Playing Styles

A team’s playing style is a subjective concept that relates to the team’s overall use of playing methods.

There are essentially an unlimited number of different playing styles that a team can use. However, they can be analysed in terms of a limited number of distinct and simplified component styles that can each be implemented to different extents and composited to form composite styles.

For the purpose of carrying out such an analysis, a playing style (including component and composite styles) can be characterised by its style methods, which are the playing methods that are used to a greater overall extent by a team in order to implement the playing style.

A playing style’s style methods can include primary style methods and secondary style methods.

A playing style’s primary style methods are the style methods of the playing style that are considered to be fundamental to the playing style. That is, their performance is considered to be necessary for all or most players in order for the playing style to be carried out effectively.

A playing style’s secondary style methods are the style methods of the playing style that are not primary style methods.

A team implements its playing style by incorporating the overall use of playing methods into the tactical roles of its players using tactical instructions as appropriate and according to its playing style implementation basis.

When implementing a playing style a team should consider the player suitability of its players. This can be assessed largely from player suitability for the associated style methods.

Playing Style Implementation Basis

A team can implement each style method of its playing style as a player-based style method or a team-based style method.

A player-based style method is incorporated into the tactical roles of particular individual players. This requires a relatively larger adjustment to the tactical role of each affected player.

A team-based style method is incorporated into the tactical roles of players in general. This requires a relatively smaller adjustment to the tactical role of each player.

A team typically implements the primary style methods of its playing style as team-based style methods in order to ensure that the playing style is carried out effectively.

A team typically implements the secondary style methods of its playing style using whichever implementation basis is appropriate for its system specialisation level.

Player-based secondary style methods are more suitable for more specialised playing systems as part of the assignment of tactical roles with higher responsibility specialism levels.

Team-based secondary style methods are more suitable for more generalised playing systems as part of the assignment of tactical roles with lower responsibility specialism levels.

However, style methods regarding offside line movement can be considered to be typically implemented as team-based style methods, since offside line movement defensive methods are typically used by a team’s players as and when they form or join the team’s defensive line.

Playing Style Balance

A team’s playing style balance refers to the tactical balance in the team’s playing style.

It is important for a team to achieve a good playing style balance in order for it to effectively achieve each of its tactical objectives. A team should therefore take on appropriate levels of tactical risk in its overall use of each playing method and its overall use of playing methods as a whole.

Component Styles

A component style is an aspect of a playing style that relates to the overall use of a particular playing method (or two equivalent attacking and defensive methods) and its complementary playing methods.

A playing method’s complementary playing methods (including complementary attacking methods / complementary defensive methods) are playing methods (attacking methods / defensive methods) that, if used together with the playing method concerned to a greater overall extent, are typically considered to work in synergy with it to enable a team to more effectively achieve its tactical objectives.

Component styles can be categorised into core styles, attacking styles and defensive styles.

For each of these categories a contrasting pair of component styles is listed below. These pairs provide a platform for a simplified analysis of a variety of common playing styles. A team can be considered to implement either of the two component styles in each pair to any extent or, alternatively, a balance or mixture of the two. A mixture can include aspects of both component styles. The extent to which a team implements each component style depends on player suitability and the preferences of the team’s manager.

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

Attacking Styles

An attacking style is a component style that relates to the overall use of complementary attacking methods.

Attacking styles include:

  • Direct plays
  • Short plays

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

Composite Styles

A composite style is a particular composite of two or more component styles.

Composite styles formed by compositing core styles and attacking styles include:

  • Direct attacking football – a composite of attacking football and direct plays.
  • Pass and move football – a composite of attacking football and short plays.
  • Long ball football – a composite of defensive football and direct plays.
  • Possession football – a composite of defensive football and short plays.

Composite styles formed by compositing core styles and defensive styles include:

  • High pressure football – a composite of attacking football and aggressive pressing.
  • Cautious attacking football – a composite of attacking football and containment.
  • Aggressive defensive football – a composite of defensive football and aggressive pressing.
  • Parking-the-bus football – a composite of defensive football and containment.

Composite styles formed by compositing the above include:

  • Urgent football – a composite of direct attacking football and high pressure football.
  • Cautious direct attacking football – a composite of direct attacking football and cautious attacking football.
  • High pressure pass and move football – a composite of pass and move football and high pressure football.
  • Cautious pass and move football – a composite of pass and move football and cautious attacking football.
  • Aggressive long ball football – a composite of long ball football and aggressive defensive football.
  • Parking-the-bus long ball football – a composite of long ball football and parking-the-bus football.
  • Aggressive possession football – a composite of possession football and aggressive defensive football.
  • Anti-football – a composite of possession football and parking-the-bus football.