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Football Coaching Essentials: Building Strong Teams

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4 v 4 + 3 Positional rondo, Guardiola
4 v 4 + 3 Positional rondo

In recent years many teams have adopted positional football as the pivot around which their respective individual game models are based. Positioning oneself efficiently with respect to the space, the ball, the teammates and the opponents throughout the course of 90 minutes despite the game being played at such a high speed is considered non-negotiable for players nowadays. Modern football is played at a very fast and tactically advanced level, this is where training practices become all the more important. Type of practices that condition the players to act effectively and quickly in real match situations during the attacking, defending, and transitional phases of play. When coached effectively, players learn to respond naturally and quickly to the various situations in the match without many complications. Actions to be performed, get ingrained into their subconscious.

There are three main types of possession exercises: basic rondos, possession games and positional rondos. Rondos impose a restriction on the players with the majority being largely static. Possession games are traditional possession exercises with players moving constantly around and the objective being to keep possession. Positional rondos expand on these two in that the objective is not only to keep possession but provide direction – usually to find the neutral player. In positional rondos, players occupy similar pitch areas to their respective positions, with physical load also adjusted to position-specific activities. For example, full-backs are wide and move up and down, while central players move between the lines in a highly dense central area. Almost every session in FC Barcelona involves a positional game, and for a good reason.

Studies show that positional rondos can be effective for controlling player intensity. Positional rondos help lower the load on the neutral player which can be beneficial for players that show muscle fatigue or require further practice with the ball. Furthermore, depending on the size and number of players in a positional rondo the physical demands will be different. Acceleration and deceleration in high intensity situations are replicated in small positional rondos (4v4+3 and 5v5+3). Meanwhile, large positional rondos (7v7+3 and 8v8+3) are most effective at demanding high metabolic load distance and metabolic power.

Guardiola is using positional rondos (especially 4v4+3) in most of his training sessions, rather than a basic warm-up exercise, he sees rondos as an essential training tool to develop his players. When practising rondos, he demands maximum speed and concentration, mental sharpness is a must. Tactically 4v4+3 improves the ability of players (blue team) to keep possession of the ball using the 7v4 overload. It also tunes their ability to break lines to find the neutral player in the centre. It develops their overall ability to progress the ball vertically in a variety of ways, even when the game is being played at a high speed and in a small space. Defending players (pink) learn to reduce space by pressing as a unit, covering passing lanes and forcing the turnover. It also teaches transitions, as the team that just won the ball, needs to transition into outside possession positions under pressure from now defending team counter-pressing immediately after loosing the ball, while neutral players (green) need to quickly readjust to different set of "team-mates". 

Overall, the strategic use of these possession exercises in training is instrumental in developing players' abilities in modern football, which is characterized by its fast pace and high tactical complexity. This training methodology not only enhances individual player skills but also fosters a better understanding of team dynamics and tactical nuances essential for success in high-level football.

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