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Why Do We Struggle To Press Teams Properly?

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.


Seems to have struck a familiar nerve on the forum Click Here.

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Date:Tuesday April 17 2012
Time: 9:00AM


Interesting points. Good article looking back to Sundays game: - says much the same thing.
17/04/2012 09:17:00
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
17/04/2012 09:18:00
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
17/04/2012 09:50:00
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!
17/04/2012 10:27:00
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.
17/04/2012 10:33:00
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
17/04/2012 10:47:00
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???????
17/04/2012 11:20:00
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?
17/04/2012 11:25:00
If I'm talking s h i t e I'll get my coat... ;)
17/04/2012 11:25:00
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?
17/04/2012 13:24:00
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