Updated: Jun 9
Prior to the Champions League Final, coaches were fortunate to get an inside look at a full training session from Thomas Tuchel and his Chelsea team. With the 24/7 access of clubs today, the outside world frequently get small insights into daily life at professional clubs, but rarely is a full training session unveiled for all to see. When the cameras are rolling and the world is watching, it is very rare for a professional coach to run through any tactical detail for the obvious reasons, but for a game with the magnitude of a Champions League final, they still have to prepare in a way that is consistent with their daily processes. It was very interesting to see Tuchel's session layout, along with the design of different exercises to meet his objectives.
Below is an outline of the session with a conclusion of key takeaways for coaches.
The overall warm-up lasted for approximately eight minutes in total. Initially, the players took a traditional 'lap' around the pitch, before performing a series of dynamic stretches in a circle. They then moved towards the corner of the pitch to do an activation exercise that incorporated the ball, in four small groups. You can see that exercise below, along with a tactical animation.
Following the warm-up, the players then moved to a basic passing warm-up, that still incorporated some physical aspects with short sprints and change of direction. The total time spent doing this activity was approximately three minutes. There were a couple of progressions added from the initial set-up. Below is a short video of the exercise, along with a tactical animation.
The team then moved towards two 9v2 rondo exercises, alongside one another. Eight minutes total was spent here and the organization looked to be around 10x10 yard playing area. The rules were very simple: if you lost possession, you went into the middle. This allowed players a small area to make quick decisions and also practice intense defensive actions that would be required in bigger spaces. You can watch a video of the exercise below, along with a tactical animation.
7v7+ (7+1) Hexagon Possession Game:
Players were then organized into three teams of seven players each and into a hexagon shaped playing area. This game was set-up into a 15v7 in possession with a transition between the roles of the middle teams if possession turned over. The middle player always acted as a central 'plus one' also. There were three games played in total and each game lasted approximately three minutes. You can watch a short video of the exercise below, along with a tactical animation.
7v7+ (7+1) Progression to Goals:
The next activity saw the possession game progress into a 'polygon' shape with goals. The same type of organization stayed consistent from the previous exercise with a 7v7 in the middle and the outside players playing for the team in possession. Goalkeepers were now involved and the 'plus one' player remained in the middle at all times. Outside players were limited to one-touch and the objective seemed to be for players to create and utilize combinations in attacking areas to score goals. You can watch a short video of the activity below, along with a tactical animation.
Players finished the session with some shooting where two groups of players were set-up at the edge of each side of the penalty area with a ball each and a coach in front of them acting as a rebound player. After playing a give and go with the coach, the player shot on goal from a wider angle. Following the shot the next side went. This activity lasted five minutes total and teams switched sides halfway through. You can watch a short video of the exercise below, along with a tactical animation.
Again, I don't think you can read too much into one training session without the benefit of understanding exactly what the coaching staff are trying to achieve, and then add the dynamics of preparing to play in the biggest game of the season. There are obviously things that Tuchel wants to keep under wraps at this moment of time. However, there were a couple of things that stood out to me with the layout of his pre-game session. Firstly was the organization of the exercises. With 22 players in a professional squad, a pregame session can be challenging to get everyone involved and manage individual work loads. The shapes of the games (hexagons and polygons) challenged players a little more than traditional 'bumper players' because they also reduced the space of playing areas and created angles of support, both in possession and in transition. Secondly, I felt the efficiency of the session was at a really high level. The transition times between exercises was extremely fluid and no time was wasted either resting, moving equipment, or discussions from the coaches. Because of this, Chelsea players were able to walk off the pitch in just under one hour. The challenge for coaches therefore maybe not to replicate what exactly Tuchel and his team achieved tactically in the match against Manchester City, but instead to look at session design as a fluid process and to try and prepare six exercises that are aligned with objectives from every department at the club and execute it in a very timely process. At a time where recovery and energy management are so important for performance, Tuchel certainly looked to achieve this with his team. You can watch the full session here.
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