Latest Birmingham Mail Column

I don’t find myself agreeing with Sam Alladyce very often however he was spot on about teams playing out from the back something that has been driving me barmy for some time. Now I am not against teams playing out from the back if there is a purpose and end product to their play. But all too often playing out from the back in reality means passing sideways and backwards between the defenders and goalkeeper with it invariably ending somewhat ironically with the goalkeeper smashing the ball down the pitch anyway.

I was reporting on the Blues v Norwich game for talkSPORT and was bemused and bored watching the Canaries two central defenders passing the ball to each other and also involving the two fullbacks and the goalkeeper. It resulted in them having 70% possession which delighted their manager Daniel Farke. However the other stats tell the real story. Total shots 16 by Blues and 17 for Norwich while each had 7 shots on target with both having 4 corners.

At Villa Park Wigan has the most possession against Villa but Villa had more shots on and off target?

All possession in my opinion must have an end product! Passing for passing’s’ sake is surely just a waste of time especially at the back where it is standard practice to pass to each other even when not put under pressure by the opposition.

I am not advocating just launching the ball up front and hoping for the best, but playing the game in the opponents half where the possession football played especially in the final third.

If you are a defender I am certain you would be delighted to see the opposition’s defenders passing it between themselves.

One manager famously said it did not matter about long balls or short balls only good or bad ones.

In winning the title Leicester made great use of Jamie Vardy’s pace by playing plenty of balls in behind defences.

I was speaking to Graeme Souness last year and he said that when he played for Liverpool they were told in possession “the first thought should be passing it forward and if nothing on that sideways”.

Lots of modern coaches would say that possession means you are in control and that the opposition cannot hurt you when you have control of the football. However just check how many teams with most possession end up losing the game. I am sure it’s different for Manchester City but not every team has their quality of player.

However Raheem Sterling has rightly received lots of praise for his goal on Sunday against Arsenal and yes it was a fantastic strike. But come on not one Gunners defender laid a glove on him as he came across the face of goal to shoot, nor did they get close enough to him. But they did look good playing out from the back? If they looked as good defending they did playing out from the back they just might have got something out of the game.

Just watch what happens when a team is losing going into the last minutes of the game- they get the ball into the danger zone as quickly as possible. I once asked a manager why- he said because it is the quickest way to get a goal to which my reply was “then why don’t you do it from the start”. Interview over.

I might be naive but what is wrong in playing to the strengths of the players at your disposal rather than asking them to play the way you want which just might not be suitable for them and might restrict them from being effective for the team.

Fans are always more excited and always talk about what happened when the ball is in the final third of the pitch at either end and especially when it’s in the penalty area.

I cannot remember anyone saying what a game we had so much of the ball in the middle of the park. It’s always about missed chances, shots, goals, crosses penalty appeals etc.

I refuse to be brainwashed by coaches who all want their team to play like Barcelona but without Messi, Iniesta etc. Having said that Brentford to play out from the back but with a forward attitude.

Playing out from the back is fine as long as it has a purpose and end product and is not just a private game of keep ball between defenders and keeper in my opinion.