Saturday, June 23, 2007

A little bit about the attackers...

Wayne recently asked about the attack of my team, as so far I had really only focussed on defence in this blog. When I took the reins of this group of U/16 girls, we only had 7 players. Two defenders, a goalkeeper, one striker and three midfielders. I thought that the girls who had played striker previously was too good a player to have her talents wasted up the park. She seems to be a good reader of the game, and when we eventually grew to 10 players I had an opportunity to move that striker (#A) to deeper in the field.

I couldn't move her immediately behind the new striker (#B) as I had a great attacking midfielder already (#C) who had natural game of playing with her back to goal and laying the ball off. I wanted to keep #B up front as she was far more aggressive and while she could read the game, I thought #A's passes would be more useful in the midfield.

I've ended up playing #A on either wing, usually in the midfield, but she's happy to play anywhere on the field as long as she gets a chance to play. The kind of player I absolutely love to have, and I'm sure most coaches would agree.

I also have a number of players who are completely new to the game. Defence is a difficult spot to put them in, so I tended to play them in the midfield, with #B sitting up front on her own. But now I'm up to 16 players, with too many new ones for the spare couple of spots in the midfield. I 'dumped' one new girl up front - simply to get her out of the way but give her game time. Aside from some confusion with the offside rule she flourished there. Not having to mark someone, and the relative lack of pressure made it easier for her to play. Occasionally she gets in #B's way - but they sort each other out, so I can keep my eye on other new players.

I still need to call most of the players over to sideline when I need to explain something to them, but I want to minimise such instances as it can put the rest of the team in funny situations. They would essentially be playing with 10 players. So I keep a spine to the team - so that there's an experienced player in each section of the field. I have a defender who I play at right back (though she'll find herself on the left when I get back), #A and another midfielder to organise the engine-room of the team, and #B looks after the front. #C knows a lot about the game, so she teaches rules and explains incidents as they happen to players on the far side of the pitch. She's also a bit of a creative force, so I let her do her thing and not give her any other responsibilities.

The best goal of the season (and it occurred last week) began with #C. She won the ball in the middle of the park and ventured at an angle towards the left edge of the penalty box. She then had the presence of mind to look up, stop the ball, push it back a little and slot it through the defence with her right foot. #A, who I initially played in defence but then pushed up into midfield after 15 minutes, connected to it and scored - far post. :) I absolutely loved how #C attacked at an angle, looked up and assessed the situation and put through an awesome pass.

Anyway, I'm off overseas for the next four weeks, so my blog's taking a break. A caretaker coach is coming in to cover, and I need to write him an email about the team set-up. See you later!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Our first win

We've finally got some points to show how we've improved! 2-1 win today, finished an hour ago, and I'm about to head off to watch some VPL action. But had to make a note of this and tell everyone! Well, the handful or readers that I have.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Kicking off the 3rd season

We have been having some heavy fog about Melbourne lately, it came in on Thursday morning and has been hanging about since. The picture on the right was taken on Wednesday night - before the fog. I personally think that this was the event that started the fog.

Melbourne Victory have organised friendlies against three Victorian Premier League teams. Richmond was the first match, the week after it was against Oakleigh (Wednesday night) and this Wednesday it will be South Melbourne.

I wasn't able to attend Richmond, but I went to the Oakleigh match. Although the game finished 2-3 for a Melbourne Victory win, the result doesn't particularly matter. Victory are looking very cohesive already, and with more matches we can begin to play some fluid football.

It was good to see 4000 people turn up on a very cold evening (my fingernails turned purple!), but I'm hoping to see many more next week at Bob Jane. Perhaps the closest to a Derby as we'll get for a little while yet? I'll endeavour to take more photos.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

It's been a while...

...since I updated the swoon list.

Over at Football in the Capital, Carl Valeri has been making a few appearances. I like him a lot as a player. Very calm and cool on the ball, which is always great to watch, and awesome to see in such a young player! He seems to have a stabilising effect on the national team, and a great passing ability. Shame that there doesn't seem to be room for both him and Grella to grace the field at the same time...

Anyway, go visit the appropriate posts, and check out the cute video!

Changing the defence line

As promised, I trialled a new sweeper last Sunday. It was fairly obvious that I had a lot more faith in her ability than she did, especially once she realized that I was serious. Although I had told her on the Tuesday at training what I was going to do, it didn’t sink in until I wrote her name on my team line-up picture in the middle of defence.

While we lost 4-0, I wasn’t all that fussed with #11’s performance. I think she needs to be more assertive. She also needs to gain awareness of where our players are (particularly the flanks of the defence) while knowing where the ball is. Too often the flanks would be left behind when #11 pushed up the field. Her positioning also needed some work…

I have been playing with a five man* defense – generally positioned as follows:

A and B are more or less attacking defenders, they are the last line in the midfield and the first line of defence. If there’s an attacking midfielder in the opposing team, either A or B will be shadowing for most of the match, leaving a four man defence. It depends on what the other team does. With the back line (C, D & E) more or less the same each week. A left-back, a right-back, and the centre-back who takes on the sweeper role when required. I try to get the centre-back to sit one or two steps behind the two flanking defenders:

The extra couple of steps are so that the ‘sweeper’ can come into the game and have a bit of a head start on any breakaway player that has come from the middle of the park, or for any random long ball where the opposition player who chases that ball comes from the middle of the park.

I limit the space to only a couple of steps so that the central defender can quickly get into line with the other two defenders should the opposition forwards be applying pressure onto the defence line and a long ball looks like it may be played for one of the forwards to run onto. A sort-of offside trap.

So, when there’s no pressure from the opposition:

And when there is:

So, back to my new centre-back… she’s been playing for three or four years now. This may be the first season she’s played in defence, where I put her in to cover right-back when I lost a player through injury (precautionary) during a friendly. She lived there for a few weeks, and now in ‘sweeper’. I have more or less thrown her into the deep end.

My original centre-back (#6) was available again on Sunday. While #6 has the experience of the position, and doesn’t hesitate with her calls, #11 feels completely out of her depth. However, I will persevere with #11 because she connects better with the ball. She simply has superior timing with the ball, and timing is a difficult ability to gain when you don’t have it. Whereas reading and learning the game can be taught.

I initially planned to play #6 as one of the flanking defenders, and to lead and look after the defence from there. But I changed my mind the night before. I am now playing with a four-man defence: the two flanks with both #6 and #11 in the middle. #6 has instructions to look after the defence, and lead it – ensuring players stay in line when required and that #11 doesn’t sit too far back when the time is appropriate. #11 is to always stay free.

By playing alongside #6, #11 can begin to learn how to manage the defence. It’s difficult at training, the “attackers” are simply not competitive enough to gain anything from them. So it’s pretty much on-the-job-training, and I can’t yell out from the sidelines all the time. Hopefully I can revert to my three person defence with 2 attacking defenders before the end of the season. :)

*I also use “man on” and “man up”, build a bridge and get over it.