I have invited my good friend Armin Ghasemi to write a piece on his concept SPB to give the readers a deeper understanding on this page to develop advantages prior to receiving the ball.
Reactions a human makes to an external factor (for example moving your hand after spilling hot coffee on it) is based on what the senses perceive. The most important sense in football is what you see - everything starts with what the player sees. The eyes “communicate” with the environment and feeds the brain with information about the environment. Where is the ball? Where are my teammates? Where are my opponents? Where is there space? Naturally, the more information the brain is fed with on the environment, the more likely it is for the player to make good decisions. The coach should also be aware of the fact that different positions give different demands in how and what to search for. The way the team plays, also has an impact on what to look for. If for example at team prefers to attack through overlapping fullbacks, the model of play requires players to search for this more frequently.
Perception is divided in four parts:
- Quantity (how many times do you search?)
- Timing (when do you search?)
- Quality (how much and what do you see?)
- Camouflage (can you hide your intended action trough where you look?)
Research on the best football players and teams in the world, shows that the more “searches” you have before playing a pass, the higher the percentage of passing accuracy will be. How many searches one is able to do, is based on several factors. Two of these factors that all coaches should be aware of, are when the player has little time/space and when fatigue occurs. Normally, the higher up the pitch a player receives the ball, the less searches the player is able to make. This is because the closer you come to the opponent’s goal, the more desperate the opponent will be to press you. Also, research from the Dutch Eredivise (which you can see in the picture below) shows that the number of searches goes drastically down towards the end of matches. This is because the players get tired, and just like the number of high-speed sprints decreases, the quantity of searches falls, which can lead to worse decision-making towards the end of a match. It is important for players to increase the quantity of searches in these situations. Therefore, players should in training be exposed to game-like environments where they experience high pressure, the feeling of stress and accumulation of fatigue.
Not only is it important to have many searches, but also to search at the right time. Every touch on the ball could be a pass, and if someone is passing the ball to you, it is important for you to see that the pass is coming. When your teammate doesn’t touch the ball, it is impossible for him to make a pass. Therefore, you have time to search between touches. You can also search when the ball is played and moving from player A-B. Midfielders and attackers who play at the highest level, are able to time their searches in this way.
Some coaches think “good” when they see the player moving their heads to they left or the right. But when they look to the left, does the centre back see the third man movement of their teammate? Does the number 10 look at the body orientation of the opponents in order to find blind zones? Is the winger able to anticipate what is going to happen so that he already is in a high-speed run going in behind when pass number 3 is coming? Or are they just doing neck muscle training to please the coach? Players should in training be exposed to game-like environments with a high level of complexity, where they have to look for simultaneous movements and adjustments of positioning. Playing on bigger pitches with more players, can develop the players ability to see more and further.
The better your opponent is, the more likely he is to be able to anticipate your action based on the tells you give. Thus it becomes vital to hide your intended action for as long as possible. A faked shot, is an example of camouflaging that you are dribbling passed the opponent by pretending to make a shot. It is also possible to camouflage through a “camouflaging look”. This could for example be to look to the left and, then at the last second pass to the right.
When your brain has gathered information from the sight, it is time to decide where to position in order to create an advantage for yourself and the team. Of course, every team has their style and structure, but the SPB document gives tools on positioning which could benefit any team and player. Some examples are: attracting the opponent’s attention in order to create a blind zone, or holding space open (for example a midfielder going high in order to create space to drop down in or a striker staying a few meters behind where the cross could come in order to attack the open space in front of him when the cross arrives)
Body orientation, is a detail that many underestimates. Good body positioning can make you see better, protect the ball better, go in the direction you want faster and camouflage your move. If for example a full back is going wide when the centre back receives the ball, he should be running backwards in order to always se the ball and as much of the pitch as possible. A midfielder wanting to receive the ball from the centre back, should (if possible) stand on the half turn in order to reduce his blind zone and receive the ball with the foot furthest away from the ball so he can face in direction of the opponent’s goal faster and take advantage of that space. A body orientation facing your own goal, is a common pressing signal. But it could also be positive with this body orientation, if you for example are protecting the ball or wanting to attract pressure and camouflage that you are making a turn on the opponent. I can also camouflage a pass or shot be standing or leaning slightly towards one direction, and then pass or shoot in the other. The body orientation can be a form of communication with my teammate who as the ball. It can show which foot or space I want the ball to be played at. It can also show where I intend to play the ball back in a 1-2 combination.