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What is Positional Play as used in football?

What is Positional Play as used in football? - Banner advertising service

Tactical Analysis: What is Positional Play as used in football? – Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City’s Football tactics explained

Positional play is a term used so often but the principle is unknown to many. What is positional play? Let’s discuss.

First of all, like i said earlier, positional play is talked a lot but used rarely by many tacticians of the game. One of the best coaches utilizing the tactics currently is Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola.

My (BraggsSports) tactical view on positional play will mainly be focused on Pep Guardiola.

MUST READ: Tactical Analysis: The Theory of Positional Play in Football

Pep Guardiola’s Positional Play tactics

Pep Guardiola loves to dominate the game. He wants to have as much of the ball as possible and get it back immediately. In his opinion the best way to defend is to attack. Pep wants so suffocate teams. A very expensive way of playing football. Positional play helps in achieving that.

When a team uses positional play, the players take up positions to attempt to create numerical advantages in passing triangles or diamonds, in the hope of progressing possession. All players must follow strict rules and use their brain constantly. Huge discipline is needed.

A football pitch consists of 18 zones. I will keep referring to it in the thread so be sure to go back to the picture. With positional play the ball doesn´t move. The players do. How ? The model uses vertical and horizontal lines on the pitch, with each player assigned to a zone.

What is Positional Play as used in football?
Zones of a football Field

There should never be more than 3 teammates on any horizontal lane, and never more than 2 on any vertical lane, in order to create passing options for the player in possession. With that the players will always rotate but the zones will need to occupied.

That’s why I said the players move not the ball. Players need to be ready to move based on the movement of a teammate. This creates constant rotations that aim to disrupt the opposition. The zones are occupied but not always by the same player.

What are the in possession roles ? Well the aim is to either have numerical, qualitative and positional superiority. I think the first two are more known. If not ask and I´ll answer in the comments. Positional superiority involves getting players into positions between or behind the opposition lines, where they are more likely to have time and space on the ball.

Through the creation of triangles/diamonds the ball-carrier has space and several passing options. Then, by drawing an opponent towards the ball, a player will free up a teammate elsewhere.

Players must be able to use the width of the pitch or create as much space as possible in the centre of the pitch. They must also be aware of where they should be and where their teammates are, so they can adjust their position constantly. Pep uses wingers, Enrique fullbacks, etc.

Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City are the best and most successful proponent of positional play. They try to gain a numerical advantage in the first line, through their centre-backs moving wide and the number six taking up a position beyond the opposition’s first line of defence to create a triangle.

For that Pep uses mostly a 32 or 23 formation. In the opposition half, the players occupy positions at different heights. The aim is the same as in the build-up phase: to find a player beyond the next line of defence. The wingers stay wide on both sides to stretch the pitch.

Their hope is to get into the space beyond the last line. When used well, positional play can produce football that is both of exceptional quality and highly effective. For that though you need players with a very high calibre to play and understand it.

Positional play creates vast amounts of space thanks to the players stretching the pitch. Them being everywhere also helps getting the ball forward. If coached well that team can use it’s numerical superiority to get the ball back as fast as possible.

Most teams that use Positional Play operate with a high defensive line, allowing their offensive players to be in a restricted area while still having enough spacing to find passing options, as the players can’t occupy the same area of the pitch.

This also gives offensive players the ability to recover the ball higher up the pitch thanks to their high press, as they will be close to each other when the opponent gets the ball back. As such, they don’t need to sacrifice their attacking outlets.

This style of playing is very expensive but very hard to coach and takes time.


What are the differences between Positional Play to Tiki -Taka then?

Positional Play is more about the movement of the players and Tiki-Taka is more about the movement of the ball.

Positional Play is about constantly switching positions so that they do not have any fixed positions. Tiki-Taka is all about moving the ball in such a way that the opponents do not have any possession. In Tiki-Taka players should be sharp with passing and keeping possession.

If any player looses possession they suddenly turn into high pressing by two or three players surrounding the opposition player to get back ball as quickly as possible. So we can see that the two styles are quite close to each other as Tiki -Taka was more influenced by Positional Play . - Banner advertising service

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