The technical and tactical elements that make the UEFA Champions League such a compelling spectacle occupy the thoughts of Europe's top technicians – and the fruits of their most recent labours can be found in the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League technical report.
The report is put together by a team of leading technicians – all experienced coaches and observers. It highlights not only the tactical and technical trends from last season, but also poses a number of pertinent questions designed to stimulate debate about European club football's blue-riband competition.
"In addition to the factual and statistical data that make it a reference work, it contains analysis, reflections and debating points which, it is hoped, will give technicians food for thought and, by highlighting tendencies and trends at the peak of professional football, also offer coaches who are active in the development levels of the game information that may be helpful in terms of working on the qualities which will be needed by the UEFA Champions League performers of the future," the report states.
The report features a wealth of details that will also interest the lay football fan who follows the competition. And, as a taster, the experts point out the details that can spell victory or defeat. "In the UEFA Champions League, margins between advancement and elimination can depend on details such as a moment of genius, the woodwork, an individual decision by a player, an inspired substitution, a refereeing decision or, simply, a slice of luck." Those details can have drastic effects – "by the end of the season, 16 of the UEFA Champions League coaches were no longer on the bench where they had started it".
Last term's scoring total of 320 goals included the usual variety of long-range bullets, close-range knock-ins, brave headers and clever set pieces. The tally, the report says, "represents a list of the ingredients required by the top teams who view the ultimate victory as mission possible. Margins often hinge on competences in executing and defending set plays, in launching well-drilled counterattacks, in knowing how to deal with equally fast breaks by the opposition and in developing the specialist individual skills which, translated into long-range shooting, solo runs or the effective execution of set plays, accounted for 26% of all the goals scored."
One fascinating aspect of the report is the experts' view on the difference between 2008/09 winners FC Barcelona and last season's champions FC Internazionale Milano. Inter took the 2009/10 title averaging 45% of possession, compared with FC Barcelona's 62% the previous campaign. In the final, FC Bayern München passed the ball 643 times, against Inter's 289 times ... but Inter were more effective and won. "The stark contrasts between the winners of 2009 and 2010 raise a question," the report goes on: "Do players and teams need to be educated to feel comfortable without the ball?"
Explosive counterattacking continues to bear considerable fruit. "The successful sides," explains the report, "are the ones equipped to dominate play and to find swift responses to periods of domination by the opposing team."
The report notes that in the UEFA Champions League, "levels of positional and tactical discipline are generally high, defensive blocks are increasingly difficult to penetrate and opponents' team mechanisms are exhaustively studied. Collective virtues are indispensable – but the season was marked by examples of individual influence and by moments of brilliance by the soloists [such as Lionel Messi] who are so often required to unlock defensive doors which seem to be securely bolted."
The quality of long-range shooting; the potential need for versatile players who can multitask; the two-man defensive screen that helps counter the counterattack; and the subsequent need for box-to-box full-backs to surge forward and support attacks on the flanks. Just a few more of the elements covered in the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League technical report – a must-read for both technicians and serious football enthusiasts.
Click here to view the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League technical report.
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