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 effectively achieve each of its 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 quickly score an equalising or winning goal 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 the current scoreline 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 methods, as detailed in the Playing Methods guide.

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 methods. Instead, their overall use is determined indirectly through the use of a high risk mentality or a low risk mentality (or neither) as a style method.

Consolidating Possession and Breaks

A team can vary the attacking risk levels in its playing style by consolidating possession and using breaks (and counter attacking - breaks in the attacking transition phase) when appropriate. Consolidating possession temporarily decreases the overall attacking risk level of a team's playing style while a break temporarily increases the overall attacking risk level.

Consolidating possession is particularly useful for a team that uses a playing style with a high overall attacking risk level. Such a playing style requires a team to tactically reorganise more frequently in the attacking phases, as explained in the Tactical Organisation guide.

In contrast, breaks are particularly useful for a team that uses a a playing style with a low overall attacking risk level. Such a team is typically more reliant on using breaks to penetrate space effectively.

Types of Breaks

A team's use of lower risk attacking methods that apply attacking shape and player movement as style methods typically causes the opposition team to move forward into deeper areas in the attacking phases, leaving available space behind opposition team players that can be exploited by using breaks (essentially this is creating space by drawing players out of position on a large scale).

Similarly, a team's use of lower risk defensive methods as style methods typically causes the opposition team to move forward into deeper areas in the defensive phases, leaving available space behind opposition team players in the attacking transition phase that can be exploited by counter attacking.

On the other hand, a higher level of attacking pressure or defensive pressure by a team can cause the opposition team to be more tactically disorganised, which the team can take advantage of by using breaks.

Playing Style Balance and Defensive Risk

Marking Coverage

In order for a team to protect space effectively in the defensive phases it is important that it does not use higher risk marking coverage defensive methods to too great an extent.

Therefore, typically, man-marking is not included in a team's style methods.

Defensive Blocks

A team typically uses 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.

In general, 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 pressing directness defensive methods. To enable it to close down to a greater overall extent effectively, a team 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 centre backs at any given time in the defensive phases should refer to before carrying out their defensive instructions regarding pressing directness.

In general, 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. To enable it to use a high line to a greater extent, a team sets a more advanced line of restraint.

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.