Playing Style Balance

A team's playing style balance refers to the tactical balance in the team's playing style.

It is important for a team to achieve a good playing style balance in order for it to focus sufficiently on each of the primary tactical objectives. A team should therefore take on appropriate levels of tactical risk in its overall use of each playing method and its overall use of playing methods as a whole.

In particular, the overall use of attacking width and defensive width playing methods should be well balanced in order for a team to retain horizontal compactness effectively. However, a team should be careful not to achieve too much horizontal compactness at the expense of achieving sufficient spatial compactness.

An appropriate overall tactical risk level for a team to take on in its playing style depends on the relative importance of the two primary tactical objectives to the team. For example, if a team has high relative overall player ability or is attempting to score a goal quickly then scoring a goal may be its main primary tactical objective and, therefore, it may use a playing style with a higher overall tactical risk level. Similarly, if a team has low relative overall player ability or is attempting to hold on to a valuable result then preventing the opposition team scoring a goal may be its main primary tactical objective and, therefore, it may use a playing style with a lower overall tactical risk level.

The overall tactical risk level of a playing style can be assessed from the tactical risk levels of its style-defining methods, as detailed in the Playing Methods guide. In particular, the offensive football core style has a higher overall tactical risk level and the counter attacking football core style has a lower overall tactical risk level.

Playing Style Balance and Attacking Risk

Off the Ball Directness

In order for a team to keep possession, retain solidity and retain compactness effectively in the attacking phases it is important that it does not use higher risk off the ball directness attacking methods to too great an extent in its playing style. However, in order for a team to penetrate space effectively, it is also important that it does not use lower risk off the ball directness attacking methods to too great an extent.

Therefore, typically, off the ball directness attacking methods are not included in a team's style-defining methods. Instead, they are typically used to a fairly moderate extent in a team's playing style, with their relative use being mixed between players as part of its assignment of tactical roles.

Breaks and Consolidating Possession

A team can vary the attacking risk levels in its playing style by using breaks and by consolidating possession when appropriate.

A break involves the attacking team temporarily using a high risk mentality to a greater extent and, therefore, temporarily increasing the overall attacking risk level of its playing style. This enables the attacking team to temporarily focus more on penetrating space.

A team typically uses breaks when it has a higher quality penetrative opportunity, since generally, the higher the quality of a penetrative opportunity, the more promptly it must be exploited by the attacking team in order for it to take advantage before the defending team tactically reorganises and reduces the quality of the penetrative opportunity.

Consolidating possession involves the attacking team temporarily using a low risk mentality to a greater extent and, therefore, temporarily decreasing the overall attacking risk level of its playing style. This enables the attacking team to temporarily focus more on keeping possession, retaining solidity and retaining compactness.

Consolidating possession can help the attacking team to tactically reorganise when necessary, as explained in the Tactical Organisation guide.

Playing Style Balance and Defensive Risk

Defensive Blocks

A team typically uses defensive depth, pressing directness and offside line depth defensive methods to a similar extent in its playing style as part of an appropriately compact defensive block.

A team's defensive block is the area between its line of confrontation and its line of restraint. The three main types of defensive block are the high defensive block, the low defensive block and the medium defensive block.

A high defensive block is a combination of a more advanced line of confrontation and a more advanced line of restraint. A low defensive block is a combination of a deeper line of confrontation and a deeper line of restraint. A medium defensive block is a defensive block that is between a high defensive block and a low defensive block.

Line of Confrontation

A team's line of confrontation is a hypothetical horizontal line across the pitch in the opposition team's half that its players should refer to before carrying out their defensive instructions regarding pressing directness.

Defending team players should carry out their defensive instructions regarding pressing directness when the ball is in the area between the defending team's goal and line of confrontation, and should sit off to a greater extent otherwise, with the defending team's defensive shape being wholly contained within this area. This results in defending team players being able to close down more effectively in groups as the attacking team moves the ball towards the defending team's goal.

A team's line of confrontation is directly linked to its overall use of defensive depth and pressing directness defensive methods. By pushing up or closing down to a greater overall extent a team essentially sets a more advanced line of confrontation.

Line of Restraint

A team's line of restraint is a hypothetical horizontal line across the pitch in its own half that those players acting as the team's deepest central and wide defenders at any given time in the defensive phases should refer to before carrying out their defensive instructions regarding pressing directness.

Such players should carry out their defensive instructions regarding pressing directness when in the area between the line of restraint and the defending team's goal, and should sit off to a greater extent otherwise. This results in them tending to move towards the line of restraint as the attacking team moves the ball towards the defending team's goal, with the offside line moving accordingly.

A team's line of restraint is directly linked to its use of offside line depth defensive methods. When using a high line to a greater extent a team sets a more advanced line of restraint in order to attempt to maintain a higher offside line.

Defensive Blocks and Vertical Compactness

A team's defensive block helps it to retain vertical compactness effectively in the defensive phases. Its application of a high defensive block, low defensive block or medium defensive block should set an appropriately compact area between its line of confrontation and line of restraint that players should generally remain within during the defensive phases.

If instead a team combined a more advanced line of confrontation with a deeper line of restraint then it would fail to retain vertical compactness, while if it combined a deeper line of confrontation with a more advanced line of restraint then it would become too vertically compact.

Furthermore, a more advanced line of confrontation makes it more difficult for the opposition team to penetrate space in the relatively large area behind a more advanced line of restraint in a high defensive block.