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. A balanced risk attacking method is an attacking method that generally carries a balanced 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. A balanced risk defensive method is a defensive method that generally carries a balanced 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.

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:

  • Attacking depth
    • Higher risk – playing in an advanced playing position, pushing up, pushing up from the back and pushing up from the front – players take up attacking positions that are more advanced (further from the attacking team’s goal-line).
      • Advanced playing position relates to the playing position itself, while pushing up relates to its refinement.
      • Pushing up from the back relates to players assigned deeper playing positions specifically, while pushing up from the front relates to players assigned more advanced playing positions specifically.
    • Lower risk – playing in a deep playing position, sitting deep, sitting deep at the back and sitting deep at the front – players take up attacking positions that are deeper (closer to the attacking team’s goal-line).
      • Deep playing position relates to the playing position itself, while sitting deep relates to its refinement.
      • Sitting deep at the back relates to players assigned deeper playing positions specifically, while sitting deep at the front relates to players assigned more advanced playing positions specifically.
  • Attacking width
    • Higher risk – playing in a wide playing position and using wide positioning – players take up attacking positions that are wider (closer to the touchlines).
      • Wide playing position relates to the playing position itself, while wide positioning relates to its refinement.
    • Lower risk – playing in a central playing position and using narrow positioning – players take up attacking positions that are narrower (further from the touchlines).
      • Central playing position relates to the playing position itself, while narrow positioning relates to its refinement.

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 more threatening areas.
    • Lower risk – sitting back – off the ball players do not move into more threatening areas.
  • Off the ball freedom
    • Higher risk – making roaming movement and making runs into channels – off the ball players move into available space within a large range.
      • Roaming movement involves player movement into and within available space in general. Runs into channels involves players movement into and within vertical channels specifically.
      • Higher risk off the ball freedom also includes splitting wide. However, this can be considered to be balanced risk when combined with dropping deep, as explained for dropping deep below.
        • Splitting wide – two nearby off the ball players move away from each other into horizontal space, creating a vertical channel between them.
    • Lower risk – making disciplined movement – off the ball players move into available space within a small range.

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.

Other off the ball attacking methods that can affect both off the ball directness and off the ball freedom include:

  • Higher risk – making darting movement – off the ball players near to the player on the ball move away from him into available space.
    • Darting movement can include darting forward runs, darting roaming movement, etc.
  • Balanced risk – collecting the ball – off the ball players near to the player on the ball move towards him into available space.
    • The attacking risk is balanced because a player collecting the ball moves away from his attacking position (higher risk off the ball freedom) but is less likely to make a forward run (lower risk off the ball directness) and makes himself available for a short, safe pass (lower risk passing).
  • Lower risk (although typically balanced risk from an overall tactic perspective, as explained below) – dropping deep – off the ball players move into available space in deeper areas before the ball is moved ahead of them.
    • The attacking risk is lower because although a player dropping deep moves away from his attacking position he moves into a less threatening area and does not make a forward run (lower risk off the ball directness).
    • Dropping deep (lower risk) is typically combined with splitting wide (higher risk), with a player assigned a more advanced attacking position dropping deep into the vertical channel created by two teammates splitting wide. This essentially makes the use of dropping deep balanced risk when considering the overall tactic.
  • Lower risk – holding position – this is a combination of sitting back and disciplined movement, rather than being an independent attacking method.

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.

Although direct dribbles in general are higher risk they can be categorised into the following types:

  • Higher risk – taking players on – the player on the ball makes direct dribbles into available space that is otherwise protected by defending team players.
  • Balanced risk – making dribbles into space – the player on the ball makes direct dribbles into available space that is not protected by defending team players.
    • Dribbles into space can include dribbles into channels and carrying the ball.
      • Dribbles into channels involves direct dribbles into vertical channels specifically. Carrying the ball involves direct dribbles into horizontal channels specifically.
    • The attacking risk is balanced because a player making dribbles into space moves into a more threatening area (higher risk on the ball directness) but can create space for a teammate to receive a safe pass (lower risk passing expansiveness), as long as his off the ball movement is effective enough and the pass is made before the defending team player is close enough to hinder it.

A player may dribble into space and then attempt to take a player on who attempts to restrict space (higher risk), or he may dribble into space without attempting to take a player on and then attempt to make a pass (balanced risk).

The use of direct dribbles to a particular extent (greater or lesser) can be considered to mean the use of direct dribbles, including taking players on, to that particular extent, as the use of dribbles into space does not affect the attacking risk level.

Other on the ball movement attacking methods include:

  • Balanced risk – 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.
    • The attacking risk is balanced because a player using hold-up play delays movement of the ball into available space which can result in him conceding possession (higher risk) but can create space for a teammate, and give him time to move into available space, to receive a safe pass (lower risk passing expansiveness).
    • Although hold-up play is balanced risk it still focuses more creating space directly and penetrating space when it is combined with the use of physical power.

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.
      • Long passes in general are higher risk. However, long passes by players who lack attacking cover are lower risk as they are less likely to result in the attacking team winning possession in more threatening areas.
    • Lower risk – making short passes – the player on the ball moves the ball towards an intended recipient teammate who is a short distance away.
      • Short passes in general are lower risk. However, short passes by players who lack attacking cover are higher risk as they are more likely to result in the attacking team winning possession in more threatening areas.
  • 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.
      • 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.
    • 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:

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

The use of focusing play can also be indirectly increased by off the ball movement attacking methods; in particular, darting movement (can focus play to a particular area), collecting the ball (can focus play to a particular player) and dropping deep (can focus play to a particular player or to a particular area).

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).

Playing out of danger may be combined with the (balanced risk) use of two players splitting wide (higher risk off the ball movement) and a third player dropping deep (lower risk off the ball movement) between them, which is explained above. This enables the three players to play out of danger more effectively as it makes it easier for them to cycle possession between each other, while the player dropping deep creates space ahead of him by drawing players out of position.

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 attacking shape, attacking 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 attacking shape, attacking 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.
    • Surging runs can include surging forward runs, surging direct dribbles, etc.
  • 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.
    • Delaying runs can include delaying forward runs, delaying direct dribbles, etc.

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 and playing for set pieces – 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.

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:

  • Defensive depth
    • Higher risk – playing in an advanced playing position, pushing up, pushing up from the back and pushing up from the front – players take up defensive positions that are more advanced (further from the defending team’s goal-line).
      • Advanced playing position relates to the playing position itself, while pushing up relates to its refinement.
      • Pushing up from the back relates to players assigned deeper playing positions specifically, while pushing up from the front relates to players assigned more advanced playing positions specifically.
    • Lower risk – playing in a deep playing position, sitting deep, sitting deep at the back and sitting deep at the front – players take up defensive positions that are deeper (closer to the defending team’s goal-line).
      • Deep playing position relates to the playing position itself, while sitting deep relates to its refinement.
      • Sitting deep at the back relates to players assigned deeper playing positions specifically, while sitting deep at the front relates to players assigned more advanced playing positions specifically.
  • Defensive width
    • Higher risk – playing in a wide playing position and using wide positioning – players take up defensive positions that are wider (closer to the touchlines).
      • Wide playing position relates to the playing position itself, while wide positioning relates to its refinement.
    • Lower risk – playing in a central playing position and using narrow positioning – players take up defensive positions that are narrower (further from the touchlines).
      • Central playing position relates to the playing position itself, while narrow positioning relates to its refinement.

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.

Offside Line Movement

Groups of related offside line movement defensive methods include:

  • 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 defensive shape, defensive movement and ball movement that carry high levels of defensive risk.
    • Lower risk – using a low risk mentality – players make decisions regarding the application of defensive shape, defensive movement and ball movement 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 – not tracking back – players retreat to their defensive positions later.
  • Lower risk – tracking back – players retreat to their defensive positions earlier.
  • 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.