A coach I know once told me that he wasn’t very impressed by Arsenal’s training. He went there for a short education program, and discovered that Arsène Wenger doesn’t specifically instruct players, but instead puts them in environments that are intended to make them come to conclusions themselves.
It’s why he’s so keen on playing five-a-side.
Wenger even explained: “Five-a-side confronts the player with constant decision-making,” he told FourFourTwo. “When you receive the ball, you are faced with dozens of options. Your brain acts like a computer: It realizes it has been faced with this situation before and tries to come up with the right answer.”
He basically lets players think for themselves about what to do next. That’s why it takes time for many new players to get used to the way Arsenal play. That’s why his best teams were built by veterans with plenty of experience, unlike the past few years, when we saw squads built on players “who will become great” according to Wenger.
José Mourinho, on the other hand, says that “(‘we need time’ is) the biggest lie in football”.
After witnessing Mourinho’s training sessions and being in a lecture of his, it was plain to see that his method of training is based a lot more on telling the players what to do and how to do it.
He uses the “Tactical periodization” method.
This method was developed by Vitor Frade (a professor at the sports university in Porto) to find the best possible way to train players in order to fulfill their full potential. The method is based around the 4 different moments in football (offensive organization, defensive organization, transition from attack to defence, transition from defence to attack) and the 4 key elements (physical, technical, tactical, psychological).
The tactical periodization method of training aims to teach the team to react automatically to each moment of football. A good performer is the individual that is able to select the most appropriate action to respond to different game scenarios, and these actions are always determined by a tactical context. This means that the tactical dimension should
be a dominant training component.
Every game Mourinho prepares his players according to these questions:
A. What are we doing when we have the ball against X?
B. What are we doing when we don’t have the ball against X?
C. What are we doing when the ball is in transition from defence to attack against X?
D. What are we doing when the ball is in transition from attack to defence against X?
His directions during training vary depending on the next opponent, but the questions stay the same.
Basically Mourinho gives his players four options to choose from at each moment of each game, thus making their decision process easier.
This method might be a lot more mechanical than Wenger’s more pedagogical system, and it might also explain why Mourinho prefers ready-made players, rather than players with potential. On the other hand, it’s obviously the more successful method nowadays.
This is what works better in professional football, and I have the slightest feeling that youngsters need to be told what to do and not think about it against professional players.
The bottom line is that Wenger is a world-class manager or sporting director. His ability to build teams and develop talent is second to none. However, it’s becoming more and more clear that he is not a world-class coach.
Is it time the members of the Arsenal board realize that as well?
FOLLOW US ON TWITTER: @SOCCERISSUE