Defensive Styles

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

Defensive styles include:

  • Aggressive pressing
  • Containment

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

  • Typical primary style methods – complementary defensive 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 defensive 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 defensive 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.

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.

Aggressive Pressing

Aggressive pressing is based on closing down in order to restrict space in more advanced areas with a high level of defensive pressure. This is typically complemented to some extent with early engagement and a high line to give a high defensive block.

Key Primary Style Method

  • Closing down

Typical Primary Style Methods

  • Early engagement
  • High line

Common Secondary Style Methods

  • Stepping up
  • Tight marking
  • Tackling

These higher risk defensive methods naturally complement closing down.

Tactical Risk

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

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

Tactical Organisation

Tactical reorganisation frequency typically required:

  • More frequent defensive reorganisation – due to the use of higher risk player movement defensive methods.

Typical speed of tactical transition:

  • Quick – if players have good mobility.

A high level of defensive pressure can cause the opposition team to be more tactically disorganised, which can be taken advantage of by counter attacking.

Player Suitability

Players assigned defender and midfielder playing positions in particular:

  • Good endeavour
  • Good mobility
  • Good closing down ability
  • Perhaps poor focus
  • Perhaps poor physical presence
  • Perhaps poor aerial presence
  • Perhaps poor marking ability
  • Perhaps poor clearing ability

Containment

Containment is based on sitting off in order to protect space and retain compactness in deeper areas. This is typically complemented to some extent with delayed engagement and a deep line to give a low defensive block.

Key Primary Style Method

  • Sitting off

Typical Primary Style Methods

  • Delayed engagement
  • Deep line

Common Secondary Style Methods

  • Stepping back
  • Loose marking
  • Holding off

These lower risk defensive methods naturally complement sitting off.

Tactical Risk

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

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

Tactical Organisation

Tactical reorganisation frequency typically required:

  • Less frequent defensive reorganisation – due to the use of lower risk player movement defensive methods.

Typical speed of tactical transition:

  • Slow – if players have poor mobility (however, more advanced players who have good mobility may be used to enable more effective counter attacking).

The opposition team typically moves 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.

Player Suitability

Players assigned defender and midfielder playing positions in particular:

  • Good focus
  • Good physical presence
  • Good aerial presence
  • Good marking ability
  • Good clearing ability
  • Perhaps poor endeavour
  • Perhaps poor mobility
  • Perhaps poor closing down ability