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La 84 Soccer

La 84 Soccer

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A style of play is the manner in which a team plays together. It’s the personality that

a team exhibits on the field. Generally stated, a team’s style of play is how the players

defend and attack as a unit.

Styles of play differ from team to team, and sometimes from game to game. Your

team’s style of play will be dictated by the ability and fitness of your players; your

opponents’ skill, fitness level and style of play; field size and condition; and weather.

For example, the style of play for a relatively fit team on a cool, rainy day will most

likely be one in which long balls are played on the attack and the defense applies low

pressure. Remember, there are many factors to consider when choosing your team’s

style of play. Do not force a style on a team that is incapable of meeting the technical

or tactical demands of that particular style.

ATTACKING STYLES OF PLAY

The two basic attacking styles are direct and indirect attack.

Direct Attack

With a direct style of play the attacking team attempts to beat the defense by playing

long, penetrating passes toward the opponent’s goal. The intent is to take the most

direct route to the goal by playing as few passes as possible. A direct style attempts to

push the ball forward without having many players touch the ball. Teams that play a

direct style are constantly on the lookout for an opportunity to counterattack. Their

aim is to challenge the opposing team’s goal as quickly as possible rather than move the

ball forward through a slow buildup requiring many short passes and combination play.

Immediately upon winning possession of the ball, a team employing a direct style of

play will look to play a long ball to a forward target player. The target player must be

as far forward as possible to stretch the field of play. This allows the attacking team

more space in which to play a long ball and beat several defenders with one pass. Upon

receiving the ball, the target player can attempt to move directly toward the goal or

maintain possession until support arrives. It is important that your target player is

mobile, strong in the air and can shield the ball from defenders.

Support for the target player can come from other forwards, midfielders and even

fullbacks. The support players should look for opportunities to make fast overlapping

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runs into the opponent’s half of the field.

A direct style of play also requires long, accurate passes from the defensive third of the

field. Teach your players to look up once they win a ball and look for the target player.

Players must be careful, however, when playing balls from the defensive third of the

field. A misplayed ball out of the back can be disastrous for an attacking team because

most of its players are pushing forward into the other team’s half of the field. Such a

turnover can lead to a counterattack in your unprotected defensive half of the field.

When teaching your players the direct style of play, use drills that develop shielding,

checking runs, overlapping runs and long passing accuracy. Fitness also is a

consideration. A direct style of play requires players to be both fast and fit. Players,

particularly outside midfielders, will be making many 30–50 yard runs. They will not

be effective unless they are fit. Finally, practice playing 8 versus 8 up to 11 versus 11

on a full field. Have one team attack using a direct style of play.

Indirect Attack

An indirect style of play requires a great deal of patience and technical ability. It is the

opposite of the direct style of play. Rather than attacking in a direct, rapid manner, a

team playing an indirect style builds its attack slowly. The objective is to get to goal

by maintaining ball possession through each third of the field. Combination play and

short passes characterize this style. Rather than making long passes, the attacking team

uses the dribble or plays many short passes to advance the ball toward the goal.

To play an indirect style successfully, you need creative players with good technical

skills. If your players are not comfortable and adept with the ball at their feet, this style

may not be suited to them. Ball possession is of utmost importance. Teach your players

to be patient and to play simple passes that allow the team to keep possession. Let them

know that it may take as many as 10–15 passes before they are able to get to goal.

Teach your players to utilize the entire field by running a wide offense and providing

support from behind the ball. This width and depth creates valuable space for the

attacking team. Large offensive space forces the defense to spread out and become

vulnerable. Playing in a large space lets the attacking team keep possession more easily

and create chances on goal.

Maintaining ball possession also is a matter of vision and communication. An indirect

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style of play tends to bring small groups of players around the ball. An attacker must

be aware of surrounding players and see where to play the ball. Teammates away from

the ball must communicate with the player with the ball to provide effective support.

When teaching the indirect style of play, organize your practice session around drills

that emphasizes ball possession and movement to create width and depth. Use small

group or combination play that encourages short passes and creative dribbling drills.

Build to game simulations of 8-versus-8 up to 11-versus-11. Assign one group to

attack using an indirect style of play. Encourage patience and ball possession.

Combining Attacking Styles of Play

It may be difficult to use just one offensive style. Since many factors change from game

to game, you may want to consider using a combination of the direct and indirect

styles rather than employing just one style of attack. For example, you may want to

play direct in the defensive third and indirect in the midfield third. This combination

ensures that your team will not play short passes in front of its own goal and that the

midfielders become the playmakers.

DEFENSIVE STYLES OF PLAY

Low Pressure Defending

There are two basic defensive styles of play: low-pressure and high-pressure. In low-

pressure defense, the defending team slows the pace of the attack to allow as many

defenders as possible to get between the goal and the ball. This type of defense focuses

on covering zones on the field rather than individual attackers. Once the other team

gains possession of the ball, the defense withdraws toward its own half, or defensive

third, of the field. The defense must keep a compact shape as it withdraws so as not to

allow the attacking team space in which to play the ball. The defensive team begins to

pressure the ball as soon as it crosses midfield or when proper support is established.

When teaching your players low-pressure defense, emphasize the importance of

patience and delay. As soon as the ball is turned over to the opponent, your nearest

player must immediately chase down the opponent with the ball. Your defender must

be patient and delay the attacker rather than attempting to win the ball. This allows

time for the rest of your team to withdraw and establish defensive position and shape.

As the defense withdraws into its own half of the field, it must keep a compact shape

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between its goal and the ball. This shape is known as the zone of concentration.

It resembles a funnel that begins at the defensive team’s goal and extends out to the

halfway line. This funnel, or zone, allows the defensive team to concentrate its players

in an area of the field and deny the attacking team valuable space. (Fig. 5-5)

Once the defense assumes proper position, players should pressure the attacking

team and attempt to win the ball. The defensive arrangement should continue to

remain compact. The objective of the defense is to cut off all passing lanes, occupy all

attacking space, and apply tight pressure to the player with the ball.

Successful low-pressure defense requires both patience and discipline. The entire team

must operate on the same mental page. If one player tries to win the ball without

proper support, the shape of the entire defense collapses. This collapse can lead to

a goal. Teach your players to communicate and play patiently. Patient defense is

especially important if your team loses the ball in your own defensive half. The entire

team must make an immediate transition to defense and get behind the ball as quickly

as possible.

High-Pressure Defending

While low pressure defense emphasizes delay and withdrawal, high-pressure defense re-

quires immediate and intense pressure. The defensive team confronts the offense imme-

diately after it has lost possession, and it tries to win the ball back as quickly as possible.

Fig. 5-5.

ZONE OF
CONCENTRATION

(Defensive Half)

X = defensive team
O = attacking team
o = ball

G

X X

X

X X

X

X

X

X

X

O

O

O

O

O

O

O

O

O

X

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High-pressure defense requires tight man-to-man marking as opposed to zone defense.

Once your team loses the ball, your entire team must shift quickly into defense. Your

team should push forward as a unit and mark man-to-man all over the field. The

player with the ball must be immediately and tightly marked to prevent a long-ball

being played up and over the oncoming defense. Your defense should try to force the

offense into playing faster than its ability allows. In order to keep the attacking team

as far as possible from your goal, your defense should pressure the ball in the attacking

team’s defensive third of the field. The intent of constant pressure is to disrupt the

rhythm and tempo of the attack and to force a turnover.

Your players must be extremely fit to play a high-pressure style of defense. It is very

difficult to mark man-to-man over the whole field for an entire game. Good fitness

is essential. Your players must learn to push forward as a unit and apply intense

pressure on the attacking team with the aim of winning the ball back quickly. Tight

man-to-man marking is crucial to the success of high-pressure defense. Any lapse in

concentration or a failure to mark can lead to a pass that penetrates the defense and

results in a goal against your team.

Combining Defensive Styles of Play

Low-pressure and high-pressure defending are diametrically opposed styles of play. The

preferred style differs from team to team, and even from game to game. A combination

of the two styles is possible. For example, in the defensive and middle thirds of the

field a team may play high-pressure and in the final third (nearest the opponent’s goal)

they might play low-pressure. Keep in mind that the abilities of your players must be

taken into consideration when you decide on a particular style of defense. It is best to

teach your team both high- and low-pressure defending so that you can employ either

style during a game.

When teaching high- and low-pressure defense use the full field and play from 8-

versus-8 up to 10-versus-10. Assign one group to play low-pressure and the other

to play high-pressure. Stop play occasionally to show players correct defensive

arrangements and to assess the concentration of players.

CHOOSING STYLES OF PLAY

The following are guidelines you can use in determining which style of play to use.

You must consider all of the following factors: your team’s technical ability and level of

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fitness, your opponent’s ability and level of fitness, field conditions and weather.

Attacking Styles

• If you are playing a team that shifts slowly into defense, play a direct

style regardless of the technical ability of your players. Your team will be able to

penetrate the defense quickly with a long balls.

• If you are playing a team that shifts quickly to defense, play an indirect style of play

if your team has good technical ability. If your team is weak technically, you may

want to play direct out of the back and attempt to play indirect in the midfield and

attacking thirds.

Defensive Styles

• If you are playing against a team that attacks directly, play a low-pressure defense

regardless of the technical ability of your players.

• If you are playing against a team that attacks indirectly and is technically adept, play

low-pressure until they penetrate into your half of the field.

• If you are playing against a team that attacks indirectly and is not technically adept,

play a high-pressure style all over the field.

Weather Conditions

• If the weather is sunny and hot, you may want to play an indirect attacking style

and low-pressure defense in order to conserve energy.

• If the weather is rainy and cold, you may want to consider attacking directly and

employing the defensive style that best addresses your opponent’s style of attack.

• If it is a windy day, you will probably want to play directly when you are going

with the wind and indirectly as you go against it. Implement a defensive style that

best addresses your opponent’s attacking style.

Fitness

• If your team is very fit, you may want to consider playing a direct attacking style

and high-pressure defense.

• If your team is not very fit, you may want to play indirectly and use low-pressure

defense.

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Field Conditions

• A smooth, grassy field is best suited for an indirect style of play; however, you can

also use a direct style if it suits your team better. Your defensive style can be either

high- or low-pressure depending on the other factors.

• A bumpy field is best suited for a direct style of play. If the opposing team attempts

to play indirectly, apply high defensive pressure.

Whichever style you choose, keep in mind that the fitness, speed, technical skills and

tactics of both teams, weather conditions, field size and condition, and the opposing

offensive and defensive styles will affect your choice. Do not force a particular style on

your team. The objective of both styles is to score goals. Implement a style that best

suits your team.

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