While FC Edmonton coach Jeff Paulus waits for his team to get the green light to head back to training, he’s busy preparing his players the best he can during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Paulus has instructed his players to study tactics from some of the world’s best teams as a means of preparing for whenever the 2020 Canadian Premier League season kicks off.
“We’re taking tactics from four (UEFA) Champions League clubs from three different countries,” Paulus told CanPL.ca. “We’re not going to have six weeks of pre-season where you lay out your style of play on Day 1 and build out from there.
“We need to work ahead.”
So, which teams is Paulus looking at?
FC Barcelona? Bayern Munich? Shakhtar Donetsk? Let the guessing begin.
FC Edmonton is set to “completely change ” their style of play in 2020, according to Paulus, who famously and quite often mixed and matched his team sheet and tactics last season.
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“It’s going to take some time to learn these new systems and I don’t think we could get it done in a truncated pre-season,” said Paulus, detailing how a weeks-long video project his players have undertaken involves them watching footage of the four Champions League clubs and reporting back with deep, player-by-player analysis.
“They’ll spend a week on each team. But they’ll do a deep dive on rotations of players, that sorta thing.”
FC Edmonton joins Forge FC, York9 FC, Cavalry FC, Valour FC, and Atlético Ottawa awaiting for their turn to training; Pacific FC and HFX Wanderers FC returned on Monday.
While they impatiently wait, Paulus is quick to temper expectations of a gung-ho, pedal-to-the-metal first week of training after months of self-isolation by the players. A multi-phase approach to training has been mandated by the CPL and starts with non-contact individual or small group workouts, as detailed by Wanderers coach Stephen Hart and defender Peter Schaale. Twelve HFX players participated in Monday’s voluntary workout sessions and were divided into groups of four.
“Our first phase (will be) getting players in the habit of social distancing on the football pitch,” Paulus said. “You’re not going to get much in terms of tactics or on-the-ball skills. It’s about bringing your own water bottles, keeping your hands sanitized, being more cognizant of their teammates and looking after one another.”
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Whether FCE is allowed to return tomorrow or in two weeks, Paulus is impressed with his players’ fitness and ability to keep in solid physical condition during this period of self-isolation.
“Now it’s about trying to time our return to train with that mystery start date,” Paulus stated.
“I’ve been delighted with what they’ve done in self-isolation. Proof will be in the pudding, of course, when we get out there. The figures we’re getting back are really impressive. They’re more fit than they were on Day 1 in pre-season. If that’s the case, I’ll be delighted.”
Before they can put that fitness to work on the pitch, FCE players will be focused on modelling their play after some of Europe’s best.
“Getting players to study now is to give us a head start. You can’t do any tactics until maybe Phase 3, so we need to be prepared,” Paulus said.
“We’re starting to get their mindset on how they want to play football right now.”