The modern game is one of flexibility. The game is more fluid than ever and the top teams now deploy “inverted full-backs and wingers”, false number 9s and ball-playing goalkeepers to deal more effectively with retaining possession and winning it back quickly. The game today resembles more and more the sport of basketball where the winning team typically is the one that has managed transitions between attack/defence better.
I have been reading Pedro Mendonca’s analysis of Pep Guardiola’s training methodology and last weekend I attended the Coerver Coaching Youth Diploma 2. There is a central theme. The modern player is expected to win the ball quickly when it is lost. Pressing is becoming a very important part of the game. It can only be successful if it is collective effort and gone are the days when this responsibility fell to only the most industrious players on the team. Lionel Messi is expected to do it and scores many of his goals from Barcelona winning possession back quickly.
Coerver Coaching, the world’s leading teaching method for youth players has now added this aspect of the game to their curriculum. The Coerver method has always advocated a strong technical foundation to its curriculum and the individual player development of skill, speed, strength, spirit and sense is the DNA of Coerver. Their youth diploma course 2 has now added the box/trap system of team play to the curriculum so that Coerver teams can achieve success in both attack and defence. The box is how Coerver teams attack, the trap is how they will aim to defend and the box and trap are constantly forming and reforming all over the field.
The trap defence is a method for young players to be very active in winning possession back so that they can quickly go and attack. With Coerver’s trap defence, young players can now be encouraged even more to be creative and take greater risks when in possession (which supports the Coerver playing philosophy). This can be achieved when there is greater confidence in winning the ball back quicker.
The trap system is based on the 3 P’s – press, persist and possess. Young players are expected to immediately press all over the field and close space quickly when the ball is lost. They are expected to persist and break the rhythm of opponents in possession and once possession is gained they are expected to then probe for attacking possibilities and score goals.
Pep Guardiola ‘s Barcelona and Bayern Munich teams have been the greatest examples of this style of play in recent years. Coerver are now advocating that this exciting style of play can be implemented at youth levels so that all players are engaged once possession is lost and not merely spectators until the ball is won back. Attackers are expected to close space quickly and press, midfielders are expected to support them quickly and defenders are expected to move up and condense the space that opponents play in.
The key to this style of play is the shared responsibility of the group and shared rewards-no exceptions! Th first player that applies the initial pressure gets as much credit as the 2nd, 3rd or 4th player who finally recovers the ball.
The game is changing and all young players must embrace the idea that pressing and all the additional effort that this requires is an important part of gaining possession to launch attacks and score goals.