quickly delivered, forward passes. Ball possession has not been as an important tactical ‘weapon’ and fast territorial gain employing a fiercer playing concept has been more descriptive of the so-called ‘British Style’. Opportunities to create ‘gaps’ in opposing teams’ defensive systems using a patient, ‘keep-ball’ playing method has largely been ignored. The urge to play the ball forward irrespective of necessity has meant retaining old fashioned ‘pugilistic’ playing methods whilst discounting the importance of having individual skill in all positions.
Since the ‘importation’ of foreign players and Managers to fill the skill void in our game, there has been a noticeable but not necessarily improved use of Play-rounds and more emphasis by some clubs’ towards better ball possession tactics. However, this move towards a ‘keep-ball’ style of play and the use of Play-rounds has foundered on a lack of penetration when opportunities occur. As a team’s attack develops, space becomes available in their own rear areas. This space is usually overloaded by more of their own defensive players than opposing players and a ‘comfort zone’ within these less congested areas has become available for back or deeper positioned players to resort to a backwards and sideways playing style. Pass-pass- pass without penetration in rear and mid-field Play-round areas has become a feature in the game. When, or if the game develops into the forward Play-round area, the lack of playing quality in this more congested area too often results in unnecessary ball loss.
What seems to have been forgotten in the misunderstood use of ‘keep-ball’ tactics is (a) why are we keeping the ball? ; (b) what are we looking for? Well, simply, the answer to (a) is; we control the game when in possession of the ball and (b) is; we look to create and exploit openings against opponents when they occur. There is misuse of ball possession tactics by players who seek to play easy options when penetrative alternatives are possible from Play-round situations. This problem can be seen both here as well as in football abroad. Playing negatively IN Play-rounds and not positively FROM Play-rounds has become an obvious ‘camouflage’ of those individuals in the game with skill deficiencies. The use of an easy option in a game is fine if it is the only option available to a player, but should more positive option(s) be disregarded because a player lacks skill and awareness, then the game becomes open to the impatient and misunderstood wails of the ‘get it forward’ brigade on the terraces.
At Premier Skills, we are determined to ‘advertise’ the massive importance of possession football and of the correct use of Play-round in the game. Accordingly, we have introduced ball possession and Play-rounds in gradual stages from Level 1 to Level 5 of the coaching and playing ‘journey’ in our programmes. Improved qualities in both tactical and skilful aspects of the game must remain a priority thus allowing each to assist the other to give the game the ‘total’ look it requires. It is vital that we force our game away from old fashioned playing beliefs and steer it towards a more entertaining and effective playing style. This is our football ‘goal’ at Premier Skills.