Category Archives for Game Review

High Pressure to Force Long Passes

By Luca Bertolini

Liverpool have scored 21 goals this season as a direct result of their high pressure defending tactics, which is an incredible 25% of all the goals they scored.  There are a number of benefits that can result from high pressure defending.  This article takes a look at just one of the aims of those tactics…forcing the opposition into long passes from their own half of the field.

Looking at Klopp’s history as manager “no playmaker in the world can be as good as a good counter-pressing situation”; this means that a side by side passes move often requires slow build up play, and that, on the other side, the counter-pressing can create chances within seconds.

The organization behind it is the key, as Klopp’s pressing isn’t simply a closing down but a group of players all functioning as one to smother the opposition, as they look to launch a counter-attack.

The first interesting factor is that the team recognizes when they have enough players close to the ball, who are able to press the opponent with the ball and the area around it.

The players who are not involved in the pressing around the ball must ensure that a potential long kick from one of the opponents can be controlled and they must be able to press again a second receiver, if the first pressure doesn’t work. They also have to be in a position to potentially win or intercept a wrong pass from the counter pressure, to recover the possession with the chance of organizing a counterattack of their own.

All the other players placed on the other side of the ball, recover immediately and quickly, either to join the pressing swarm or to recover goal side of the ball and to be placed in a position to be one of the covering or interceptor players; if these players are in possession, usually the moves are built up with pass combinations rather than with direct counterattack.

As we already found out in the first part, an important objective of the high pressure is to close the short pass lines and to force long ones toward the midfield area; the same happens when Liverpool’s forwards are placed inside or near the opponent’s penalty area.

After the forced long pass toward the middle third, win the second times and the wandering balls.

So forcing the opposition into long passes, gives you the opportunity to win back possession of the ball and start a quick counter attack.  There are many other benefits of high pressure defending too.  Klopp, Guardiola, Conte and more of the world’s top coaches have figured this out.

This is article is just a short excerpt from the book Scoring More Goals Through High Pressure Defending by Luca Bertolini.

Mauricio Pochettino Formations at Tottenham

By James Lambert – Author of Tactical Series Mauricio Pochettino

This 1-3-4-2-1 playing system fits the Tottenham team Pochettino is building with positional profiles matching to perfection.

Lloris is a sweeper keeper who as great distribution, with good feet and an excellent shot stopper.

Rose and Walker are flexible to play in a back 4 and a back three system, but in a back three, they have even more license to push on and take the width.

Vertonghen, Alderweireld and Dier are all very mobile defenders with very good distribution long and short.

Holding Midfielders have the characteristics to screen, win balls but also have the technical skills to support the attack. Dembele is a complete footballer who is excellent in possession and often starts positive moves with his ability to run with the ball and change the tempo of the game.

Wanyama screens and breaks up play, he excels when the other team counters to slow or stop the counter attack. Wanyama is one of the best defensive midfielders in the game today.

The two deep lying creative players Alli and Eriksen have more freedom in this system, and it is this freedom that can add elements of surprise and creativity to the Tottenham attack. When Son is brought on he also give the team something different, he is excellent in tight areas. Positioning himself in the last line with perfectly timed runs or simple body shape to break the last line.

With Kane playing striker they have mobility, strength, a great team player and of course a goal scorer.

Tottenham also use a two striker system to fir in Janssen and Kane, this gives Dembele freedom to work with Alli, Eriksen, Winks or Son. The roles of Rose and Walker are the same, often pushing high to take the width.

When they have fall behind in games they have switched to the 4-2-3-1 to try and overload the central areas.

On the right side Eriksen plays inside inviting Walker to take the width, Son mostly plays out on the left but at times he may move to the right wing allowing Rose to push forward. The system is not rigid, it is very flexible with many central rotations to try and break down the opponent.

This article is an excerpt from our new book by James Lambert – Tactical Series Mauricio Pochettino 

Do Spain Play With a 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 or Both?

By Stevie Grieve, author of Modern Soccer Tactics

Spain’s formation is a source of great debate and intrigue. Is it a 4-3-3? Is it a 4-3-3-0? Is it a 4-6-0? Is it a 4-2-3-1? Is it a 4-2-4-0? Is it a 4-2-2-2?

I think it’s a combination of the above. Some matches they will ensure they have a central striker, generally Cesc Fabregas, who will rotate this role with David Silva, with Xavi and Iniesta floating around the space between midfield and defense. They play with a narrow attacking 4-2-3-1 or a narrow 4-3-3 as Alba and Arbeloa do a great job or providing width very high up the field and allowing Spain to regularly outnumber teams between defense and midfield, allowing them to play between the lines frequently.

In the final where Spain played undoubtedly their best football of the tournament, they played a combination of 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1, and Xavi’s position dictated the shape. In some attacking phases with the ball in the opposition half, he would drop deep and 2 of the 3 of Silva, Iniesta and Cesc would play in between the defense and midfield with Alba and Arbeloa the full backs on the outside, with the other of the front 3 staying as a central striker. In some defensive transition phases, Spain would revert to a 4-2-3-1 with Alonso and Busquets screening the defense, with Xavi, Iniesta and Silva pressing in front, with Cesc as the main striker. When they win the ball back, they would stay in this formation and confuse the opposition as players positions and the marking responsibilities have changed again.

Xavi and Iniesta switch positions – 4-3-3 inside opposition half


Xavi drops into a 4-3-3 as Silva and Iniesta drop off from the front to offer passes from midfield. Xavi passes wide to Alba andContinue reading

What Tactical Formation Did Spain Use to Win Euro 2012?

By Wayne Harrison

SPAIN PLAYING THE 4-2-3-1 AT THE EURO’S

The starting position phase formation is approximately a 4-2-3-1; the attacking phase is 4-2-1-3 or 3-3-1-3; and the defending phase is a 4-4-1-1, so we haveContinue reading