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Yesterday had a very effective session with the U14 lads on crossing. Compliments to Mr Lai Pak Yung, our Head Coach, as this was his session.
Session theme: Crossing
- Half pitch and cone off two channels on both sides. (See diagram of the game)
- For better presentation, mark out the 6-yard boxes and more importantly, the 2nd 6-yard boxes.
Advanced Technical Practice (ATP) (unopposed):
- Players line up on the side channels and practice crossing with both feet.
- curved run towards the ball
- lean body backwards for appropriate altitude
- Add a setter on the channel so that a cross is preceded by an overlap run
- Add attacking players in the central area
- Communication between crosser and setter: pace and direction of pass
- Aim the cross at the 2nd 6-yard box
- Timing of runs of the attackers: don’t go in too early
- Same setting as before (as shown in diagram)
- Each team has a player on either channel
- If a goal is scored from a cross, count for multiple points
- To start up, crossers can cross without opposition
- Then, one of the attacking team players can enter the channel to create a 2 v 1 situation
- Last, allow 2 v 2 on the channels
- Positioning of crossers to maximize time and space to cross
- Support and combination of supporting players (overlap/cut back)
- Decision making: cross under pressure vs circulate possession
- Timing of attacking runs: don’t be afraid to retreat if cross is not ‘on’
The session is also a very good physical training as players are bound to shift from attacking to defending, vice versa, swiftly and continuously.
Of course, much more can be added to the session such as running patterns and different kinds of crossing such as early crosses, cut-backs or so.
By the way, the earlier post on inside-outside run has been posted on World Class Coaching’s coachingadvancedplayers.com
Please take a minute or two to pay a visit! Appreciate!
Tags: FC Barcelona, Iniesta, inside-outside run, Joe Allen, Messi, off-the-ball runs, Pedro, runs, Scott Sinclair, Swansea City
Runs are crucial in the attacking phase; in fact, it is one of the most important elements in soccer matches. Effective penetration can only be achieved by off-the-ball runs that will either take defender(s) away from his/her original position. One of the most used runs that can be seen from the professional game is the inside-outside run. It involves a player without the ball (either in advance of or behind the dribbler) making a run away from the center of the pitch with the aim to take away a central defender (or his/her focus, at least) away from that area so that the dribbler has more space to dribble into and possibly take a shot.
During the past weekend, Messi of FC Barcelona and Joe Allen of Swansea City were the latest beneficiaries of such runs from their teammates (Pedro and Scott Sinclair) and scored 2 beautiful goals.
Joe Allen and Scott Sinclair
It all started with a brilliant interception from Scott Sinclair himself at the half-way line. Joe Allen immediately drifted a little bit towards the side to stretch Fulham’s imbalanced defense further following the change in possession.
Joe Allen then took the ball and advanced forward positively and challenge his marker. At the same time, Sinclair made a sprint into the space behind while his marker was running with him. The third Swansea attacker also moved towards the other side of the pitch to further clear the central space at the edge of the box.
Without effective cover, Allen’s marker was beaten and Fulham’s defense was immediately exposed. It was too late for any of the defender to recover and exert any realistic pressure on Allen’s shot which was beautifully taken into the corner of the goal.
Messi and Pedro
The goal also started with a change of possession. After collecting a loose ball in midfield, Messi delivered the ball to Iniesta, who was on the left side of the attacking half, and made a run forward. As was doing it, Pedro, who was originally in the centre forward position, swiftly clear that space by making a run towards the left winger position.
From the snapshot above, we can see the Sevilla’s defender’s attention was taken away by Pedro, turning his back towards Messi, who is about to receive the ball.
Iniesta chose the perfect time to give the ball back to Messi as you can see all the Sevilla’s defenders were caught in bad positions and not able to exert any immediate pressure on Messi.
The Sevilla defender was already in a dilemma because he was facing a 2 v 1 situation and he decided to apply pressure on Messi immediately, which was correct to be fair. However, we all know how easily Messi can beat a rushing defender with his skills, not to mention the space left for Pedro. Eventually, of course, Messi’s finishing was phenomenal which capped yet another beautiful team maneuver from FC Barcelona.
Tags: Abidal, Alves, Barcelona, blind side, copa del rey, Fabregas, Mascherano, Messi, Pique, Puyol, Valencia
High defense lines resulting in some beautiful runs
I am always fond of matches between Barcelona and Valencia in recent years because we are guaranteed of some exciting attacking football throughout the match. Valencia had demonstrated in La Liga and also in the first leg of this clash that they are capable of getting a positive result at Camp Nou. Barcelona turned out to be the better team, both in terms of score-line and also performance. However, it was Valencia who found their golden chance first:
Valencia’s chance: blind-side run
Here we can see Barcelona was employing a relatively high defensive line (just about 15 yards behind half-way line) as Valencia had the ball just across the half-way line. The important technical detail is that the Valencia player with the ball was under no immediate pressure and was able to look up for a runner.
If we take a look at Barcelona’s defense line’s shape, it is far from satisfactory because Pique was out of position and pressing the ball with Mascherano taking his place as CB for now. However, he’s not providing any cover nor depth to his colleague as you can see, he’s the highest defender now.
Furthermore, credit to Valencia’s forwards. While the one nearer to the ball did his job and made that run that took all the attention (and his markers) away, the one on the far side was doing a good job lurking behind Abidal’s blind-side (we have witnessed this season how vulnerable he is on his blind-side).
Worst still, the run from the Valencia forward split Barcelona’s defense badly (helped by Mascherano and Abidal’s poor positioning) and created that big gap for the ball to be played in. Valencia did everything right to take advantage of Barcelona’s defense line until the last bit. To be fair, the first touch from Sofiane Feghouli could be better with all those space in front of him. Nonetheless, this was a piece of great attack.
Barcelona’s first goal: running from deep
Valencia failed to score by taking the chance presented by Barcelona while Barcelona pretty much created their own from scratch.
There’s no way you can stop this team of Barcelona from scoring and the reason is Messi. With his dribbling ability, teams can only try to overload him if he’s in dangerous area; but as teams overload him, spaces are given away for his teammates and he can always deliver that pass at the right split second. Moreover, even if you surround him with 5 or 6 players, it’s still possible he can dribble his way out. Here, he demonstrated his tremendous passing ability.
Valencia was deploying a high defense line with 1 defender dropping a bit to provide the depth and cover (whether this was part of the defensive plan is unknown but whether he should be the last defender is questionable; usually the defender on the far side should drop deeper as he’s in a better position to cover central area and if the ball is played over his head, it’ the less dangerous area). Everything else seemed alright at that moment except Messi had the ball on his feet comfortably and was looking up. Fabregas, staying in a relatively deep position also saw that and started running into that huge space.
The pass from Messi was perfect and landed exactly in front of Fabregas who out-ran all the Valencia defenders. (That’s why I question the positioning of the ‘last man’ because he had to turn and run in this case; and as you can see, he failed to catch Fabregas) Valencia’s keeper Alves had no chance to rush out because the ball landed outside of the box and Cesc was close to the ball. Alves hesitated a bit which helped Fabregas to finish by lobbing the ball over his head sweetly.
These 2 examples could best demonstrate to players ‘when, where and how to make forward runs’ and the opposite theme: ‘when, where and how to drop as a defensive unit’. At the highest level, when a good passer is off pressure, even only for half a second, that is the cue for both attackers and defenders to react swiftly. More importantly, be always ready by adopting good body stance and checking the environment all the time because that ‘window of opportunity’ can come any second.
Tags: blind side, Carragher, Carroll, De Gea, Enrique, Evans, Evra, F.C. Manchester United F.C., Football, Gerard, Goal, Henderson, Hernandez, Liverpool, Maxi, Park Ji-Sung, Rafael, Soccer, Valencia
The clash between the Reds and the Red Devils always provides football fans around the world with much entertainment. While much of the pre-match (and post match) talks were about the Suarez-Evra incident, the quality of the match is what I care about. Both teams managed to demonstrate some great attacking moves and combinations. (The following descriptions are based on the attached video clip edit by Soccerico.com.)
Crossover and clearing space
In the first Liverpool attack, the crossover made by Henderson and Maxi successfully created an open space for Maxi to receive and turn towards goal. The forward run by Carroll took Evans away to further increase the space for Maxi. Carroll then went on to drift onto the blind-side of Evans to free himself for a possible through ball from Maxi, only for Maxi to took a decent shot which was saved by De Gea.
Winger drifting inwards to leave space for full-back to run in
In Man U’s first attack, Valencia come inside to receive a pass. Jose Enrique, Liverpool’s left-back responsible for controlling Valencia, got attracted away with his target, leaving his area empty. Valencia then cleverly back-heeled the ball to the lurking Rafael who was sprinting into the channel left empty by Valencia (and Enrique). Chasing back, Enrique made a technical mistake and allowed Rafael to run deep and cross the ball in for a free Park Ji-Sung to slot it in. Carragher and Gerard were both responsible as you can see they were not tracking a forward running Park at all.
Center forward drifting aside, allowing winger to cut inside
In the next clip, Man U demonstrated yet another great attacking maneuver. This was an identical one with Man City’s first goal against Tottenham in last week Premier League game with Aguero and Nasri. Here we can see that Hernandez drifted away from his center forward position and took Skrtel a bit off-position. Carrick recognized this and played a wonderful ball into that gap for Wellbeck to run in. Credit to Skrtel for his recovery run that saved Liverpool’s day.
Last but not least, a defensive error from Man U
Liverpool’s second goal highlights coaches’ universal dilemma: do we want our defenders to go for areal duels if it requires them to leave their ‘zone’ and thus corrupting the compactness of the defense line? Here Evans was drawn out of his position only to be beaten by Carroll in the air; Evra, on the other hand, did not recognize the gap early enough which allowed Kuyt to control the ball without any pressure.
P.S. Many criticized the signing of Carroll for Liverpool (mainly because of his price tag I guess); but as he is already here, maybe Liverpool fans should start to appreciate him. As you can see from the clip, he is not as bad as some depicts him. He may not be scoring at the moment, but he’s doing a good job in enhancing team play.
Tags: copa del rey, negative transition, possession game, UEFA B License
It’s the year of Dragon! I wish all my fellow friends and coaches all the best and may the beautiful game continue to inspire all of us.
Quite a few things have happened around the turn of the year: the session I promise to report back (the 3 teams keep-possession game), the last bit of the UEFA B Coaching License in Reading, the 2nd leg of the Copa Del Rey and also the Asian Super Challenge Cup.
Training session with U-14 team
So the theme of the session was about ‘Negative transition and pressing’: so I was trying to get the boys stay ‘switched on’ when possession is lost high up field and press immediately.
I started with a normal 8 v 2 one-touch keeping possession drill (10 yds x 10 yds) to get their mentality right and then moved on to the ‘three-teams’ keeping possession game. If you recall, the disadvantage about this drill is that it’s non-directional and the defending team will not have a clear direction to defend against. To cope with it, I added 3 goals as follows:
The outcome was not quite desirable. Immediately after I’ve changed the settings, I recognize the pitch was actually very small and almost doubled it. Another thing is that the players needed extra time to actually figure out which direction they are going to attack (due to the fact that sometimes it’s not a clear-cut case to decide which team is to become the defending team). At that point I recognized the drill is actually too complicated and it actually complicates the game: in a real game, it’s almost instinctive: we have the ball; we don’t have the ball. But here in this drill, all players need to possess extra information: which team has lost the possession and their goal is to be attacked now.
Having thought of that, I ceased the drill and moved on to a simple 8v8 SSG instead. After all, the theme is more about the mentality of the players more than anything else. Now that I do not have an immediate answer to the problem, I guess it’s best to switch to a more ‘game realistic’ practice and let the players have more time to play (and be coached) rather than having me spending time trying to fix the drill that is not working. I feel like a lot of time has been wasted in the 3-team drill and, yea, that’s why coaches need to spend thousands of hours to accumulate that experience so that they know how to react when a drill is not working to maximize training effectiveness and efficiency. Good lesson though.
Day 13 of the UEFA B Coaching License marks the end of the course. The final assessment in a month’s time is what’s left. BRING IT ON!
As much of a cliché as it sounds, it’s been an unbelievable half-year. We’ve all learned and progressed as coaches and it’s always good to have companions growing together. I must say I enjoy many of the sessions delivered during the last 3 days of the course. In Chinese there’s a saying that ‘when you walk along with two other, your mentor must be there’. It’s definitely the case. Seeing how other coaches improve is a great experience because you learn from them. Really can’t wait to test myself and put all the things I’ve learned into practice.
Starting to feel a bit sentimental here. It’s always like that when you look back, isn’t it? I’d better stop for now before I start to sound like an old-man.
More to follow on the matches I’ve seen during this week.
Tags: Barcelona, Football coaching, Massimo Lucchesi, Pressing, Soccer coaching, Swansea City, UEFA B License
More on Swansea City? No way!
Well, not entirely, but surely the book’s title gets me think about them and the mighty Barça’s high pressing brand of football.
The book is rather short and I finished reading it in one night, namely tonight. I’ve bought this book through Amazon and have saved it in my Kindle for some time without touching it at all as I am originally reading another book (Attacking Soccer) from the same author. Originally I was looking for some inspiration for tomorrow’s training session with my U14 kids on ‘Pressing immediately after losing possession high on the pitch’ but end up finished reading the whole book.
I am not totally sure but I guess this book is translated to English from Italian and for anyone who has read any of these Italian coaching books, you’ll find the English sometimes awkward. (So I thought I am the one who writes clumsy English sentences, but obviously I am beaten.) Not really a big deal, just re-read the sentence over and over again and you’ll get it after all.
Pressing: Offensive and Defensive
So I was actually looking for information and inspiration about ‘pressing high up’ but I found myself looking at ‘defending in your own half’ for the first half of the book. Not a big problem for me as the book gives some quite decent details in the ‘defensive phase’ such as marking (from the back), contrasting (face-up with attacker), covering and doubling. The book would be a good reading if you are looking to strengthen your knowledge in this phase. However, maybe it’s only my problem, I found the book over-elaborating some obvious points occasionally; at the same time, you’ll be left guessing what’s missing when a really good point is being thrown at you.
Coming to the ‘offensive pressing’ part, which is what I am looking for, the level of detail is not as much as the first half of the book (which I found disappointing since it’s the sole reason why I bought this book). However, it does stimulate my thoughts on pressing with relation to your team’s formation and that of your opponent. It’s something that haven’t come through my mind before but obviously that’s crucial. The way you press with a 4-3-3 against a 4-4-2 will be different from pressing against a 3-5-2. And of course, the type and characteristics of your own players and your opponents will affect how the team does it too. Yet, as I said, the weird thing about this book is that when you are inspired and immediately looking for more elaboration, it stops; and it happens here. Still, it opens my mind to a new path of thinking and I’m sure it will come handy at a later stage of my career.
In the last part of the book, a few drills are presented to practice pressing (general pressing though) and some of them are quite good. I especially like a 1 v 1 practice when the 2 players attempts to dribble through their target gates which are not placed aligned (the gates are placed diagonally across the box, as shown below). In this way, the players learn how to force the dribbler to the ‘weak side’.
The funny thing is that when it comes to training UNITS to press, one of the practice is actually the one I did for my first UEFA B delivered session: the non-directional 3 teams keep-possession game. Well, having realized the problem of being non-directional, I will progress to this game tomorrow but adding 3 specific gates for each team to defend against. Will let you guys know how it works tomorrow.
All in all, I’ll give it 3 stars out of 5 and if you have spare time and money, it’s worth a look given it’s not expensive.
Three weeks after the end of the first block, we were back to Wokefiled Park, Reading to attend days 6-9, during which we needed to deliver a UEFA B related session as an initial progress check.
We were given our topic at the end of day 7 and given that night to prepare for it. A little thing that happened as I was given my topic was that all the session themes before mine start with ‘Coach a team to…’ and I’d already written these words on my notepad when suddenly it went: ‘Rico, coach a striker to play against a tight marking center back in a function’. Alright…
I have to admit that I was carried away by the words ‘coach A striker’ for my initial preparation: do I really only coach one player? (Of course, for those who have been through the process, or if you happen to be a coach instructor, will know the answer is a big NO) Having analyzed the topic in greater detail, I figured actually the theme assists me in ‘affecting a unit/ the team’s performance because a restriction/instruction (to mark tight) is imposed on the center back, which will no doubt affect the defensive shape. With that in mind, I’ve prepared to divide my coaching points into two categories: the individual movements of the striker to 1. create space for himself and 2. for his teammates.
So here’s the set-up of the function.
Attacking team: 2 FWDs, 3 MFs, 1 FB and server
Defending team: 2 CBs, 1 FB, 3 MFs and GK
1. Passing selection and priority (behind defenders/ to foot/ to space)
2. CF checks away from CB, spin into space created for himself/go short to create space behind him
3. CF ball protection technique
4. Other CF to attack space created
The session went ‘okay’ at most because I was nervous. The reason was that my first ‘picture’ did not happen at all during the first 5 mins. The even numbers in midfield meant my team needed to work extra hard to maintain possession in order to advance the ball forward. Given the hard work during the previous days and also in the morning, it proved to be too much to ask from them. I think I waited too long before I imposed a starting position to take one of the defending midfielders out of the game for a second or two. After that I was able to progress through my coaching points logically.
However, that had already cost me some precious time and I was too focused in following my ‘logical progression’ and I missed some of the good movements from my striker because that’s supposed to be the next point. There was a big ‘cross’ in my observation sheet because it doesn’t show that I ‘exhibited knowledge and understanding of how to improve performance’.
Another thing that I struggled is that because the players (the other coaches) are all good players so I tended not to go for the Level 2 technical demonstration like showing them how to shield the ball and stuff like that. Obviously, I missed the essence of assessments: it is what it is after all. It’s like a driving test during which you have to demonstrate your know-how and knowledge even the situation doesn’t REALLY require you to do so. Anyway, after this practice I have added a lot more physical demonstrations and visual aids to my coaching and found it very effective, especially for younger players whose ability to translate what they hear into what they see is not that good.
Frankly speaking I was quite shocked with my performance because deep down I really think that was a poor session and sub-standard. On reflection, though, these experience is what I need exactly to improve as a coach because I have never been clearer about what I need to do specifically to be better.
One thing that I wrote on my Personal Action Plan was: ‘I think when a coached action did not happen rightly, I should think about ’cause and result’: before working on the receiving end I should think of the delivering end first’. For many, this could be quite obvious; but that’s reality, sometimes we tend to forget the basics when we go further down the road.
So I took everything from this session, went back to my environment and worked on them, which is the most important thing.
Tags: wayne harrison
Quite a lot of my fellow coaches, like Costa, Herman and Jun, were asking about my experience of the UEFA B Coaching License so far. Well, let’s start with the sessions I’ve delivered in the course so far and we’ll see how it developed.
To the end of the first block (Day 1-5), coaches were asked to delivered a 20-25 minutes session (not really a session, more like a practice drill) on any theme the candidates chose. The purpose of this practice, according to the instructors, was to check the ‘basics’ of us being Level 2 coaches. We were not supposed to have grasped any ‘UEFA B essence’ back then since we were only exposed to the new stuff for less than a week’s time with no ‘grass time’ whatsoever.
With that, the candidates generally opt for two different paths: some took advantage of this first opportunity to practice what was shown during that past few days and went for practices that were demonstrated by the instructors; some chose to go with their familiar practices and showcase ‘what they’ve got in their lockers’ (a phrase that’s being loved by all of us after introduced by one of the instructors, Steve.) I am one of the latter group. My rationale behind this was because I wanted to really check my standards with those of the instructors (and presumably those of The FA) and I could only do that by doing something I think is good and see how they would like it, or me, to improve.
So I picked a drill which I practiced with my U-14 boys quite a lot during last season on ‘Retaining Possession’. I first saw the original session on the book ‘Soccer Awareness: Developing the Thinking Player’ by Wayne Harrison and actually the focus/theme of the practice can easily be ‘concentration during transitions’.
- 3 teams of 3 players playing in a 25 yds x 25 yes grid with plenty supply of balls around the grid
- 2 teams play against the defending team (so it’s always 6 v 3 to the teams with possession)
- Same rules as basic possession keeping game: the team who lost possession become the defending team immediately. The coach can help keep up the momentum by playing a ball in once the ball is out.
- The key to this game is high tempo and continuity.
Progression/restrictions: (depending on the situation, the coach can add a whole lot of restrictions to bring out a coaching point)
- team with possession can only pass to a different team player (so if blues and yellows have the ball, a blue can only pass to a yellow and vice versa) to make the players scan early before receiving the ball
- limited touches (I used 2-touches to coach direction of 1st touch)
- continuous scanning during the game, always know about the environment (Technical detail TD)
- Body stance before receiving (TD)
- 1st touch direction, away from pressure (TD)
- highly focused as switch between attacking and defending is very quick
Originally I also wanted to bring out some of the Principles of Play such as:
- dispersal: width and length
- support and movement: angles and distances
- penetration: split passes between defenders
but I failed to do so to a large extent which will be explained below.
What am I defending against? Why are we keeping possession?
While I was able to deliver the TD’s to a certain level of success (at least I find the relevant seconds to pause play and step in), I struggle to deal with the Principles of Play because the practice is NON-DIRECTIONAL: teams with possession is keeping possession for the sake of keeping it and, more importantly, the defending team does not have a specific ‘target’ or ‘goal’ to defend against. Due to this reason, at a certain time (before I put on restrictions), the defending team struggled to take possession back (because without the reference point of the goal they are defending) which made the practice quite unrealistic.
Also, because of the lack of direction, the teams with possession did not have the incentive to play riskier passes to split the defending team. They simply passed the ball around the grid without any purpose.
Restrictions or not?
On the restrictions, while I am a believer of placing certain restrictions on practices to force players to think about the targeted coaching point, my observer, Ben, put a big question mark on that part because they are not realistic. For instance, in the game, it is the pressure a player is facing that decides how many touches he will use before releasing the ball. On reflection, I agree with that. Say, if I want to coach a players’ first touch direction and the ‘picture’ doesn’t arise, it’s because the way the practice is set up is not helping to create that picture. However, sometimes I still use restrictions because of reality: sometimes it saves time to bring out a coaching point by placing restrictions; and, another good thing about restrictions is that once they are lifted, you can really check the understandings of your players: you don’t start to appreciate the freedom you have until it’s been taken away from you.
As you can see, assessments are good for stimulating thoughts. The best thing is that you find out how others think about your stuff, and, through constructive discussion, you can rationalize your adaptations (or not) which means you really take that in as your own stuff and not something that’s been imposed on you.
So after this we were sent home to start digesting the new stuff and ‘spend time on grass’ for 3 weeks before all of us met again in early September to spend another 4 days together, and, of course, delivery of another session (which is UEFA B relevant).
Let’s take a look at my second session next time, which proved to be somewhat a shell shocker for me.