How we play – our Playing Philosophy

It is our goal at Brackley Town FC’s Player Development Academy to develop each and every player in our charge to reach their potential, both as a person and as a footballer.

We believe that to properly develop as a footballer, in any position, demands contact time with the ball, those who we would describe as great players all have a mastery of the ball, they own it and make it do their will. Whether you are a fan or not of someone like Dennis Bergkamp, seeing him pull the ball out of the air, shift it to the other side and then strike it into the net in what seems like one balletic movement will mesmerise anyone who’s ever kicked a ball.

Therefore, as we want to maximise our players contact time with the ball, the decision to ask all of them to “get it down and play” is an easy one to make and the team tactics, to play possession football, look after the ball as an individual and team, becomes obvious.

However just saying that we’re going to play “possession football” is not detailed enough to really enable our coaches to design and follow a well structured, consistent, long-term player development programme so we have further defined our game as follows:

Our Game Objective

We want to dominate possession of the ball in order to dominate the opposition physically and mentally so that we can score more goals than they do. When we haven’t got possession of the ball we want to regain it as soon as possible so that we can deny our opponents opportunities to score goals against us.

From our “Game Objective” we are able to break the game down to different phases or “Game Moments” and then define and describe our “Playing Philosophy” in more detail as a set of “Playing Principles” and associated “Game Moment Objectives”.

Game Moments 

In Possession – we have the ball

Defensive Transition – transition of possession from us to them

Out of Possession – they have the ball

Offensive Transition – transition of possession from them to us

To assist the players learning programme our “Game Objective” is defined in more detail around each of our “Game Moments” to give our “Game Moment Objectives” as follows:

Game Moment Objectives 

In Possession – To disorganise, disrupt, and unbalance the opposition in order to create and use opportunities to score.

Defensive Transition – To put immediate pressure on the ball and the space around it in order to prevent the opposition securing possession.

Out of Possession – To deny the opposition time and space in which they can progress an attack and thereby force them to turnover possession of the ball

Offensive Transition – To secure possession of the ball and move it from the area where it was recovered as quickly as possible in order to initiate an attack before our opponents can organise themselves defensively.

Our “Playing Principles” are grouped around these “Game Moments” and associated “Objectives” as follows:

Playing Principles

In Possession

When we are in possession of the ball we want to keep it moving and play at a high tempo (play quickly).

We will play forward when we are able, always looking to break the defensive lines of the opposition, and when we can’t play forward we will change the position of the ball to try to find a way that we can.

We aim to dominate possession of the ball and to help with this we work on using playing systems that get players near to (supporting) the ball.

We want all players to be comfortable receiving the ball regardless of pitch position or the location of opposition players, we want all players to play with freedom in all areas of the pitch, and we want all players to be confident enough to enter any area of the pitch when appropriate to the state of the game at that moment.

Defensive Transition

When the ball is in transition from us to the opposition we want to move into the defending phase quickly so that we can reduce the time that we’re out of possession and, if possible, regain possession of the ball.

The nearest player to the ball takes responsibility to get close to it to prevent the opposition playing forward thereby slowing down or stopping any opportunity for them to take advantage of any unbalance in our defensive structure.

If there is an immediate opportunity to support the player pressing the ball in order to regain it straight away we will switch to a positive, pro-active, defensive organisation to force the turnover.

Out of Possession

When we are out of possession we mostly want to use pressing to restrict forward play and control the direction of the opposition attack.

We want to play in the opposition half as much as possible so we use a high (pitch position) pressing strategy whenever possible and we then want to force the opposition towards the touchlines, getting compact to close off the centre of the pitch in order to regain the ball.

When it is appropriate to the state of the game we will be able to switch to a “dropping off” defensive strategy that is stable and compact reducing the opportunities for the opposition to enter our defensive third.

Offensive Transition

When the ball is in transition from the opposition to us we want to take advantage of the opposition’s defensive disorganisation to score.

The player with the ball will take responsibility for securing possession immediately whilst making a quick decision regarding the next action based on the following questions:

Can I score a goal?

Can I pass to someone who can score a goal?

Can I move the ball forward to initiate an attacking move?

Can I move the ball elsewhere to ensure that we keep possession?

All other players will provide support options both near to the ball (close support) and further away from the ball (secondary support) in order to help free the ball into an area where we have numerical or spatial superiority over the opposition.

Our work with the players is based on these principles of play, the aim of our coaching across all of the four corners of development is to help the players to gain and maintain the capabilities required to use what they are learning, and the expectation is that, eventually, the players will have the game craft to select and apply the principles required by the current state of the game to achieve the desired outcome.

Finally it’s worth noting that our principles of play are chosen to help us to control the outcome of our games as often as possible and that means using our possession of the ball to score more goals than our opponents. We know that we have more chance of scoring if some of our attacking play is unscripted, after all if we coach specific movements and plays to create chances we, or our opponents, can also coach ways to stop the creation of or taking of those chances.

To achieve this we have agreed to give the freedom to the players to be inventive, to take ownership of the game, to make their own decisions, to make mistakes, and to take risks.

After all, it is their game and we must let them play it….