“I’ve got to smile when I watch football. I’ve got to enjoy it.
I love attacking, but I also love defending. I love pressing, but I also love playing. Don’t ever think I’m against long balls, but long straight balls, with a centre forward up against two defenders, I don’t like those odds. It makes no sense to me. I like long diagonal balls, they’re a bit different.
If I’m playing out, you’ve got to bring more players up the field, then you give me more space and leave your defence exposed. Final third, go and do what you want. You’ve got the freedom to express yourself and show your ability. I’ve always seen football that way. How can we outnumber them? When I went in to coaching with Cardiff, I wanted to see if it was possible to coach that way.
A lot of kids have their ability coached out of them. If you tell a player to take a touch, then up in the air it goes, there’s nothing wrong with that, but surely there’s more to them than that, otherwise they wouldn’t have got to where they are. Why not take a touch and commit the forward, but to do that you have to be comfortable on the ball. I don’t call that risk, I call that taking responsibility.
If we play out from my goalkeeper, he’s got to be good with his feet. He has to see the whole picture. I want to score and everything I do is based around that. We might start attacks from the back, but it’s all with the aim of being 1v1 in the end because I like those odds. If I press, I press high because its closer to their goal.
Possession isn’t everything. Don’t think I’m obsessed with possession, but I feel a lot more comfortable with the ball because you can’t come at us. The part of the game that will never change is winning your duels, second balls and headers. Pressing up close and when you lose the ball, get it back straight away because that’s the best time to win it. When you’re wide, get tight to stop the cross because if you don’t stop it, you haven’t done your job properly. You have to form connections all over the pitch.
Spending time with Vinny (Vincent Kompany) every day at Anderlecht has brought me to another level. It’s different here because I’m working with some of the best boys in Europe. The average age of the first team is 21.4 and eight of them are academy players. We just sold a player, Jeremy Doku, for £27m and he was 18-years-old.
These boys are on another planet and Vinny is one of them. He become the player he was here. It’s all in youth we trust. Young players start at zero and their value is only going to go up and that’s money coming in. Liverpool were willing to play £1.5m for Doku last year, but by playing him and him making his debut for Belgium, we got £27m.
The connection we have here, once they’re ready, they’re straight in the first-team. The intensity is right, the work ethic is right, they go around every cone. We work hard and we play a game called Murderball that is just relentless. None of it works unless you give everything on the training pitch.
I take the first-team here twice a week and I’m part of every session. We do first-team training in the morning and then we train the boys at 5 o’clock in the evening. I try things with the Under-21’s and when I get it right, I do it with the first team. Vinny asked me to stick with the first team this season, but I just love what I do, and if I was with the first team, I wouldn’t be home for Christmas!”