Want to better understand how Bayern Munich set themselves up to defend against Barcelona? Or the way their players are positioned when they have to defend a corner? If so, then there's no better person to follow than Louis Lancaster.
Tasked to prepare a comprehensive dossier from a minimum of 10 viewings on a non-British team as part of his Elite Coaching Course, Lancaster chose the German giants and has been richly rewarded with a series of fantastic performances for him to choose and analyse.
Yet there's much more to him than simply his analysis of Bayern Munich. Which is why I've spoken to him about his own blueprint...
Blueprint for Football: Let's start with the basics: what got you into coaching and how long ago was that?
Louis Lancaster: I started coaching when I was 15 (16 years ago). My parents ran a local club and I used to help out now and then coaching U8’s – U12’s. It was something I really enjoyed as I was fascinated with different sessions and trying to improve players.
BfF: What is your coaching philosophy?
LL: To help any player I am in contact with meet the technical and tactical demands of the game, remembering to keep the principles of the game simple because the game is not.
BfF: Have you had any mentors in your career?
LL: If you look at the top managers they have all worked with masters. For instance you have Mourinho and Robson, Mourinho and Andre Villas Boas. I am yet to work with a true mentor, and this is something I am keen to do. Someone who has had a big impact on my coaching career so far is Dick Bate. I was fortunate to be invited as one of sixteen candidates with an A License over the past decade to be the first to work towards the Elite Coaching License (level 5), an award unique in the world of football. Working and sharing ideas with the other coaches, and with Dick leading the course this has had a huge impact on my personal development.
BfF: You tweet a lot of tactical overviews from a lot of teams around Europe. How vital is it to look at different cultures to learn?
LL: I have always watched continental football, but never really studied it in great depth. However one of our tasks on the Elite Coaching Course was to prepare a comprehensive dossier from a minimum of 10 viewings on a non-British team. The dossier had to include tactics, systems, style, team selections and we had to particular record and identify regular tactics adopted by the team, units and individuals of the team. I obviously chose Bayern Munich and can honestly say this task has had a huge influence on my ways.
I plan to do one team per season purely for my own development and I would strongly advise others to do so too. If Bayern have won the Bundesliga by 20 clear points with a goal difference of +76, in the final of the domestic cup and are favourites to win the Champions League final after thrashing Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate, then we as coaches can certainly learn something. Other candidates on the course chose Juventus, AC Milan, Udinese, Napoli, Borussia Dortmund, Stuttgart, PSG and they were completed to such a high standard.
BfF: How important is the mental side of the game and what do you do to boost it?
LL: Firstly it is important for me as a coach, that I am conscious of the messages I am sending to players, and messages I am receiving. Every individual is different and you have to remember that U18’s are boys turning into young adults. As coaches it is our role to support this with consideration and understanding. I think it is important to do 3 things as a coach:
1. Fill the players with confidence
2. Emphasise you will do all you can to help them, but they need to take personal responsibility at the same time
3. Inspire them
I like to remind them of the David Villa quote ‘Money means nothing to me. If you are not happy then materials mean nothing. My only target in life is to get better at my job.’
BfF: What do you prefer: a talented player who doesn't value work or a hard-working but not as talented player?
LL: Interesting question…I’m sure in every team there is a blend of both. My job is to produce players for the first team, so I need to find out what motivates all players. Whether it be money, celebrity status or them just wanting to be better I need to find it. If players fail it’s because they failed themselves not because I have failed them. So I have to find a ways to maximise their potential so I would go with the talented player.
BfF: Is winning important for you?
LL: I would say 9-16’s definitely not. For the 18’s the individual performances are certainly the main focus, but there has to be an element on winning otherwise stepping up to first team level would be a huge culture shock. Players are naturally competitive anyway, I just think that as coaches we are careful and make sure that the messages are clear.
BfF: What do you want to achieve to be satisfied with what you have done in your coaching career?
LL: This has been a passion of mine since the start and that is to be coaching in the Premier League by the time I am 40.
The Blueprint According To... is a monthly feature looking at youth football coaches and the philosophies that drive them. Read more on the Blueprint for Football Extra.