Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

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The relational phase

I like Bologna manager, Thiago Motta’s phrase, “relational phase”. The word phase assumes it’s temporary. A hybrid between the predictable positional phase and the unpredictable where players are allowed to move out of position to find solutions.

The quote in question from The Purist’s video on “How Thiago Motta is redefining possession football”:

This is why the relational phase will be very important […] that is, the maximum participation of all my players on the field.

A more fluid approach is the future in my opinion. The environment on the pitch is becoming sterile like a hospital. You can close your eyes and, with the help of commentary, you would know what is happening. You can visualize exactly where the players on the pitch are, what position they’re taking up, what zone they are occupying.

If I can do that, then the players on the pitch can cycle through their automations and they too can predict the predictable.

Ange Postecoglou weighed in on this subject in an interview with Ed Sulley for Hudl’s High Performance Workflows series in 2020:

My utopia is still going back to 1974 and that total football. The more I can free players of positional constraints, the happier I get but the crazier it gets. Can I get players not thinking like they’re defenders or midfielders or attackers and can we get our game even more fluid?

Because a player is not going to say, ‘I’m a centre back, I have to be in this area,’ they’re going to see there’s space and go there and someone else will fill that role.

I think that’s where the game will go at some point.

The edge over the past decade or more was to make the game more and more predictable. Now the edge might be to make things less predictable, more creative, and unpredictable.

The phase will determine the formation and the positions of the players, and the players will have more control over where they are positioned.

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