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Tactics Tuesday

It dawned on me that some of the blame around here may be going to the wrong place. Time to bone up on tactics.

Mike Ehrmann

It seems like Coaches get a lot of blame in sports. During my stint Coaching I used to do some course work and one of the big topics of discussion was always tactical versus technical. This is important as you progress in your Coaching levels in the USSF because it is the foundation of how you train the players, but also how you asses matches after the fact. The difference is rather simple, the execution and what happens after is often confused. Technical has to do rather simply with individual touch on the ball, which can extend to an opposing player. While tactics are overarching principals that dictate the individual play. Tactics put a player in a position to execute technique.

The belief of most Coaches is that if you are handed a player in early development the focus must be on the technical, if you progress as they age then you can begin to get more tactical. Example, I am not going to instruct a seven year old to play an offside trap, I am going to teach the player to control the ball. I am not going to ask ten year olds to play short, short,long attacking combinations, I am going to work them to play two clean touches. At 12 and 13 you can begin the basics, two man defending and wide versus narrow play. At 15 and 16 you can begin to work in tactical training sessions, playing the ball wide and working back through the middle or pressing two men up.

Now you may notice some common themes here, such as much of this instrutcion is done at the outset of a player's career. It is a safe assumption that if you have progressed to the level of say Phil Mexes, that his Coach, whoever he may be would assume...his touch, heading, and passing ability are of the highest quality. Phil's Coach can focus on things like man versus zonal marking, pressuring passing channels between two strikers, or say the offside trap? Phil's coach isn't going to have him passing 5 and 10 meters with the inside and outside of the foot, correct?

So now you are asking what is the point of this nonsense, just tell me who to blame and when so I can continue being a right proper football fan who defecates on my team's Coaches, management and players week in and week out! Got it, but more importantly the point of this rant is provide an understanding of tactical versus technical phases in matches. As a Coach you learn very on that tactics very rarely determine the outcome of a match, but they may in fact influence the match. If for example, you decided to press early and by the 75th minute your team was unable to walk, let alone run and the more fit opponent run through you, that is tactics influencing the outcome. What truly loses or determines the match is in fact a moment of technique. A goalkeeper error, a CB missed mark, a striker shooting wide, or midfielder tackling with a noodle leg instead of a proper block tackle. Technique is what truly wins matches, and to bring this all back to Milan, as team we don't have much technique!

Milan v Juventus - Tactical or Technical

Mexes pass straight up the middle to Juventus player?

DeJong tackle on Tevez that leads to Free kick goal?

Milan v Verona - Tactical or Technical

Luca Toni open on the back post?

Milan v PSV- Tactical or Technical

SES scores a well worked goal?

PSV equalize?

Now you can surely split hairs and say Mexes makes marking mistakes because of the tactical choice to zonal mark or man mark, but getting back to where we started there is an expectation that a player of his caliber can execute a man versus zonal mark! One could say a Muntari shot to the top right corner is a product of a tactical passing combination, but it takes away from the technique demonstrated by the player. Simply put the moment a match is turned often boils down to technique.

At its core this is not a difficult topic, but it does spark good conversation in the Coaching circles and on the pitch. What is widely agreed on this topic in most circles is to determine how much a person understands the game, ask them about technical versus tactical. No amount of hours of FIFA or FM will teach you tactical versus technical, that much is for sure!