Core Styles

A core style is a component style that relates to the overall use of both complementary attacking methods and complementary defensive methods.

Core styles include:

  • Attacking football
  • Defensive football

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

  • Typical primary style methodscomplementary playing 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 playing 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 core 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.
  • Match strategies – details of how the core style can be used as part of match strategies; that is, in particular matches or during particular match scenarios.

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.

Attacking Football

Attacking football is based on using a high risk mentality in order to proactively create space, penetrate space and restrict space in more advanced areas while applying high levels of attacking pressure and defensive pressure, therefore forcing attacking and defensive mistakes from opposition team players.

A high risk mentality is typically complemented to some extent with wide positioning to enable space to be created more easily in advanced areas that become more congested as a result, along with high tempo play and early engagement to further increase attacking and defensive pressure, and a high line to complete a high defensive block.

Key Primary Style Method

  • High risk mentality

Typical Primary Style Methods

  • Wide positioning
  • High tempo play
  • Early engagement
  • High line

Common Secondary Style Methods

  • Roaming movement
  • Direct dribbles
  • Lateral dribbles
  • Passes into space
  • Crosses
  • Crosses from deep
  • Speculative shots
  • Creative freedom
  • Stepping up
  • Tight marking
  • Tackling

These higher risk playing methods naturally complement a high risk mentality but they are typically used in moderation to avoid excessively high overall tactical risk levels.

Tactical Risk

Typical overall attacking risk level: high – focuses more on penetrating space.

Typical overall defensive risk level: high – focuses more on restricting space.

Tactical risk can be balanced to some extent by compositing attacking football with the short plays attacking style or the containment defensive style.

Typical Forward Movement Partnerships

Typical Passing Range System

  • More progressive – the directness of build-up play increases as it develops.

Typical Number-Ten

Tactical Organisation

Tactical reorganisation frequency typically required:

  • More frequent attacking reorganisation – due to a high overall attacking risk level.
  • More frequent defensive reorganisation – due to a high overall defensive risk level.

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 breaks and consolidating possession:

  • Consolidating possession (and holding shape) can be particularly useful to balance attacking risk.
  • High pressure breaks can be used to a greater extent due to the use of higher risk playing methods.

Use of counter pressing and regrouping:

  • Regrouping can be particularly useful to balance defensive risk.
  • Counter pressing can be particularly useful for initiating high pressure counter attacks.

Player Suitability

Outfield players:

  • Good mental, attacking and defensive abilities
  • Perhaps poor physical abilities

Players assigned deeper playing positions:

  • Good movement
  • Good defensive positioning
  • Good tackling ability
  • Perhaps poor physical presence

Players assigned more advanced playing positions:

  • Good creativity
  • Good passing ability
  • Perhaps poor mobility

Match Strategies

Attacking football, or individual aspects of attacking football, is often used against an opposition team that has poorer ability in general in order to exploit the team’s superior ability.

Defensive Football

Defensive football is based on using a low risk mentality in order to patiently keep possession, retain solidity, protect space and retain compactness in deeper areas while inviting high levels of attacking pressure and defensive pressure from the opposition team, therefore allowing available space to open up behind opposition team players which can then be penetrated.

A low risk mentality is typically complemented to some extent with narrow positioning and low tempo play to keep possession and retain compactness in deeper areas more easily, along with delayed engagement to further protect space, retain compactness and encourage the opposition team forward, and a deep line to complete a low defensive block.

Key Primary Style Method

  • Low risk mentality

Typical Primary Style Methods

  • Narrow positioning
  • Low tempo play
  • Delayed engagement
  • Deep line

Common Secondary Style Methods

  • Disciplined movement
  • Refraining from dribbles
  • Disciplined dribbles
  • Passes to player
  • Refraining from crosses
  • Crosses from byline
  • Refraining from shots
  • Tactical discipline
  • Stepping back
  • Loose marking
  • Holding off

These lower risk playing methods naturally complement a low risk mentality but they are typically used in moderation to avoid excessively low overall tactical risk levels.

Tactical Risk

Typical overall attacking risk level: low – focuses more on keeping possession, retaining solidity and retaining compactness.

Typical overall defensive risk level: low – focuses more on protecting space and retaining compactness.

Tactical risk can be balanced to some extent by compositing defensive football with the direct plays attacking style or the aggressive pressing defensive style.

Typical Forward Movement Partnerships

Typical Passing Range System

  • More direct – the directness of build-up play decreases as it develops.

Typical Number-Ten

Tactical Organisation

Tactical reorganisation frequency typically required:

  • Less frequent attacking reorganisation – due to a low overall attacking risk level.
  • Less frequent defensive reorganisation – due to a low overall defensive risk level.

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:

  • Initiating breaks (and counter attacking) can be particularly useful to balance attacking risk.
  • Breaks from deep can be used to a greater extent due to the use of lower risk playing methods.

Use of counter pressing and regrouping:

  • Counter pressing can be particularly useful to balance defensive risk.

Player Suitability

Outfield players:

  • Good physical abilities
  • Perhaps poor mental, attacking and defensive abilities

Players assigned deeper playing positions:

  • Good physical presence
  • Perhaps poor movement
  • Perhaps poor defensive positioning
  • Perhaps poor tackling ability

Players assigned more advanced playing positions:

  • Good mobility
  • Perhaps poor creativity
  • 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

Match Strategies

Defensive football, or individual aspects of defensive football, is often used against an opposition team that has better ability in general in order to cover the team’s inferior ability.