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Full-backs and the Camp Nou

Welcome back to Barcelona, Spain!

When I last posted, we were studying the Individual Fundamentals per Position (IFP) of the center-backs. To begin the week, our focus was still on the center-backs. We had our first tactical workshop (tactical workshops consist of analyzing the IFP’s in video clips that Dr. Rude has organized) and it was a way a great way to apply our knowledge. How it works: Dr. Rude will play a short (~9 second) video clip of a game, and then it is our job to identify the specific IFP. They key take away from the tactical workshops is the idea that we must apply the conceptual information learned in class to the real life situation of analyzing live games.

After we completed the tactical workshop on the center-backs, we continued on to learn about the full-backs. To say I have a new appreciation for the full-back position is an understatement. More importantly, I have developed an even greater appreciation for the complexity of soccer, and more specifically, the complexity of coaching soccer.

To better express myself, let’s dive into one of the tactical fundamentals for the full-back positions. In all, the IFP’s for the full-backs are organized into 5 defensive blocks and 2 offensive blocks. Dr. Rude and Eric explained to us that the blocks include:

5 defensive blocks:

Maintaining the Balance

Identifying the Player to Mark

Defending the Space

Defending the On-Ball Player

Defending Crosses

The 2 offensive blocks:

Offering Support

Incorporation to the Attack

Within each block, there are sub-stages that describe the tactical situations more specifically. Remember, an IFP is an “optimal response to a specific situation”. So, within each block, there are many situations that the player must be able to recognize and then execute the ‘optimal’ action.

For instance, within the ‘Identifying the Player to Mark’ block, a sub-stage exists that states the full-back is responsible for the most dangerous attacker (the attacker who runs through the space between the full-back and center-back). For a clearer picture, take a quick look at this play in the FC Barcelona x Real Madrid match from 2010. When watching, pay particular attention to the run of Xavi and the action of Marcelo (left full-back).

One of the most difficult runs to defend in soccer is the one by the attacker who attacks the space between two defenders. However, as Dr. Rude explained to us, the coach must decide which IFP’s are important to their game model, and then train the IFP’s so each player is aware of all the situations pertaining to their position. In Marcelo’s case, it appears as though he was caught ball watching and tried to recover the ground Xavi gained by attempting to cut the pass out in front of the attacker. When he recognized the run from Xavi, instead of walking, he must sprint to follow the run of the attacker.

The main point to take away from the previous example is that IFP’s are trainable and must be trained. In order for the team to operate in a synchronized manner, each player must know their responsibilities, otherwise, the line fundamentals and universal (team) fundamentals will not be synchronized either, and that is a recipe for disaster.

During the weekend, we had a full plate of games to attend. On Saturday, we traveled to RCD Espanyol to analyze the full-backs of the U15 Espanyol game. All of us arrived early so we could watch the other youth games that were being played. We were able to watch Espanyol U-10 and U-12 games. Let me tell you, those young boys can play!

On Sunday night, we went to the Camp Nou to watch FC Barcelona vs Levante. Being in the Camp Nou is an experience that will never get old. Being able to sit there and watch soccer being played at the highest of levels, in an atmosphere that appreciates every aspect of the sport is truly refreshing. I was lucky enough to sit next to a ‘socio’ who has been a club member for 40 years!

One of the greatest aspects of the Camp Nou is that there is no live feed of the game on the jumbotron’s or any replays of exciting plays or goals. The reason I say that is because everyone in the stadium is there to watch the game! Every action is seen by the entire stadium and either applauded or whistled. Here, the game on the field is appreciated and loved in a way that I have not experienced before, and to be in that environment in truly special.

At Espanyol’s training ground

Thanks for reading and I look forward to sharing my experiences from this coming week!​

Twitter: @BrettUttley & @TOGSoccer

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