Rafa Benitez on Systems

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Post by RealGunner Fri Sep 27, 2013 8:32 pm

Systems, systems, systems! I can tell you that it’s all about systems here in Italy, in a way that it isn’t in other countries.

My Napoli team have played five games so far in Serie A and we have been up against a different system in every game, with some opponents changing their two or three times during a game. For those of you like numbers, we’ve faced 5-3-1-1, 5-3-2, 3-5-2, 4-3-3, 4-3-1-2, 4-4-2 and 4-1-4-1 and the challenge of counteracting and reacting to the systems is a great challenge for any coach in this country. It is more challenging than England, in that sense. Everyone seems to be talking about analysis and statistics in football, and managers’ philosophies about offensive football. Well, I’m sorry, but the philosophers were Plato and Socrates. The essential part of winning games for a coach is the work done on the field, helping players to deal with the systems thrown at them. Never is it more so than in Italy.

The team we played on Wednesday night - Sassuolo – are a good example. Against Inter Milan at the weekend they played 4-3-3 and lost 7-0 at home. Against us, they changed to 5-3-2 and we drew, instead of keeping our 100 per cent record. We had to change four or five players and rotate the squad with a lot of matches we had, but Sassuolo were a different team. We had 72 per cent of possession and still could not break through to score a second goal.

The people who like to think that systems mean more than making the right decisions in the match talk about a possession style of football as if it means everything. But look at Barcelona against Rayo Vallecano in (ital.)La Liga(close) a week ago. It was the first time in five years that Barcelona did not see more of the ball than their opponent – 49 per cent to the opponent’s 51 per cent. The result? Barcelona won 4-0.Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always been interested in data and statistics. I had my old Commodore 64 computer to analyse and control the work rate of my players many years ago and have used many computer programmes to generate statistics since. But when I hear managers talking about their philosophies, their projects and using statistics to ‘create’ an offensive style of play, I think you need to be very careful. You don’t only need data but the ability to make the right decision before, during and after games. That’s the value of a manager: not his ability to generate thousands of figures on who’s run, passed or won the second ball.

These are very early days for our Napoli team and though we have been working well and have started well, with our unbeaten record in Serie A and the win against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, we are still learning and developing as a squad. The major challenge is how to coach the players to deal with the different systems they might face – how to play if the oppositions start 5-3-1-1 and how if they line up 4-3-3. With two games a week, training and travelling, there is no time to show them all the systems. It requires a great deal of game intelligence from them, which some players in the Premier League would find it tough to adapt to. It depends on how good you are as a player. The better your game intelligence, the better you will adapt. If you are just strong in the air or quick, it’s not the same.

Our win over Dortmund helped with the players’ confidence and the key to it was being able to react to what they were confronted with. The systems in our Stadio San Paolo were straightforward and familiar to British football fans – their 4-2-3-1 matching up against our 4-2-3-1. But the key was to see the way the Champions League finalists played, with their intensity, pace, high tempo, and to be hard, resilient, deal with it and be strong on the counter attack. Again, philosophies and statistics are nice – I like to play the ball – but I like pragmatism more.

You will perhaps have seen a little more of our players, if you saw the highlights of the match. We have talked about Gonzalo Higuain already in these pages. He needed confidence and it is the same with all of them. Another of the players who is still learning here is Lorenzo Insigne. You will know his name by now, if you saw the Dortmund game, because of his free kick which was the decisive goal. Insigne has travelled in the past few years, perhaps wondering whether there would be a place for him in Naples, this incredibly passionate city where he was born. He has been away from here for three years – on loan at Cavese, Foggia and Pescara, in lower leagues. That is normal: loans like that are the Italian way. Now he is back, a real Naples street kid with all the passion I saw in the Scousers in Liverpool, a city which shares many fine things with my new one. He can still improve and can still get focus and find the calm place in his mind. But he showed in the Champions League that he can understands the game and can grasp what we ask him to do. It is no surprise that every other person in Naples seems to be talking about him.

Our win against AC Milan in San Siro last weekend, which was our first there in Serie A since Diego Maradona’s team beat them in April 1986, helped build the confidence of the team, too.  The team is growing but is still a long way from being right. There is a need to adapt to a new mentality, make big decisions in big games at the right time, while we bring young layers through at the right age. We have our plans but in this country, like others, we need to do more than give a good power-point presentations and a fantastic long report to the owner. The reality for the manager is knowing about football and using that to help him make decisions in the game.

Arsenal trip will be a tougher test for us

I don’t expect the systems to be as straightforward as they might seem in the Champions League, either. It will be a major challenge to be back competing in England playing a great team in Arsenal next week. It will be very difficult against a team with a great manager. In our elite coaches’ meeting at Nyon recently, they were talking about 4-2-3-1 being the most used system but we cannot rely on that always being the case. We drew against Arsenal in pre-season in the Emirates Cup and though our record against them with Liverpool in Europe was good, we must be thorough in the way we approach this. The Dortmund game was only one result. A European night at the Emirates is something to savour. But there is a long road ahead.

Even Balotelli can be outfoxed in the box

It was a challenge for us when AC Milan won a late penalty against us in San Siro because they have Mario Balotelli and every Manchester City fan knows that Balotelli does not miss penalties! Researching where the goalkeeper might dive is something we have always worked on with Pepe. At Liverpool, we divided the goal into six numbered sections and our goalkeeping coach Jose Manuel Ochoterena before, and Xavi Valero now, would study the numbers with Pepe when the moment came. The goalkeepers would also look at patterns on a laptop. We have been doing the same here, using television as well, for analysis. Balotelli paused in front of the ball and struck his kick to Pepe’s right. He saved it well.

http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/news-and-comment/the-rafael-benitez-column-ill-leave-the-philosophy-stuff-to-plato-and-do-my-work-on-the-field-at-napoli-with-our-players-8843732.html

_____________

Interesting read.


Last edited by RealGunner on Fri Sep 27, 2013 8:55 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Post by Mr Nick09 Fri Sep 27, 2013 8:35 pm

When i finish playing GTA i will give it a read Proud
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Post by The Franchise Fri Sep 27, 2013 8:42 pm

What is he implying? Formation is more important than philosophy? Total crap that is.

Using Barca's 4-0 against Rayo is a bad example, we played much better in previous seasons vs them with more possession. The 4-0 in reality should of been 4-2 or 3 if not for Valdes.
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Post by Guest Fri Sep 27, 2013 8:50 pm

The Franchise wrote:What is he implying? Formation is more important than philosophy? Total crap that is.

Using Barca's 4-0 against Rayo is a bad example, we played much better in previous seasons vs them with more possession. The 4-0 in reality should of been 4-2 or 3 if not for Valdes.
It sounds like he is saying groundwork is more important than philosophy, which it is.

He has brilliantly set up a team with the work to combat any philosophy that has been thrown at him so far, and it seems to be working right now.

Brilliant Rafa.

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Post by The Franchise Fri Sep 27, 2013 9:10 pm

Groundwork? Like what? Elaborate.
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Post by Dante Fri Sep 27, 2013 9:12 pm

Interesting. Although subtle , he is obviously critical of the possesion based tactics . I never quite agreed with the word "philosophy" being used in football terms as well , it even annoys me sometimes. Having said that , i always liked , appreciated and wanted my team to have possesion of the ball , as much as possible and be constructed in a way that enables the recycle and fluidity the ideal of having the ball usually offers.

I think for clubs , having a certain sporting policy , whatever that is , is the ideal imo but having said this , even that should relate to the players a team has at any given time and the opposition .

For instance , if the opposition lacks the quality to keep the ball and play football up front , then why not give them the ball ffs , why play their game ? Because if said team has a certain tenacity to sit back in an organised manner and giving everything on the counter , it would at least smart to let them attack you. They will most probably fail to do it , especialy if they don't do it often.

I could be wrong , but i think this is what he says here. That they way you field your team and how they approach the opposition during the game , is more important than a sporting policy , something that i agree to a great extent.

I am not sure if the example against Rayo Vayecano is that accurate , but anyhow , i am not so interested in this. What he says about systems have much more to do than in England , for instance , i always believed to be true . Though for all Benitez knows , without a doubt he has a pool of vast football knowledge more than us fans , it's not always down to systems anyway.

There are so many factors that co exist at any given time in football , which makes it difficult to claim that formation A with X players , will overcome formation B with Y players. It's not science even though it can be "scientificaly measured" to an extent , but it will never totaly be down to numbers , if your team will overcome an opposition which fields in a certain way.

Even for a club like Barcelona , who value possesion much more than many other clubs , perhaps there will be a day when this so called 'philoshophy' won't suit them. Maybe they won't be able to produce the next Xaviesta , or their best players are suited to different type of football. Maybe the league or football around the world evolves into something completely different , that would make possesion based tactics to win games , obsolete.

Of course that's just talk .. Yet i am of the opinion , even though i think i will always want my team to favour possesion of the ball , that a team should always be ready to adapt , regardless of football ideas. Whenever that makes the difference to win or lose , it would be silly to stick with it , just because it won you the match yesterday. No match was ever the same and won't ever be an exact second , so what Benitez says here , is close to the truth. Not 'science' by any means , but close enough .
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Post by The Franchise Fri Sep 27, 2013 9:17 pm

We dont care about possession per say, we care about control of the ball and therefore control the game. One leads to the other, but "possession" is not our game, controlling the game is.

We did this before Xavi and Iniesta and if they know whats good for them, we will do it long after them also.
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Post by zizzle Fri Sep 27, 2013 9:20 pm

It requires a great deal of game intelligence from them, which some players in the Premier League would find it tough to adapt to. It depends on how good you are as a player. The better your game intelligence, the better you will adapt. If you are just strong in the air or quick, it’s not the same.
Pretty much saying the EPL is a horse race
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Post by Le Samourai Fri Sep 27, 2013 9:43 pm

He's saying this:

- In his current situation and in Italy on the whole, it's important that players understand how to adjust to the different situations they experience. Even the best thought out plans never really materialize, so there needs to be continuous adaption.

- Players making the right decisions is pivotal - not possession, not formation, not philosophy. He wants to be pragmatic during games and wants his his players to follow suit. He doesn't want to define that quality in terms of philosophy, because they are usually wrong and somewhat restrictive. For example possession isn't a philosophy and where it isn't working, it isn't worth using.

- The value of statistics is very limited, data about how much passes you've made, how much you've run or anything like that should only be used to augment a manager's decision making - not constitute it's base.
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Post by Onyx Sat Sep 28, 2013 12:11 am

Good read, however there's nothing wrong with having a primary style of play or a primary style of play with a bit of pragmatism.

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Post by BarrileteCosmico Sat Sep 28, 2013 12:17 am

Le Samourai wrote:- The value of statistics is very limited, data about how much passes you've made, how much you've run or anything like that should only be used to augment a manager's decision making - not constitute it's base.
I don't think he's saying that. I think he's rather saying that the ability to compile data is not as important as the ability to analyze it and discern the available information into the relevant and the not relevant.

I kind of agree with Dani, it figures Benitez would not believe in philosophy since he is a reactive manager. Not that there's anything wrong with that, and he has the titles to back it up, but it's a bit like Xabi Alonso saying that tackling is not an important attribute for a holding midfielder.
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Post by aleumdance Sat Sep 28, 2013 12:22 am

when Denis Law played in Italy

he literally said the same thing, Italian football is based on too many systems and for someone coming from a British background, it can be hard to adapt too
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Post by lenear1030 Sat Sep 28, 2013 12:36 am

Good read, is this off of Rafa's blog? If so, I need to check it out. Interesting perspective from him. The slight poke at 'philosophers' is there but to some extent I agree with his assertion that it's more important to put the players in position to succeed rather than the the philosophy. Seems like Italy is the right place for a tactician such as Benitez.
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Post by Great Leader Sprucenuce Sat Sep 28, 2013 12:38 am

The Franchise wrote:We dont care about possession per say, we care about control of the ball and therefore control the game. One leads to the other, but "possession" is not our game, controlling the game is.

We did this before Xavi and Iniesta and if they know whats good for them, we will do it long after them also.
I wouldn't say controlling the game was an ethos of Rijkaard tbf.... for one his big thing was leaving 3 forwards up the pitch when you defended a corner for a quick counter.

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Post by The Franchise Sat Sep 28, 2013 12:45 am

Just one aspect of the game, leaving forwards up the pitch for corners.

But I disagree if your saying Rijkaard's team wasnt about controlling the game.

The team didnt excute it the same way the current teams does, naturally when you consider the different players (long pass specialists Marquez, Edmilson; a true number 10 in Deco; a true winger in Guily, a real 9 in Etoo) but the gameplan was always about keeping the ball and arriving at goal with numbers, not single players.
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Post by Great Leader Sprucenuce Sat Sep 28, 2013 1:17 am

I agree with that last sentence.... and that has always been the overriding philosophy.

I can't say for certain but i'm pretty damn sure Cruyff's dream team didn't absolutely dominate possession either.

I still don't think Rijkaard's Barca was really about controlling the game though.... keeping the ball and arriving at goal in numbers which is what both Rijkaard's Barca and Cruyff's dream team from what i have seen did.

They are for my money at least you would know more than i do more important pillars of the philosophy than actually controlling the football match.

When i think of control i think of attacking a team while being able to keep them out at the back like Pep did to perfection.... i didn't see that under Rijkaard it was something different albeit having the same ideas of keeping the ball and arriving in the final third with numbers.
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Post by Dante Sat Sep 28, 2013 2:53 am

The Franchise wrote:We dont care about possession per say, we care about control of the ball and therefore control the game. One leads to the other, but "possession" is not our game, controlling the game is.

We did this before Xavi and Iniesta and if they know whats good for them, we will do it long after them also.
In all honesty , i know , just more often than not i simplify it with the term possesion. The ideal of having the ball more than the opponent , with everything it goes with , has always been my favourite . Even excessive possesion of the ball . I mainly have Barcelona to thank for this , because when i begun watching European football i started watching Barcelona games when i could , i was a huge Rivaldo fan back in the day and i still remember most of that team very fondly , even players like Reiziger .
In a parallel universe , i would definitely be a Barcelona fan today lol. I always liked how Barcelona was playing and i get it when you say Barcelona did this before Xavi and Iniesta , i've seen it , up to an extent. They did and very well , but not at such rate like in the last 5-6 or so years ; perhaps it was because of less success , i don't know , Barcelona i think always favoured possesion and always went to have the upper hand in games , but you would see every now and then teams playing their game anyway and not by just counter attacking , something that was the norm in rescent years when it was Barcelona-X team.

In the end , i fully understand and agree that it's not possesion per say that wins you games or that simply playing a pass or two more defines that kind of mentality , but the ideal of being the master of the ball as much as possible during games is optimal imo. Having said all that , i think Benitez has made some good points here , though nothing we didn't know already and that is , football 'philosophies' are not the alpha and omega in football . There will always be an answer for it and evolution in the game and it's better to be prepared and willing to adapt when needed.

I am especially concerned with this , when teams can't keep hold of the ball in a positive manner up front and their only way of attacking is on the counter , you have to let them play as well Laughing, it's risky and sometimes even silly to only play their game . If i was a Barcelona fan , i would never want my team to change this attacking mentality , yet i believe i would want the team to adapt and refine a few things , when that is needed.
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Post by The Franchise Sat Sep 28, 2013 12:46 pm

Cruyff's Barca let in many many goals, but they also aim to control the game. But of course, when you play with so many offensive players your bound to let in goals.

This doesnt to me mean they didnt aim to control the game. I think the problem is, with past teams, Cryuff's team aswell as Rijkaard, its very easy to remember only the important games, the CL games, the key league fixtures. Games in which the opponant also created danger.

But if you pick out a random La Liga fixture, I think it would be different.
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Post by Dante Sat Sep 28, 2013 1:21 pm

The Franchise wrote:Cruyff's Barca let in many many goals, but they also aim to control the game. But of course, when you play with so many offensive players your bound to let in goals.

This doesnt to me mean they didnt aim to control the game. I think the problem is, with past teams, Cryuff's team aswell as Rijkaard, its very easy to remember only the important games, the CL games, the key league fixtures. Games in which the opponant also created danger.

But if you pick out a random La Liga fixture, I think it would be different.
Can't claim to recall such games , in all honesty . But i think i can agree , against smaller teams it should have been different. In any case , having the upper hand was always priority for Barcelona and this hasn't changed like in ages.

But for all the appreciation i have for all of the things we talk about here , sometimes , you can have control of the game but not the upper hand . What i mean is , teams who can really press and counter attack in a fine way , want you to play this way , they want you to keep the ball more and attack them , move to their side carrying the ball. For instance , i was watching 1860Munchen - Dortmund . Dortmund faced a well prepared 1860 side , which only allowed in 2 and threatened enough during the game , mainly on the counter.

Then Dortmund somewhere late in the 2nd half , waited in the middle passing sideways-back passes , for the opposition to press them high up the pitch and they refused to go forward because 1860 sat back ! Because the opposition only wanted to suffer attacks , in order to begin their game. Dortmund sat back for at least 2+ minutes and just played the ball trolling them Laughing, which eventualy , led them to come forward and Dortmund begun again.
(This was just a small example , but adaptation is very important imo and pragmatism can be key like Benitez says )

So , though i am not certain , wouldn't this be that the opponent is also controlling the game , though admittedly in their own version , not the same thing obviously. If teams can only counter , then they also control the game , because it goes like they prepared for it to go , like they wanted. Though i can separate the two obviously , i think they might mean the same to each team.
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Post by Mr Nick09 Thu May 21, 2015 12:33 am

minds
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