VIDEO - Tactical Analysis: The back pass, right or wrong?

Having started to write a piece about the Cardiff match, which couldn't pass without mention of Naughton potentially costing us the game, I suddenly thought there is more to this incident than meets the eye. I talk of course of Naughton's back pass in the first few minutes, if that is what it was.

As I have been running a tactical series looking at our game it seemed appropriate that we pick this major talking point and look at it further, rather than the knee jerk idiotic pass he is useless reaction.

For those of you who haven't seen it yet, take a look. Below are the highlights of the game and the howler is near the beginning, it happened after only 5 minutes and could have resulted in Lloris being sent off.



OK now remember Walker at Liverpool he did basically the same thing. Both full-backs playing a similar pass and getting it all wrong. You have to ask yourself why, not why did they pass badly that is just execution and down to them, but why were they playing the ball in the first place.

To understand that you need to understand the concept of keeping the ball. In today's game the mentality is not just if you have the ball the opposition can't score, but if you have the ball you reduce the number of attacks that you have to defend against and therefore make it easier to prevent conceding a goal.

Chris Houghton spoke after the Norwich game saying if they had retained possession better they may not have lost. He was making that exact same point. The Copa Libertadores final was decided because Olimpia 2-0 up from the first leg spent the second leg defending and booting the ball to the opposition, Athletico Mineirao. They therefore had to defend far more attacks than they should have done and you guessed it, they conceded very late on to take the game into extra-time and then penalties, which they lost. Not retaining possession cost them becoming South American champions.

Ball retention is drilled into players today, if there is no forward pass, look sideways, look back, your teammates should be constantly moving to provide you with an outlet. What you only ever do as a last resort is hoof the ball up the field to the opposition. So in our full-backs minds is pass don't hoof.

Now in a 4-3-3 system the goalkeeper is considered to be an outfielder. By that I mean that defenders can play the ball back to the keeper to switch play to the other centre-back or to start a move again if necessary.

Couple those two points together and you start to see why both the Walker against Liverpool and Naughton against Cardiff howlers happened. In both cases the player was trying to retain possession of the ball as per our system.

The passes themselves in that context were not necessarily the wrong passes, obviously the execution of them was terrible. If both passes had been played as they were intended then nobody would have made a single comment about them, but Walker now has a section who wrongly think he is useless.

Any mistake has to be looked at in context, you instantly have to ask yourself a series of questions before slating someone. What was the team trying to do, what was the player trying to do and why, were his teammates providing him with the passing options they should have been, should he have been played into trouble in the first place, did the intended receiver of the pass not read the pass early enough.

Perhaps we need to do a little work on the training ground to recreate those situations and figure out how to handle them better. The full-back only has three option, forwards, sideways and backwards. If there is no pass forward he has to look for a midfielder to bounce the ball off or a central defender. For those of you not aware of what I mean by bounce the ball off it seems to be the modern phrase used for passing to a player, marked or otherwise, who immediately passes it on to a free teammate. Think of a triangle or a brick wall, play it at an angle it comes off at an angle, substitute the wall for a player doing the same thing and bingo you are bouncing the ball off a player.

A central midfielder can twist and turn and pass all ways a full-back has a side line so has restricted options so before we castigate a player too much ask yourself what ball would you have played, did he play the right ball but just make a complete mess of the execution.

Tomorrow's article will be released at 3.30pm (15.40hrs) and asks is AVB right to suggest the second day is the day a player is most likely to suffer an injury. To answer that we'll take a look at a training programme for a professional footballer.



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