My Four “P’s” of Coaching

This year I have gone through a major development in terms of my coaching philosophy and also in the way I plan, develop and deliver my coaching sessions. With all the fantastic resources accessible to us and the community of forward thinking coaches on twitter alone happy to share advice and experience, I feel that today’s modern coach has no excuses to give their players the best experience of there lives. After all we are coaching the greatest sport on the planet and the players we work with regardless of the level deserve to be inspired and fall in love with the game for the first time or all over again.

My aim this year has been to base a large part of my coaching philosophy around what I call my “Four P’s of Coaching”.

PATIENCE

In today’s fast paced world that demands immediate results and instance success it is all to easy for us as coaches to fall into the same trap. It seems that many of us are so desperate to see improvement, learning and RESULTS from our players that we often lose sight of how and why we are working with our players in the first place. It is important we do not lose focus of the necessary stepping-stones we must take to ensure we create the best environment for our players.

Pep Guardiola during Bayern Munich training

Pep Guardiola during Bayern Munich training

If I have ever made any valuable discoveries , it has been owing more to Patient attention, then to any other talent - Sir Isaac Newton

Patience as a coach is crucial. With all the planning, research and countless hours we spend off the field preparing training sessions and development plans for our players we believe instant success and improvement should be a given. Out on the grass our expectation is that all players understand what we want from them, how they should behave, to be attentive to the learning points we are trying to feed them and that by the end of the session everyone has made progress…however is this unrealistic?

As coaches we need to remind ourselves that without Patience in our approach, and Patience in our players development the environment we create can without our intention be filled of stresses and strains. Do not be demanding and driven by instant results!

PAINT

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see – Edgar Degas

For me coaching is an art form; the players are your subject and the training field is your canvass. There are many different types of artist who have their own techniques and styles, but what they all have in common is their ability to produce spectacular pieces that inspire. As coaches this is what we must strive for when we are on the field with our players!

Like painters every coach is different, with their own style, philosophy and outlook of the beautiful. The key element that resonates between us all however is the reason we are coaching: “to improve, inspire and grow our players both on and off the field”. How exactly we do this can vary, just like the many hundred of books, resources and session planning tools out their available to us – but like the artist it is how we put it all together and present it on the canvas that separates the best.

Are your activities engaging? Do they revolve around the ball? are they challenging the players? do you players have to make multiple decisions? If so they your half way there! It is vital that your training environment and session activities are based on these cornerstones, with this base you will help to grow players that are free thinkers, able to identify and evaluate problems and make them technically better. However there is one final piece of the base that has to hold the whole foundation together:  “is this game realistic”?

How many pictures has Xavi been exposed to?

How many pictures do you think have been painted for Xavi in training?

The foundation of all my session planning and activities are based around this foundation. The question I ask myself with nearly all my activities is “does this happen in the game”?  Right from individual techniques, to group skill and unit tactical work I try to take a snapshot from a moment of the game and reproduce it in my activity. With this method I believe that it will not only help with a more natural progression from training field to playing field for your players, but the identifying, evaluating and execution of technical and tactical decisions made by your players will be clearer, more confident and quicker. Remember the outcomes may still not be correct due to a technical breakdown but if there is clear understanding and evaluating from your players you know they are on the right path.

I also believe using this foundation will help to produce and grow players that are multi functional and able to make/execute a number of techniques under the constantly changing key stresses of game play: Space, Time, Pressure. These elements are constantly changing during a game…so it makes sense to expose your players to that same stresses in training right?

Be a painter; inspire your players to be creative and free thinkers. Just like when looking at a piece of art everyone has their own feelings, thoughts and emotions  - give your players this power on the field and watch them change the game!

PRACTICE

Have you ever noticed midfield players who under pressure or in tight space always pass the ball backwards and never try to turn and/or break lines with passes or dribbles?

For me this is a clear example of players who have not been exposed to these key game stresses and pictures during training – they are having to “think on their feet” and instead of looking to be assertive and a game changer they immediately regress into our natural human instinct of not wanting to look silly or makes mistakes.

All of this however takes time, and whilst I have already mentioned Patience I believe that allowing them to practice it is crucial. Do the activities you set up for the players allow maximum Practice? Are they getting enough repetition so these skills become engrained?

I feel some coaches are too worried about seeing and finding improvement so they can progress activities and move on in their session plan that they are in fact neglecting the learning process of players. Just because a player may check his shoulder once, receive on the back foot and open the play out does not mean this skill/technique is engrained. As coaches we need to have a keen eye to observe is learning and understanding has taken place, but also have the tools in our locker to adapt the practices so that players get to experience, evaluate and execute this specific technique in a number of different scenarios.

For me the more pictures you can paint and the more time you allow players to practice in your training sessions the better they will become in the long run. This practice time acts as a memory drive that when on the field during game play they can access the necessary “data” to aid them with decision-making.

PRODUCE

Providing that you have followed the previous three “P’s” then your players should be well equipped to deal with the decisions, puzzles and stresses the game presents to them. The hope as a coach is to see a clear sign of learning and improvement from the players and for me this is seeing them execute intelligent game decisions on the field that can change the game…however big or small they may be it is a sign they are beginning to Produce!

Coaches let us not forget however that game time is not just about seeing if our players have improved and that the weeks learning has become engrained. We all know that every game played throws up a whole new plethora of techniques, skills and game intelligence learning opportunities for our players, it is this game experience that help us development our training development plans but most importantly provide us with a new inspiration for us to “Paint” on our blank canvasses that is the training field.

CONCLUSION

So to tie everything in nicely, I have found that using the four “P’s” has really helped me to focus in on the important core elements of the game my players need to work on. While I always dedicate time for the players to enhance their general ball mastery and comfort levels on the ball, when it comes to my technical, skill and group tactical work I now have a much greater idea of what I need to design for my players to allow them the best opportunities to practice game specific techniques, skills and decision-making on a regular basis.

Understanding and identifying when learning is taking place takes a keen eye, but if we building environments for our players to walk into where they are practicing and experiencing moments that will reproduce themselves come game day then we are on the right track when it comes to our roles in the development of the beautiful games next generation.

Be Patient with your players…Paint them something that will inspire them…allow Practice to take place…and watch your players Produce on the pitch!

Jose RBNY Coaching

Appreciate all your thoughts, feedback & support.

You can follow me on twitter: @JoseCoaching & also check out my exciting new project Players Eye you can also follow on twitter: @Players_Eye

STOP! Have you asked yourself the question…?

Have you ever taken the time to think about your role as a coach…? Im sure the majority of us all have, but have to had the opportunity to dig deeper and really explore what it actually is?

Coaching Chameleon

José Mourinho…Chameleon Coach

The Chameleon Coach

There’s no doubt that one of the greatest qualities you must possess as a coach is the ability to change, adapt and survive…regardless of the level you work at and the age group of your team and players. This shapeshifting quality must be ready to spring into action at any time and it is vitally important as coach, you can accept and understand these changes for the benefit of the team, players and environment you have created. As a coach you will be required to change and adapt many times during a season, week or even a session!

Lets take a look at some of the roles we find ourselves flicking in and out of. For me there are 10 key roles (in no particular order) we must be able and comfortable to change into;

GUIDE - SELECTOR – MANAGER – ORGANIZER – COACH

TACTICIAN – TEAM BUILDER – PROMOTER – EDUCATOR – WINNER

During the birth and early days of my coaching journey I was under the impression that my main responsibility was to just simply “coach” players, but today I am able to understand the importance of all the other branches the role of a coach contains. There is no doubt however that each of the above roles take on different levels of importance and/or relevance depending on the environment you are working within.

However I believe that for us to develop and continuing growing as a coach we have to understand and be able to flick in and out of these roles when the time and environment suits…just like the Chameleon!

Guide “to assist (a person) to travel through, or reach a destination in,an unfamiliar area, as by accompanying or giving directions to the person” We must be the shining light that our players follow and trust!

Selector to choose in preference to another or others; pick out” Have the ability to make clear decisions!

Manager “a person who has control or direction of an institution, business, team…etc” Control with care!

Organizer “a person whose job it is to enlist employees into membership in a union” Understanding Individuals  for the benefit of the group!

Coach a person involved in the direction, instruction and training of the operations of a team or of individual sportspeople” Knowledge is key – Sharing knowledge is power!

Tactician a person who is adept in planning tactics” Details dictate & decide direction

Team Builder “Team building is a process that develops cooperation and teamwork within a work unit” Share – Respect – Achieve!

Promoter “a person or thing that promotes, furthers, or encourages” Whatever the weather they are always number 1!

Educator “a person or thing that educates, especially a teacher, principal,or other person involved in planning or directing education” Teaching to grow & empower!

Winner “a person or thing that wins; victor” Winning is important…how we achieve it is paramount!

Why? What? How? That is the question(s)!

Why do you coach? Seems like a simple enough question right? During my recent trip to New Zealand I hosted a coaches network event for the Auckland Football Federation where I posed this exact question to the group of youth and junior coaches in attendance. A number of answers were broadcasted to the group… “because I love the game”, “because my son or daughter plays”, “I have finished playing & want to stay in the game”, “I love sharing my knowledge and seeing improvement” and “when I coach the stresses of life get put to the back of my mind”.

What hit home was the wide range of reasons, feelings and explanations as to why we got into coaching in the first place. Many people with many different backgrounds, experiences and lives all working towards the same goal and in the same football landscape…a landscape that for me can become blurred if we fail to take the time to self reflect, evaluate and ask ourselves some very important questions.

At the start of 2013 I decided to self reflect and ask myself the Why? What? How? coaching questions. I found it a fascinating task and thoroughly enjoyed it. If you haven’t already tried it go ahead;

Key questions for continued quality!

Key questions for continued quality!

The questions I asked myself (red) I associated as the fuel, the things that give me the energy and enthusiasm to develop. However fuel is useless without something to pour it into…the core of why I coach (blue) is the vehicle that drives me!!

A better understanding of why we coach can only benefit the players we work with. It can put things into perspective and allow us to be comfortable in our own coaching skins – the beauty is that everyones skin is different and it makes us who we are.

Conclusion

Just like we encourage our players to learn new techniques, skills and ideas we as coaches must do the same. We must question our ideologies and self reflect on our coaching journeys. Without this reflection we can become predictable, we can become stuck and unable to change…If this was to happen to the Chameleon it would not stand a chance of surviving in its environment.

If we are unable to change, adapt, blend and understand the many forms we must take on as a coach then our own environments could be just as cruel.

I only know that a good leader is one who isn’t scared of the consequences of their decisions. They make the decision that their intuition tells them, no matter what happens - Pep Guardiola 

Don’t communicate…CONNECT!

A few weeks back during our weekly New York Red Bull staff meeting we had a guest coach from The FA who put on a fantastic session that was slick, detailed and filled with some excellent coaching tips and session ideas. However there was a small part of his delivery and coaching manner he shared with the group that really struck a cord with me:

During training I never communicate with the players, and in turn I ask the players not to communicate with each other…instead I, like them make sure we all CONNECT

This really got me thinking about my coaching manner and questioned my own philosophies on how I connect with my players, both at training and during games.

C-O-N-N-E-C-T is best

During your standard 60-90min session with your team there are endless moments you can connect with your players. Right from the second they arrive at training you can begin to connect; do you take the time to say hi? ask them how their day was? give them a hi-five or shake their hand? share a joke?

If you are still setting out cones or distracted with talking to a parent or fellow coach your wasting a great time to set a positive tone to the session before the first ball has even been kicked!

The bulk of your connection time with players is done during the technical/tactical activities you guide them through – this can be in many forms and once again if your not careful you could be ‘breaking’ connections without even knowing. I found it useful to think about the following;

- Do you commentate while they are playing?

- Do you wait until a break in play to get your information across? or do you address the issues and outcome post activities?

- How do you get your information across? Visually; demonstration, whiteboard, iPad | Verbally; questions? commands?

- Body Language; Where do you stand? How do you stand? are you talking with another coach looking the other way?

The beauty with coaching is that there is no wrong way to teach. Everyone learns in different ways and at the end of the day the person that knows your players best is you. I believe that there is a time a place for every type of teaching style; sometimes players need to be told and other times they need to be left frustrated and led towards the answers through guided-discovery.

What we must be as coaches is adaptable in our approach to teaching but also adaptable in how we connect with our players.

C = clear detailed outcomes

O = observe the ‘whole picture’

N = never interrupt the flow

N = note the negative, never advertise it

E = engage the group where possible

C = connect with EVERY player

T = Timing of your coaching points are crucial

Like players in-a-pod

It is not only useful for coaches to think about how they connect with their team, but the players themselves can also try to focus on how they may strengthen their relationships, and bonds with each other on the field.

Connecting

How many times have you seen one player’s voice dominate, constantly talking as the game is being played? How many coaches berate their players for not ‘communicating’ when the play, or pass or even move!? Being vocal on the field certainly holds more positives then negative and can really help to bond the team together…however what if the information they are giving is wrong? what if it is doing more harm then good? what is if it creating confusion?

Encouraging players to create connections on the field is in fact so simple that at times we take it for granted. Sometimes the smallest details can have the biggest impacts. A few examples of positive connections between players;

- Making eye contact before receiving/passing the ball

- Playing the pass to the correct side; ‘safe side’ away from pressure / strongest foot / space to run onto

- Body language; pressing as a unit on transition / double teaming / combination play

Simple right? and I am sure you can think of many more examples how players connect during games.

Conclusion

In the recent weeks post that guest session at our staff training I have tried to think about how I can strengthen the connection not only between the players and myself, but also between the players on the field. What kind of language do I use when Im coaching? What tone of voice do I use? and likewise with the players themselves; don’t just talk or communicate or say something for the sake of it – just make sure you connect in some way!

I have noticed a subtle change in the way my groups since I focused on creating and developing connections. One thing for sure is that their approach to training and playing is much more positive and their is much more appreciation for what they try to execute on the field.

This is not ground breaking by any stretch of the imagination, but what it has helped me to do is improve the quality of my work, the players work and the outcomes I am trying to achieve.

Like every single coach out there around the world I am no different…i’m just trying to find clearer, better and inventive ways of connecting the dots!

Winning vs Development…why not both?

That winning feeling

It is one of the hottest topics within the coaching community…how much emphasis if any can/should you put on winning when developing players.

After a long day of coaching this summer I had a very interesting conversation on this topic with a group my fellow professionals, and it was clear that while everyone had their own valid opinion on the matter – one could agree on it!!

Here are some of my thoughts.

Purpose or Protection…?

As coaches we spend hours upon hours planning sessions and activities. These activities are more often then not based around a theme and a series of outcomes we aim to guide our players towards. Underpinning this the environment we create as coaches should help both the players and coaches reach those outcomes.

But is the environment correct? Is having an environment where making mistakes is ok and acceptable? Are we hiding something from our players? Are we being too over protective and wrapping them in cotton wool as they develop?

Winning isn’t everything – but wanting to is 

- Vince Lombardi Jr.

Vince Lombardi is regarded as one of American Football’s greatest ever coaches, most famous for leading the Green Bay Packers to three straight league championships, and five titles in seven years during the 1960′s. This also included winning the first two Super Bowls in 1966 and 1967. The NFL Super Bowl Trophy is named in his honor. 

I believe the late great Mr. Lombardi is on to something and it was after coming across the above quote that got me thinking…

Why can’t we “coach” kids how to win? After all the purpose of our job as a coach is to make them better, to provide them with the tools necessary to play, enjoy and thrive…so why leave out the tool of winning?

Taking inspiration from Vince Lombardi there is no reason that whilst winning should not be of the upmost importance in your youth/junior training sessions I believe that creating activities and an environment that makes kids want to win can be a powerful learning tool.

Competition is key

Think back to when you played football in the streets with your friends, or down at the park or during break time at school…all of these games were unstructured, with limited rules and free from coaching. What was missing was no one guided us to try this, or to think about that – in those environments you held the key to solving your own problems. However there was one element that was always apparent, one thing that drove everyone to play or take part…and that was to win!

Since having that late night discussion with my fellow coaches it was clear that the majority of us did agree on one aspect of our coaching and the environment we create for our players – every activity we facilitate and every task we set the players must be driven by competition. Competition provides pressure, and it is under these pressures that players must practice, make and execute decisions.

While competition may lead to frustration and disappointment if managed skillfully can also provide the fuel to drive a player to remain focused on learning and improving. If players are training and playing in an environment were they are not being constantly tested, put under pressure and never face failure then we are leaving them short changed.

Conclusion

Football is full of failures, failure happens every second of the game; a bad touch, an intercepted pass, a missed opportunity to score. Remember that the in game actions we coach players to learning and perform are to aid them and the group to succeed; having the best touch, making the most passes and scoring the most goals…win? The winning of a game, activity, 1v1 or the success of an individual action is the reward of learning and developing.

Winning should not be an obsession…but the balance of learning how to win vs wanting to win should be!

Spain success built on Foundations…not Formations!

Spain National Team - rewriting history

Its the players that make the formation, not the formation that makes the players.

I am sure that you have heard this statement many times before – but after watching Euro 2012 and to be currently experiencing  one of the greatest footballing generations in the history of the sport…Spain for me are the ultimate example of this statement.

For many watching the European Championship it might of appeared it was business as usual – playing their brand of “tiki-taka” football – which has served them so well over the past 4-5 years. A brand that has once again left opposition players and coaches scratching their heads as to what the best solution may be to stop ‘La Furia Roja’ in their tracks.

In this article I aim to dig a little deeper into the history makers. The subtle changes and evolution they have made as a nation in their football since ‘El Niño’ Torres netted that famous winner against Germany in the European Final of 2008 to get the ball rolling…and my word it has not stopped rolling ever since!

Our way or the highway!

Xavi…the pass master

The first thing you notice about Spain is their unwavering devotion to retaining possession that at times resembles a training like game of ‘keep away’. However its easy to look from the outside and fall into the trap of many recent ridiculous media/pundit hype that it is boring and negative – Spain soon put that to bed with their emphatic demolition of Italy in Kiev! – So how do they make it look so easy? How can they maintain this almost hypnotic brand of football for 90 and even 120 minutes?

A key characteristic of the now world famous ‘tiki-taka’ brand that I feel is sometimes not given enough credit is the incredible amount of concentration, composure and focus it takes to maintain Spain’s very high standards when it comes to retaining possession and passing the ball. You can see the frustration and almost self-hate when the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets give away possession through a sloppy pass or poor touch.

Watching the Euro’s unfold I thought to myself…Why can’t other nations play this way? Why are what appears to be only a handful of other players at the international level (outside Spain) incapable of executing one of footballs most simple and basic techniques…pass the ball and keep possession?

The players I am talking about are the likes of those who are playing at the same level and competitions as the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, and David Silva. Players who are playing at some of the world best league and biggest teams, and in some cases alongside these players in the same teams and leagues.

What Spain made absolutely clear at this European Championship is that they do not obsess with the shape and lineup of their team. While the rest of us where making noises, doubting and turning our noses up at how a team could/couldn’t play ‘without a recognized’ striker, Spain and its ‘tiki-taka’ troops knew they had something which they could fall back on, something that kept them moving in the right direction and something they knew others didn’t have…their footballing foundation.

Football without fear

This is the message that is drummed into every young player starting out in the game, the ball is your friend; play with it, respect it and appreciate it. Now it seems like a simple message and im sure a message you as a coach have shared with your young players – however its not just about saying it and doing it…its HOW you do it that is the key and the Spanish do it like no other.

Spain’s current world dominance both domestically and Internationally over the past 8 years is not luck, its been a long process of reinventing, up-skilling and educating players and coaches from top to bottom across the nation, in a unified philosophy of how they want to play the game. This process is now beginning to bare fruit.

The leader of this philosophy and the Spanish National Team Vicente Del Bosque sums it up perfectly before and after the big game vs Italy… 'El Bigote' Del Bosque

“Our success is not a coincidence and has its foundations in many things,” he said.

“In the structure of our football, in the academies, and in better coaches. The Spanish clubs are devoting themselves to training youngsters.

“Before we would travel abroad to look at the academies in France, Russia, Germany. Now many of these countries come to see what we are doing in Spain.”

After their historic victory Del Bosque went on to add…

“We’re talking about a great generation of footballers, They know how to play together because they come from a country where they learn to play properly. This is a great era for Spanish football.”

“To win three titles is almost impossible. Congratulations to the players. I didn’t really want to be the coach who wins but the coach who educates. I want to keep preparing them for the future.”

This message from the national coach is shared by the devoted coaches across Spain who preach this to their players. Its about the education, the future and not the winning.

As a player if you are allowed to grow in an environment where risk-taking and decision-making are encouraged and managed to the finest detail it is no surprise at all to see Iniesta ask for the ball even in the tightest of spaces when surrounded by opponents, or to see skipper Iker Casillas leading by example playing cooly out from the back under pressure.

The Spanish players do not have fear in their minds when they play…all they have is their philosophy and years of trust in their education that this is right way to play, the success along the way has only helped to reinforce this bond.

Football with foundation, not formations…?

Another aspect of Spain’s historic victory at Euro 2012 that stood out for me is just how brilliantly adaptable they are. From the opening game fielding the then infamous “4-6-0″ formation (with Cesc Fabregas playing in the false 9 role), to the change of tempo/contrast of their play in the final between David Silva’s opening goal – 14 passes, 36 sec’s of possession – to Jordi Alba’s second – 4 passes, 13 sec’s of possession – was a joy to watch. Iniesta...the great escape artist

Spain’s modern day ‘total football’ inspired by Johan Cruyff’s famous dutch side, then brought to Spanish shores by the man himself has led me to believe something…does it matter what formation you play if you have players who can identify, adapt to and execute decisions in accordance to their surroundings?

I truly believe that regardless wether its 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, 4-4-2 or even 4-6-0…the football foundation that Spain’s players have been built upon since they could kick a ball; awareness, timing, touch, vision allows them to fit into any system, and I feel they could of played any of the above systems and the outcome would’ve been exactly the same at Euro 2012.

The facts are there to see:

Since the start of 2011-12 season Sergio Ramos has taken to his role as a central defender like a duck to water and after Euro 2012 is now considered one of the worlds – lets not forget less then 18 months ago he was strictly a full back for both club and country.

Cesc Fabregas was the first to admit he was a surprised as anyone to see his name in the starting XI as a false 9 for Spain’s opening game – seeing he has never played their before this season for Barcelona on rare occasions – however he still scored in that game and created David Silva’s opening goal from the same ‘position’ in the final.

With Iniesta and Silva playing ‘from the flanks’, Xavi playing as an advanced play maker and Sergio Busquets ability to play both as a deep lying midfielder and center only strengthens my belief that with the right foundation, formations mean nothing.

Conclusion

Educating players to recognize the correct ‘cues’ in and out of possession; when to press, when to screen (out) vs how to receive, when to dribble, when to pass (in) breaks the mould of players needing position specific qualities. The way the modern game is evolving means that players need to be adaptable and evolve with the match with every passing minute.

As coaches we need to look beyond putting players in ‘boxes’ on the field and ask them to perform certain actions which that position requires. England’s performances at the Euro 2012 and South Africa 2012 are perfect examples – they can follow instructions, they can be well organized without the ball but when it comes to having the ball under pressure or finding themselves in situations outside of their specific role they really struggled - The players I speak of are the likes of Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, John Terry who are not only key members of their club and country but who many agree are ‘World-Class’ in their position.

What Spain have shown us over the past 4 years far from boring…I believe its groundbreaking and further supports my view that football is not about formations – its about having players who can execute thoughts into actions in accordance to their surroundings.

Spain by numbers: Full article found here —>  SkySportsNews

Spain - Record Breakers

The Wonderful Wizard of Özil

The wizard himself

Barely 3 minutes had elapsed in today’s Euro 2012 1/4 Final when I knew that once again Mesut Özil would play another star role in Germany’s performance…sliding like a knife through butter between the Greek midfield unit to an un-markable inside right position, it was as if time stood still. The Greek defenders froze in awe has in one swift instinctive movement Özil received the ball on the half turn, used his eyes and body as a disguise to slide a delightful reverse through ball for Miroslav Klose who was inches away from controlling and finishing inside the box – as the final scoreline of 4-1 proved Greece were in for a long night and the source of their problems was Germany’s attacking midfield magician the ‘wizard of Özil’.

Game Breaker

As coaches we dream of having at our disposal a player in our ranks who at any given moment can “break” the structure of the game and opponent in a moment of genius, and in Mesut Özil Germany have him.

The striking thing about Özil is that he doesn’t just effect the game at any given moment, he effects the game all the time. Watching him today glide around the middle and attacking third of the pitch, constantly checking his surroundings as he moved painting mental pictures in preparation to receive and conjure up his next spell he was simply unplayable.

So lets get the facts clear…Özil is not in the team to defend (see here), but he more then makes up for his lack of defensive skill-set  in the work he does with the ball – which is of a frightingly high level and game after game very consistent and very effective.

Todays game vs Greece was no exception where the German wizard was a constant threat in the middle and attacking thirds of the pitch. Below is a sample of Özil’s work in the attacking 1/3:

Creativity…being a step ahead

Everytime Özil touches the ball he makes something happen; breaking opposition lines, drawing defenders/midfielders out of position, plays precise laser guided passes into the feet of his attackers and/or behind defenses, provides constant support and reference points for Germany’s attacking moves…and the list goes on!

My question though is how does he makes everything look so easy? Why does everything he do look predetermined? Almost like the opposition players stand no chance to effect his decision making and creativity?…

Its not Mesut Özil’s outstanding technical ability he possess in that wand of a left foot, although it certainly helps…its his mind that fuels his creativity to keep him almost always a step/pass/move/picture ahead of the competition.

During the game, players must continually take in large amounts of information, process and assess the situation, rely on past experiences to determine a plan of action. They must also remain flexible to unfamiliar situations and new opportunities that arise…and to make things a little bit harder, the plan of attack must be formulated, executed and revised in a matter of milliseconds.

These plans of action can be better described as “executive functions” that describe cognitive processes that regulate both thought and action. These processes include planning, problem solving, creative thinking, use of feedback, and cognitive flexibility (quickly altering the plan of action). Thinking about those cognitive processes in more detail and after watching Mesut Özil in action today you can see his brain working in perfect harmony with his body:

Mesut Özil…always a ‘step’ ahead of the rest

Planning: Where is possession being developed from? 

Problem Solving: How can I effect my marker and his unit?

Creative Thinking: Obtain positions between units/players to create hesitation & uncertainty

Feedback: Observe & Understand my surroundings by painting pictures with my eyes as I move.

Cognitive Flexibility (Altering Plans): Receiving under pressure, bad touch, double team, team mate movements.

Its the ability Mesut Özil has to turn these thoughts into an action in a millisecond that keeps him a ‘step’ ahead of the rest and often leave defenders in his wake.

Conclusion

Todays performance by Mesut Özil reminded me how lucky we are as coaches, students and fans of the game  with the level of talent on show. Players such as Mesut Özil give us fantastic examples and references to draw from and inspire the players we work with – they remind us that we need to create and develop more free thinking players who can effect games not only when they have the ball but all the time.

We work tirelessly on organizing our teams, giving our players detailed instructions on what their roles are within a position but do we over look the importance of encouraging players to ‘break the mould’ when they are out on the pitch?

As coaches we need to provide environments where players are constantly being testing not just physically but mentally – working their brains as well as their bodies. Are the exercises specific to the game? recreating situations in a game? are they providing a catalyst for players to develop their action planning and problem solving processes…their “executive functions”?

Unfortunately executive function may be a trait that is overlooked when developing and identifying talented players. Coaches should look beyond simply selecting potential players only on their physical capacity, ball control and how well the player performs. These characteristics of executive functioning, problem solving and creative play certainly help make Mesut Özil the player he is today and stand out at the very highest level, and i’m sure that without his problem solving and creative skill-set Germany would not be the team they are today.

Reference: The science of soccer: http://www.scienceofsocceronline.com/
Reference: http://fourfourtwo.com/statszone/ 
      
 
 

Are we in danger of ‘Over-Coaching & ‘Over-Loading’ our players…?

Over the past 15 years or so I am sure like many coaches I have journeyed through a similar path when it comes to my own personal development; registering and attending coaching licenses, workshops and seminars – observing other coaches in action – watching as much football as possible both live and on TV to observe team trends – trying develop my own ideas and philosophies with the teams and players I coach – online registrations to coaching materials and forums – joining social media communities to interact and share information with other coaches and the reading of a wide range of literature, documents and biographies to gain a further inside understanding of coaching and football life.

However this weekend during my weekly Game Analysis duties with New York Red Bulls I was hit with a sudden thought…like a bolt of lightning…ARE WE OVER COACHING OUR PLAYERS?

This bolt of lightning was delivered to me by a Coach and players of a U10 Boys Team, observing exactly what he did or more to the point, what he didn’t do for his players.

Is Less More…?

Looking around it could have been a scene from any park in any town in any country around the world: parents dropping of their sons and daughters for their weekly game, coaches setting out cones ready for warm ups, other coaches going through the usual team talks on whiteboards/tactic boards, but there was something different…something ‘outside the norm’…it was this U10 Boys Team that grabbed my attention as soon as they arrived.

The first thing I noticed was the only item of equipment the coach had was a bag of balls. There was no sign of cones, markers, bibs, whiteboards, flipcharts, tactical boards or anything else of the like. The second thing that caught my attention was that they arrived just 15mins before the game was set to start…now like most I will not lie that my first thoughts were how unorganized and shabby this team looked, and I even heard some remarks from coaches and parents around me along the same lines.

Normal scene before any game – coach warming up players

However within 1 minute of their arrival they got me thinking…is less more?

After a very quick chat by the coach the players enthusiastically ran out on to the field and starting playing 3v1 keep aways; no cones, no markers and no bibs. The coach stayed off the field and let the players get on with their games which was filled with smiles, tricks and flicks and zero constrains and expectations.

After 5-6mins the coach called the players over and promptly named the starting line up when he then proceeded to send them back out on to the field this time with a ball each to begin juggling for another 2-3mins – it was clear not just how receptive and focused these players were, but just how much they loved the ball and the game.

During the game the input from the coach was just as minimal and outside of getting the referees attention to make rolling changes, I counted just 4 times in the first half and 6 in the second (25mins each way) in which he communicated with his players and gave them very short, sharp and specific feedback; all of them positive, encouraging and reminders to not get their heads down.

Fast forward to the end of the game (which they won 6-1, not that it matters) and after the usual handshakes and applauds for opposing players and the referees I approached the coach and commended him on the great team he has and their performance – in broken English, but mainly in Spanish (he and 90% of the team have origins from South America) he said to me “don’t thank me, thank the players – I have no input in to what they do during the game, I leave them to have fun, work things out for themselves and make sure they love the ball”. Hearing this from a coach regardless of level was very refreshing and it was great to see his total “player centered approach” in action, especially on game day.

How many times have you been guilty as a coach (I know I have) to over complicate things prior to games? Give your players too many instructions and expectations? Over elaborate and lose focus on what the most important outcomes are for young players on game days? Do we as coaches fall into these traps because we think its the norm, and if we are seen to not be “coaching” during a game it means that we are not doing our job? There is no doubt that players need guidance and structure in order to grow and develop, but as coaches are we in danger of getting in the way and making the learning process harder then it should be?

The way this U10 Boys team approached and played the game reminded me that as coaches we can easily loose sight of the FUNdamentals of Football, and perhaps if we begin to expect less from our players during games they might just give you more then you ever expected.

Information Overload

In the modern day game many would agree technology is becoming ever more apparent with more and more teams, players and coaches relying on the ability to access, download, share, save and analyze huge amounts of information at an instant, in tremendous detail. Wether it be an aid for performance, development or learning more and more coaches and players are slowly buying into the concept that the more information we can present to our players the better prepared and focused they will be moving forward to aid their development.

betterfootball.net – just one of many digital online coaching resources

However…are we in danger of getting lost in all the information and resources that are available to us? Is this easy access to a multitude of resources encouraging a new breed of “Copycat” coaches? Is this vast never ending stream of information out in cyber space and social media networks a catalyst for coaches to become lazy and unable to think creatively…?

Going back to my encounter with the U10 Boys Team, it got me thinking…is all this technology and vast source of information getting in the way of our ability to connect naturally with our players? Does it cloud our ability to see exactly what the needs of our own players are? Just because this is what FC Barcelona teach at their Masia training centre, or what the Chelsea Youth Academy team do as part of their technical & tactical approach to development make it right, and is it what my players need?

I guess the reason I pose these questions is that in the wrong hands too much information can be dangerous! I am happy to admit and put my hand up that I am a member of the Twitter Coaching Army, and over the space of the last year I have been blown away with the knowledge, support and resource available to me.There are some wonderful people out there and it is comforting to connect with other coaches with similar philosophies and ideas from all around the globe.

I believe that we are so lucky as a generation of coaches to have the tools and resources so widely and easily available to us through the technology I mention above…but what I believe whole heartedly 100% is that we cannot allow it to rule and dictate the way we coach, and become reliant on it.

If we strip down and think about what makes a quality and successful coach, I believe its the ability to bring your ideas and knowledge to life from the page (or screen!) on to the grass and deliver it in a way that our players feel empowered to run with it and have the freedom to discover, express and enhance their learning through your guidance.

Yes I have an iPad. Yes am an avid member of online digital resources. Yes I am an avid follower of some fantastic coaches and resources through Twitter……but what I do not lose sight of and believe is important, is the ability to use this vast wealth of information and tailor it to the needs of my players and me as a coach.

Communication is king!

Have you ever stopped to think about exactly what your saying to your players and how you communicate with them throughout the duration of a training session or game? Sparked into some creative thinking after my encounter with the U10 Boys Team, I decided to spend the next set of matches my teams were involved in focusing on the language and levels of communication the coaches used, and what effect it had on the players. 

To paint the picture for you…I positioned myself between two fields on the half way line which both had games in full swing (3/4 pitches – 9v9 games – U9 & U10 Girls)  which enabled me to be between the 4 coaches who were responsible for the teams in action. I then proceeded to capture a 3min audio sample of what I heard around me and share it with yourself.

So before listening to the snippet…I ask you to think about the following:

1. Is the information from the coaches relevant to the game?

2. Are the players able to play with freedom & make their own decisions?

3. What type of atmosphere is being created for the players by the coaches?

To hear the snippet click here

So what did you think…? My initials thoughts are good and the pleasing thing about this 3mins (and majority of the game) was that most of the information, communication and support the coaches gave was all positive to their players.

If we dig a little deeper however there is some food for thought – out of the 4 coaches (3 male & 1 female) two of the coaches spend more then 90% of the time  “communicating” with their team and players? Think about the questions above again and answer them for these two coaches?

1. Not much – coaches spent majority of the time “commentating” the game and therefore unable to step back and look at bigger picture of what was actually happening and provide specific feedback to the players.

2. Not really – the majority of the the coaches communication with the players was instruction and command based. Coaches making decisions for players creates low confidence,  a fear of making mistakes and the inability to problem solve.

3. Not great – The players feel rushed and over excited and unable to think clearly with all the information and communication being given to them.(this snippet happened to be during a part of both games of low action)

This exercise certainly is an eye opener and if you have never done this before I suggest you give it a go the next time you are watching a game. Another great tool for your development as a coach is to get someone to record you! not just during a game but also during a training session with your players (something I did recently), I was taken back by just how much I “spoke for the sake of it” during training and at times lost track or got distracted away from the outcomes we were trying to achieve.

A great scheme I experienced for the first time over here in the New York Regional Soccer Leagues is “Silent Sunday”. This is a once a season event where one whole weekend of fixtures, at all junior and youth levels must be played in silence. Meaning; both the coaches and parents are only allowed to “communicate” with the players/officials for substitutions/changes and to celebrate and cheer goals or positive actions – it was no surprise when I asked all the players across my 5 teams which is their favorite game of the season to play in 90% of them said “SILENT SUNDAY”!!

Putting the fact that this was a U9 & U10 Junior Game to one side, do we as coaches really need to “coach” during a game, especially with Junior & Youth Players? Why don’t you give the “Silent Sunday” concept a try during one of your games, and perhaps encourage other coaches at your club to try it also. After all game days are about the players, and you just might be pleasantly surprised just how different some of your players perform when they have no pressure, no instructions and no noise to deal with.

Food for thought…

I hope that some of my ideas and thoughts i’ve put forward in this blog help to inflame a few of your own. I believe at times we can get too wrapped up in the WHAT and the HOW of coaching and forget that this beautiful game is to be enjoyed, watched and played.

We as coaches are entrusted by our clubs, teams, managers, coaches, parents, bosses but most importantly the PLAYERS to give them an unforgettable experience and snapshot of this beautiful game, so that they want to come back every week and fall in love with it.

Use the incredible amount of resources available to us, appreciate the hard work people put into assembling these coaching portals and forums, share your own ideas and experiences… but do not get lost in Cyber Space trying to find the magic formula. Instead use this powerful resource to help formulate and shape your thinking as a coach to better connect with your players.

** WORTH A FOLLOW **

People worth a follow when it comes to coaching resources/ideas: @Soccer20_Hodga, @coachingfamily, @DanAbrahams77

A look into the language and communication of coaches (and loads more great stuff!!) by the great @MinistryOfFooty here!

A fellow blogger, close friend, creative thinker & top class coach: @paultemplecoach

The futures bright(er)…the futures blue?

Now that the dust has settled on what was an emotional, nerve-jangling and dramatic Champions League Final I thought I’d take some time to discuss just how big this victory could be for Chelsea Football Club and what it could mean for the London based club moving forward.

After what has been nothing short of a remarkable Champions league journey for Chelsea and a total transformation since interim manager Roberto Di Matteo took the reigns, where there season went from potential disaster to delight in the moment Didier Drogba cooly slotted his penalty home and send the blue half of the Allianz Arena into wild raptures.

What has been interesting is that more then 48 hours later everyone at Chelsea including players, management and owner have kept tight lipped about the immediate future and coy when it comes to answering some very serious questions for the club.

1. The Manager

One of the first questions that Roman Abramovich has to address is who will be the man to lead the European Champions into the 2012/13 season. As ever Mr. Abramovich was tight lipped and refused even a few words to the worlds press after the clubs greatest night in there history – however do not be fooled, you can guarantee his mind will already be firmly placed on who the right manager is to lead Europes best team, and the direction he wants Chelsea’s project to go.

It was only a few months ago that Chelsea’s season was in pieces and after the huge investment in both hiring and firing Andre Villas-Boas many were ready to write of the clubs project, the current playing staff and the direction in general. (see my article “The Roman Empire…where to now?”Does Di Matteo deserve his chance full time?

So it was no great surprise that one of the first questions posed to interim manager Roberto Di Matteo by the excited hoards of media was surrounding his future and that surely he now deserves the role full time.

BBC Sport Writer Phil McNulty (@philmcnulty) sums it up nicely in his piece “What now for Chelsea’s heroes?”

Has winning the Champions League burnished Di Matteo enough of the gloss of glamour to be given the job permanently? Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes, gracious in defeat, immediately handed the Italian an imaginary three-year contract. Abramovich appears more reluctant to take the plunge.

Di Matteo, who even let his own stone-faced mask slip as he spoke in the early hours of Sunday morning, has presented a compelling case. He has renewed fractured team spirit, revived players routinely referred to as Chelsea’s “old guard” and produced two clear, and more importantly successful, strategies against Barcelona and Bayern. Of course good fortune was involved but it invariably is and the prizes were handed out for victory, not artistic merit.

It is hard to see how Di Matteo could have done more. If he is not appointed Chelsea’s permanent manager now, then it is hard to see when he ever will be.

It appears that whatever the outcome is in the managerial department we will have to wait and see. Today Chelsea’s Chief Executive Ron Gourlay stated that the club would stick to their protocols and take there time in naming the new man…”We will look at the season, look what worked for us, look at the mistakes we made, put them right and then take it forward. “I know the fans will be pushing for Robbie, but we’re not jumping into anything rash.

“He has done fantastically well and I’m very proud of him and what he has achieved. But we will stick with what we said and sit down and talk things through and work things out.”

2. The Players

John Terry, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba…all three have the Chelsea blue blood coursing through there veins and today find themselves written into the history books of the club – but rewind just a few months back under André Villas-Boas’ reign after the first leg tie vs Napoli this dream must of seemed a sheer fantasy. From being told by press, pundits and the public that there careers were coming to a close, that Chelsea needed to revamp and reinvest in youth, that the “old guard” have done there dash…Roberto Di Matteo took a hard long look and went against all these negatives and decided that it was this “old guard” who would be the only ones capable in turning the blues nightmare season around.

Frank Lampard – Chelsea stalwart

Since that moment just over 3 months ago Chelsea have gone on to clinch the FA Cup and Champions League title, Didier Drogba has rediscovered his unplayable best, Frank Lampard still at his remarkable consistent best chimed in with 16 goals and 10 assists from midfield and John Terry who despite all his off field problems has managed to lead his beloved Chelsea team to victories in some of Europe’s toughest arenas.

Despite all the positives and the sheer goliath effort that the “Old Guard” have produced in the final 3 months of the season under Di Matteo I think that both fans and the owner himself would be silly not to think that this aging squad still needs a rejuvenation to be able to compete at the top across all competitions – there 6th place finish in the Barclay’s Premier League season is testament to this, although we all know the problems Mr. Villas-Boas had during his short reign.

This Champions League victory could in fact have bigger ramifications in the transfer market then Manchester City’s Premier League title victory, and give Chelsea an upper hand when it comes to luring in some of Europe’s top players. From being on the precipice 3-months ago and in danger of falling behind Manchester City, United and Europes elite both on and off the field, Chelsea are suddenly now able to offer something very difficult for even the elite to turn down: playing for Europe’s best club, in arguably the worlds best league, guaranteed Champions League Football, an opportunity to be crowned World Champions at the FIFA Club World Cup and perhaps even more importantly the lifestyle…being able to live in one of Europe’s (let alone worlds) most affluent and diverse cities on the doorstep of Europe is a very nice little package indeed – something that even both Manchester City and United cannot compete with.

  3. The Owner

Well it has only taken the Russian billionaire just shy of 10-years, some of the worlds best managers, a plethora of top class players and an investment of just over a whopping £600million to finally get his hands on the trophy he craved…The UEFA Champions League.

“Finally its mine!” – Roman finally gets his hands on the UEFA Champions League

Now that he has achieved that burning desire the question for me is “What next?” for Chelsea’s Russian owner. There have been some who have said he could even step down after realizing the goal he set himself and the club way back in 2003, but for me what we could in-fact see is a re-energized chairman who has only just quenched his thirst at European glory and now wants Chelsea to become the best in the world!

There is no way to hide the fact that in todays modern game finances and resources play a huge role in the success of a club both domestically and internationally, without massive investments attracting the very best is becoming harder and harder. You only have to look at Manchester City’s almost “overnight” transformation into England’s top dogs and Real Madrid CF recent years of massive investment in players and manager to dethrone FC Barcelona to become Spain’s numero uno.

Conclusion…

To close I shall go back to the title of my previous blog on Chelsea Football Club in the aftermath of André Villas-Boas sacking, “The Roman Empire – Where to now?”…

As long as Roman Abramovich is in control at Chelsea Football Club, matched with this new found glory and success I can picture many a club and its managers across Europe taking a collective breath and crossing there fingers in hope that the “Roman Empire” does not come a knocking for their finest men and entice them to what could be a bright blue future to come.

Techno-Football…today? tomorrow?…NOW!

Bolton's "Ghost Goal" Did is cross the line ref...? assistant...? YES!

QPR's Clint Hill Heads in to make it 1-0...hold on?

Last weekend Bolton Wanderers vs QPR was just another Barclay’s Premier League fixture, a fixture with much riding on it due to the position of both sides in the table. It was just another game, another relegation labeled “six pointer” like many before…that is until Clint Hill swooped in at the far post to head what seemed like Queens Park Rangers into the lead. The Bolton players stopped, the home fans went quiet, Hill peeled away celebrating and for a split second even SkySports had adjusted the score box in the top left hand corner to read 1-0…however Referee Martin Atkinson with the help of linesman Bob Pollock who kept his flag down judged that the ball did not cross the line, and the score remained 0-0.

Just 30 minutes later (while the game was still being played) the Football Association released a statement repeating their intentions to introduce technology as soon as possible following a meeting last week with the International Football Association Board…after Ivan Klasnic slotted home a late late winner for Bolton, QPR manager Mark Hughes was left fuming and slammed the FA:

“I think that’s absolutely ludicrous that they come out and try and protect the poor performances of the officials that they supply,” he said. “I think that’s a joke.

“Goal-line technology should come in. But until it comes in they should actually do the job that they’re supposed to do, which is check whether or not the ball has gone over the line.

“You can’t hide behind the fact there isn’t the technology to cover up a poor performance”.

“All we hope for is a level playing field so that. If we get beaten fairly and squarely we can hold our hands up. We’re big enough and brave enough to do that.” – Mark Hughes, QPR

With this incident fresh in our memories, and casting our minds back to other major examples of need for goal-line technology (Lampard vs Germany 2010 WC, Pedro Mendes vs Man Utd at Old Trafford 2005 and Geoff Hirst vs Germany 1966 WC) I am a believer the FA and FIFA need to act NOW and bring in Goal-Line Technology (GLT) for many important reasons.

With technology, comes respect

There is no doubt in my mind that the time for technology in football is NOW. If you asked managers in the Premier League and across the world if they would like to see GLT be introduced into the game I can assure you 99% would vote in favor. As a coach there is nothing more frustrating then working hard all week, covering every tactical nook and cranny in preparation of your opponent and making sure your players and team are ready to perform…only to be let down by an incorrect decision from the officials that could easily be amended with the help of technology - If you were to ask the same question to players I am sure the answers would be overwhelmingly similar to that of their managers.

The positives of introducing GLT to assist referee’s in what is one of the most crucial moments in football (ball crossing the line) are endless. Not only would the decision be 100% correct but it would also dove-tail with the FA’s and FIFA’s recent campaigns of respect in the game, and i think we can all agree that the respect in football especially towards referees and officials is just non-exsistent. Eradicating incidents like last weekend from the game gives the players and managers zero ammunition to fire abuse towards officials and allows them to conserve energy they waste on arguing with them, and concentrate fully on the task at hand…play football.

Ref’s need eyes in the back of their head…or Hawke-Eye?

Respect for referees would improve with technology in footbal

When you think of Hawke-Eye you immediately think of the impact it has made in the sport of Tennis. The foundation of Hawke-Eye is built on it being “ACCURATE & INSTANT” and over the past 6 years some major developments have been made to make the use of this system “Football Specific”.

ACCURATE: Accuracy and reliability are certainly the most important criteria for establishing the Hawk-Eye Football System. The FA Premier League has stipulated that a goal-line system must be accurate to 5mm and Hawk-Eye has risen to the task.

INSTANT: It is vital that the desired information is communicated to the referee in a quick, discreet manner. The IFAB has stipulated that an “instant” system must be implemented: Hawk-Eye will provide an answer is less than 0.5 seconds.

The sheer accuracy and time is takes to formulate a decision for the referee dispels any doubts that Technology would slow down the game. The game would not have to stop and the message can be in the ear of the official in less then a second.

How Does It Work? As with all Hawk-Eye technology, every image is processed by a bank of computers in real time. This data is then sent to a central computer, which combines all the information to determine whether or not the ball has crossed the line. As soon as a ball has been tracked across the goal line, the central computer will transmit an automatic signal directly to the referee to inform him whether or not a goal has been scored. This information can be communicated to a watch or an ear piece as required.

Its interesting to note that a ball travelling at 60 mph will move one metre per video frame on standard broadcast cameras, which operate at 25 frames per second, so Hawk-Eye utilises cameras that can operate at up to 500 frames per second.

Would computers take away the “Beauty” from our beautiful game?

When Goal Line Technology is introduced could there be room for other uses of this powerful tool in football? One idea that has been mooted by some including Stoke City manager Tony Pulis is a “Challenge System” for managers if they disagree with a referees decision during a game. Pulis believes that it is possible to use television replays without slowing the flow of a match.

 “If you give each manager one decision in each half that they can call to be reviewed in 30 seconds by replays upstairs so they can look at it and give it to the match official, I think that would help.

“The fourth official instead of standing on the line walking up and telling the manager he’s two inches outside the technical box he could be up there looking at things that are really, really important.

“Getting decisions right, I don’t care what anybody says, whatever team you follow, whatever team you don’t follow, you just want the correct decisions and if it (replays) help to do that then let’s do it.” – Tony Pulis, Stoke City

What Tony Pulis suggests is intriguing and below I have tried to mind map out how the “Coaches Challenge System” could potentially work during the game.

Coach Challenge System - The Process

The Challenge System could be both revolutionary and a hot topic of discussion…but could it work? could it be implemented?

I believe an important factor in the possible development of this tool would be to have very clear parameters the process would work within such as A) How many challenges does a coach get during the course of a game? B) Can the coach challenge every decision the referee makes during the game? C) How is the play effected by the winning or losing of a challenge made by the coach?

A) The coach would have one challenge per half – for competitions that include extra time another challenge is given for this extra time period.

B) The coach can only challenge Referee decisions around; Fouls inside the penalty box, offsides and incidents involving players being sent off.

C) The game continues as normal while the challenge is being processed. If the coach challenge is unsuccessful then play would continue as per normal and the game has not been stopped – However if the challenge is successful then communication is made to referee to stop game (if the ball is in play and has continued) and award the appropriate decision (penalty/no penalty, on/offside or red/yellow card).

Conclusion

Love it or hate it technology is a big part of our modern life and if systems such as Hawke-Eye can provide 100% successful support for officials during games to avoid not only decisions that could have ramifications in promotion/relegation, progression/elimination and winning/losing competitions then it has to be looked at.

There is no doubt in my mind that Hawke-Eye technology could be introduced as early as next season into the Premier League, La Liga and other major top divisions. UEFA and FIFA competitions such as The Champions League, Euro’s and The World Cup can also adopt GLT.

Many argue that if GLT was introduced it has to be across the board, at all levels of the game. But does it? Is Hawke-Eye used at every Rugby clubs ground at all levels? is it used outside the major ATP Major Tour Events? The answer is no simply because not every club/stadium has the facilities & finance to house it. There would be no conflict of interest if say only the Premier League had Hawke-Eye…after all it is the “Premier” competition in the country and the shop window of English football across the globe.

Who knows what will happen with technology past GLT. Could a system like the “Coaches Challenge”be implemented within the next 5-10 years? I think the answer is with every year passing, with the pressures clubs, players and coaches are under to perform and keep their status/jobs then the case will only become stronger in favor of it.

For the purist out there afraid that if you bring in technology you will “have nothing to talk about down the pub” or “read in the papers” I leave you with the words of Tony Pulis;

“I don’t care what anybody says, whatever team you follow, whatever team you don’t follow, you just want the correct decisions and if it (replays) help to do that then let’s do it.”

*For more information on how Hawke-Eye functions please check www.hawkeyeinnovations.co.uk*

The Roman Empire…where to now?

Claudio Ranieri, José Mourinho, Avram Grant, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Carlo Anchelotti and André Villas-Boas…as yet another manager comes and goes from Chelsea Football Club under the ruling of Roman Abramovich, the media frenzy once again whips up a storm as to who the new successor will be. For the time being Roberto Di Matteo has been installed as interim manager until the end of the season, a season which Abramovich must hope ends in a Premier League Top 4 finish and qualification for next seasons UEFA Champions League.

The Empire

Fernando Torres - Roman's £50million Man

Fernando Torres - Roman's £50million Man

Since taking over as owner of Chelsea Football Club in June 2003 the Russian billionaire has embarked on a ambitious journey to turn Chelsea into the top club in England and amongst the elite in Europe. Abramovich has certainly put his money where his mouth is with a huge investment of approximately £600million and attracting some of the games top stars to grace the hallow turf of Stamford Bridge.

With two Premier League Titles, three FA Cup’s, two football league cup’s and two community shield wins Chelsea under the Roman empire is going through one of its most successful periods of its history (only Manchester United have won more titles in the same period). Despite this success it appears Roman Abramovich is still not happy and failure to get his hands on the UEFA Champions League trophy appears to be the underlining reason for the long list of managerial casualties at The Bridge…AVB is the latest to have been given the “thumbs down” and off with his head treatment from Mr. Abramovich.

The Troops

With the financial clout of Abramovich the Chelsea fans have certainly been spoilt when it comes to watching they’re team week in week out for the past 8 years or so. The approximate £600million Roman investment has not only seen a massive redevelopment of Stamford Bridge and the surrounding area but the growth of the club commercially on a worldwide scale has been meteoric. Chelsea FC as a brand are now amongst the big boys of England (Manchester United, Liverpool) and Europe (Real Madrid, FC Barcelona) when it comes to international commercialism and fan base growth. On the pitch the transformation has been just as impressive.

One of the main catalysts to Chelsea’s worldwide commercial growth has been the players each manager under the Abramovich regime has had at their disposal. If we look at the current 2010-11 squad we can find International and National Team Captains playing alongside European and World Cup winners and an investment of around £80million, yet once again the troops are left without the right general to lead them toward victory.

Despite more transfer window investments one thing that is still clear to see in the current Chelsea squad is remains of the Mourinho era, an era that seems to have left a scar on senior players within the ranks and a shadow over each and every manager since José’s tenure. This scar raised its ugly head in the months leading up to André Villas-Boas’s dismissal when players made there feelings clear to sections of the media about AVB’s selection process and philosophy…a new philosophy which was not helped by poor results and thus a loss of trust from the players and a torn dressing room that seems to find it difficult to let go of the past.

The General

They have tried “The Special One”, a stop gap experienced manager in Gus Hiddink, a world cup winner in Luiz Felipe Scolari, a previous Champions League winner in Carlo Ancelotti who lead the club to the domestic double in his first season and one of the games brightest young managers in André Villas-Boas with the potential so steer the club on a new and exciting future…so what direction do they take now? who is the right man to be the next leader? What does Roman Abramovich want?

Managers Win Percentage at Chelsea under Abramovich

From the roll call of former managers it appears that Chelsea have tried almost every type of manager; both personality wise and playing philosophy wise. With Mourinho despite his success Abramovich became tired of the teams brand of football, with Scolari this brand of football was too expansive and didn’t seem to fit the requirements of Premier League Football which showed in his results, with Ancelotti the clubs UEFA Champions League existence was jeopardized when the club fell out of the FA Premier League Top four in his second season in charge, and now most recently with André Villas-Boas both results and the risk of UEFA Champions League qualification in doubt has led to another change of Roman’s heart.

There seems to be a clear lack of patience and acceptance from Roman Abramovich that football clubs, players, playing styles, football in general and success comes in cycles. The desire of constant and immediate success expected by Abramovich explains the turn over of managers during his reign, but surely this turn over must be halted if Chelsea FC and Abramovich expect future success and silverware to arrive at the club on a more consistent basis.

The reluctance of accepting stability, having the appropriate pathways and opportunities for players at the club to develop and move into the senior environment (despite the financial investment of the new academy and training facilities) and the stagnant evolution of the current Chelsea team since the Mourinho days are proof enough that Roman Abromovich has to change his approach…or continue to spend huge sums for very little gain. So who is the perfect man to take Chelsea forward and ticks all the boxes…?

The Answer…?

This is the £600 million pound question that is still to be answered and as mentioned previously the burning desire of UEFA Champions League glory that appears to be fueling Roman’s Empire.

The latest odds have José Mourinho as favorite to return, but could he come back to a club and replace the senior players who he once held dear? senior players who looked up to him, trusted him and were loyal to his commands to only be replaced for a new project? Would Abramovich allow Mourinho total control of this project and would Mourinho want to leave Real Madrid CF where he has spent the past 18 months finally getting the total control he requires to do his job?

Could Mourinho be heading back to Stamford Bridge?

The other man on Chelsea’s wish list is Pep Guardiola who has had unprecedented success with FC Barcelona and in his short time at the club has won all there is to offer. Could the Barcelona born and bred manager leave his boyhood club for the bright lights and even more pressure for success in London? Guardiola despite only agreeing to sign 1-year contracts at Barcelona for motivational reasons has openly stated that “once I do not get the same response from the players, once they begin to get comfortable and are tired of hearing my voice then its time to leave” – this does not appear to be the case just yet and despite being 10 points behind Mourinho’s Real Madrid they continue to strive for UEFA Champions League honors. At FC Barcelona Guardiola has stability, a working successful player pathway and an environment in place that he has moulded into modern footballs benchmark…does Chelsea have the same support structures in place and patient chairman to allow his blueprint to develop and come to life?

If Roman Abramovich cannot lure one of the two best managers on the planet to Chelsea then who is the answer? Does Abramovich finally concede its time to revamp and rejuvenate a Chelsea team which this season has been one dimensional and lacking togetherness…and allow a manager the time to achieve this?

Or will it continue to be the case of “when with Rome-an, do as the Rome-an does and expect immediate glory or else”!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,335 other followers