Playing models can provide a valuable framework around which to develop playing philosophies and teach key principles of the game. Below, we discuss a playing model developed as an example by the PDP team, and how it can guide coaches and programme administrators in building team identities and facilitating player development.

In This Article

Coaching Moments of the Game

The PDP Playing Model works by breaking the game down into distinct moments: In Possession, Out of Possession, and Moments of Transition. This simplified approach enables us to develop ideas within these moments and establish a specific vocabulary to accompany them.

How coaches use and adapt these ideas will then depend upon their own environments. (For example, when working with younger players, we might place less emphasis on turnovers and restarts, or use child-friendly language to discuss counter-pressing.)

Ultimately, the PDP Model helps us establish key areas of learning and then place them within the context of the game.

In Possession

These moments of the game can be broken down into three additional subcategories:

  • Building from the back
  • Controlling possession
  • Creating and scoring

Building from the back refers to how our team starts with the ball from either the goalkeeper or the central defenders, and then maintains possession. Successfully playing out from the back means arriving in the opposition half with controlled possession of the ball, and there are a number of ways we can seek to achieve this; one long, controlled pass to a teammate on the halfway line, for example, is equally valid as a series of five-yard passes.

We want our teams to control possession, as this increases our chances of creating scoring opportunities. We can help our players to control possession by focussing on concepts like passing the ball and creating space, or by helping them to develop key skills related to individual possession, which enable them to be creative, carry the ball, and retain it under pressure.

How we try to create and score when we have possession in the final third will also vary — for instance, it could be through crosses into the box, or via clever combination play. Our approach will depend upon the context of our environment and the developmental goals of our team.

Out of Possession

Similarly, our out-of-possession preparation covers two main topics:

  • Pressing
  • Intelligent defending

“A lot of defending comes down to communication and decision-making,” says PDP Co-Founder Dave Wright. “For example, players could press high to regain possession, or sit back and defend in units. We should encourage them to recognise these different moments and learn how to respond to them.

“We may favour one particular style within our team or club, but it’s important to teach players all of these ideas, so that they are prepared for whatever the game demands of them.”

Moments of Transition

Moments of transition are ‘the space’ that exists between our team having possession and attempting to win it back. They encompass the following themes:

Transition to Defend

  • Counter-pressing
  • Turnovers and restarts

Transition to Attack

  • Counter-attacking
  • Turnovers and restarts

Counter-pressing means the closest player to the ball attempting to win it back — and their other teammates supporting them — no matter where they are on the pitch; during defensive turnovers, our players reorganise and prepare to win the ball back; counter-attacks underpin our attacking turnovers, when we want our players to exploit space while the opposition are disorganised; and restarts encompass moments like set-pieces and throw-ins.

Unlike more organised phases of play, these moments can be chaotic, requiring players to assess the situation and make decisions quickly.

Applying a Playing Model

Finally, it’s vital that we consider our players and tailor any model to their needs before attempting to apply it. “Playing models can really help us to outline key principles and articulate them with our players,” explains Wright, “but we must adapt them to meet the requirements of our own environment.”

“Remember: this is just a way of doing things — not the only way. But, when used correctly, the PDP model can be a valuable tool for developing young players while preparing them for the demands of the competitive game.”

Image Source: matimix from Getty Images

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