Thursday, 04.04.2024

Taking over Real Betis: Week 1

After the heady days of the first season under Quique Setién which culminated in a 6th placed finish, Real Betis endured a more difficult second season finishing in 10th place. Despite a number of high-profile arrivals, most notably Nabil Fekir from Lyon, Betis’ fortunes have not improved under the new coach “Rubi”. From analysing the current team to preparing for the La Liga restart, this series details how MK, DG and JD would approach taking over the Andalusian side in their current form. 

Team-analysis process

Taking over a new team obviously means for the staff that we need to get familiar with the issues the team had beforehand, as well as with the strengths. Also, individual characteristics of the players are something to be analyzed, even though especially in training these should appear clearer when we put them in different situations and can see them find solutions to problems we impose. To get the ground running in training, we want to know what we need to work on first – what are the biggest levers that we can pull? This first part of our series is mostly about my (DG’s) analysis process. The analysis of the team itself will be this video:

What is relevant?

My task in this first phase was to find what is relevant to the coaches: what can I find that helps them get a clear picture of the team. Because we are “taking over” Real Betis, there is already an emotional connection to the team while watching the games. In addition to that, I obviously have my own opinions on how the game can be played, influenced by my experiences and my ideas. These two things are a great set up to be biased while watching the games and possibly overlooking parts, interpreting various aspects differently than I would as a neutral watcher. I tried to remind myself of these possible cognitive traps and wanted to keep my “lens” as wide as possible – not judging, just observing. This, I believe, helped me perceive more information from the beginning, rather than looking already for “mistakes”.

Our eyes “see” everything, but obviously we do not “perceive” everything (except TR of course). We need to filter what we deem as important actions in the game, what is key to scoring a goal or defending it. It helps me to break down what I think is important under any condition. The WFA of Raymond Verheijen gives a good framework by suggesting to analyse actions by

  • Position
  • Moment
  • Direction
  • Speed

Further, in this article by fellow coaches GJ and RM they suggest the following actions represent the possible actions in football:

  • Protecting the ball/winning the ball
  • passing / intercepting passes
  • offering / blocking passing options 
  • reducing opponent’s cover / covering teammate

This should give us a good set-up to be objective about what is happening in the game, freeing us from concepts like “positional play” (or our interpretations of them) or the sheer outcome of the action itself (even though it is relevant, of course). Instead, focusing on perceiving and describing the actions as they appear in relation to the aims of football.

The next step for me was to keep in mind the context of where all of these actions are happening. There is an opponent, and he wants to interfere with the intentions to win as much as possible. Therefore, the actions we make are not inherent constant properties of the players, but they show their (characteristic) intentions to solve the challenges the opponent imposes. Which it also makes sense to not only watch one game, but more – to see different contexts and to check with one’s impressions.

Watching the game

After watching the first half of the game against Valencia and tagging a lot more than I would do in the later stage of the analysis, I took a few minutes to gather my thoughts and asked myself some questions:

“What is the 1 main thing that struck my eye?”
It was the pressing, first and foremost. The lack of clear triggers when to press was evident. Usually it was one of the central players triggering the press, but they did not so in an organized manner (see minute 01:00 in the video)
 As a result, there were also quite a lot of situations where there was no pressure on the ball carrier and Valencia had an easy time building the game up from the back, often looking for passes in behind ‘our’ back line. In addition, the shifting behaviour was slow and resulted in big gaps between players vertically as well as horizontally and influencing overall compactness negatively. So the key words for me were organisation and intensity. I thought that the lack of these two things were the root of the issues in the defensive phase.

“Am I analysing or judging?”

As I am primed to look at the pressing first, and being used to a certain kind of pressing, I wanted to make sure I was not judging through the lens of a specific game model. Football can be played in very different ways. Because I asked myself this I was able to find in the second half, that the organisational part was the biggest issue. It became clearer to me, that defending actions were not in-synch and heavily influenced by one thing: the position of the opponent. In the end, the job to defend the goal was not well executed, which led me to conclude that my first impression of our pressing was correct and that it was the biggest issue.


As I was trying to assess the current state of the team to report back to the coaches, it was my aim to describe the characteristics of the team, not to give possible corrections.

Drawing/Telestration-tools are a great way to highlight certain aspects. It is easy to get carried away with the possibilities though, which is why it is always important to ask oneself: “What exactly do I wanna show in this clip?” and then go from there. I prefer simplicity in this context, in addition with some information in text. If I prepare an analysis to be presented, I usually don’t add text, as the presenter will talk anyway. I included text in this analysis video, because I sent it to the coaches to watch on their own, so I had to make sure my message came across clearly. Usually I try to highlight connections in between or individual players, as well as spaces. These are the two main things in my opinion. Especially when the video analysis is shown to players, its aim is to improve the decision making of the players in the game. It is my belief that highlighting spaces and connections are of clear help for the execution of actions. If particular spaces are highlighted, they are offering solutions. By keeping the drawings simple they are quite possibly easier to digest and to remember. Same goes for links between players: in the drawing it usually becomes quite clear: are these players far away or narrow? Is there a triangle highlighted (for example: full back-winger-eight) it is clear to the player: this is important – we want to create triangles to support combinations.

Technical aspects

In this section I want to shortly elaborate the logistical part of the analysis. I chose to watch the two most recent games – against Valencia and against Real Madrid – to get a sense of how this team works. Moritz and Judah each also watched a different game, so we could spread the workload better. To tag the clips (marking specific sequences while watching the game, so that one can watch them later separately) I used the sports-analysis software “Sportscode”. Down below is my tagging window (german): I differentiate between defensiv phases (light blue), transitional aspects (red), attacking (purple) and set pieces (yellow).

I watched the games, tagged interesting clips and reviewed them later. Then I selected clips I wanted to visualise using the telestration-software “CoachPaint”. The slides I made in Powerpoint and in the end I put everything together to create a movie in “iMovie”.

Training Process

After analyzing Real Betis extensively, we came to the conclusion that our fictional 3-week post-corona training process before facing Sevilla in the derby would be broken into 3 sections. In week 1, which will be described below, we will focus on the possession phase of the game. After a massively long lay-off (+-10 weeks through Corona) from full team-training, we feel that this would be most appropriate to restart the players. Also, if we can improve the possession side of things before placing greater focus on the defensive side of things, we might overload the players more as they have to defend against a more coherent build up.

Before going into detail, there are however 2 considerations that are important. Firstly, we train through game forms with opposition pressure. This means that we always train everything. Whilst possession might for now be at the center of our constraints and coaching points, defensive principles will be trained along with it as a sub-focus. Secondly, it is important to not isolate phases of the game from one another, and this needs to be reflected in a training session.

Towards the end of the week, we made a point to include constraints that increasingly highlight important defensive principles. In our fictional example, we are taking over a team that hasn’t trained a team-session in a long time. This is obviously an important constraint especially when it comes to periodizing and choosing the training content. If we overload players too greatly straight after the return to full training, we will greatly increase the risk of injuries.

For example, it wouldn’t make much sense to include lengthy 11v11 practices into the first session as these might require too much from players who have not yet ‘re-started their engines’. Here it is crucial that we would want practices to be executed with a very high intensity by the players. In order for us to allow them to do so, less is more.

Another consideration needs to be that players will not be used to the game forms we will introduce them to. That means whilst they learn a new set of principles, they are also exposed to different and perhaps unusual practices. This will put a different type of loading on them, something to consider when planning sessions.

At the same time JD and myself face an obvious language barrier, therefore we will try to constrain games in such a way that they supplement our principles and we have a high amount of implicit learning. Therefore, we also decided to have a gradual approach in week 1 building towards an 11v11 practice on Friday with short and sharp sessions.

Week Overview and considerations

Above is an overview of our first week. Through our analysis we decided to focus on 4 aspects within the possession phase. Those are:

1: Dribbling into open space for center-backs

2: Positioning behind and between opponents’ lines

3: Runs into space behind opponents last defensive line

4: Individual dis-marking

On Monday we would have a team-talk introducing ourselves to our new players before training. On Tuesday a small principle video detailing our idea in possession would precede training. Generally, we would train in the morning, around 10 am. Wednesday would be a recovery session with Thursday building towards Friday’s 11v11 centered session. On Saturday players would do some Individual physical work, before an off-day on Sunday leading into week 2.

With no double sessions and the general session length being relatively short, it is massively important to create a high intensity in the training sessions themselves, and use the short duration of training to a maximum. This can be partially achieved through scoring systems and making the practices competitive. When creating point systems for various practices, this has the side effect that it can easily be used as a tool for implicit learning. Obviously, when a new coaching team comes in, players will want to show themselves. Nevertheless, it is crucial to create a certain environment around the session that is coherent with the playing principles/game model that will be implemented.

Practices will have to be planned in great detail in order to guarantee a smooth transition within the session and an exact adherence to work-rest ratios within the session. Coaching intensity through explicit coaching will be occasionally necessary in the beginning. However, it could be important for the coaching staff to not overdo this either. You don’t want your voices to become background noise for the players and say too much which then causes the players to potentially miss important information.

A crucial part of our training methodology will be to repeat without repeating and having difference within our sessions. This is achieved through the complexity of the game itself as well as creating game forms that promote similar behavior without dictating a set pattern to players. We want to be as coherent as possible with our process. This means that we promote inclusivity and encourage players to voice their opinion and being part of the process. In practice that is applied by asking more questions rather than giving commands. Attempting to guide players in a certain direction without forcing them to learn A+B = C of by heart so to say.

Outside of the training session itself we will look to have individual talks with all members of the squad as new staff during the week. Not only to introduce ourselves to them but also to learn about the present situation from them as well, in order to benefit from their experience and know how. These meetings won’t necessarily be hours long but rather short and focused, with clear and concise messages. Finally, for lack of knowledge of player availability and a current injury situation we have generally planned sessions with 22 players +-. However, trying to create game forms that allow for adjustments if and when required for a lower number of players. With the present health situation, it is obviously less easy to fluidly promote youngsters from the academy or reserves to the first team.

Monday Session 1

As mentioned already we would start the session with a short team talk to the entire group. Julian Nagelsmann once described this as the most important moment when taking over Hoffenheim’s Bundesliga side in 2016. First impressions last, and its therefore important to prepare this well and have a clear but concise message that is transported to the players. For this to gain traction, it obviously needs to be strongly reflected in our own actions thereafter as a coaching team.

Below are 5 principles and their importance expanded in detail. Obviously, the team talk won’t necessarily be outlined quite as lengthily but for the purpose of this piece it is important for us to expand on our thinking:

 1: Consequence:  Rules, code of conducts, agreements and the like all carry significant value in creating an environment of excellence. To create this kind of environment, where a high level of daily performance becomes a standard should be very high up the list of a coach’s priorities. The above tools can be used nicely to formalize and structure the process that is necessary to get to this environment of excellence that is almost self-regulating. However, the key, although it might sound very obvious, is how these rules are followed on a daily basis…

For example, do you have rules for late-coming? Great! But do they also apply to your key player the day before a massive game? Do the rules also apply to yourself? Are you able to carry out the punishment or caution when rules are transgressed consistently? Only if these questions can emphatically be answered with a yes will the actual rules carry great value.

During the process of creating these, it is absolutely key to have the players buy-in. What that means is that they must be consulted in drawing up an agreement and should, to some degree, also be put in charge of driving it internally. At the same time, I don’t think it’s necessary to have a constitution-like document to guide the daily training process. If rules can be broken down to as few as possible and as many as absolutely necessary, then that’s certainly advisable!

The best tool that a coach has when trying to convey a message to his players is his own example! Does he preach punctuality and is late himself? Does he preach professional attire but looks like a clown when arriving himself? Does he preach intensity in the session but is unfocused himself? All of these are examples of undesirable behavior. It is a cliché, but if one can lead by example then sooner or later the players will follow. That starts with having a high standard professionally of oneself and consequence/rules applying to the coach as much as others.

2: Clarity: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough!’’ Something we have all heard before. This can however be a useful heuristic for our coaching. Football is a complex sport. 22 players move around the field in ever changing ways for 90 minutes with very little stoppages. The situations that occur are never 100 percent the same. Therefore, a non-linear approach to teaching football is logical. Within this, a set of principles, like the one below, can however greatly help to ease communication between players as they make decisions based on the same reference. When players communication (interaction) is of a high level, the likelihood of success is increased. Within this, it is however crucial to remember that perfection is unattainable in the sport of football that will always include a high number of uncontrollable situations.

When a coach teaches a set of principles to his players, it is crucial to increase the likelihood that they all end up on the same wave-length. Therefore, a clear football-action language is non-negotiable when teaching. This football-action language dramatically decreases the amount of grey areas where there is room for interpretation and speculation for the players. These grey areas are obviously undesirable when we want players to communicate from the same reference.

When a coach consistently speaks in action language with simple words and supplements this with other modes of teaching players will doubtlessly and the chance of team and individual success and improvement increases. Along with that enjoyment should be at a high level.

3: Players understand the WHY:  When teaching football, context is hugely important, and in these modern times autocratic/dictatorial leadership has become clearly overhauled! A leader that rules by fear does not allow those that he leads to express themselves and add their diverse abilities and opinions into the mix. Thereby, especially in a complex environment such as football, the likelihood of untapped potential is massively high.

Players should be encouraged continuously to think for themselves and to think critically about the content of the training and the playing style etc. Their opinions should be constantly engaged and integrated into the team-building process. Players should have the freedom to express disagreement. When that is the case the chance of a deeper engagement with the teachings at hand is given. From there the coach can much easier explain why something is done and not only how. Adding meaning to something dramatically increases the chance of success as well as the depth of personal interpretation.

It is not desirable to have players robotically/mechanically carry out a set of principles but to rather apply these flexibly as tools to the problem at hand. In doing so, principles will stand up successfully to a greater variety of situations. It is also important to remember that no principle in football is universally applicable, in other words no principle is correct in every possible situation.

Science would suggest that a leader that leads with ‘prestige’ rather than fear will consistently get better output from those that he is leading. Therefore, a healthy level of critical thinking must be encouraged. This might cause coaches to fear that they will lose respect from those that he is leading. However, quite the contrary is in fact true. When one encourages a healthy level of challenging one shows that one is prepared and assured of the content of one’s teaching and can thereby gain a higher level of respect.

When one, as a coach, wants to encourage critically-thinking players, this needs to doubtlessly be reflected in the daily training process. Team-talks should actively seek the players opinions and experiences on certain matters. Coaching points should ask guided questions rather than command. Of course, there are situations where the coach needs to give explicit instructions or possibly lay down the law, for lack of a better term. This should however be more the exception rather than the norm. Also, players should experience things first before they are prescribed a certain recipe for success.

4: Fairness: Fairness means that you don’t treat anyone with preference over another. That however doesn’t mean that you treat everyone the same. Human beings are fundamentally different from one another, we are each products of our unique environments which are never exactly the same. Therefore, whipping out a mold and pressing everyone into it is not the way to go. Instead we try to treat everyone slightly differently. Some need a softer tone of approach; others respond better to a harsher one. Some need 1 on 1 explanations others need visual input. It is a big part of the art of coaching to find the best way for each player. Some of that will come with extensive experience of handling players, however in-depth study and intimate knowledge of your players context comes in handy here. Individual conversations where the coach actively tries to relate to his players context can help with that.

So, everyone gets treated differently, but it’s the same in that we should try to give attention to each and trying to find an optimal (or close to optimal way) of building a relationship. Besides that, a big part of the topic is to correctly respond to situations as a coach As obvious as it sounds but good actions warrant praise from the coach, whilst negative actions warrant criticism. How that critique or praise is delivered varies between individuals again, and we are not PlayStation coaches that comment each action either but still the fundamental idea remains.

Here it is particularly important to highlight the importance of praise coaching-actions. If the coach only verbalizes or shows criticism in a session, players run the risk of creating a very negative subconscious association with coaching interventions as a whole. Therefore, when one sees positive actions by players, particularly when they were good decisions that didn’t quite come of on the level of execution, these actions need to be reaffirmed with praise and positive coaching so to say.

This can serve nicely in players getting a real sense of fairness from the coach. A good way to do it might be to consciously look to praise the next positive action from a player in training, particularly after a harsh or heavy criticism, showing players that there is no personal dislike or negative bias towards them.

5: Healthy empathy: At the end of the day we are working with people, people have fears, hopes and dreams. No one is perfect. From my point of view, the worst one can do is to treat players like figures on a chess board or PlayStation figures that one gets to move around. We need to show these people that care. And not by saying that we care x100 but instead by showing it through actions. This is particularly important when sporting-success isn’t necessarily present. Do we still care enough then? Do we take the time to get to know the person and their context? We do not need to hover over our players like Helicopters, but when they need us, we should look to be there above and beyond the norm, especially if that is something, we expect from them on the field.

Most of this could just be characterized under healthy, logical human interaction. Good people make good leaders. And players are usually excellent judges thereof. Mistakes warrant second chances; personalities don’t need to be insulted after unsuccessful actions and games. Independence needs to be encouraged, making good independent choices and believing that our players have the capability to do so.

Let’s look to see the best in each one of them. This includes staff as well. As the coach, one is the leader of a group, including staff, therefore criticism is done internally, members of the group are generally protected and praised towards the outside. Outside criticism is applied sparingly. When success happens, let’s put the players in the foreground without underestimating our own contributions in our own assessment. When success isn’t there, let’s think what we could have personally done better first, then as a next step think about what the players or others should have done differently. And even then, what could I have done better to help them do it differently. This circles back nicely to the beginning. Practice what you preach!

Rondo 5+1v2

After the initial team talk, we would go onto the field to conduct an extensive warm up. Extensive as we require a very gradual build up at the beginning of the session. After that we would slowly introduce the game of football with a Rondo. The obvious advantage of this exercise is that it includes communication, decision making and execution of football actions. However, the space is limited so the number of intensive meters done per player within this exercise is limited.

Besides the footballing elements there is an obvious enjoyment within this game for the players, as well as being an obvious part of Spanish football culture. However, we will look for a significant intensity within this rondo. 15 passes will equate to an extra round for the 2 players that are defending in the middle.

In terms of constraints we will start with unlimited touches for the possessing team. However, return passes have to be played 1 touch only. This slightly overloads the players orientation towards the 3rd man looking to have a focus of opening the body towards the next option, thereby dictating to the man on the ball where you would like to receive the ball. The field will be relatively tight at 10×10 meters. Within this we will ask the players to make decisions when to play quickly and when to hold onto the ball for slightly longer. Another coaching point, particularly for center-backs will be to create angles for passes with small dribbles to beat the cover-shadow of the pressing players.

The player in the center of the rondo should generally be a midfielder or an attacker like Nabil Fekir (where we have the idea of playing him in a false 9 type of role). This player makes it possible for the possessing team to create triangles in the rondo as well as connecting players through the center that are cut of by the pressing players. So, despite gradually building up players within the session, the rondo provides us with an opportunity to coach individual and small group interactions that will later have a significant bearing on the cleanliness of our possession game.

4v4+4 End to End game

After letting the rondo run through for 10 minutes and natural stoppages within the exercise, we would have a short water break and move onto the final part of our first session. This would be to divide the group up into 2 groups and two separate end to end fields. In these, two teams of 4 players each look to transfer the ball from one set of 2 neutrals on one side of the field to 2 others on the other end without the opponent winning the ball in between.

In this directional practice our main focus will be for the neutral players to practice dribbling into space. Therefore, these positions will be primarily occupied by center-backs. They can pass the ball into the field into the team that they are currently possessing with. However, if that isn’t possible, then they will have unlimited touches and asked to dribble into the main playing field. When that is the case, they should look to release the ball when they have been closed down by the defending team. This means that while they dribble, they should be looking up for possible passing options. Trying to attract pressure towards the ball to create a free man further up the field.

The players further up the field should look to move away from the dribbling player, looking to move towards their opponents’ blindside and creating angles for passes when pressure has been drawn towards the ball. Individual aspects such as the direction of the dribble, the speed thereof as well as certain orientation points as when to release the ball can easily be coached as well. Here it could certainly be possible to ask questions rather than explicitly commanding. For example asking, what happens if you move towards the dribbling player? Will it likely bring more opponents to the area around the ball? What can the effect of that be? Or, what is the effect on the defender when moving towards his blind-side?

The field would be set at 18×24 meters each. We would look to play short but intensive intervals of 2 minutes each with a 90 second rest in between. This is crucial in order to guarantee a high intensity within the exercise itself and allow players the appropriate recovery in between. In the breaks, coaching can take place. This could be done in a question answer style and could be developed into showing certain scenarios statically with players in positions while resting. After this exercise the players would cool down before being done for the day.

Tuesday session 2

Tuesday would start in the video room with a short presentation prepared by David (link below), detailing areas within the possession phase that we want to improve. It is crucial here to highlight that not all is bad by any means. In fact, the playing potential within the group is at a very high level. We believe that small tweaks could have a lasting effect.

After the video session which we would limit to +- 15 minutes, we would go out onto the field for our second session. Once again, we would start with an extensive warm up being very much aware that a gradual build up is necessary after such an abnormally long break from team training as has been the case now.

Passing diamond 4+1v3

In this exercise 5 players play against 3 in a diamond shape. This includes 4 players in outside positions with 1 midfielder in the center. These 5 players play together to look to progress the ball on the ground into the deepest diamond player whose role is usually executed by a forward player like Fekir. Once he has touched the ball, the idea is to look to score on the mini goal behind him. The defending team naturally looks to prevent this. They look to actively press the ball, once they have won it back. They should look to score in the 2 diagonal goals. This means that we have a transition moment in the game. Within this, the possessing team of 5 needs to look to get pressure on the ball, close passing options but also close angles to the mini goals.

When the possessing team plays the ball into the deepest player, there is a clear focus on moving forward as a unit and supporting the forward pass. AT the same time, in order to overload the aspect of dribbling in, the lowest player of the diamond should be a center-back. He is asked to dribble the ball forwards, particularly when receiving passes from the side players of the diamond. The other players in the diamond are asked to create angles and move relationship in such a way that the man on the ball has several passing options that either enable him to pass forward directly or to play to someone that can complete the deep pass.

Positions on the outside positions of the diamond can be occupied by 2 players per position. These can take turns after every completed play (either out-ball, or goal). This exercise is excellently suited towards individual coaching with relation to interaction with other players. For example, when the ball moves from left to right the deepest player can be asked to look to move against the grain. Another example would be for the deepest player and the central player always looking to be on different vertical lines if the lowest player is on the ball. The side players should look to occupy positions on the same horizontal lines as the opposition player. Thereby being available for passes on the ground but also easily being able to take a first touch to get goal-side when receiving.

Once again, we will be working in very short intervals, with defenders and attackers changing roles after each round. As we have mentioned earlier, we want training to be maximally intense and competitive. Here we would look to provoke this with a scoring system. The 3 defenders can achieve 1 point per goal scored after winning it back. The possessing team gets 1 point for playing into the deepest player, they can get another by scoring into the small goal thereafter. If this scoring system is weighted to heavily in one direction it can easily be altered. A potential progression would be to have additional defenders in behind the deepest diamond player that look to defend forward from there. The field size will be marked with 12 meters between positions in the diamond.

3-zone game

Players love scoring goals. So, we will look to take the concepts worked on into a match scenario with goalkeepers and goals to finish of this session. The game will be played in a 6v6 + goalkeepers. The field will be divided into 3 zones. In the lowest third the build up team will have 2 players plus the goalkeeper building up against 1 pressing player from the opponent. From there they can play into the middle zone. There we have a 2v2 scenario. A constraint we chose here to overload dribbling in is that players from the first third can not join in the middle zone if they pass the ball there. However, the middle zone can be overloaded in a 3v2 scenario if they dribble into it.

In the final third, the attacking team only has 1 player to start with. He is allowed to drop into the middle zone, but has to then be replaced by another in that event. When playing into the final third another 1 (or 2 attackers) can join to look to score the goals.

With players locked into zones initially a certain spacing starting point is created. From here players can look to create options and dynamics by moving in relationship. In order to overload strategically wise scoring areas goals scored in the final third count for 2 points each while goal scored from the middle third count for 1 point only.

This game could be done in a tournament format which would really overload a certain competitive intensity. Again, however, less is more. We play in short harp intervals that overload intensity while hopefully minimizing the risk of injury.


The sessions on Monday and Tuesday might seem very short. However, at this stage we need to consider that a training break of this length, even with home/individual trainings is highly unusual even for professional athletes. If we want to maximize training and the squad’s potential we obviously need as little injuries as possible. If achieved we have 3 crucial effects. Firstly, players communication and interactions improve consistently as they train together more often. Secondly due to more players being available internal competition for starting and bench spots is higher, this means more competitive and intense training sessions, closer to the tempo of a competitive fixture. The third effect is simply that you have more possibilities within training sessions with a full/close to full squad available. Normally, a professional team could look to promote youngsters from the academy or second team. In times of corona, that is a lot less simple to do.

Taking the above into account, and looking to build towards the 11v11 practice on the Friday, we opted to make Wednesday a recovery day. Nevertheless, after months in isolation players obviously want to spend time on the field and out in the open. Therefore, we would look to do as much of this on the training field. Within our methodology football is our starting point so we would like to do as much football through football. This means that even on this recovery day we would integrate a rondo. This time in a 6+1v3. This will be slightly different compared to Monday.

There is a greater complexity to the game with 3 defenders who can now look to create small group mechanisms in pressing with shaping the play a certain way with a first sprint whilst having cover and a third player to perform a second sprinting action. For the possessing group playing against the 3 defenders means that with one central player they can add a different type of combination. In the 5+1v2 they can play around, in front or through the gap of the defenders. With 3 defenders they can now also play in and out adding perhaps to the importance of the central player. Once again, we would play 10 minutes but this time in a 11×11 field.


Our 4th session of the week would start with a quicker and sharper dynamic warm up as players should be physically fresh and somewhat more used to a football team training loading. After 10 minutes of work we would move into the first footballing part of the session. Within this session we want to look to tie together the previous few days focus of individual principles and dribbling in with runs in behind and positioning between lines further up the field. These two ideas go well together. Especially when carried out by players counter-moving. For instance, runs in behind from the midfield line can beautifully complement dropping movements from front players like Joaquin or Fekir. When executed with good timing significant information overload for the defense can be the result with controlled ball progression up the field becoming more likely.

Possession transfer game 7+7v7

In this game we would have 3 teams set up in a field that is divided into 3 zones. 2 bigger main playing areas (measuring approximately 18×24 meters again) with a narrow channel in between that has a width of 24 meters but is only 4 meters long). A team of 7 sets up in the main playing field and looks to maintain possession against 4 chasing defenders. These 4 are supported by a further 3 that shepherd the channel in between the fields. A progression here could be to allow players to defend forward from this middle channel into the main field. However, for now the team of 7 looks to complete 5 passes. Thereafter they must transfer the ball to the 3rd team. This team is allowed to put 3 players in the channel between the fields to give simple options for ground passes.

One constraint put on this practice is that no balls are allowed to be chipped over the middle channel, instead the ball must be played through there on the on the ground. This makes a variety of actions possible. Firstly, if the players in the channel create a staggering with players beyond it in the other possession field the ball could be ‘lasered’ directly through there without a defender intercepting. This would be a good example of pinning actions freeing up team-mates. A second option would be to play into a player in the middle channel who then plays into the other possession field.

Another possibility is to play into the channel, back into the original field and then through into the next possession field, drawing pressure with a ‘small pass’’ to free up a lane for a bigger pass after the return ball. Finally, to tie the various concepts together, we would also allow players to dribble into the channel in order to then either off-load to players making options in the blind-side there, or to play directly to the other field after drawing the pressure.

If the defensive team wins the ball, they look to also play the ball away from pressure to the third team which would equate to a change of roles with the team that they dispossessed. Here a sub-focus can be put on the counter-pressing and transition moment, especially as one draws closer to the end of the first week. Potentially creating a smooth transition into the second week.

 8v8 into 3v2 build up game

This game comes from Maahier Davids, head coach of Cape Umoya United in South Africas Glad Africa Championship and one of the country’s most promising young coaches. It makes for a beautiful flow in the session as the channel between playing areas is used once again, but this time on a bigger field as we get more full-match like.

In the initial half a team builds up with 7 outfielders plus a goalkeeper. They are pressed by 8 opponents who look to win the ball and score in transition. Beyond the build up area we have a channel which is used to transition into another area where the build up team can attack 3v2+goalkeeper towards the other goal. Here the build up team looks to find a way to progress into the other half, where they would be rewarded with an attack with a numerical advantage. Having analyzed Betis, we are strongly considering a 3-4-3 system which can be mirrored nicely by the practice set up. Players can drop into the build up half from the 3v2 to overload and provide options for forward passing. Here certain triggers could be introduced which could later be used in the 11v11. If a player drops from the 3v2 a coaching point could be for another to replace him in the 3v2 creating a counter-dynamic that could be taken advantage of with chip passes into the final third. Especially potential wingbacks like Emerson and Alex Moreno could target this type of movement.

Alternatively, attackers could look to pin defenders by moving towards their blindside. Thereby forcing them back and creating separation to potentially receive unopposed in the channel between the two bigger playing areas. Here a progression could be that a player that receives in the channel from the original field can join the attack to make a 4v2 in the final third.

Later on, the 3v2 could just be a starting point for the attacking third. Once the ball progresses into this area, all players could be free to move up and join. Here focusing on filling up and supporting forward passes could be the result. An exciting design that offers a nice variety of different possibilities for the attacking side.


This session represents the focal point of the week that we have been building up towards. It is crucial that we get the maximum out of the 11v11. Here we do not only want to see a high intensity game but also have an opportunity to try out our 343 idea for the first time. Again a sharp intensive warm up would be conducted before going into the football parts. In an ideal world we would see as many of the concepts worked on put into practice.

4+1v3 transfer game

Before the 11v11 we would have a short possession practice. Here 5 players would play against 3 in two adjacent fields. The 5 would be set up with 4 players playing close to the lines of the field and 1 in the center, creating a 4+1 structure. They are playing against 3 defenders whose objective it is to win the ball back and make 2 passes or dribble out of the field for a point each. The 5 want to transfer the ball into the adjacent field which is also worth a point each time it is done successfully. However, 4 passes have to played before.

One constraint here is that the ball has to be in the adjacent field before the player. This is to overload the timing and co-ordination aspect of playing the ball into space. The passer and the runner need to interact efficiently. Here it is of critical importance that the possessing side does not rush the final pass but rather prepares it will in order to have a more success-stable execution. Obviously, the aspect of filling up is once again highlighted as players have to support quickly as the ball is played into another field if they don’t want the ball to be lost.

We would look to make this practice competitive. After each round, the loosing team would complete 10 push-ups. Also player remain defenders or attackers for the round before switching roles in the pause between games. After 6 rounds of 1 minute each we would look to move on.


In the 11v11 we would look to set both teams up in the 3-4-3 shape. Pending availability, the one 11 would possibly look as shown below.

Within this we feel that many of our strongest players would play in close to ideal positions. Both Moreno and Emerson are incredibly quick, energetic and attacking minded and are well suited to roam the flanks and provide attacking width. Canales is excellent in tight spaces on the left, whilst Fekir and Joaquin should thrive in combination with lost of movement between the halfspace and center, flexibly roaming around the opponent’s backline and the space between the lines. Bartra could possibly be a very dominant player in the build up from the left, and we are hoping that he could be able to dribble into space when afforded space.

With a timing of 3×5 minutes it would be crucial for us to get as much intensity as possible. As we get closer to return back to competitive fixtures, we want to increase the minutes played, however this is only possible if done at the highest possible intensity. We would not look to stop play during this 11v11 but rather to coach in the break between rounds.


After a reintroduction to 11v11, Saturday is all about recovery once again. Players would perform an extensive warm up followed by a simple rondo. In this case a repetition of the 5+1v2 played on Monday in the first session. After this player would conduct some individual physical work lead by the athletic coaches. Around that we would look to show the players some individual clips from the 11v11 yesterday looking to highlight positive moments centered around the weeks focus points from the game.

After this the players will be released into the weekend to enjoy 1,5 days of off time before returning for the 2nd week. Whilst the on-field training is crucial we would also look to work very hard of the field. Having meetings with players and staff trying to get acquainted to our new environment, looking to gain as much inside knowledge and opinion as possible.

Thank you to Patrick Eibenberger for his invaluable advice regarding the periodization of the week. We continue to learn a lot from your expert opinion!

Part two will extend the training process by outlining the second week of training, whilst working towards the first fixture after the restart: the derby against Sevilla.

Moussa February 20, 2021 um 4:44 am

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