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David Clarke interviews… ALF GALUSTIAN

David ClarkeAlf Galustian is a modern-day football coaching legend. He has worked with the likes of Jurgen Klinsmann, Vincente del Bosque, Gerard Houllier and Ossie Ardiles and is now the skills coach to the Premier League.

When he co-founded the Coerver Coaching programme in 1984 alongside former Chelsea and Scotland star Charlie Cooke, the principle was quite simply in focusing on and developing an individual player’s core skills.

The success of the philosophy led to a clamour for his expertise, and to this day, he has worked at AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Stoke City, Newcastle United and Arsenal, amongst others.

DC: A lot of coaches just starting out might not understand what core skills are. Can you define the term please?
AG: For us in Coerver Coaching, we define core skills as:
• Running with the ball
• 1v1
• First touch
• Passing/shooting
The foundation for all these core skills is Coerver Ball Mastery.

DC: How should grassroots coaches begin their season – what should they be focusing on for the first three months of the campaign?
AG: Players return to pre-season having not played for months and we recommend that coaches focus most of the early sessions on drills, helping their lads regain a feel for ball.
And we would suggest that at least 20% of the session is devoted to repetition exercises with the ball. Repetition can be boring so disguise it by incorporating the principles into competition scenarios between players and/or groups. The rest of the session should be a mix of passing and receiving drills, and small-sided games.

DC: How should this move on as the season advances, to ensure grassroots players are developing?
The goal of each session is fun and progress, not only as a team but as individuals. The Coerver method of improving players is what we call ‘step-by-step teaching’. We break down the core skills and then teach through repetition, before increasing difficulty. Finally, we look for the use of those skills in game situations.

DC: Most coaches at grassroots level will have players of wildly differing abilities – how would you cope with that?
This is a really good question and one that we have been asked a lot over Coerver Coaching’s 30-year history. Firstly, all players should do the same drills. A good tip is to split the group into threes and fours, putting players of similar abilities together. The only difference is that for the more skilled players, you make the conditions different (e.g. altering the number of touches, the distance or the speed). The players feel equal since the drill is exactly the same. Once you get to the small-sided games, pool your squad, making sure that no one team has all the best players.

DC: Should coaches continually use one-touch exercises or is that not as relevant as two touches?
One-touch is quite difficult for most grassroots players. We want our young players to experience success, which then builds up their confidence, interest and concentration. For those reasons we prefer two touch. Once the players improve then we suggest mixing one and two- touch drills.

DC: Most grassroots players might only train and play once a week. Is this enough?
Simply, no. However, it’s a difficult situation to change. I don’t think we can expect to increase practice times significantly, so we need to be smarter in what and how we teach.

DC: You’re a skills specialist coach and I’ve seen your ability to demonstrate the skill you are coaching. How do grassroots coaches who are not as skilled as you demonstrate difficult techniques to youth players?
The coach has two options. The first is to practise the skills every day, not as a player but as a teacher, slowly and deliberately. Charlie and I still do this after 30 years. The second option is to pick a player in your group to demonstrate. Just make sure any demonstration is done slowly.

DC: Why is it that players from Spain, Brazil and Argentina are so respected at the moment for the way they play the game?
I think this explanation would need to be a whole new article! Generally the football culture of these countries has a long tradition of focusing and admiring skills above all else. That culture has pushed coaches and teachers towards allowing young players to express themselves without fear of failure. I suppose Coerver Coaching, in many countries, is a replacement of what players learnt in the old days through street soccer. Times have changed and in relatively affluent societies, street soccer has disappeared.

DC: How much influence do you think the English Premier League has had on grassroots players?
The Premier League is the most exciting and certainly the most televised league in the world. In that regard, there is no doubt that grassroots players and coaches are influenced. I think the players and teams can be extremely positive influences when it comes to learning the game, fair play, and behavioural role models.

Be creative with a tactics board

David ClarkeLast season my half-time team talks were full of drama – you might remember me talking about individual half-time chats the previous season and how successful that was. Well last season one of my teams went to 11-a-side and that made what happens at the interval all the more important.

Overnight, tactics became a huge problem. Who covers what, why, where and when all featured in a very rushed team talk at half-time during our first match.

What didn’t help was me forgetting to bring along my tactics board. A lot of my players like visual learning at half-time better than verbal learning and so I had taken to using a board in pre-season matches, and training sessions too. This had worked well, but on this occasion I’d left it at home.

I wanted to show my players how to deal with an opposition striker who was playing right on the line, and feeding off through balls played into the space behind my defence.

We kept getting caught out because one defender was constantly dropping back to pick the striker up, scared that the linesman wouldn’t flag for offside. I wanted to show the back four how to deal with the threat by keeping a strong line and stepping up when the through balls were played.

Or, they could sit deeper as a unit and win the ball off the striker before hitting the other team on the counter. But I had no board to help me express this. Looking around I saw a tower of cones. I picked them up and placed four on the ground to represent our half of the pitch.

Using additional cones I took my players through, step-by-step, where the defending was not working. Of course, I went for the positive angle – namely that we hadn’t let any goals in and were defending well, but we could do even better… I’m pleased to say the makeshift tactics board worked, and it seems I am not alone in improvising.

Other coaches have revealed to me similar ideas, one laying down water bottles, another even using half-eaten oranges! It all goes to show that when the need arises, it’s not only your players who need to be creative!

Keepy uppies helps kids master the ball

David Clarke

Juggling is a great way to improve mastery of the ball, which will help your players during matches and give their confidence a boost. Three things come out of juggling:

  • Improving ball control and touch.

  • Improving coordination.

  • Improving reactions.

All age groups can do juggling and they should eventually be able to use all parts of their body – thighs, head, chest – to keep the ball in the air. But for young or inexperienced players it is best to start off with simple kicks so they get the feel of it. It is also best to do it on firmer surfaces because the ball will not bounce off muddy ones.

The technique is to use the laces of the boot, keep toes pointing up and tap directly under the ball.

  • Hold the ball with both hands and it let drop to the ground. After one bounce, tap the ball back up and catch (bounce-foot-catch).

  • Next, rather than catch the ball, let it bounce, tap it again, then catch (bounce-foot-bounce-foot-catch).

  • Try increasing the number of bounces and taps before catching the ball to 3, then 4 etc.

  • Now try tapping the ball twice before it bounces (bounce-foot-foot-catch), then 3 times etc.

  • Repeat all progressions several times with each foot. Hold the ball, release it so it falls, but tap it back into hands before it hits the ground. Increase the difficulty by tapping the ball two, three, four times etc before catching. Now, try moving the ball from one foot to the other and back again. (right-left-right etc).

How to develop the session

When players reach a certain number of kick ups you can get them to do more advance juggling. In this session they can start on their thigh, and catch it. Then move to incorporating their feet and head.

So if you look at the diagram you go thigh, dropping it onto the foot then high in the air to head it. Players should try to keep this sequence going for as long as possible.

We lost 2-1 but it created a great session

David Clarke

2v1/3v2 transition game

OK, I’m going to say it – my team absolutely pummelled their opponents at the weekend and, yes, you guessed it, we lost 2-1. The number of times my players had an overload in their favour in front of goal was unbelievable and yet they didn’t exploit a single chance.

So what will we be working on this week? This session which exploits 2v1s and 3v2s in front of goal.

How it works

The advantage switches as the attack changes direction after every phase of play.

How to set it up

Use a 40 yards by 30 yards area with a goal and a goalkeeper at each end.

How to play it

  • The central player dribbles on to the pitch and passes to one of the two opponents.

  • Immediately, a 2v1 situation begins.

  • Once this ball is played, two team mates join the defender and a 3v2 game commences in the opposite direction.

Rotate your players

  • Rotate the players’ positions so both teams have a chance to attack 2v1 and 3v2.

The Brazilian attacker

David ClarkeAre you Jairzinho in disguise?

Brazil have a team that could win the next world cup not just because it’s on home soil but because they are beginning to put together a fabulous young team that will give Spain and Germany a run for their money.

They play a fast passing game 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 and at the top of the formation is a young striker called Lucas Moura – and finally it seems Brazil have a player to match the Brazil great Jairzinho.

Like Jairzinho, Lucas, aged 19, can play as a quick forward or winger and will hope to emulate his fellow countryman. Jairzinho was part of the legendary Brazil team that won the 1970 World Cup – he became one of only three players to have scored in every game his team played in the tournament.

Lucas has a low centre of gravity and runs with speed at defenders, dribbling past them or using skills to beat them. He has also been compared with Porto’s Hulk and AC Milan’s Alexandre Pato, but I like to think of him as Jairzinho.

He’s being chased by Inter Milan and Manchester United both of whom hope to prise him away from Sao Paulo but it’ll take a lot of Euros.

Lucas also wears Jairzinho’s number seven shirt for the national team.

Watch him in action in the clip below:

See also The English playmaker

See also The German defender

The English playmaker

David ClarkeChelsea youth midfielder Billy Clifford has all the attributes to become a classic playmaker. The 19-year-old is agile, quick of body and of mind, patient on the ball and has lot of creative vision.

At the moment he thrives in the atmosphere of Chelsea U21s where he has built up a great understanding with the more famous Josh McEachran. Their appreciation of what each other can do gives them an extra dimension to the quality and skill of play all over the pitch.

His youth team manager, Dermot Drummy is very impressed: “He’s a very good player Billy, an absolutely excellent standard of player for me and he’ll set the way we play; a leader on and off the field. [He’s] a fantastic trainer and he’ll set the standard for us on and off the pitch like that…we want that sort of leadership.
“He’s a player who can play anywhere. He has a footballer’s intelligence, he has everything, and he’s a winner.”

Indeed he is, having played a key role in FA Youth Cup and Premier Reserve League trophy successes in recent times. He also joined Andre Villas-Boas’ first-team squad on tour in Asia in 2011 and has been on the substitutes bench in the UEFA Champions League.

His versatility and ability to also play wide or at full-back will make him an enticing and intriguing prospect for a loan move to a Championship team – in the right team he would be a huge asset.

Hopefully he will progress over the next couple of years because this boy is exactly the type of player England needs.

Watch this video clip of him and see his vision and skills.

See also The Brazilian attacker

See also The German defender

The greatest one-touch, two-touch passing moves.. at Under-11
July 11, 2012, 3:50 pm
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David ClarkeIt has been discussed for years and finally the FA are doing something about it.Englandare pushing to close the gap at youth level withSpainandGermany. Doing that should boost the futureEnglandteam…

Well we may be finally putting things in place to do it but I was surprised by how advanced some teams are across the pond inAmerica. They sure are building for the future.

An U11 team inCaliforniahas created its own little area ofSpaintaking their inpiration from the masters of tiki taka,Barcelona. They’ve called their team Barcelona-USA, and play in the same strips as the Catalan giants.

The video that got everyone purring was Barcelona-USA’s U11 Cal South State Cup semi-final against Arsenal FC – no slouches themselves at this level.

But in an epic 13 minutes of football, these young players executed some of the greatest one-touch, two-touch passing moves that you’ll see anywhere, anytime.

According to their coach: “These performances are no accident. It takes meticulous training, studying, and artistry — a craftsman. You can not just throw 11 players on the field and ‘talk’ about possession. That’s just talking. And anybody can do that… you should be asking yourself: ‘Do I really care, or am I just a talker?'”

Are you watching England?

See the video everyone’s talking about below: