The purpose of possession illustrated

Had an email from one of our coaches yesterday. Knows the game, does very well with his team and not sure if he was just having a jab at my obvious Barcelona infatuation but here’s what he added at the end:

PS I am sick of hearing about Barca and how everyone needs to play like that and we all need to coach our kids this way. Whatever happened to passing to gain an attack as opposed to passing for possession. There is no other team that has the top 3 players and can play just to get 1 of them open.Might be a good blog post

And I couldn’t agree more. It’s a fine line when you look at the idea of how Barcelona pass sometimes just to maintain possession and seem to be more intent on denying their opponent the chance to attack by denying them the ball rather that utilizing that possession to foment attacks. That’s a big “sometimes” though as they have scored amazing quantities of goals over the last four seasons under Pep. I’ve already written a bit  about how the constant passing in the middle third of the field opens up attacks but I do agree that the point of possession has to be to find a way to penetrate towards goal.

Here’s a great example of how that’s done and it doesn’t even involve Barcelona!

[credit to @FCYorkAcademy for bringing the clip to my attention on their Twitter]

It’s Villareal playing against Valencia in 2008. The passing is stunning but it’s not just pretty, it’s functional. If you pause the video in the first few seconds, you’ll see a very balanced Valencia defence with all ten outfield players in the frame, marked up and shaped well. Then Villareal start passing the ball around and draw Valencia into chasing. The Villareal wide player on the right holds his shape nicely. If you pause again at 18 seconds you’ll see now that Valencia are over-committed with six players in proximity of the ball. Soon after this point, Villareal switch play, recognizing the overload available on the right, and release the wide player. They don’t score but it leads to a penetrating, dangerous ball into the box. An excellent example of possession through one and two touch passing leads to creating opportunities in other parts of the field, recognizing them and playing to them.

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5 Responses to The purpose of possession illustrated

  1. DJLarkins says:

    I think many of us want to take a run at your love of Barca as much out of fun as anything else. I will wait to take my lumps later today if United lose. It would be a shame if Barca’s recent troubles signaled the end of teaching possession football to younger kids. To be sure, none of our club teams typically look like a Barca line-up or train all week (year) and, in terms of game day success there are lots of statistics that seem to support the observation that playing the ball forward into the opposition third translates to wins, ice cream and happy kids and parents all around – not that we should be focused on such things.

    “Passing to gain an attack” seems to be something to start at least emphasizing to older kids as a tactical consideration long after they have embraced such gems as proper passing and receiving; and movement and support off the ball. Introducing it early would seem to me to lend itself to the simple interpretion by the younger kids of “always passing forward” or, in the end, the validation of the seemingly contentious “send it” style of play. A big fast striker and some decent long-ballers at the back make for a statiscally effective attack in kids soccer (and apparently in some circumstances, professional soccer) but soccer generally is not necessarily the better for it.

    This article showed-up last week, sort of on the same topic:

    Hate the constant refrain to “soccer dads” being the primary reason North America has not had much international success (and the less than subtle view that you cannot be an “educated coach”, as a volunteer unless you have played (professionally) the game). I, for one, will not be teaching kids to park the bus. I doubt you will let me.

    • Gregor says:

      You’ll actually be getting the curriculum for our eight collective practices (and the first practice plan) from me today for the U12 gold team and indeed Possession to Attack is one of the topics.

      Barca’s achilles heel has been how to contend with the parked bus. Both against Chelsea last week and Inter two years ago they couldn’t break down an opponent, even when they only had ten players as was the case in both games, when they lined up 6 defenders just inside the 18 and parked another three about 6-8 yards in front of them.

      Personally I could not understand why they did not get the ball wide and look for 1v1’s to penetrate and force the defenders to drop and shift over. That would create the imbalance and also cause a bit of ball watching that would allow better chances at goal. Instead it was all passing along the periphery and it didn’t work.

      • thiku says:

        Will you be posting that u12 curriculum online?

      • Gregor says:

        It’s not terribly revolutionary but I’ll put it up. It’s just eight topics and then I send a practice plan out ahead of time to the coaches. Really just things like Passing & Moving, Positional Roles and Responsibilities. For the U11’s, it’s their first experience playing 8 a side and the field is about twice the size of what they played on at U10 so we’re treating it more as an acclimatisation period.

  2. thiku says:

    Don’t undersell yourself! Or should I say “Stop being so humbly Canadian??”….TBH I’d review the sessions, see if anything I hadn’t thought of or if something applies to my current group and then adapt as required/appropriate.

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