LE HAVRE technical director Michael Bunel is
rightly proud of the achievements of the club's 'famous Academy'.
He puts their success with nurturing talents
like Paul Pogba, Benjamin Mendy and Dimitri Payet down to one thing that
separates good players from the top players - football intelligence.
Bunel is set to share some of the work Le
Havre do on the training ground to develop their young players when he speaks
at the Football Innovation Summit in April.
So to give a taste of what to expect, he
shared the philosophy that underpins Le Havre's methods and the importance of
Bunel said: "For me there is one very important thing in football. I think
that football now starts with the head and finishes with the feet.
"That means if you want to be a top
player, and we have the chance to work with top players at Le Havre - we had
Pogba, Mendy in the Academy - you have to be intelligent.
"Of course they have their own qualities,
but then our mission every day is to teach them how to become intelligent
players to make the most of those qualities.
"Intelligence means that if you know how
to pass, how to control, how to shoot, but you have no idea of what is
happening around you in the game, then you are not a top player.
"A very good player, everything starts in
his head and finishes in his feet.
"I give you an example. Before the ball
is received by a player, a player must assess all the information around him.
“He must be able to read what is going on
around him. Where are his team-mates, where are the opponents. Where is the
ball, how is he positioned. How are his team-mates moving. Where are the
opponents pressing. Are they behind him, on the right of him or the left. They
have to weigh up all the possible solutions, the risk and benefit factors.
"This is what we call real-time reading.
It doesn’t matter what position you play. Defender, midfielder or striker you
must be able to process what is going on around you.
“This is for me the key point you have to
improve in the Academy because all the players we have are all very talented.
But then we have to improve their capacity to read.
"I give you an example. Busquets at
Barcelona or Xavi or Iniesta.
"If you look at them, before receiving
the ball they scan all around them. Behind, in front to see where their
team-mates are, to see where the opponents are. Is there somebody behind,
"According to the information read by
scanning he must be able to adapt technically on the field. If the opponent is
coming on my left, I will control on my right side.
"All the answers must be the result of
scanning. This is the biggest process you have to improve in a player. Making
him aware of what is going on on the field in order to have the best technical
answer on the field. That means finding the right pass, not losing the ball and
if you don’t have the ball, moving in the right space at the right moment.
"This is what I call intelligence and
then of course if you have several solutions, then you have to decide the best
solution. This is a second level. According to the information you have then,
you must be able to select the right solution.
Le Havre, we have got many drills to develop the capacity of reading because I
think developing intelligence of the game requires a long time and it has to be
done step by step." The younger a player the more
they focus on the ball. The target we have as a coach is from the early age
groups to teach them how to focus on other things than the ball. The ball is
there. It is often the object players focus on but I want them to focus on
opponents, team-mates, spaces, position, timing and this is something that has
to be taught, step-by-step, through the development process.
“The coaches here are educated to develop this
capacity of reading as it a methodology of training. We have very simple drills
and we want them to use those drills at least three times a week in their sessions
to help the players to understand that they should not only focus on the ball.
we use technical drills. Sometimes we use tactical drills. But all the drills,
you can use them at every age but when you repeat them, when you use them, the
player improves little by little their capacity to read what is going on. It is
a key process in youth development now.”