By John Cartwright
Throughout football here we accept ‘fight’ situations in all areas of the field either because of the use of systems of play that cancel each other out or because of poor game understanding; games are played with scant awareness or appreciation of overloading in attacking/defending situations.
Our game stands on a pre-set playing structure in which movement beyond their normal area of involvement by players is not used enough. Yes, there is movement down flank areas by ‘wing-backs’ but little else of note beyond an occasional individual offering.
Systems of play are generally formed with the ability of the players in mind. Lack of playing quality deems it a problem to devise systems that require more accomplished tactical movement; this is evident with the 1v1 ‘fights’ in mid-field that reflects our physical qualities but demonstrates our lack of craft and appreciation of the creative aspects of the game.
Creating extra players in defensive situations is an expected tactical occurrence but in the majority of games defenders remain in a ‘waiting mode’ in readiness to deal with attackers and offer little support to attacking play when their own team has possession of the ball. The spaces on the way to goal are becoming congested as teams pull more players back to cover the pathways to goal and so it is becoming more important for attacking teams to breach any available space with speed, tactical variations and extra supporting players. Through the whole field of play players must see the gaps for penetration that occur and all players should be prepared to create overload situations with or without the ball to breach those gaps.
The overuse of passing the ball sideways and backwards must not be seen as outstanding play, it merely satisfies statisticians but does little to enforce an attacking threat to opponents. The ability to produce quality service to forward players is essential if success is to be achieved. Overloading from the back and mid-field provides the opportunity to supply effective service of ball and extra players into front areas for goal-scoring chances to be made. By shortening deliveries of the ball into forward players makes deliveries more likely to succeed and by supporting quickly with additional players makes defending against this type of playing style much more difficult .
Overloading must not be seen simply as a flank/wide tactic, movement through central areas can be equally beneficial if used with timing and purpose. These overload situations must become an accepted part of playing the game and all playing positions should allow for overloading movement to support play. The main reason for the lack of game variation here is poor playing ability; support forward to overload requires support backwards to cover and in both cases our players are uncomfortable outside of their normal ‘job descriptions’ and attacking and defensive spaces do not get filled by players with the necessary ‘tools for the job’.
From a young age we must be resolute in producing ‘all-round footballers’ and not ‘positionalized planks of wood’. Movement throughout the field of play must become part and parcel of the game we play. The physical qualities of players must not be overlooked for the game throughout the world is becoming more demanding and we must be prepared to produce excellence in skills-tactics-game understanding in combination with speed-strength- athleticism and physical size. All players in a team do not have to be ‘giants’, but it is important that taller players are in a majority and that all players, tall or short, must have high endurance levels.
As I have mentioned in last month’s ‘blog’ we must not forget the ‘space available in the sky’ and be able to compete in the air in all parts of the field. The game is changing and although ball possession will continue to form a playing basis we must be aware of all aspects of the game and prepare our players accordingly.
Overloading must fill the game from start to finish in order to produce tactical situations that delete the excessive 1v1 ‘fights’- ‘scrimmages’ and negative attacking play from our game. Unless we seek to become true masters of playing quality we will fall further behind those nations who continually seek higher levels in their playing standards.