Tactical Organisation

A team’s tactical organisation refers to how well positioned the team’s players are to carry out their tactical instructions regarding tactical shape and player movement.

Good tactical organisation enables a team to more effectively use its playing system. A team can take advantage of good tactical organisation (relative to the opposition team’s tactical organisation) to achieve its tactical objectives more effectively. In contrast, the opposition team can take advantage of poor tactical organisation (relative to its own tactical organisation) to achieve its own tactical objectives more effectively. A team should therefore reorganise as necessary throughout a match.

The greater use of higher risk playing methods requires more frequent tactical reorganisation due to players moving further away from their tactical positions, while the greater use of lower risk playing methods requires less frequent tactical reorganisation.

In addition, the greater use of higher risk playing methods by the opposition team results in a team facing a higher level of attacking pressure or defensive pressure. This can cause the team to lose tactical organisation more easily due to making defensive mistakes and attacking mistakes and, therefore, more frequent tactical reorganisation can be required.

Tactical Transition

A team’s tactical transition is the tactical reorganisation that is necessary as a result of it winning possession or conceding possession.

A team’s attacking transition is its tactical transition after winning possession, in which it reorganises from its defensive system to its attacking system. A team’s defensive transition is its tactical transition after conceding possession, in which it reorganises from its attacking system to its defensive system.

Speed of Tactical Transition

The quicker a team’s tactical transition is, the earlier it can use its playing system effectively after a change in possession. If a team’s tactical transition is relatively quick (compared to that of the opposition team) then it can potentially take advantage of the time during which the opposition team is still reorganising. However, if its tactical transition is relatively slow then the opposition team can potentially take advantage.

To enable quicker tactical transition, the attacking instructions regarding attacking shape and attacking mentality that a team assigns to its players are typically similar to the defensive instructions regarding defensive shape and defensive mentality that it assigns (in particular, equivalent attacking and defensive methods are typically used to a similar extent).

Other factors that affect the speed of a team’s tactical transition include the mobility of its players and its use of forward movement partnerships.

A team that has players with good mobility tends to have a quicker tactical transition, while a team that has players with poor mobility tends to have a slower tactical transition.

A team that uses more direct partnerships tends to have a quicker tactical transition, as each partner is more likely to start tactical transition in an area closer to where he should be at the end of tactical transition. A team that uses more overlapping partnerships tends to have a slower tactical transition, as each partner is more likely to start tactical transition in an area further from where he should be at the end of tactical transition.

Phases of Play

The phases of play are the cyclical stages of possession and tactical organisation that a team moves through during the course of a match.

As explained for Tactical Objectives, when a team has possession it is in the attacking phases and when a team does not have possession it is in the defensive phases.

The Attacking Phases

The need for attacking transition means that a team moves between two main attacking phases after winning possession, one where it is organised and one where it is still reorganising.

The two main attacking phases that a team moves through are:

  • The attacking phase – occurs when the team has possession (it is the attacking team) and is organised. The defending team is in the defensive phase if it is also organised. However, the defending team is in the defensive transition phase if it is still reorganising due to a relatively slow defensive transition.
  • The attacking transition phase – occurs when the team is still reorganising following it winning possession (it is the attacking team and in attacking transition). The defending team is in the defensive transition phase if it is also still reorganising. However, the defending team is in the defensive phase if it is organised due to a relatively quick defensive transition.

The Defensive Phases

The need for defensive transition means that a team moves between two main defensive phases after conceding possession, one where it is organised and one where it is still reorganising.

The two main defensive phases that a team moves through are:

  • The defensive phase – occurs when the team does not have possession (it is the defending team) and is organised. The attacking team is in the attacking phase if it is also organised. However, the attacking team is in the attacking transition phase if it is still reorganising due to a relatively slow attacking transition.
  • The defensive transition phase – occurs when the team is still reorganising following it conceding possession (it is the defending team and in defensive transition). The attacking team is in the attacking transition phase if it is also still reorganising. However, the attacking team is in the attacking phase if it is organised due to a relatively quick attacking transition.

Attacking Organisation

A team’s attacking organisation is its tactical organisation in the attacking phases.

Good attacking organisation enables a team to more effectively use its attacking system. A team can take advantage of good attacking organisation (relative to the opposition team’s defensive organisation) to achieve its attacking objectives more effectively. In contrast, the opposition team can take advantage of poor attacking organisation (relative to its own defensive organisation) to achieve its own defensive objectives more effectively. A team should therefore reorganise as necessary throughout the attacking phases.

Build-up Play

The nature of a team’s attacking organisation at any point depends greatly on the stage of build-up play that it is in and what options is has for developing build-up play by exploiting penetrative opportunities.

In particular, the appropriate positioning of a team’s players in the attacking phases depends on how tactical instructions regarding their relative uses of high risk mentality and low risk mentality relate to the current stage of build-up play. Each player who is instructed to use a high risk mentality to a greater extent is more likely to be involved in the later stages of build-up play, while each player who is instructed to use a low risk mentality to a greater extent is more likely to be involved in the earlier stages of build-up play, as explained in the Role Specifications guide.

Initiating Breaks

If at any point a team has good attacking organisation relative to the opposition team’s defensive organisation then it can give the opposition team less time to reorganise by initiating a break.

A break involves the attacking team temporarily using a high risk mentality to a greater overall extent in order to culminate build-up play. This enables the attacking team to temporarily focus more on penetrating space.

Initiating a break can therefore make it easier for a team to take advantage of the opposition team’s poor defensive organisation while it reorganises; for example, by exploiting higher quality penetrative opportunities.

A team typically initiates a break when it has a very high quality penetrative opportunity, since generally, the higher the quality of a penetrative opportunity, the more promptly it must be exploited by the attacking team in order for it to take advantage before the defending team reorganises and reduces the quality of the penetrative opportunity.

Counter Attacking

A counter attack is a break that is initiated in the attacking transition phase. It can enable a team to take advantage of the opposition team’s defensive transition more easily and so is more likely to be effective if a team has a relatively quick attacking transition.

However, if a team has a relatively slow attacking transition then counter attacking is more likely to be ineffective and result in the team conceding possession.

Counter attacking can also give a team a slower defensive transition should it concede possession in the attacking transition phase, as a result of it focusing less on retaining solidity and retaining compactness.

The frequency with which a team can counter attack is largely affected by the amount of time it spends in possession and the amount of time it takes to win possession.

A team that tends to focus less on keeping possession, by using long passes to a greater overall extent in particular (as is the case with the direct plays attacking style), or a team that tends to focus more on winning possession quickly, by using closing down to a greater overall extent in particular (as is the case with the aggressive pressing defensive style), tends to be able to counter attack more frequently.

A team that tends to focus more on keeping possession, by using short passes to a greater overall extent in particular (as is the case with the short plays attacking style), or a team that tends to focus less on winning possession quickly, by using sitting off to a greater overall extent in particular (as is the case with the containment defensive style), tends to be able to counter attack less frequently.

Breaks From Deep

Breaks from deep are breaks, generally initiated by a team from deeper areas, that exploit the available space behind opposition team players that occurs as a result of the opposition team moving forward into deeper areas in the attacking phases or, in the case of counter attacks from deep, the defensive phases. Essentially this is creating space by drawing players out of position on a large scale.

Breaks from deep can be used to a greater extent by a team that tends to use lower risk playing methods to a greater overall extent (as is the case with the defensive football core style).

Counter attacking from deep can be used to a greater extent by a team that tends to use lower risk defensive methods to a greater overall extent (as is the case with the defensive football core style and the containment defensive style).

High Pressure Breaks

High pressure breaks are breaks, generally initiated by a team from more advanced areas, that exploit the available space between opposition team players that occurs as a result of a higher level of attacking pressure or, in the case of high pressure counter attacks, defensive pressure from the team causing the opposition team to lose tactical organisation more easily due to defensive or attacking mistakes.

High pressure breaks can be used to a greater extent by a team that tends to use higher risk playing methods to a greater overall extent (as is the case with the attacking football core style).

High pressure counter attacks can be used to a greater extent by a team that tends to use higher risk defensive methods to a greater overall extent (as is the case with the attacking football core style and the aggressive pressing defensive style).

Consolidating Possession

If at any point a team has poor attacking organisation relative to the opposition team’s defensive organisation then it can give itself more time to reorganise by consolidating possession.

Consolidating possession involves the attacking team temporarily using a low risk mentality to a greater overall extent in order to restart build-up play. This enables the attacking team to temporarily focus more on keeping possession, retaining solidity and retaining compactness.

Consolidating possession can therefore make it more difficult for the opposition team to take advantage of a team’s poor attacking organisation while it reorganises; for example, by winning possession.

A team typically consolidates possession when it does not have any sufficiently high quality penetrative opportunities, since good attacking organisation enables it to more easily create higher quality penetrative opportunities.

Holding Shape

Holding shape is consolidating possession in the attacking transition phase. It can enable a team to move into the attacking phase more easily and so is more likely to be effective if a team has a relatively slow attacking transition.

Holding shape can also help a team to achieve a quicker defensive transition should it concede possession in the attacking transition phase, as a result of it focusing more on retaining solidity and retaining compactness.

However, if a team has a relatively quick attacking transition then holding shape is more likely to be ineffective and result in the team failing to exploit high quality penetrative opportunities while the opposition team is in defensive transition.

Defensive Organisation

A team’s defensive organisation is its tactical organisation in the defensive phases.

Good defensive organisation enables a team to more effectively use its defensive system. A team can take advantage of good defensive organisation (relative to the opposition team’s attacking organisation) to achieve its defensive objectives more effectively. In contrast, the opposition team can take advantage of poor defensive organisation (relative to its own attacking organisation) to achieve its own attacking objectives more effectively. A team should therefore reorganise as necessary throughout the defensive phases.

Defensive Blocks

The nature of a team’s defensive organisation at any point depends greatly on how the team sets up its defensive block.

A team’s defensive block is the area between its line of confrontation and its line of restraint.

In particular, the appropriate positioning of a team’s players in the defensive phases depends on where the lines of confrontation and restraint are set and where the ball is relative to these lines.

Line of Confrontation

A team’s line of confrontation is a hypothetical horizontal line across the pitch in the opposition team’s half that its players should refer to before carrying out their defensive instructions regarding pressing intensity.

In general, defending team players should carry out their defensive instructions regarding pressing intensity when the ball is in the area between the defending team’s goal and line of confrontation, and should sit off to a greater extent otherwise, with the defending team’s defensive shape being wholly contained within this area. In addition, when the ball is in this area defending team players in general should position themselves close to those who are closing down in order to provide defensive support.

This results in defending team players being able to close down more effectively in groups as the attacking team moves the ball towards the defending team’s goal.

A team’s line of confrontation is directly linked to its overall use of pressing engagement defensive methods. To enable it to use early engagement to a greater extent a team sets a more advanced line of confrontation.

Line of Restraint

A team’s line of restraint is a hypothetical horizontal line across the pitch in its own half that those players acting as the team’s centre backs at any given time in the defensive phases should refer to before carrying out their defensive instructions regarding pressing intensity.

In general, the defending team’s centre backs should carry out their defensive instructions regarding pressing intensity when the ball is in the area between the line of restraint and the defending team’s goal, and should sit off to a greater extent otherwise.

This results in the defending team’s centre backs tending to move towards and attempt to hold the line of restraint as the attacking team moves the ball towards the defending team’s goal, with the offside line moving accordingly.

A team’s line of restraint is directly linked to its use of offside line depth defensive methods. To enable it to use a high line to a greater extent a team sets a more advanced line of restraint.

Defensive Blocks & Compactness

A team’s defensive block can help it to retain vertical compactness effectively in the defensive phases, as players should generally remain positioned within the defensive block.

A team therefore typically uses pressing engagement and offside line depth defensive methods to a similar extent as part of an appropriately compact defensive block where the lines of engagement and restraint are neither too far apart nor too close together.

If instead a team combined a more advanced line of confrontation with a deeper line of restraint then it would fail to retain vertical compactness, while if it combined a deeper line of confrontation with a more advanced line of restraint then it would become too vertically compact.

Types of Defensive Block

The three main types of defensive block are the high defensive block, the low defensive block and the medium defensive block.

A high defensive block is a combination of a more advanced line of confrontation and a more advanced line of restraint.

A low defensive block is a combination of a deeper line of confrontation and a deeper line of restraint.

A medium defensive block is a defensive block that is between a high defensive block and a low defensive block.

Defensive Blocks & Winning Possession

A team’s defensive block has a significant influence on where it attempts to win possession, although this is also affected by the use of other defensive methods.

In particular, a team typically uses a high defensive block in order to use high pressure counter attacks to a greater extent and a low defensive block in order to use counter attacks from deep to a greater extent.

To try to enable more frequent counter attacks from deep a team may use a low defensive block but otherwise focus more on winning possession quickly (as is the case with a particular implementation of the aggressive defensive football composite style).

Delaying the Attack

If at any point a team has poor defensive organisation relative to the opposition team’s attacking organisation then it can give itself more time to reorganise by delaying the attack before the opposition team attempts to exploit penetrative opportunities.

Delaying the attack involves the defending team players closest to the ball, when it is within the defensive block, restricting space around the attacking team players in the area around the ball, with one player both closing down and holding off the player on the ball.

Delaying the attack can therefore make it more difficult for the opposition team to take advantage of a team’s poor defensive organisation while it reorganises; for example, by exploiting higher quality penetrative opportunities. In particular, the players involved in delaying the attack can make it more difficult for the player on the ball to move the ball effectively, giving other defending team players more time to reorganise themselves and reduce the amount and quality of penetrative opportunities as necessary.

It is especially important for a team to delay the attack in the defensive transition phase due to the need for defensive transition. This can reduce the effectiveness of any attempted counter attacking by the opposition team.

Counter Pressing

Counter pressing involves the defending team closing down to a greater overall extent when delaying the attack in the defensive transition phase. This enables the defending team to temporarily focus more on restricting space and so makes it more difficult for the attacking team to keep possession in its attacking transition phase.

Counter pressing is more likely to be effective if a team has a relatively quick defensive transition, as it makes it easier for the team to take advantage of the opposition team’s attacking transition by winning possession.

Effective counter pressing can make it more difficult for the opposition team to either hold shape or counter attack in its attacking transition phase and can even result in a counter attacking opportunity for the counter pressing team itself if it wins possession.

However, if a team has a relatively slow defensive transition then counter pressing is more likely to be ineffective and result in the opposition team exploiting higher quality penetrative opportunities more easily.

Counter pressing can help a team to win possession immediately after conceding possession and so it can be particularly useful for a team that tends to cycle possession to a greater extent (as is the case with the short plays attacking style), as it can enable the team to spend more time in possession as a result, or for a team that intends to counter attack more frequently.

Counter pressing can also be particularly useful for a team that intends to use high pressure counter attacks to a greater extent.

Regrouping

Regrouping involves the defending team sitting off to a greater overall extent when delaying the attack in the defensive transition phase. This enables the defending team to temporarily focus more on protecting space and so makes it more difficult for the attacking team to penetrate space in its attacking transition phase.

Regrouping is more likely to be effective if a team has a relatively slow defensive transition, as it makes it more difficult for the opposition team to take advantage of the team’s defensive transition by exploiting higher quality penetrative opportunities.

Effective regrouping can make it more difficult for the opposition team to counter attack in its attacking transition phase.

However, if a team has a relatively quick attacking transition then regrouping is more likely to be ineffective and result in the team failing to take advantage of opportunities to win possession.

Defensive Organisation & Responsibility Distribution

A team’s use of regrouping can have a notable effect on its distribution of the providing cover positional responsibility.

If a team uses regrouping to a sufficient extent then the separate positional responsibilities of providing attacking cover and providing defensive cover can be considered independently to providing cover as a whole. This is because providing cover as a whole can be performed by one player who provides attacking cover but not defensive cover, along with a separate player who provides defensive cover but not attacking cover, as long as the player who provides attacking cover also provides defensive cover temporarily while the team is regrouping. The player who provides attacking cover can then apply defensive pressure to a greater extent when the team has completed defensive transition, while the player who provides defensive cover can stretch play to a greater extent in the attacking phases.

This may be instructed as part of the team as a whole regrouping or it may be that the player who provides attacking cover is specifically instructed to provide defensive cover in the defensive transition phase until he has sufficient cover from teammates, perhaps as part of a low or versatile applying defensive pressure focus.

The player who provides defensive cover is typically given a high or versatile providing cover focus due to the high importance of providing cover as a whole.