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Why Do We Struggle To Press Teams Properly?

Whilst there have been many things that have bugged me about Villa over the years, the one thing that has consistently irritated me the most, has been our inability to press the ball correctly.

There's a lot to be covered on this topic and you could easily write a book on it but I dont want to go in to that much detail.

I merely want to point out some of the fundamental errors we make when we do, on the rare occasion, try to do it.

Ultimately, the aim of pressing the ball is to restrict the time and space the opposition (i.e the collective team not just one or two of their players) have on the ball, and to force them in to playing a long aimless pass that prevents them from building a passing move.

Firstly, and perhaps most simply, far too often we have one of our strikers with nobody else in support trying to press a defender who has numerous options available to him.

Exhibit a) Gabby Agbonlahor. If you play with a lone striker, as we do, you pretty much have to be resigned to the fact that the oppositions centre backs are going to have time and space on the ball. The striker needs to back off, sit in and prevent a clear central path for the defenders to thread balls into the midfield where either a striker has dropped off and found space or a midfielder has lost his man.

For example, Silva for Man City, Suarez for Liverpool and Rooney for United are excellent at dropping in to pockets of space and are often found directly by their centre backs this way.

If you are playing with a lone striker it's the extra man in midfield's job to make sure that if both strikers drop off then they're covering the avenue to the second striker.

The extra man is not just one specific player, but is determined by which side of the pitch the ball is on.

This brings me on to my next point which is that you don't just press the person on the ball, you need to make sure that ALL of his available options are within a distance that if he passes to one of them, you can make up the ground quickly enough to either intercept or have him under immediate pressure.

You don't want to be so far that you need to sprint and then all they need to do is jig to get past you, as this defeats the purpose of the press.

If done properly, eventually they're going do one of three things which is to either pass back to their keeper, who will pump it long - win; force a low percentage pass that you're most likely going to be easily able to intercept - win; or be under enough pressure in a dangerous part of the midfield that they themselves pump the ball long.

Far too often today and in general we've had good pressure on the ball and some of the options, but we've let an advanced midfielder or forward drop in to space and we've gone from having them under pressure to having to turn around and chase someone who is driving forward at our backline.

Personally I prefer the Barcelona method of pressing from the front which is only made possible (in a very effective manner) due to the formation they use which is three up top.

They often win the ball in the opposition half which allows them to mount a lot of dangerous attacks. This also stems from the fact that they have so many players close together when they're in possession that if they lose it they can immediately pressurise the man on the ball and a lot of the time, all of their nearest options, which results in a long ball, or a short pass that's intercepted and leads to 'mini-counter attacks'.

I'm sorry if I've bored people, I'm sure almost everyone already understands these concepts anyway, but I just thought I'd highlight this as it really annoys me and it's a major part of why we're so often ripped open at will by the better teams and sometimes even the average or poor teams.

The worrying thing is though, that either the manager doesnt understand these concepts (that's my guess) and therefore doesn't tell the team to apply them, the players don't understand these concepts, or the players do understand them but can't be bothered or aren't fit enough to apply them.

In any event, it is worrying and frustrating given how much money all of them are paid and how much we pay to see them.

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The Journalist

Writer: qldvillan Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Tuesday April 17 2012

Time: 9:00AM

Your Comments

Interesting points. Good article looking back to Sundays game: http://www.thebusbybabe.com/2012/4/17/2951619/tactical-analysis-manchester-united-4-0-aston-villa-united-simply - says much the same thing.
Gordonsleftboot
I think the problem is that if we press we may get the ball back and that will just highlight our bigger problems! You are spot on though, pressing is about positioning and fitness, even a footballer with no ability should be able to do that. If you have less ability then you should really focus on it as it will help you be a better player!
Chelt Villan
We better start doing something right before it is too late, 4 points from Sat and next tuesday then no problem. Anything less and Mc Leish will have succeeeded in relegating us. Why can we not take a leaf out of the brilliant lattics book? is it that we just are not good enough? COTVABU
irish villa
we have always - apart from the odd match - played that way, whoever the manager, but it would take a better man than what we have to get the team playing like that!
griffgriff
There is no reason for a McMuppet led team to press the ball. If we do win it back we simply launch it to our big centre forwards gabi or Bent, because they are renowned for their arial strength!!!! The other team then has the ball back anyway. There is a reason that McMuppets record signing at Small Heath was Zigic . . . . . the big hoof to a target man is the only way he knows. So lets give him more time and we shall get plenty of that in front of the empty seats at Villa Park next season. A manager who doesn't know how to utilise one of the best goal scorers in the country is a failure. A manager who managesd his team to concede 21 set piece goals whilst not scoring any is a failure. Sack him immediately. McMuppet out.
voiceoftheholte
Good article. Personally, I don't think we're good enough. We are too weak in midfield and with Gabby throwing his arms about and sulking what do you expect.
Pride of Lions
Not only do we not press the ball, but we seem to fail to pass to team mates, defend corners, attack corners, tackle, shoot etc etc. Basically anything thats to do with that round thing that people kick about we seem to be *****e at. There seems to be a real lack of enjoyment from the players which is depressing because who wouldnt wanna play football for a living???????
GibboVilla
Sorry if I didn't read the article correctly and its already covered but I think the main issue is that the other players OFF the ball don't make themselves available for the pass. This means the player WITH the ball has to pull off a weak back/side pass or go with a hoof/defense attempt splitting pass that won't come off (bannan). If you look at the players, they don't want the ball. As soon as they have passed they have moved away into a position which means they can't get the ball again. Not sure if its tactics given to them or they just don't know what to do with the ball when they get it but thats how I read it anyway. Lots of short quick passes between players that want the ball before transferring it to a quick player through the channels. I would say if we even attempted to get near their goal at man u we wouldn't feel so frustrated about the quality of the football. I just didn't see us put the opposition under any pressure. It seemed to be pass, pass, lose ball because noone was available in a decent position to take it. Surely this is the basics? Perhaps we were like this the past couple of years but we had Ash/Milner/Clowning to do something a bit more special without the need to pass?
maigrait
If I'm talking s h i t e I'll get my coat... ;)
maigrait
On Sunday we were far too narrow. Clarke and Gardener had quite a bit of the ball and had very few options, when they did have options the made the wrong choice. When you play as narrow as we did, you tend to find the forward/forwards drift into wide areas after a while. This allows the centre backs of the opposition more time. Which then allows them to pull/ draw our midfield into the ball to create space in the void left between the defence and mid-field. If our mid-field sit off, they will then try to exploit the space presented before them. This then causes a wide player ( Bannan on Sunday) to come running in from his position, causing space to appear in the void he has left! This pattern was evident throughout the whole game and more than likely the game plan of our opposition. My real problems with all this are.....Where is our game plan? Where is our cohesion?
jarsc
We have no game plan...
maigrait
AMc clearly does know how to do it as he masterminded the Bin dippers beating Arsenal at Wembley playing exactly that sort of system, pressing them into mistakes and then counter-attacking them to good effect. I also know for a fact, that the players have been told on more than one occasion this season to press teams high up the pitch, gets in their boots and make it difficult to play etc. What I also know as fact is that a player has confirmed that despite the managers instructions in those games, the players have not carried out his instructions as much as they would have liked and instead sat back having no confidence to press in fear of leaving themselves open at the other enc. Lee Dixon summed it up pretty nicely on MOTD2 when he said you either drop off as a whole team or you press as a whole team. If just one player does his job and presses and the ball is moved to a man not being pressed then the whole system falls down straight away and yoiur team shape is gone and your too deep if and when you do win the ball back. Wigan did it to a tee last night as well so when they won the ball back they were able to spring into an attacking shape to get forward. When we win the ball back we are so deep that all we have is one big ball to the striker who even if he wins it the rest of the team are still in our own half which results in us losing the ball straight away and being in a poor position for the opposition to then come at us in our own half without any pressure on the ball. Is it because we have young players who cannot grasp it just yet as it takes time to put into practice or is it the manager? I suspect a bit of both.
whvilla
Only really used young players recently though. If a manager can't manage the...? I do know for a fact a former blues player says they were confused by mixed messages from mcleish and didn't know what they were meant to be doing by the end of it all. I thought we might be quite ugly this season, quite defensive but with our players - players he told me and others personally in the summer he was excited to work with as they were clearly a far more skilful and well equipped squad - I thought ugly or not, we would be effective. If he had decided 'sod it, I'm going for it' again, as he said in the summer he would, the lawro is right, we could be ten points better off and doing ok. Only he can decide and set the tone. I don't believe the young players wouldn't want to attack. I have heard him shout to players through the season to get up mind you, but also calling them over DURING PLAY to instruct/ confuse. You can see many are very peed off with that.
The fear
I've been watching Villa for 30 years & can't remember a period outside of the early to mid 90s where we bossed games under BFR & He Who Walks on Water. Even then, when we played United or Liverpool & later the Arse & Chelski it always seemed they had an extra man on the pitch. I've always wondered why we never press or dominate teams & are prepared to sit back when the other teams I just mentioned always seem to.
Rawlie
The Problem is the personnel we have. I'd love for us to press like Bielsa does so well with A.Bilbao. But to press like them or even Barcelona we haven't the pace at the back to keep a high line. We don't have a player like Busquets (albeit in a 3-4-3, where he's one of the 4 but deployed like a auxiliary CB) at Barca or Javi Martinez at A.Bilbao whom by trade are CM's or DM's who'll press the ball hard from a CB position but also get all the teams attacks on their way as they have the poise and guile to start the wheels turning. Busquets does this extremely well as at CB he has more time on the ball. Barca started to become unstuck when teams pressed him hard and cut off his time and space. The biggest flaw in Villa's pressing is like you just said. If Gabby presses the defence then the midfield also need to step up otherwise it just creates huge amounts of space between the forward line and midfield. So they have to either all press or like you said no one presses. I know its pragmatic but if they have the ball at the back then they can't hurt us let them try and force a opening. Either they go long or try play a pass that they're only 70-30 likely to come out with. I personally would take a 70-30 ball in the oppositions half and be organised than charging the ball willy nilly for the opposition to simply pass around us. Considering Eck is a defender, the way we communicate and defend as a team is shocking... Not that our attacking/ possessional play is any better.
PRICEMUNDO
 

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