Playing Methods

Playing methods are the specific means of using space and techniques for using space that can be utilised by a team. They therefore enable a team to apply the tactical dynamics.

Attacking methods are the playing methods that a team can utilise in the attacking phases and defensive methods are the playing methods that a team can utilise in the defensive phases.

Tactical Risk Levels

Different playing methods carry different levels of tactical risk.

A higher risk playing method is a playing method that generally carries a higher level of tactical risk, while a lower risk playing method is a playing method that generally carries a lower level of tactical risk.

The Tactical Objectives guide details how different levels of attacking risk are related to different attacking objectives and different levels of defensive risk are related to different defensive objectives. The level of attacking risk carried by an attacking method is similarly related to the attacking objectives that it involves a greater focus on, while the level of defensive risk carried by a defensive method is similarly related to the defensive objectives that it involves a greater focus on.

Attacking Risk Levels

A higher risk attacking method is an attacking method that generally carries a higher level of attacking risk, while a lower risk attacking method is an attacking method that generally carries a lower level of attacking risk.

Higher risk attacking methods involve a greater focus on penetrating space and a lesser focus on keeping possession, retaining solidity and retaining compactness. Lower risk attacking methods involve a greater focus on keeping possession, retaining solidity and retaining compactness, and a lesser focus on penetrating space.

This is because penetrating space is necessary for the attacking team to create a goal-scoring chance and, therefore, to score a goal. However, attempting to penetrate space makes it more difficult for it to keep possession, retain solidity and retain compactness and, therefore, to prevent the opposition team scoring a goal, due to the player movement and ball movement that it involves, as explained in the Tactical Dynamics guide.

All attacking methods can involve a large focus on creating space as space can be created both directly and indirectly. Creating space directly involves drawing players out of position by taking on higher attacking risk levels while creating space indirectly involves drawing players out of position by taking on lower attacking risk levels.

Defensive Risk Levels

A higher risk defensive method is a defensive method that generally carries a higher level of defensive risk, while a lower risk defensive method is a defensive method that generally carries a lower level of defensive risk.

Higher risk defensive methods involve a greater focus on restricting space and a lesser focus on protecting space and retaining compactness. Lower risk defensive methods involve a greater focus on protecting space and retaining compactness, and a lesser focus on restricting space.

This is because restricting space helps the defending team to win possession and, therefore, to score a goal. However, restricting space also makes it more difficult for it to protect space and retain compactness and, therefore, to prevent the opposition team scoring a goal, due to the player movement that it involves, as explained in the Tactical Dynamics guide.

Application of Attacking Dynamics

Attacking methods enable a team to apply the attacking dynamics.

Each attacking dynamic can be applied in different ways by different attacking methods. Each attacking method can be used to varying extents, both in terms of its overall use by a team as a whole and its relative use by individual players.

For each attacking dynamic, the main attacking methods that apply the attacking dynamic are listed below. The attacking methods are categorised where appropriate into groups of related attacking methods that apply an attacking dynamic in similar and opposing ways, and into higher risk attacking methods and lower risk attacking methods.

Some attacking methods have equivalent defensive methods, which affect the primary tactical dynamics in a similar manner, and these are also detailed below. A team typically uses such an attacking method and its equivalent defensive method to a similar extent, as explained in the Tactical Organisation guide. These attacking methods and their equivalent defensive methods are therefore given similar names in order to simplify subsequent analysis.

Attacking Shape

Attacking shape attacking methods affect the playing positions, and refinements made to the playing positions, of attacking team players so as to determine their attacking positions.

Groups of related attacking shape attacking methods include:

  • Playing positions – detailed in the Playing Positions guide.
    • Higher risk – playing in an advanced playing position and playing in a wide playing position.
    • Lower risk – playing in a deep playing position and playing in a central playing position.
  • Attacking width
    • Higher risk – using wide positioning – players take up wide attacking positions relative to their playing positions (closer to the touchlines).
    • Lower risk – using narrow positioning – players take up narrow attacking positions relative to their playing positions (further from the touchlines).

Equivalent defensive methods:

  • Playing positions.
  • Wide positioning and narrow positioning.

Off the Ball Movement

Groups of related off the ball movement attacking methods include:

  • Off the ball directness
    • Higher risk – making forward runs – off the ball players move into available space closer to the defending team’s goal-line.
    • Lower risk – sitting back and dropping deep – off the ball players do not move into available space closer to the defending team’s goal-line.
  • Off the ball freedom
    • Higher risk – making roaming movement, making runs into channels and making drifting movement – off the ball players move into available space within a large range.
    • Lower risk – making disciplined movement – off the ball players move into available space within a small range.

Note that the goal-lines are the horizontal lines between the two corner flags at each end of the pitch, not just the lines between the goal posts.

Therefore, off the ball directness relates mainly to off the ball movement in vertical space, while off the ball freedom is the main determinant of off the ball movement in horizontal space. The two are independent of each other. So, for example, a player can theoretically make roaming movement into horizontal space while sitting back in vertical space at the same time.

Roaming movement involves player movement into and within available space in general. Runs into channels involves players movement into and within vertical channels specifically. Drifting movement involves player movement into and within horizontal channels specifically.

On the Ball Movement

Groups of related on the ball movement attacking methods include:

  • Dribbling directness
    • Higher risk – making direct dribbles – the player on the ball moves with the ball into a more threatening area.
    • Lower risk – refraining from dribbles – the player on the ball does not move with the ball into a more threatening area.
  • Dribbling location
    • Higher risk – making lateral dribbles – the player on the ball moves into horizontal space away from his attacking position when making direct dribbles.
    • Lower risk – making disciplined dribbles – the player on the ball does not move into horizontal space away from his attacking position when making direct dribbles.

Other on the ball movement attacking methods include:

  • Using hold-up play – the player on the ball temporarily restricts his movement of the ball (including passing) in order to enable off the ball movement towards and ahead of the ball from teammates.

Passing

Groups of related passing attacking methods include:

  • Passing range
    • Higher risk – making long passes – the player on the ball moves the ball towards an intended recipient teammate who is a long distance away.
    • Lower risk – making short passes – the player on the ball moves the ball towards an intended recipient teammate who is a short distance away.
  • Passing expansiveness
    • Higher risk – making passes into space, making passes between the lines and making passes in behind – the player on the ball moves the ball into available space near an intended recipient teammate.
    • Lower risk – making safe passes – the player on the ball moves the ball directly to an intended recipient teammate.
  • Crossing
    • Higher risk – making crosses – the player on the ball moves the ball from a wider area into the defending team’s penalty area.
    • Lower risk – refraining from crosses – the player on the ball does not move the ball from a wider area into the defending team’s penalty area.
  • Crossing location
    • Higher risk – making crosses from deep – the player on the ball does not wait until he is close to the byline before making crosses.
    • Lower risk – making crosses from byline – the player on the ball waits until he is close to the byline before making crosses.

Other passing attacking methods include:

  • Focusing play – the player on the ball frequently moves the ball to a particular teammate or to a teammate in a particular area.

Passes into space involve ball movement into available space in general. Passes between the lines involve horizontal ball movement into vertical channels specifically. Passes in behind involve forward ball movement into horizontal channels specifically.

Clearing

Groups of related clearing attacking methods include:

  • Clearing
    • Higher risk – playing out of danger – the player on the ball moves the ball a short distance away from more threatening areas (from the perspective of the defending team).
    • Lower risk – making clearances – the player on the ball moves the ball a long distance away from more threatening areas (from the perspective of the defending team).

Shooting

Groups of related shooting attacking methods include:

  • Shooting
    • Higher risk – taking speculative shots – the player on the ball has an attempt at goal from a low quality goal-scoring chance.
    • Lower risk – refraining from shots – the player on the ball does not have an attempt at goal from a low quality goal-scoring chance.

Tempo

Groups of related tempo attacking methods include:

  • Tempo
    • Higher risk – using high tempo play – players make quick decisions regarding the application of player movement and ball movement.
    • Lower risk – using low tempo play – players make slow decisions regarding the application of player movement and ball movement.

Attacking Mentality

Groups of related attacking mentality attacking methods include:

  • Attacking Mentality
    • Higher risk – using a high risk mentality – players make decisions regarding the application of player movement and ball movement that carry high levels of attacking risk.
    • Lower risk – using a low risk mentality – players make decisions regarding the application of player movement and ball movement that carry low levels of attacking risk.

Decisions can involve whether, when and how to use attacking methods.

Decisions regarding when to use attacking methods include:

  • Higher risk – making surging runs – players do not wait for attacking support and cover before using higher risk off the ball movement and on the ball movement attacking methods.
  • Lower risk – delaying runs – players do wait for attacking support and cover before using higher risk off the ball movement and on the ball movement attacking methods.

Equivalent defensive methods:

  • High risk mentality and low risk mentality.

Creativity

Groups of related creativity attacking methods include:

  • Creativity
    • Higher risk – using creative freedom – players have freedom (from their attacking instructions) to decide how to apply ball movement.
    • Lower risk – using tactical discipline – players follow their attacking instructions in order to decide how to apply ball movement.

Sportsmanship

Groups of related sportsmanship attacking methods include:

  • Sportsmanship
    • Higher risk – using sporting integrity – players make decisions that carry a high level of integrity.
    • Lower risk – wasting time, playing for set pieces and making tactical fouls – players make decisions that carry a low level of integrity.

Application of Defensive Dynamics

Defensive methods enable a team to apply the defensive dynamics.

Each defensive dynamic can be applied in different ways by different defensive methods. Each defensive method can be used to varying extents, both in terms of its overall use by a team as a whole and, with the exception of offside line movement defensive methods, its relative use by individual players.

For each defensive dynamic, the main defensive methods that apply the defensive dynamic are listed below. The defensive methods are categorised where appropriate into groups of related defensive methods that apply a defensive dynamic in similar and opposing ways, and into higher risk defensive methods and lower risk defensive methods.

As explained above in Application of Attacking Dynamics, some defensive methods have equivalent attacking methods and these are also detailed below.

Defensive Shape

Defensive shape defensive methods affect the playing positions, and refinements made to the playing positions, of defending team players so as to determine their defensive positions.

Groups of related defensive shape defensive methods include:

  • Playing positions – detailed in the Playing Positions guide.
    • Higher risk – playing in an advanced playing position and playing in a wide playing position.
    • Lower risk – playing in a deep playing position and playing in a central playing position.
  • Defensive width
    • Higher risk – using wide positioning – players take up defensive positions that are wider (closer to the touchlines).
    • Lower risk – using narrow positioning – players take up defensive positions that are narrower (further from the touchlines).

Equivalent attacking methods:

  • Playing positions.
  • Wide positioning and narrow positioning.

Pressing

Groups of related pressing defensive methods include:

  • Pressing intensity
    • Higher risk – closing down – players move towards the player on the ball when he is a long distance away.
    • Lower risk – sitting off – players move towards the player on the ball when he is a short distance away.
  • Pressing engagement
    • Higher risk – using early engagement – players begin closing down when the ball is close to the attacking team’s goal.
    • Lower risk – using delayed engagement – players begin closing down when the ball is close to the half-way line.

Offside Line Movement

Groups of related offside line movement defensive methods include:

  • Offside line depth
    • Higher risk – using a high line – players move the offside line close to the half-way line.
    • Lower risk – using a deep line – players move the offside line close to the defending team’s goal.
  • Offside trap
    • Higher risk – stepping up – players temporarily shift the offside line in front of the most advanced off the ball attacking team player when appropriate in order to put him in an offside position.
    • Lower risk – stepping back – players do not temporarily shift the offside line in front of the most advanced off the ball attacking team player in order to put him in an offside position.

Marking

Groups of related marking defensive methods include:

  • Marking coverage
    • Higher risk – using man marking – players move towards specifically assigned off the ball attacking team players.
    • Lower risk – using zonal marking – players move towards off the ball attacking team players in their defensive zone.
  • Marking tightness
    • Higher risk – using tight marking – players move very close to off the ball attacking team players.
    • Lower risk – using loose marking – players move only fairly close to off the ball attacking team players.

All marking defensive methods involve a large focus on restricting space around players off the ball. However, higher risk marking defensive methods involve a relatively greater focus on restricting space around players off the ball and and a relatively lesser focus on protecting space and retaining compactness, while lower risk marking defensive methods involve a relatively greater focus on protecting space and retaining compactness, and a relatively lesser focus on restricting space around players off the ball.

Resistance

Groups of related resistance defensive methods include:

  • Challenging
    • Higher risk – tackling – players in the immediate vicinity of the player on the ball move in order to directly intercept the ball from his control.
    • Lower risk – holding off – players in the immediate vicinity of the player on the ball do not move in order to directly intercept the ball from his control.

Defensive Mentality

Groups of related defensive mentality defensive methods include:

  • Defensive Mentality
    • Higher risk – using a high risk mentality – players make decisions regarding the application of pressing and resistance that carry high levels of defensive risk.
    • Lower risk – using a low risk mentality – players make decisions regarding the application of pressing and resistance that carry low levels of defensive risk.

Decisions can involve whether, when and how to use defensive methods.

Decisions regarding when to use defensive methods include:

  • Higher risk – tracking back – players retreat to their defensive positions earlier.
  • Lower risk – not tracking back – players retreat to their defensive positions later.
  • Higher risk – not waiting for cover – players do not wait for defensive support and cover before using higher risk pressing and resistance defensive methods.
  • Lower risk – waiting for cover – players do wait for defensive support and cover before using higher risk pressing and resistance defensive methods.

Equivalent attacking methods:

  • High risk mentality and low risk mentality.