Creating A Playing Philosophy - Lessons from the 2010 FIFA World Cup

The beliefs that constitute a team's, club's or program's agreed approach to playing the game will be defined by the organization's playing philosophy. As you watched the greatest show on earth, the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa, a team's playing philosophy could easily be highlighted by the manner in which they employed their strategies and tactics during a game.

For instance:

The U.S. National Team -Evidence would show the likes of Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey are not the most rigid of players, and like to roam about the pitch. The fluid philosophy that the United States employ allows for more creative freedom, although it does come with a sense of danger. The U.S National Team also showed they can and like to play direct when it is on, with long balls over the top of their opponent's back line to allow Jozy Altidore to use his pace to frighten opposition defenders. This begins to paint a picture of a style of play.

From my experience, the following describes perfectly how the game should be played: “Soccer should be played with an efficient, economical, measured, possession-based approach, where passing quality combined with intelligent and timely support and movement lead to progress and penetration through the thirds of the field to provide goal-scoring opportunities, IF counter attacking possibilities are denied.” (The FA)

A well-defined playing philosophy gives meaning and direction to the technical and tactical program, with the purpose of developing young players who will be capable of meeting the demands of the game of the future.

When deciding on your philosophy, you must encompass the major attacking and defending strategic, tactical and technical factors, as well as the general characteristics and the spirit of the game. In this edition, we will focus on Attacking Play.

Examples of attacking game characteristics

  • Intelligent soccer based on ball retention, a flexible playing system and individual-player technical, tactical capabilities and understanding.
  • An assured and varied technical foundation in all players.
  • Tactically effective and controlled use of possession, as opposed to a programmed, "position-governed" playing mentality.
  • Clear purpose in team play, centered on an attacking-to-score approach.
  • Sensible adherence to the principles of play in all phases of the game.
  • Calculated and appropriate changes of tempo. Incorporating a timely mix of playing styles.
  • A blend of creative unpredictability, whilst acknowledging safety and risk elements.
  • Fair play in a competitive and honest spirit.

Example attacking strategy

As a first priority, counter-attack with speed (depending on the needs of the game), control and directness into the attacking third of the field. Alternatively, build attacks carefully through accurate and controlled ball retention and incisive use of possession (depending on the needs of the game). Support-player movement and interchanges of position. As appropriate, progress the play early, quickly and efficiently through all areas of the field in order to enter the attacking third and reach goal-scoring positions.

Example attacking tactics

All players should be able to recognize, understand and employ the necessary skills to:

  • Counter-attack quickly from all regain situations, to enter the attacking third and produce strikes on goal, whilst ensuring defensive security.
  • If counter-attack is not possible, create scoring chances through measured, controlled, accurate and incisive passing with intelligent support and creative movement.
  • Develop attacks from possession in the defending third with the goalkeeper and back players initiating attacks.
  • Where possible: players around and ahead of the ball provide pressure-free outlets for the player in possession, across the width and length of the field.
  • Retain possession of the ball in all phases of the game and where necessary, change the play from congested to less-congested approach areas in order to progress play.
  • Employ individual player and combination play, movement and interchanges to create positions in the attacking half of the field.
  • Expose space around opposition defenders (especially forwards).
  • Create opportunities to penetrate in flank positions and provide accurate service to players in the penalty area.
  • Enter the attacking third in both central and flank channels through combined movements or clever player movement and incisive, accurate passing.
  • Vary speed of attacking play to suit team tactical objectives or playing circumstances.

See below for types of coaching practice structures to assist in teaching your playing philosophy:

Technique practice

  • Unopposed practice with the emphasis on the development of a game technique.
  • Challenges to the development of techniques maybe gradually introduced and will be in the form of increased or decreased time, area, target and degree of difficulty of task.
  • The degree of difficulty will depend on the standard of player performance and rate of improvement.
  • Repetitive technical practice should be employed (at any age and stage of development) to hone muscle memory, enhance technical decision-making, develop and refine ball contact precision.
  • There is a need to move from technical (constant) practice towards decision-making (variable and random) practice to develop understanding.

Basic Dribbling & Passing on the Move

Skill practice

  • Opposed practice with the emphasis on developing the bond between technique and decision-making.
  • Practice contains objectives for all players derived from the technical theme.
  • Appropriate areas, numbers of players involved and imposed conditions will vary around the skill theme for development.
  • All players should be set realistic targets and it is expected that all players will perform realistically.

Basic Ball Retention

Small-sided game

  • A directional game-practice involving goalkeepers in teams less than 11-a-side.
  • Can be used by the coach to work technically or tactically and is ideal for developing the principles of play and team understanding.
  • Working areas are adapted to meet the session requirements, along with the needs and number of players involved.
  • Official game rules are applied, although some may (and are often) modified.
  • The coach will usually work with one team and on one theme.

Recommend 9v9 on 80x55yds (system and area to suit needs of practice)