By John Cartwright
The game has changed considerably in many ways over the past decade or so. With the improvement in playing surfaces it is disappointing to see important aspects of the game now being rarely or never used. These playing aspects formed a special place in the game at all levels but they have gradually drifted away over time as speed and simplistic ball possession now dominates the game world-wide.
- Take-overs: movement across the field with the ball to conjoin with a colleague moving across in the other direction to take-over possession from him.
- Wall Passes: Passes of this type, both at angled or forward situations, now rarely delivered with the outside of the foot and at different heights.
- Headed ‘knock-downs’ off crosses: This is due to the lack of forward players who are competent in the air. This lack of forward aerial ‘targets’ has increased ‘play-rounds’ in the attacking third when a cross would be more beneficial.
- ‘Dummy’ back-heels: A player moving across or forward with the ball and under pressure from an opponent, passes his foot over the top of the ball as if to drag it backwards but continues with his original run.
- Back-heels: The player on the ball runs with it and uses his heel to pass the ball to a colleague. This action often changes the direction of play and opens more attacking options.
- Forward Pass with outside of the foot: Too often in today’s game players fail to use the outside of either foot and prefer a pass using the instep. The use of the instep is a more obvious action — takes more time to perform — decreases movement capability for the player once the ball is passed. The use of the outside of the foot however, is less predictable for opponents to recognize – is quicker to perform – and allows the player to move quickly once used.
- Goalkeepers’ – half volley goal-kicks from the hands: ‘Rounded volley’ kicking by goal –keeper’s is now the norm throughout football. This type of delivery tends to be less accurate but produces more length. The actual kicking action tends to be more prone to poor contact on the ball causing the ball to be struck low on its surface and causing it to go high and often short. The half-volley however, tends to be easier to connect with ball as the distance of the kicking foot to contact with ball is much shorter than the ‘rounded’ contact method of the full-volley.
- Cross-field runs with the ball: For penetrative gaps in an opponent’s defence to occur their defenders should be directed ACROSS rather than pushed BACK . In so doing opposing players are taken away from their defensive areas and these spaces can be filled by attacking players. By running AT opponents, defenders are pushed back into tighter defensive space making penetrative attacks less likely to succeed.
- Central Defenders skilled in attacking ability: Too often the label of playing ability for Central Defenders is set on their defensive qualities alone. The game provides numerous opportunities for players to exploit important attacking situations from these positions — but very few seem to seize the chances —- not able to or not allowed to?
- Creating the ‘Diamond’ pattern in attacking play: This attacking formation of 4 players should be a regular occurrence in the game—but it isn’t! Too often there is a lack of correct positioning, poor deliveries of the ball and slow support. This important feature in the game should be taught from early days in the development pathway ——but it isn’t—-why?
- The ‘Lay-down—collection’ Sliding Tackle: Even with hugely improved playing surfaces the Sliding Tackle that players used so often in the past that ‘collected’ the ball rather than just ‘knocking’ it away — often out of play, has almost disappeared from the game. ‘Ugly’ and crude defending methods, often causing serious injuries, have become more apparent than the skilled timing and playing ability used so frequently when defending in earlier days.
- The attacking ‘Aerial Target’: Crossing of the ball has become more about deliveries that are ‘hard and low’ and not ‘high and chipped’. This change in delivery preference has been due to two things –(a) the increase of Possession Football(Stats.) and this has caused (b) a lack of talented, attacking players with aerial qualities. The high cross or chipped cross into the opposition’s penalty area for a header at goal or for a ‘knock-down’ to a supporting colleague are few and far between. ‘Play-rounds’ in the attacking third have become the norm when a cross to a well-placed ‘target player’ instead would make an immediate and possible, successful impact on the game.
These are my 12 ‘moans’ about the game. It has become over-controlled by ‘stats.’ and no longer provides tactical variations, artful decision-making or the impact of individualism the game should contain.