Pep Guardiola, the vanguard of possession soccer, had an innocuous quote turned into an amusing headline when he said Manchester City passed too much against Hull. What the article misses is that the specific quote about passing less is not a contradiction of the possession philosophy. As Thierry Henry articulates in this video, Guardiola utilizes possession to advance the team to the final third, where advantageous attacking opportunities mitigate the need for more passing.
The major upsets of 2016 – Leicester’s Premier League title and Portugal’s Euro championship – signaled a blow for possession soccer. Rather than react away from a possession-based philosophy, though, many top European teams spent this season re-enforcing the benefits of pressing and direct play within the possession framework. With opponents sitting deeper and deeper, there is an elevated need within this structure for players who can create goal-scoring opportunities. The trade-off calculation for managers is to field players who assume the right amount of risk. When should players attempt a riskier pass, one that might lead to a shot for a teammate but could increase the chances of killing the attack? Continue reading “Risk and Reward: Key Passes in the 2016 MLS Season”