Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Tottenham need to improvise

I envy the mental profiles they are bringing in, I love the athleticism, I buy into Ange Postecoglou’s way of thinking, but Tottenham don’t value improvisation, and that strays from the vision I thought they had.

Guglielmo Vicario speaking about why he became a keeper:

I don’t think I was just born into it. I think it was because when you’re small, nobody wants to play in goal, which is a shame. Nobody suggests that you become a keeper. People focus on outfield players. Most people think scoring a goal is better than saving a shot. I go against the grain because I derive a lot of pleasure from the disappointment felt by players who fail to overcome obstacles. That’s always driven me on. I’ve always wanted to have this role.

In a world where the top players want to play for themselves, that is someone who will fight for the team and take pride in their role. Once you filter for the players with that mindset, you then look for the athletes. The Mickey van de Ven’s of the world.

They are a mentally tough group, built like a family, born with the genes to outrun you in a straight line, but they lack ideas.

Ange Postecoglou 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.

Right now is the perfect time to introduce this idea, this way of playing, into the Premier League. Freeing players from their positional constraints is an effective way to break down rigid structures.

Outside of inverting the full-backs, Udogie and Pedro Porro, into the half-spaces and forward to the front-line, there has been not much innovation as far as giving players the freedom to create fluid attacks.

They rely on their pace. To take advantage of their pace advantage, they need space. If the opposition reduces the space, they are static and slow, and they are devoid of ideas because they lack clever problem solvers.

If I was building towards that total football utopia, I would look for players that can improvise. To improvise, you need to be creative. When you look at that Tottenham squad, I don’t see many players that can think outside of the box, with or without the ball.

Ange Postecoglou after Tottenham’s 2-0 loss to Chelsea:

The question for me in these circumstances always is, are they doing it because I’m telling them to do it, or are they doing it because they believe in it. That’s always the process you’re going through.

The true belief comes when you know you got the majority of the squad and the staff, who I’m really confident that if I didn’t turn up, they would still go about things the same way. I don’t think we’re at the majority yet.

They look like they’re performing actions they’ve been told to do. They aren’t looking outside of their automations, automations that only end up generating crossing opportunities. Once they’re comfortable with the process, the way the team plays, they’ll have the confidence to break from it when the situation needs it.

They need players that will think irrationally to break from those automations and perform several actions that the opposition won’t expect. That will produce space.

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