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A few soccer aspects, that represent the difference between losing or winning a game.


Very often, after having lost a game, I hear people in charge say: “We were unlucky!”, or complain about a penalty given or not, or about some unclear off-side given against that forbid them to score.

In a superficial analysis, it seems that single episodes can generate the final score. But they are clearly identifiable episodes like the ones I underlined above. But these are just a few of the hundreds of episodes that happen during a soccer game, that generate the final score.

During a soccer game, that lasts 90 minutes, played by 2 teams using the whole field, 11V11, there are other hundreds of ‘micro-games’ of a few seconds each, played 1V1, in a few square yards! The team that wins the majority of these ‘micro-games’ will win the ‘global game’!

These are aspects that apparently regard the team as a unit, but in reality are individual aspects. It’s obvious that if all the players on a team do the right thing, by consequence it’s a team effort, but it’s generated by a sum of single efforts!

Let’s begin with the 'Starting Position'.

One of the most important aspects is that the team has to be able to keep the right shape on the field. This is possible if from the beginning of the game, all the players start from the Starting Position. Supposing that a team plays the 4-4-2, the 4 defenders will position themselves in an ideal line between the big box and half field. The 4 mild fielders on the line of half-field and the 2 forwards, accordingly with opponent defenders, without going in off-side.

They will keep a fixed distance among them of not more than 7/10 yards and move together like a net in which the position of the players represents the ’knots’ of the net.

When the action ends in attack or in defense, or the ball is pushed forward from both defenses, the team (and that means all the players individually) has to sprint back or forward to the Starting Position. If the ball is in possession of their keeper, this will permit them to counter attack by creating a numeric superiority. If the ball is in possession of the opponent keeper, they will forbid the opponent team to counter attack by putting them in a numeric inferiority.

For doing this one thing is fundamental. Do not loose the ball by making approximate passes, passing the ball to players that are marked or not going in the right position to receive the ball back after having pass it. To avoid this, we need to use 'Communication'.

The 3 magic words are:

-Man on
-Turn
-Go

Man on: when we pass the ball, if we see that our teammate is under attack from an opponent, almost at the same moment in which he or she will receive the ball, we have to yell ‘Man on‘. They will immediately pass the ball back to us. We will keep possession and will try some other solutions. On the contrary, if we don’t say ‘the magic word’ , 90% of the times our team mates will lose the ball by being attacked from someone that they can’t see, because they are focus in controlling the ball that we just pass to them.

Turn: if our teammates receive the ball, and all the opponents are a minimum of 5 yards away from them, they have the time to control and turn toward the opponent goal, with the confidence of not being under attack. But, they don’t know this because they DON’T HAVE EYES BEHIND THEIR HEADS! Our help by yelling ‘Turn‘, is like having another pair of eyes in the back of their head. We are their eyes.

Go: this is the most important and makes the difference of scoring or not. When we send a ball to the wings or better, when we send a ball to a forward in an open break-through, the difference between trapping the ball, turning and starting to run, instead of letting the ball pass and just following it at full speed is abyssal. I just made the experiment at practice. 2 parallel passes toward 2 players. One was told to Turn and at the other to Go. The one that received the ball in the ‘Go’ situation, gained more than 10 yards by just doing nothing. Just go at full speed and follow the ball. This will mean scoring or not!

Another aspect is to fight for win the ball back. In general, youth players (and often adults!) believe that defenders are only………………………… the defenders!

When the other team has the ball, there are 11 defenders that have to go ‘hunting’ the ball all over the field! This is called 'Pressing'. Every player has an ideal circle of 10 yards around them, and they are responsible to attack an opponent player who enters in their circle and win the ball back. If the opponent crosses over the border of 2 circles, both players will attack him or her! This is call 'Double Team'!

Pressing is fundamental on 50/50 balls. What are they? When our or the opponent keeper punts the ball in the air, we don’t have the ball. But neither does the opponent team! The ball is 50/50 and the player that goes to the right position first, where the ball will land, he or she, will win a 50/50 ball, that will become a 100% ball for the player who is there. How many times do we see just 1 player and not 2 (1 from both teams) jump or try to control the ball? Almost always! The sad part is that, no matter what keeper punts the ball, the opponent team always wins the ball. No pressure, no nothing. Often our players just look at the opponents constantly winning the ball, without challenging them.

Not only these are 50/50 balls. When a ball is passed among players, in that moment, they are 50/50. During a cross or a corner, they are 50/50. After any free kick, or goal kick or any situation in which a player doesn’t handle the ball undisturbed, these balls are 50/50. The team that constantly hunts the ball will win it back often, and they will restart in counter attack, probably surprising the opponent team that is totally out of balance because THEY had the ball and were attacking!

The last aspect is to 'Shoot'. How many times does a team arrive at the border of the area and doesn’t shoot? If I say………………………..almost always, would I be wrong? Youth players almost never shoot when they have a clear chance. This is provoked by 2 reasons. The first is that they don’t know how to shoot so, after a few embarrassing ‘passes’ to the keeper or shooting out by a few yards, they don’t shoot anymore and tend to carry and dribble the ball to the net! The second is that they don’t know WHEN it’s time to shoot.

Both of these aspects can only be solved at practice. How much time do we dedicate to shooting at practice? Please, be sincere. Almost none!

It’s time to:

-Explain the right technique of shooting. Put the foot that holds your body beside the ball, snap the knee, lock the ankle, look at the ball, hit it in the center, and on and on.
-Do a minimum 20 minutes of shooting drills. Sorry Koach Karl. Exercises, not drills!
-No matter what ‘exercises’ we do, 2v2, 3v3, 10v10 or what ever, after a certain amount of passes, let’s make our boys and girls SHOOT! Aside from all the great stuff about soccer, in the end, it’s all about SCORING GOALS.

If we don’t shoot and we don’t know how, when will we score goals?

In conclusion. Keep the right shape, by going back to the 'Starting Position'. Don’t constantly loose the ball by making absurd and impossible passes, and instead let’s use 'Communication' (Man on, Turn, Go). If we loose the ball, immediately take it back with 'Pressing' and restart in counter attack. When we arrive at the right position, always 'Shoot'.

By doing this will we win 100% of the games? 100% maybe not, but very often, yes. Anyway, if you need certainty, I can give you one. If we don’t do this, there is one thing that is 100% certain. We’ll loose 100% of the games!

Coach Gianni



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Posted on 19 Nov 2006 by coachgianni
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