How many times have you created a tactic and just gone off and played games, or downloaded one and stuck it to your team? What about having a winning tactic that dries up after 2 seasons? I am sure you’ve felt that way.
Over at Stalybridge we’ve had a plan now for almost 3 seasons. I’ve wanted to play more fluid attacking systems for a long time, we know it works with Liverpool, but how do you get another side playing like that? Get inconsistent players to perform consistently within a structure that includes a training plan to develop your team along a specific path.
Training is a dynamic activity in the game. We’ve known for a while that we needed to improve certain attributes in the team. We also needed consistency for big matches. When I have big fixtures coming up, I tend to adjust training activities for those games. And, this is what we did for our knockout champions’ league match against Red BL.
Our training became more focused, chance creation, ball distribution, attacking movement and set piece training were emphasised. We had more good news, Facundo Gaitan was churning 8.5 training ratings consistently and his match ratings were now firmly between 6.8 and 8.5 Jorge Barros drew my interest with his consistently high training ratings.
Gaitan was now capable of cutting inside from the right wing. He managed to master this within 6 months; it was time to work on his weaker foot. Our training sessions for the month included 2 weeks of attacking focused training where we worked on first touch, vision, decisions, and off the ball, crossing, finishing and passing. This was also the time when 3 weeks were devoted to defensive training. Where two matches were being played, we prioritised position/role/duty training.
Success of the Split Block
Our split block is destroying most teams that seek to pass the ball back to their keeper in attempts at recycling possession. When they play with a high line, their defenders are usually too far away to support the keeper forcing him to clear the ball instead of passing it out.
In terms of training, we need to incorporate sessions that allow us to play this brand of football. These sessions need to work on quickness, anticipation, work rate, positioning and concentration.
Our strategy to prepare our team includes a general defending training program:
This seeks to work on the attributes we need, but they aren’t enough. When you go the training page, you usually can fill up 5 weeks on one page. So we ensure there are at least two defend schedules per month. Sometimes there are three.
By the time we have reach the latter stages of the season we focus less on sessions that improve tactical familiarity.
A main feature of our style of play is the demanding use of through balls from diagonal areas. From wider areas we are deadly with the early cross with Firefox and just as dangerous with the diagonal through ball with the Liquid 4123.
Our training sessions are focused on improving our ability to break up play and to be able to drive our attacking transitions. Attributes like acceleration, decisions, vision, off the ball, passing, crossing and composure are those that are important. This is a Staly side that is slowly evolving. When we were in League 1 and League 2, I hardly cared. In fact I only started to focus on training sessions in League 1. The assistant manager took charge of training early in the season, set them up, then I would take over and tweak them slightly. In the lower tiers, we focused on a different set of attributes, but being non-professional sessions were sparse. General training sessions were more common, the only thing I added was an extra endurance or quickness session per week.
Now that we were in the premiership our focus had changed. To battle with the big boys we needed to get better on the ball. Fast attacking chances would eventually dry up once we get re-rated. We had to get better with the ball and without the ball. Liquid 4123 had to be the long term goal. That was a system devastating against defensive sides, and my Ironhide 4141 was just as good – two systems that specialised in the diagonal through ball.
Our assist profile had now changed. Gone was the emphasis on the cross for goals. That is one of the worst assists to depend on, the short pass and the diagonal through ball assist are way more lethal. Our training sessions were working, but now we needed to focus on my lil favourite Facundo Gaitan.
WHAT TO DO WITH GAITAN?
Facundo Gaitan’s coach report does not make for pleasant reading
Consistency and versatility are hidden attributes. Normally don’t sign players like him, in fact, I sell them off. But Stalybridge are beggars who can’t be choosers. With Liverpool the two wide players are destroying sides consistently. Here at Stalybridge, its not happening in every game. In fact on the other flank we have Carvalho who has a poor team ethic, is selfish and doesn’t big matches. Two championship quality player we need to turn into premiership level players.
For Gaitan we need consistent performances. His strength likes in running at players so we would now have a strategy of starting with Firefox and finishing with Liquid 4123. The systems would be played on balance and we would use pass into space intelligently.
The heatmap showing what I expected to see in the game, a heavy emphasis down the right which is how Liquid is able to create the high number of diagonal through balls.
Against Wolves, Gaitan turned up with a late late equaliser to save us the blushes with yet another mazy run from midfield. He repeated the feat, another run deep from midfield helped secure a 3-0 win over Everton.
His training ratings were soaring and he was also scoring with his left foot! The strategy to retrain his left foot was helping him. In our champions league match, Carvalho and Gaitan disappeared, fairly anonymous performances as our striker and our Mezzala ended up carrying the team with great individual performances. We would need to stick to this hybrid Firefox/Liquid System now.
MATCH APPLICATION – CLASHING AT THE SUMMIT WITH ARSENAL
A big match was looming table toppers Staly against hot favourites Arsenal. The Gunners were on a six game winning run and we were tipped to lose. We started with our Firefox system, at half time we were not doing so well. Arsenal were all over us.
Second half we made one change. I pushed our LOE higher and we shifted from balanced mentality to a positive mentality.
The LOE shift worked, now when the keeper played with goal kicks, we were slightly higher on the press. The ball broke free for Flying Gaitan, who drove at the team.
Before releasing Barros with a diagonal through ball for our first goal.
Goal scored I noticed a yellow card on WB(A) so we removed overlap first and subbed on Adrian Macaya who was faster. A yellow card on our weaker flank was a risk.
Working on defensive free kicks paid off as we broke down a free kick, defended well against the second ball, regained possession and broke with a counter. Cuesta played an exquisite diagonal pass to Barrows on the other flank, before Barros sent a heat seeker to three potential goal scorers.
Time to secure the win; I had been playing on auto-pilot for most matches, now it was time for game management. When you tend to focus on one player you sometimes fail to manage your own games. This time we wanted to win the game in some style.
The wingback on the left would be changed to a FB(S) with an overlap to position him higher. I make the changes, and the missus comes in to ask me to stop playing.
Arsenal switch to a 424 , we needed to manage this game, no more overlaps all we needed was go direct. Hit them as they would undoubtably be looking for a way back in.
With a few minutes left we told our two wider players to go on attack and told the DLF to go on support. And we scored our third! Gaitan led a brilliant counter, the keeper blocked his shot, but he couldn’t prevent Barros from the follow up.
The DLF(S) had dropped deep enough and our two IFs were now on attack. Our 3rdwas too easy and our performance scintillating.
Our training performances were working their way into solid performances. Jorge Barros who consistently does well in training was given a chance to impress, and he did just that. It’s time to go celebrate before reality comes crashing down. We have a tough run coming. Chelsea and City back to back. Our scouts had returned with a disturbing pre match report on Chelsea. We played them in less than 48hours.
Follow the Stalybridge Diaries on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLXCXuOJuYOmEaXhKTTNKlOWNG1RPsAN5i
And find out more about the Liquid 4123 there too.