Master Class Session 27-10-2014

Despite the fact that this session was intended as a practical one, owing to it being half-term for the Leyton Orient boys they were stood down by the club without notice to ourselves.
Nonetheless the meeting went ahead in the Hall where Martin Ling delivered an excellent session by indicating on the white board  what he would have coached out on the pitch.
It was pleasing to see the Hall full of enthusiastic coaches and Martin answered questions as he went along. A full report of the session is set out below with thanks to Steve Haslam for writing it up.

Strikers Holding up the Ball and When They should Hold Up the Ball or Release to a Midfield Player: Martin Ling

Martin Ling introduced the session by saying that the topic is particularly important at the present time because most teams are playing with one striker; even teams playing 4-4-2 often change to 4-5-1 because one of the strikers  drops back into midfield in response to the opponents achieving an overload in the middle of the field.
Martin’s first practice was a simple set-up  performed in threes. The server throws the ball to his partner at the opposite end of the grid who controls and either passes back to the server or turns depending on what the third player, who is the marker, does. So the receiver must work hard at shielding and protecting the ball from his opponent, getting on the half turn to receive the ball with the outside of his front foot and using the full width of his body to shield it from the opponent. In addition, his arm on the side from which he is challenged, works as an antenna, ‘feeling’ the opponent and helping to preserve space around him.
He does not foul the opponent by pushing, punching or grabbing the defender, but merely ‘feels’ the presence of the opponent. Martin Ling commented that during his playing days he liked to play under floodlights so that there were shadows on the pitch and in this type of situation he was aided by shadows on the ground in being aware of the presence and distance of the marker from whom he was shielding the ball. A similar situation is also obtained on a sunny day which also produces shadows on the pitch.

Martin then progressed the session into a phase of play. He worked in an area down the middle of the pitch which was coned off from the width of the area down to a point about half way inside the half. One striker was positioned on the edge of the penalty area against two central defeders and his two midfield players were a little furhter down the pitch against one opposing midfield player.
The two midfield players passed the ball to each , keeping it away from the one opponent, and as soon as they observed that the striker was available they played the ball into his feet and went to join him and made it 3 v 2 against the two central defenders. So now we had a similar scenario as the initial practice but with more decision making. If the striker was able to free himself from the defender and create just enough space to shoot or break through a gap in the area, then he did so. Alternatively, he could combine with one or both of his midfielders to play either himself or one of them in.

Martin stressed the vital importance of getting on a diagonal line to receive from a midfield player and getting him to work on the inside shoulder of the defender. He showed how workng on a diagonal pass provided far more oppportunities for creating a penetrative situation, rather than looking for a straight pass which was loaded in favour of the defenders. It gave the defenders much greater problems having to deal with the striker receiving a diagonal ball and his movement of checking one way and then coming back into a vital yard of space which had been created, was much more successfully achieved when the the striker and midfield colleague were on diagonal, rather than straight, lines.

Martin then progressed into a small sided game. The pitch was 60 yards long by 40 yards wide. It was split into 3 zones by putting in two offside lines. These offside lines wre 15 yards from the bylines. In the middles zone there was a 4 v 4 midfield situation. In the end zones it was 2 defenders versus 1 attacker and a keeper at each end. So it was 8 v 8 including the keepers. The progression from the phase of play was that a keep ball situation was introduced in the midfield zone but when the opening had been created the ball was played into the striker and 2 midfield players went to join and created the same scenario as was present in the phase. These 2 midfielders could enter the respective end zones to create the same 3 v 2 situations as previously, but no defending midfield players were allowed in those zones.

Martin did warn the attendee coaches that in grass roots football it could well be neccessary to have a 4 v 2 situation in the midfield area if progress is not being made but every coach must tailor his coaching practices to achieve success and understanding with the level of the players he is working with.

Martin summed up by listing 5 key factors for the topic:-
(1) Striker’s decision-making
(2) Striker’s awareness
(3) Passing and support play of mdfielders
(4) Angles and distances of support of midfielders
(5) Timing of midfield runs.
This was an excellent session for coaches working at all levels.