How long have you been actively taking a keen interest in the tactics and strategies of the game and where did this stem from?
Hmm, I began actively taking part in analysis roughly 5 years ago. It stemmed from 2 things: 1) Me being born to a Bosnian family in Germany, and 2) My natural curiosity about things. Both Bosnia and Germany are crazy about football so I have always had a passion for it, and in regards to my curiosity – I have always wanted to know how things work and why certain things happen within matches. So put those two together and you have a keen interest in football! [READ MORE]
How long have you been coaching and what aspirations do you want to achieve in football?
I have been coaching for about 3-4 years. My aspirations in football are to be a head coach/manager of a top professional club! I believe I will do it.
How many games do you tend to watch and analyse each week?
I analyse more games than the ones you see on Spielverlagerung – which is normally about 1 or 2 posts a week. I am watching a game and analysing it roughly every single day of the week, be it for Spielverlagerung or for private analysis! So a good number would be around 5 games give or take. Though if I had more time on my hands it would probably be even higher – but I’m working on my Bachelor’s Degree.
When did you first start to have a curiosity about Positional Play and what interested you about this way of playing?
My curiosity for this style of play began immediately when I saw Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona in the 2008/2009 season. What was interesting for me personally was the way the ball was dominated by his team but consistently used to attack, attack, and attack some more – and keeping control of the game at the same time. Usually teams would not be able to be so dominant in various different phases of the game like that.
Having studied it excessively, have you attempted to implement this style to any teams you have coached? What has been the result of this and what were the players’ responses to it?
Yes, or at least my own variation of it! Every coach has certain aspects of a philosophy they prefer over another – so I took what I felt was the most important aspects of Positional Play and implemented it into my own idea for football. The results have been increasingly good. As I grow and learn more as a coach/analyst, my teams improve as well. The players understand it and love the idea behind it – the big idea is to make sure they understand why they are playing a specific way!
If a coach wanted to put into practice this philosophy, after obviously having studied it first, in your opinion what would be a recommended starting point for applying it in terms of the focus of the first couple of sessions? What kind of baby-steps is needed first and what should come later in the playing style development?
In regards to style development, I believe the best way to teach concepts to your players is to begin with the basic strategic guidelines, and then progress into deeper layers from there. If you take counterpressing for example, I wouldn’t begin teaching the concept with specific technical/individual-tactical aspects being highlighted in the training session. I’d start with the basic premise: We want to press the ball immediately after we lose it. Then create a drill that allows the players to do it, then speak with them about why it is done, how we should do it, etc. After that I’d guide them into more and more complex aspects of the strategy (moving into the tactics, technique, etc.). Pep Guardiola refers to this process as players learning his “football language.” In regards to a starting point for implementing it, I’d say it depends on the coach – most coaches like to begin with the defensive aspects such as defensive shape and pressing before progressing into offensive aspects of the game, in order to have a base to build off of. Though the structure of the team during moments of transition and in defence comes from the offensive phases! The game is inter-connected, so it is probably best to train various strategic guidelines in the beginning. I would only recommend playing a lot of games so everything that is learned is game-specific.
Coaches may look to implement a Positional Play (PP) philosophy, yet certain factors may prohibit them from using it. Is it possible for clubs who regularly play on a poor playing surface each week, or teams that are required to fill parts of their squad with short-term loan contracted players (1-3 months), to still be able to play this method?
Obviously these situations don’t make things easier, but my answer is yes. It is a game of positioning which can be varied from coach to coach depending on their philosophy and strategy selections, not a special philosophy that is un-achievable by lower level teams. Of course it requires a good coach who puts his players in a position to succeed, and players who are willing to work hard and learn the coach’s system. Aspects of PP can be used by any coach for their team – for example, creating an overload out of the defensive line against the opponent’s forwards in order to drive the ball into the midfield with a numerical advantage. I know coaches from areas around the world (such as India!) who use such aspects in their philosophy successfully.
PP demands teamwork of the highest qualities in order to achieve the interacting runs between players and the efficient covering of the correct zones of all players in relation to the four principles of Sacchi. Does actual off-the-pitch relationships have any effect on PP?
From my experience I would say yes. Psychology is an underappreciated aspect of football and it plays a large part in player motivation, focus, mentality, etc. during the game – which can have adverse effects on the quality of the team’s play in regards to proper movement. Though that’s taking nothing away from the hard work required on the training ground/video room in order to make everything work – which plays a bigger role in the quality of these principles of play than anything else, in my opinion.
Pep’s Barcelona is a much highlighted example of the exponents of the system. One key factor of that side was that many of the players had played together in La Masia, therefore improving the in-game communication and synergy of the players. Will a team full of new players be restricted in using this style?
A team full of new players will definitely need time in order to adjust to the philosophy, strategy, tactics, their teammates, etc. So I agree that the new players are restricted in that regard in comparison to La Masia players who played together their entire lives – but the new players can become comfortable fairly quickly depending on the person!