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Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Why we score and concede late goals

It was no surprise that Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson won so many games or saved points very late on. Fans came to call it Fergy time, a reference to the referee adding on time, but in reality it was the mentality he had instilled with his sports psychologist that was the difference.

Tottenham enjoyed similar success last season, continually pulling points out of the bag late on. That can only happen if the players don't give up, if they play for the full 90 minutes plus injury time. There can be no acceptance a game is lost or not won until the whistle has actually gone, if you can believe you can still get something you'll continue to give it your best. 

What a player needs to concentrate on is the game and not the result of the game. His focus should be on his game and the game around him to the exclusion of how long is left. The minute a player starts thinking about the end of the game his effectiveness has diminished as a part of him mentally can't wait for the game to end, they switch off. If a team is merely playing to secure a result instead of change one they switch off, even if they are the winning side. They stop trying to win the game and concede a goal.

Late goals are a combination of both factors, one team not mentally switching off and one team mentally switching off from mentally winning to a defensive mindset. We know a positive environment is a winning environment and a negative environment a losing environment. Injury time is especially dangerous as players have been reminded the end is near, they have to manage that mentally. They mustn't stop doing what has got them into a winning position.

We have seen it over the years at Tottenham. We have been in winning positions and suddenly we start dropping deeper and deeper so we end up defending just outside our box. The frequent result is that we have conceded a goal. That isn't down to being unlucky or the opposition being lucky, it is don to the mental state of the players, they stop the positive trying to win mindset and sink into a negative defensive mindset.

Of course, there are times when you have to defend, but when you have the ball, if your mindset is right, you'll play how you have for the rest of the game. All too frequently the players who were getting forward and making themselves available for passes are no longer available they have stayed in defence. The result is the opposition get the ball back quicker and have another chance to try to score. Nobody can score if they don't have the ball.

You maintain your focus by concentrating on what it is you are supposed to be doing, what your role is within the game. You can only control your own performance, each individual has to maintain that focus and perform their role to the best of their ability. If he is thinking about his role and how he should best be performing his role then he isn't thinking about the result or other factors, thus he maintains his focus.

Dropping back changes your role which affects the team performance, when others do the same to compensate you have totally changed how the side is performing, indeed one player can change the teams play and wreck all the good work if his mentality isn't right in the last 10 minutes. What you have done to get you in a winning position has been thrown out of the window.

This is all connected with being clinical. Regular readers will know I insist we must be clinical at the end of games when we are 2-0 up and will frequently point this out when we have won. There have been games this season when clinical finishing has let us down, hardly surprising if we are not conditioned to be clinical. In the Adebayor era we had a mindset of we have done enough, he would drop into midfield and pass the ball around. We have done enough is not a winning mentality, we can always do more is.

You should be as active in the last 10 minutes as you should be in the first 10. There is something missing when you see a team start slowly, something we have been guilty of at the start of both halves of some games. It shows players are not totally switched on, it's the same with substitutes and why their mental preparation before they join the game is so important.

It's these little aspects of the game that make a difference, Townsend very rarely makes a difference as a substitute, perhaps once a season. Liverpool had a red headed fella whose name has escaped me who always seemed to score when he came on, super sub he was dubbed and the tag stuck. That was no accident, he was mentally totally prepared and didn't have to feel his way into the game. Some players come on and play as if they are trying not to make a mistake with the result that they are ineffective, their focus is in the wrong place. Channel that negative frame of mind into a positive one and they would benefit themselves and the team to a greater extent.

In some games momentum does switch against you but there should be a pre-conceived plan of how to deal with this, a Plan B. Mauricio Pochettino is teaching players where to be on the field in given situations, both with and without the ball. If players have a tactic they can focus on, a role they can focus on then they can draw confidence from that, they can turn the negativity of defending into a positive. again they have to totally focus on their role, switch off in this danger zone and a chance conceded is likely.

Mentally it is more wearing to defend than attack, that leads to tiredness which leads to a lapse in concentration and a mistake. The sooner you can relieve the defensive stress the better, the sooner you can shift the momentum of the game again the more likely you are to get the result you want. If you are a passing team you have to retain that principle, you have to keep passing, that is what you are best at, that is what every player knows. You turn the momentum back in your favour by continuing to do what you as a team do best.

Don't chase the wins, let the wins come to you, don't focus on the result, focus on each minute playing to the best of your ability. The result will come to you.


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Spurs avoiding the big fish in little ponds syndrome
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Spurs improved defending not down to defenders


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1 comment:

  1. David Fair Clough. Keep up the posts. One of the best spurs sites around.

    ReplyDelete

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