By Jimmy Shan
Barcelona are most definitely the kings of possession, my two favourite descriptions of this have to be: Death by a thousand passes and strangulation by triangulation.
Last season Swansea under Brendan Rodgers continued the clubs quest and identity of possession football. This was applauded by all, they displayed an ability to continuously recycle (re build) possession and retain the ball for long periods of times often based upon one and two touch play.
I for one intend to continue to embrace this culture and teach a game style based around possession dominance, however it is important that I (we when teaching) don’t teach the team to retain needlessly or overplay and most defiantly don’t deny creativity / individualism whilst preaching one and two touch passing.
So how do we get the balance right?
For the last 3-4 years I have based possession on 3 P’s (Patient – Probe – Penetrate) and have found this to be a beneficial approach in teaching and maintaining a balance between keeping the ball for keeping sake and keeping the ball as a vehicle to CREATE.
In order to achieve possession dominance requires an ability to be PATIENT. A team must be able to use retention passes, recycle and rebuild possession, test an opponent’s organisation, and under no circumstance force possession, however this should be achieved by ALWAYS having a mindset of playing forwards!
PROBE – An ability to play probing passes in and out of the tight to shift and unbalance opposition and open up new passing lanes (again testing an opponent’s organisation), playing to a maverick that may be able to work a trick or a moment of brilliance in the tight. A great buzz word for this type of pass would be a ‘lend’ pass (bounce pass). The three great uses of this pass enable player / team:
1) Shift / unbalance opposition
2) Allow movement ahead, to the side and behind the ball to take place
3) Allow the original ball carrier to attain a picture
Ultimately it will all amount to nothing if you are unable to PENETRATE! 6 key contributors to dissect an opposition would be the effectiveness and quality of:
3) Runs from deep
4) Combination play
6) Wide / Flank play
Another good simple alliteration is the use of 3 R’s:
Risk – Retain – Rebuild
Remember possession is also a great vehicle to deal with and relieve pressure and momentum building against you, to rest with the ball and the BEST form of defence.
“Barcelona are the only team that defend with the ball; the only team that rests in possession,” Juan Manuel Lillo says (Almeria manager). “They keep the ball so well, they move so collectively, that when you do get it back, you’re tired, out of position and they’re right on top of you.” Lillo knows: his Almería side were defeated 8-0 by Barcelona.