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How to best prepare for tricky away days | Agony Aunt

Our resident Agony Aunt is here to help solve your tactical troubles and management miseries. He was hailed as El Mejor (simply ‘the best’) during his spell in charge of a Spanish Second Division side where he is still adored to this day… or so he claims.

How to best prepare for tricky away days | Agony Aunt

Why can’t I find a tactic that works away from home?

Ah yes, the old away day hoodoo or, as they say in South America, ‘hoodoo longe do dia’. It can easily ruin a season and turn the dressing room or the fans against you so it’s worth planning out a system that can easily be tweaked to suit those long away trips.

When you’re playing away from home you’re going to want to be playing a slightly more defensive version of your chosen system, unless you’re playing a side that you should be beating comfortably. A good place to start is by dropping your mentality down a notch so, for example, if you’re playing with a control mentality as your default tactic it’d be a good idea to drop the mentality down to balanced.

When I was first starting out as a coach, I’d go to away games looking to press with the same intensity as when I was playing at home. Sometimes we’d have about five fans there, so I don’t know who I was trying to impress. Against the best teams in the league that simply won’t cut it and you’ll find yourself overwhelmed more quickly than I was by my first wife’s lawyer in the divorce court. You’re much better off dropping the defensive line and line of engagement back a little (or a lot if you’re managing a real minnow) and to regroup instead, to frustrate the opposition.

You see a lot of clubs in across Europe employing this tactic now, especially in away games, and it’s proving to be very effective. You might still go on and lose the game but you’ll limit the amount of clear-cut chances for the opposition.

A 3-2-3-2 formation laid out on a pitch

You don’t necessarily have to make massive changes to your formation. Ahead of one game that saw us travelling from one side of the country to another, I decided to switch from a 4-2-3-1 to a 3-2-3-2 to try and keep the ball away from their dangerous wide players. Our players hadn’t had enough time to adapt and, in response, they pressed us in the centre of the pitch, won the ball back and quickly spread it to said dangerous wide men. It was an absolute disaster.

I’ve got a mate who was in charge of a side in Belgium and couldn’t win away to save his life but he followed this advice and within six months he’d won the title. You can thank me later.

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