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Pinpointing the reasoning as to why top teams can capitulate in major games isn’t clear. Is it nerves, fatigue, concentration or a lack of tactical understanding? Whatever it is, if we had the answer, I am sure all these top teams and managers wouldn’t lose games of this magnitude in such soul-destroying circumstances.


I do, however, believe there are some coaches and managers who wouldn’t have lost any of the games mentioned in this article. In my opinion, Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho is one of those. His attention to detail is so obsessive that he would have protected the lead his team had. He has the ability to make the right call at the right time, which is often a substitution, tactical adjustment or a change to the team’s game style. Mourinho is the best I have seen at seeing games out from a winning position.


It leads on to an interesting debate as to whether or not coaches need to dedicate more time to studying the issues around tactical adjustment when their team is in the ascendency?


Here are some of the issues to consider:


Tactical Game Style Could those teams who surrendered winning advantages have approached the latter stages of the game any differently? Was there a point in the game where they could have started to turn the opposition encouraging their strikers to work down the sides of the opposing defenders, whilst at the same time ensuring the maintenance of team shape, organisation and individual discipline.


Chasing the game In my opinion, some teams in the ascendency try and score again too early with the players getting carried away with the fact that they are in a winning position. Those teams that gain a lead but also remain disciplined and organised often frustrate the opposition further. The onus is then on the opposition to try and do something out of the ordinary to get back into the game. As the opposition commit more numbers and energy into their attacks greater opportunities to pick-off the opposition arise.


Individual and collective discipline Players must avoid giving away cheap and unnecessary free-kicks and corners or accumulating needless red and yellow cards, all of which can contribute to the dramatic outcome of games.


Similarly, coaches should help players understand the impact of picking up injuries, some of which can be avoided through responsible play.


• Adaptability • Choice of team shape • Personnel • The opposition • State of the game • Coaches view • Tactical fouls • Technical and positional requirements • Injuries • Officials/Decisions • Tactical/ Technical needs • The initiative of the coach • Strategies/Tactics for critical periods in the game


Mentality Players have to learn how to make better decisions and recognise the state of the game, coping with every eventuality that could occur. Sir Clive Woodward’s words resonate:


“The mental side of sport is massive. Before setting off to Australia for the 2003 World Cup I said that the competition would be won in the head. It isn’t necessarily the best team or group with the most talented players that wins games, but the team that can think correctly under pressure."


Crucially, all players must learn that when the opposition are having a good spell of possession they have a responsibility to work hard to stay in the contest, because the tide will turn around in the game in due course


Crucially, all players must learn that when your opponents are having a good spell of possession, which all teams do in virtually every game, they have a responsibility to work hard to stay in the contest, because the tide will turn around in the game in due course.


Implications for coaches to consider:


Noel Blake is Head Coach of the England U19 side. A former central defender who played for Aston Villa, Portsmouth, Birmingham City, Leeds United and Stoke City, Blake joined The FA in 2007 from Stoke, where he was


Academy Manager.


Initially, Blake was the Assistant Coach of the U16 and U19 teams, before he took over as the Head Coach of the U19 team in 2009. During his time with The FA Blake has also taken charge of the U20 and U18 teams.


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