Developing a playbook – the opening chapter: Anglo-Saxan Chronicle 77

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Football Manager

I’m here at FC Saxan by way of an experiment. Our chairman has invited me to approach the business of managing the club as if it were an engineering problem. I’ve decided to do that in three ways: (1) to simplify decision-making through the development of protocols; (2) to adopt an overall systems engineering approach; and (3) to develop a playbook approach. I’ve written plenty about the first two (I suspect Ralph might think, understandably, too much) and I’ve explained the playbook before (‘Anticipation made methodical‘, 22 June) so I won’t go over it again here. Now is the time to begin to put it into action.

Up to the first international break, when it comes to planning and match preparation,  I’ve rather ignored our opponents. My thinking has been, it’s all I can do to try to get our players playing to a system: let’s concentrate on establishing a style of our own before we worry about other people’s. But since we’ve got off to a reasonable start, perhaps now is the time to become more ambitious in our preparation.

I study our scout’s report on our next opponents – Milsami. Many of the potential adjustments to their way of playing are not really on the cards because for the time being I’m wedded to a narrow diamond. I notice, for example, that they create a lot from their right wing, but also they’re a little vulnerable on the same flank. Rationally, one might consider putting in a left-sided midfielder – first to provide some cover and second to try to exploit any weakness there. But we don’t play with wide players — in fact, we don’t have anyone who can play LM — so that’s not a realistic option.

Instead, I focus on one adjustment. Milsami score over a third for their goals in the first 15 minutes. If we can nullify them during that period, we swing the balance of probabilities in our favor.

How to nullify them? I don’t want to go defensive because if the ball keeps coming down our end, our defence is so poor we’re bound to concede. I decided instead to slow things down and to seek to retain possession. Let’s try that way just to reduce the number of openings.

I thought I’d communicated the strategy to the players, but our right back’s decision to concede a penalty in the 14th suggested he hadn’t quite grasped it. Two minutes later we gave Andronic all the time in the world, just outside our box. !6 minutes played: two down.

In the second half, we were run ragged by a vastly superior team. The defence fell apart. We lost 0-5 and were lucky to get that. Absolute shambles.

Developing a playbook might help us in the long room, but I guess a better strategy might be to bring in some good players.