Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

30 passes and 16 heart-attacks

Former Rennes, Chelsea, and Arsenal goalkeeper, Petr Čech’s detailed explanation on his pros and cons of playing out from the back, and how there needs to be balance between kicking the ball long to avoid the “30 passes and 16 heart-attacks” short.

With Pep Guardiola, you see, they played from the back, but from every opportunity you stop the game. When the goalkeeper have the ball at their feet, they have options, because the whole team allows that. It’s like a big rondo inside of an area on the left side, right side, middle of the box, whatever it is. And I think that facilitates the game.

Once you have players who don’t really participate in that buildup, then you put more and more pressure on people with the ball. And I think when you play with purpose, and the purpose is, you create yourself opportunity to turn game forward, and you go, and you attack. I’m completely fine with that.

What I don’t like about it is that you see so many teams start playing from the back — 30 passes and 16 heart-attacks later, they end up at the same spot where they started. You see, there is no second phase.

This is the cycle of football.

The battle was to have the biggest and tallest forwards up top against the biggest and tallest defender to hold-up the ball.

To gain an edge, teams developed systems that took advantage of the small space in front of the goal. Force the defense to come to you. Guarantee possession by playing from the back so you don’t have to leave it up to the forwards to win the fifty-fifty in the air.

Goalkeepers and defenders had to get better at passing. Because they played out from the back, the forwards weren’t required to be tall and able to win aerial duels, and the opposition defenders didn’t need to be physically dominant because there was no more fifty-fifties to win.

Like Jose [Mourinho] always said, “well you kick the ball 90 yards, you have Drogba who holds up the ball against any defender in the world, and in two and a half seconds, you are in the opposition box. Why would you make 35 passes?”

Today the danger of Man City is that you have a goalkeeper [Ederson] who is brilliant at playing short and he has a 90 yard kick. Because you go to press and he kicks it behind you, and if you don’t go to press, they play, so that’s beautiful.

Now the pendulum is swinging back.

Teams are becoming better and better stopping the pass short. Now the edge is to get a tall and dominant center-forward up top, like a Drogba, to kick that 90 yard ball up the field. Balance out that short pass with a long pass.

Once top teams recruit that forward, then we’ll see the need for more physically imposing center-backs. But the supply is low.

The cycle continues.

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