No doubt if you haven’t yet heard the name Karamoko Dembele, the 13 year-old Celtic wonder kid who has already been part of the Scottish under-20 set up, you soon will. The young midfielder is being touted as one of the most exciting talents in the game and interested, I recently watched some of the clips of Dembele on You Tube.
Whilst there is no doubt the youngster is a potential star in the making, when watching the clips I found myself wondering what coaches are teaching defenders these days. In the clip above I was amazed how often the opposition defenders jumped into the tackle and even left their feet to dive in front of the player.
Dembele has amazing close control for a player of his age, allayed with a terrific burst of speed, a combination which is any defender’s worst nightmare. In order to negate these traits a defender needs to put the emphasise on the attacking player to beat them. Stand up to attacker and make it plain to them you are not going to jump into the tackle, don’t try and win the ball as soon as possible but wait for them to lose control, then and only then make your move. If instead you jump in or, even worse, dive in to a tackle you are playing to the attacker’s strength because this movement is exactly what they are waiting for and whilst you pick yourself up they will be half way down the pitch threatening your goal.
And if they don’t make a mistake, don’t worry, be patient. Jockey the attacker, slow down the attack and allow the rest of your team to get behind you. Players like Dembele are unique but as he grows up he will discover he cannot win every game by himself, Messi is the best player in the world and watching him you will be dazzled by his technical ability but he is most effective when he harnesses that ability within a team.
Conversely the same is true of the best defenders, they do not try and stem the flow of an attacking onslaught but collectively work together to turn back the tides. In the above clip every time a defender jumped in he allowed Dembele past him and the quicker he dived in the less chance his teammates had to organise themselves and reduce the attacker’s options.
So next time you are faced with the league’s star winger remember stand up, force them to beat you and don’t make it easy for them otherwise they’ll be racing down the wing as your frustrated manager is shouting at you to get up.
Recently Leigh Griffiths, Celtic’s diminutive forward, changed his twitter name to #shorty because Gordon Strachan, Scotland’s manager, has stated he requires tall players at set pieces thus suggesting Griffiths is too small to warrant a place in his national team. Whilst sending a worrying message out to all the talent scouts scouring the globe for the next Messi or Ronaldo, it also highlights a worrying trend in how managers view and manage set pieces.
Griffiths’ place in the team, according to Strachan, is in jeopardy because he wants his centre-forwards to come back when his team are defending corners. I have no problems with the big men coming back to add their height to the defensive effort but this argument should not mean small players, such as Griffiths, should be excluded from the team.
Sadly, however, it has become a worrying trend, especially down at the Bet365, for teams to defend set pieces with every player in or around the penalty box. From a defensive point of view this may seem like a good idea, more players are able to mark more players and occupy more space, but I disagree and instead believe this philosophy is counter-productive. How many times this season have Stoke cleared their lines only for the ball to come back a few seconds later because there is nobody further up the field to chase down and hold up clearances? Leigh Griffiths may be too small to be anything more than a hindrance at set pieces but he his quick enough and clever enough to be able to chase down clearances and hold the ball up to allow his defence to clear their lines.
Stoke often have Wilfried, or whoever is playing up front, tracking back for corners and I have no problems with this but we need to keep a player on the halfway line to occupy the defenders and to be a target when we clear our lines, otherwise Shawcross and the rest of his defence might just as well pass the ball back to the opposition and invite them to try again!
During the course of the first eight match days of this season’s Premier League there has been an increase in the number of penalties awarded, there have been almost twice as many spot kicks awarded than in the first eight matches last season and fifty percent more than the season before that. However, the most startling thing about the penalties awarded this season is that of the twenty-eight awarded, eight have been missed! With the efforts of Aguero and De Bruyne at the weekend being two examples of how not to take a penalty.
Any kid who wants to practice taking spot kicks look at the picture below and when you practice on the playground, or after school, try to place your penalties where the two footballs on the ground are. Once you can do this to both sides with confidence, attempt to place the ball where the two footballs at the top of the goal are. Once you are confident you can also hit these targets you will have four different spot kicks in your arsenal for the next time you are called upon by your team.
Most goalkeepers love penalties because they are not expected to save them and as a result the pressure is on them but if you put in the practice you should be confident of winning this battle. You don’t need to chip the ball down the middle or try and whack the laces of the ball, just hit one of these four penalties. There is a chance that the goalkeeper will pull off a wonder save but as long as you hold your nerve and put the ball in one of the positions shown above you will beat the keeper a lot more times they will make the save.
And if you do miss? Don’t get disheartened, put your hand up to take the next one. Christian Benteke almost put the ball in the top right corner against West Ham and if it had hit the back of the net it would have been hailed as a superb penalty but he missed. Yet I am sure that when Palace get another penalty he will be amongst the first to hold his hand up and because of that confidence I would put money on him hitting the back of the net next time.
With all the fuss surrounding the new anti-Stoke laws concerning grappling in the box one worrying aspect of how clubs are marking at corners has been overlooked. In both the Stoke City and Manchester United games this weekend the score lines could have been dramatically different if teams had gone back to basics and set up defensively like we were taught when we were growing up.
For all three of the Manchester United’s goals scored from corners there was no player stationed on the back post. If a player had been stood there I am not saying Manchester United wouldn’t have scored but would Leicester have conceded three? And what makes this failure to do the basics so infuriating is that Leicester were not caught once or twice but three times. Surely Wes Morgan or Robert Huth have the experience to see what was happening and to change things? Then again in the Stoke match, from the West Brom corner Stoke were caught short because there was no player on the back post, if they had of been would be now celebrating three points?
The tactics of today’s modern game are constantly changing but in the rush to get one over on their opposition managers are often forgetting the basics which are known as the basics for a reason, they work. Time and time again I have watched the Boy’s team concede goals from corners because they did not have players on the post and this is because this is what they see every week on the TV. They Boy’s team have since learned their lesson and for every corner there is a man on both posts, now if only Mystic Mark could learn his.