“A winger’s main job defensively is to get behind the ball and halve the pitch. If the opposition’s left-back is carrying the ball forward from their half, your midfield should shuffle across, with your left winger halving the pitch by tucking in, meaning that everyone’s playing on the half of the pitch on the near side.
When their left-back gets close to the halfway line your right-back tells your right winger: ‘I’ve got the left winger, you push forward and put the left back under pressure.’ By halving the pitch and squeezing play you’re forcing their left-back to make a decision.
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He may choose to try and switch the play. But in the time it takes for the ball to travel across the pitch, your players will be able to adjust their positioning and close down the opposite winger when he receives the ball.
By doing this you’re forcing the opposition to play sideways, rather than forwards. Obviously, there are problems in halving the pitch. Your left winger will be out of position, opening up a big channel for the opposing full-back to run into.
But overall this is a good play by your midfield – you can’t stop all good play. If their right winger decides not to follow your left winger when he tucks in, then maybe your left winger doesn’t squeeze the play as much because he has to be aware of the danger in behind him.”
MAKING THE STEP UP
Struggling to settle after stepping up a level? Be yourself and knuckle down, says Taylor
1 Act naturally
If there are cliques in the dressing room that team won’t be as successful as it should be. A new player has to be himself. If he tries to be someone else, the players will suss him out. Don’t try and fit in straightaway by being a flash Harry, but don’t be nervous – the other players will soon pick up on it.
2 Learn from the older players
As a new player, take on board what the experienced players do to prepare for match day. I had the pleasure of working with Nick Barmby at Hull, and I used to just tell people to watch him train because he does everything right. Players at a higher level are there because they’ve done things right.
3 Keep working as hard as you can
The player has to say to himself: “I’ve been rewarded, I’ve got to a better level, now I’ve got to carry on working hard.” If Andy Hessenthaler had stopped working hard when he signed for Watford from a non-league team he would have been a waste of time. But he didn’t; he carried on working extremely hard and was a successful signing.