Football’s 3 Parts.

By John Cartwright

I have been involved in all areas of the game for many years; Playing professionally, Coaching at various levels, and Scouting for 18 years. During that time I have become very aware of an important aspect of the game; it is highly competitive and subject to the ‘winning of battles’– individual battles, group battles and team battles — to gain a winning result. My interest has focused on how teams re-arrange (vary) their playing styles during a game in accordance with either their domination of play (winning those battles) or being pressurized by the opposition (losing those battles).

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The 3 Parts of football tactics I’m alluding to are (1) EARNING THE RIGHT TO PLAY attractive and positive football. (2) DELIVERING THAT RIGHT and playing attractive and positive football. (3) BEING ABLE TO CHANGE FROM 1 TO 2 and vice-versa according to how a game develops over the 90+ minutes.

PART 1.  Your team must pressurize their opponents from the first whistle of the Referee. The opposition must be closed-down and harried when they are in possession of the ball and ‘turned’ as often as possible to defend passes in behind their defenders. In fact, this dynamic approach must force the opposition into defensive ‘mode’ — they must ‘dance to your tune and you must NOT dance to their tune’. By having a positive attacking attitude from the start you are causing the opposition to play defensively even though they may have possession of the ball and play should be contained in their half of the field as much as possible.

The obvious problem with forcing opponents deep into their half by pushing your team forward is the chance of opponents counter-attacking. This situation, must be recognized as always being a defensive threat to your team who must be aware of the threat and deal quickly with these attempts by the opposition to break out.

Pep. Guardiola’s teams attempt to regain possession within a 6 second period. He manages teams full of highly talented players who have the ability to begin games using Part 2 qualities yet his teams are expected to pressurize their opponents from the first whistle. This combination of ‘fight and finesse’ is possible only with highly talented and motivated players. For the vast majority of teams there has to be separate sections for domination to be achieved and then for football with more quality to be played.

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PART 2. So what is part 2? Well, it is about use of the time and space that has been gained during the Part 1. period. There is no given length of time for each Part to be played, but when necessity or opportunity become available your team must be able to recognize them and develop the playing style that fits them.

Part 2. is the ‘present’ that Part 1. has created. The luxury of playing against a team that has been overwhelmed tactically by the constant pressurization on them. It allows your team to keep the ball and to open up their opponents with a free-flowing playing style in the space and time they have gained. Individualism, group and team factors can be attempted during this period of superiority, but in football as in life, ’nothing stays the same’ and your team must be prepared to fall back on Part 1. methods if or when the opposition begin to reapply themselves. Not recognizing this fundamental change in the opponents’ actions can cause serious problems in your team’s attempts to play attractive football when time and space is being denied to them. This situation must be reversed as soon as possible and a return to Part 1. Is essential in order to regain domination.

Part 3. As stated earlier, ‘delivering the right to play’ mode is something that Guardiola’s teams are capable of playing game after game. For the majority of others however, they must —- earn it – to play it – and change back and forth when necessary. The time for involving each Part depends on how quickly it takes for your team to  dominate their opponents and how long it continues for, and then be prepared to re-earn the ‘right to play’ once that domination is quelled.

It must be understood that top quality football as displayed by Guardiola’s squads from Barcelona to Bayern Munich and now with Man. City, has required talented players to play it. The players have been guided by a brilliant football thinker and motivator. His teams have often displayed total domination in many games but on occasions when things have not always gone to plan they are prepared to ‘recharge their batteries’ and ‘earn the right to play’.

Overall, they have displayed the importance of individual ability and how that ability must ‘blend together’ through the ‘fight and finesse’ periods in games. Each club has been a credit to the game of Association Football and fully deserve the accolades they have received.

51 thoughts on “Football’s 3 Parts.

  1. Top- class ability at senior level STARTS at junior levels. The teaching of the game in this country has failed to provide a suitable development pathway that combines practice with playing from day one. This has NOT been the case in the past and continues to this day.

  2. I first heard the expression “earning the right to play” in the early seventies. This was at West Ham when Ron Greenwood was still the manager and there was a realisation that the very talented and pure footballing team which he had developed around 1964/1965 and which achieved cup success, both domestically and in Europe, would not, after all, go on to win the League Championship, as was quite widely expected. But some critics and people inside and outside the game, believed that West Ham’s football style was too brittle to bring League success in English conditions. Ron Greenwood gradually made changes to the team with players who would earn (or fight) for the “right to play”. Unfortunately, a number of the players now introduced into the West Ham first team did not possess the ability level of their predecessors. When John Lyall took over the manager’s job in 1974, having been groomed for the job over a number of years by Ron Greenwood, he also focused closely on this problem. Winning the FA Cup in 1975 and 1980 together with achieving an all-time highest ever top flight League position of third in 1985/86, indicates the progress that was achieved. But I think that most long-time West Ham supporters/observers would agree that there was never a team of comparable quality sent out in the claret and blue of the Hammers which compared with that of the 1964-1968 period.

  3. Hi Steve. John Lyall, was a basic, no-nonsense type of player. He developed his football senses during the management terms of Ted Fenton and Ron Greenwood. . In each of those periods he connected with players who were very ‘coaching-minded and this gave him a work ‘platform’ on which to use in management.

  4. Hi all. Well, the Champions’ League final was a great example of this ‘blog’. Liverpool ‘earned the right to play’ whilst Tottenham tried to play attractive football without ‘earning the right to play it’ !
    The BIG problem for both sides, and why the game never reached high playing standards was because both teams have a limited amount of individualism in their squads —— Liverpool ‘earned the right to play’ but have a limited amount of individualism in their squad but we’re prepared to ‘battle’ for control of the game. Tottenham, have a playing squad with slightly more individual talent yet tried from the first whistle to play attractive football without ‘earning the right’ to play it.
    Am I right or am I wrong. But we’re discussing here what I believe is an important football necessity for creating the ‘foundations for victory’. I wonder what a game between Man. City and Barcelona would have produced?

  5. Hi John…..In my opinion, Tottenham could have won the Champions’League Final on Saturday night but made a mistake in playing Harry Kane. After two months out with an injury and no match practice, he was fit but not match fit. He should have been put on the bench and Moura should have played in my opinion. Kane plays up the middle, directly in front of the opposing centre half. Moura makes runs between the centre half and the full back on that side and so asks more questions of the defenders. Van Dijk and Matip are good central defenders but it makes it too easy for them for the striker to be always in their zone. When Moura saved Tottenham in the second half of the semi final second leg, he was running into channels which de Ligt and his partner were not covering. That kind of movement just was not there last night.
    This movement would also have taken advantage of the spaces left by the two Liverpool full backs, Alexander-Arnold and Robertson, who love to get forward and so they could have been exposed or their runs curtailed. However, i realise that due to the poor quality of the match, their runs were nothing like as dangerous as usual.
    When Moura did come off the bench he was just a pale shadow of the player in Amsterdam and so never “earned the right to play”. In contrast, Liverpool brought on striker Origi for the last half hour. He is fairly ordinary, but comes alive in the penalty box. So a few minutes from the end he made the game safe when he got possession just outside the six yard area, made space by shifting the ball from one foot to the other and hit it low into the corner of the net. This was a case of a Liverpool player with a “limited amount of individualism earning the right to play it”.
    A match between Manchester City and Barcelona would promise far more than we got from the Final in Madrid. Barcelona have gone down a few notches in performance quality in the last few years but they still have Messi. City have such belief in what they do, due to Guardiola’s influence, that i think they would win quite comfortably.

  6. Hindsight is a marvellous quality but I think that Pochettino missed an opportunity in Madrid for Fortune to Favour the Brave. I would have played both Kane and Moura, in addition with Son,and probably left out Winks or Alli. If Alli played 2.1 with Ericksen the point; or if Winks played a 1.2 knowing that for all their endeavour Liverpool’s midfield strategically don’t run behind or play clever passes. Plus I wanted Eriksen on the ball to pull the strings; to play passes in front and behind, ‘turning’ them around. I may have elected to play with Winks giving two middle lockers – leaving out Alli – to cope with Firmino dropping off, and protecting against the counter, but also sliding one of the two to the side to balance up with a fullback defending Salah or Mane. Liverpool’s strengths are in their quick transitions and getting the front three in full flow; whilst Tottenham needed to be able to attack with sufficient defensive depth behind their possession if required. Of course
    with his choices Pochettino needed to make an earlier change bringing on Moura; and in this regard, I think that a Mourinho would have changed earlier because despite criticism leveled at him he is brave. A game plan exhibited through tactics.

  7. Correction…allowed as tired when writing… if Winks plays a 2.1 most likely with Sissoko and Eriksen at the point ; if Alli plays Sissoko the holder in a 1.2 …the important thing though as I said is to go with Kane, Moura and Son – we can debate and rethink the midfield set up up.

  8. Hi Brazil 94. This game was a great example of what i have said in this ‘blog’. Irrespective of the line-ups it was the different playing intentions of both teams from the start. Liverpool, ‘earned the right to play’ whilst Tottenham, failed to win the early battles and tried to produce a possession game from the start..The game did not reach the heights expected because both teams do not have enough individualism in them — Liverpool, to exploit their command of the game and Tottenham, because they tried to play attractive football when pressurized without the quality of players to play it.
    Great teams have high quality players who are able to display a combination of both competitive and attractive football. In this game both teams were short of one or other of these important playing ingredients.

  9. Hi John…can we suppose that as you stated ‘ the game did not reach the heights expected because both teams do not have enough individualism in them — Liverpool, to exploit their command of the game and Tottenham, because they tried to play attractive football when pressurized without the quality of players to play it’ that irrespective you anticipated what we in effect got…it was destined to be poor; and that you NEVER expected the game to reach the heights. Which doesn’t speak in glowing terms of Liverpool FC going neck and neck against Man City… a team that you believe is far better individually.

  10. Hi Brazil 94. I have always had a great deal of admiration for Liverpool F.C. In fact, i have always believed that the football played by Liverpool in the late 80’s and early 90’s should have set the playing example for the English game at both club and International levels. Their teams during this period of their history produced exactly what i have said in this ‘blog’ — they had players who could ‘earn it’ and then, because of the quality of their players involved during this period — they could also ‘play it’ !
    Your point about the close run Liverpool had with Man.City this season also emphasizes what i have set out in the ‘blog’ –both teams displayed a strong, competitive attitude throughout the season, but in the end Man.City won the title because they carried more players with high levels of individual ability.
    At the top of the game there are players who ‘hide’ behind their ability and fail to approach the game in a competitive manner—-other colleagues can do the ‘dirty-work’ !. This attitude, in the physical game of today, presents a weakness that the more successful clubs in the main do not tolerate —Barcelona and Messi, being an exception !

  11. Hi John a couple of points…it might have been massive if Tottenham had added an individual talent like Moura from the start, instead of the more limited Winks…this would perhaps have opened up more space and forward options to pass into. Clearly there is a connection with tactical arrangement/choice of players ( such as better individuals) and ‘earning the right’…in fact ‘earning the right’ must include intensity, ball speed and movement ( behind and in front) … a further point is the problem of the three week gap between the last league game and the final.

    Also the philosophy of play that Guardiola demands and coaches is different from that of Klopp and requires more creative players as play rounds and playing through the pitch – keeping the ball is predominant…It could be that Guardiola is also the better coach; accepted that both are exceptional.

  12. Unlike Brexit, there is no argument about the result — Liverpool, were better prepared to fight for control of the game from the start, and moved tactically between Part1 and Part 2 as the game developed. Tottenham, did not begin or maintain the same intensity to the same extent, they seemed to try to deliver slower, possession football as their playing preference. In that respect, Pochettino’s tactics lacked the intensity to open opportunities for the individualism his team has.

  13. What do you put the difference in intensity or lack of between the two…. Liverpool’s normal game possesses more regular intensity anyway, so that found it easier to achieve… This right to play? Which could also relate to Barcelona’s capitulation in the second leg of the semi. Can we take from what you are saying that with the additional signing of some top class ‘individuals’ Liverpool will be on excellent shape to fully integrate parts 1&2 and shift between them when required… Establishing them as a very good team in the process.

  14. The fact that Tottenham went a goal down so early in the game meant that they still had plenty of time to do something about it. It was already clear that the gamble with Kane had been a mistake. He could not get to the pace of the game, due to his lack of match fitness even though his injury had cleared up.
    Tottenham’s manager is not the first to overlook the importance of match fitness due to a lack of match practice, with a vital game coming up, and he won’t be the last.
    In any case, i thought that Winks, without being brilliant, was contributing more and worth keeping on the field.
    But whichever way you look at it, this was a poor match to present as Europe’s premier game of the season.

    • Hi Steve. It was a poor standard because Liverpool, ‘earned the right to play’ but have insufficient individual quality to exploit it. Tottenham, never ‘earned the right to play’ and we’re unable to produce a game-style that caused Liverpool any defensive problem.

  15. Hi John. Looking at the whole season, Liverpool have ‘earned the right to play’… and how do you define not exploiting it?
    Because on other days they seemed to do so!

  16. Because of other days they seemed to do so…with the same ‘insufficient individual’ quality in their ranks.

    • Hi Brazil 94. Over the past 20 years i have watched the game in this country move from Direct Play to Possession Football. This has not just been something that has occurred at Premier League level but throughout all levels. In the vast majority of cases teams are trying to emulate a playing method that is beyond their playing capabilities. Man. City, have won their trophies because they have a squad that is capable of playing Possession-type football and who also have a highly competitive approach to the game. Liverpool, ran them a close second and were successful in the Champions League because their Manager. Klopp, has collected together a group of ‘honest’ players who are prepared to play with a variation between Direct and Possession football, whilst at the same time, play with high intensity whenever necessary.
      Both clubs play their own particular BRAND of football because each has squads who have the players to play THEIR BRAND . The problem with most of the others is they either play with intensity but lack sufficient individual quality to reap its rewards, or they are so concerned with ‘keeping the ball’ that penetration goes virtually unused.
      Another great example of the points mentioned in this ‘blog’ was last night’s game England v Holland. England, were second best in both intensity and playing ability and lost the game. I’m sorry, but not until we learn to combine high playing ability with intensity will we enter into the top echelons of World football.

  17. Hi Brazil 94. Ability is measured by a successful outcome by the space and time in which it is achieved. The tighter the space the higher the individual ability required to overcome it === the larger the space the easier to exploit it.
    Too often clubs are trying to play a game-style that is beyond the playing ability of their squads. They are not creating enough space and time in which their limited skills can flourish. I will explain in another ‘blog’ how these playing problems can be hugely resolved and intensity can be combined with an improvement in playing ability.

  18. England’s problems against Holland last night were the same as they have displayed at any time during the last 60 years; namely, they are OK playing safe passes to unmarked men in square positions or behind them, but the problems occur when they should be passing the ball forward to marked or pinto spaces behind the opposing defence for runners. In other words, they rarely pass the ball with quality into those areas.
    Last night there was only Sterling making those kind of passes. It looked like he had broken the deadlock to set up a winner for Lingoed but a marginal offside decision ruined. Shortly before, a defence splitting pass almost provided the same for Kane.
    But Sterling is just one player and he displays the influence of Guatdiola’s caching. I would put Mark Noble in the England midfield because he tries whenever possible to turn the ball forward.
    This should now be a PRiORITY at English clube but instead safe,easy passes rule the day, as they have for generations.

    • Hi Steve. I have commented numerous times in ‘blogs’ that ‘Possession Football’,in almost every level of the game, has become a boring, statistical -led style of playing the game. Simplistics has been the marker of success and ‘adventurous’ individualism is becoming less and less available in the game.
      Openings that may have been achieved during periods of ‘keep-ball are regularly unused. Forward passes, both long and short, have a larger percentage of possible failure in comparison to the overwhelming sideways and backwards passing that we see, so are too often rejected.
      The quality of forward passing — correct weighting of passing and accuracy, is often poor. Also, missing is penetrative runs with the ball through openings etc.
      All in all, the transition from Direct Play to Possession Football with Statiistics in both periods forging simplistic decisions, has produced a lack of individual ability unable to play to high standards required.
      Repetitive Long passing of the past has been followed by repetitive, negative passing of today. As I have said so often. Variation – Variation – Variation ——- greatness should be registered as outstanding ability NOT basic simplicity. Quality football played by quality players should be our target to achieve and better teaching of the game must be at the very heart of reaching that target.

  19. John your comments regarding transition from Direct Play to Possession football (and previous entries in this blog and elsewhere suggest) and please correct me if I’m wrong – that the average British coach and football supporter (and people influenced by them) putting it politely, is quite thick!

  20. Hi Brazil 94. Could you explain what learning ‘pathway’ we have here that can produce top quality players? All clubs here have development teams of young players from 8-9 years of age, where’s the teaching and playing combination that should exist ? Winning, not learning is the most important agenda that flows throughout the whole development period.
    There are several young players who have recently displayed a different attitude and ability —- most of these youngsters have come from similar backgrounds and have learned the game as in the past — without the influence of over-structured, regimented, organised coaching. They have learned the game through practice/playing and have discovered that to fail is a stimulus to succeed. They have not had basic coaching parlance diminish their individualism and have LEARNED the game as it stands —- a game of ‘chaos’ that requires individual skills, decision-making and understanding as well as bravery to do the unexpected. These kids have been immersed in ‘real’ football situations from their earliest involvement with the game and have not been ‘compartmentalised’ with the ‘dont’s’ of our long-term over-structured, under-achieving coaching and development projects that have failed so many young players — and continues to do so !

  21. Hi John therein lies the answer of a muddled coaching system… As you say a learning pathway that fails… And has for so long failed… A pathway connected to the countries ‘ intangible oaching scheme that results in performances by the national team that are not good enough by a long measure. A coaching scheme that unfortunately negates the development of great individuals, yet a much smaller country Holland is able to do so, as are many others… Because when it comes down to it… High quality individuals combining when necessary is the real essence of the game.. And is something the Brits forever seem just to not get. Variation is not in the collective vocab… I did here that the Great Liverpool coaching staff were suspicious of the FA… And perhaps it turns out they were correct… BUT the FAs tenticles and influence stretch far and wide.

  22. Hi Brazil 94. Yes, during my visits to Lilleshall National Sports’ Centre during the 1970’s and 80’s, there were very few occasions on which a Liverpool player or staff member was in attendance. This was a pity, because I believe that the football during this period played by Liverpool, should have been ‘the template’ for our game in England.

  23. And looking at old matches on YouTube they are still THE ‘template’; much better than the Klopp version….just so more collectively complete in all aspects of the game…earning the right and then taking control with their passing game, mixed with individualism and variation… one can easily forget just HOW GOOD THEY WERE…everything you’d want really…and full of British players.

  24. Actually John I want to say more, inasmuch as it remains for us a ‘template’ … STILL RELEVANT in 2019 despite the tactical shift towards 3 in midfield … The great Liverpool of that period would have adjusted …I have my own thoughts but I think we’d be interested in how you’d handle this?

  25. Hi Brazil 94. They certainly marked all the cards with regards playing qualities — both team and individually. Also, remember that they were playing most of the season on MUD, not the pristine surfaces of today.
    Tactically, Liverpool, played a 4-4-1-1 formation throughout this period. Rush was the advanced forward and Dalglish, played slightly deeper. In mid-field the had two central players but these players were supported by flank players, At the back, they had players in all positions who defended first but were able to break forward to overload situations. Overall, from back to front, they had ‘tough’ players who were also individually talented players who combined together when necessary. They were, in my humble opinion, a club that best represented the whole needs for success in the game.
    AND I AM NOT A LIVERPOOL FAN to suggest this !

  26. The Liverpool team of the seventies and eighties were built on the principles laid down by Bill Shankly. They consisted of very strong-minded players who learnt very quickly to stand on their own two feet. They were not a club for the weak, either in mind or body. Players were not meant to miss matches due to injury and if they did, then Shankly is said to have ignored them.
    But they had players who could play, though I do not believe it was taught them by coaching in the usual sense. They had players who had learnt the game in the street in some of the last places in this country where such practice/play still existed: Glasgow, Belfast, Dublin, parts of Wales as well as Merseyside itself. The training, as John has pointed out in previous blogs, was largely game-play, but with a purpose so that the tactical approach of forthcoming opponents would be introduced into the training games to develop readiness for the next match.
    There were times in the Shankly era when highly skilled foreign opponents took them apart and I’m recalling matches against Ajax, Borussia Moenchengladbach (in the UEFA Cup) and Red Star Belgrade. Shankly’s reactions on those occasions did him little credit because he failed to acknowledge the superiority of the opposition and when his drum banging about what would happen in the return failed to materialise, then it made him look a little ridiculous.
    But as the Managers changed hands over the years, then it is clear that their staff looked carefully at the best of the foreign teams and new ideas were gradually incorporated into the Liverpool ‘way’. They developed a game style for Europe and another for the League, when they realised that it required two different types of football.
    It is also important to remember that in Liverpool there is a stronger sense of community than is the case in many other parts of the country where it has almost disappeared. This made Jurgan Klopp a good fit as Manager because he had this strong link with the supporters at both Mainz and Borussia Dortmund, his previous coaching jobs, in Germany and the electricity generated by it was a source of strength at those clubs as well.

  27. I think we are agreeing that a glorious opportunity presenting itself never got to fruition. It is curious that Liverpool themselves didn’t bed down their template; and although as Steve points out Klopp is a good fit, it’s a different game they now play mainly on quick transition; high-energy football that brings an intensity; not enough real quality.

    The Liverpool team of the 70s and 80s was top, top quality and as Steve stated they learnt in Europe how to play against the best of the Europeans…Unfortunately, the FA itself failed to see what was right in front of their face.
    Tactically, Dalglish took up half-positions when he needed to; Rush had pace to run behind; all the defenders could break out from the back with telling effect and Phil Neal often took up ‘inside’ positions; like Guardiola’s fullbacks to start off movements. So much much more of course…it’s all there.

  28. Hi Steve. In my opinion, the difference that saw Liverpool come second to Man. City was City’s larger number of individual class. Both clubs displayed intensity, tactical variation but City, had players throughout their squad that could ‘go it alone’.

  29. The telling factor then John is really the individual qualities of the players – in the tactical framework/playing style – and therefore the recruitment through purchasing ever so wisely highly technical players and development of one’s own.
    Hand in glove with each other…super coaching with super individuals.

  30. I have noticed that during the last few years a number of players have come out of semi-pro football into the Premier League without the benefit of progressing through an Academy.
    I am thinking of Wilson (Bournemouth), Antonio (West Ham) and Lookman, now of Everton, but came through at Charlton after going into their Academy late after previously playing junior park football. I would also again mention Marquis (Doncaster), not a Premier League player, but much improved since I first saw him playing for Millwall, with good movement from working under a good coach.
    These players who make it from the non-leagues have shown great commitment because they have to fit in playing in matches involving travelling long distances, and training, together with working full time in another job and often having only limited hours to sleep and rest. They, and others like them, show little inferiority to other young players who have progressed through an Academy for about 8 – 10 years. A marked difference should be apparent, but often it is not.
    I attended all four of the matches in the recent Nations League competition in Portugal. England and Switzerland are about on the same level of the ladder, although you would expect England to be a rung or two higher. On the day they weren’t because, in my opinion, they failed to open up the Swiss defence due to poor play from not applying the basics of getting behind the Swiss defence with any regularity. When they did manage to do this, there looked the chance of a goal, but it did not happen enough.
    I find this neglect, or unawareness, of the basics as much a problem as lack of intensity and contributes just as much to not earning the right to play. Simple little ‘overlapping’ movements and ‘pass and move combinations’ are too often completely absent, as it was for too long in the Third Place Match on Sunday.
    Portugal and Holland have the individualism, the ‘game-changers’, who can pull a result out of the fire when the game looks lost. We have lacked such players for a long time but fail on the basics of good team play as well. I applaud the non-league players who have pushed themselves to the fringes of the England team and, in the case of Wilson, into the squad itself. I like him and think his movement is better than that of Kane, although the goals per game ratio of the Tottenham striker will always push his claims. But for me, the attention to basics in Wilson’s case puts him ahead of Kane.

  31. Hi Steve. I think I should say that in my opinion the development ‘methods’ that have been introduced here over the years have not focused anywhere enough on the teaching of individual skills. In fact, teaching competitive skills is a neglected issue throughout the whole development period.
    The ‘pathway’ that should combine skill learning with competitive play is non-existent. In the past, this ‘pathway’ was traceable through the competitive, practice/playing in games that took place in streets, crowded school playgrounds etc. A competitive match when played on the extra space of a football pitch allowed the qualities of ‘tight skill learning’ to prosper.
    Those hours of practice/playing have long gone. Teaching competitive skills to players from young to seniors is an art. Teaching levels must coincide with playing levels — a gradual decrease in time and space during practice must comply with small playing numbers in small playing areas. As development continues, practises can be gradually increased in number of players and area sizes also gradually increased in size —— what is being taught in practice sessions MUST correspond in games that follow. This combination of practice with playing is the necessary ‘development ‘pathway’ that has been lost to the game.

  32. Hi John, The problem is that this situation with the enlightened English FA has existed for so long; without change…holding on to being the HOME OF FOOTBALL AND 1966.
    And you’ll know nothing is going to happen anytime soon!

  33. The next few years will reveal whether the emergence of young talent which we have witnessed in the England under-age teams in recent seasons, proves to be a flood or a trickle. Has the ‘game cages’ environment in heavily populated areas, which has produced Sancho, Nelson, Mount, Foden, Hudson-Odoi, Loftus-Cheek, Rice and others, got more young players waiting to be snapped up?
    The talent is almost certainly there but the Premier League is not providing sufficient game time for that raw material to develop. Less demanding Leagues in Germany and France are providing that platform in the way that our League is not.
    In the meantime, we must look at the games carefully in the forthcoming UEFA Under 21 Championship to see if there are any more players ready to make that final step into the National Senior Team.

  34. Hi all. It’ should be no surprise that the present ‘few’ young players that have emerged recently are associated with ‘self-practice’ areas. I have been trying to explain the importance of ‘Practice/Playing’ for decades. Perhaps, ‘the penny has dropped’ and our football ‘hierarchy’ might begin to listen ==== But don’t hold your breath!

  35. Hi John…..Last night I watched Spain play Italy in the UEFA U-21 Championship on TV. Italy won 3-1 but it was Spain’s goal which interested me.
    It reminded me of a session you did at the London Football Coaches Association several years ago. Spain midfielder, Ceballos, was in possession, just outside the Italian penalty area. He shifted the ball to one side and his next touch sent the ball arrowing into the net.
    Moving the ball to one side, as Ceballos did, meant that the keeper , who was set for a shot on the previous touch, had to quickly try and adjust his position and the ball was past him and into the net before he could do so.
    Taking the ball to one side makes life difficult for defenders and keepers, as you stressed in your session. This was a good example and coaches everywhere should take note.

    • Hi Steve. Your point about Spain’s goal emphasises a SKILLFUL reaction to a situation. Development methods here have not prioritised the teaching of individual skill that relates to learning stages from junior to senior levels of the game.
      Games played throughout the whole time do not comply with practice at the time. If we model football education with classroom teaching methods we find that subjects taught at school build on gradual amounts of information delivered and ‘tested’ to examine student understanding.—- teaching adding up all week is not then tested by issuing test papers on subtraction at the week’s end! But practice without suitable follow-up competitive playing does not provide the learning process in football development should have.
      Football Coaching here needs more thought given to the teaching of the game —- a ‘pathway’ that has a gradual introduction of individual skills in combination with relevant game situations.

  36. Last night Germany played Denmark in the UEFA U-21 Championship which Germany won 3-1. Two of Germany’s three goals came from rapid counter attacks, after they had pulled all eleven players back into their penalty area to defend on one occasion from a free kick and on the other from a corner.
    On each occasion, Germany gained possession from the kicks and this was the signal for players to break forward from their defensive mode into attacking positions. Players sprinted down the field in direct passing movements of about 2 to 3 passes. The ball and the German players moved at lightening speed and the Danes had no answer to it.
    It highlighted two aspects that I believe we should be paying particular attention to in England. The first was the sudden increase in tempo that Germany employed to take advantage of the situation and immediately put the Danes on the back foot. Variation in the change of pace at which the game is played is something we still need to pay great attention to, as the desire to play at flat-out speed at all times, often due to spectator demands, continues to be a feature of our game. On the other hand, an over- emphasis on slow, deliberate passing allows the opponents to drop back comfortably into defence and ruins the effectiveness of the counter attack.
    The other aspect is that,as counter attacks, we have recognise that this is a form of direct play. It has to be to succeed with counter attacks and provides another example of mixing the game styles.

  37. The defeats England suffered in their first two matches of the UEFA U-21 Championship, against France and Romania, leading to immediate elimination, came as a big disappointment. Many in the England squad had experienced success in recent years as members of the England under age teams, which were successful in tournaments at both World and European level.
    When England were enjoying this success, John had reminded us that England in previous years have many times failed to capitalise on the victories achieved in Youth Tournaments, when they progress into higher age brackets. In the 15 – 18 age groups, we often get the full benefit of our advantage in physicality but as we move into older age bands the technical development does not seem to improve at the rate it should do.
    From what I have seen on TV of the U-21 Championship, Germany look the best team, technically, tactically and in tournament preparedness. Also, I understand that a large number of their squad have played a generous amount of first team football in the top flight of the Bundesliga during the last 12 months. This lack of game time given to young players in the Premier League gets more and more critical every season. Even really talented young players like Abraham and Mount have had to drop into the Championship in order to get first team football on a loan basis.
    But there are also important questions to be asked concerning the selection of the squad which travelled to Italy, the team selection for each of the first two matches, the tactical approach for those two matches and the substitutions which were made during them. When Choudhury received the red card against France, ruling him out of the Romania game, no other holding midfield player had been included in the squad who could take his place. Such an omission for such a critical position is unforgivable for a country that claims to be making serious strides towards winning the World Cup and/or Euro in the near future.
    The two most talented attacking players are Foden and Abraham, and yet they did not start either match. The explanation offered was something along the lines of “game management” and saving them until the later stages of matches to take advantage of the oppositions’ tiredness. This seems contrary to positive thinking and getting on the front foot right from the start. And when Abraham finally came on against France to play as an extra fullback, then the situation had descended into farce.
    I think that Aidy Boothroyd, when he has had time to reflect on the matches, will admit he made mistakes and, given another chance, he would do things differently. I know that he is a dedicated coach and always tries to help young coaches setting out on their careers and those in the semi professional and junior game. However, the Under 21s is very important team, just one step below the Senior National Team. I would question whether the Football Association are giving full consideration who they appoint as Manager/Coach of this team. Aidy Boothroyd has spent a substantial amount of his years as a coach and manager in the lower divisions of the Football League with, as far as I know, just a brief period in the Premier League with Watford. This in no way prevents him from being a good coach but I wonder if the FA are really looking at the big picture when making such an appointment. Germany and Italy are just two countries where the under 21 Coach is a former National Team player, not long since retired, who has studied the game since his playing days, played under some exceptional coaches and brings a lot to the table with the Under 21 team. I’m not sure we can say the same thing about the England Under 21 Team.
    After the elation twelve months ago at the Russia World Cup, the Senior Team’s mediocre performances in Portugal and now the Under 21s’ poor showing in Italy, we have been brought back to reality with a bump.

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