“I am not a fundamentalist in soccer. People ask me: what is your game model? And I say to them: Model of what? Game model against whom? When? With which players? My game model is that I have to find my opponent’s weakness and where his strength is. The project has to be flexible and it is never the same from when we started to when we finished. It’s like in my house: I don’t like this door, I change it; I don’t like this window, I change it. For example, Liverpool wanted to play with Suarez and Sterling behind the defenders; and Steven Gerrard was playing ahead of the defensive line. So, I put Lampard with Gerrard. I change my team, I win and they criticize me. So, I am the stupid one. I am not a fundamentalist. Some people in football are becoming more fundamentalist. «

Interview to Jose Mourinho. The Telegraph, 2014


One of the big mistakes that all coaches make when starting to train is that we don’t even select the contents to train. In fact, we rarely think about contents. We simply copy the tasks we remember or liked from when we were players. If we make a mistake when selecting the training content, no matter how well we train, no matter how good the players are, we are making a mistake. We simply will not be training what is necessary.

Selecting training content is one of the most important parts of planning. The selection of content comes from the game model. And we design the game model in one way or another depending on whether we are in a grassroot team or a professional team. What players need to learn in formation will be given by their age or their previous level of play. Competition should have little or nothing to do with the selection of contents. On the other hand, in professional teams, it is necessary to analyze which teams will be our rivals in order to be able to design a model of game to beat them.



The game model refers to the set of game systems, as well as the technical-tactical principles, physical and psychological aspects necessary to resolve the different Phases of the Game in football. This Model is unique and specific to achieve the institutional Objective and its development will depend on the prior analysis of the situation that we have carried out.

A first version of the Game Model must be finished at the end of the preseason. During the season we will be adding slight touches that will complete the bases learned during the preseason. The Game Model is a flexible tool, so it can be modified throughout the season depending on our needs.



A game system is a set of individual and collective rules that govern the actions of a team in order to obtain the maximum efficiency. The game system is not natural, in fact, if we observe children during their first steps learning football we can observe a total absence of the game system.

As the step to the high competition passes, the teams improve significantly in their organization. When analyzing professional competition, we can observe an excellent occupation of the space, a greater frequency and more direct communication between the players and the possibility of developing various roles by the same player

Characteristics of game systems

To develop properly the game systems that form our Model we have to take into account three fundamental aspects that might meticulously develop in each one of the different Game´s Phases:

  1. First of all, they must have a logical structure of the space. They must organize the players in width and depth, so that the spatial responsibilities are distributed among the team members.
  2. Secondly, our game system must always be adaptable to the opponent’s game system. This does not mean giving up the initiative at all, just the opposite. Without losing our identity, players must be prepared to react to any action by the rival.
  3. Third and last, the game systems must be modifiable due to strategic aspects, such as the type of competition or not being able to count on a player especially important to the team. The two possible solutions are to slightly modify the system that we have defined or to design a variant of the previous one to face that need.

In teams with no game system, players only do what they know. Regardless of the disorder, the quality of each player is irreplaceable, it is all there is. On the other hand, when the game system is well defined it is easy to have multipurpose players since it is enough to follow the instructions for each role.

Phases of the game

In general, we divide the phases of the game in soccer in four: Attack; Defence; Transition from Attack to Defense: and Transition from Defense to Attack or counterattack. We will use a different terminology to name them:



Organized Attack


Organized Defence

Transition from Attack to Defence

Disorganized Defence

Transición from Defence to Attack

Disorganized Attack



To create a game system we will have to answer the following questions. The answer to each of them will be the answer to «what we have to train», that is, the training contents.

  • Where do we place the players?
  • What individual orders do we give them?
  • How do we collaborate to impose ourselves on the adversary when one against one is not enough?
  • Will we make any changes due to certain strategic aspects?

Today, the key to offensive play is speed, the team that plays faster has more options to win the game. But to be able to play fast there is a key word, anticipation. The opposite word to anticipation is reaction. We react when we see what happens and make the decision after it happens. To anticipate, we make the decision before or when things happen, because we already know what is going to happen.

There are two main sources of uncertainty in the game: what opponents do, and what my teammates do. When we have well-defined the game systems, players can focus on what their opponents are going to do, because what we will do is already practically determined.

This does not mean that the systems must be rigid and defined in a closed way from the beginning to the end, but if we want our players to play fast and anticipate the situations, the best way to help them is by defining and explaining how they must compose as a team. This is a game system.



  1. Where are the players placed?

 The placement of the players in the defensive play system is not only achieved by naming the players’ starting position on the field (1-4-4-2; 1-4-3-3; 1-4-2 -3-1). As coaches we have the responsibility to guide and facilitate the action to the player by specifying the variations in their positioning during the game based on:

  • The position of the ball
  • The position of the rivals on the field of play
  • The position of my teammates on the field of play
  1. Individual Orders

When the ball starts moving, the positions of the players are readjusted to occupy the space more effectively. Each movement of the ball between the attackers corresponds to a movement of the defenders. In order to guide defenders to focus on defense, we have to make situations absolutely clear about what to do:

  1. When we defend an opponent who has the ball. This will depend on:
    1. The area of ​​the field in which we find ourselves.
    2. The possibilities of action of the attacker who has the ball.
  2. When we defend an opponent who does not have the ball. This will depend on:
    1. The area of ​​the field where the ball is.
    2. The distance at which the ball is located.
  1. Collective orders

It is important to design a defensively active, not reactive, model of game in which players are able to anticipate the actions. The collective orders will be intended to make it clear to the team what to do in two situations:

  • When the rival is superior to us in 1×1 situations. In this case, we must establish an effective help system to prevent the situation when our defender will be surpassed by the player who has the ball.
  • When the players of the opposite team try to create situations of numerical superiority to surpass us. In this case we must make it clear to our players how they must collaborate to counter the opposing team.
  1. The modification of the chosen system according to some strategic situation

It is essential to have several defensive systems ready, or some variants of the main system to face special situations such as:

  • Numerical inferiority situations due to expelled or injured players.
  • Specific moments in the game when we must take more risks or want to defend more aggressively due to the score.



  1. Where are the players placed?

It is curious to see how many coaches simply define the positions of the players and then leave the rest to “creativity”. It is not that it cannot be so, in fact, we can fundamentally influence how we want to start situations and how we want them to develop, but we cannot predict how the opposing defense will react and therefore how attack actions will finish.

Again, we will have to organize the players in width and depth to make the most of the space, causing the maximum distance between the defenders. Similarly, it is important at this point that attacking players know who the defender is that should theoretically mark them. 

  1. Individual Orders

Helping players to decide what to do in advance to anticipate the defender´s response will increase the speed of the game in attack. In this sense, players must be clarified about what to do depending on:

  • Whether or not they are the holders of the ball.
  • Where they are in the field.

Another important aspect is to teach the players to reorganize themselves right after participating, to maintain the team’s positional balance and a correct occupation of the space.

  1. Collective orders

On occasions when the 1×1 is not enough to overcome the opponent, it will be necessary to collaborate with colleagues. Making clear the basic forms of collaboration, as well as where and when we will use them. In this sense, it is important that the coach masters the offensive technical-tactical principles to provide solutions to the players.

  1. The modification of the chosen system according to some strategic situation

As with defensive systems, it is important to anticipate the eventualities that may occur in case there is little time to finish the game and we have to take risks, or that due to circumstances of the game we have to end the game with less players.