KF-Trainerblog #4: FC London U13, 2017 Season
Scroll down for article in english
Im zweiten KF-Trainerblog habe ich bereits etwas über meine Arbeit als Trainer in Kanada berichtet. Da die Saison in Kanada über den Sommer läuft ist nun Ende Oktober eben jene beendet, weshalb ich mich dazu entschieden habe einen Saisonabschluss-Artikel zu schreiben und über das Jahr mit einer U13 Jungenmannschaft extensiv zu berichten. Um meinen Spielern und ihren Eltern, aber auch anderen kanadischen Bekannten das Lesen zu erleichtern, habe ich den Artikel auf Englisch verfasst. Wem das eine zu große Herausforderung ist, kann hier die via Google übersetzte Version lesen.
My season with FC London U13
In February 2017 I took over the FC London U13 Boys Team. Now, that the season is over, I want to reflect on what has been a unique experience for me. Quality wise I have yet to coach such good players, and as human beings they are incomparable. I learned a lot this season, to solidify it writing this article could be of good help.
Firstly, I will go to a detailed analysis of every player in the squad and his role and position. After that I will elaborate on our game model and the training, describing a few sessions with coaching points and objectives. In addition to that I will analyze a few games in short paragraphs and end the article with some additional words to talk generally about the team and the season, as well as the circumstances of both.
- Player analysis
- Game model
- Our Evolution
- Additional words
My Youtube-Channel with videos of games and trainings
Dante has good athletic abilities, his jumping ability and quick feet helped him achieve some very spectacular saves. Situationally, his tendency to choose spectacular saves over trying to merely react to the opponent gets the better of him, as he speculates sometimes and gets caught with shots into a different area than the one he chose to dive to. Over the course of the season he has greatly improved his passing range. At the beginning, where I instructed only short passing, I took away the longer chip balls, which was a mistake of mine. After some talks with a very good goalkeeper coach he convinced me of using long balls more often. Dante has very good accuracy with these chip balls and is even able to kick them decently with his left foot when he can take it first touch. Even though the general ability is there, decision making per se is impaired by the inconsistent orientation. Whenever he checks his options vertically, diagonally and to the sides he is able to make good decisions and execute them well. The checking still happens inconsistently, which means he sometimes plays longer passes when he does not need to, giving the ball to the opponent. He is very brave though and does not shy away from vertical passes into the six-space. Equipped with a strong arm, his throws are very accurate and can be used to quickly progress and bring passes into open spaces over the opponents, without making it too hard for his teammates to control the ball.
His positioning in pressing is good, he pushes up with the rest of the team and communicates with the players in front of him. Through his high positioning he enables his teammates to press very high and attack the ball, because Dante can intercept balls in behind the last line, which he consistently does.
David is the main centreback in the back three. He leads the defense and is always the deepest player, therefore being responsible for offside-traps. This is one of the main issues, too often he chooses to stay too deep, opening the space in front of him to the opponent. Especially in counterattack situations he drops deep too quickly and then has no access to the ball. Because of his deep position he opens space behind his halfbacks. Through good anticipation he is able to solve a lot of these situations and intercept passes or look for duels with the runners in behind and at least guide them away from the goal. In less ample situations, where the ball is close to him, he has good reactions to counterpress and can win the ball. Generally his defending in duels is very good, he knows how to shift his body in front of the opponent and barely gets caught on the wrong foot. He is not the fastest, but his positioning is so good, that he does not have to combat in longer distance running duels.
In build-up he often acts as a “switch-centreback”, pushing into the six-space when its needed to create central overloads. His timing in getting into this position is good, and when he has an open body position and time he can pick very good laserpasses into the space in between the opponent’s lines. His orientation though is still something that needs to be improved, sometimes he does not see opponents coming and loses the ball. Several times in the season he lost the ball because of an unnecessary touch where he took his time when he should have played quicker. When he is in a deeper position or just has a bit of time, his passing is one of the best in the team. When he plays left centreback in a back four he can play really accurate passes to the opposite half spaces. His field of vision from the left seems to be better than from the right. These passes mostly come after a pass from the left back and David takes the first touch to the right and after that plays the ball with the laces. His chip balls started to improve, even though they are still far away quality wise from his passes on the ground.
Kaleb is one of our smallest players, which makes him in many eyes unsuited as a defender. This could not be further from the truth. Kaleb’s anticipation abilities enable him to defend forward in an excellent manner. Kaleb’s timing in challenges to win the ball are impeccable and also very important for our very proactive style of defending. Because of his lack of physicality, he sometimes loses challenges, even though timing and execution was correct. Often enough he attacks the ball at the right time and gets a touch on it, but a stronger opponent can push him away rather easily. But because of his excellent timing, Kaleb can a lot of times intercept balls before they come to the opponent. He uses their poor orientation to attack the opponent’s pass from the blindside. After winning the ball, he quickly and cleanly releases it to a teammate, preferably into central zones.
In build-up, Kaleb’s preferred foot is the right. He plays mostly as left halfback or left centre- and fullback though, which causes him problems sometimes. Even though body position and ball control with the far foot is executed correctly, it still imposes sometimes too big of a challenge to play a pass with the left foot, which is why he tries to shift the ball to the right. As a consequence of this he is rarely able to play diagonal passes under pressure, in these situations he often plays back to the goalkeeper. Because of his lack of strength, he cannot play these passes for a long distance, which is why Dante needs to come close to Kaleb, which impairs the former to have proper body position and orientation towards the other side to switch the ball to the other side of the pitch. These situations regularly impose problems to us. With better pre-orientation from Kaleb and more and quicker use of the left foot this can surely be improved.
When Kaleb gets the ball on his right foot though and can pick passes, he can find excellent short-ranged options. He also sees mid-ranged passes and tries them, even though he sometimes fails due lack of strength. But the idea is always clear and often a correct one. He is one of the few who tries chip balls in behind opponent’s lines. Here also execution of course still needs work with repetition in game-specific practice, but again: ideas are clear and correct.
Kaleb’s lack of physicality makes him a very underrated player. My trust in his tactical abilities were big from the beginning, as he will grow and from there on will not only be physically strong, but can pair this with very good understanding of the game.
The past season Daniel played mostly on the wing in midfield, as he is very strong and fast, very direct and likes to make runs into depth to receive passes in behind the opponent’s defense. His role was always a very linear one. Due to his physical superiority, his game was simple and basic, he was constricted (not only by the system of the season before, but also by me) to simple passing into the middle and running up and down the line. I preferred to use him as a fullback in a back four or wingback in a back five/back three formation in the beginning of the season.
After a tip by a very, very respected coach I put him as a halfback. From there on Daniel made a big jump in his development. As we focus on diagonality in positioning and passing, his physical strength helped us playing mid-ranged to long-ranged diagonal passes from the right side into the middle. His orientation is very good, he oftentimes sees far side diagonal passing options and attempts to play to them on the ground, but is also able to chip them. As he is a very dynamic player, he uses dribblings in high pressure situations fairly often and is encouraged to. Even though his ball control is not very close, the fact that he gets pressed frontally helps him use his quickness against the opponent’s dynamics to go past him.
In pressing Daniel’s forward defending is very good, his timing is similar to Kaleb’s and his decision making in when to go out of his position to press fits most of the time. Due to his quickness, he can always stay a bit more back to have coverage of the space behind him, but also good access in front when the ball gets passed to the opponent’s feet. Like Kaleb, he does not shy away to go deep into the opponent’s half to press. Due to Daniel’s physical maturity, he wins more duels than Kaleb though, but as a player type they are more similar than one might think at the first glance.
Davis is the fastest and strongest player in our team. His speed helps him dribble past several opponents sometimes, especially when there is enough space. Even though he dribbles less than actually runs with the ball and pushes it into space in front of him. In build-up, especially playing from the right, he can sometimes find very good options diagonally in front of him, if positioning and timing of his teammates is adequate.
Davis’ defending was a problem at the beginning, as he was not aggressive enough and let the opponents turn most of the time. Against the majority of the opponents this was not a problem, as he was way faster than them anyway and was able to steal the ball like that. Against players who pass the ball well or are also very fast, he then had problems. After some video analysis with him this improved, and his defending became more aggressive and effective.
Davis played several games as halfback as well, and if needed, after tactical adaptations as an offensive winger or number ten, if the goal was to attack a lot of space in behind and the other players were not able to do it consistently.
Jan, one of our 2005 born players, came to us as a new player in the winter, his abilities made him stand out as one of the weaker players. He was behind in most aspects of the game. He made the biggest development jumps though, his implicit understanding of the game was always decent but evolved as the season went on. His execution will still need some years of work, but his decision making is already pretty good, which is the basis for everything.
As a right wingback he has simpler situations he needs to solve, on this position he can flourish the best for now. He always keeps an open body position and sees simple, but stable options in the middle to pass to. Sometimes the speed of decision making is not up to par with the pressure that the opponent puts on him, but it certainly improved over time. He likes to run into space, he is especially valuable when he does that from a deeper position and continues his run after passing, attacking spaces that were opened by his teammates coming closer to the ball as a short passing option.
In pressing he is very active, curves his runs and uses his cover shadow well. He always follows through with his runs and doesn’t stop in front of the opponent, which is also very valuable in counterpressing as well. On the wings he can win quite a decent amount of balls, his timing pressing out of his position is good, even though general position can lack sometimes and needs attention during training week so he can remember what his tasks are regarding positioning.
Yaz is one of the oldest and physically most developed players in the team, with Daniel and Davis probably also the fastest. His main positions have been as wingback or fullback, on both sides. He is a smart young man, who is very open and more mature than one might think judging his jokes.
In pressing he works a lot, he knows how to use his speed well. His timing could be slightly better when leaving his position to press, even though it is already pretty good. He uses his cover shadow well by pressing diagonally, is very aggressive in winning the ball and following his runs through when pressing the ball. He rarely gets outplayed when he presses, as he is so quick that the opponent doesn’t have time do orientate himself. His technique in winning the ball is also very effective, being able to cover both sides, he barely gets beaten on one side consistently.
In possession he developed more diagonality in passing. We worked on that a lot, and as he is a very attentive player, he tries to orientate himself diagonally inside before receiving. When he plays on the right he sometimes finds great passes into the striker, especially when somebody runs through the halfspace to create a passing lane. He is right footed, which interestingly tends to be a problem when he plays on the right though, as he tries to bypass opponents with just pushing the ball forward and running along the line. A lot of times he still chooses the wrong moments for this and ends up in positions with bad connections to his teammates. On the left he tended to dribble too much inside, but with a lot of work on body position his overall decision making on the ball is better on the left now than on the right.
Sam joined us in the middle of the season and immediately made a positive impact and pushed up our overall playing quality. He was unsatisfied with his former club, as the coach of the “A-team” told him that he was technically one of the best in the whole squad, but just not tall enough. Thank god that my team is tiny and he always had a place in our team!
His close ball control, as well as his good feints to guide the opponent a certain way and then go the other make him a very good dribbler, enabling to pass sometimes two players in a row. In the centre, as an eight, he sometimes lacked in proper orientation in body position, making him lose balls in dangerous areas. After a few weeks I started playing him as a left wingback, which fits his profile better. His field of vision is directed towards the field, he can find a lot of diagonal passes and dribbles inside, which fits our game model. He acts a bit narrower and doesn’t play as wide as one is used to from wingbacks, but when Peter or Hussein (both described later) play in front of him, their movements out wide balance Sam’s tendencies very nicely.
He is a very inquisitive character, which makes him understand our game model clearer and quicker than most players. When he does not understand something, he asks and makes sure what he thought was correct or not. In pressing he does his tasks decently well, even though timing and use of cover shadow can be improved. In all fairness, most of the work regarding that was done before he joined our team.
Ante was born in 2005, as was his twin brother Mate. Ante is one of the most versatile players in the squad, having played as defensive midfielder, number eight, ten, winger and false nine. His body position is mostly on point, which helps him in pre-orientation (even though he has problems with that as ten or false nine, forgetting to check his shoulder sometimes), as well as his very good ball control enable him to make quick decisions and keep the ball moving. When he plays in central midfield he positions himself well, not coming too close to his teammate and playing clean passes with two touches. Through his dynamic nature he is better suited as an eight, he likes to look for runs into space after releasing the ball. This poses problems as a lone number six, with a partner in a double-pivot this can be balanced, though.
His aggressiveness in the work against the ball makes up a lot for his lack of size and strength. He anticipates passes well and his timing in attack the opponent, as well as his persistency make for some good ball wins in midfield, from where he often initiates counterattacks through vertical actions. His quickness helps him also in counterpressing, he aggressively focusses on attacking the ball and helps the collective to win the ball back.
Mate was out for most of the season, as he had concussion problems. He also has an inside turned eye, which inhibits his vestibular system to work properly. After he came back from his several month-long break, he was slow and couldn’t keep up the tempo. Neither physically nor in decision making. Some work with “NeuroAthletik”, a german company, helped Mate to have stable vision, better mood and puts him every day in a better position to perform throughout the day.
Mate’s long break of course still inhibits him to reach his normal potential. But one can see, that he is quite the passer. His pre-orientation still needs some work, as well as his body position when turned to the right (he is left-footed). But this will come with time, as thanks to NeuroAthletik he is primed to execute quality repetitions in our training. He is less dynamic than his brother Ante of course, but therefore uses passing more focused as a tool to solve situations, making him more of a build-up player. His overall decision making, also off the ball is good. Timing and execution are off a lot still though, but this is to be expected, to be tolerated and handled with patience.
Ilya showed me in the beginning his close ball control, I immediately thought of him as a defensive midfielder. His first games were not exactly what I expected, I moved him to defense after that. I felt that his pre-orientation was not good enough, not taking into account that I didn’t teach them proper body position enough and it being my fault. His passing was good, as well as his ability to hold the position. As a halfback he played some decent games, but it was only after a tip of the same coach, that advised me to move Daniel, that with proper training of body positioning he became a very good number six.
He is the best example for our focused two touch play, controlling passes with one foot and quickly playing it with the other one. His body position is now one of the best, always facing the opponent’s goal, which enables him to see a lot of options and find passes in front. He finds good positions to ask for the ball and does not move too close to his teammates. With good pre-orientation he is also able to do some nice turns around the opponent and evading pressure. He tries to dribble sometimes and take his space in front, which I support, even though he then still does not find the right moment to release the ball consistently.
Even though he is one of the better players in terms of holding positions, he still tends to leave spaces in front of the back line, which of course is crucial and cost us two conceded goals. His higher positioning is mostly due to his willing to counterpress, in which he is very good in. His central occupation is always good, when his distance to the backline is adequate, he adds a lot of stability to our press and finds good timing, paired with aggressiveness, in attacking the ball.
Dante D, Left Wing/Eight
One of the most famous kids in the club, deemed as the most talented in the group. Very good skillset and close control and ambitious playing. His dribbling was quite good, even though he overdid it sometimes. At first he played as an eight, moving him to the left wing freed him up, hid his problems in orientation and helped him use his dribbling better. Unfortunately left in the middle of the season for a rival club.
Mohammed (MJ), Eight
Mohammed is one of the players with the best ability to shield and hold the ball, as well as turn with it. His body position was already very good at the beginning, paired with his pre-orientation his decision making regarding turns with the ball is very good. He is very good in tight situations, handling and shifting the ball close to his feet and solving these situations, even though he sometimes takes one touch too many, without being egoistic, but I think it is more of a “safety measure” to feel more in control of the ball. Due to his lack of quickness though, he operates not as well when he has a lot of space in front of him, either with or without the ball.
This is one thing I have tried to improve more in the last months of the season. Him being rather slow takes away his confidence in attacking the space. But it is more about timing and running in the correct space, than actually being fast. In central midfield he doesn’t have to make longer runs anyway. On the ball, the first touch to drive into open space improved during the season and towards the end of the season he started seeing more longer passes, although execution on that of course will need some time. He is one of the most disciplined players regarding holding their position, he knows how to move up and down his lane accordingly to ball location, which always makes him open for passes. Because he does not have a lot of confidence running into space or joining dynamic attacks, he sometimes holds his position for TOO long, asking for a ball into feet when he actually should move into space.
In pressing he covers passing lanes well and due to his good positioning in possession he has short ways to counterpress. He reacts quickly and attacks the ball aggressively and regularly helps the collective to win the ball. Defensive actions are not his strong point, but he makes the best out of his abilities and always fits in well into the pressing scheme, doing his job and doing it smart.
Hussein is, together with Yazen, Daniel and Davis, physically the most developed and one of our tallest players. He started out as a dribbling winger, developed into a centre-forward laying off balls for teammates and is now more of a half-space striker, resembling David Villa during his time at FC Barcelona. He has good ball control with his left foot, he has potential in shooting, if his decision making would be better.
As he is very fast, but his body position and orientation is not always ideal in central positions, but he likes to attack the goal and look for shots, the position of the left halfspace striker seems to suit him the best. He can use his qualities the best and also played his best games in that position. From the right he potentially could bring in some nice diagonality, though his body position too often not good and he misses valuable options to dribble, play or run. This will for sure improve though, and him switching sides could become a valuable tactical move. His biggest problem is his low frequency of football actions. He needs a lot of time to rest in between, he always needs to force himself in training to do more actions, his natural inclination is to rest.
Even though action frequency could certainly be improved, when he actually presses he is very good at that. He can use his speed well, presses diagonally and follows through with his run, using his strong body to win balls higher up the pitch. Also in counterpressing he is valuable and is, as all the players in this team, very aggressive.
His actual name is Peter, but his nicknames “Beter” and “Piotrusz” are more frequently used. He is the prime jokester of the team, which can lead to people underestimating his ability. But he is, next to Ante, the most versatile player in the team and can always bring interesting aspects to every role he plays. He is very adaptable and receptive to coaching, he is the kind of player that can apply whatever he got advised before in the next fitting situation, which is rare.
Beter can run a lot and has decent speed, which of course makes him very valuable on the wings. He played both on the right and on the left as wingback, primarily in an asymmetric formation where he played a bit higher up. But he does not only run fast, but also smart. As half-space striker, especially on the right, he moves up and down his lane. He is good at lay-offs and when to come closer to ask for the ball, but also regularly makes space with his runs for other players, especially the centre-forward. If Hussein is David Villa 2011, Beter is Pedro. In pressing he was one of the best from the beginning, naturally using the cover shadow well. Due to his natural conditioning, he can keep up that intensity for a long time, pressing the ball almost the same in the first as in the last minute.
Dylan moved throughout the season from centreback to centre-forward. His ability to hold balls in tight spaces and pick passes made me move him up the pitch progressively, even though using him as a number ten/centre-forward (which is more of a false nine role for him anyway) was the idea of the same coach that advised me to put Daniel, Davis and Ilya in different positions.
He is probably the best player in tight spaces in our team, being able to hold balls and turns against several players, using simple as well as more complicated moves. His orientation and body position, which is excellent, helps in this of course. When he solves tight situations, he picks passes well, but does this better when he plays more upfront interestingly. As centreback or defensive midfielder often times he missed the moment when to release the ball, whereas as false nine he distributes well to the wings or for the halfspace strikers (or his partner when we played with two strikers) into space. In pressing it is the same for all of our players. He knows his job and does it well, using his quickness, although he is not the strongest and does not win the ball that often. This is okay though, as he builds mostly the first wave of pressing or counterpressing and is mainly required to disrupt the opponent’s rhythm.
Bilal joined our team very late in the season, but immediately became an asset. Like Beter, he is naturally the best at pressing. He uses his covershadow really well, always sprints with the right speed and follows through with his run, never giving the opponent time to adjust. His quickness in running and reaction makes him a very good counterpresser. Timing and execution of his pressing makes up a lot for his small frame.
In possession he very quickly was able to play our preferred two-touch football, which is impressive because he came from a team playing at a rather low level. Due to his mostly good body position he is able to lay off balls when he is under pressure, as well as taking a touch forward if he has space, towards the end of the season also developing into seeing more mid-range passes and improving his passing in that regard. His quick turns and dribblings against opponents in tight space show his very good ball control, his finishing execution is also to be mentioned. He rarely shoots blindly and with all his power, but rather controls his shots to pass them into corners. Because he lacks in size and strength, he needs better decision making and ball control than his opponent’s, which made him the very good player he is now.
Unfortunately, due to his asthma and time constraints, Ahmed was not able to train or play a lot for the team, but definitely deserves a mention as a player who just started his club-career this season, not playing in organized football before. His dribbling has interesting aspects, and he has a natural quickness to him. Of course, in regard of individual-tactics he still has a lot to learn, but once he has more time to train regularly he will certainly improve a lot. He quickly was able to adapt his body position and play with both feet, which was a very good sign from early beginning on. I hope he is able to recover and play the next season without much restrictions.
Matteo played in my U11 team, as he was born in 2006. He was the best player there, which made me move him up to the u13 to practice with me (we do not have a U12). He was able to fit in from the get-go, as game models are not vastly different in between the teams. He has good executional abilities with his left foot, his right foot still lacking a lot though. Even though he is very small and two years younger, he was able to play some minutes in games for the U13 and showing impressive performances, being aggressive in counterpressing, playing our two-touch football and even dribbling players from time to time. He barely fell off performance wise, would he have a bigger frame, there would certainly be no difference to him and other players.
From the beginning it was of upmost importance to me to develop the players’ abilities and not only focus on winning. I am aware, that becoming better as a team will lead to some success, but success is also a matter of perspective. Even though soccer always has defensive and offensive qualities in actions, and I see it as a “whole” and not divided in parts, to describe the game model it is easier to talk about it in terms of phases in possession, opponent’s possession, transition after losing and transition after winning the ball.
In possession of the ball we tried to use calm, ball on the ground circulation to move opponents, create gaps in their defense and advance through that. Taking two quick touches instead of one developed to a regularly mentioned rule, as taking two touches only increases time on the ball a little bit, but also increases ball control and therefore quality of passing. We always play out from the back and try to keep it on the ground as much as possible, even though we started incorporating chip balls by the keeper from goal kick in the second half of the season. Blindly kicking it “into safety” was not an option from the beginning on, as I want them to handle as many tough situations as possible and try to find valuable solutions via playing the ball as clean as possible. This of course has led to several mistakes in build up under higher pressure and conceded goals, which is ok though and to be expected. I stressed the importance of trying “difficult things” to improve, an idea on which the team was sold from early on.
We focus to play through the middle and the halfspaces, the wingers are mainly used as wall players in the first two thirds, as well as trying to stretch the opponents. To achieve that we tried to bring a lot of diagonality in positioning, as well as in passing and dribbling into our game. Even though creating triangles and diamonds is a given in possession, we focus a lot on diagonal passing. In the beginning of our season we struggled a lot in being able to come into the last third, and this was still a struggle at the end of the season, even though it improved. My focus for the first year was to improve build up and overall positioning anyway, later in the season we started more to work on how to get in behind the opponent’s backline and how to generate breakthroughs, through chip balls, through balls and movements of the forwards to create space. As most opponents play a rather man-oriented pressing scheme, we tried to drag them away to create passing lanes, or use counter-movements to create space.
Our playing style should be “juego de posición”-approved, as we focus on staying in our positions and receiving passes there. We of course move to create passing lanes, but the players think mostly in the five lanes we divide the pitch in, and to create options they move mostly up and down. Even though I am aware that there are other ways to teach possession, I, without wanting to sound “cool” by any means, would not know how to teach that. That is maybe a flaw in my coaching, but a position led approach is the best approach in my opinion, as it enables you to receive the ball in advantageous positions from where you can create the most danger for the opponent. This does not mean I am against switching positions, I just chose not to implement that yet, as I did not want to overload the players. More or less fluidity in positioning is also more about players’ natural inclinations, if they like to roam or not. Sam is one of these players, but other than him the players have adapted well to the style of play. Hussein also still has some difficulty, but this is also due to his absence in summer where he was on a two-month holiday (which he deserved!).
Because possession and non-possession influence each other, I thought it would be the most practical to defend zonally and trying to generate access to the ball from our positions, collectively attacking the ball and increasing our chances to win the ball. Through our pressing we try to be dominant and proactive, forcing the opponent to decisions. Because it is a great challenge in terms of covering options, generating access, holding proper distances and applying constant pressure, I decided to opt for high pressing 90% of the time.
To effectively win the ball we want the opponent to start to build up, which is why we retreat a bit. We try to be compact in the middle and prevent passes into central zones, guide the opponent to the wings and press out diagonally from there. Our wingbacks or fullbacks act aggressively and wide-ranged in forward defending, meanwhile ball far players tuck in and ball near ones join the press to create numerical superiorities.
For most of the season we played with a clear three at the back, which made us vulnerable for counterattacks and overall less stable, but I was okay with that. I wanted the defenders to try to solve difficult situations, even if that meant they were numerically inferior at times. We later on used our wingbacks a bit deeper, that created a little bit more stability and worked well, as we started conceding a bit less from breakthroughs on the wings.
Individually it was very important to me to teach them how to use their cover shadows properly. As they press relatively intense and diagonally towards the ball carrier, this takes care of itself a lot of times, limiting options for the opponents to play.
Transition after losing the ball
We try to counterpress right away after losing the ball and try to do this intensely and collectively as possible, even though it still has yet to reach the extreme ways I want it to be, I might have to focus on it more in training. Overall the behavior is satisfactory though, as we attack the ball from several sides and most are rather quick in reacting after losing the ball. Counterpressing is our main mean to defend counterattacks, but also to create chances for ourselves, either from countering right away after winning the ball back or focusing on keeping possession and reorganizing for another attack.
Transition after winning the ball
Honestly one of the things I neglected the most in terms of specific training. The principles of attacking after winning the ball remain the same though, movements to create space and move into these open spaces. Especially in the first half of the season I conditioned them too much to orientate themselves horizontally, but this improved as the season progress and I used more orientation cues towards target players (or minigoals in training). We have some fitting players for counterattacks, Hussein, Beter and Dylan are all players that can attack and create spaces, as well as attack dynamically. We have some potential in this area and I will try to work on it with them better.
Because of the compelling results of scientific research in skill development in team sports, as well as creativity and the conviction that fun is of upmost importance in youth development training, my training approach is entirely game-based, which means that our training’s content is to 99% against opponents. Only for fun I did a few exercises without opponents, but this was kept to an absolute minimum. I want to train the game of football and to develop football players with game insight. Therefore I need specific training. Exercises without opponents is not football anymore. It might help the general execution in some way, but it is not merely as efficient as training in a game-based approach. Football actions can only be executed when a decision is made before. Without opponents there is no real, specific decision making. To better illustrate my training, I will present some staple exercises we performed regularly, or at least a variation of it.
I used mostly positional games, as well as game-forms to improve the abilities of the players according to the game model. To not overload them physically, we trained 3-4 times a week and I periodised the workload after the “Football Periodisation Model” by Raymond Verheijen. This helped us keep injuries to the minimum, we barely had any this season. Neither soft tissue no real impact injuries. One player broke his arm in an unfortunate event, this had nothing to do with fatigue. Hussein started having knee problems in the middle of the season, I suspected this would be because of his growth spurt. I decreased his training load to maximum 3 times a week, sometimes 2 and at some trainings I used him in less intense roles. He stopped having knee pain, and after a month and a half, when he started training at every session again, he had no pain at all and it never occurred again.
5v3 Positional game (invented by @feyre9251)
For a video of the exercise click here
– Players (attackers and defenders) are not allowed to be in one same box.
– When defenders win the ball, they try to dribble out of the square. Now movement is free for counterpressing
– Direct pass von end to end is 2 points
– 8 passes = 1 point
Explicit Coaching Points:
- “Look deep before receiving”
- “Open body position”
- “Mind the zones”
Implicit Coaching Points:
- Split passing
- Diagonal positioning
- Adapting positioning in relation to teammate and ball position
- Looking for target player
- Orientation into depth
5v5 Hourglass with diagonal minigoals
For a video of a similar exercise click here
- Diagonal goal = 3 points
- Vertical deep goal = 2 points
- Near side goal = 1 point
Explicit Coaching Points:
- “Look to the goals before receiving”
- “Position yourselves regarding the goals”
- Counterpressing after losing the ball
- Open body position
Implicit Coaching Points:
- Diagonality in positioning and passing
- Orientation diagonally and vertically into depth
6v6 with turned away minigoals
- Play in behind the goalline to score. Goalline is offside line
- Behind goalline two touches only
- Chip ball over minigoal = +1 point if teammate receives it
Explicit Coaching Points:
- “Look deep before receiving”
- “Run into deep when teammate sees you”
- “Support runs into depth from second row”
- “Open body position in defending”
Implicit Coaching Points:
- Playing into deep
- Timing with runs into depth
- Defending space in behind
6v7 Pressing game with target zones
- Win ball in red zones = 1 point
- Score in minigoals only from inside the pitch
- Offside at half
Explicit Coaching Points:
- “Guide opponent to target zones, cover middle and leave sides open”
- “Be “on the hop”, ready to attack the ball”
- “Press diagonally towards the ball”
- “Press collectively, create 2v1s and more in pressing”
Implicit Coaching Points:
- Compactness vertically and in the middle
- Guide opponent into zones
- Forward defending
- Creating numerical superiority in pressing
- Using cover shadow
- Quick passing from the wings into the middle
- Pre-orientation to the middle
8v8 12 zones
- From the middle every pass is allowed
- From the wings only diagonal, horizontal passes and vertical passes jumping one zone are allowed
- In pressing ballfar side is not allowed to be occupied
Explicit Coaching Points:
- “Look into deep before receiving”
- “Give far options on the wings”
- Counterpressing after losing the ball
Implicit Coaching Points:
- Horizontal compactness
- Orientation into middle
- Diagonality in passing and positioning
- Deep positioning
Counterpressing rondo with central zone
- 8 passes by red = 1 point
- Red pass into the middle = 1 point
- Blue wins the ball and tries to score from within the box into the minigoals
Explicit Coaching Points:
- Open body position
- “Check your shoulders”
- “Look into the middle before receiving”
- “Press collectively”
Implicit Coaching Points:
- Positioning in possession
- Use of cover shadow
- Orientation towards middle
- Orientation after winning the ball
I say “our”, because I am a part of the team as well. Me developing means them developing, and vice versa. We were all equal parts of our system that was “2004 Boys FC London”. We didn’t contribute the equal amounts quantity wise, but the quality of contribution is not up to me to judge. I am happy looking back and reflecting, as I see the players as well as I did actually develop. For some it may seem like a small development, but I am satisfied either way.
Even though formations are regarding Pep Guardiola “only telephone numbers” they do play a role in how a team plays and they can show how the coach thinks. Inspired by the Red Bull Salzburg UEFA Youth League team we started out playing in a 4-1-2-1-2, using the formation’s diagonal connections to circulate the ball, having options and focusing on the centre while building up. In pressing we again used the congested centre to black passing lanes into that zone, while guiding the opponent to the wing, shifting across aggressively to try to win the ball, using wide ranged forward defending by our fullbacks.
After one game we resorted to playing a 3-1-2-1-3. This was, to be blatantly honest, because out of difficulty. I wanted to play with a clear back three that defended mostly alone, having to shift aggressively from one side to the other, being very good in covering and also in duels, which is a big part of the soccer game, even though one can try to avoid them. Looking back I could have done more and better in regards of teaching them to defend with numerical inferiority or equality, this is something I can take away from this season. I wanted the team to counterpress aggressively and collectively to help the back three, which they did and in a lot of phases of our games we were able to do that, even though consistency regarding that was rare (no shit, it’s youth football). Because of the formation we had a lot of options in front of the back three though, which made our build up in the first third very stable. For high pressing it was also very useful, as we could press with a lot of players and cover a lot of options. We played very offensively, which resulted in a lot of rather high losses, and some high wins as well.
One pivotal point of the season was certainly our home game against Oakville Blue Devils. Coached by stereotypical british coaches, the opponent played as expected. Using their physicality and a high press, we had problems transitioning with the ball from the first to the second third of the pitch, as the grass on the field was high and we were used to turf, plus the balls were too heavy for most of my rather small players, therefore high tempo passing was not easy. We were 0:1 down, turning the game around in the second half and winning 3:1, trusting our way to play and finding gaps, tiring the opponent out through our ball circulation. After the game, Domagoj Kosic, League 1 Men’s Team Coach and a very, very competent coach and human being, as well as his assistant and U21 Coach Eduard Schmidt, my roommate and one of the best coaches I probably will ever meet, came into the dressing room and Domagoj held a speech about the players having played really well, and that the most important part was that they had trusted our playing style and subsequently me, listening to what I had asked of them. The players applauded and my position as well as the bond to the players and their identification to what it means to play for our team was strengthened. After the game Eduard and Domagoj congratulated me on the win again, which made me very happy and gave me great confidence in my abilities, as I felt the honesty of their praise. Our biggest problems kept on being defending counterattacks and creating chances though, as I focused too much on overall ball circulation, but I felt the necessity to do that. I do not judge this as a mistake per se, as our ball circulation was good and I am confident that what I taught them will stay in their brains for a long time, if not forever.
The “International Camp” in July was also a very important point for us in the season. For a week, European coaches visit London and train with kids that enroll for the camp. Only one or two players were not able to show up for this camp, the rest took part in it and had the chance to train with Martin Rafelt of www.spielverlagerung.de, a big role model of mine, as well as Mario Despotovic of Hajduk Split U19, an amazing coach who taught me a lot in that week, and Marcell Lucassen, a football genius, as well as his son Jimmy Lucassen, whom I will remember as a fun personality with good eye for individual detail. Throughout this camp I had the honor to assist all of them, learning a lot. Mario inspired me to talk less in training and games, letting the players think and decide more. Lucassen changed our formation to 3-1-4-2 and moved some players’ position. Without any doubt I did what he recommended, and it worked well. I realized that we needed a bit more directness overall, as in youth football there are more spaces than in adult and professional football, where extensive ball circulation can be needed more. This newly found directness, as well as the new formation and the positions showed great impact in our games, taking us to the next level in regards of competing. Even though we still had some rather high losses, but these mostly due to individual and physical differences, to which it was hard to compete sometimes. We were able to play “our game” though every single time and did this up until the last minute. Even at 2:7 score the boys played a 100% in the last 5 minutes of the game, dominating possession and the opponent with counterpressing and risky, but stable high positioning. This showed me that the boys had an inherit will to play, no matter the score, which is so vital in a game that relies a lot on chance.
Leaving my home country and trying to make a living with something I love doing. I have gained a lot of experiences in these 10 months, more than I ever would have imagined. I met people that changed my life to the better, and I will never forget them. Even though this article is about football, there is so much more around that for me. Which, then again, influences me as a coach. The experiences I make, what I learn in having relationships helps me become a better coach and a better learner overall.
This year has certainly be a pivotal one for me in my life. I have learned more about the game itself, as well as the politics and the relationships one builds, maintains and sometimes loses. I was lucky enough to learn from Domagoj Kosic and Eddie Schmidt, also an author on this blog. My understanding, that i dont know as much about this game as I thought, has certainly developed. The experience to meet Marcel Lucassen, Mario Despotovic and Martin Rafelt was a great one, which gave me a new kickstart to learning.
Special thanks to:
The parents of the 2004 team
The parents of the 2006 team