Eric Tenllado: why coaches need to understand a player’s ability


One of the most important aspects of football coaching is to have a Philosophy. A coach should have a principle for training and coaching his team.

Many coaches have successfully done extreme in football due to their philosophy and tactical aspect to the game Timothy Dehinbo interviewed former Espanyol Youth team coach, and current development manager of Toronto High FC Park of Canada Eric Tenllado Ortega, on his take on a coach’s tactical approach.

NFP: Firstly, tell us a little of your coaching background and can you explain your technical and tactical[Philosophy] aspect to the game?

Eric: “I started coaching when I was playing in Barcelona with fourteen year-olds. My younger brother was playing at the same club I was at that time, and the Technical Director saw me in every single training session and he asked me if I would be interested to become the assistant coach. I accepted and I did it for two seasons.

After it, I became the Head Coach of a different team within the same Club for two more years. After four years coaching at my former Club as a player I decided to leave as I got the opportunity to get into the university of Barcelona to study the Degree in Physical Education and Sports Sciences. Unfortunately I got the afternoon and evening schedule instead of the morning one and I had to stop coaching because of the conflict times between both activities. This also made me decide to remove my strong commitment in a good level as a player and start thinking in my future career as a coach. I kept playing for two or three more years but in a lower level and with the intention to keep myself involved in football and learn from my coaches as a main goal but the level made me decide to stop and focus on my football career as a coach. After my first year in the University of Barcelona I got the opportunity to become part of the Youth Football structure at RCD Espanyol de Barcelona where I stayed from 2009 to 2016. My time there was an amazing experience as I learned from great coaches, players and I had got incredible experiences playing different national and international tournaments at youth level. It also included a meeting with one of my role models as it is was Marcelo Bielsa and one official partnership visit to Manchester City. During my time at the Club, I finished my Degree in Physical Education and Sports Sciences (four years) I had got my UEFA B, UEFA A and UEFA PRO License and I attended various courses and seminars related to different topics. After I got my UEFA PRO License I became a Coach Educator and I started teaching the coaches on the regular Spanish Football Licenses. After seven seasons at the Club I decided to find a different challenge on my personal and professional life. I wanted to leave my comfort zone, learn a new language, leave in a different country and apply my work methodology in a different culture and context to prove myself I am ready to do my job in various different levels and environments without changing the performance and results. I got various opportunities and I decided to move
to Toronto (Canada) where I am since December 2016 to the present. Here, I am in charge of the Development of the Youth Football Programs and the Education of the coaches.

Eric with former Lille, Athletic Bilbao and Marseille coach Marcelo Bielsa


On my Philosophy: I strongly believe the only reason the kids decide to play football is the ball. So based on this important fact, I built all my training methodology and game model, where the ball and the space are the two more important elements of the game. I love to improve the players and I believe in player development within a team and group work environment. I don`t like the individual work (ball mastery) but I consider the individualized attention and consideration as one of the more important aspect to develop in coaches to help them to increase their coaching level and guide the players to the best they can become.

My teams use to have a great rational use of the space where we are playing, defined roles for all the players based on different game phases and situations and this leads us to have high percentages of possession, play with an attacking mindset and work very hard to get the ball back as soon as we lose it.”

NFP:  When a coach/manager understands his philosophy, how does he input it into the players?


Eric: “The most important thing for a coach (professional or youth) is to understand the game and understand the players. Only after this, the coach will be ready to develop players and coach the game.

We must understand the game from a holistic approach where it is a continuum that never stops or ends. Lots of coaches likes to split the game in attacking and defending and some of them add the transitions, but the reality is that this doesn’t exist. The game is one, all together at the same time and there is one team in possession of the ball (maybe attacking or maybe defending) and one without the ball (maybe attacking or maybe defending). And it is vital, to guarantee the next moment while in possession to succeed out of possession or vice versa. It is very important to understand that as coaches in order to help the players to understand their roles properly and evolve the game.

You can observe Guardiola’s teams and most of the coaches will say that their teams are very offensive. But Guardiola’s teams are the ones who concede less goals. Isn’t that the main goal of a defensive team? For another side, you can observe Mourinho’s teams and most of the coaches will say his teams are very defensive, because of low percentages of possession of the ball. But Mourinho’s teams always have a great statistic on goals.
Isn’t that the main goal of attacking teams? Who is offensive and who is defensive?

We also must understand the players from a holistic approach. They are not football players, they are human beings who play soccer. There is a technical, tactical, physical, psychological and emotional component and some coaches decides to train each component separately from the other. So you can see players doing passes to improve their passing skills, then coaches work on defensive patterns to improve the defensive shape, some players who visit the psychologists to improve their mindset and fitness coaches who put the players to run laps around the field, do sprints and various fitness activities to improve their physical condition. But the reality is that the player will need all these components at the same time, because when the player is playing the game he needs to run, think and act at the same time, but he was trained in a different way…so is the player ready to play the game? And going more deeper, if all the teams play the same way, why don’t all the coaches train their players the same way? Some teams run more during the game because they don’t have the ball, some teams need to run more to play the counter attack and some teams don’t need to run much because they use combination passes to progress all together on the field. Why do all those teams who play differently use the same methods of training without taking care of what the player need to adapt to those environments?”

NFP: kindly Explain some of the patterns of coaching on the pitch to get a good result [Formations and their breakdowns]

Eric: “Formations are only important after coaches understand the qualities, abilities, complements and synergies their players potentially can do to interact better on the field. Doesn’t make any sense to talk about tactics or formations without knowing the characteristics of your players. For instance, if I have a great right winger on my team who always gets to the goal line and make fantastic crosses to the goal line and make fantastic crosses to the opponent’s box but my center forward isn’t good attacking aerial balls, what is the result of those two great players who can’t interact based on their natural characteristics? If I have a great central midfielder who recognizes the spaces behind the defensive line to pass balls into the space, but my center forward or wings don’t know how to make these runs and always show in short to get the ball, how is this central midfielder going to perform based on those characteristics?

And this is why Messi is the best player in the world when he plays for FC Barcelona but so far, in his thirties, hasn’t won nothing with Argentina National Team and he is always criticized when playing for this team.”

NFP: Eric Tenllado Ortega, Thank you for having this interview with

Eric:  “My pleasure.”

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