By John Cartwright
I’m becoming extremely bored watching a football being passed negatively around the back by teams trying to copy-cat foreign football at ALL levels of the game in this country. Why has this situation occurred? Well, I think there are several reasons; we’re ‘copy-cating’ Spanish, ‘Ticki-Tacki’ possession football — our back players aren’t as accomplished on the ‘finer arts’ of the game as our Iberian opponents — we lack confidence and skill when on the ball — there is a lack of game understanding that inhibits recognition of opportunities to make forward passes and penetrative runs with the ball. There is also another very important reason for this lack of playing quality in our game; we don’t understand the importance of creating (channels) from back players to forward players. Too often these routes forward are not available because they are blocked, not necessarily by the opposition, but by midfield players of the team in possession!
All of the points I have suggested reduce our ability to produce a more positive approach to ball possession ‘through the thirds’. However, it is the consistent blockage of forward channels that really irritates me. Our mid-field players, in their desire to ‘get into the game’, often position themselves incorrectly — they take up positions that block the ‘channels’ towards their forward players. This blocked, frontal positioning by mid-field players reduces their ability to see around them whilst at the same time, it tends to drag an opposing marker into a ‘channel’ with him/her.
The art of playing possession-styled football requires high playing ability and football intelligence. Intelligent movement off the ball produces numerous positive situations to select from. A midfield player should be particularly adept at ‘finding’ an ANGLED not a FRONTAL position when supporting a back colleague with the ball. In so doing a mid-field player not only ‘OPENS THE CURTAIN’ to reveal a ‘channel’ through to forward players, but also, he/she opens a series of situations that benefit both themselves and their team-mates.
This simple appreciation of off the ball movement creates:
- A forward ‘channel’ through which a pass can be made.
- 2. A forward ‘channel’ that a back player with ball can run through with it.
If an opposing marking player decides to stay in a ‘channel’ and not follow and mark the angled movement of his/her mid-field opponent, then he/she has allowed this mid-field player to be unmarked and so become free to receive the ball from his back colleague in an unpressured situation.
Front players must also display their football intelligence when a ‘channel’ has opened up; he/she must time their movement to receive a pass that may be played towards them or position themselves to support either an on-coming back or mid-field colleague in possession of the ball who is penetrating through the ‘channel’
Similarly, if a pass has been made down the ‘channel’ from back to a forward player, supporting mid-field players must ‘read’ this situation and be on the move to link-up quickly with him/her.
The creation and exploitation of the use of ‘channels’ must become a priority issue in coaching in this country. The ‘play-round’ at the back by teams must produce more positive, penetrative opportunities if possession football tactics are to function successfully.
We aren’t doing things properly. Time is moving on and coaching here is failing to provide answers to serious problems in the game. With respect to the issue relating to this ‘blog’ — we’re keeping the curtain closed, not open.