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Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Scouting for intelligent footballers

Players have to be intelligent, not necesarily academically, but in a football sense, they have to have a football brain. Sir Alex Ferguson used to look for intelligent footballers who could adapt to different systems, if they couldn't he got rid of them.  When you hear people saying he doesn't suit the system that player either isn't intelligent enough or isn't motivated.

Reading a game is a standard requirement, some do it much better than others. More than that though a player has to understand how he foits into the whole puzzle. What Mauricio Pochettino does is get players to understand different roles. If you understand the role of a colleague then it helps you anticiapte what his optioms are and you can then decide what to do to best help him and that may involve not even touching the ball. It is a skill that is taught abroad from an early age. 

Players in Spain and Portugal have to play matches in different positions, they work their way through a team so a centre-back will play for a period as a centre-forward. he will thus have an insight into how and what a forward is thinking when he reverts back to defence. He'll play in midfield. on the wing, at full-back, it is how Eric Dier grew up learning his football, thuis it didn't take him long to adapt to a new role as it isn't alien to him, he played their for Sporting.

A player has to determine how to react to different moments in a game both when his team are in and out of possession. He has to think in relation to the ball, space, opponents, teammates, in a picture continually changing picture.  You hear the phrase game management, well this process is each individual managing their own game and no player canget it right all of the time, mistakes will always be a part of football. That is a learning experience that come with playing, youth football is different from Premier League football, which is different from European football, which is different from international football. A young player has to mentally cope with that progression which is easier for some than others. 

As they develop they should be getting more of these decisions right, if they show they can they are ready to move to the next level, regardless of age oe indeed experience. Dele Alli is a prime example of this at the moment the different paces of the game as he has stepped up levels doesn't seem to have phased him at all. That is no accident that is the produce of an intelligent football brain and some excellent coaching as he has developed.

A player with outstanding ability without game intelligence will struggle when asked to play at a higher level. The scouting process to identify theose who have both elements is, as you can imagine, of the utmost importance. They therefore have to be watched over a period of time and not just on a day when they have a good day. 

A coach has to give them guidence and put them in challenge situations to make those good decisions more often. This can be develop through regular small sided games and realistic game scenarios.  Mauricio Pochettino used the youth team at Southampton to replicate real game scenarios and teach players how to react in differnt situations. The more a young player can experiences these situations, the greater the liklihood of them makeing a good decision when they encounter the scenario during a game.  

Players are only human and some will grasp things quicker, some will struggle with it. Skill alone is not enough, how you use skill is everything.


Further Tottenham Reading
Spurs building a cathedral of football
Why we score and concede late goals
Spurs scout Pickford again
Spurs must avoid the big fish in little ponds syndrome
Football is a different game to the one fans play


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