With the emphasis currently on pressing strategies both out of possession and during defensive transition, with counter-pressing a specific high area of focus, opposition defences are often very organized, compact and difficult to attack through. This tactical analysis and scout report will look at the coaching strategies utilised when changing the angle of attack during the build-out phase. Focus will be on when and why teams will attempt to change the angle of attack, how the tactics are implemented (and by who) and what and how this can be coached within training sessions.

Positional play

Positional play aims to generate superiorities. A ‘free’ player is a player in possession, able to face forward unopposed and progress the ball in the direction of the opposition’s goal. For this to be achieved, teams implement several different principles of play (tactics). Numerical superiority is a key component of positional play. This is when the team in possession has more players than the opposition in a specific area of the field. For this to occur, teams will often attract pressure (numerical parity) before changing the angle of attack into the area of numerical superiority and having the ‘free’ player in possession, facing forward.

It is important to note that changing the angle of attack does not have to occur for this to be achieved or for the team to be able to progress the ball. Changing the angle of attack is a principle of play implemented when a team does not have players in space, with the ability to face forward. If a team can play through/forward and between the lines, this could be a more efficient and direct form of attacking.

The first diagram below demonstrates an unorganiSed defensive team. The team is not compact and has left unmarked players on the opposition team who can receive possession. In this example, the team would not be required to change the angle of attack as forward play is available. The central defender in possession has forward passing options into midfield which are low risk of being intercepted or for possession to be transferred to the opponents.

The second diagram has an organiSed defensive team, they have been able to apply pressure to the opponent in possession, forward passing lines are blocked/players are closely marked. However, the team has attracted pressure and several opponents around the area of the ball, thus creating numerical superiority on the weak side (left) of the field.

Coaching: Changing the angle of attack during the build out phase tactics
Left: disorganized opposition – able to play through. Right: organized opposition, difficult to play through

System used for analysis article

For reference during this coaching tactical analysis article, the 1-4-3-3 system will be used for both the in possession and out of possession teams. Pressing within this system can be implemented in several different ways. During this article defensive principles will be implemented including immediate pressure by the defensive team by pressuring the player in possession of the ball, compact defensive shape (deny vertical passing lines), close the nearest passing options (those nearest the player in possession of the ball) and the ability to set pressing traps (force play into the desired area of the field). This, therefore, creates situations of numerical parity around the ball and in which changing the angle of attack will potentially lead the team in possession to be able to exploit numerical superiority on the weak side, where a ‘free’ player can receive the ball unopposed, facing forward and the team can progress the ball forward.

Situations and solutions

The following descriptions and diagrams include situations potentially experienced and the solutions (tactics) to the team in possession not having numerical superiority on the strong side but having numerical superiority on the weak side. In each example the central defender is in possession of the ball, the oppositions central forward is applying pressure.

Situation 1: Central defender is in possession and the opposition forward has not prevented the route to the opposite centre-back (or through the GK). Potential solution: Turn and play a ‘shallow’ pass into the opposite central-defender or use the goalkeeper to change the angle of attack.

Situation 2: Central defender is in possession. The opposition forward is applying pressure, has limited the centre-backs options to pass into the opposite centre-back and the GK. Pass inside is available into one of the central midfielders. Potential solution: Inside pass into the holding midfielder or attacking central midfielder, if they can face forward can change the angle of attack directly. If they cannot face forward, can utilize a teammate as a link underneath in order to change the angle of attack.

Coaching: changing the angle of attack during the build out phase tactics
Left: situation 1. Right: situation 2.

Situation 3: Central defender is in possession and the opposition forward is applying pressure. The passing option into the wide forward is available but the player is under immediate pressure (and this side of the field is numerical parity). Potential solution: Utilize the forward passing line into the wide forward who is checking deeper in order to receive possession. Ideally, they turn and face forward, if this is not possible (as shown in the diagram) they can be utilized as a link player, finding one of the central midfielders or the weak side central-defender who can change the angle of attack and pass into the ‘free’ player.

Situation 4: All inside and forward passes are ‘risky’ and have the potential for loss of possession. The central-defender is under pressure from the central-forward. Potential solution: This option includes passing into the dropping full-back who can receive and face the GK before changing the angle of attack into the weak side central-defender.

Coaching: changing the angle of attack in the build out phase tactics
Left: situation 3. Right: situation 4.

Key to training session set up – organization of opposition

Setting up the opposition during the training session is key to this session topic. Without the correct organization, the attacking team will potentially have numerical superiority around the ball or have forward passing options with ‘free’ players able to face forward.

In order to create situations where the team in possession of the ball will be required to change the angle of attack, the focus will initially be on the opposition and applying pressure to the player in possession of the ball, denying vertical passing lines and closing down the closest passing options. Changing the angle of attack is a principle to ultimately move the ball forward. This option is used if forward play is blocked or of high risk of loss of possession.

Training session activities

For the training session, I have utilized 18 total players that will be available. For training considerations, this is a generic plan with activities that will create situations which are beneficial for the team in possession to change the angle of attack. Factoring into sessions, the place within the tactical & physical periodization plans are also imperative.

Technical/warm-up phase – For this phase, the principles that will need to be incorporated are a) spacing and angle of support b) body position upon receiving possession and technical execution of first touch c) passing technical, into the correct foot of teammate d) awareness of defender and pressure. I have included a 4v1 and 5v3 rondo technical activity variations as options for this stage of the training session.

Coaching: changing the angle of attacking during the build out phase tactics
Warm-up/technical phase (4v1 and 5v3 rondo)

Small sided/positional game phase – For the next phase of the training session a small sided game (positional game) will include the principles from the previous exercises with additional space but also additional pressure (more defenders). With greater numbers, the result is a greater level of complexity. Focus during the small sided game/positional game will be based on principles of play that include a) occupying space vs. opening passing lines and b) decision making – able to play forward? Passing lines blocked? I have included a 4v4+4 and 6v6+2 small sided game/positional game variations as potential options for this stage of the training session.

Coaching: changing the angle of attacking during the build out phase tactics
Small sided game/positional game phase (4v4+4, 6v6+2)

Tactical game phase – The next stage of the training session will include a tactical game phase. Within this phase, it is very important to create the ‘problem’ for the players. That is to ensure that the opposition are organized properly in order to deny the opposition the ability to maintain possession through the thirds. Once players have experienced the problem, teaching can occur, and the previous situations identified earlier in the article can be recreated and the tactical solutions and technical implementation can be coached.

Below is a diagram of a tactical game phase activity with 18 players. The teams are divided into 10v8 with key players involved in the 1-4-3-3 system. The ‘coached’ team in possession has one goalkeeper, two wide defenders, two central defenders, three central midfielders and two wide forwards. This team attempts to score by dribbling into or passing to a player moving into the white end zone. The opposition (pressing team) have one central forward, two wide forwards, three central midfielders and two wide defenders. They attempt to deny the opposition the ability to progress the ball and counter by scoring into the large goal. As mentioned earlier, the key is to organize the opposition (blue team) to create the previous situations in order for the yellow team to identify the potential solutions.

Coaching: changing the angle of attacking during the build out phase tactics
Tactical game (10v8)

Conclusion

In conclusion to this coaching tactical analysis article, it has been identified that teams are becoming organized in pressing and defensive compactness between the lines providing challenges to teams that aim to build up attacks and progress the ball through the thirds. This article has presented situations in which changing the angle of attack would be beneficial to the team in possession of the ball in order to exploit numerical superiority and ultimately progress the ball forward. Training plan and activities have been provided for these situations and solutions to be re-created and subsequently coached. Key is to ensure opposition are properly organised during the session.

Matt Dorman