Playing Systems

A team's playing system is the set of tactical instructions that are assigned to its players. A playing system includes an attacking system, which is the playing system in the attacking phases, and a defensive system, which is the playing system in the defensive phases.

A player's tactical instructions are instructions that tell him how he should use playing methods. Tactical instructions include attacking instructions, which are tactical instructions in the attacking phases, and defensive instructions, which are tactical instructions in the defensive phases.

A team's playing system therefore instructs its players how to apply the tactical dynamics. As such, it sets out a dynamic framework for the team by defining its tactical shape and establishing the patterns of player movement and ball movement that its players should create.

A team's playing system can be analysed more easily by considering separate positional areas.

A positional area is a relative area of the pitch containing a group of playing positions.

The main positional areas that allow for an effective analysis of a team's playing system are:

Tactical Roles

A player's tactical role is the set of tactical instructions that he is assigned. A tactical role includes an attacking role, which is the tactical role in the attacking phases, and a defensive role, which is the tactical role in the defensive phases.

A player's tactical role can therefore be broadly described by the extent to which he should use each playing method, relative to the team's other players.

There are essentially an unlimited number of different tactical roles that a team can assign to its players. However, they can be analysed in terms of a limited number of distinct and simplified component role types that can be combined to form more complex composite role types.

Some composite role types can be used as auxiliary playing position role types, which instruct movement into a different positional area.

Component Role Types

A component role type is a part of a tactical role comprised of a single tactical instruction that relates to the use of a single playing method. For example, a particular playing position is essentially a component role type, as is a tactical instruction to make forward runs to a greater extent relative to other players.

Composite Role Types

A composite role type is a particular combination of component role types.

Auxiliary Playing Position Role Types

An auxiliary playing position role type for a particular playing position is a composite role type that includes a different playing position (the assigned playing position) but instructs movement into or near to the playing position concerned (the auxiliary playing position). It therefore indirectly instructs a player to play in or near the auxiliary playing position.

An auxiliary player acts, to some extent, like he would if he was assigned a similar composite role type that directly instructed him to play in the auxiliary playing position.

Positional Responsibilities

The positional responsibilities in a particular positional area are the tasks that must be carried out in that positional area by a team's players in order to help the team to achieve its tactical objectives.

A player's tactical role tells him how he should perform positional responsibilities.

Typically, each positional responsibility in a positional area is performed to a relatively greater extent by one or more players who are assigned a tactical role that includes appropriate component role types and instructs them to play in or near the positional area concerned.

System Fluidity

A team's system fluidity refers to the extent to which the team's playing system involves players sharing positional responsibilities.

Types of system fluidity include more structured, more fluid and balanced.

A team implements its system fluidity by incorporating it into the tactical roles of its players using tactical instructions as appropriate.

More Structured Playing Systems

A more structured playing system is a playing system that involves players sharing positional responsibilities to a lesser extent.

More Fluid Playing Systems

A more fluid playing system is a playing system that involves players sharing positional responsibilities to a greater extent.

Balanced Playing Systems

A balanced playing system is a playing system that involves players sharing positional responsibilities to a moderate extent.

Playing System Balance

A team's playing system balance refers to the tactical balance in the team's playing system in each positional area.

It is important for a team to achieve a good playing system balance in order for it to effectively achieve each of its tactical objectives in each positional area. A team should therefore distribute playing positions appropriately and take on appropriate levels of tactical risk in its relative use of each playing method between players.

A team can do this by assigning tactical roles that result in appropriate tactical structures, and that also achieve an appropriate responsibility distribution and appropriate mentality systems.

Tactical Structures

A team’s tactical structure in a particular positional area is an arrangement formed in that positional area by the typical positioning of the team’s players.

Two particular types of tactical structures are positional structures and attacking structures.

Positional Structures

Positional structures are tactical structures formed by a team’s tactical shape, before the effects of player movement.

Attacking Structures

Attacking structures are tactical structures formed by a team’s attacking shape, off the ball movement and on the ball movement. A team has separate attacking structures for when each individual player is on the ball that take into account the nature of each player’s individual on the ball movement.

Formations

A team's formation is the combination of its positional structures in all positional areas. It provides the structural basis of the team's playing system.

Responsibility Distribution

A team's responsibility distribution refers to its assignment of positional responsibilities through its assignment of tactical roles.

Mentality Systems

A mentality system is a part of a playing system that relates only to attacking mentality or defensive mentality playing methods along with any other particular group of playing methods.

Tactical Roles Analysis

A tactical role can be analysed by considering the positional responsibilities that a player who is assigned the tactical role can perform and how he can perform them, along with particular playing system setups that are appropriate for use with the tactical role.

Tactical Organisation

A team's tactical organisation refers to how well positioned the team's players are to carry out their tactical instructions regarding tactical shape and player movement. The better a team's tactical organisation is at any point during a match or, in other words, the more tactically organised the team is at that point, the more effectively it can use its playing system.

Tactical Transition

A team's tactical transition is the tactical reorganisation that it undergoes immediately after it wins possession or concedes possession.

A team's attacking transition is its tactical transition after winning possession, in which it tactically reorganises from its defensive system to its attacking system. A team's defensive transition is its tactical transition after conceding possession, in which it tactically reorganises from its attacking system to its defensive system.

Speed of Tactical Transition

The quicker a team's tactical transition is, the earlier it can use its playing system effectively after a change in possession. If a team's tactical transition is relatively quick, compared to that of the opposition team, then it can potentially take advantage of the time during which the opposition team is still tactically reorganising. However, if its tactical transition is relatively slow then the opposition team can potentially take advantage.

To enable quicker tactical transition, the attacking instructions regarding attacking shape and attacking mentality that a team assigns to its players are typically similar to the defensive instructions regarding defensive shape and defensive mentality that it assigns, while there are also usually similarities between attacking instructions and defensive instructions regarding player movement.

Attacking Organisation

A team's attacking organisation is its tactical organisation in the attacking phases.

Defensive Organisation

A team's defensive organisation is its tactical organisation in the defensive phases.

Player Behaviour

A team's tactic is never carried out perfectly by its players. Therefore, it is important to analyse how players behave in practice.

Player Decision Making

A player's decision making refers to his choices regarding the use of playing methods. A player's decision making is affected primarily by his tactical instructions, but is also affected by various other factors.

Different decisions by a player carry different levels of tactical risk. This is largely because a player's decisions relate to the use of playing methods and different playing methods carry different levels of tactical risk.

Player Mistakes

A mistake by a player is an inefficient choice or performance of a playing method by the player that makes it more difficult for his team to achieve one or more of its tactical objectives.

An attacking mistake by a player is a mistake by a player in the attacking phases and a defensive mistake by a player is a mistake by a player in the defensive phases.

Factors that affect the likelihood of players making mistakes include their abilities, their player suitability and their decision making.