Everything evolves – soccer included. The best football we watch today, exemplified by sure footed movement, quick feet, short passing and possession retained can be traced back to the 1990 when the Dutch master, Johan Cruyff, introduced a new system of play into the side he had recently been appointed to manage, Barcelona. Take a look at the short video of clips below to see soccer tika taka presented at its best; with those pictures in our minds we can begin to look at the concept of Soccer Tika Taka, and how to introduce it into our clubs.
By 1990, Barcelona – the team most consider to be the world’s greatest club side – had won the Spanish championship only once in sixteen seasons. They would go on to win fourteen times in the following twenty eight campaigns through to the present day. This is a feat even more remarkable if we consider that, mighty as they are, they cannot match the spending power of their rivals Real Madrid, and they failed to win the championship from the turn of the millennium to 2005.
But if Cruyff is the man who began the change in the Catalan team’s fortunes, tika taka came to fruition under Pep Guardiola, the man who has guided firstly them, then Bayern Munich and, in many people’s opinion, now Manchester City to be Europe’s strongest team. The dominant Spanish international side of the 2010s – World Cup winners and European Champions – also employed this style of play, using perhaps its greatest player, Andres Iniesta, as the lynchpin. Interestingly, despite being tika taka’s most successful exponent Guardiola professes to not be a huge fan of the system, which he feels is too passing dominant, with a lack of sufficient penetration for the game today. Certainly, sides have learned that by pressing from the front and having players fit enough to maintain pressure in their own half throughout a game, they can stultify tika taka’s impact. Nevertheless, it is an exciting and highly successful style of play.
We might say that there are five main principles behind the Soccer Tiki Taka philosophy. These are:
- Constant movement
- Excellent technical first touch skills
- One or two touch passing
- Passing on the ground
- Team work
Let us look at each, along with some Soccer Tiki Taka drills to use in training which will help to develop this particular system.
Philosophy of Tiki Taka
Tiki Taka Soccer Movement
Firstly, it is essential that players are fit and have good stamina, since soccer tika taka is particularly effective at wearing out opponents who spend long periods chasing the ball. If our own players are not fit enough to sustain their own movement, that advantage is lost.
Movement needs to be constant but purposeful. The aim is to create angles so the player on the ball always has three options to make a pass. One can be the safe backwards pass, but the other two should be attack minded, aiming to move the ball towards goal. By have two offensive options, defending sides find it hard to track where the ball will end up.
Tiki Taka Soccer First Touch
This is vital in any style of play. A good first touch draws an opponent in, leaving space around them or it gives the player on the ball time to weigh up options. Because players are drilled in soccer tika taka, they get very adept at making these decisions, and know the kind of positions that their team mates will be taking up.
Tiki Taka Soccer – One and Two Touch Passing, and Passing on the Ground
As soon as a pass leaves the ground, the process towards loss of possession has begun. It may take two or three more stages but controlling a ball in the air is harder and takes longer than using the instep to cushion a ground pass. The ball is more likely to get away from the receiver and that makes the next pass difficult, so control is lost. Eventually, the ball will be lost as well, especially if in a crowded part of the pitch.
We know that the game is currently undergoing one of its on-going developments, and attacking on the break, or during transition, is becoming more important; nevertheless, possession more often than not is the key factor for a winning side and possession is retained more easily with ground level passing.
When the passing is one or two touch, the speed of movement of the ball increases, making defending harder still. This creates goal scoring opportunities for the team in possession.
Tiki Taka Soccer Philosophy – Patience
Watching clips of Barcelona – and other teams, the English Champions Arsenal, under the French coach Arsene Wenger are another example – it is not unusual to see twenty, maybe even thirty passes before the pace increases and decisive incursions are made. It is important that players understand this, and do not resort to the hopeful long ball in the hope of advancing quickly.
Tiki Taka Team Work
Soccer Tika taka is extremely quick, as watching the clip above illustrates. It is the speed and movement of players and the ball that creates openings. Therefore, every player needs to contribute, constantly supporting the player on the ball, and knowing their role as play develops.
Soccer Training Drills
We have looked at the rondo in previous blogs. Tika Taka requires training using rondo drills. The overload of players helps to maintain possession to practise the drill, while some opposition creates pressure and realism. Any rondo style drill will help speed of movement, touch and teamwork.
Tiki Taka Training Drill: 1 v 3 Square
In this drill, a 10m square has an attacker along each side. In the middle is one further attacker and three defenders. The aim is to score points by keeping possession. Points are scored only when passes either involve the player in the square, or are passed through defenders in the square. Simply, short passing avoiding anybody in the square is allowed but (like the ‘safe’ pass in tika taka) does not progress the team’s score although it helps to retain possession.
Training Drill: Triangles
Here, a 20 x 20m grid is used, divided into 16 much smaller grids. There are four attackers versus one defender. One attacker is the ‘safe’ player who stays outside the grid, but must move around to be available for a ‘safe’ pass. There are two defenders in the grid. The aim is to keep possession. Every time the ball is passed, each player inside the main grid must move into a different small grid, thus keeping movement alive. At the same time, this movement should always create a triangle for the player on the ball to have two passing options.
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