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 a playing position in that positional area and appropriate tactical instructions regarding the use of playing methods, with other players also performing the positional responsibility to some extent when in or near the positional area.

For example, a positional responsibility may also be performed to some extent by a player who is assigned a tactical role that includes a playing position in the positional area but gives tactical instructions that otherwise do not enable him to perform the positional responsibility to as great an extent, or by a player who is assigned a tactical role that does give him appropriate tactical instructions but includes an auxiliary playing position in the positional area rather than an actual playing position in the positional area.

The main positional responsibilities are listed below. They are presented in pairs of 'contrasting' positional responsibilities, with one of the pair associated with higher risk playing methods and the other associated with related lower risk playing methods. Most of these positional responsibilities have different variations that each relate to a different playing method category, to reflect the different ways in which they can be performed. These variations are introduced in brackets and separated by a forward slash.

Detailed for each positional responsibility, where relevant, are:

Penetrating Space vs Keeping Possession and Retaining Solidity

Positional Responsibilities - Off the Ball

By penetrating space off the ball on the flank a player can help teammates in central positional areas to keep possession by receiving a pass in available space in wide attack.

By retaining solidity off the ball in central defence a player can more easily receive passes from teammates in midfield and attack in order to recycle possession.

By retaining solidity off the ball in central midfield a player can more easily receive passes from teammates in defence in order to continue build-up play, and receive passes from teammates in midfield and attack in order to recycle possession.

By retaining solidity off the ball in central attack a player can more easily receive passes from teammates in defence and midfield in order to continue build-up play, and find available space in deeper areas of central attack to receive backwards passes from teammates in attack in order to penetrate space.

Positional Responsibilities - On the Ball

Importance and Fulfilment - Off the Ball

In Central Defence

In Central Midfield

On the Flanks

In Central Attack

Importance and Fulfilment - On the Ball

In Central Defence

In Central Midfield

On the Flanks

In Central Attack

Component Role Types - Off the Ball

Penetrating space off the ball in horizontal channels is performed to a greater extent by:

Retaining solidity off the ball in horizontal channels is performed to a greater extent by:

Penetrating space off the ball in vertical channels is performed to a greater extent by:

Retaining solidity off the ball in vertical channels is performed to a greater extent by:

Component Role Types - On the Ball

Penetrating space on the ball with penetrative movement in horizontal channels is performed to a greater extent by:

Keeping possession with cautious movement in horizontal channels is performed to a greater extent by:

Penetrating space on the ball with penetrative movement in vertical channels is performed to a greater extent by:

Keeping possession with cautious movement in vertical channels is performed to a greater extent by:

Penetrating space on the ball with penetrative passing is performed to a greater extent by:

Keeping possession with cautious passing is performed to a greater extent by:

Penetrating space on the ball with speculative shooting is performed to a greater extent by:

Keeping possession with cautious shooting is performed to a greater extent by:

Penetrating space on the ball with penetrative movement and penetrative passing in (central and wide) attack can also be performed to a greater extent by:

A target man attacker with very good physical presence and aerial presence is able to more effectively receive passes towards him when he is in little available space as he can create space off the ball in the area immediately around himself and also create such space further when on the ball, as explained below for Creating Space Directly and Indirectly. This enables him to be a more effective focal player and, if he is used as such, then he can penetrate space on the ball with penetrative passing or penetrative movement to a greater extent.

Combination Role Types - On the Ball

A player who acts as a ball-playing central defender is likely to be more effective if he is also an offensive-running player, a running player, a skilled player or a ball-carrying player, as this results in him moving into more advanced areas of central defence or central midfield from where risky passes are more likely to be effective.

A player who acts as a ball-playing wide player is likely to be more effective if he is also a roaming player, or a skilled or ball-carrying inverted player, unless he is also expected to make crosses to an average or greater extent, as this results in him moving into central positional areas from where risky passes are more likely to be effective.

A player who acts as a crossing wide player is likely to be more effective if he is not also a roaming player, or a skilled or ball-carrying inverted player, as otherwise he would make crosses to a relatively lesser extent.

A player who acts as a byline-crossing wide player is likely to be more effective if he is also a skilled and line-dribbling player, as well as an offensive-running player, as this results in him moving forward along the flank towards the byline.

Tactical Structures - Off the Ball

Penetrating space off the ball in horizontal channels can be performed more effectively by:

In particular:

Supporting and overlapping partnerships are discussed below for Creating Space Directly and Indirectly.

Retaining solidity off the ball in horizontal channels can be performed more effectively by:

The deep-dropping player attacking role type is not typically combined with a defender playing position as this could cause the team to fail to retain vertical compactness effectively and can give a deeper offside line than intended in the defensive transition phase.

Tactical Structures - On the Ball

Penetrating space on the ball with penetrative movement in horizontal channels can be performed more effectively by:

In particular:

Supporting and overlapping partnerships are discussed below for Creating Space Directly and Indirectly.

A ball-playing player is likely to be more effective if, in the team’s positional structures or attacking structures when he is off and on the ball, he is level with or behind a teammate who penetrates space off the ball in horizontal channels to an average or greater extent.

A target man attacker with very good physical presence and aerial presence is likely to be more effective if, in the team’s positional or attacking structures when he is off and on the ball, he has a teammate near him in attack who can penetrate the space created in the area immediately around him.

Tactical Transition - Off the Ball

Retaining solidity off the ball can be performed more effectively in the attacking transition phase by a player who also:

Creating Space Directly and Indirectly

Positional Responsibilities - Off the Ball

By creating space off the ball in horizontal channels a player can also create space in vertical channels, including in other positional areas, if he makes relative movement towards a teammate and so creates an overload, and vice versa.

In particular, by creating space off the ball in horizontal channels on a flank a player can create space in vertical channels in central positional areas.

Positional Responsibilities - On the Ball

By creating space on the ball in horizontal channels a player can also create space in vertical channels, including in other positional areas, if he makes relative movement towards a teammate and so creates an overload, and vice versa.

In particular, by creating space on the ball in horizontal channels on a flank a player can create space in vertical channels in central positional areas.

Importance and Fulfilment - Off the Ball

In Central Defence

In Central Midfield

On the Flanks

In Central Attack

Importance and Fulfilment - On the Ball

In Central Defence

In Central Midfield

On the Flanks

In Central Attack

Component Role Types - Off the Ball

Creating space off the ball directly in horizontal channels is performed to a greater extent by:

Creating space off the ball indirectly in horizontal channels is performed to a greater extent by:

Creating space off the ball directly in vertical channels is performed to a greater extent by:

Creating space off the ball indirectly in vertical channels is performed to a greater extent by:

In addition, a player with very good physical presence and aerial presence can create space off the ball in the area immediately around himself.

Component Role Types - On the Ball

Creating space on the ball directly in horizontal channels is performed to a greater extent by:

Creating space on the ball indirectly in horizontal channels is performed to a greater extent by:

Creating space on the ball directly in vertical channels is performed to a greater extent by:

Creating space on the ball indirectly in vertical channels is performed to a greater extent by:

In addition, a player with very good physical presence and aerial presence can create space on the ball in the area immediately around himself.

A player may be both a skilled player and a hold-up player, in which case he creates space on the ball both directly and indirectly in horizontal channels to a greater extent.

Tactical Structures

A team’s positional structures are particularly important in determining how it creates space

In order to create space (both off and on the ball) in horizontal channels effectively, a team typically uses various direct movement partnerships within its tactical system.

A direct movement partnership is a pairing of two players where one player moves forward to a relatively greater extent (the attacking partner) and the other moves forward to a relatively lesser extent (the supporting partner).

A direct movement partnership may be comprised of an offensive-running or skilled player (the attacking partner) and a holding, deep-dropping or hold-up player (the supporting partner), while a running player or ball-carrying player could also be used as either the attacking partner or supporting partner.

There are two main types of direct movement partnership. These are supporting partnerships and overlapping partnerships.

A supporting partnership is a direct movement partnership where the attacking partner is assigned a playing position that is level with or one playing position ahead of that assigned to the supporting partner (in terms of the main playing positions outlined in the Playing Positions article), and so tends to move away from the supporting partner.

Despite this relative movement, a supporting partnership can result in an overload when the supporting partner moves towards the attacking partner into the space created by the attacking partner's forward movement.

An overlapping partnership is a direct movement partnership where the attacking partner is assigned a playing position that is one or two playing positions behind that assigned to the supporting partner (again, in terms of the main playing positions), and so tends to move towards and then ahead of the supporting partner.

An overlapping partnership is particularly effectively at creating overloads due to the attacking player's tendency to move towards the supporting player.

Tactical Structures - Off the Ball

In order to create space off the ball in horizontal channels effectively, a team typically uses the offensive-running, running, holding and deep-dropping player attacking role types as appropriate to form supporting partnerships for all players in central midfield or central attack who are assigned adjacent playing positions (for example, a left centre midfielder and a right centre midfielder, assuming there is no central centre midfielder).

Dictating Play vs Playing with Discipline

By dictating play in central midfield a player can initiate build-up play and the cycling of possession more effectively.

By dictating play in central attack a player can create goal-scoring chances more effectively.

Importance and Fulfilment

In Central Defence

In Central Midfield

On the Flanks

In Central Attack

Component Role Types

Dictating play is performed to a greater extent by:

Playing with discipline is performed to a greater extent by:

Typically Performed By

Dictating play is typically instructed to be performed to a greater extent by:

This is because dictating play enables the player to decide when it is appropriate to use the related higher risk attacking methods without significantly compromising the attacking objectives of keeping possession, retaining solidity and retaining compactness.

Playing with discipline is typically instructed to be performed to a greater extent by:

This is because playing with discipline enables the player to focus on using the related lower risk attacking methods.

Tactical Transition

Dictating play can be performed more effectively in the attacking transition phase by a player who also:

This is because protecting space tends to result in the player being in more available space when possession is won.

Restricting Space vs Protecting Space

Importance and Fulfilment

In Central Defence

In Central Midfield

On the Flanks

In Central Attack

Component Role Types

Restricting space around players on the ball is performed to a greater extent by:

Protecting space around players on the ball is performed to a greater extent by:

Restricting space around players off the ball is performed to a greater extent by:

Protecting space around players off the ball is performed to a greater extent by:

Related Component Role Types

Restricting space around players on the ball can be performed more effectively by:

Protecting space around players on the ball can be performed more effectively by:

Tactical Structures

Protecting space can be performed more effectively by:

In central defence the use of the sweeper playing position is unusual in modern football as it makes it difficult for a team to form a defensive line that can effectively restrict onside space due to the onside space that exists between the sweeper and centre back playing positions. A team may use the sweeper playing position so that one central defender is free to protect the space behind the centre backs, who typically restrict space around players off the ball to a relatively greater extent, resulting in space being more effectively protected in central defence.

The man-marking player defensive role type is not typically combined with a central defender playing position as this could cause the team to fail to retain player and spatial compactness effectively.

Tactical Transition

Protecting space can be performed more effectively in the defensive transition phase by a player who also: