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.
  • Match strategies – details of how the defensive 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.

Aggressive Pressing

Aggressive pressing is based on closing down in order to aggressively restrict space in more advanced areas while applying high levels of defensive pressure, therefore forcing attacking mistakes from opposition players which can enable quicker winning of possession, more frequent counter attacks, high pressure counter attacks and more time spent in possession.

Closing down 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 a high overall defensive risk level.

Typical speed of tactical transition:

  • Quick – 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 consolidating possession and breaks:

  • Counter attacks can be used more frequently due to the greater focus on winning possession quickly by using closing down in particular.
  • High pressure counter attacks can be used to a greater extent due to the use of higher risk defensive methods.

Use of counter pressing and regrouping:

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

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

Match Strategies

Aggressive pressing, or individual aspects of aggressive pressing, can be used:

  • Against direct plays – to make it more difficult for the opposition team to create space by using physical power effectively by keeping opposition team players who have good physical presence, aerial presence and hold-up play further away from goal. However, if the opposition team can move the ball to players who have good mobility and dribbling ability then it can be easier for it to penetrate space behind players effectively.

Containment

Containment is based on sitting off in order to cautiously protect space and retain compactness in deeper areas while inviting high levels of attacking pressure from the opposition team, therefore allowing available space to open up behind opposition team players for counter attacks from deep after waiting to win possession.

Sitting off 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 a low overall defensive risk level.

Typical speed of tactical transition:

  • Slow – 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 quick 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:

  • Counter attacks can be used less frequently due to the lesser focus on winning possession quickly by using sitting off in particular.
  • Counter attacks from deep can be used to a greater extent due to the use of lower risk defensive methods.

Use of counter pressing and regrouping:

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

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

Match Strategies

Containment, or individual aspects of containment, can be used:

  • Against direct plays – to make it more difficult for the opposition team to penetrate space behind players effectively using players who have good mobility and dribbling ability. However, if the opposition team can move the ball to players who have good physical presence, aerial presence and hold-up play closer to goal then this can make it easier for it to penetrate space created by using physical power effectively.
  • Against short plays – to make it more difficult for the opposition team to create space by drawing players out of position effectively by keeping players closer to their defensive positions. However, this can make it easier for the opposition team to keep possession effectively.