Attacking Styles

An attacking style is a component style that relates to the overall use of complementary attacking methods.

Attacking styles include:

  • Direct plays
  • Short plays

Each of the main attacking styles is summarised below, with details of the following:

  • Typical primary style methods – complementary attacking methods of the key primary style method that are typically considered to be fundamentally necessary for the key primary style method to be effective and are therefore typically also used as primary style methods.
  • Common secondary style methods – additional complementary attacking methods of the key primary style method that are typically considered to not be fundamentally necessary for the key primary style method to be effective but are commonly added as secondary style methods.
  • Tactical risk – details of the attacking style’s overall level of tactical risk as determined by the key and typical primary style methods, along with details of how tactical risk can be balanced.
  • Typical number-ten – the type of number-ten central attacker that is typically used with the attacking style, as explained in the Role Categories guide. The frequency with which such number-tens receive the ball relative to other central attackers is particularly important for helping the team to create goal-scoring chances effectively. Therefore, such number-tens may be implemented as focal players, while other central attackers are typically not implemented as focal players.

The extent to which it is appropriate for a team to implement each of the primary and secondary style methods detailed below depends on player suitability, the overall tactical risk level desired by the team’s manager and the preferences of the team’s manager.

Direct Plays

Direct plays is based on making long passes in order to directly penetrate space, mainly creating space by using physical power and forcing defensive mistakes from opposition team players.

Long passes are typically complemented to some extent with pushing up from the front, sitting deep at the back and wide positioning to create space for direct penetration by decreasing compactness, and high tempo play to further increase the directness of penetration.

Key Primary Style Method

  • Long passes

Typical Primary Style Methods

  • Pushing up from the front (attacking depth)
  • Sitting deep at the back (attacking depth)
  • Wide positioning (attacking width)
  • High tempo play

Common Secondary Style Methods

  • Disciplined movement – can enable long passes to be received more easily.
  • Direct dribbles – can complement long passes with additional direct penetration.
  • Disciplined dribbles – can enable direct penetration to be achieved more easily.
  • Dribbles into channels – can complement long passes with additional direct penetration.
  • Hold-up play – can allow attacking support to be provided following direct penetration and can create space for direct penetration with physical power.
  • Passes in behind – can complement long passes with additional direct penetration.
  • Passes to player – can help to balance the tactical risk of passing.
  • Crosses – can complement long passes with additional direct penetration.
  • Crosses from deep – can complement long passes with additional direct penetration.
  • Clearances – can complement long passes with additional direct penetration.
  • Speculative shots – can complement long passes with additional direct penetration.
  • Tactical discipline – can enable long passes to be received more easily and help to balance the tactical risk of passing.

Tactical Risk

Typical overall attacking risk level: high – focuses more on penetrating space, but this depends on the use of higher/lower risk attacking methods.

Tactical risk can be balanced to some extent with the use of sitting deep at the back (attacking depth), disciplined movement, disciplined dribbles, passes to player or tactical discipline, or by compositing direct plays with the defensive football style or the cautious defending style.

Typical Forward Movement Partnerships

Typical Passing Range System

Typical Number-Ten

Tactical Organisation

Tactical reorganisation frequency typically required:

  • More frequent attacking reorganisation – due to a high overall attacking risk level, but this depends on the use of higher/lower risk attacking methods.

Typical speed of tactical transition:

  • Quick – due to the typical use of more direct partnerships, particularly if players have good mobility.

Counter attacking and counter pressing are more likely to be effective if the team has a quick tactical transition but holding shape and regrouping are more likely to be ineffective. However, these effects can be reversed if the speed of tactical transition is slower.

Use of breaks and consolidating possession:

  • Consolidating possession (and holding shape) can be particularly useful to balance attacking risk.
  • Counter attacks can be used more frequently due to the lesser focus on keeping possession by using long passes in particular.

Use of counter pressing and regrouping:

  • Counter pressing can help the team to win possession immediately after conceding possession and so it can be particularly useful for counter attacking more frequently.

Player Suitability

Players who play in midfield and attack in particular:

  • Good endeavour
  • Good physical presence
  • Good aerial presence
  • Good mobility
  • Perhaps poor creativity
  • Perhaps poor movement
  • Perhaps poor off the ball movement
  • Perhaps poor control
  • Perhaps poor passing ability

At least one player assigned a centre forward playing position:

  • Good physical presence
  • Good aerial presence
  • Decent control
  • Good hold-up play.

Short Plays

Short plays is based on making short passes in order to carefully penetrate space and keep possession by cycling possession, mainly creating space by drawing players out of position.

Short passes are typically complemented to some extent with pushing up from the back, sitting deep at the front and narrow positioning to increase compactness and so increase options for short passes, and low tempo play to make it even easier to cycle possession.

Key Primary Style Method

  • Short passes

Typical Primary Style Methods

  • Pushing up from the back (attacking depth)
  • Sitting deep at the front (attacking depth)
  • Narrow positioning (attacking width)
  • Low tempo play

Common Secondary Style Methods

  • Roaming movement, runs into channels – can create space for patient penetration with short passes.
  • Collecting the ball – can enable short passes to be made more easily.
  • Refraining from dribbles – can complement short passes with additional patient penetration.
  • Lateral dribbles – can create space for patient penetration with short passes.
  • Carrying the ball – can create space for patient penetration with short passes.
  • Passes into space – can help to balance the tactical risk of passing.
  • Passes between the lines – can create space for patient penetration with short passes.
  • Refraining from crosses – can complement short passes with additional patient penetration.
  • Crosses from byline – can complement short passes with additional patient penetration.
  • Playing out of danger (including dropping deep) – can create space for patient penetration with short passes.
  • Refraining from shots – can complement short passes with additional patient penetration.
  • Creative freedom – can create space for patient penetration with short passes and help to balance the tactical risk of passing.

Tactical Risk

Typical overall attacking risk level: low – focuses more on keeping possession, but this depends on the use of higher/lower risk attacking methods.

Tactical risk can be balanced to some extent with the use of pushing up from the back (attacking depth), roaming movement, runs into channels, lateral dribbles, passes into space, passes between the lines or creative freedom, or by compositing short plays with the attacking football style or the aggressive defending style.

Typical Forward Movement Partnerships

Typical Passing Range System

  • Balanced

Typical Number-Ten

Tactical Organisation

Tactical reorganisation frequency typically required:

  • Less frequent attacking reorganisation – due to a low overall attacking risk level, but this depends on the use of higher/lower risk attacking methods.

Typical speed of tactical transition:

  • Slow – due to the typical use of more overlapping partnerships, particularly if players have poor mobility (however, players who have good mobility may be used to enable quicker tactical transition).

Holding shape and regrouping are more likely to be effective if the team has a slow tactical transition but counter attacking and counter pressing are more likely to be ineffective. However, these effects can be reversed if the speed of tactical transition is quicker.

Use of consolidating possession and breaks:

  • Initiating breaks (and counter attacking) can be particularly useful to balance attacking risk.
  • Counter attacks can be used less frequently due to the greater focus on keeping possession by using short passes in particular.

Use of counter pressing and regrouping:

  • Counter pressing can help the team to win possession immediately after conceding possession and so it can be particularly useful for cycling possession, as it can enable the team to spend more time in possession.

Player Suitability

Players who play in midfield and attack in particular:

  • Good creativity
  • Good movement
  • Good off the ball movement
  • Good control
  • Good passing ability
  • Perhaps poor endeavour
  • Perhaps poor physical presence
  • Perhaps poor aerial presence
  • Perhaps poor mobility