A-League clubs have become accustomed to signing foreign playmakers over the years. We have had the likes of Thomas Broich, Milos Ninkovic and Diego Castro embrace the league. But there is a certain trait that makes some of these foreign players stand out.
I discovered this trait in a Sam Lee article on The Athletic that showed how Pep Guardiola needs this trait in one of his two advanced midfielders in his classic 4-3-3.
This trait is called ‘la pausa’.
Tactical analysis site The Mastermind describes pausa as “a skill whereby players in possession pause on the ball, drawing in defenders and enticing them to move toward the ball”.
La pausa is the art of putting your foot on the ball and simply giving your team a moment of control. It’s allowing your team to relax and find their positions before going again.
Milos Ninkovic is an example of an A-League player who has shown evidence of using la pausa.
In recent years for Sydney FC he has often received the ball with his back to the goal and simply put his foot on it while taking a few touches backwards.
This allows his team to move into position, to take a breather and to just feel a moment of control when everyone can just relax.
He also shows la pausa in attacking moves. Instead of releasing the ball as soon as he sees a pass, he waits, draws defenders in and allows his teammate more space.
In this move Ninkovic receives a sideways pass from Alexander Baumjohann and spots an overlapping run from Joel King. Ninkovic then spots how deep the defensive line is and realises that King can continue his run for a few more seconds without being offside.
Ninkovic advances while faking a pass to King, drawing in Melbourne Victory right-back Storm Roux and Anthony Lesiotis. He then plays a pass to King, who now has time to play the ball into the middle.
His low cross meets the feet of Adam Le Fondre, who drags the ball narrowly wide with a first time shot.
Here, Milos Ninkovic also receives a square ball from Kosta Barbarouses. Instead of shooting first time he decides to cut back. Because he’s in such an obvious goalscoring position, Storm Roux slides along the ground, hoping to block the shot.
Ninkovic cuts back onto his right foot, which opens up the whole goal. Lawrence Thomas can only stand and watch as Ninkovic curls the ball just inside the far post.
This is another great example of how Ninkovic uses his composure and awareness to his advantage.
La pausa is a subjective thing. While some may agree that a certain move uses la pausa, others won’t.
Countless A-League moves have used some version of la pausa, but the player who stands out most with this Milos Ninkovic.
However, a playmaker isn’t worse if they don’t possess the art of la pausa; they will simply have a different playing style. For example, Riley McGree has been outstanding this season even without showing consistent glimpses of la pausa.
La pausa is something people need to become aware of in Australia. Ot is currently the mark of a more European midfielder, but we can change that. By introducing la pausa into Australia, coaches can attempt to teach Australian players a deeper understanding of the game and teach midfielders the art of la pausa.