What Is the Four Corner Model?
In modern football, coaches are thinking more carefully about the best ways to improve the performance levels of players and develop their skills and abilities. One model that has been developed by the English FA is the Four Corner Model.
The model first appeared in the early 2000s, when the FA saw the need to develop a framework for coaching children and youth players that would adequately develop their all-round abilities. Since then, it’s become a standard way to develop players.
As the name suggests, it’s made up of four aspects, or “corners”:
According to the model, each of these areas is equally important if a player is to progress and improve in quality. Each corner complements the others and needs to be worked on to create a well-rounded player.
“All four of those corners work together,” explains Dan Wright, a coach and technical advisor at the Player Development Project. “The idea that you’re going to deliver a social session with no physical or technical or psychological returns is quite difficult; the idea that you’re going to deliver a technical session that won’t have any physical or social outcomes is virtually impossible.”
What Does Each of the Four Corners Involve?
Let’s take a look at what each of these corners in more detail.
The social corner
Football is a team game. This corner aims to cultivate relationships in the team, improving areas such as teamwork, communication, and leadership. These qualities help to make a player a better member of the team, able to work well with their fellow players even during tough periods.
The physical corner
Footballers have never been so physically fit. The physical corner is made up of 12 areas, including speed, balance, strength and endurance. Without these abilities, a player will struggle to carry out technical skills such as dribbling and turning and will be hindered in their tactical movement both on and off the ball.
The psychological corner
Strong emotions and pressure situations are a big part of football. It’s essential that players are confident, resilient and focused. This corner reminds coaches that as well as developing the players as athletes, they need to help them develop as people who are able to cope with the demands of the game.
The technical/tactical corner
This corner covers the kind of skills, such as passing, finishing and tactical awareness that most people think of when asked what a footballer needs to be good at. They are an important part of the game, but as the model makes clear, they’re linked to the other corners and are only one element of what makes for a good player.
What Is the Purpose of the Four Corner Model?
The Four Corner Model aims to help youngsters develop into top-class players with the skills and abilities needed to thrive in the modern game.
It’s not a rigid model or a set of instructions that a coach should follow to the letter. Instead, it’s a framework to help coaches plan their sessions and make sure that there is some focus on developing each corner.
As most types of drills or activities will involve a mix of different corners, it isn’t hard to incorporate all of them, but it does take some thought to get the balance right and make sure that every corner gets its fair share of attention.
Part of its value is the way that it develops each player as a whole person, not just as an athlete. The majority of youngsters who play in an academy or youth team won’t make it as professional footballers. Many will end up playing at an amateur level and others will leave football altogether. By making sure that psychological and social skills are developed, those who do have to find careers away from the football pitch will at least have gained confidence, self-esteem and the ability to work well in a team.
How Has the Four Corner Model Been Developed by Clubs?
Following its promotion by the English FA, the model has been successfully rolled out in a wide range of settings, helping to develop the next generation of players. It’s used both in amateur youth teams and in academies run by top professional clubs.
A good idea rarely remains unchanged, especially when it’s a popular one. The success of the Four Corner Model had led to coaches and clubs building on the initial idea, finding ways to tweak the model so that it better suits their purpose.
One club that has developed their own variation on the model is Arsenal. The club has rebranded the four corners as four pillars. According to coach Dan Micciche, the pillars are: “being a lifelong learner, an effective team player, having a champion mentality and being the most efficient mover.”
There are obvious overlaps between these and the four corners. Having a champion mentality, for example, would belong to the psychological corner. But these categories are more precise than the corners and are focused on the values that Arsenal want to install in their youngsters. Created by Per Mertesacker, the former Arsenal defender and currently the club’s Academy Manager, the four pillars model helps the academy to develop players who fit the club’s philosophy and can progress more smoothly into the first team.
As part of their development, Arsenal encourage the players to take ownership of their development. They hold mid-season reviews where the team is split into four groups and each group gives a presentation to the staff using data and video analysis about one of the pillars. Not only do these reviews help the players to think about their own progress and the importance of each pillar, but they also teach them how to use performance analysis, a crucial part of the modern game.
The Future of the Four Corner Model
Player development has always been a crucial part of the game, but much more thought is now going into coaching youngsters than previously. Not long ago, many youth coaches would focus on simple drills to improve skills like heading and passing and try to improve player fitness by sending players on long runs. In recent years, coaching has started to become much more scientific and data-driven.
It’s now possible to more accurately measure the development of players and test how effective different training methods are at developing better players. As the example of Arsenal’s midseason reviews shows, players are now part of that analysis process and development is no longer just focused on spending time on the training pitch. In the words of Mertesacker, “How you get better away from the pitch relates to how you get better on the pitch.”
As football tactics become increasingly complex and managers such as Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp push the boundaries of what’s possible, youth coaching has found a way to produce intelligent, well-rounded players who have the skills and
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