I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to create individuals as well as team players. Sometimes the individual can carry the team.
Willian is one of the players at Chelsea who has constantly impressed me over the seasons. Watching him play this season, be it in the Europa League or against lower teams in the Premier League, he is the first to track back when the team loses the ball in attack, helping to cut off any counterattack before it has done any damage.
I have a similar player in one of the teams that I coach. At the weekend not only was he was the first one to turn up, but he did so with a pair of shiny boots that he had polished the night before. And then just when it looked like the opposition had broken through our tight backline, he magically appeared out of nowhere to make a last ditch tackle.
Possessing that kind of ability is often a result of having confidence in yourself. Look at Olivier Giroud at Arsenal – every time he has a bad shot he puts his head in his hands even when the ball is still in play, just like a youth player.
It isn’t just tackling back that makes some players stand out. The same player has twice scored for my team in the final minutes of games to draw one game and win another. In fact, he always keeps going when others give up.
A bonus player
He is a bonus player, one who goes the extra mile, helping everyone else do their job as well as doing his own. To him it’s not a goal until it has gone into the net; the game isn’t lost or won until the referee says so.
This is the kind of energy I try to instil in my players at every training session. You can give players all the tools they need to be the best they can possibly be but individuals will use them differently. I believe in an atmosphere where fun comes first and mistakes are just another way of learning – it’s not wrong to make a mistake, learn from it. And that helps build confidence.
The thing to think about it is that if I was a different sort of coach and the atmosphere at the club was a lot less upbeat, that player wouldn’t respond in matches the way he does. That’s a thought-provoking conclusion.