Posts tagged ‘English Premier League’

Advanced Tactics for the 4-2-3-1

The 4-2-3-1 formation has become the system of choice for many of the worlds top professional and national teams like Real Madrid, Manchester United and Brazil. As coaches at every level have watched these top teams play they have looked for ways to implement the system with their college, high school and youth teams.

The first step in introducing a new way of playing s to break the system down and identify the most important components. The was done very well by Continue reading ‘Advanced Tactics for the 4-2-3-1’ »

Diamond Drills

One of the perks of my job is that I get to see the sessions of some of the top coaches from around the world and then I can do that session with my youth teams. Sometimes I adjust the size of the areas or add neutral players to make the session work for my players but they are able to benefit from the basic ideas and the kids enjoy hearing that they’re doing the same practice as professional or youth players from prominent clubs around the world.

I was looking through, ‘Training Sessions of English Professional League Team‘, and came across a session from Sheffield United’s U15 team. I’ve done a number of different diamond drills with my team and the variations in this Continue reading ‘Diamond Drills’ »

How Will England Do In the World Cup?

There are a two main reasons (excuses) that England rarely do well in the World Cup or Euro Championships.  I actually agree with both of them.

Weather - The majority of the English season is spent in cool or cold temperatures with wind and rain.  Obviously the training sessions are done in the same weather.  In order to stay warm at these cool temperatures, players have to run around at 100 mph all the time.  This is also a major factor in why the EPL is played at such a quick and frantic pace…but that is for another topic.  So, as most World Cups and Euro Championships are played in the summer, and usually in hot temperatures, it is an unusual situation for most English players.  They can’t run around at 100 mph like they do in league games and this takes something away from their game.  NOTE – It will be winter in South Africa for the World Cup, with temps in the 40-60’s F, so this should be to England’s advantage.

Physical Wear and Tear – Most of the England players play in the EPL.  Anyone who has watched and EPL game and then a Serie A game or La Liga game will no doubt see big difference.  The EPL games are much faster and more physical.  This takes it toll over the season.  In fact, it was often said that Patrick Veira used to purposely get red carded around Christmas/New Year so that he could take the rest he felt he needed.  The bottom line is, England players usually show up to the World Cup and Euro Championships worn out.  Franz Beckenbaur used to say, “The English play like lions in the autumn and like lambs in the spring/summer”.

So England has the weather on their side for this World Cup, but nothing can be done about the physical wear and tear that their players have experienced over the past EPL season.  However, a new factor has arisen that could be even more damaging than the weather and wear and tear, and that is team chemistry.  I haven’t really followed the John Terry and Wayne Bridge situation, but any scandal involving wives and girlfriends, friendship and infidelity, can really wreck the chemistry of the team.  And when other players end up taking sides, cliques form, rifts start and the whole thing becomes a mess.  Potentially, I think this could be more damaging than practically anything else.

So how will England do this time?  It wouldn’t surprise me if they struggled in group play, barely advanced and struggled to win another game.  But it also wouldn’t surprise me if they did pretty well.

Special Atmosphere/Pressure For Playoff Games

I am writing this as I watch the Man City v Tottenham game.  It’s 2.15 pm here in the Midwest and it’s a good job I got most of my work done earlier in the day as I’m not getting much done right now.  I thought I would write about the distinct pressure and atmosphere of this game and other playoff games throughout the various leagues.

Apart from occasional instances over the decades, this kind of atmosphere and pressure is pretty new and something I first noticed when the English leagues moved to a playoff format to decide the final promotion places.

Why is the atmosphere and pressure different than let’s say a cup final or the Champions League final?  Obviously in those games, there is an enormous pressure to win and become the “Champions”.  However, for those that lose in those finals, the loss is not that great.  Afterall, they have enjoyed a great run getting to the final.  They have it on their record that they reached the final and enjoy the build up to the final.

But the playoff are totally different and I love them.  For the record, I have only seen the playoff games for 2-3 years on TV, then for some reason they stopped showing them here in the U.S. about 4-5 years ago.  But just loved watching them.  In fact, I would prefer to watch the games from League One, looking for promotion to the Championship, instead of an EPL game…They were just more exciting.

What makes them different?  It’s the all or nothing aspect and there is so much on the line.  The loser gets nothing or worse…gets relegated and the winners set themselves up for next season and in the process usually a ton load of money as well.  For instance, in this Man City v Spurs game, the winner finishes in 4th place in the EPL.  This qualifies them for Champions League play next season.  This is huge.  Not only for the players…and all top level players want to play Champions League soccer…just ask Torres, Gerrard and other Liverpool players how they feel about missing out next season.  But it will also give the team somewhere in the region of an additional $40 million in revenue.

So unlike a cup final where the loser at least can claim some semblance of success from a good cup run, the losers of a playoff game are absolutely distraught and can take nothing from losing.  This makes the pressure immense for the players and leads to some pretty intense and fast paced games.  I suppose the best way I could describe the games is to say that they are played as if both teams are losing 1-0 and it’s the last five minutes of a cup final.  Every tackle is critical, every header is important and it appears that every challenge is a last gasp stretch.

Just watching the Man City v Spurs game, and it’s only the first 20 minutes, but every corner is defended as though it was the last minute with more than a hint of panic.  Makes for a great game.

One thing I would like to see brought back to the playoffs is a four team playoff for the last relegation spot.  One reason is this makes the season more interesting because even teams in the middle of the league table are usually only a few points above the team who are sixth from bottom and in the last playoff spot.  But for some reason, the atmosphere at those games was even more intense.

Now all I need for some cable channel to start carrying the playoff games again.  For now though, I will make do with this special one-off game of Man City v Spurs.

Thoughts On the Last Week of the EPL

Well, the final week of the EPL season is upon us and here are some random thoughts.

Even though the Championship will be decided with the final games (Chelsea and Man U), I don’t feel any real suspense.  Unless there is a major disaster, Chelsea should have no problem with Wigan.  This makes Man U’s game irrelevant.  Of course, Chelsea could choke with the pressure but that is highly unlikely.

The better game is for fourth place between Man City and Tottenham.  This is huge for both clubs with a prize of Champions League football next season on the line.  Probably more of the pressure will be on Man City as they are at home and with all the money they have spent, not making the Champions League would be a major setback.  Really looking forward to that game.

Is this the beginning of the end for Liverpool?  They have always been regarded as one of the “big four”, but over the past few years, have really struggled to compete for the top spot.  Man U, Chelsea and Arsenal have all been in with a chance of the title at some point, but not Liverpool.  They also seem to lack the investment that the other three clubs have and along with some really poor buys by Rafa, they have steadily declined over the past few years to a 7th place finish.  I wonder if they will get back to being one of the “big four”?

How to players like Torres and Gerrard feel not playing Champions League football next season?  My guess is Torres will end up somewhere else, although there are few clubs that have the money to buy him and pay him.  I’m not sure what Gerrard will do unless something happens like Mourinho going to Real Madrid and putting in a offer for him.

So with relegation settled and the FA Cup not being what it used to, I will start looking forward to the World Cup after the week is done.

A Set Play That Works

I love set plays.  Well, let me clarify that.  I love well thought out set plays.  They don’t necessarily have to work because let’s face it they don’t always work.  But the well thought out set plays show some creativity.  Anything is better than the mind numbing default crosses from wide positions or shots from just outside the box.

A great example of a creative set play that worked to perfection was when Argentina scored at the end of the first half in the 1998 World Cup.  It was a free kick from about 25 yards out.  It looked like they were setting up for a shot but a quick pass down the side of the wall to Zanetti caught England napping and Zanetti fired a shot to pull Argentina level at 2-2.  Argentina went on to win the game on penalty kicks…I won’t mention the Sol Campbell header in extra time that was mysteriously disallowed and would have no doubt won the game for England.  Still rankles me that.  But let’s focus on the great set play.  Maybe I will post this one another time.

Anyway, last week, I saw another neat set play from Liverpool when they played West Ham in an EPL game.  It was from a throw-in near the corner flag and was designed to get a player free to shoot, run into the box, etc.  The set play worked great until the final pass to a player on the edge of the box who wasn’t able to get his shot off.  But it’s one that can be easily copied and I’m sure will pay dividends.

Here it is broken down.


Glen Johnson takes the throw-in.  Maxi Rogriguez shows for the ball and plays it back with one touch to Johnson.


Gerrard, now shows toward Johnson who plays a pass directly to Gerrard that splits the two defenders.  Gerrard plays a one-touch pass toward the corner of the penalty area where Rodriguez has made his run.


Rogriguez, then plays the ball across the box for an incoming player.  At this point, I guess Rogriguez would have options to do what is available to him.

Let me know if you try this and how it worked.

Mike Saif

How Can Clubs Compete With the Big Four In the EPL?

Since Sky brought big time money into the Premier League, it has really changed the landscape of who is capable of winning the EPL. Before Sky…let’s say the early 90’s and before (the old First Division), teams like Leeds United, Nottingham Forest, Everton, Aston Villa and in the early 70’s, Derby County all were English Champions. But since it was formed in 1992-1993, only four clubs have won the EPL. And one of those was Blackburn whose owner pumped money in big time to buy top players for a few years. But it was obviously not sustainable.

So, since 1992-1993, Man United have won the title 11 times, Arsenal three times and Chelsea twice and Blackburn once. Really, no other team has made a serious attempt at the title. Not even Liverpool who before the EPL either were champions or at least in the running for it.

So, with this in mind, it seems to be unrealistic for other teams to become competitive enough to challenge for the Championship. They just don’t have the money. So how do the fans of teams like Everton, West Ham, Tottenham, Bolton, deal with this? Are their goals to finish 5th, qualify for Europe, or even just to avoid relegation? Or do they dare dream of breaking into the top four like Aston Villa, Man City and Tottenham are on the brink of?

Anyway the reason I mention this is an idea that I heard passed around very briefly a few years ago, but never got any traction. And it’s an idea that I think has merit and would give teams a better chance of competing.

In towns that have two clubs, merge them into one bigger club.

My home town Sheffield for instance would benefit enormously from this. Right now we have two decent sized clubs – Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United. Wednesday is the slightly bigger club but both of them have enough support to be in the EPL. However, it would be a case of simply surviving if and when they get back to the EPL.

If they merged, the new club would have the backing of the entire city. It would be more attractive for potential new owners with money. Attendances would be higher, matching the top clubs. All of this would lead to a more competitive team and surely a better experience for the fans.

The downside to this is “tradition”. These clubs have been around for about 100 years. It is hard to give up all that history. A percentage of the fans, just wouldn’t go for it and would rebel. But I think the landscape has changed so much over the past 20 years or so, that if clubs continue to operate in the same way, not only will more and more of them go under, but there is practically a zero chance for any of them to compete at the highest level.

Just think about a Sheffield or a Birmingham or a Nottingham that was competing for the EPL Championship, hosting Champions League games against Barcelona, AC Milan, Real Madrid, etc. How exciting would that be? Surely it would be better than playing in the lower leagues or fighting for survival in the EPL?

But then again, maybe history and tradition are more important?

Mike Saif.