Phases of Play

The phases of play are the cyclical stages of possession and tactical organisation that a team moves through during the course of a match.

As explained for Tactical Objectives, when a team has possession it is in the attacking phases and when a team does not have possession it is in the defensive phases.

The Attacking Phases

The need for attacking transition means that a team moves between two main attacking phases, one where it is tactically organised and one where it is still tactically reorganising.

The two main attacking phases that a team moves through are:

The Defensive Phases

The need for defensive transition means that a team moves between two main defensive phases, one where it is tactically organised and one where it is still tactically reorganising.

The two main defensive phases that a team moves through are:

Tactics in the Transition Phases

The transition phases are the attacking transition phase and defensive transition phase, when a team is in tactical transition.

Tactical instructions usually include particular requirements for the transition phases.

Tactics in the Attacking Transition Phase

A team may use different attacking risk levels in its playing style in the attacking transition phase to what it uses in the attacking phase. It can take on a higher overall attacking risk level in the attacking transition phase by using breaks or a lower overall attacking risk level by consolidating possession.

Counter Attacking

The use of a break in the attacking transition phase is known as counter attacking. Counter attacking can enable a team to penetrate space more effectively while the opposition team is still in defensive transition.

Counter attacking can be particularly effective if a team has a relatively quick attacking transition (the opposition team has a relatively slow defensive transition), as this results in there being more higher quality penetrative opportunities in the attacking transition phase and the early stages of the attacking phase.

However, if a team has a relatively slow attacking transition then counter attacking is more likely to be ineffective and lead to the team conceding possession and, as a result of focusing less on retaining solidity and retaining compactness during breaks, having a slower defensive transition.

In particular, counter attacking can complement a playing style with an otherwise low overall attacking risk level, by enabling a team to concentrate its focus on penetrating space effectively, or a low overall defensive risk level, by enabling a team to more effectively penetrate the available space that is likely to occur behind opposition team players as they penetrate the available space that results from sitting off. The use of counter attacking in such ways is common in playing styles that include the counter attacking football core style or the containment defending defensive style, especially when combined with the direct football attacking style or a more direct passing range system to penetrate space more directly.

A team can also use counter attacking to apply even higher attacking pressure when using a playing style with a high overall attacking risk level or to more effectively exploit mistakes from the opposition team that occur as a result of defensive pressure when using a playing style with a high overall defensive risk level, such as a playing style that includes the offensive football core style.

Consolidating Possession

Consolidating possession in the attacking transition phase can enable a team to keep possession, retain solidity and retain compactness more effectively while it is in attacking transition, therefore helping it to move into the attacking phase.

Consolidating possession in the attacking transition phase can be particularly effective if a team has a relatively slow attacking transition (the opposition team has a relatively quick defensive transition), as this results in there being fewer higher quality penetrative opportunities in the attacking transition phase and the early stages of the attacking phase, and makes it more difficult for the team to keep possession. It can also help a team to achieve a quicker defensive transition should it concede possession in the attacking transition phase as a result of focusing more on retaining solidity and retaining compactness.

However, if a team has a relatively quick attacking transition then consolidating possession in the attacking transition phase is more likely to be ineffective and result in the team failing to exploit higher quality penetrative opportunities while the opposition team is in defensive transition.

In particular, consolidating possession in the attacking transition phase can complement a playing style with an otherwise high overall attacking risk level, such as most playing styles that include the offensive football core style, by enabling a team to tactically reorganise so that it can penetrate space more effectively.

Tactics in the Defensive Transition Phase

It is especially important for a team to delay the attack during the defensive transition phase due to the need for defensive transition. This can reduce the effectiveness of any attempted counter attacking by the opposition team.

Counterpressing involves the defending team closing down to a large extent when delaying the attack in the defensive transition phase. Counterpressing can make it more difficult for the opposition team to consolidate possession during its attacking transition phase but requires a relatively quick defensive transition to be effective.