Changing a football team’s tactics is not easy and it’s something to think about when training. Have you ever attempted to get your players to change their play or to use a certain tactic and found that they have not managed it? This may be a regular occurrence.
Don’t worry, all football teams experience this. Around the globe, football managers meet with players, talk about different playing styles and new approaches. They may even practice the new moves when training, but when the whistle blows, footballers who have the skill to carry out your wishes play the way they always do.
Luckily, there is a way to fix this by playing tactical games with the right conditions to practice the new moves. This helps your players become more experienced in using the new tactics. Once they’ve taken these in, they will be ingrained, and they will become another weapon they can use in a match.
If you want to improve your players’ passing, so that the ball moves quickly along the ground and stays in play using a range of combination plays. As a football manager, you may tell players to keep the ball on the ground, but the more you shout, the higher the ball goes and the further it goes down the pitch. It’s annoying. The late Brian Clough best captured this style of play when he said: ‘If God had meant football to be played in the air, he’d have put grass in the sky.”
Here’s how to fix this. In your training sessions, get footballers to keep passes below knee height. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are, players who gain possession should be trained to make passes below this height or on the grass. Some players may experience frustration at the start as this may feel like the wrong move, and one which would give possession of the ball to the opposing team. But if you want players to get it, impose this rule on the conditioning training session and crack down on players who infringe the rule.
Don’t over use this technique. Remember that sometimes a player has to pass above the knee to get the right clearance and avoid conceding a goal. However, forcing players to use your conditioning strategy will make them think about their style of play. When we train we use two touch football to encourage the players to move the ball fast. This makes players think about their position on the pitch, supporting their team mates, the conditions around them and where they will send the ball when they gain possession.
For example, in a practice session where six players were behind the ball, we got the midfielders to shoot from some distance by putting cones around the pitch. The rule was that once players approached the cones they had to shoot. We wanted players to attempt to get to the top corners by lifting the ball. So midfielders were working on their shots, strikers were building up strength in their bodies so that they could move defenders. The were also looking after any chances that occurred after the first shot.
There are a number of tactics you can practice in a training session. Here are some that we use often.
1. Speed up players’ reactions and see how accurate they are by using controlled passes of up to 30 feet.
2. Using long passes on the ground to help the players change their play and improve their large scale tactical planning.
3. Work on heading balls to bypass the defence, while strikers work on getting to the ball, improving pass timing, the trajectory of the ball and running when the ball is in the air.
4. Playing in a small space to improve tackling and the speed of passing
5. Set out a zone within which the team which has the ball must make several passes without losing the ball. This drill also works well with a goal. It helps with skill in making passes and movement.
6. Making passes with players’ weaker foot. This helps them to be able to use both feet.