It was a tough game, and the scoreline showed it. We only had one substitute, it was incredibly hot and humid, the grass was long and the ground was soft and all that added up to us being very tired. But except for having only one substitute, these are issues that affected the other team, as well. So what can we learn from this game?
- Fundamentally, we have a lot to do to learn how to work together as a team. Too often, I saw players playing as individuals. What does that mean?
- When we had the ball, players (especially in the attacking end) dribbled without ever looking to pass. I encourage our boys to take on opponents on the dribble, but once you’ve beaten someone you’ve got to send that ball to someone else; if you keep holding on to it you will draw more and more defenders to you and the numbers will eventually beat you.
- When the other team has the ball, too often I see players watching their teammates struggle to deal with the other player without moving in to supporting positions. I don’t mean that the players should bunch up and get in each other’s way. Rather, if you’re a central midfielder and your right midfielder is struggling with a player you should move to a place a few yards away and be ready to step in if your teammate is beaten.
- We have to learn to use the space on the field intelligently, which will lead us to running less. Players in the back line need to learn to overcome their instinct. When you see an opposing player running towards your goal the natural reaction is for everyone in back to run as fast as they can to protect the goal, but that is often the worst thing you can do. The ball is key, here. Remember that if the back three players stay in line together, they don’t have to worry about the players who run behind them as long as the ball is in front of them. Those players will be offside if the ball is passed to them. However, if one player runs back and keeps them onside then we are in big trouble. We have to develop the discipline to overcome our instincts here. We don’t need defenders to move into space, trying to cut off passes or shots, we need them to cover the players who the passes will go to, and leave the goalie to cover the shots. I will, in the next couple of days, try to post a tactics article with diagrams to show how to defend as a team.
- We have to be aware of what our teammates are capable of. Too often I saw players who would be targets of passes or throw-ins place themselves too far from their teammates to be of use. On throw-ins, players would position themselves down the field, too distant for their teammates to throw to them. Later in the game, midfielders didn’t move back after losing the ball, so that when defenders would win the ball deep in our half, they would look upfield to send the ball ahead and the midfielders were still deep in the other half, too far to reach with a pass.
- We waited too much for the ball to come to us. And while we wait, an opponent runs in and steals the ball. Move to the ball, take it, want it. If you don’t want the ball, you won’t get the ball.
- In a similar vein, too often we respected our opponents. No one has the right to the ball. When that ball is coming to an opponent, don’t hang back and give them the opportunity to collect the ball and get it under control; they’re not doing that for you. Move in, get in their space, press against them, get them off-balance, and make their life hard.
What did I see that was good?
- I never fail to be impressed by the fact that our boys never give up. They kept fighting, and trying, right to the final whistle.
- While we had problems with one classic mistake (trying to defend spaces), I rarely saw examples of another classic mistake: playing kickball. I did not see too often thoughtless kicking the ball upfield with no target in mind. Most of the time, our boys passed (or tried to pass) to teammates, or places they expected teammates to run to.
Chelsea01.com’s three stars of the game:
- Riley Jones. Riley has played in goal the last two scrimmages during our training sessions, and I’ve stood behind the goal and given instructions to him during the play. “Move out”, “Go get it”, “drop back, let your defender deal with it”, “where should you be?” I bet if you asked him he would say it’s not easy to play with this voice behind you telling you what to do. But today he didn’t have that, and he performed pretty well. He made a lot of good saves, and came out and snuffed a lot of play.
- Alexander Kontoyiannis. Alex has good foot skills with the ball, and used them to great effect this game. He had a good knack for getting into the middle of the Shinester’s attack, muscling them off the ball, then using his skills to get the ball out of these tight spaces and out into a place where the counterattack could begin.
- Joshua Wolf. What can you say? He scored both goals, and threatened to score several more. Imagine how much more he could do if he didn’t try to dribble through every challenge, but looked up and found teammates after pulling all the defenders to him.
Finally, pictures have been posted! You can find them here, or always find pictures of every Chelsea game by hovering your mouse over the pages tab on the top left, then clicking on history and finding the appropriate event.