The Synthesis: Valeriy Lobanovskyi

Welcome to the latest installment of “A View From The Stands”, my personal journey in to the world of virtual football management. I thought long and hard about which direction to take this blog, so I came up with an idea for a series called “The Synthesis: Influences and Inspiration”.  Part one of “The Synthesis” is devoted to Ukrainian task master Valeriy Lobanovskyi. A figure of colossal footballing importance who once bestrode the European game, Lobanovskyi’s impact on the game both in Ukraine and Europe as a whole should not be underestimated.  

Lobanovskyi is most famous for his spells managing FC Dynamo Kyiv, the Ukraine national football team, and earlier the USSR national football team. In 1975 his Dynamo Kyiv team became the first side from the Soviet Union to win a major European trophy when they beat Hungarian side Ferencváros in the final of the Cup Winners’ Cup. Lobanovskyi is highly esteemed for his achievements as a coach but also notorious for his both highly scientific and excessively disciplinarian approach to management.

Famed for being as pragmatic a coach as Lobanovskyi was exuberant a player, Jonathan Wilson eruditely describes Lobanovskyi in Inverting the Pyramid as the embodiment of “the great struggle between individuality and system: the player in him wanted to dribble, to invent tricks and to embarrass his opponents, and yet, as he later admitted, his training at the Polytechnic Institute (his University) drove him to a systematic approach, to break football down into its component tasks”.

An immensely gifted  mathematician, Lobanovskyi’s view of football as a deeply compartmentalized game was perhaps to be expected. Taking a highly scientific approach to tactical instruction, Lobanovskyi developed a theory of football as a system comprising of twenty-two elements moving with the confines of the given area of the pitch and subjected to the restrictions of the rules.  Lobanovskyi came to the conclusion that football was not about individuals, but the coalitions and connections between them.

Lobanovskyi’s success that made him such an instrumental figure in the history of European football was his scientific approach. The Ukrainian gaffer introduced meticulous dietary and training regimes for his players, collated masses of data prior to every game, gave each member of his team specific tactical tasks and individual technical coaching in order for them to better fulfil their tasks. “What happened off the field in terms of physical preparation and, particularly, rehabilitation, was just as important as what happened on it”(Wilson, 2012).

Similarly, my ambition is to achieve uniformity amongst my players; I want my forwards to be capable defenders and my defenders to be capable forwards. However, I am not so rigid that I have pre-planned moves, moves which Lobanovskiy embedded in Dynamo’s play and were able to be adapted to suit a variety of circumstances.

The Synthesis is a flexible system composed of technical players capable of thinking on their feet especially in high stress situations. All players should be comfortable with the ball at their feet and proficient passer as well as the other (creative) players. Players will spend their time on the training ground building their fitness, techniques, and mentality (tactics) to challenge for domestic and continental tournaments. To achieve this is there are some things (game principles) that I can do to ensure we are moving toward that outcomes (see past blogs).

This concludes the first installment of the series and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

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