Is it possible to find a player and develop him into a talent that can torment defences? Can I turn someone into a Maradona? Will it cause me issues and how will I deal with them? This is a blog series where I chronicle the development of one player. He has the ability to torment defences, but he also comes with some baggage that prove a big challenge in his development. This is very much a journey of a player, i will chronicle his development within the context of training and tactics.
My scouts pointed me out to this player in 2025. His attributes don’t scream world superstar, in fact, most of his attributes are average, but what piqued my interest was his dribbling and his agility. This was one player who given the space could torment players on the run. His finishing and composure for his age weren’t bad, and we were Stalybridge, a newly promoted side who get shunned by most decent players.
This youngster was intriguing. My first thought when I saw this player was an Inside Forward. The IF is a role that cuts inside and drives at defences, he is at the most dangerous when you play him on the flank that is opposite his favoured foot. If he is right footed you want him to play on the left.
Looking at him my first issue was his footedness. Personally I despise one footedness for an inside forward, so we needed to train him to cut inside from the right wing. We could stick him on the left wing, but then he would have other issues, his one footedness. He could never receive the ball wide on the left, that would require the use of his left foot and then he could cut inside with his right. So we needed to play him on the right flank and get him to attack teams from deeper positions.
So we set up the Firefox system simply for him. Playing as an IF(A) he exploded in his first season with the club scoring 17 goals including 5 goals where he drove from the middle of the pitch to score. This was undoubtedly an interesting talent. That season our team was entirely reliant on him, he singlehandedly carried us to a 2ndplaced finish.
How did we get the best out of him?
We used a system called Firefox, whose goal was relatively simple, play to control midfield and seek to release the right.
This was a system designed for the right sided inside forward. Here we had a chance to overload the left side of the pitch, using a combination of an overlapping wingback, a Mezzala on attack and an inside forward. Naturally this flank was also vulnerable, but each time attacks failed by the opposition, it usually left us with a quick transitional attack that we exploited using hit early crosses.
If we sat deep with a standard line of engagement, it meant we would draw teams in. This was the perfect setup for our Inside forward. In his first season his performances were exemplary and he was developing well, frequently getting 9.5 for his training rating. He had improvements in first touch, decisions vision, composure and off the ball. In fact our training program suited him more than anyone else.
First we gave him Inside Forward training with attacking movement as an additional focus. Then we included a weekly session that would work on certain attributes:
We designed training programs that focused on first touch, off the ball, vision and decisions. One of our 5 sessions in a week is this schedule that I call my Keep Ball session
- Possession: Dribbling, First Touch, Passing, Technique, Anticipation, Composure, Decisions, Off the Ball, Teamwork, Vision
- Attacking: Crossing, Dribbling, Finishing, First Touch, Heading, Long Shots, Passing, Technique, Composure, Flair, Off the Ball, Vision (Creative Freedom)Tactical: Anticipation, Composure, Concentration, Decisions, Off the Ball, Positioning, Teamwork, Vision.(Mentality, Width, Position/Role/Duty)
- Attacking Patient: Finishing, First Touch, Passing, Technique, Composure, Decisions, Flair, Off the Ball, Vision, Teamwork (Passing Style, Creative Freedom)
- Chance Creation: Crossing, Passing, Technique, Decisions, Flair, Off the Ball, Vision
- Attacking Corners: Heading, Anticipation, Off the Ball (Attack Corners)
- Attacking Freekicks:Heading, Anticipation, Off the Ball (Attack free kicks)
The downside of this was the lack of love to the other team and our overdependence on one player. Who could fault me, who doesn’t want to see these kind of goals? I was making one serious mistake with my schedules, my Facundo Gaitan distraction.
With a third of the season left, I felt that our over reliance on one player had to stop, what if he got injured? We needed to spread the goals around. Liquid 4123 seemed to be the perfect answer, this was a system where predicting who would score the goal was harder than visualising where the goals were going to come from. This was a system symmetrical in attack that defied any kind of logic.
This shall be a series of blog posts where I chronicle the growth of Facundo Gaitan, whose debut goal sparked so much excitement in me, and how I am trying to develop him without sacrificing the rest of the team.