The soccer is ugly and it hurts to watch. Please help!

Ask Dave

Watching my team play is a different story from one game to the next – we have a very successful and strong GK and defense. Our forward line is also very athletic and successful.

My question is about our midfield… specifically the centre midfield. They are not the athletes the rest of the team are. Against easier opponents we control pass and work the ball down field with possession and they are involved and control the game.

But against better quality teams the game quickly turns to a kick ball type of play… and what is sad is we usually win because the speed of our forwards give us a break while our defence is tough to score on.

The success has justified this kick ball, even though 90 per cent of the time we are just turning over possession. We have played a 3-5-2 all year to try and solidify the weakness in our middle. While our centres are slower than other teams they do have skill to pass and make good decisions.

Our problem has a lot of variables… but the biggest is that our defense and forwards are working over time, the middle of the field cannot keep up with the play and are constantly out of position and tired, and the success means that despite every session I can think of on connecting play and positioning we immediately revert to kicking for a fast break at any sign of a struggle in midfield. Is this just playing to our strengths?

My fear is against a better team as we head in to playoffs… this flaw will have us found out. Any advice/insight or sessions to focus on this would be greatly appreciated. The soccer is ugly and it hurts to watch. Please help.

Jose Mourinho and Willian

Great to hear from you. Its a good story you tell and one which not only your team suffers from. In a 3-5-2 like you say the midfield must work very hard to control the ball and keep possession. I think perhaps your midfielders need some individual targets to meet.

A couple of seasons ago I attended a course with Jose Mourinho. He told me that Willian is a player who needs motivating every game – so along with all the other things Jose does he sets targets for Willian.

So in a game recently his target was three assists and two direct shots on goal. In this way Willian has to think about his individual targets which helps the team. He has to do this so is motivated and has an idea in his mind what he has to achieve rather than just turn up and play.

So my targets for my players would be something like: Jack: pass forwards three times in the first half and in the second try three different passes. Or Luke: receive the ball from John three times in the first half (he will have to move into positions where john can pass to him and communicate that he wants the ball). Josh: Rotate with either attacking midfielder whenever the ball moves into the final third in the first half… again he must communicate and look for opportunities to do this.

Write it all down and show the players and tick the boxes when they do it. it helps them to motivate themselves because they have individual targets to meet and feel a big part of the team when they do.

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