Tactical Analysis: Patterns of play, tactical approaches and theoretical concepts in football – Explained and visualized
There are two tactical and theoretical concepts when a team is in possession and out of possession in football.
1. Tactical and theoretical concepts in football when a team is IN POSSESSION
A. Phase of play
Phase of play in football, simply put, is a way of breaking down the areas of play into thirds while in and out of possession. In addition to the term, transitions and set pieces are also considered a phase of play by many. By breaking down the pitch into thirds, it will allow for managers to implement a better understanding of the behaviors and actions the desire from their players in each area. This is often done through the use of a game model. Each phase will likely have a different set of principles and sub principles which help to aid the players in their decision making process. This is due to the fact that, decisions being made, both with and without the ball, should be guided by the location on the pitch that the action is taking place. Though it is extremely common to break the phases down into thirds, the name of each phase can also vary greatly from club to club and culture to culture.
B. Hold up play
Hold up play in football refers to a sequence where one player receives the ball and is able to maintain possession while under pressure from opposition, simultaneously allowing for support from their team mates to arrive. At times when receiving a progressive pass, the player who receives the ball is furthest up the pitch. This can leave them isolated against one or multiple defenders with no simple passing options in close proximity and attacking the opposition alone is a big risk for losing possession. This means the player should attempt to attempt to maintain possession – using their bodywork shield the ball from the opposition or dribble into a new space while they wait for other attacking players to arrive in support of the attack.
C. Third man movement
Third man movements are mostly often utilized to get a player facing goal with ball in his space, for the side which is in possession. This player is usually not an available passing option when the initial pass of the sequence is played. An optimal 3rd man movement will require the player receiving the first pass to occupy space between the lines, this will draw pressure from the opposition creating space for the third man to move into space while the initial pass is played. All 3 players should ideally form a triangle as well as be placed on different lateral lines when the sequence begins.
D. Half Turn
To receive on a half turn, the player must maintain an open body shape in reference to the goal, as opposed to having their back facing the goal when receiving. Though it’s not optimal to receive the ball on the half turn in all circumstances, particularly when being closely marked from behind, it is still a small but very important tactical detail which can give the receiving player and their team a variety of advantages. Most commonly used by midfield players, receiving on the half turn will allow the player to receive the pass on either the front foot and maintain possession or on the back foot prepared to quickly attack goal. Receiving on the half turn will also give the player a greater field of vision, allowing the to have a better understanding of where the available space is, and where the other players are.
E. Individual press resistance
It’s a term used in football which refers to a players ability to ensure their side maintains possession while under pressure from the opposition. A players press resistance can be defined in a variety of ways. But what is more important is their ability to protect the ball. Game intelligence, special awareness, orientation, technical ability, control in tight spaces and timing of passes are all qualities which can enhance a player’s ability to be press resistant. In modern football, there is an increase in teams which apply more pressure to the ball and higher up the pitch. They are also applying the pressure in aver structured and aggressive matter, giving players in possession very little time to perform their next action. This only increases the importance of press resistant players.
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The term overload describes situations where one team has numerical superiority over the opposition in a desired area of the pitch. An overload is typically created by one or more players drifting from their natural position and finding space closer to the ball. This quantitative advantage will allow for the team in possession to create better attacking conditions by giving them more players in the space on the pitch. By having more players than the opposition in an area, the attacking players in theory will have a better chance of bypassing the defenders with the ball.
G. Between the lines
This term refers to the horizontal spaces on the pitch which are in between out of the possession team’s defensive structure. When players from a team in possession these spaces, it will force the defending players to choose whether they should apply pressure or hold their shape. Controlling these spaces can be extremely important in modern football, as teams out of possession seems to remain more compact, and teams in possessory to penetrate the defensive structure of hopes in creating confusion and forcing defenders into tough decisions.
H. Breaking the lines
It is a tactical term which refers to a pass that splits two opposition defenders, who are in the same line of their out of possession shape. These type of passes are valuable to the side in possession for multiple reasons. The team out of possession most often will try to maintain a compact shape and for e the in-possession team to play around them, protecting the most dangerous areas of the pitch. A pass that breaks the lines and finds a receiver will effectively eliminate the defender which it has split, taking them out of the sequence. This means less defenders between the attack and the goal. A line breaking pass will also be more progressive than a pass which did not break the line, which will mean the in-possession team is closer to the goal. In addition, line breaking passes also have the potential to open a new space in a dangerous area, as the defending team must now make a decision whether or not they should pressure the receiver, in turn creating chaos in their defensive shape.
I. Inverted full back
It is a term used to describe the role and positioning while their side is in possession, predominantly during positional attacks and in the final third. Teams who utilise this concept will also have different roles and position for their attacking midfielders and wingers as well. Typically, full backs support the attack by pushing vertically and providing width, while midfielders may hold and offer support behind the ball. When teams use inverted full backs, the full backs will shift diagonally inwards while in possession and occupy the half space in front of the central defenders. This is useful for a variety of reasons : It allows for wingers to provide width, while the central attacking midfielders can make runs into the box. It also allows for the full backs to protect the central areas in defensive transition situations, as opposed to being high up the pitch when losing possession. In theory, the full backs will act at central midfielders in the final two attacking phases.
2. Tactical and theoretical concepts in football when a team is OUT OF POSSESSION
A. Defensive block
This term is often used to describe when a team is in their established defensive shape. This is not the same as when teams are in transition phases or set piece structure for example. There are 3 standard variations of a block; Low block, Mid block and high block. Each block have their own nuances but the general objective when defending in a block is to control specific spaces on the pitch by maintaining compact distances both vertically and horizontally, as well as short distances between each line and each player every line. By maintaining a compact team shape, it will make it more difficult for the opposition to play passes or dribble into the protected spaces of the block. In addition to this, if the opposition does manage to penetrate the block by having players remain compact, they’ll be able to collapse and pressure the ball quickly while the opposition arrives within the protected spaces. The height of block will vary depending on how high up the pitch the team wants to apply pressure to the team in possession.
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