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Football Can Still Be Simple - By Steve Darby



Having recently had time to listen and read more, I have heard from many young Coaches and analysts. Some have been excellent and refreshing, others to be honest, quite baffling and seem to complicate the game. Usually unless the writer had coached or played, the more complex they made the game.


There appeared to be a dearth of knowledge of the ground breaking work 'Allen Wade’s Football Association Guide to Training and Coaching, in which he develops the Principles of Play in which the game and coaching is built upon. (other great texts include The Winning Formula by Charles Hughes, Soccer for Thinkers by Malcolm Allison or even Soccer Tactics by Bernard Joy which analyses Hungary in 1956). 'Inverting the Pyramid' by Jonathan Wilson is also worth reading, especially about the quality work done by Russian Coaches.


The game has developed and evolved and moved on, particularly in terms of physical fitness, quality of pitches and type of ball! But the basic structure of the game has not changed really, since the offside rule changed and perhaps only the back pass rule has had a major effect since.


The Principles of Play by Wade (1968) are:

Attack:

Penetration

Support

Width

Mobility

Improvisation



These attacking principles are countered by 5 defensive principles:

Delay

Depth

Concentration

Balance

Discipline

The key for coaches is how they apply the principles when they are actually coaching. In essence, how they structure their practices to achieve the goals outlined by the principles.

You have to be honest! Players don’t want to be lectured, players want to play football! So you have to design your work and often simplify the message.


Also based on research and match analysis you could possibly create many new essentials to trying to win the game. Also never forget, in professional football as opposed to youth development, the game is about winning!


GET THE BALL AND AS MANY PLAYERS AS POSSIBLE IN THE OPPOSITION PENALTY BOX

All research shows that up to 85% of goals are scored within the penalty box

KEEP THE BALL AS FAR AWAY AS POSSIBLE FROM YOUR PENALTY BOX

All research shows that up to 85% of goals are scored within the penalty box

PRACTICE SET PIECES IN THE CORRECT MANNER

35% of goals come from set pieces

PRACTICE DEFENDING AT SET PIECES IN THE CORRECT MANNER

35% of goals come from set pieces

SHOOTING PRACTICE MUST BE IN THE PENALTY BOX AND 1 OR 2 TOUCH

85% of goals come from in the penalty box and 85% of goals are scored 1 or 2 touch. Don’t do those ridiculous practices of knocking ball in to a Coach for a one-two and shoot.

GOALKEEPING PRACTICE MUST BE IN THE PENALTY BOX AGAINST 1 OR 2 TOUCH SHOOTING

85% of goals come from in the penalty box and 85% of goals are scored 1 or 2 touch

Whenever I start with a new team, I try to get them to do the professional habits or “boring things” well. All based on the principles of Play.

DO THE BORING THINGS WELL

DEFENDING

· Close the man with the ball down, make him play the ball.

· Make the player pass backwards (you can’t stop that).

· Track your player do not ball watch, watch ball and man.

· Organise at set pieces, take responsibility, do your job.

· No stupid fouls, right place and right occasion.

· Block crosses do not allow the ball to be easily crossed into the box.

ATTACKING

· Get the ball into the penalty box as soon as you can

· Get as many players in the penalty box as we can

· Receive the ball when you can see the opponents goal (side on)

· Keep the ball moving, passing or dribbling

· Try to dribble as often as possible in the opposition penalty box

· Pass the ball forwards as soon as possible, preferably on an angle

· After passing the ball try to get in a position where you can receive it again

· Quality delivery at all set pieces

· Keep ball at throw ins, throw down line, never square

· Shoot at every opportunity “hit the target” “make the keeper work”

· Watch the ball hit your foot when you shoot, don’t look at the goal

SYSTEMS OF PLAY

Are as only as useful as the quality of your players. If your striker misses from 2 metres or your keeper lets shots through their legs, then systems don’t apply.

If you apply the above principles you will win with any team shape. Good players can play in any system and usually in many positions.

But another reality for players, especially should be drummed into young players.

HARD WORK

There is no substitute for hard work/running and concentrating when playing, I have never met a top player (Internationals) who didn’t work hard.

So my advice to young coaches and analysts is to play as often as they can and play for as long as your legs allow. Read as many diverse texts as possible, luckily there are now translations of great South American texts, accept or reject what you feel is appropriate and question all.


Nobody is always right in football! If you're not sure what to do, just think of Cruyff...'keep the game as simple as possible'.

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