- Some people have huge sample sizes and experiences spanning youth to international level play.
- Some may have recently been introduced (or reintroduced) to football, say in the last 5 to 7 years – essentially born into the Barca era.
- Some have concluded it’s a, or the, safe position to have when discussing the sport.
- Some defaulted to the possession camp because they believe their kids would better thrive in that environment.
- Some because they ‘culturally inherited’ it.
What’s your deal?
Think about it.
“Soccer parent ‘philosophy‘, in general, is a function of their kid’s situation” . This is basically our u12 team slogan with half the parents sitting on different sides of the fence, possession or kick and chase. Parents of athletic kids with poor ball skill (not spending enough time with the ball) enjoy the kick and chase as their child finds success instead of frustration. Their first touch on the ball is terrible so the kids confidence is rocked and enjoyment of the sport lost when asked to play more a possession style. 16 kids on u12 boys team and only 3 can juggle more then 25 times, and the parents tell me they can’t find the correlation between “soccer tricks and juggle” to playing “real” soccer. The most unfortunate part to this story is we dominate in a very good league and win big tournaments. 85% of the parents think i’m crazy for the comments I make. And BTW you guessed it, my son has a wonderful first touch and would rather play a possession style. So the kids ability will usually dictate the preference of style. We’re not a hamster wheel here in America and not many even want to get off.
I meant ” we’re on a hamster wheel here in America and not many even want to get off”
Great post, Tim. While I certainly agree with what you’re saying, I do have a point I’d like to make.
Juggling ability and first touch do not always go hand in hand. Yes, juggling, especially at younger ages is a great way to develop touch and muscle memory. However, keeping a ball up 200 times is not indicative of actual technical ability.
Yes, my 14 yr old can juggle that much. So I’m not making excuses or otherwise rationalizing to prove my point. I just think too many people feel that juggling is THE WAY to develop excellent control. Once my son mastered the basics, he found juggling (for the sake of juggling) didn’t necessarily improve his first touch/control.
Instead, he spends a lot of time doing ‘wall work’. That, and having me serve balls into him (mostly from the air) and having him control them. Chest, thigh, instep, etc. As he has progressed, we now work on him receiving difficult balls while moving. The effort is designed to make his movements faster and more efficient.
Right now the focus is on ‘taking the picture” (scanning the field for teammates) before he receives the ball. One mistake I have made (I think) is that we do not spend a lot of time on 1v1 attacking moves.
But the upside to that is that he only dribbles when he has space (in the final 3rd generally) and his ‘simple’ 1 and 2 touch play enables him to be an exceptional passer of the ball. Which is 99% of the game.
Everyone seems to be obsessed with developing the next “messi’ but frankly we need more Xavi’s, Pique’s, Busquets’, Alonsos and Mascheranos
My son’s team is not surprisingly largely hispanic. I’ve seen plenty of kids that are good dribblers/1v1 attackers…what I don’t see are more tactically ‘smart’ players that are equally adept at winning and keeping the ball.
I grew up playing soccer (football) and life-long fan. I love how Barca possesses and total football philosophy. But truth be told, as a fan and player (I still play pick-up now and then) I prefer watching high tempo teams such as Madrid. I also love to watch Dortmund.
I advocate possession soccer as a great way to develop and teach young players. But at professional level, Barca-style possession will always be rare. Many clubs cater to fans (i.e., want more exciting high tempo, end to end play) as it’s more exciting. If Barca stuck to possession and they were not as good, the crys of “boring” would be much louder than it is. Unfortunately, professional clubs need to balance philosophy, winning, and cash flow from turnstiles.
In the end I advocate youth development that is more possessoin-based. But at professional level I want to see more interesting play, not jut one team passing hundreds of times. I like to watch the one touch passes but give me a high tempo, end to end game that is thrilling to last seconds and I will pay money for that!
Agree. Which is probably why EPL is considered the top league. At least based on tv ratings.
Personally, I enjoy Bundesliga and Eredivisie. You get a good mixture of both.
But learning to patiently keep the ball should be the foundation. Much easier to learn to play other styles when you master keeping the ball first. Obviously develops smarter players.
Dr Loco says
“But at professional level I want to see more interesting play, not jut one team passing hundreds of times.”
You mean less sophisticated play (ie Graham Taylor)?
I guess so if that’s what it means.
I enjoy hundreds of passes even if it doesn’t make goals always. I want to pull my hair out when pro teams force ball at the ball. I think there are a lot of people that enjoy the passing more then the direct play. The truth is that direct play does not = more goals, just more half chances.
Vincent Grady says
There is a possible danger if we overemphasize passing and possession to the detriment of individual skill and compure underpressure with the ball. Barca is great also because iniesta, messi, fabregas, etc…are also world class dribblers, which means that defenders cannot risk tackling unless they take a bad touch, which in turn opens up the opportunity to possess more. Too many elite American players look all the same, and playing one and two touch at such a young age is not going to cultivate the very difficult skills of dribbling in and out of pressure, and the ability to hold ball to then beat 2 or more defenders with the pas. Check out this video of youth barcelona teams and you will see less passing than the US team, but more individual skill on the ball. cheers
Vincent Grady says
Almost no one touch passing here!!! And lots of enthusiastic oles!!!
You got it right. Skill to win 1v1s at early age (U5-U10) followed by two touch then one touch leads to possession style. (Note: it is not introduced independently/separetly and there is more to it, but it pretty much sums it up)
1 touch at an early age dos not lead to possession.
The point is too many players dribble and turn into trouble. You can have as many touches as you like as long as it’s not one too many. Some players only see as far as the player marking them or quite literally as far as they can see when their head is down looking at the ball. Better players have vision. They see a move several phases before they receive the ball and several after. Any player who’s only vision /response to receiving the ball is attempting to take someone on should never be called a footballer.
Joe Fabian says
IN MY HUMBLE OPINION, although, it has become widely accepted among players, parents, fans, amateur and even professional coaches to call this particular style of play “POSSESSION style”, or “possession based” play, Barca`s play is not only focused on possession. There are other, EQUALLY IMPORTANT elements of their game, such as PASSING, the nearly NON-STOP MOVEMENT OF THE BALL, PROBING, PATIENCE, high PRESS to win the ball back, RHYTHM, CHANGE OF RHYTHM and the SUPERB TECHNIQUE of individual players.
I think it is misleading to focus on possession because it is not any more important here than the other elements of the game I just mentioned. As a matter of fact the high percentage of possession might very well be the result of the perfect execution of all these elements of game. As more and more teams adopt styles of play similar to Barca`s it is very interesting to see how teams try to learn this style, how they perform why they learn and what it looks like to play this style not yet perfect against teams that are able to play their own style of play perfectly. The best example is Liverpool FC that has been on its way to completely change its play under new manager Brendan Rodgers who very successfully transformed Swansea City, L.F.C. during his two years stint with the club that earned him his current job with the REDS.
Vincent Grady says
Bro i am with you on that 100 per cent!!!
Rob A says
I love to answer this question. As a young player, even as young as 13, I felt this was the way to play soccer. Why? Because it made scoring goals so much easier. I noticed when my team put together a string of passes (3 or 4+), the scoring opportunity eventually presented itself. The other ways, to me, seemed unproductive and a lot of banging our heads against the wall.
To me, the game is about control. Controlling the ball on an individual level, controlling the ball as a team, controlling space, controlling tempo. I’m not saying other methods don’t work, but this is how I see the game should be played and want my team to take the initiative.
Gary Kleiban says
Was it really a conclusion based on isolated reasoning?
I believe that’s possible.
But it just seems to me that so much (not just soccer philosophy) is a function of environment.
rob a says
Hard to say. Soccer was still hard to come by on TV in the early 90s, so I can’t say that I watched a lot of it. I didn’t grow up in the US up until my teens so that could be another reason. My soccer culture was one that mocked players that would just boot the ball. But I was so young then, not sure how much influence that had on me.
To me, it was simple—you put a few passes together and all of sudden lanes, angles, and space “just” open up. As a group you didn’t seem to work as hard for it.
Would I rather pass, move 5 yards, receive, look around, pass move 5 yards—pum! Or chase 50/50 balls for 90 minutes and hoping that when I win it and look up that my teammates will be somewhere useful and that I wouldn’t have to then track back another 40 yards.
You’re right, rarely is anything conceived in isolation and it’s probably some mixture of culture and insight.
Very good post.
What you’re saying is so true. And what you say and feel, without hitting the nail on the head (imho), is that football is a sport that are more biased to decition making compared to physical attributes.
I think that possession football is not about a “philosophy”.
The game has principles. The team that follows the principles in the best way, will in the long run come out on top. Sure, individual games can be lost, since no team is so good that no mistakes occur.
Imo, Barcelona do not play “Tiki Taka”. It’s refered to as that. But if I hold the principles of football in my hand while watching them, it’s very obvious that what they do is playing according to them.
Note that in the very first sentence (in the attacking part of the “principles of play”), it says clearly to “Keep Possession”.
To be able to play according to the principles, the ball can not be lost.
And that’s the number one target – Do Not Loose The Ball.
The principles are fundamental rules of the game. No style or philosophy can concour it.
So the possession path is nothing but the correct way of play. If you want to play according to the principles.
However, I’m not saying that just try to play according to the principles will make you win. To master it requires good education in the understading and decition-making aspects. This is where most clubs fail – to educate how to play according to the principles.
So what can look booring when watching Barcelona play possession, is to me pure art. In many cases, FCB’s opponents know how skilled they are in this art, and to minimize the risks, they draw back and wait for counterattacks. And that’s the best way to beat a team of Barcas skill. Chelsea did it in the ECL last year by waiting for that one mistake, which eventually occured when (believe it or not) Messi tryes to nutmeg Frank Lampard in a central left position, looses the ball, and 5 seconds later the ball is behind Valdes, and Barca is out.
But to play according to the principles will, in the long run lead to success. Just look at Barcas and Spains results the last 5-6 years.
It’s the most refined and absolute best football ever seen on this planet. Not always from a spectator kind of view, but from a results kind of view.
Culturally inherited from HS coach when Dutch soccer was the thing. Love Barcelona, but I do agree Madrid’s pace/intense counterattack is exciting (and they are darn good at possession, only not pure like Barcelona). . The purist approach seems to reject a quick counter, yet look at Fabregas’ pass to Villa in that last Liga game. Brilliant, direct, yet “possession” because of the amazing control by both. On this tangent, the role of Messi is key because he drops so deep and plays such great midfield tiki taka. Though Cesc links up well with Messi, having a pacey striker also works amazingly well if Cesc is regista…
Rob A says
Just because your primary method is to play positional, it doesn’t mean that you can’t hit on the quick counter. I believe Barca relishes the chance to attack the opponent at pace. It’s really the same thing, except sped up. Barca don’t pass around just for the sake of it, they are first looking to go forward—it’s the opponents that require them to go side to side at times.
Look at Arsenal, many people feel they are a possession team but it is forced on them to be that way because during the Henry/Pires/Viera years they struck fear into the opponents from quick counters. Now opponents deny them that and force them to be more patient.
BR Coachs says
Certainly if my teams are not your typical American Athlete (big and fast) then I will have to focus on possession, or building and being patience even in the attacking third. So yes, Barca success has convinced many people, even like me who grow up playing in the 80s and 90s, when English League Right back would just hit the long ball, that its good. We used to hate playing Right Back or Left Back in the early 90s. now right back and left back are a very interesting position to play. helping the build up, joining the attack … ie. Alves
1- My teams need to play possession to succeeded now and in the future
2- More exciting for the players to keep the ball than hit it and run and then defend. The joy they have from scoring goals building the ball using 7+ passes is very nice to see.
3- Involves 11 players not 4 or 5 players. ie. keeper loves getting the ball back and switching the point.
4- The recent success of Spain and Barca is certainly a reason.
Further, almost everyone on Barça can shoot.
Love Swansea City. Liverpool…hmmmm.jury is still out.
Joe Fabian says
Remember, it took two years for Rodgers to bring Swansea where they are. He has been working with Liverpool for two months.
I advocate “possession soccer” to my team for a few reasons. #1. If you have possession of the ball the other team can’t score….unless you kick into your own goal! I always tell my team, “If the other team never touches the ball, I promise you they won’t score goal!”
#2. If the kids on my team have any aspirations of playing at higher levels as they grow older they MUST learn to be comfortable and have composure on the ball. You can only learn this playing “pssession soccer”. It’s my duty as their U12 coach to give them the skills they need as they move up the ranks.
#3. This is honestly the biggest reason why I coach possession…….I CAN’T STAND KICK AND CHASE!!!!!! To me, kick and chase isn’t even soccer. I won’t coach it, I won’t watch it on TV, it is an abomination to the sport! It requires little to no skill, it’s based on chance and luck, and it is just plain ugly!
Possession soccer is a thing of beauty! It’s like art work. It has a flair to it. It requires skill, strategy, and is an intricate in all it’s details. It requires precision and team work. Possession soccer IS soccer! “Kick and Chase” is another sport altogether for me……and I’m not a fan of it!
This past weekend my GU12 team played the best game they have ever played. Their “possession soccer” was SOOOO fun to watch. It was like everything they had ever learned they employed during the match. After the game and this week I had numerous parents come up to me and say, “Wasn’t that just beautiful the way the girls played!”. And I agreed…..it WAS beautiful!
I’m not saying this in any kind of a bragging way, but rather pointing out that the game, when played with possession, is a beautiful sport and I won’t coach it or watch it unless it is possession based.
Rob A says
I advocate for possession, but not everything else falls under “kick and chase”.
Well 99.99% of players will only get close to a pro field by paying for a ticket. So I care about developing them as people and athletes. Possession soccer develops intelligence. You have to assess your options, think ahead, think out what your opponent is going to do in response to your dribbling or passing, etc. I think that develops the brain in ways you can’t do academically. I also think for a lot of kids the combination of brain work and athletic work is much more enjoyable, so it leads them want to stay involved athletically. That’s why I like possession soccer for kids.
This may not be related, but wanted to share a twist on something you may have seen before. We don’t have pictures on this forum, so use your imagination:
• What a coach’s mother thinks he’s doing (envision a jolly coach having fun with the kids and Boy Scout Master figure)
• What parents think coach is doing (envision the coach taking your money and not developing your kid)
• What the coach thinks he’s doing (envision coach as Moses parting the Red Sea)
• What the coach thinks he’s doing (envision him as Pep Guardiola or Sir Alex figure imparting soccer wisdom on eager pupils)
• What society thinks of coach (envision a down and out soccer wanna-be who never made pro and can’t do anything else besides coach youth soccer)
My point here is people’s perspective is very different from reality. Reality is what we make it (eye of beholder) and probably a mix of different things, yet we only see and believe what fits our vision of he world or circumstances. You can do same mental experiment with your own soccer playing child.
Is USA that crappy in soccer? Are we that far behind? Is youth soccer crap? Are we not developing talent? Most of us on this blog are passionate soccer enthusiasts. We are biased. Each opinion based on circumstance and vision of “European model” / “European benchmark”. I’m not sure any of us can be objective and unbiased enough to access situation from anything other than our view of the world. I think outside opinions (such as coaches from England, Europe, SA) should be listened to. For example, what the Westham United coach featured on Soccer Nation says about USA soccer and the type of players they look for.
Gary Kleiban says
Yes Kana. I agree with your general sentiment.
However, objective truths do exist.
I advocate, and have always advocated Possession soccer as I agree with an earlier post, it controls the game, and more importantly, the ball. The point of the game is to put the ball in the net, you can’t put the ball in the net if you don’t have the ball. In addition to controlling the game, teaching possession develops player’s technical and tactical awareness. Players must be able to trap, pass, shoot, when the opportunity arises, defend in numbers, and communicate among other things in order to keep the ball. Yes, I agree teams will probably lose games trying to play out of the back, however, eventually the possession team will become technically more proficient than the, earlier to mature, faster teams, and begin to dominate. Real world experience has taught myself and one of my teams this. At U12 I took over a team and began possession, we lost quite a few games to kick and run teams, however, at U14 we now dominate those teams who continue to kick and run to their one kid up top. Yeah we concede goals here and there, but we continue to win 6-2, 7-1 etc. The players and parents are now seeing the fruition of all the hard work, and are believers in possession.
Gary Kleiban says
Those are some of the virtues of ‘possession’.
I was hoping to stimulate you to explore the very origins of your philosophy.
Not the current reasoning for your support of it.
It is my failure as a writer. 🙁
For me, I advocate possession soccer because it is the best way I have found.
I was born into the barca era. I had never played, watched, or even liked soccer when my son began u5 soccer. I didn’t particularly like the game the next year, or even the next. Watching the lemmings chase the ball as a group was all it looked like. Having my son on the field kept my attention long enough that by the time they started playing 7v7, I was becoming fairly interested and even started liking the game. But at that time I had no idea what to look for or how to think about the game. It was still a bunch of kids chasing a ball with a little bit of passing starting to happen.
I started seeking more knowledge, which is when I came across this fantastic conversation (i.e. Gary’s blog) a couple of years ago. I watched games to immerse myself in it, still not fully “seeing” all of what was going on with 22 people running around. I watched my son’s u9 and u10 team practices and games and started slowly learning the game from the perspective of a kid. My understanding of the game continues to evolve. In short, what I see is that bigstrongfast kids with little or no skill are only capable of playing an ugly game. Skilled players, regardless of their size, can create something much more thoughtful and elegant. At the highest levels that looks like kick-and-chase versus possession to me.
Kick-and-chase seems so much like the lemming soccer that you see the average u5 group playing – a bunch of action, then the ball squirts out and the fast kid chases it down and puts it in the net. Nothing that really keeps my interest. I think of possession as the smarter, more elegant way – one that doesn’t require the strongest, fastest person on the field to implement. A way that requires both thought and skill.
Thanks for the clarification. My philosophy with the game of soccer has always been Excellence over Success. I don’t give two shits about results, although it is nice to bury the local teams who think big, fast kids with one foot capabilities are the way to win, I prefer to measure our development against our own milestones. A byproduct of my philosophy, possession based soccer has moved to the forefront of my methodology, manifested through the virtues I previously mentioned. An excellent game of soccer centers around possessing the ball and controlling the game, through our own excellence and development of possession style soccer, success is a great afterthought.
Love the framing of the question and many of the answers
I once heard Cruyff being asked what was the rational behind his “dream team” style of playing.
His answer went something like this “There are many ways you can try to set up your team to win. I thought since I was the one who had to sit there watching my team at all practices and matches, I would set it up to play in a way that could lead to success, but that also would be enjoyable for me to watch, and that reflected my personality.”
Sounds good enough to me 🙂
Dr Loco says
Possession soccer is pure entertainment.
Gary Kleiban says
And isn’t one’s ‘personality’ some grand sum of all their life experiences?
Interesting … no?
Rob A says
We got our butts kicked by a much better possession team this past weekend but I can honestly say, none of it was because we tried to play out of the back. Just because you play out of the back doesn’t mean you’re allowed to do stupid things like play passes square across goal.
Coaches don’t trust their players to play out of the back because they haven’t taught them well enough. If your players know what to do immediately after losing possession, then it’s no more dangerous that playing possession in the middle third.
Part of the idea is to “play in the future”. You cannot attack without thinking of the possibility of losing possession, so Positional play dictates that when supporting the ball, certain players prepare for the chance that we do lose the ball.
In possession, you’re constantly analyzing risk-reward of each situation.
Dr Loco says
Possession can be played in many field sports such as lacrosse, hockey, volleyball, basketball. Do you hear about possession in other sports besides soccer?
I recently became a basketball coach to learn more about the ‘art of coaching’. I plan on playing ‘possession’ basketball. Will the parents lynch me?
Call me loco but I think many team sports are 80% mentally the same and 20% sport specific. I already adapted many of my soccer exercises for basketball with success. I even got other more experienced coaches watching and parents filming my practices.
Rob A says
That’s kind of a scary concept, considering how many football, basketball, and baseball coaches try to adapt what they know of other sports to soccer.
Yes possession is and played in sports like football and basketball—the mentality of it at least. Same concept and they know that the opp. cannot score without the ball. BUT in those sports turnovers are verboten. Coaches go ballistic if you give the ball away. Is that true in soccer?
No. Too many coaches just accept the fact that the ball will be lost in the course of playing soccer? Why?
Dr Loco says
“That’s kind of a scary concept, considering how many football, basketball, and baseball coaches try to adapt what they know of other sports to soccer.”
After 5 years this is what I have learned about American youth sports including soccer, baseball, softball, basketball. Over 90% of teams have parent coaches who don’t know jack. Our nation in general fails miserably to teach the basic fundamentals required to learn kinesthetically. Physical education programs across the country have been cut from schools and athletes are the ones who suffer.
80% of what coaches need to teach kids 13 and under are fundamentals that are not sport specific. It is a scary concept teaching sports but I feel I am more qualified.
Dr Loco, Check out the teachings of Pete Carril and Princeton basketball. The very definition of possession basketball.
Dr Loco says
Started playing soccer in the mid-to-late 70s in upstate New York at ~ 10 years old. At my 1st team training practice ever, the coached asked the team “who wants to play goalie”? Guess who’s hand went up the fastest! Luckily, after 1 season, I got an opportunity to play a field position (Defense) since the team had two keepers 🙂 For the next 4+ years, I played competitive soccer as a “pure” defender using quickness & animal instinct. It is true & I can attest that slide tackles were practiced a lot in those days 🙂
Fast forward to 2003-current, ..
my son was born in 2003 & I wanted him to play soccer. Plus, EPL and EUFA Champions League was introduced to me by some colleagues. Later, I restarted playing soccer in 35+ Men’s League so I could refine my game, I took some coaching courses & became parent/coach to my son early on. I quickly realized that as a child growing up & playing soccer, that I knew/learned nothing about how to play the game (according to the gold standard), even though, I played the game 5+ days a week for over 4 years as a teenager. Now, I very BIG on teaching (individual) tactics like what you are doing at your club (along with stressing the importance of the technical side at an early age).
My son loves the game still in spite of his Dad’s involvement/influence 🙂
One other thing, …
IMO, another question that should be asked is .. “Does your team play thru the (central) midfield or via the wings”?
The defense can’t possibly cover both well so whatever they give you, you have to be ready to expose. I would say more wing play though stretch the d out. At u11 kids tend to go heavy to the ball side that’s when a good two touches swings the ball to the other wing and catch them with more favorable attacking options. This is what I see from my kids coach.
I have a lot of reasons for why I play possession, but one reason I have that I have not heard yet is – simply getting touches. I believe that soccer is a game of touches. Players come in all shapes and sizes in soccer, but the player that gets the most touches will be the best “soccer player”. Ibrahimovic is huge and messi is little, but they both got magical feet. (Messi is better etc etc., but Ibr has good feet in comparison to lots of players in the world) I think one of the many of the reasons that Barcelona’s players are world class is simply – the adding up of hours and touches on the ball that happens over the years of their life. A player that grows up in a possession soccer system is going to get 3 or 4 times the amount of touches on the ball then the average players will get. Why? These teams own possession in games with 60%-70% possession. In practices they get why more touches too. Every player on the field is an active part of a possession system. For this reason alone it’s great for youth players to play possession. It’s not the only reason I teach possession, but it’s an important one.
correction: one of the reasons, of the many reasons, that barcelona’s players are world class is simply – the adding up of the hours and touches on the ball that happens over the years of their life.
Rob A says
But there must be something with the way their players touch the ball in all those hours that is different than the way 90% of all other professionals since they prob play just as much leading up.
You are right. Obviously they are probably doing a lot of things at least a little different then everyone else, because the results are way different. One thing that stands out to me is how amazing everyone 1st touch is – I think this comes from years of extreme detail on the mastering of the first touch in the Barca system.
Did you guys ever consider that the players who end up at the top, in addition to doing the hard work, are simply better than everyone else to begin with? In this country we all want to believe that there are no limits to potential with hard work (and an little political elbowing of the competition out of your way). But let’s face it. There are people who just have more potential than others.
Now, the question of whether we will get in their way or whether we will help them reach their superior potential, that is more interesting. At academies around the world such as La Masia, they can 1) identify these individuals with superior potential and 2) refine them without getting in their way too much.
Hard work is necessary, but not sufficient. Not everyone can make it to the top. Sorry.
Dr Loco says
“But let’s face it. There are people who just have more potential than others.”
True but even bad players can learn to play possession soccer.
I can specificaly recall when the light bulb went off in my head on the benefits of playing possession.
I coach at many levels, one being as an assistant to the local high school boys soccer team. We have always been a pretty good team, and at times have graduates play at Division 1 colleges. Several years ago we had a truly phenomenol goalie….Regional ODP, Division 1 player, now playing professional soccer in California (not MLS). During his 4 year high school playing career, our team gave up 15 – 20 goals per season….about a goal per game. This was very good. However, we played a lot of defense and then attacked very quickly when we did have the ball. We talked about trying to keep the ball…but truly did not train this way or stress as needed. We did not have very much team success during those four years.
The next season after this fantastic goalie graduated, we started to focus much, much more on possession. With a much inferior (but still good) goalie, we gave up 9 goals on the season. We basically had the ball all game, made the other team defend, and when they did win the ball….they did not have numbers forward to attack us quickly. That season it was very eye opening to me on the benefits of playing possession. Possession soccer has been the key enabler for our recent team success and individual player development to play at the next level.
Gary Kleiban says
“[…] we played a lot of defense and then attacked very quickly when we did have the ball.”
“The next season […] we started to focus much, much more on possession.”
What are the origins of that decision?
You don’t have to answer now. Just let that sit with you.
I advocate possession soccer because it enables thinking, vision, movement, and good touch. Superior way to learn . . . and only way kids should learn IMHO. I want my son to learn by watching Barca but I want to spend my money watching something more end to end and fast paced and competitive. Watching Barca with ball 70% can get old. And I really do like Barca . . . A LOT!
But agree with others that watching a team like Madrid is more enjoyable . . . most of the time. I do like tiki-taka passing but it can get a bit much at times, especially when Barca can’t score or when score is 2-0, the game is over. Barca end’s up possessing even more and the game gets uninteresting. The other team puts 9 behind the ball. Like watching a game of keep away and other team no interest to do anything than half-hearted attempts to win back possession.
I guess the old saying that masters make the difficult look simple and uninteresting. Maybe that’s why we like street brawls, car crashes, and drama of end to end soccer with chance after chance filled with emotion.
Is that Barca’s fault?
Dr Loco says
“Maybe that’s why we like street brawls, car crashes, and drama of end to end soccer with chance after chance filled with emotion.”
It’s a cultural thing. That’s like saying I like Nascar and Country.
Sorry I like to watch fast paced, end to end soccer! I don’t like kick and chase but I also don’t like mind numbing passing that sometimes happens with Barca. I love to watch Barca, but different satisfaction, entertainment than watching Madrid. I guess the passing mafia, tiki-taka sheriff’s want me to not like anything but Barca tiki-taka as a fan watching games.
Gary Kleiban says
Just so everyone’s clear, Real Madrid is a possession-based team.
As is just about every other Spanish club throughout their pyramid.
And just about every other great team on planet earth.
More on that later …
My first post, so here goes:
I like possession soccer because I have identified it as the means to achieving my goals as a high school soccer coach; to win state championships.
A few challenges; we are a small school with a small rec soccer club with both being fairly new startups. I’m very logical in my approach and in learning everything I can about coaching soccer (USSF Licenses, Coerver, peers, mentors, DVD’s, websites, books, etc.) I’ve come to the conclusion that I cannot:
• Improve someone’s height
• Improve someone’s speed (pure running speed, not agility)
If those are variables I have no influence on, then I must choose a strategy that isn’t reliant on those qualities. In addition, I have no idea which kids playing youth club rec soccer, are going to develop into tall/fast players by the time they are in high school. Being a small program, every player is important and the only selection there is, is the kid selecting soccer as their sport.
My only contributing bit is that I believe players must be developed technically to be superior to their opponent before great “Barca” possession can exist as I’m not out to emulate anything less. I think this was reinforced in a previous post that players have to be responsible for their own technical development outside of training.
From my experience, it seemed the only way to achieve this in a short period of time was to not allow the pass in games for an entire season. Meaning if the player was a forward, mid, fullback or keeper, they were expected to dribble the ball up the field, to take on defenders in 1v1’s, 1v2’s and 1v3’s; as far as they could go. If the ball was lost, their team mate in support was to press, re-win it, and continue the cycle. In spite of the restrictions, the players all excelled at becoming great ball handlers and we found some success (i.e. wins, even shots and goals from our goal keeper).
That is my foundation for great “Barca” possession. All that is missing is the players’ understanding tactically how possession can work for them. This site has demonstrated it can be done with players much younger than the ones I coach. I thought I was extreme; this site has humbled and inspired me to do more, to expect more. Keep up the great posts and coaches keep up the great counter points and banter.
PG19, I disagree with your statement that you can’t improve someone’s speed. In my experience if you spend time every practice and before each game practicing sprinting and coaching proper sprinting technique, every single player will improve their speed over a season. If it isn’t coached or practiced players can’t expect to improve any skill. Most youth athletes have received no coaching on sprinting technique or even done much sprinting and will show rapid improvement.
Jim Froehlich says
Why possession soccer? One word —- “beautiful”. I could watch Barca pass the ball all day and not be bored or disappointed. No sequence is ever exactly alike. When a pass is made, magically, some one is always there to receive it and he does so — perfectly. For me the heart and soul of the game is in the buildup. The shot and score is over in a split second, the buildup can be enjoyed forever. Obviously, there must be a purpose, the goal, to add meaning to the buildup, but in the end, the goal is an anti-climax.
Dr Loco says
Right the build up is the foreplay and dance. End to end goals is just premature ejaculations. It’s a lovers game. Cultures with love got more game.
Gary Kleiban says
Why do you find it ‘beautiful’?
What’s the difference between those who find it pleasing and those who don’t?
I liken possession soccer to billiards. In billiards, you can control pace and spin, to position one shot after another, or you can simply fire each shot and take what you get – sometimes getting a lucky bounce resulting in an easy “next shot”. To the uninitiated, the professional shooter’s game looks “easy” or “lucky”. In reality it is neither.
Cerebral, skilled possession soccer is the same. Done well, there is so much to appreciate in every touch, every decision.
Dr Loco says
Nice analogy! A cerebral, intelligent and skillful game. Sophisticated soccer.
If the other team doesn’t want to challenge you and makes the game boring well that’s their fault. The fans should “boo” the bad team to make them play. It happens a lot in the sport of boxing. If your opponent keeps running and doesn’t want to engage their is not much of a fight. Ask for your money back! Maybe teams will go out and entertain more.
Under penal code 3-4-3, you are hereby cited in violation of failure to prefer to watch Madrid over Barca. For that you are summarily sentenced to 10-lashes by one of Pep Guardiola’s soaking wet narrow ties. Failure to prefer Barca over Madrid will result in permanent banishment from this blog. Change your point of view henceforth or rue what fate awaits you.
All kidding aside, I love Barca’s possession but prefer to watch something more up tempo like Madrid. So i’m with you bro.
+1,000 for Pep’s skinny tie reference.
Kick & Run is basically dogs chasing balls. Ask yourself, does the dog chase the ball because HE wants to, or because I want him to?
Brian Vanega says
A mixture for myself.
Culturally – I’m Australia born but Argentinian background. I love our futbol from Argentina. 94′ World Cup team and 06′ stick out in my mind as some of the best representation of our futbol.
Born back into futbol – Have reimmersed myself into futbol in Oz, as I had quit for 2 years. Barcelona has shown me that there may be life for the type of futbol I like, to teach and coach, down here.
But most importantly, it’s the futbol I like. But I understand its not the only futbol. Spain is different to Holland, as is Argentina to Brazil, as is our game here. I admire all the ways of futbol. Parking the bus is just as much an art to keeping the ball.
Whats important is to know your football and what you are going to stand for. Italy, have remained true to their style despite all the changes over the last 20 years I have seen, that is why I admire them so much and their achievement at the Euros was fantastic to see.
It is why England struggle. Always comparing their game to Spain and other technically better sides. If they were able to advance their own game, but keep what makes them great, their energy, passion, speed and physicality. They would compete. There is no need to become Spain simply because it is the buzz.
Bit off topic. Hope I made my point. I like possession because its how I love to play and its what I am good at.
As a coach, I wouldn’t force it upon my team, I’d look at the team and see what we are best suited to.
I think as a youth coach of 9-10 year olds, it is your duty to teach players how to play possession-based soccer. Constantly overemphasizing 1v1 moves and kick/run over quick passing/decision-making (when is it appropriate to pass vs. dribble) I believe hinders their growth down the line. Sure, as a coach, parents and players alike might love that they win by overpowering at the younger ages. However, if you are committed to player development, you have to swallow your pride and allow kids to make mistakes actually trying to play. If they learn early on, they can play and go on any team later and make a difference.
I don’t agree with you, R, about deemphasizing 1 v 1 at a young age. Discouraging kick and run at any age is a no-brainer. However, discouraging 1 v 1 at young ages only discourages creativity and ability down the line. A player first and foremost must be comfortable with the ball at his feet and comfortable with the ability to beat a player 1 v 1. If you look at Barca or RM, at the end of the day, most passing and plays are designed to isolate a player 1 v 1. The problem with American players is that they want to get rid of the ball as soon as they get it because they don’t have confidence to be able to hold onto the ball, or beat a defender 1 v 1.
Knowing when to take on a defender and when to pass is something that is developed once you have the ability to beat a defender 1 v 1.
Rob A says
Additionally, 1v1 skills are the foundation of being able to play an effective possession game. Why? 1v1 isn’t all about getting behind a defender/defense. It’s about buying yourself an extra second for your teammate to come open, an extra second to make your own pass, or just get into the perfect position.
You can’t experience the full effectiveness of possession soccer if all your players aren’t capable 1v1 players. Think about how Iniesta, Messi, Fabregas, Alexis, etc add so much to their team because in the right situation they can take you off the dribble. When they do this all of sudden all that good defensive shape that contains the tiki-taka starts to break down.
NOVA Mike says
It’s an aesthetic preference. In England they cheer the hard tackle and guys running very fast. In Spain they cheer the deft touch, the 1-2s and 1-touch passing in tight triangles that gets them out of pressure near the midfield line. For me if I wanted to watch fast guys knock each other down I’d be an American Football fan.
My youth coach was Spanish, but that was in the 80s and quite honestly – he wasn’t very good. We worked a little on possession, a lot on crosses, and mostly I remember we ran a lot (the only thing I was really good at as a player).
As an adult I’ve been one of the multitudes who have always preferred the possession, short-passing based teams – internationally this has meant Holland, Argentina, Brazil.
My 1st coaching mentor was a possession guy. My step-daughter was selected to his “all-star” team at U8 and I was helping out. 50% of practice was keep away – the other 40% was playing. I did the same w/ my team the next season and the results were eye-opening.
Definitely re-born into the Barca era and their style of play and methodology dominates everything I do as a coach / trainer. But, … I also enjoy watching Real Madrid & Arsenal. RM especially – yes, of course it’s a different style than Barca but it’s still possession soccer. They are willing to risk the ball a little more in situations where Barca would sacrifice penetration for safety, but they (RM) never waste the ball. When it’s not “on” – in the box or on the flanks, they back it back out, recirculate, and attack again. The RM – MC game earlier this week was a joy to watch.
NOVA Mike says
BTW – in our club the early development is a mix b/n pick-up soccer, footskills/technical training, possession (keep-away games), and teaching tactical principals through 4v4 soccer. The results are starting to bear fruit. Here’s a group of 8 year-olds (U9s) in last week’s game (7v7):
Hi NOVA Mike,
Our Alexandria White squad played you the first game of the year; you guys passed and moved very nicely. We used your team as a reference this next week about how they played and how we need to do more of what your teams were doing. You clearly are doing the right things; keep it up!
Dr Loco says
NOVA MIke, awesome video.
Do you provide much instruction during the game? How do you deal with impatient players that just want to kick the ball? A big problem I face is teaching players self-control, discipline, and using their brains. How do you achieve this player intelligence without pre-selecting for it?
NOVA Mike says
Point of clarification – I am not the coach of that team. That’s “the other Coach Mike” as he’s known. I am the director of training for the club, in charge of the pre-travel program for U6-U8 that helped produce those players (Kephern is also responsible – he handles the footskills component of the training). The players in that video represent the first “graduating class” of this program so it is very gratifying to see them able to play this way so soon. It also does wonders for my ability to “sell” the training program to the group coming along now. We have some parents w/ older kids on travel teams who are skeptical (“who does this guy think he is with all his crazy ideas”). 🙂
R – It does make it so much easier to build support for teaching possession soccer when there are other teams in the area being successful with that style – and we are fortunate that in our area it has become the norm. I don’t think a lot of people even realize yet how much things have changed — b/c what I’m about to write probably isn’t true at U12+ — but at U8/U9, just about every strong, competitive club in this area is teaching possession. Those who don’t – and still try to get away with kick and chase – are getting destroyed. When 2 evenly matched teams both well-schooled in that style go head-to-head, it can be a thing of beauty. Very easy to forget you’re watching 8-9 year-olds. They still have a long way to go (the technical errors are evident), but at least they are on the right path.
Personally – no on-the-ball instruction at all other than “look up.” Off the ball I make adjustments to shape when needed and emphasize pressing, recovery and marking defensively. To answer your other questions – how to get players to play more patiently and intelligently — it comes down to how you use praise/reward and criticism. It has to do with the environment (“culture”) we try to create within the club. Starting at U5 we discourage big kicks (“let me see how far you can dribble it before the other team can take it away”). With our top players we introduce possession games (keep-away) during practice in Spring of U6 year. From the beginning, aimless long ball clearances and kicking the ball out to “safety” are gently corrected and discouraged, while ATTEMPTS to maintain possession and play the ball out of the back are praised effusively. The latter is crucial IMO. For example in a play-out-of-the-back situation if a player makes the right decision – let’s say it’s a short diagonal pass to a player in space, but the path of the ball happens to go across the front of goal and a technical error – inaccurate pass or heavy touch — leads to a turn-over and easy goal for the other team, you have to be prepared to immediately, loudly, and enthusiastically PRAISE the decision anyway. Otherwise all the player hears / learns is – don’t pass across goal. Guaranteed the parents will be shouting it – so you have to out shout them. The converse is also true. If a lucky long ball results in a game-winning goal – I will make it a point to still criticize the clearance and encourage the player to make a different decision next time.
Dr Loco says
Do you belong to Fairfax Police Youth Club (FPYC)?
Are you involved with other youth sports they offer?
Thanks for the insights NOVA Mike.
Thanks for posting the video. Your kids did a very nice job for U9s. Are all teams in your club adhere to the same possession-oriented philosophy or does it vary from coach to coach in reality?
NOVA Mike says
The answer is both. From U13 on up it varies from coach to coach. From U12 down, all travel teams except one adhere to this style. Over the last couple/few years, I progressively “volunteered” myself into being in charge of all the training for the younger ages – including now coaches training. The Director of Soccer (my “boss”) supports the philosophy, and was just waiting for someone from the “new guard” to carry the torch. So the revolution is nearly complete. 🙂 It has been a very bloodless, gradual, “change-from-within” sort of revolution, b/c that is my style, but so far it has been effective.
I favor possession soccer because it is difficult, but done right, it looks easy.
Rob A says
It’s fun to watch Madrid. Sure. But which one is much more enjoyable to play in as a player? This could be a matter of preference but for me, it’s possession. If done right, it’s dominance. It crushes the soul of your opponent. “Look how helpless you guys are.”
“It’s good that the reference point for world football right now is Barcelona, that it’s Spain. Not because it’s ours but because of what it is. Because it’s an attacking football, it’s not speculative, we don’t wait. You pressure, you want possession, you want to attack. Some teams can’t or don’t pass the ball. What are you playing for? What’s the point? That’s not football. Combine, pass, play. That’s football – for me, at least. For coaches, like, I don’t know, [Javier] Clemente or [Fabio] Capello, there’s another type of football. But it’s good that Barcelona’s style is now a model, not that.”
Class in and out the field
Read the all interview. Essential if you are trying to understand Barca, Spain, tiki taka, possession soccer:
I fall in the re-discovered soccer in the last 5-7 years-pretty similar to Larry above. I played high school and college in the 80’s in the typical American women’s style-using grit, hustle and athleticism to literally force the ball into the goal. Fast forward 20 years and I am re-introduced to my love of soccer through my son who shows ME why possession/total football is superior. Not through professional teams but because it is how he has played instinctively since he was a tot. In the brief time I coached him I realized that he was “seeing” the field far better than me and was extremely frustrated when there was no one to pass to. Luckily we found a club that values and teaches possession where he can thrive.
That said we are not “all possession all the time.” A friend visited from Spain, whispered “hala Madrid” in his ear and that is now HIS team. He enjoys the combination of possession with Ronaldo’s showmanship, DeMaria’s speed and Iker’s dramatic saves. He also favors the creativity of Neymar and has started watching the South American leagues (he asked for the “spanish soccer channels” for his birthday). He sees learning and playing possession as a critical foundation but clearly wants to add his own stamp to “his” game.
As for me, the geek in me, loves to data mine the internet to find counter attacks to the “its more exciting to watch epl” crowd. My favorite link to send them to is: http://www.zonalmarking.net/2012/05/04/the-relationship-between-possession-and-shots
Clearly every top team, no matter what their “style” appears to be plays possession.
Eli Banana says
The more interesting stat is pass success rate %. When you look at all the teams in the top 5 UEFA leagues (EPL, Liga, A, 1 and Bunda), there appears to be a pretty direct correlation between shots per game and success, i.e. wins. The better indicator of a higher number of shots per game appears to be the pass success rate % rather than the team’s possession %.
No question as to the merits of possession oriented play. But the reality is that the game also demands the ‘warrior’ mentality. Is it not possible to teach both those ‘disciplines’. I mean there are elite players who are exceptional ballwinners as well as technically/tactically gifted players, aren’t there?
Roy Keane was known for getting stuck in….but you rarely saw him give the ball away either.
As Gary alluded to in prior post, the soccer community has never did any sort of analysis on what problems are in youth development, which means we implement wrong fixes or do nothing at all. If no one has decomposed problems into sub-elements, articulated and quantified them, strategized mitigation steps, and implemented corrective action – how the hell do we know what we are doing? It seems to me La Masia did something like this.
Maybe not as scientific, but the adaptation of total footall by Barca was no whim, spur of the moment decision. It’s philosophy and principles were based on years of trial and error, observation, correction, and modification. They also ensured player identification fit the model to ensure continuous success. Are we doing that in USA? Do we have a plan or just ad-hoc reacting with no logic and vision? Identifying and developing supposed “elite” players with no true understanding of what the end purpose is?
Root Cause: This is something pre-existing that is causing problem(s). What are those root causes? They must be directly related to consequences. In this case, root cause affect technical, tactical, physical, and mental / speed of play / quickness of thought. These are the pillars of soccer development.
Are our pre-existing root causes the youth development system itself? Is it at club or team level? If it is at this grass roots level, why is it manifesting itself across all of US soccer? Is it just coaching? Or maybe it’s something with our club to college to pro system? I’ve heard numerous coaches from different countries say “American players are on par with Europe and South America up to about 16.” Then the gap starts to widen. Is this because of college? Lack of elite opportunities?
Does USA have multiple root causes? As you get beyond 3 root causes, the rule of thumb is it gets exponentially difficult to make change.
The root cause typically leads to results or the event, the undesirable things that are created by the root causes. Such as playing kick and chase. And naturally, this leads to consequences, such as poor technical and tactical skills and inability to play quickly and intelligently. It’s a sequence. Bad things don’t just happen “because”. They happen as a result of something.
But blaming a crappy coach is not often the root cause. How about the DoC or BoD that hired him? Is that the root cause? Or maybe the club doesn’t have established policy on coach qualifications, but if so, the root cause is the DoC and BoD. We spend an inordinate amount of time complaining about bad coaching, but is that misdirected?
Gary and fellow bloggers have identified numerous symptoms, but as in most cases they can be traced back to a few root causes. Many blame coaching, culture, pay to play, win at all costs, lack of street soccer culture, and our collective embryonic soccer experience. But do these really drive lack of technique? The inability for USA to produce someone as technically gifted as a Ronaldinho or Maradonna? Do these affect our ability to produce a tactical genius such as Xavi or Pirlo? And do these prevent us from developing players with quick one-two intelligent soccer like Barca, Madrid, Dortmund?
Consequence: Once you identify root cause and results, consequence should be self-evident. This is something Albert Einstein famously spoke about. For soccer, consequence should be as self-evident: technically, tactically, and mentally inferior players. We do very well with physical, but isn’t that an indication that size and strength are not as important? It helps in certain aspects of the game, but is not the critical ingredient to elite player status. Is that not self-evident?
Dr Loco says
“But do these really drive lack of technique?” That problem is not technique. It is something deeper than that. I see the same issues that limit youth soccer player development exist in most team sports including baseball, softball, basketball. Surprisingly there is little noise and complaints from those sports perhaps because they are not as global as soccer.
Exactly! We probably aren’t developing baseball and basketball players well enough either. It’s just that we don’t have a big enough global model to compare against!
Dr Loco says
What does E-man and this basketball kid have in common?
They obviously have the technique. So what’s missing?
I pretty much fall into the “Some may have recently been introduced (or reintroduced) to football, say in the last 5 to 7 years – essentially born into the Barca era.” <— though it's on the later end of the time frame (7-8 years)
I came into soccer later in life than most but it instantly became my obsession. Luckily, I had several soccer channels that were playing games (live and replays) at all hours of the day. I watched hours of soccer everyday in addition to spending hours out at a field with a ball trying the different things I saw during the games. Though I had the option of watching La Liga, EPL, Serie A, and Bundesliga (and I did watch all of them) I naturally gravitated toward La Liga. Barcelona, even prior to Guardiola, Messi, and this current bunch of players was a team that always fascinated me. I would study different aspects of the game, day in and day out.
I remember being on the field during competitive games or pick up games with friends yelling at my defenders, "Stop bypassing the midfield! Play through us, play a simple pass! Stop making us chase the ball!" This was without the influence of a coach, or adherence to any particular philosophy or style of play. It just felt wrong to play that way. I wanted the ball played to feet.
I remember attending an old USL game, watching and wondering if I could ever be a professional player. The ball was in the air so much, and a majority of the touches players were taking were headers. I'm 5'7, and was thinking, "I don't know if I could play for a team like this, the ball isn't on the ground enough".
The more I researched and studied the game the more I learned about the different systems and styles of play — I realized quickly that I fell into the possession camp and have been perfectly happy to stay there.
It was fortunate timing for me that just a few years after I began really watching and studying the game that Barcelona and Spain rose to dominance, and that was a team, country and style of play that I already appreciated and advocated.
I LOVE THIS BLOG!!!…Possession is the only way to play in my opinion…I think at this point we all agree that possession leads only to good things!…
Possession is my life and this is my team:
They are a u10 B team playing 6v6…they are a work in progress, so please be nice!
I put these videos on here because i believe that a team is a reflection of their coach!
Possession above all! LOL!
Dr Loco says
Nice. Soon every team will be playing this way.
I guess my response was a little too enthusiastic!…to clarify…for me, the idea of keeping the ball and moving it quickly around the pitch to create time, space and openings to attack your opponent, rather than, “going long” or rushing to get out of your own end, just seems more logical…
NOVA Mike says
J – 2 things:
1) Your team looks great. Keep up the good work, but only for a while …
2) When are you coming up to VA to help Kephern out with Joga? Our U8s are going travel next year and he can’t do it all by himself. 🙂
in U10 Boys 8v8 Norcal State Cup match, would you advocate possession soccer on a short & narrow soccer field!? I’m watching some video now from a game over the weekend; This is no (horizontal) open space to attack which gives on a lot more time & space. IMO, there is a huge advantage for pumping ball over the top (in terms of risk versus reward).
Shoot away! I am ready 🙂
If they can learn to play out of tight spaces they will be far better off in the long run than them winning a few state cup games as 9 and 10 year olds playing aimless long balls.
I’m aware of this counter argument but was hoping for comments on
field size vs number of players per side (eg 8v8 vs 7v7). Plus, I’ve seen teams prefer small field dimensions in order to better punish the opponent over the top & not to improve their ball possession skills in tight spaces.
Your question above is…”would you advocate possession soccer on a short & narrow soccer field!?” The answer is yes! If the field is short then how can “pumping ball over the top” be an advantage? Wouldn’t the keeper come off his/her line and intercept it? In futsal the field is approximately 20 ft x 50 ft and the coaches do not promote “pumping ball over the top”. To be successful the player must have an almost perfect first touch, pass, move, dribble to space, be creative, think, etc. When I go play or coach I’m not thinking about “punishing the opponent”, but rather playing beautiful, quality, creative, fun, possession style soccer. I love seeing a player (young or pro) figuring out how to get out of a tight space and continuing the rythem of the game. Or even pinpoint passing to get out of immense pressure in there defensive third. Those kind of situations get me fired up, but maybe that’s the possession purist in me.
Preface by saying .. being a devils advocate for sake of discussion 🙂
Anyone see the Barca vs Grenada game? Even Barca will resort to chip the ball over he top in order to break down a crowded penalty box area. For 70-80 minutes of the game, Barca tried on numerous occasions to 1-2 touch pass on the ground inside and around the top of the penalty box but were foiled by Granada every time.
In the end, Barca will shoot from outside, chip over the top in order to win the game versus to continue to attempt to work in tight spaces 1-2 touch pass on the ground.
Just because you go over the top doesn’t mean you aren’t playing possession. I believe if you review the passes, all had purpose and were never designed to put the Barca player in a 50/50 confrontation. The passes missed their mark. Shit happens. To say Barca resorts to just kick it when the opponent puts 10 players inside a 30 yard box in the final third is silly. Furthermore are you saying it is illegal to shoot from outside the 18 when you are playing “possession”? Or that you can’t “chip” over the defense to put a ball in behind. That is far different than a 50 yard bomb where you hope your player is faster or can beat the shit out of the other player and by chance win the ball and dribble in on the keeper and score. Sounds like many teams I know of?
my point was that Barca doesn’t always play tika taka style when they attack their opponent.
the strength & style of play of the opponent, size & quality of the pitch etc will affect how Barca will attack their opponent. The some of these same elements apply to youth U10B team as well when they decide how best to attack their opponent.
Barcelona and Spain for that matter are the Gold Standard which Gary commonly refers to. They are perhaps the only 2 teams in the world that dictate how their opponents will approach them. They never seam to waver in their approach or style regardless of who, where, and when they play. Usually it is the other team that dictates whether they themselves will lose in a close match ( park the bus) or get their asses ran off the field (try to play with them). I do not believe your U10 teams are in that position and can dictate any style of play at this point in their development. They can try and play a certain way, which is great, but isn’t that really what development is all about.
I would love to see some video on all three of Barcelona USA teams that won at Surf Cup (e.g., U10, U11, & U12) in order to compare & contrast the age groups (x field size x number of players).
The posted videos are mostly on the U12 team I believe where there is ample space on the pitch w/ 11v11.
NOVA Mike says
If chip passes are not part of tika taka, they really need to get rid of this guy: 🙂 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUPX7wDo6_Y.
Larry – Barcelona have never wavered from their style of play. It is always about dominating the ball and creating, finding and exploiting space. How the opponents decide to play (defend deep vs press high) will affect where that space is and therefore the type of passes you see, but that doesn’t entail a change of style. The strength and style of play of the opponents, size/quality of pitch – may affect how successful they are, but their essential approach to the game does not vary.
It is much easier to play possession when you have the superior team playing against a weaker
opponent. What happens when you have the weaker team? Do you compete & try to win the game?
You always want to win and you should always remain faithful tonyour identity. Keep developing your players the right way and make your players better and eventually you will beat them. There are no shortcuts. If you play direct senseless kickball and lose close now then you will do the exact same thing 5 years from now, if you constantly progress and improve however you will eventually pass that same team that used to beat you.
NOVA Mike says
My advice – if you are going to give up on a possession-based style for your U10 teams b/c on a game-by-game basis because of factors like strength of the opponent, size/quality of the pitch, etc…, then don’t bother teaching it. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but if your commitment is not 100%, you will never get your kids to buy in (let alone their parents), and it simply won’t be worth anyone’s time and effort.
Continue to read, watch and learn. Re-think what you really constitutes a possession-based style. Hint #1: it does NOT mean you would not look to exploit vertical space on a long narrow field. Hint #2: Exploiting vertical space w/ accurate chips or well weighted through balls is NOT the same as “pumping balls over the top.”
If your team goes out and tries to play your game but gets beat (whether by kick and chase or a superior possession team), take it as an opportunity to evaluate what you need to do in training to achieve improvement in the mid-long term.
Of course, you always try to compete and win. Part of player development is fostering competitiveness and a winning mentality (ever hear of a great pro who wasn’t a bad loser as a kid?). Just make sure that you are teaching them the things that will help them win 6 months, 1 year, 2 years from now — not just the game next week. That really ought to be one of the most important take-aways for any youth coach from reading this blog IMO – you “choice” b/n winning and development is a false one. Teach them to play the right way and in time you will both win more games and develop better players.
Yeah .. I think your are being a bit harsh but I did ask for it! 🙂
I used the term “pump the ball over the top” as a hyperbole to describe vertical play where ball is kicked from back line to the forward line; and no where did I say that ball possession style was being given up for the entirety of the match.
for all you purist out there ..
on small sized pitch .. playing 8v8, under high pressure defense w/ a lot of players pushed high on the pitch ..
are you saying you don’t want to teach your U10 kids how to deal with these situations using “pump the ball over the top” method as described here?
just to be clear 🙂
Pump the ball over the top I would say no, I would never ecourage that. HOWEVER, if you can get players to provide depth and height off the ball and then the player on the ball was to play a well-intentioned and well delivered long-ish ball (back, forward, sideways, wherever) to a teammate to break pressure through possession, then that is great and should absolutely be encouraged in my opinion! The problem with pumping the ball over the top is if you have players looking down at the ground and aimlessly dumping a ball into space with no thought or technique and then watching your man child beat everyone to the loose ball.
Atlético turns possession theory on its head
Atlético faces up to an ostentatious opponent in the European Supercup. Chelsea controls the ball 62% of the time, but loses 4-1. Atlético faces up to veritable minnows in the Europa League. Hapoel Tel-Aviv dominates the game with 56% of possession, but loses 3-0.
Those two games were played far from home. Atlético plays a league game at home. Valladolid keeps the ball 55.4% of the time, but loses 2-1. The games against Athletic and Rayo both followed the same pattern, since both had the ball 58% of the time. Simeone’s Atlético side has shown that it doesn’t need to dominate possession to win points and games.
In fact, the only points that got away so far were against Levante, in the only game that the ‘rojiblancos’ had the majority of possession. And they did so by some distance, keeping the ball 68.8% of the time. It wasn’t enough for three points though, and it wasn’t even enough for a draw. The team has won every other game so far, and in the process won its fourth title since 2010, got into a respectable league position and started its new European campaign off with a win.
A more in-depth analysis of Simeone’s team reveals that it has gone ahead, always in the first half, in every single game that its opponent has dominated possession – scoring three in the first half against Chelsea, two against Athletic, Hapoel and Valladolid, and one against Rayo.
Chelsea and Inter have proven in recent CL finals that possession isn’t everything. Agree with sentiment that possession is good to teach, but at pro level teams don’t always play like that for many reasons.
Just because a team doesn’t have the majority of possession doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of keeping possession. The teams you are reffering to choose to give the other team possession, sit behind the ball and be difficult to break down. However, they still have the quality to when they win the ball connect passes and have the mobility skill and vision to string some passes together, create chances, and score. If the US were to play a team like Italy, and they decided that they would play a classic Italian defensive style, and force us to break them down, it would be very possible that we could have a high possession percentage compared to Italy. However, Italy would be far more effective when in possession, even if they aren’t as often. Possession percentage is nice, but it also is effected by tactics and game plan. Things like pass completion percentage, and number of scoring chances created are more important than a team of robots playing 1 and 2 touch passes that are simple and obvious and never a threat to break their opponents down.
You guys are getting wrapped around the wrong axle about what consititutes possession,etc.
1) Possession soccer is not necessarily how Barca does it (Tiki-taka). Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Athletic Bilboa are three teams that come to mind that play a very different style than Barca, but all three are based on possession.
2) Putting through passes and chips over the top, or long diagonal passes can all be part of possession. What a youth coach should be able to evaluate and teach when his players kick the ball is:
a) Did they think about what they were going to do with the ball? Did they have a specific space and/or player they wanted the ball to go to that makes sense? That they did not just kick the ball with no specific target in mind? THAT is the what you should be worrying about developing in youth players. This would rule out long kicks down the field to no one in particular. It would not rule out a chipped ball over the top to a player making a diagonal run. It would not rule out a long diagonal ball to an open winger across the field. It would rule out hammering the ball aimlessly from midfield down field hoping someone from somewhere will catch up to it. .
BR Coachs says
” You cannot just click the button marked ‘play like Barcelona’, you have to work and work and work, making countless mistakes before you settle into a rhythm. But that may not be the biggest concern if he keeps burbling nonsensical platitudes at everyone. “
Joe Fabian says
This is why I advocate this style. It is beautiful. http://www.liverpoolfc.com/news/latest-news/free-reds-brilliant-build-up
Joe Fabian…….That was beautiful soccer right there! How could anyone not advocate something as beautiful as that?!?!
Juan de Dios says
The trick here is “not get frustrated” you need to move the ball around, expecting the other team to get unorganized and then you can make that deep pass, but move the ball around, and specially like that it’s beautiful, but most people like, to get there as fast as they can like basketball….it’s valid, but I do not like that style..
here is some good analysis that is focused on both sides of the ball.
Watching Arsenal-Chelsea this morning I noted another systematic bias from the English (adopted American) point-of-view.
When a goal is scored the commentary almost always seeks to blame the defense rather than laud the attacking prowess or skill. For example, the Chelsea goal, phenomena placement from Mata and great half-volley from Torres, yet all the discussion is all about marking. This sort of bias is pervasive in how the game is viewed. Skill and attacking are systematically devalued.
Jim Froehlich says
Sorry for responding so late–retired people get busy too!
“Beautiful”. As in the beauty of nature–waves building up, one after the other, some fading away, others cresting perfectly as they hit the rocks; thunder clouds rolling steadily across the sky, interspersed with brilliant flashes of lightning; a massive flock of birds all flying in unison, then suddenly dipping, swerving, climbing, reforming and then repeating the maneuvers with slight deviations—– Beautiful!
Juan de Dios says
As Cruyff said, “there’s only 1 ball during the game if you have the ball in your possession most of the time, more likely it is you won’t lose”… (you can still lose but the chances are smaller)
As a player, I like my team to keep the ball because we’re more likely to score (and I’m more likely to “do something good” with it, which will make me happy). This year I started coaching a U6 team. As soon as I started I was told that the club philosophy was to keep the ball and encourage good decision-making and skill on the ball. The team has just finished its first set of matches and lost all 5 (scoring 9 and conceding 85 in the process), but I’ve seen the boys improve during every single match, particularly when trying to get the ball out from the goalkeeper. We have a couple of players who are better than the others, and I could ask a boy to hoof the ball from the back and hope the good ones get on the end of it. But that’s no fun for the players, and they won’t get better. For me, it’s about kids enjoying playing, and getting better in case they want to take football further as they get older.
Will Taylor says
I advocate a possession style of play because possession allows the offense to use the lure of the ball to move the defense out of position. The player on the ball must be well supported by teammates actively creating multiple passing options. This allows the ball to be intentionally played into tight spaces or intentionally taken towards the defense in order to lure defenders out of position. Possession is nothing without risk. Risking proximity to the defense while planning how to maintain possession and exploit the spaces created is dynamic, interesting, team oriented soccer. Thus I advocate possession soccer because of how I define possession soccer.
The last line says it all!
Dr Loco says
They develop talent in Mexico, they don’t expect young players to walk in and compete for a place in the first team straight away. “That was one of the big things,” says Orozco. “Out here we have a youth division, a second division, a third division. I trained with the senior team but could play at a youth level. Players that are promising in the U.S. don’t play games, get stuck at a level and never get to their full potential. When you’re playing games here you always learn something new and better yourself.”