The transition phases, from in possession to out and from out to in, are key tactical battle grounds in modern football. We see many professional teams aim to dominate possession and for that approach to be effective, those teams need to be adept at winning possession of the ball back quickly.
The moment a player loses a ball should trigger a tactical decision by the player that lost the ball AND every other member of his or her team. When a team loses possession, they should know what their approach to dealing with this new situation is.
Liverpool, Man City, RB Leipzig and many other professional teams choose to press immediately and try to win the ball back. Many of us will have heard of Klopp’s “6-second rule” where his players go hell-for-leather to try and win the ball back for the six seconds immediately after losing possession before deciding to drop back into a more organised and traditional defensive shape. As coaches, many of us will have considered using this approach and have probably asked, “at what age can players start to learn to play with an immediate press?”
No such thing as too soon to learn tactics
Well the answer is simple. There is no such thing as “too early to learn tactics”. Football is a tactical game. Yes, you need technique and resilience and communications skills to be able to be a good footballer, amongst many other attributes, but those skills cannot come without knowing the ‘Why’.
Why am I passing the ball now? Why am I bringing the ball under control rather than clearing it away? Why am I running in this direction rather than over there?
Players of all ages need to understand ‘Why’ they are doing something. Too many times I hear coaches shouting at their players to “pass the ball, play it simple”. But very rarely do I hear why they want their players’ to pass the ball, why they want their players’ to keep it simple. As soon as players are playing football in a game environment, coaches should be teaching the why.
Keep it Simple
Whilst it is important to bring in decision making, tactics or playing philosophy, call it what you may, at early ages, it is vital that we keep it simple. Yes, whilst a child needs to understand why they are doing something, they don’t need to be able to tell you the in’s and out’s of Pep Guardiola’s approach to Positional Play. Keep it Simple!
In this month’s free session plan, we look to instil just one key principle of play – The Ball is King. This is language a child will understand as Keep Possession. Why do we want to keep possession? Because if we have the ball, we can score AND if we have the ball, the other team cannot score. That is a simple concept that a child of 5 can understand. That is as complicated as it needs to get. We keep the ball so that we can score and stop them scoring. Winning the ball back quickly is part of keeping possession and the focus of our session.
So now we know they ‘Why’, we can focus on the technique required to win the ball both physically (using arms and shoulders) and psychologically (reacting immediately, showing determination, not worrying about having lost the ball in the first place).
The Free Session plan is available to both our Basic and Pro Members. Basic members get one additional free session plan each month and Pro members get four new sessions per month along with additional coaching tools such as Season-long Programmes, Player Analysis Tools and much more.
Until next week, enjoy your football!
Founder, Pro7 Soccer