There are more spaces in football than people think. Even if you play against a low block team, you immediately get half of the pitch.
And after that, in attacking midfield, you can provoke the opponent with the ball, provoke him to move forward or sideways and open up a space. But many players can’t understand the game.
How do you attack a team that plays with an ultra-low block?
AVB: Let’s see. Juventus play with an ultra-low block, they don’t put any pressure on you high up the field. Nowadays most teams don’t. It can limit you because they control the space behind them with perfect offside timing.
They limit your vertical passes as well because they are all grouped within 30 or 40 metres, completely closed in two lines of four plus the two forwards.
So you start constructing “short”, begin the attacking process with your centre-backs of full-backs carrying the ball forward to the midfield area but then you want to pass the ball to the midfielders and you don’t know how to do it, because there is an ultra-limited space, everything is completely closed.
DS: So what to do?
AVB: You have to provoke them with the ball, which is something most teams can’t do. I cannot understand it. It’s an essential factor in the game.
At this time of ultra-low defensive block teams, you will have to learn how to provoke them with the ball. It’s the ball they want, so you have to defy them using the ball as a carrot.
Louis Van Gaal’s idea is one of continuous circulation, one side to the other, until the moment that, when you change direction, an space opens up inside and you go through it.
So, he provokes the opponent with horizontal circulation of the ball, until the moment that the opponent will start to pressure out of despair. What I believe in is to challenge the rival by driving the ball into him.
The Fulham side we have now is a good one, but few players are able to commit defenders to the point where that defender leaves his area, or is pulled out of the defensive scheme. We have players who are good at creating space within congested areas – Zamora and Duff spring to mind in the attacking third – and players who are good at attacking space defenders don’t like to go into – Dempsey is good at this – but only Dembele can go around people, make a mess of defensive schemes. He needs to work on his decision making perhaps, knowing when to lay off, when to drive, but the talent is there for everyone to see. I think it’s going to be a big year for him.