Do the players know the difference and if so, can they read the game to be able to make quick adjustments and decisions?
As a player, student and coach of the game I have been taught to appreciate ball control and possession. I am a product of being able to read the game at all times, make adjustments and quick decisions. Having and maintaining possession is a key element to the game. Without possession of the ball a team cannot apply the principles of attack. They cannot penetrate a defense and eventually score.
How much possession is enough, what makes an effective possession from an ineffective one and how can we make sure our players understand the difference?
We all know Barcelona are the masters of the possession game but we can't all play like Barcelona because we may not have the skill set to do so.
If Barcelona are the masters of possession why has the team conceded loses to Milan, Chelsea, Bayern Munich and the unforgettable disaster to Borussia Dortmund in 2013 Champions League semis? Is it because they have fallen so in love with their own style of possession game that they do not make proper adjustments when needed?
Let’s take a step back and first analyze what do we need to maintain possession. In my experience before we even attempt to teach possession a team needs to have sound fundaments. Players need to be able to trap the ball, control the ball and pass the ball. If players cannot do those things, there is no way they will be able to maintain possession. At SoccerSkillz FUNdamentals are part of every day training. When a player trains in our system foot skills have to become second nature, so that a player develops the confidence to be able to receive, control, pass or take on another player 1v1.
So once we have developed the individual player’s skill set then we need to move forward and work on the concept of possession, passing the ball, moving without the ball and offering support to the player with the ball. This is something that takes time and patience; as players now need to read the game, make adjustments and decisions. As they get better at it the possession touches and time of possession increase to the point a team can move up and down the field with ease. As the team reaches that goal of mastering possession now it faces a new problem. POSSESSION OVERKILL. That is what happens when the team passes for the sake of passing but really is not moving towards the other goal, remember the reason why we want to keep possession is so at the right time we can penetrate the defense and possibly score a goal. Yes, the goal was to teach our team how to keep possession but once that is mastered the team must be able to read the game and know when to pass, where to pass, how much to pass. If a player has the right opportunity to take on a defender one v one and thinks he can beat that defender then by all means he should do that. If the ball is passed to a player and the player has read the game quick enough and accurately and can make a one touch through pass to penetrate through the defense instead of just passing the ball back to a teammate that is great adjustment and decision. If the ball comes to a player and he is in a good position, has the right angle, and sees an opening to take a shot instead of passing the ball again that is a great adjustment and decision. How about the fact that slow passing, predictable passing or just too much passing helps the other team set up defensively and takes the element of surprise away from your side. The space where a team passes is another consideration. With TIMELY passing we want our team to spread out the other team so it can make it easier for our team to penetrate. A lot of times teams fall victims of small untimely passes which although it gives the illusion that our team is doing great, in reality it helps the other team set up defensively and crowd the middle of the field or their penalty box making it difficult for our team to penetrate. As our team may push all players up to try and break this massive crowd up we leave ourselves vulnerable to counter attacks and quick goals.
All these things happened to Barcelona, as they fell in love with their possession style of play and over passed at times, did not take shots when it was the best option, let the other teams counter attack them with quick through passes and timely finishing.
Being able to balance the passing possession game with quick proper read of the game and appropriate correct decisions is the magic of the game in my opinion. Teams that can master a blend of proper passing possessions, quick 1v1s, through passes, long balls and timely shooting are teams that will be able to see positive results.