In recent years, creativity has evolved from being an entertaining gimmick that could excite the fans, to an essential commodity that is being mined from every crevice of the globe. It unlocks the door and punches the net in a fashion that draws both awe and wonderment from those fortunate enough to observe its beauty. Successful teams are supposedly successful because they have it in abundance, while England are struggling to cope with the drought that has been evident since the days of Gazza, Hoddle and co. At the World Cup it appeared that once again our very one dimensional approach, albeit a passionate one, was exposed for its lack of a Suarez or Pirlo type player to really affect the game. But what exactly is creativity? What element of these creative players’ ability is it that makes them so? And most importantly, how can we go about creating our very own magicians to take British football back into international contention.
We’ve all seen it. The whole team pushes high up the pitch in anticipation of some majestic stroke of the ball which will set up a quick and meaningful attacking move. Seconds later, the keeper is gathering the ball from the back of their own net having chipped it to an opposition player 20 yards out. We can shout, we can mutter expletives under our breath, we can even ask an outfield player to take them in future, but none of these address the actual problem. Mastering goal kicks takes time and an intricate understanding of the technical areas impacting upon their success. These are two things which unfortunately, a lot of young keepers are not afforded. In this blog, I will breakdown the technique of taking goal kicks as a reference for young keepers, and also as a tool for coaches to use to provide meaningful feedback during training and matches.
Gone are the days of Shilton, Seamen & Banks. The outstretched limbs of Southall and Jennings are a distant memory and British football’s days as a production line for world class goalkeepers seems to be a Joe Hart short of completion. By the 1999/2000 season, only half of the Premier League had a British man as their number one. This season, we are down to six. The issue is clear; there is an inadequate volume and quality of goalkeeper coaching available to young players. Very few clubs can afford to employ a specialist goalkeeper coach and there is a scarcity of volunteers who know how to educate the man between the sticks. But yet, we can begin to address the issue.
Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer, Javier Hernandez, Jermaine Defoe, Peter Crouch. They all share a similar, perhaps unfortunate characteristic. Over the years, managers have consistently deemed them as impact players who are better utilised coming off the bench. They rack up a couple of hundred substitute appearances between them. Crouch allows teams to play a more direct approach and so can facilitate a change in tactic, while the other three were/are generally seen as more of a last throw of the dice.
These players were not trained to be substitutes, it just so happened that their attributes made their managers perceive them to be so. But what if we did started designing the ultimate super-subs? What if we trained players for the sole purpose of coming on and changing games? Players who could fully utilise the physical advantage of entering the latter stages of a game and would benefit from having analysed proceedings for an hour or so?
This may seem a little farfetched/unnecessary/idiotic, but allow me to elaborate.
Goalkeepers, arguably the most important position in the team. They have the power to start your attacks and end your oppositions. They can draw superlatives, expletives and very little in-between. Their task requires the use of a variety of intricate techniques at high speed under such pressure that one misjudgment can cost their team the game. They demand more technical training than any other player in the team, yet invariably receive the least. Often coaches don’t possess the knowledge to help their goalkeepers, but as with all other facets of the game, it is our duty to learn.
Over the past 10 years we have seen European football dominated by the emergence of two contrasting styles. The first outbreak was sparked by the Spanish revolution. The Johan Cruyff inspired Total Football brought unparalleled success to Barcelona and Spain, where a space of seven years (2005-2012) saw them win three Champions Leagues, four La Liga titles, two European Championships and a World Cup. Many followed in their tactical footsteps, while the visionaries of the game conspired to rebel.
With each teaming having had the opportunity to fight for 21 points and an international break underway, I have decided take a closer look at how the 2014/15 Premier League season has begun. In this blog I will evaluate the summer signings, the fast starters, the disappointments and those who have efficiently gone about their job under the radar. I will also attempt to make some predictions about how the next 31 games will pan out.
For some, the penalty kick is simply a technique which can be honed and perfected until conversion is an almost certainty. For others it is all down to luck, whereby the number of interfering variables makes it a complete lottery. For me, the penalty kick is a psychological battle which if understood, can become an art.
The investigations into why British football is moving in slow motion as the rest of the world advances have come to a plethora of conclusions. Two of the major issues identified in the UK are a lack of coaching quantity and quality. But what is the upshot of this and more importantly, what can be done to address the situation so that the next generation of players are capable of competing on the world stage. In this blog, I examine the effects of UK coaching’s limitations and one potential solution; the private academy.
Managers near the ceiling of world football are locked in a continuous skirmish to devise a system that will keep them ahead of their rivals. There is an endless folly of tweaking and tinkering with tactics in an effort to get one over on that bloke in the opposing dug out. In his book inverting the pyramid, Jonathan Wilson discusses in great depth the evolution of football tactics on a global scale over the last 100 years or so. He examines how we moved from firing hopeful mortars at a crowd of players positioned somewhere near the opposition goal, to travelling a more carefully plotted route which sometimes calls upon no forward players at all. A million and one adjustments occurred in between these points, but games are still won and lost on the simplest of all statistics; who scored the most goals? The man responsible for ensuring that his side achieve this, the striker.