The lack of holding ball possession is an ugly plague that infests every sector of soccer in this country!
Aside from the aesthetic appeal that comes with stringing together five, ten, twenty, forty touches while the other team fails in its attempt to recover the ball, here are some vital things you must know about possession:
- The more you have the ball, the less opportunities your opponent has to hurt you.
- The more you have the ball, the more you physically wear down your opponent.
- The more you have the ball, the more demoralizing it is to your opponent. The psychological impact can not be stressed enough.
- In general, the team with greater possession usually wins. And no, I’m not talking a mere 53% to 47%. I’m talking more in the 60-40 region.
- With possession you get to pick and choose when to strike at goal. As the ball gets transported between different sectors of the field, the defense has to constantly shift, adjust, find their marks, etc. It is very labor intensive and requires constant focus. No defense is perfect so it will lose its shape sooner or later. When it does, it can be exposed and a quality chance on goal can be created.
I’ve heard many comments over the years from people who just don’t understand or were never told of these values.
“Possession is overrated if you don’t do anything with it.”
Here they are talking about not going forward and attempting to score. Well if that were the case then I agree, but the truth is no team just holds possession for the hell of it! Teams “possess with a purpose” (see above). And this happens in the opponent’s territory, not just with defenders in their own half.
More recently I’ve heard people citing certain results as evidence that possession is not all it’s cracked up to be. The most laughable one is:
“The US beat Spain at the Confederations Cup.”
My god! I’m not kidding, there are people with this mindset. Listen, nobody says having the ball 60% of the time ensures victory. But it greatly increase your chances. In addition, citing one or a handful of results does not prove anything! In only shows that anything can happen in sports.
When executed well, it is truly a beautiful work of art!
The opposite of this is playing a “direct” style. Meaning, “go forward, go forward, go forward”. Playing sideways or backwards is of no use. Just launch the ball forward! Launch into the opponent’s box and see what happens. This style is the promoter of randomness and chaos! No control. No beauty. No consistency. An abomination!
The philosophy, in its most basic form, essentially says “if we launch enough balls into the opponent’s final third, something good is bound to happen”.
This is the style that infests our youth, college, and professional ranks. It is a disease, and we are on a mission to distribute the cure.
Finally, don’t just take my word for it …
If you asked any player if he would rather have his team hold more possession than the opposition, I’m sure he would say “hell yeah”!
… I wonder why?
What style does your team play? Do you have a style, or are 11 players thrown on the field and whatever happens, happens? Share you thoughts in the comment section below.
Cinco De Mayo says
My team, hahahaha very funny question, and well it’s unfortunate that the place I come from have no senior team and talking about a junior team, as at yesterday, we have none, thanks to MRI scan. Hopefully we need to get some good coaches to come and invest in football in that place; it’s a titanic unexploited market.
The piece of writing is well written, this is just an add-on. I constantly talk to my players about understanding the basic skills of playing any team game, one of them is Awareness which I normally use different words like alertness, watchfulness, attentiveness, vigilance; I like my players apart from being able to hold and distribute the ball, I always want them to be conscious of what is happening around them at any point
I have taken my team to watch basketball and football games just to see how vital the point guard and the quarterback is to the squad. In soccer, every time a player touches the ball, he becomes for that seconds or minute the point guard or the quarterback. My players have to know
a. what to do with the ball before he gets it
b. what to do next when he/she releases the ball,
c. what to do next when his/her teammate have the ball
d. his/her teammate weakness and strength
e. play without looking at where the ball is
f. HAVE to become a point guard every time he/she has the ball
In conclusion, my team needs a combination of basic skills to be able to have possession of the ball and also know what to do with it. I hope my little editorial will help the young players to understand why it is called a team sport.
this is the best subject i have read about soccer…nice work…keep it….
sorry i meant keep it up…lol
Gary Kleiban says
Thanks zlatan! We’ll keep trying to write good stuff and not hold back any punches.
Exactly! Thanks for saying it so well. Anyone who has played or watched (in my case) top-flight soccer knows how demoralizing it can be for an opponent to simply control the tempo and the space of a game by maintaining possession. The constant probing for an opening, for that moment when a single defender shades too far over and creates space for the through ball and shot, requires that team dominate possession.
I have a son on a U14 premier team in Ohio, and the problem of coaching a possession game with parents who don’t understand this simple fact is apparent all the time. The problem is that coaching for possession is high risk — in terms of winning games — at this age level. When you can put together ten passes and it still takes only a single errant pass to lose possession, coaching thirteen-years olds to possess is going to lead to a lot of lost balls — at first. You may not see the payoff for a season or even two.
Developmentally it is exactly the right thing to do, but when you have a bunch of none-to-soccer-savvy parents breathing down the coach’s neck demanding to know why the team is not winning, you need a coach with real security and self-confidence to keep doing it.
And of course premier clubs are businesses trying to keep their “customers” happy. But that is another for another day!
Keep up the great work.
Gary Kleiban says
It’s always great to hear there are others out there who “get it” and are doing there part to spread the word and philosophy. Sometimes it feels like we’re all alone in a sea of ignorance.
But I am starting to see a trend towards better soccer literacy.
It good to have you on board man!
People, go back and read, study, understand, execute Gary’s old posts…there is a lot of meat there…if it could be found by topic, or presented in a more systematic form it would be an even more powerfull resource…Gary?
I was interested to read what the first few posts were on 3four3 since I have honestly only looked at articles since I was introduced to 3four3 about 3 years ago? This article is so important! “And this happens in the opponent’s territory, not just with defenders in their own half.” – That line stuck out to me because there is a process involved with possession soccer. Building out of the back and going forward to keep possession in the opponents half to create a goal scoring opportunity. It is not just “Keep Away.” A big issue I have noticed throughout youth coaching is that coaches aren’t patient with the process of teaching a possession-based style. Repetition is very important in the process of learning and once games begin many youth coaches abandon the possession approach and play for results. Unfortunately it happens at such a young age that parents/players alike buy into what they are witnessing. It is going to take an education for everyone (coaches, players, parents, spectators) to truly change the landscape, in my opinion. There are pioneers out here though and I can say that there is lots of hope. When I can spot a very well coached team I smile because I know that there are a good amount of coaches/teams out there (in USA) that understand a possession-based approach. 3four3 has been the best platform for all of us to get together and learn. Thanks!