By Roger Wilkinson
For many years we at Premier Skills have been advocating the crucial need for greater individuality from our players and just as importantly greater tactical individual cleverness in all areas of the field.
The questions I challenge myself to answer when watching players developed in the English system are:
Do our full backs always have to run, pass and support in that 8 metre wide tight channel that runs from the back third to the front third? Can they occasionally run inside with and without the ball creating an overload in midfield whilst at the same time pulling wide opponents in field to create more room for wide attackers?
Can’t we challenge our centre backs to run through the “front striker defence force” to create problems for opposing midfield markers by outnumbering them. Can we get our back players into midfield to create softer passing options in to front players by lessening the distance? or even opportunities for the back players to carry on running in to the top third?
Is it possible that both full backs and centre backs could show confidence and skill by working with both feet in order to screen and protect the ball when in the tight midfield pressure zone? Wouldn’t it be even greater if their vision gave them the awareness to play ahead of themselves’ and make timely changes of direction and turns to avoid running in to blind alleys?
Wouldn`t we all like to see in central midfield, players running laterally across opponents. Why can`t we have clever midfielder’s that use “moving screens” to perform take overs, wall passes and lateral give and go`s with “quick patience” in order to create linkage opportunities with front players?
Do our midfielders have the judgement to change the tempo, turn out and start again or stay with the ball in order to maintain possession before upping the tempo again to with penetrative individualism or linkage?
Why can’t we develop wide players who when in the top third can run and exploit space inside as well as outside defenders and critically be able to use both feet to protect the ball?
I mean it’s not as if Pele, Maradona, Gazza and Messi haven’t shown the prototype!!!
I further ask myself in the latest clutch of English International front men do we rarely see anyone who can “slyly” create that yard of space in those “half positions” in the top third that Bergkamp, Dalglish and to a lesser extent Sheringham made look so easy?
Why is it our front players always seem to showing for the ball at “100 miles an hour” with a defender tight on their back? -‘ fight football’ at its most torrid. Compare with Cantona whose first touch would often pull the defender away from the space so he could then reverse pass in to the linking player in support…………genius! and so so clever.
We rarely, if ever, see those qualities in our players and I see that we are falling further and further behind in the style, individualism and craft our players display in comparison with Spain, Germany, Italy, Argentina, Portugal and Brazil to name a few.
In my opinion it’s not the players who are at fault because they are merely the products of the development system and coaching methodology they have been subjected to.
Coaches at all levels especially grass roots need the commitment and coaching expertise to bring skill and tactical cleverness back in to the game. We need coaches with the insight to produce ‘naturally’ skilled great players and great teams.
Those qualities I’ve mentioned can and should be carefully and cleverly introduced to our kids from the very start of their playing and coaching experience.
Our aim must be to produce Charlton, Gazza, Maradona, Messi and Iniesta types by the’ bucket load’. Our aim should be to make our game cleverer and more skilfull than anywhere else.
I’m sure those coaches who have attended our Practice Play courses will testify that our methodology encourages these clever qualities at all levels of the work. We are committed to producing clever innovative coaches who in turn will produce gifted skilful and clever players. Football’s a great game join us in our efforts to produce players who will amaze and excite us. I hope this article will strike a chord with us all and inspire us to adopt a new impetus and spread the word;
Let’s coach the cleverness back in to our game!