Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

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Scaloni: We are loosing the essence of football

Here are my thoughts on Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni’s interview with Marca where he argues “we are losing the essence of football” because players are “remote-controlled” by coaches, and how it’s affecting youth football.

There’s an excess of analysis, too much. Nowadays, everyone knows how the opponent plays; there’s so much information that, in the end, the most important thing, which is the player, is almost remote-controlled.

To me, they are two separate things.

One, there is no way to avoid the overload of information on the internet. It’s here to stay and it will only get more prevalent as artificial intelligence gets better and better.

Two, at any point in history, with or without that added information; the coach could bark orders, force them to play a specific pass, defend this way, shoot from this area. That information gathered on the opponent doesn’t dictate how the coach controls their players.

In our case, I don’t know about other teams, but there’s a risk of losing the essence, taking away from the player what is precisely their best quality. If you’re constantly telling them what to do, you run that risk. We convey just enough, what we believe we need to transmit, the truly important things, so as not to overwhelm them with information.

I agree with this, and it’s especially important in international football because they get little time to work with the players.

It’s a domino effect. The opponent is robotic, repeating the same patterns, so you know how they’ll defend or attack. Therefore, players won’t be reacting to something they haven’t seen, they are being proactive by building patterns before the match to attack the opponent’s identified weaknesses.

The onus is on the coaching staff to find the weaknesses and point them out. It takes a good portion of the spontaneity out of a game. If the team fails, the coach is blamed because they didn’t find the weaknesses. The players aren’t being forced to find as many solutions on the fly, they are following orders. The team is moving as a unit, not as individuals.

Teams are efficient at taking advantage of those weaknesses, and better at holding possession, so adding in improvisation is a risk because you risk losing possession.

The goal should not be to turn football into a sport where we are running designed plays throughout the pitch. If it’s too predictable it’s boring. There needs to be a better balance, but the only way to create change is by winning with another style that can take advantage of the robotic nature of most teams.

We are losing the essence of football, not only at a professional level but also with kids. My children play in Spain and are overwhelmed with information. They receive the ball, and they’re already being told what to do.

There are fewer dribblers because if they barely get the ball and you say, ‘Pass it!’ Imagine if Messi, when he was eight years old, had been constantly told by his coaches to “Pass it!” We wouldn’t have him today.

It’s impressive. Because football has become such a huge thing, everyone reads, studies, and thinks that with that, they can already manage. If you tell a 7 or 8-year-old to make a diagonal run, cover defensively — he’s seven years old! Let him play with the ball, make mistakes, and when he’s 14 or 15, then we can start correcting. It’s a message for the future. This is a sport, and the beauty of football should not be lost.

This is concerning. Kids should be using their imagination. Football needs to be fun to play. Following orders is not fun. The barrier of entry needs to be as low as it can be. You should not need to know how to speak or retain information that’s told to you to play in an organized setting at a young age.

We focus on dribblers because they are entertaining, but I worry more about the creative passers. The holding midfielder that can pick out the least obvious line-breaking pass. Not just the simple passes. The passes that require imagination. That might be why the market for holding midfielders is shrinking along with the dribblers.

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