OH MAN … be careful who you listen to.
3 Spanish, and 1 Portuguese team
That’s the makeup of this year’s Champions League, and Europa League finals.
Together, they offer a nice backdrop to highlight the need for perspective.
So here we go…
After every season, it seems broad conclusions on the state of the game are made – hell, sometimes after just one match, or just one action in one match. Well, almost all are ridiculous.
But looking on the bright side, it can help you identify potential frauds.
- Possession soccer is dead
- Spain needs a plan B
- The US is near top international level
What happens next?
- Possession continues to rule
- Spain wins the World Cup
- The US continues in mediocrity
- Possession soccer is dead
- Barcelona needs a plan B
- Mourinho has now shown the world how to beat Barcelona
What happens next?
- Barcelona wins the 2011 Champions league & Ferguson states it’s arguably the best team ever
See where I’m going with this?
- Spanish soccer was now dead, and the era of German soccer had arrived.
What happens next?
- The Champions League final is an all Spanish affair.
- The Europa League final is Spaniard vs Portuguese.
- The Germans are nowhere.
Just a couple years ago …
No, scratch that … just a couple months ago, Guardiola was a master of the coaching arts. Then …
… and now laymen think they know more than Guardiola.
Don’t bother telling me, I know what they are. And they’re ridiculous.
All this sort of reactionary conclusion drawing just illustrates a lack of expertise and perspective. Or at worst, cultural biases and dare I say prejudice.
But I get it.
Like just about any topic; in soccer, people of all backgrounds and experiences are going to give their 2 cents. And that’s totally cool! It’s part of being social, and part of the learning process.
But understand, most aren’t giving their 2 cents because their mission is to educate.
Most are doing this as a pastime, or in the case of conventional media outlets … serve business goals which are more in line with soccer news and entertainment, than soccer education.
So, to those wanting to learn this game at a deeper level, the above type of narrow conclusion-making can serve as a red flag.
I feel the same way. That said, possession soccer needs to evolve to break down teams when they park the bus. This year’s champions league Bayern vs RM games were eerily similar to the Chelsea vs Barcelona games. There are times in these games when it feels like the possession based teams are unsure how to break the 10 man defense down.
I don’t know the answer, but it seems to be, neither do these teams.
I really dislike when teams play ugly and win.
Gary Kleiban says
It’s always been difficult to break down a team that is properly executing ‘parking the bus’. This is not a new phenomenon.
In the extreme, what could possibly be a new phenomena, is if the dominant team (the possession one) chose to give up the ball. Other than that, I think the general public won’t see a change.
Thanks for the reply.
Now I understand it’s not a new phenomenon but it appears that possession based teams are forcing inferior teams (technically) to resort to predominantly defense with counter striking (kicking the ball long and hope the defense makes a mistake and your striker beats him 1v1).
Are you suggesting the dominant team gives up the ball, let the defensive team stretch themselves, then reclaim the ball and counter quickly?
Watching the Bayern game I felt like they should have gone to the air. Unlike Barcelona they have players with enough height. Wouldn’t with that much time to pick your cross be a better option than trying to thread the needle through 11 defenders? It just seemed like they were trying to force themselves through a brick wall rather than going around or over it.
Possession is not dead nor will it ever die, In the essence of the beautiful game Possession is at the heart!
With that said how can you not blame Pep for that epic a thrashing?
That Bayern team has a very well assembled group of players, who try to play possession but it looked like a square peg round hole, They were exposed with Arsenal, and laughed at when United made it interesting,
Something was missing in that juggernaut of a team, Soccer is a game of tactics as well as execution, when faced with an opponent who is going to give up 70% of possession you must be fearful of why, I dont know if Madrid have the better collection of players than Bayern but tactically they took them out behind the woodshed, I still think The Germs as a unit have the ability to play possession with a mix of power that could have them look a bit more direct, but nobody should run and tell the world anything is dead except the current Barca group and thats due to age….
STL A-B says
I think you missed the point of this article.
Maybe I did, though I took it as the media just loves to tell everyone times have changed,
The Media decides when an era is dead and gone or here to thrive,
The Media is usually wrong….
This article I felt was written on the back of the media bashing a coach after a CL loss, I just agreed with the coach being at fault, but not that one era had started or ended, Soccer is an always evolving game as it is cyclical.
Gary Kleiban says
This article was written because I once again grew tired of spectators (that generally includes journalists and mainstream media), speaking authoritatively on things they know little of. Or, if they do know better, I believe harbor prejudice.
The mainstream media is ruining the education of the American soccer community – something I care deeply about.
It’s not the media’s fault. The media have always tried to ruin/twist/guide the education of whatever group of viewers they have. It’s not just in soccer either, but all facets of life that media touches.
It’s really the fault of your average person that just assumes that what the media tells you is the truth. I prefer to watch Bein sport Serie A or La Liga games because Roy Hudson is hilarious and pure entertainment. Far superior to the many (biased) people that continue to perpetuate their own soccer philosophy.
I am uncertain it is due to age. There has been a lot of tumult in that organization the last 18months. There is also, one could argue, missing pieces or improper pieces.
El Memo says
The issue lies at the heart of the human nature.
We, humans, tend to like what we are familiar with or are similar to and avoid and fear that which is different. This is human nature. You can fight it but it takes a higher level of intelligence.
My point, the US will always watch / follow the EPL because they can relate due to the language, history, background. Unfortunately for them, the English have not dictated the world of football lately. Some Englishmen are starting to see the light, but they have a long way to go to resolve their problems. Note: The Spanish went through the same problem. It is not isolated to a certain country. It is a human.
It is harder for US to relate to the SouthAmerican Leagues or Spanish League / Teams because of language barrier.
This will be a barrier until the US melting pot completely blends and we cherish all backgrounds and learn from them/each other and appreaciate differences.
Here is an argument: “The Premier League is the best league in the world because it is wide open whereas the other leagues have one or two teams that are certain to win it every year. Teams like Tottenham and Everton now have joined the title race this season, making it tighter than ever”
So, if being mediocre makes it the best league, the MLS and Liga MX are definitely the best – anyone can make the playoffs and win and next year be last place.
It is NOT about how you do on your league. It is about cross competition and how you win.
Gary Kleiban says
And let’s be real.
The white / white-washed constituency are the incumbent power in American soccer.
Nevermind that does not comprise the majority of the market where soccer is #1 in the household.
Until that changes, the mainstream biases will continue. And we’ll continue in mediocrity.
This is among the most insightful posts you have produced. It is an excellent indictment of the reactionary nature of the media, and while soccer specific the ailment is present regardless of the subject matter. Of course it is a result of the purpose that media serves, but also reminds that we should take everything with a grain of salt.
In your mission to educate, it would be awesome for you to post your own takeaways/observations from some of the bigger games, or any game really.
@Geoff, you can absolutely blame Pep but I think the flaw may have lied with a lack of motivation or decisiveness from the team, similar to barcelona v Bayern last season. To maintain the same level of performance over a whole season, especially with a team that has won so much is undoubtedly difficult. Especially at that highest of levels where the talent gap is minimal.
Im glad you spoke to the nature of the media as related to this article. I chose to speak more to the nature of the style of play. Media is all pervasive, self serving and often littered with figure heads who spout and speak just to spout and speak. Media has become an opinion machine and while an opinion is never wrong, it can often be misguided or use far to small a sample size as points of fact. Learning to discern information should become required preparatory learning in this, our Information Age.
Gary Kleiban says
I’ll consider doing takeaways from the big games.
The problem is that without also having or creating deep context, I believe its close to useless. (I don’t know if I can do that)
I don’t know if that makes sense?
Instead, what my ambition has been from the outset of 3four3 is to try to teach the man to fish, instead of giving them the fish.
But for sure I will take your suggestion seriously.
The systems theory of soccer, if there even is one would kind of go like this I believe- until an individual, a team, a group of teams, a league, a National team and a culture can do whatever they want with a football whenever they want it is second rate by comparison and will always be. I appreciate that Gary is enlightening us to the idea of possession soccer but it is so far more complicated than merely keeping the ball from the other team. This is about understanding, awareness, education and leadership. No matter how the system attempts to organize play and impose a style it all comes down to being able to do whatever you want with the ball whenever you want to. This is the great divide between US Soccer (MLS/USMNT) and the powers of world football. We simply do not have the sophistication to yet decide what style we chose to play because we cannot yet do whatever we want with the ball whenever we want to. First you have to be able to truly understand what you are doing and how you are doing it and why you are doing it. This comes from deep understanding and astounding teaching.
If the US parks the bus and beats spain 1 time in 10 that says nothing about our ability to do what we want when we want to. Real Madrid have demonstrated numerous times that they can out possession a TEAM if they decide to, but against a possession SYSTEM, they have found that clogging the middle and counter attacking is the best method to win the game- as evidenced by the brutal frustration faced by Bayern against Real Madrid.
In my estimation it is a fair argument to ask the question why not have a Plan B particularly if the deploying of Plan B allows you to go back and do what it is you do best, which is Plan A. If as an example Pep chooses not to adapt his style, it is fair to say teams are going to continue packing the middle and forcing the play laterally which does seem to become possession without clear intent or plan to score. Madrid forced Bayern into the same response every time down the field but to say the possession style is dead is simply an error. I believe now that teams are beginning to show ways to handle teams who like to hold the ball then forces that team to make adjustments to. Ultimately all games come down to adjusting and adjusting to the adjustments.
It seems as if the lack of the willingness to make adjustments is where Pep falls short sometimes. I think Bayern playing like they played last CL season beats RM. I think if he would allow himself to re-invent his approach slightly here and there and adjust for the players he currently has, he’d be even more successful.
There are a lot of nuances and ways to play possession soccer. Not just Pep-era Barca style. Some haven’t been invented yet. Be an innovator.
Its like watching a power hitter in baseball hit the ball in to the defensive shift. The best way to beat the defensive shift is to hit the ball to the other side of the field, even if this is not your strength as a hitter. Doing so a few times will make the other team revaluate whether they want to overload a zone- which ultimately will free the hitter up to hit to their strength. Adjusting to the adjustment.
I would of love to see a possession team keep the ball in their end of the field for however long it takes to draw the other team out of their shell than strike as fast as possible. You want to sit 10 men deep and play bullshit football in your box? Okay, we’ll have a keep away in our end just to show you have no balls or a rondo with the CBs, DM and goalie and your 1 lousy chaser. Let’s play.
agreed 100% Every team needs a Plan B, and C for that matter,
STL A-B says
The sad part about ‘possession is dead’ argument is the youth typically are the one’s most affected. When the blind lead the youth into believing possession development is not the best, the kids and the game suffer. No doubt that people don’t teach possession to youth based off ignorance, lack of education, lack of desire to make themselves better coaches, and taking the easy way out…laziness drives ignorance.
Agreed and at the heart of it, if you teach a possession style and it becomes ingrained in the way the individual, team, teams, league, country play and think about the game the ultimate ingredients become deep understanding of the nature of movement, movement without the ball, timing, precision, touch, skill, quickness of thought, quickness of activity, comfort under pressure wether physical or mental et al.
This then creates a really smart player which when put together with other really smart players, becomes a smart system.
A problem I see with all the possession talk, is that most really don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. It’s become a cliche to say you play possession and ‘that other team’ just kicks and runs. Pretty sick of seeing and hearing that shit at every level of the youth game.
Bottom line is most team do not move the ball with the purpose of breaking down a defensive scheme. Most, if not all, take enough time to get it in front of their most athletic player and get support around said player. Why? Because most coaches have know clue how to use possession to break down the opposition. They know passing is good, but in reality, most just want the ball ‘up’ and shoot often.
The game wasn’t raised in the states that way. Winning was! So what you see is a national team, for years, full of athleticism and little knowledge on and off the ball. MLS, same scenario. Is it getting better, sure, why not.
However, at the youth level, until our players get rewarded for having a better understanding of the game and how to use the ball to their benefit and how the movement off the ball generates those benefits, we’ll continue to see athleticism over rule skill and knowledge.
Thank you. Hearing Eric Wynalda try to tell Guardiola how to coach was such a fuckin joke. Him commentating those games was absolutely painful. He talks as if he knows all the answers and Guardiola doesn’t. He ignores the fact that Guardiola is the world class manager and Wynalda is nothing. I think Wynalda’s mindset sums up a lot of problems in US soccer. He seemed to truly believe that he knew more about the game than Guardiola, which is absurd!
This is why I don’t watch Fox anymore if I can avoid it. BeIn far better! The Mexican channels are way better announcers and analysts if you understand Spanish. Warren Barton is an England / EPL puppet. Always harping on how great they are. He was going on and on about Chelsea beating Athletico in CL semis. Gave Athletico no credit.
El Memo says
I agree. I’ve listened to both English and Spanish narrators. Spanish, generally, understand the game is complex and requires intelligence to explain / decipher. Also, they see themselves as neutral. I’m sure internally they are rooting for a team but try to be objective. In English, it is easy to see a commentator be subjective. Dont get me wrong, there are fun yet unintelligent narrators in Spanish. But honestly they are neutral for most part. Heck, they may say their preference in game style but will see benefits and difficulty of one they may not like, like parking the bus.
Media and comentators should no more be considered authorities of analysis than the Natl Enquirer, or even mainstream media, should be considered news sources these days. They’re there to entertain and as such are likely encouraged to spout BS theories or whatever get’s audiences to pay more attention
Gary Kleiban says
Sad part is, that garbage gets inculcated in the consumer.
And here we are.
Let’s put it in perspective. Pep also got to coach one of the top teams in the world. It’s not like he took a Division 3 team to the top. The team had won the league title in 2004-05 and 05-06. So the team he inherited wasn’t a pile of dog poo.
The reality is teams have adjusted to their type of play and he has not adjusted to them parking the bus.
As for Wynalda, he’s a supposed to be a colorful commentator. By the sounds of it, he has succeeded. He doesn’t have to be right or correct, he just has to stir conversation, which I’m sure he does both positive and negative.
But the bus… It works.
Gary Kleiban says
That’s right Frank.
It does work, and is perfectly legitimate & should be admired.
When appropriate, we’ve trained our teams to park it too.
The same people that use terms Tiki Taka is dead/ possession is dead/ beautiful football blah blah blah are the same people that use the terms anti football/ parking the bus/boring soccer blah blah blah. !0 years ago when Greece won the Euro it was massive and the only person who understood this and appreciated what they did was Mourinho. It was not luck or chance alone. Greece did not go in with the intention to lose. They prepared for the moment and seized it.The knives came out because 1 a tiny country with no superstars or world pedigree won it 100-1 odds 2 they were organized defensively, understood their own strengths and weaknesses and the oppositions had a world class tactically asute coach who took over got rid of dead beats got the team to buy in won their qualifying group and turned a team of individuals into champions. No the hacks wanted glamor beautiful flowing football easy on the eye but not too hard on the brain football to watch. It is easy to the beat flavor of the month to death from those who do not understand the game and cannot appreciate both sides of a coin.And people who read the drivel and dont know any different follow suit and fancy themselves educated. By the ways Greece did play beautiful football in the opening game.Sorry for the rant.
Sorry, Mourinho wasn’t the only one that understood that Greece winning was massive.
What you seem to have failed to realize is that soccer/football is a sport. It’s a game, a form of entertainment. Whether someone enjoys possession or parking buses is irrelevant. The reality is that _I_ do not enjoy watching one team put all of their players in front of their goal for 85 minutes. It’s not enjoyable to watch _for me_.
I also do not enjoy watching ‘kick and run’ soccer where the ball bounces around like a pinball machine. The reality is, many people do (see the EPL, most popular, well marketed league).
Do I appreciate what Greece did? Yes. Do I want to watch teams play soccer that way? Not particularly. Fortunately, if something doesn’t suit my taste I can just switch it off.
El Memo says
See my post as to why EPL is “most popular.” Most Popular and higher quality is not the same. Don’t get me wrong there is some quality in EPL, but game style, quality, etc., is not why it is popular. Is just what we as a country are familiar with.
When did I equate EPL to high quality? Sorry but the game style is what attracts a lot of people. A lot of people prefer hard working grunts that give 110% to players with flare. Why? Because many, many people can identify with that. They appreciate it because that’s the way they live their lives.
You see it in the youth soccer here too (as a predominantly Anglo-Saxon run sport). You see it in the English coaches that come here. I’ve spoken to many of them and for them ‘technical kids just get pushed around’. They don’t want technical kids with flare and creativity. They want hard working aggressive kids that give it their all. That’s the culture and that’s the identity. It’s even part of the American Dream.
Sprinkle in some gifted players with a bunch of hard working grunts in the EPL and market it really well and you have the most ‘popular’ league in the world.
To be clear, I’m not one of those. There’s only about two teams I’ll even watch in the EPL.
What can I say? With all due respect you have made my point. To clarify I am speaking from a tactical point of view not a point of view based solely on entertainment .
I suspect that you haven’t seen Euro 2004 from beginning to end based on your comments.
People think it is easy to organize a defence, but it’s not and what Greece did was to make sure they did not defend too deeply. They did not park the bus.
Yes I realize that it is a sport but truly it is even more than that.
I am pleased that Rehhagel assembled a team to win and not to entertain…but nevertheless all in all I believe 20 million Greeks around the world were thoroughly entertained including myself.
For me the only ugly football is that which is played without skill intelligence and style.For me Inter/Porto winning CL is just as entertaining/beautiful and tactically stimulating as Barcelona.
Will absolutely you don’t have to watch what doesn’t suit your tastes but don’t claim to appreciate what you don’t understand Anyhow I will leave you with a few Rehhagel quotes…
“When I arrived the players were talented, but did not obey the rules, … Once they understood they needed to, they could then express themselves.”
“We are not going to Portugal as tourists, we will not be the character actors,”
“Our opponents were certainly technically somewhat better than us, … But they have to score their own goals … later on they only operated with long balls and looked helpless.”
“Every match in the Euro is a dance on a razor’s edge,”
You’re not getting it. I appreciate what they did from a tactical standpoint. I don’t enjoy watching that style of play. There’s nothing wrong with it. I just don’t enjoy watching it. As I’m not Greek nor Portuguese I had nothing invested in the game other than watching some exciting football, which I don’t remember the Greeks providing.
P.S. If it’s any consolation, Greece is one of my favorite countries. Love it!
Sorry Will if I didn’t get your point all is good.
Possession isn’t dead. Neither is direct or counter-attack, or the various forms. Even jungle ball is thriving. While I prefer possession, I like to see a multitude of styles at pro because it makes things interesting. Creates great tactical match-ups.
What team is on top is cyclical and the masses (stoked by media in need of an audience or crated controversy to help ratings) favor one or the other based on that. Barca has been the poster child of possession but not firing on all cylinders. Bayern is a newbie to possession. They don’t have the decades of institutional / player / coaching / cultural pedigree like Barca.
The media and various people draw conclusion from the specific hand-picked few data points (Barca and incorrectly via Bayern) to cast general conclusion across all of football. From the specific to the general. This is an age-old fallacy of logic. But it works on the masses who react instead of think.
If Athleti beats Los Blancos in CL final, there will be talk of counter-attack being dead. Trumped by shape, effort, defensive discipline of Athleti. A reliable blue-collar workhorse beating a Arabian stallion.
even jungle ball is thriving. funny comment.
El Memo says
Thriving like a colony of termites.
El Memo says
Thriving like a pest thrives.
Eric D says
Possession will never die. If you dominate the time of possession and control the ball you’ll win a lot more than you’ll lose.
Not necessarily true. Results matter. It’s about winnign at highest levels. Even more important is what you do at big tournaments (UEFA CL, WC, and league trophy). If superb possession fails to win over a period of time, things will change. It’s about money and winning. Winning = money.
I was stationed in Rota, Spain in 1982 (US Navy has a base there). Then to Naples, Italy (another US base).
I remember vividly how Brazil 1982 team played magnificent, beautiful football. Yet they didn’t win.
1982 WC marked the end of an era of jogo bonita for Brazil. That area might of recently ended with transition from Duda and Luis Scolari as coach going into 2014 WC.
Spain was not always tiki-taka. They were known as La Furia. It was about aggression, strength. They changed because of a disastrous WC. They had reputation as perennial losers. Very good, just not good enough. Something had to change.
Italy, Germany and many other countries have been through same metamorphis a few times. It’s inevitable. Catastrophic moments spur change. The US needs such a catastrophe. Shake up the leadership. Shake misguided principles to the core. That revolution has not yet happened. Until then, we continue to sleep walk (sonambulo in Spanish), fat, dumb, and happy.
John Pranjic says
Possession is severely misunderstood.
The medias influence doesn’t help.
Showing percentages of possession and number of passes completed are numbers that are usually taken out of context. Especially when they aren’t explained at all, explained properly, or explained by/to people who have a true understanding of the meaning of possession and the philosophies of various teams around the globe.
Real Madrid, Chelsea, and Atletico are all possession based teams. You probably didn’t hear a single English speaking analyst say that during the semi-finals, though.
If your sample size is too small, say… 2 games… then you don’t have enough data. If conclusions are drawn from a larger sample of say… 40 games, 80 games, or 120 games… that’s much better! Part of understanding this game is looking at a much bigger picture!!!
So… Pep did A, B, C at Barca and some of it worked, some of it didn’t. Now we have a bigger sample because he has done X at Bayern. But what about when he does Y and Z at Bayern? Same with Mourinho. He did A and B at Porto, C and D at Chelsea, E and F at Inter, G and H at Real Madrid, and now again at Chelsea he’s giving us more data.
To look at single games and draw huge conclusions is so, so, so wrong.
Hey John. I appreciate your comments and certainly respect the complexity of statistical measures. In the nature of continuing the conversation I am curious about your thoughts regarding in game adjustments by coaches and if you think that will include Y and Z as you mention above as it pertain to Pep and/or Bayern if he remains as coach.
I recognize this is moving beyond the topic as laid out in the article but am curious what do you make of a managers desire to stay the course when the course seems to be so well blocked in either a particular game or sets of games against teams finding means to thwart what it is you do well.
John Pranjic says
To keep it somewhat on topic and still answer your questions… In game adjustments against a team that has decided to ‘park the bus’ either entirely, or for long stretches, aren’t the focal point of most of the media and naysayers arguments. Their cries for a ‘PLAN B’ are centered around Bayern/Barca keeping the ball for long periods of time and not ‘going anywhere’ with it. That ‘plan’ isn’t going anywhere though. In fact, it is desired by every single top level team around the world. Anyone who tells you differently… is indeed a hack.
Going into this game, or this tournament, or this season, it had already been decided that Bayern would control everything with the ball, not without it. The only thing that can change is execution in certain phases of the game, mainly the final phase, which needs to be executed with surgical precision while a group of men are on a mission to just destroy anything in their vicinity. In game changes at this point… would be more in regards to personnel, not tactics or strategy.
Myself… I leave Ribery on, take Robben off. Myself… I abort the inverted wingers and go for some guys that would prefer to take it down the line a bit more. To me it seemed like Bayern avoided tiki-taka combo play on top of the 18 which I thought was the one thing they needed to do. But like I said a second ago… that shit takes expert precision and I’m talking about it like it’s a cakewalk… but I’m not even sure if any team can break down a side like Chelsea or Real Madrid with that type of play.
Changing to traditional style wingers isn’t a ‘PLAN B’ though.
Not sure if I’m making sense… let me know if I came remotely close to continuing this in the direction you imagined.
Sure you have. I spend a good deal of time thinking about this website and many of the writings both past and present and the coaching course. I am currently on the 3rd time through the blog, one by one, hoping to ingrain certain truths vs many of the fallacies that are out there. One thing I am certain of, per upper responses, is our need to be good enough to even retain possession of the ball- let alone turn that possession in to creative opportunities to score.
One thing I have noticed is the discernmemt I bring to watching games generally. Once the activity of watching a barcelona type team was a practice of meditation- allowing myself to be mesmerized by the ebb and flow of movement– now I am avidly in search of understanding the nature of the quality of the movement and the why or how of it.
One thing I notice about this game as opposed to other games is the nature of the draw as positive result and how that result often times drives teams to play a certain way. If we can ‘defend defend defend and have 0-0’ result this can be seen as a victory.
By the way, regarding the inverted wingers, one of the place where I think Bayern got lost in the matches to Real was how little effect Mario Mandzukic had in the play and/or outcomes. One part of this is likely due to the irascible defense of Pepe, but one part of this could be due to the lack of good service he received and maybe, as you mention, having a natural footed player stretching depth into the pitch then crossing the ball to him may have opened up the middle a bit more for the short type passing Bayern was so intent on trying.
Thanks for the talk. So much to learn. So much to learn. Be well.
Rob A says
Tactics will only ever put the player in the right place(s), they still have to execute. In youth soccer, possession will always develop a player better to understand and appreciate the game for decades to come. At the pro-level, only results matter. Each approach is valid in it’s own way, however ugly—evidenced by the fact that those teams that park the bus win some of the time.
When you hear possession is dead, too many leap to Route 1 conclusion. It’s often shades of gray and not so black & white.
As an example, look at stats on http://cartilagefreecaptain.sbnation.com/2014/2/12/5404348/english-premier-league-shot-statistics. Great stuff but focus on any single stat is misleading and almost always leads to wrong conclusion or one that supports a preconceived notion. But this is what the press does because as Gary says, they know little but come off as experts. The best way to know if someone is expert is the fidelity of their analysis from breadth and depth. Any knowledgeable soccer person knows immediately that blaming a single factor on winning is truly ignorant.
Time of possession is not a true indicator of winning. It has strong correlation, but can sometimes be misleading as can be learned from https://www.bsports.com/statsinsights/football/possession-football. What about where you possess, how many and type of runs that were made, movement off the ball, your defensive line position and shape, quickness of passing, range of passing in opponent’s defensive third, and so on . . . . And just because you won with say 70% possession doesn’t mean that’s why you won (cause and effect). Suppose it was an OG, a deflection, a lucky shot from 25-yards, a defensive mistake, etc?
Soccer is extremely dynamic with literally dozens of quantitatively measurable and dozens more non-measurable (qualitative) metrics.
We all want to win. The question is “how”. Possession is but one style of play. And what does possession mean anyway? If a team wins with 40% or 70%, does it matter? Isn’t it more important what you do to create scoring chances? Possession alone is nothing if you can’t score and prevent the counter-attack or long ball. Or have quick fullbacks who can’t transition in time. Or don’t have a team who is patient.
Saying possession is dead is just a bumper sticker used by ignorant and lazy journalists to create controversy to get readership from the mindless masses.
At the youth level possession is the best way to develop players that’s why its so important to play that way.
At the professional level I guess scoring is what matters
Haven’t posted much, so wanted to rant:
MLS should try to be like South America, Central America, Mexico, Japan, Korea. Be a feeder league to Europe. Brazil and Argentina are top footballing countries. Yet their domestic league isn’t all that. It’s a feeder system from Academy to first team. Expansion (rapid) is decreasing quality. MLS needs to ask “what are we”. It’s either feeder league or has to compete with world football. The latter is tougher proposition. If the former, MLS needs to team better with USSDA and colleges. Actively look for talent and push them to Europe. Financial incentives can be re-invested. It’s a proven model. But we’re doing none of that. We have wrong mindset here in USA.
When will coaches in USA start to have players “play up” based on quality and potential instead of size? Far too many play up or get onto a top team but have no real quality (just prototypical strong lad). Wrong mindset again.
We need to change from winning a tournament or league to producing talent. Winning is part of that, but more important is the end product. Youth clubs only care about winning because that’s the only tangible link to player / team success. Unlike rest of world where it’s about producing talent for first team and selling top players in open market. So their focus is on quality and the future. The promising kids move on to bigger and better clubs. It’s a progression. Each step advances skillset, coaching, competition. Nothing like it here. All we got is USSDA, and most of those clubs don’t belong there (politics). We have wrong mindset yet again.
At what point do we admit “college is not the right path to produce top international talent”? Again, we have wrong mindset.
When will US coaches (college – pro) start to improve their craft by honing their trade overseas in higher caliber leagues? Lots of college coaches who never played higher than community college or never played at all. Lots of coaches who only went to SA or Europe on vacation. They aren’t masters because they are not learning from masters. Wrong mindset yet again.
When will USSF invest in more regional centers? Make an effort like Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and so many other countries have.
One last thought, I watched Portland v. Chivas last night. 15-minutes was all I could bear. Empty stands. I thought Caleb Porter was the American Pep? All I saw were prototypical big strong lads with average MLS quality interchangeable with any other team in the league. I’ve also watched a few MLS games off and on. Each time it’s same. Very few passing sequences of 3 or more. Lots of long balls. Game played fast, faster, fastest and you can see no tactical thinking going on. The difference in quality is easy to see when you watch other leagues (La Liga, Liga MX, Ligue Un, EPL, Serie A).
What does this have to do with possession or possession hacks saying tiki-taka is dead. Well, it is dead (never lived) in USA / MLS. I’m not worried about hacks saying tiki-taka is dead, I worry more about our system and the hordes of coaches who continue to be enablers of crap football.
Possession soccer and player id are vitally important to growth of game in this country. The two are inextricably intertwined.
Player id should focus on things like: ball control, pose, quickness of thought / feet, dual-footedness, awareness, smart movement, competitiveness.
Like designing a high reliability system, players with above traits perform better and more reliable in high pressure, high intensity situations and over the long haul.
Youth coaches should pay attention to these traits for elite teams (ODP, USSDA, National Team, MLS Academy).
The big, strong mentality is still very pervasive. Right now its 5-parts physical (size, speed, strength, aggression, athleticism) and if we’re lucky, maybe 1-part ability (class, quality a identified above). This is why 99% of teams fall apart under pressure. Skill, poise, technical understanding, quickness of feet / thought, composure lets them down.
When we focus on physical elements, we tend to be average. The USMNT is an example and then Spain or Argentina or Germany on the polar opposite. These latter teams don’t fall off under pressure. That’s when their quality shines.
And lastly, size and strength alone does not equal intensity or pressure. Competitiveness and effort does provide pressure. Spain is good example. They are small, but competitive. Pressure lesser skillful opponents and they fall apart.
This simple mental exercise highlights a fundamental flaw of US soccer from U5 – professional level. So as I said, I dont’ care about the hacks, it’s our flawed system!
I find the best players when using Ronda and unbalanced SSGs. Put them under pressure and see how they respond. Those with excellent vision won’t get stuck on the ball. They make pass first time. Those with skill can get away from pressure with a composed move and then look up and play to safety. They don’t panick in a 3 v 5 situation. Their composure and patience actually increases, not fall apart. The ones who can comfortably control the ball quickly and master it with both feet. It’s simple things like this to see the real gems. The ones I see when watching teams like Barca.The foundation for this starts at U5 and by U14 the cream should start rising to the top. But our system skims off the cream way too much. Something has to change.
Feel better Armando? Nothing like a good rant to make you feel better.
Armando….I read that at Barcelona players will do between 1,500-1,800 HOURS of Rondos from age 6-20.
BTW- I’ve come back to the game after nearly 20 years away and was buoyed by the spanish style of play. This blog along with the teaching program along with searching for a proper education has confirmed and challenged everything that I remember from the game as a kid as rubbish and is building, programming and developing in me the mindset that the game is not the best teacher after all like the US Soccer espouses. The game is a game, just like chess. The pieces move a certain way in chess otherwise you are not playing chess you only think you are. The great footballing nations of the world are playing human chess and now thanks to TV coverage and slow motion and replay anybody with the desire can discern the nuance and style and tactics of the game and learn how to be a better coach and employ those tactics into the style or philosophy of your own team.
It’s like Cole Trickle says to Harry Hogge about how he learned to drive in Days of Thunder, basically watched the best drivers on TV and taught himself.
El Memo says
Another Hack’s comment:
“You should play 1-Touch.” Or, “You should play 2-Touch.”
I’m all for speeding the game and not not-overdribbling, which parents equate to being a “good soccer player.” However, Coaches should train their players to make decisions within their style of play. Not, general comments that someone else said or general observations about their favorite team (even Barcelona.) As Gary indicates, context. Can’t make a proper decision without context and to just play 1-Touch or 2-Touch is downright stupid. (Don’t get me wrong, I understand there is activities with restrictions to drive at speed of play, etc.,, but to generalize is wrong.)