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Marcelo Bielsa: Five Ways to Lose a Marker

There is no doubt that Marcelo Bielsa is the gift that keeps giving to coaches in the football world. The intensity of his teams without the ball, the fluid rotations in midfield, the ideas on the training pitch, plus of course, the humility in front of the general public. Bielsa is a coach who seems to spend all his time teaching. The question we have on MSC this week is whether coaches are spending enough time learning from his work? Back in 2016, Bielsa presented for the Aspire Academy in front of a group of colleagues at the Amsterdam Stadium. During his presentation he shared five ways that an attacker could lose a marker and we look back at those five ways to create separation here.

In this week's MSC Breakdown on YouTube, we take a look at each technique that Bielsa shared, along with the tactical and training examples for each one. You can watch the full video below.

If you would like to take a closer look at the breakdowns for each technique, please find them below.

1 - Reception with a turn (or already oriented)

This is where the attacker checks towards the ball to receive on the half-turn and be in a position to play forward. In his presentation, Bielsa described how this could be from a straight or diagonal pass and he specified that it was from a player dropping “in front of the game, moving from line to line.” Below is a training example from the presentation and you can see that there is a huge emphasis on timing from the blue player and receiving immediately after dropping into the space. The body shape after receiving then allows the player to dribble or pass forward and ask questions of opposition central defenders.

2 - Reception Behind the Opponent’s Back

For this technique, Bielsa described how this specific movement was beneficial when an attacker find themselves very close to the opponent and then moves into space at speed behind the last line. Again timing is key, but in this example it's about two movements. The first is to attract the opponent "out of their area, where they don’t feel at home”, and the second movement is then where the attacker exploits the space created. As he talked through the training movements below, Bielsa described how coaches must be attentive to every detail. “You have to be precise in everything you train. That’s where you add value.”

3 - Reception Beside the Opponent

With this type of movement, Bielsa described how attackers can benefit from opening up space on the side of the opponent. Often defenders recover towards central areas (particularly in transition moments), so if attackers create a new "corridor" they can get separation without dropping too wide. In the training example below, you can see how Bielsa used white tape to show those 'corridors', again referencing angles and timing alongside the movement, to get that precision right.

4 - Reception after ‘Counter Anticipating’

This could be definitely be Bielsa's most innovative movement where he referenced Messi as a player who uses it. He calls it a pass to the opponent (which doesn't sound right) because I believe that he means that the opponent will commits in the challenge, shifting their weight and momentum and allowing the attacker to move the other way. As you can see in the training video below, the attacker starts outside the space of the defender and then towards them, using the change in direction to separate and drive towards goal.

5 - Reception Behind the Opponent with Aerial Pass

In his final example, Bielsa described how the defender and attacker start on the same line, the defender is drawn to the ball carrier, allowing the movement by the attacker to go out of the space and run in behind. It sounds quite straight-forward, but Bielsa's training set-up again pointed to key specifics. Although it's more of a linear pass by the teammate, Bielsa uses an extra mannequin to coach the weight of the final pass so that it is still controlled to find the attacker. This attention to detail is consistent throughout the presentation and for me, is the most inspiring aspect of Bielsa's work.

You can also watch the presentation below.

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