The three Ps

Thierry Henry recently recalled how his former FC Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola had a system based around the “three Ps” – position, possession and play. Perhaps the beautiful game, with its ironies and obscenities, is somehow a reflection of the life we lead.

Insights from football characters like the now Manchester City FC manager, following in a tradition that is as peculiar as it is universal, provide us with a better understanding of football and of life itself.

“The most important one was position,” Henry explained on Sky Sports last season. “You have to stay in your position, trust your team-mates and allow the ball to come to you.” So do we. We study, we work, we play and we make society as much as society makes us. We respect boundaries and laws, and we somehow deem it necessary to keep our position.

Guardiola wanted wide players to stay wide, stretch the play and not cross over but to wait for the ball to come their way. We live with others, we are dependent on others and we do not always steal the show.

It was the final part of the pitch, close to the penalty area, when the players were given the freedom to explode into life. “My job is to take you up to the last third,” Guardiola would tell them. “Your job is to finish it.” Structure and teamwork are not the anathema of creativity, freedom and play; rather, there seems to be no true self-betterment without them.

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