By John Cartwright
I’m fed-up watching Professional players pass the ball sideways and backwards. I fully understand the tactical importance of ball possession, but there seems scant understanding, real purpose and practical outcomes with ‘possession football’ – it should be to create openings (channels) in an opponent’s defensive lines through which penetrative action can be made as often and as positively as possible.
The opportunity to ‘breach’ these channels is NEITHER recognized nor attempted as frequently as they should be and negative, simplistic passing of the ball has become a priority over penetrative passing and runs with the ball.
Whenever possible, attacking play should simulate a ‘diamond’ shape of four players: two players should position themselves at an angle each side of the player in possession of the ball and a fourth player should position him/herself in a forward space. The player on the ball has a number of options to decide on – a pass to his/her right, a pass to the left, a pass forward or a penetrative run forward through a channel with the ball.
Too often in games, the deep player on the ball will select a wide player to pass the ball to when an opportunity to pass or run the ball forward is possible. It is often the case that players are not aware of or have insufficient tactical vision (understanding) to set up a ‘diamond’ shape: instead of players who should move to positions to ‘flank’ the player on the ball they either do not move into this role or they stand directly in front of the deep player on the ball and in doing so shut off an open channel to a more forward colleague. It is also a regular occurrence to see a channel open up and the forward player is unprepared to move into it to receive a pass.
The creation of the ‘diamond’ shape assists ‘flank’ players to either open-up a channel should their marking player follow them, or should the marking player stay in the channel the ‘flank’ player can receive the ball unmarked. This positioning also allows the ‘flank’ players the opportunity to make runs off the ball to support a front player if a pass has been delivered to him/her down the channel.
It must not be overlooked that it is often possible for a deeper player to run the ball forward down a channel. This creates an ‘overload’ (2v1etc.) or decreases the distance between deep and forward players. Once again tactical understanding or ‘fear’ of failure on the part of deeper players in making this type of attacking ‘surge’ stops this situation happening too often. This attacking movement on the part of a deeper player MUST be recognized by his colleagues and a rotation of positions must take place to cover any defensive space the deeper player has left behind.
The opportunity to create a ‘diamond’ shape in each of the thirds of the field is possible on many, many occasions and should be used whenever possible. Negative passing and simplicity must not continue to flourish. A positive attitude built on sound practice, skilled ability and better game understanding must be at the forefront of development and filter into the game at all levels.