The paradox of the modern soccer game is that it has gravitated towards speed and quickness, however, more than ever, the need for composure is colossal. Players and teams alike seem to have trouble finding patience on the field when all of the expectations are geared towards flashy moves, explosive runs and fabulous goals. What soccer is missing, is the development of players who have a sobering affect on the game.
I recently watched my soccer team take part in a pre-season tournament. I was unable to play due to a knee injury that has plagued me. The players that make up our team are extremely skilled and posses many of the above listed characteristics that make-up a modern soccer team: skill, speed and power. Watching them, one thing that was evident was that many teams simply couldn’t keep up with our players and we beat them on sheer speed.
In one of the games, we ran into a team where speed wasn’t enough. Now, experience and tactical understanding was required. The problem? Our guys continued to try beat the other team with speed and skill. There wasn’t a player on the field to slow the game down and dictate where to play and what balls to play.
I can go on for days and dissect what I think could have been done, but for the purpose of this blog, I’ll talk about one major characteristic that was missing – calmness. Not one player on the field was able to take control of the game and slow things down. Everyone that got the ball continuously tried to make long passes or beat their opponent with moves and speed. Ultimately, bad decisions were made. Rather than bringing the ball under control and making the easy pass – the smart pass – players were caught trying to do too much.
Why? Why is it important for calmness? When there isn’t a player to calm the game down and bring things under control, every other player begins to get frustrated. Once players are frustrated, you can be guaranteed that the game will get out of control and bad things will happen.
Having someone who is able to hold the ball and dictate the pace of a game is invaluable. Actually, it’s so important that it’s the difference between a good team and a great team. You need a player on the field who can see that one style of game isn’t working, so let’s change it up and try something else. Instead of playing the ball up the wing, let’s try go up the middle. Not working? Ok lets try something else. Until you have a player on the field who is able to diagnose a problem, you will have a tough time winning games.
When Sir Alex Ferguson recently received word that his star central defenders – Rio Ferdinand – was fit to play after a long injury stint, he was ecstatic. He went on to explain that the reason he’s so happy is because Ferdinand brings a calmness and control to the game that has been missing from their team. Ferdinand is able to slow a game down when no one else would think to slow it down.
But, Ivan, you say we need someone on the field who is cool, calm & collected…we don’t have someone like that on our team. Some players are built with speed, some with power and others with a calm nature to them. The players with a calm nature to their game are the players you need to identify on your team and build around. They will bring a balance that will win you games when you need it most.
I would strongly suggest that coaches and organizations across the world begin to revert their attention back to the development of players who can control a game rather than beat their opponent with speed. These players will lead your team through any storm.