Posts tagged ‘England’

Defending the Wide Areas in a 4-3-3

My primary concern about changing to a 4-3-3 system was how to deal with players attacking from wide areas. With only three midfielders, all of whom play centrally, I was worried that this would be an area that other teams could exploit. So making sure we had a plan to deal with this problem became a primary concern.

One of the strengths of the 4-4-2 system is it’s ability to create 2 v 1 situations on the wings. So if we’re going to play from a 4-3-3, how will Continue reading ‘Defending the Wide Areas in a 4-3-3’ »

Circle Drills

There are a number of high level coaches that use a lot of circle drills in their sessions including Barry Gorman (long time coach at Penn State) and David Williams (Manchester United Academy). I’ve had the opportunity to watch both of them run sessions at our International Coaching Seminar so I’ve used some of their ideas with my teams. Here’s a session from David Williams that he presented at our first seminar in Connecticut.

Organize the players in a 40-yard circle with four cones placed in the center as shown in diagram 30.  Start with two balls.  Dribble into the center square, dribble out and pass to another player, then take his place on the circle perimeter.

Add the following conditions:

• Left/right foot only
• Perform a turn in the center
• Change of pace, go in slow, come out fast.
• Change direction

Coaching Points
•  Don’t let gaps appear on the circle perimeter
•  Communicate, and move around the edge to fill any spaces
•  Start with two balls – add or take away balls as necessary

Once the player has been through the center square, instead of passing the ball to another player, the receiving player ‘takes’ the ball in a take-over move.

In this example, player A dribbles the ball into the center of the circle and passes to player B.  Player B passes back with one touch to player A who then passes one touch to player C.  Player C continues the drill by dribbling into the center of the circle.  Again, start with two balls and adjust accordingly.  This exercise helps build quick play around the goalbox.

Coaching Points
• One-touch passes if possible
• Always be ready ‘off’ the ball
• Fill the gaps around the circle as the players move
• Be aware of where the other balls are and don’t dribble to that area
• Try to increase the speed of drill
• The ‘set up’ pass must be of good quality to allow the next player to pass with one touch

This exercise helps the following:
Technical – pace and angle of pass
Fitness – sprinting, running
Mental – always thinking

Third Player Running
The same as the previous exercise, except this time after player B has made the return pass to player A, he moves into the center to receive the pass from player C.  Player A moves into the spot vacated by player B.

Coaching Points
• Timing is vital – don’t make your runs too early
• The ball must keep moving
• The third player must be aware of where he will receive the pass

Center Player
Start with a player who stays permanently in the center of the circle.  Player A starts by passing to the center player, D.  Player D plays a give-and-go with player A who then passes across the circle to player B.  Player B continues the drill by passing to player D.

Coaching Point
The player in the center ‘runs’ the drill, communication, speed, etc.

Add a second player in the center.

Two Center Players
Start with two players in the center.  Player A passes a firm pass to player B.  Player B lays a pass into the path of player C.  Player C passes across the circle to player D.  Each player follows his pass.

Coaching Points
• Players on the outside must always be ready
• The central player ‘without’ the ball makes the decision for his team mate as to where to pass the ball

Two Center Players
In this example, the players perform an “over”.  Player A passes to player C who allows it to run through his legs or by the side of him to player B.  Player B lays the ball off into space for player C who has spun round into the space.  Player C passes across the circle to player D.

Coaching Points
•  Player B must be the one to shout “over” – this communicates to player C to let the ball run by him
•  Player C must spin quickly to receive the ball

Small-Sided Game
End practice with an 8 v 8 game and look to incorporate all the moves learned during the circle practices.

Name One EPL Player That Had a Good World Cup

I have been on record (prior to the World Cup, so not an excuse) as saying that one of the reasons England struggle in World Cups and Euro Championships is that the players are physically worn out from a season in the English Premier League.  Note, I said “one” of the reasons.  There are other factors that cause England’s below par performances in major championships.  But I want to focus on the effects the EPL season has on players.

first, we have to realize that the EPL is simply more physical, in terms of the amount of running, speed of play and the physical challenges, than other leagues.

The cold and wet weather should also be added to the equation.  Let me explain.  Spain and Italy for example have a warmer climate.  In England, the players often practice and play in temperatures slightly above freezing and it wet and windy conditions.  This means they have to run around like crazy just to keep warm.  Practicing in Spain or Italy when it is a nice 60F, is a different matter.  It’s much more comfortable and less taxing on the players.

So the climate is a factor.  It means more running around in practices and games than in a warmer climate.

Then compare the pace of an EPL game to that of one from Spain or Italy.  It’s as different as night and day.  The EPL games are incredibly fast and furious from the first minute to the last.  An Italian or Spanish game seem to be made up a slow build up followed by lightning fast play for a few seconds when near or in the penalty area.

The bottom line is I don’t think anyone can argue that the EPL takes a more physical toll on players than other leagues.

I also want to add to the equation, that there is a cumulative effect.  A 22 year old player will be less effected by this than a 28 or 30 year old.  Gerrard is a good example of this.  He has been a shadow of his former self this season and I would argue that the cumulative effect of the EPL has taken its toll and we are likely to not see him at his best again.  Rooney could be right on the beginning stages of this.

Yes other countries have players in the EPL, but practically all of England’s squad were EPL players.

But to attempt to further prove my theory, let me ask this question.

Name me one player who plays in the EPL, who had a good World Cup?  Torres, Rooney, Fabregas, Gerrard, are all superstar players, but didn’t perform.  Yes previous injuries were a factor in some of them, but that goes to my point about the EPL being physical as injuries are part of this.

The best example I can think of is Dirk Kyut and the best that can be said for him was that he had a “decent” World Cup.

If you can think of anyone else, post it in the Comments section.

So how can players like Forlan, who struggled at Man U, all of a sudden become a stud in the World Cup?  I don’t know, but I do think it wouldn’t have happened if he was still playing in the EPL.

England’s Slow Road To Failure

Today is an article by guest blogger, Alex Mason.  Mason is the Director of Coaching for Omaha F.C.

England’s slow road to failure

With so many experts, coaches, fans, and critics all trying to understand the downfall of the English game, I wanted to add some thoughts.

Without a doubt the game was modernized by the English, with new laws and a professional approach to the game saw growth around the world in the late 1890s, this made it the world’s game. I will say this again it became the world’s game, no more claims of “it is our game”. For us Brits we find it very hard to understand how the rest of the world caught us and with no hesitation lapped us, bit like the Famous British Ford Escort trying to keep up with the Porsche or Ferrari we all knew adding a go fast stripe did not change the outcome of the race, Coming second was a habit we all laughed about.

In 1981 I took the English FA Preliminary badge, I was told to study a Coaching education book by the famous Charles Hughes, this book had great detailed Techniques and Tactical approaches to the beautiful game, sadly the Book was already at the end of its second decade. My soccer teachers would laugh that not much had changed, So let’s looks at the game during that time, at least 5 world cup Tournaments had been played, countless European cups and all other events where the game was digested and taught back to the rest of the world, remember England did win the world cup in 66, sorry for the single claim to the worlds game.

Did the English game become stationary when the rest of the world were teaching themselves new Systems of play and formations that evolved beyond the WM formation and the 4-4-2

When we look at the late sixties and seventies, the British team’s were very successful, Celtic, Man UTD, Nott’s Forest and Liverpool, all of these teams had hardly any foreign players, but all of these teams had great  Scottish players who were very dominant within the English game! Was the change occurring on our own door step!

The influx of foreign players to the English premier League changed the game in modern times, the foreign player no longer worried about the damp winters as the high wages kept them lovely and warm. The only players feeling the cold was the young English players trying to compete against the new stars, This influx of players almost destroyed the “Academies” as we grew to know them, Everton, Liverpool, West ham, Spurs, Derby County were all recognized as great producers of young stars we all watched in the early days of the Premier League, I did say the early days, here I am today a diehard Arsenal fan with the embarrassing fact Arsenal’s only English player Theo Walcott did not make the England Squad, some of you will remember the Arsenal team that had Seamen, Bould, Winterburn, Dixon, Adams, Merson, Parlour, Smith, Wright, nine players all from one team all starting for England ! The answer is starting to come through, we (Brits) for the love of the game have turned to the rest of the world for our enjoyment, we smile with excitement of this upcoming final between Holland & Spain, was there the same excitement from the world when England played Algeria!

How frustrating to see Rooney, Lampard, Gerrard and co argue with each other, while the US was all marching to one drum beat. How exciting this is for American soccer.

So in one sentence, England has to reinvent the game they once created, the problem is every other country is now perfecting theirs!

It’s a funny old Game

Alex Mason
Omaha FC

Random World Cup Thoughts

Today I have some random World Cup thoughts.

1.  How come Germany manages to over exceed expectations at the World Cup.  I can’t remember the last time they had a “bad” World Cup.  Of course, they don’t win it every year, but they seem to always do well or better than expected.  This WC is a good example.  They were seen as a young, inexperienced team.  Remember that England beat them 5-1 less than two years ago.

Take a look at their record, it is unbelievable.  From 1954, they have appeared in every WC and reached the quarter finals or better in every one except 1978.  Since 1982, they have been champions once, and reached the final another three times as well as two semi finals…including this one.

The more I look at their record, the more amazed I am at how good it is.

2.  How come England is deemed a “world power” in football?  Based on Germany’s record above and England’s poor record in the WC and Euro’s, it just doesn’t make sense.  Yes, we won the World Cup, but that was 44 years ago and on home soil.  We haven’t won anything since.  A semi final in the 1990 World Cup and a semi final in the Euro’s in 1996 are the best we can offer.

3.  The game is too fast for the officials.  I don’t blame the officials for many of the mistakes they have made.  It’s just physically impossible for them to see some of what happens.  Take the Tevez offside goal against Mexico for instance.  The linesman has to look at the player kicking the ball.  At the instant he kicks it, the linesman has to swivel his head or eyes to Tevez to see if he is offside or not.  How long does it take to move his head/eyes?  I don’t know, but let’s guess that it is 2/10ths of a second.  Now take into consideration that a soccer player is moving at about 9 yards (27 feet) a second if they are moving quickly and this is only exascerbated if the defender is moving in the opposite direction trying to play him offside.  So a quick estimate is that the player can move 5.4 feet during the time it takes the linesman to move his head/eyes from the ball to the player.  Actually, I am continually amazed at how many of the offside calls are correctly made by linesmen.

4.  See my last post – All the diving. acting, cheating, etc. is slowly turning me off the game.

I hope the Spain v Germany game is a good one later today.

Team Chemistry and the World Cup

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about Team Chemistry here.  This World Cup gives me an opportunity to add to that post.

Four teams from the World Cup are worth considering when looking at team chemistry and how it can effect their performances.  On the bad side we can learn from France, Italy and England and on the positive side, we can take a look at Argentina.  For this post, I will give Italy a pass as I haven’t really followed their situation deep enough to make a worthwhile comment, but let’s take a look at the others.

France – Why not start with the most extreme example.  The French players have been complaining about their coach, Domenech, for years.  Past players, supporters and seemingly anyone who had a voice all seemed to complain.  But the French Football Federation took no notice and kept Domenech as the coach.  So there was obviously conflict with the players and the coach and has been for years.

In this case how can there be a good atmosphere within the team?  How can the coach get the best out of his players?  How can the players give everything they have for their coach and teammates?

Let’s be honest here, France had some older players who were past their best, they were in a tough group.  And they have struggled for a couple of years including qualifying for the World Cup and not getting out of their group in Euro 2008.  But I think one of the major factors in their poor performances over the past 2-3 years is the poor team chemistry which is a result of a poor relationship between the players and the coach.

What happened at this World Cup with France was just the straw that broke the camels back.

Argentina – Are basically the opposite of France.  The Argentinians are renowned for the emotional players and this strong emotion can go either way.  But right now, it seems that the players love the situation they are in with Maradonna as the coach.  They seem to believe in him, no matter what he does on or off the field.  It looks like their is a special relationship between the players and Maradonna that seems to override everything that is put in their path…so far at least.  And let’s not forget that they have an incredibly talented squad that is as deep as any in the World Cup and probably the world’s best player in Messi.  But still, just imagine how they would play if they had the same relationship with their coach that France has and you will see the importance of team chemistry.

NOTE – I actually expect Argentina to implode at some point.  But only if things don’t go their way.  Let’s say they get a decision against them like the Lampard non goal or the Tevez offside goal against Mexico.  Maradonna could throw a wobbler and get ejected and all hell could break loose.  Don’t discount it.

England – Yes, England doesn’t seem to have the world class players it once had, and the ones it does have didn’t perform well.  And there are other reasons that I have mentioned in an earlier post, but England’s team chemistry wasn’t good to say the least.  First there was John Terry’s situation that I don’t really need to go into here, but safe to say, some players were on his side and others weren’t.  And getting stripped of the captaincy surely didn’t help.  Some of the players didn’t like the coach, Capello, which the France situation shows, can really have a negative effect.  And Capello didn’t help matters with an approach that the players felt was too harsh with too much discipline.

Would it have made much of a difference?  It could have.  England have got further with other teams that seemingly struggled in World Cups…1990 for instance.  But it’s safe to say, their chances would have been better and likely their performances also.

Bottom line is, I believe team chemistry is not only helpful, but critical in getting the best out of teams.  Don’t discount it.

Would Lampard’s Goal For England Have Changed Anything?

England’s highly paid players played well and put in a good performance beating Germany 2-0.  In the quarter final, England got revenge for Maradonna’s Hand of God goal in 86′ World Cup by beating Argentina on a penalty kick from a phantom handball by Messi in his own box…Oh wait, that was the dream, reality is so different.

Here are some questions about England’s loss to Germany and the decision not to give the goal by Lampard that clearly went over the line. Would it have changed the outcome of the game?

1.  Momentum – Whether Germany were better than England doesn’t matter.  Momentum is huge in sports.  That goal would have given England incredible momentum.  It could have given them belief that they could win, that the Germans were fragile.  It could have given them the much lacking fire to step up their level of play.  On the other hand, the Germans could have started to panic, they could have lost confidence.  It could have shaken them to their core.  Momentum can make all the difference in the world.

2.  Change the way the game is played – At 2-1, England are still chasing a tying goal.  Germany could sit back, defend and wait to counter.  And that is exactly what happened on their next two goals.  England had no choice but to leave themselves open at the back and be vulnerable to counter attacks.  At 2-2, it becomes an entirely different game.  Each team needs to play and try and score…and guess who had the momentum and the confidence in this scenario?

3.  Was it finally some payback for the identical situation only in England’s favor from the 1966 World Cup?  Or have Germany have had enough payback over the years as they seemingly get beat by Germany in all the important games anyway?

4.  Would it really have changed the outcome of the game?  Germany were clearly superior in most cases.  They looked quicker, sharper, more enthusiastic.  In comparison, England looked slow, lethargic and lacking in purpose.

5.  Does this make the case for using goal-line technology?  This technology has been available for years but FIFA seems intent on not using this or other technology that could help the officials out in situations like this.

Look, for what it’s worth, I think it would have been interesting for a while had Lampard’s goal stood.  England fans would have gone crazy, the players might have stepped up their game, but I think it would likely have been just a temporary phase.  I think much of the momentum England might have enjoyed would have been lost when they came out after half time.  The German’s would have regrouped and regained any lost composure and likely gone on to win the game.  But it would surely have been interesting to see how things would have turned out.

England and USA – Whew!

Whew!  Some background.  I was born and lived in England for the first 30 years of my life.  Watched all the World Cups over the years.  Used to stay up late or get up early when young and when I started work, I used to take vacation time or suddenly become sick for a couple of weeks to watch all the games.  I moved to the U.S. 19 years ago and became a U.S. citizen 10 years ago.  So I obviously still support England, even when they play the U.S.  But the U.S. get my support in every case except when they are up against England.

So, this morning (games started at 8 am here in Colorado..vacation) was somewhat gut wrenching.  I had a bad feeling about England, but they somehow managed to pull through.  I was watching the England game downstairs, occasionally flicking over to catch a few seconds of the U.S. game.  My wife was upstairs watching the U.S. game.

It’s unbelievable how things can change within the blink of an eye.  England were winning 1-0, the U.S. were tied 0-0 with less than 5 minutes left in each game.  At this point, England were through and the U.S. were out.  Then Slovenia, almost, and could have scored.  That would have put England out and the Slovenia and the U.S. through.  Of course they didn’t score and the game ended a couple of minutes later.  At the very second, the game ended, England were through and the U.S. were out.  But one second later…literally one second, the U.S. scored and now they are through and Slovenia are out.

Don’t you just love the World Cup?

I was already thinking of a blog to post about how the U.S. got screwed…again, with another disallowed goal that should have stood, when everything changed.

So now, we have to look forward to the round of 16.  I think the U.S. will get the better of the draw, and they deserve it. They won the group and were better than England over the three group games.  My guess is that Germany will win their game over Ghana and Serbia will win their game.  This should put Germany as the winners of that group with Serbia second.

So the U.S. could get Serbia and if they play well, there is no reason they can’t win.  England, judging on their recent performances and recent history over Germany, will lose to them…probably on penalty kicks.

But then again, anything could happen this afternoon and Ghana could be in the mix.  That’s what I love about the World Cup.

England – Just Not Good Enough

I don’t want this to turn into a “England” blog, but once they are knocked out of the World Cup, that will be that, so I might as well say what I want to say now while I have the chance.

In the cold light of day, and after sleeping on it, I have to say that not only was the result one of the worst in years for England, but the performance was as bad as any I can remember in decades.  Yes we have lost games in the past against inferior opponents.  There have been too many times we haven’t qualified for the World Cup and the Euro Championships, but this game was different.

It was different because not only did England not beat an Algerian team that has only won 1 of 7 games leading up to this game, but the most shocking thing to me, (and this seems to be taking second place to the result) is that we were outplayed by Algeria.  They outworked us, they had more and better goal chances and even though England had the edge in possession, Algeria seemed to control much of the game.

Now I know the stats say that England outshot Algeria by 15-13, but take a look at the game and you will see that many of England’s shots were harmless efforts from well outside the box.  When you break it down to times where each team looked threatening, England were left wanting.  Poor ESPN had to really struggle to come up with a couple of lame clips they used as a poor excuse for England’s highlights.

I can remember bad results in the past.  The 2006 World Cup is a good example.  I don’t think England put together one good performance…just managing to scrape a result against inferior opponents until they ran into a Portugal team that was depleted of many of their starters due to previous yellow and red cards.  But I can’t really remember a time when England were actually outplayed by an inferior opponent.

Algeria’s only win in the last 7 games was a 1-0 win over the tiny United Arabe Emirates.  3-0 losses to Ireland and Serbia were other efforts.

So how did England get to this point?  Well I have written in the past few weeks about some of the reasons England don’t do well at World Cups.  The main one being, our players are pretty worn out after playing a hectic season in the most physical league in the world (EPL).  But although that is a factor, you have to look deeper than that.

The bottom line is, we just don’t seem to have the quality of players we once had.  Let’s break it down.

Players at or close to their peak – Rooney, Lampard, Johnson and Terry.

Players who are past their best – Gerrard, Carragher and Cole.

Players who wouldn’t get in the team in the past because they weren’t good enough – James, Lennon, Wright-Phillips and Heskey.

Gareth Barry kind of fits into all three categories.

So we only have four players who are good international players that are close to their peak.  Rooney is probably fatigued from the EPL season and accumulation of seasons.  Lampard never really performs well for England.  Johnson is okay and Terry is doing okay but personal problems might be affecting him somewhat.  So even our four quality players aren’t at their best.

Gerrard, Carragher and Cole are all quality players but have seen better days.  Gerrard is one of my favorite players but cumulative seasons in the EPL are taking their toll and this past season was well below par for him.  I’m afraid, he is finished as the powerful player he was.  Carragher shouldn’t even be in the squad and the fact that he is shows the lack of talent available to choose from.  Cole is simply filling space without being a weakness.

The others are simply not good enough.  Heskey for example has scored just 7 goals in 60 international games for England and can’t even keep a regular spot in the Aston Villa team.  Compare that to the likes of Linekar, Mariner or Shearer.  It’s not even close.

So on reflection, even if we had our better players on form and playing well, we still would have a tough time matching up against the stronger teams in South Africa.  No, I think the bottom line is we just don’t have the quality of players we are used to.  And I think we need to accept that and make things easier on ourselves as fans and reduce our crazy expectations.

A Game of Two Halves

First, let’s start with the Germany v Serbia game.  Many people are saying it is a shock result.  But I don’t see it that way.  Germany are okay but not as strong as the last two World Cups.  They are young as well.  I don’t see them as a threat to win the whole thing and am not surprised by the Serbia result.  Nor would I be surprised if they advanced pretty far into the competition.  I just don’t think they have the quality or the experience to play consistently at the level required to win the whole thing.

The USA v Slovenia game was interesting.  I was a littel shocked by the first 30 minutes.  I expected more from the U.S.  But they looked nervous, out of ideas and played too many long balls forward.  Credit Slovenia for a great goal though.  Then in the last 15 minutes of the half, USA really started playing and taking it to Slovenia and should have leveled.  But then again, Slovenia scored another well taken goal to put the U.S. in an even greater hole.

I do want to comment on the quality of the referee.  Or should I say the lack of quality?  I know FIFA like to have officials from all corners of the world represented at the World Cup, and I don’t know this guys background, but he was a joke.  Some of the calls were incredulous.  Giving a yellow card to Findlay when the ball hit him in the face was a real head scratcher and at that point, you just knew that further ridiculous calls were going to happen.

One of the good things about any team going 2-0 down, is it forces them to be more attack minded.  It opens the game up and makes it a more interesting game.  And this is exactly what happened here.  The second half was much more interesting and exciting and the U.S. deserved the draw.

Does anyone know why the late goal was called back?

As a coach, I have to wonder the feeling that Bob Bradley had when his son scored the tying goal.  Just think about it – playing for your national team, in a World Cup game where your team needs a goal otherwise they are out of the tournament. And your son pops up and scores the all important goal…priceless.

Now to get ready for the England v Algeria game.  My prediction.  Another poor performance by England but they are good enough to win by 1 or 2 two goals.