Recently while working as a guest coach for a group of young players I noticed an interesting behaviour that seems to be quite common among young players today. The coach was working on 1v1 with a focus on attacking. He set up a simple exercise.
Red A passes the ball to blue A and immediately applies pressure.
Blue A and Red A are in a 1v1 situation where Blue A tries to score and Red A defends.
On completion the same action is performed by Red B and Blue B
I then suggested that a game situation (in this case it was 6v6) where the emphasis was on taking on an opponent in 1v1 situations. After observing this game situation for 10 minutes we went back to the original exercise -with a slight adjustment.
Both 1v1’s occur at the same time
The goalkeeper will immediately evaluate the most immediate danger and get drawn to that situation
What I am interested in is how the player reads and responds to the ever changing dynamics of the game, the organisation of information and action through perception and decision making and the flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances through high quality adaptive behaviour
The goalkeeper has reacted (See diagram above), moved to his right and closed off the most immediate danger If the attacker on the other side sees this then he should know that he has an almost free shot at an empty goal. On every occasion the attacking players were so concentrated on the ball and trying to beat their man they didn’t see the opportunities that were opening up behind the defender.
I asked the goalkeeper to leave his goal while both 1v1’s were in progress. I froze the play and asked the attackers if they noticed anything?
I had noticed earlier in the session that the players despite showing good technical quality in 1v1 attacking situations kept their focus almost entirely on the ball and some focus on their direct opponent where they were taking most of their perceptual cues. In the game situation the players often dribbled passed one player and straight in to another defender ( the more physically advanced players got away with this) or into a space already occupied by one of their own players. Despite the fact that the actual dribbling technique was very good it seemed that quite often the decision making and awareness around that technique was poor.
My point was that I wanted the players to understand the value of being aware of the events that were unfolding in the wider view behind their direct opponent . This would help them become better at organising information and action thus becoming better decision makers. I described it as almost looking in to the future- you want the future to take place behind the defender in the 1v1 and you want to influence it as much as possible.
Nick Levett (Talent Identification Manger at the English FA) in one of our recent discussions gave a very good description of this- “They are recognising the local and global picture of the game and finding the techniques to solve the problem. I would rather that they had that in their locker than a technique and then try and work out how to use it, when that situation may not occur perfectly, ever, for them to do so”.