Tactical Variations of Building Up Play in Football Manager; Playing Out from the Back
Building up play from the back describes how you’d like to approach play and initiate the first stage of the attacking phase using specific passing patterns, even under high amount of pressure, to advance play forward. It’s often used to build possession from the back rather than hoof the ball long relating to the distribution methods set for the goalkeeper. While the concept of building out of from the back is mostly related to the founding principle of the tiki taka and the positional play utilized by Josep Guardiola with great effect in the last 10 years, I will take this guide a bit further by examining the different methods of build up play, and the different tactical variations of it, using different formations – from the traditional 4-3-3 formation that’s most often related to a possession game to a counter attacking style of play using three at the back.
This means that apart from analyzing how to build out from the back in a possession and positional sense, the article will also take a closer look at how to create a foundation for counter attacking play or long ball play and show you its pros and cons compared to playing out from the back in a possession oriented football philosophy.
As you will discover, the build up play, and your approach to it, is a tactical concept that must be founded within your club football philosophy, as it’s a vital part of your club DNA, and should therefore be taught to your players from a young age to fully master it at professional level.
The Basic Concept
The build up phase can exist of 3-5 passes or 40 plus passes, it all depends on the playing style and the managers intent to score goals.
The basic concept of playing out from the back stems from an statistical approach of play where passing your way out of defence provides a safer way to retain possession while creating long term options to advance play and get into goalscoring opportunities. Instead of playing a long ball forward in the hope it reaches its destination, teams who play out from the back wants to progress play using passing patterns to first and foremost break the lines of the opposition and get the ball into the final third after consecutive movements and passes which starts with the goalkeeper. They will do so, despite being put under high amount of pressure at times. Playing out from the back embraces the risk of playing out of defence using passing play to their advantage because of the long term options to progress up the pitch in a prosperous matter that relates to the football philosophy at the club.
It is based upon the positioning of the players when the goalkeeper is in possession of the ball, his distribution methods and the idea to
use the entire width of the pitch and the angle between the players to its benefit, where the main goal is to penetrate the opposition by opening up spaces and utilize short passes, vision and correct body shapes to improve the chance to retain possession and progress play forward.
Incorporating a set of concepts and tactical variations on how you’d like your team to build up play from the back must not only be created to enhance ball circulation, but to create a set of principles on how you will approach the final third (against a specific formation or according to a specific playing style). First and foremost, you creates a foundation for passing patterns and positioning of your players within a specific framework that helps the players to advance play despite of limited options.
The passing patterns and positioning of your players shall also take into account scenarios where you might need a new angle of attack, for example if a specific player who normally starts the attack is closed down, or the opponent congest play and limit spaces for a third line pass and your team needs a new angle to advance play. The players needs to have in mind the mandatory focus when building up play from the back which is to progress play in a favorable manner.
It continues the focus on habit football as the process are being automatized. It gives your team a mental advantage as well as improved self-confidence, as the opponent has to guess where the ball will move. Not only will the players know where they have to be at all times, but every individual knows where everyone will move and are positioned, which makes it easier for a possession game as the passing patterns and positioning of each player has been taught for years.
Principles of Playing out from the back
- When done effectively, the tactical instructions should ensure every likely receiver of a pass has multiple passing options based upon ‘specific’ triangles and ideal player positioning, which is founded upon the philosophy of creating numerical superiority to dominate the match. This means that the centre backs must connect with the defensive midfielder(s), the defensive midfielder with the full backs or wing backs and them again with the attacking midfielder(s) / central midfielder(s) AND there must be a ‘free-man’ in every move to take advantage of it.
- further, to make the pitch as big as possible to open up space for penetrating passes.
- to create depth on the field to increase the spaces between the lines and ensure the opponents front line has less support and that there are counter attacking opportunities, meaning that one or more forwards or players within the attacking line must push forward at this stage.
- ensure that the player(s) closest to ball are always moving within passing range – either they has to drop deeper, wider or forward.
- As the manager, you need to ensure yourself and the team that you got multiple variations ready in case the opponent decides to press high up, man mark specific players within the defensive line or you need a safer and less risk free build up, or vice versa (depending on the current score and match clock.)
Player Requirements: Key Attributes
Playing out from the back comes in different variations, as you will see below, and for this reason there are different requirements of your players to successfully master it. But in general, the players are required of these key attributes to successfully incorporate such a concept;
- positioning; to be able to get into the best location of the pitch according to the current evolving situation(s) and that the player understands / has learned how his body position must be to receive and control the ball before letting the ball move effectively to the next player in a more favorable position. Each player must also understands his ‘role’ within the team shape and the intention behind his positioning.
- first touch; to easily get control of the ball and better vision in these situations that occur so close to the goal.
- passing; to be able to reach your teammate with an accurate pass that lets him move the ball quickly further. This means that the strength of the pass must be at the correct pace for him to get control of it, and that the pass is made to his strongest foot (or at times in the desired area).
- vision; to be able to spot passing opportunities and secondary options if you or your closest player are closed down or man marked.
- composure; to be calm with the ball despite being put under pressure and not buckle under it. What we do not want are gifting the ball to the opponent as close to goal as this, so you need players who can make intelligent decisions despite of being limited to a few options.
- technique; to be able to pull off both simple passes and penetrating passes such as third line passes (passes that are made between 2 players in the middle) that breaks the opposition lines
- anticipation; to be able to predict what may happen if the ball is passed to a specific location/player and react in the correct manner according to what’s been learned / worked on on the training ground.
Your approach to the build up phase sets specific demands not only for your defenders, but also the goalkeeper. Your playing style will require either to select a sweeper keeper or a traditional goalkeeper role, and the way you you want to build up play sets demands on his abilities, either he’s required to participate in the retaining of possession featuring great passing abilities or kick the ball as high up the pitch as possible. The goalkeepers strength must suit the approach of play as he’s as important as the outfield players capabilities to receive, control and distribute the ball.
Specific Key Goalkeeper Attributes are;
- passing / throwing / kicking (depending on your approach)
- first touch; be able to get control of the ball despite hard balls are played to him
- communication; to be able to organize the defense and clearly instruct the defensive line to position themselves in best manner since the goalkeeper has the best (eye-) vision on the pitch
- composure; being calm when he receives the ball as the opponent might close him down quickly
How to apply it in Football Manager
Implementing the concept of building out from the back in Football Manager might seem easy. The basic solution is to simply tick a button to instruct your team to play this way. Simply head over to Tactics > Team Instructions and apply Play Out of Defence.
By applying ‘play out of defence’ the central defenders will spread out automatically and position themselves on the edge of the penalty area – taking up the positions as displayed in the section about utilizing playing out from the back in a back four, which relates to the 4-1-4-1, 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 formation in additional to the 2-3-2-3 formation that you might have been accustomed to for the Barcelona Tiki Taka tactics updated for FM19.
NB! Do note that the positioning of the centre backs (how wide they stays) depends on whether you use fullbacks or wingbacks, their selected duty (defend, support or attack) and the overall attacking width of your shape.
In order to play out of defence most effective it’s recommended to select a short passes as your preferred passing directness coupled with a lower tempo. This to ensure that the players get time to get in position as the ball advances upfield. By lowering the tempo you will automatically instruct the players to retain possession which decreases their risk-taking with the ball.
When it’s applied, it means that your defensive line will be more lenient to make short passes to each other – going about in a patient matter, rather than making long clearances and long passes. Depending on the roles and distribution methods you set for your goalkeeper and the defenders it reduces the amount of more direct passes.
Note! Player roles such as the no-nonsense centre-back and the ball playing defender are more lenient to more direct passes than the central defender role. You can further alter the approach of play for the central defender inside the player instruction tab. Depending on the passing directness and the match mentality you can ask the central defender to play shorter passes than the others.
By ticking the team instruction Play out of defence you will get one step closer to utilize a possession game as the approach of play will also affect how the team will go about their business no matter if they are being heavily pressed by the opposition or not.
As you will discover, it’s not that easy as ticking a few buttons to make it work effectively, but it helps. Let’s take a closer look at how you can play out from the back, starting with how I prefer to do it in my 2-3-2-3 formation that looks to emulate positional play.
Playing out from the back with a back four
Using a back four is one of the most traditional setups and shapes in football. It’s heavily analyzed and provides decent defensive cover and covers spaces perfectly in additional to provide attacking support. The positioning of the players in the back four provides ideal triangles and rhombus shapes with the players ahead making it an ideal formation for a possession oriented system.
A back four has been part of the football philosophy some of the biggest managerial legends, from Arrigo Sacchi’s highly organized AC Milan to Pep Guardiola’s fluid 4-1-4-1 / 4-2-3-1 formation at Manchester City. In between, Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Egil ‘Drillo’ Olsen and José Mourinho have all used it, both because of the defensive solidity based on closely connected units and the attacking opportunities it gives with enough cover to let the fullbacks attack and enter final third.
Similar to the many variations of the 4-4-2, there are numerous variations of playing out from the back with a back four. Some will be added inside this article in the future, some will be talked about at the release of a new Football Manager tactic.
This time I’ll like to emphasize the FM19 Barcelona Tiki Taka tactic released under a month ago, which looks to replicate FC Barcelona between 2009-2011 in the Guardiola era. Here I use a variation of the back four, where the wing backs pull backs in the defensive phase but becomes the 4th and 5th forward in the attacking phase. Below, you’ll discover a practical example on how I utilize building out from the back using the 2-3-2-3 formation and how you can play out of defence with a back four *.
In order to build out from the back properly for the FM19 Barcelona Tiki Taka Tactic 2-3-2-3 formation, I use ‘distribute to centre backs‘ as the default goalkeeper distribution method, whilst he will drop the ball at his feet to ‘take short kicks‘ in order to ensure the team will use short passes from the first stage of the attacking phase to the very last.
To retain possession and use a patient approach of play, the central defenders will split wide to provide width and a safe passing option for the goalkeeper. Their body shape and angle relating to their teammates gives them the best vision at this stage of attacking play. They form a triangle with the central playmakers on either side and the wing backs.
While the central defenders go wide, you’ll want the defensive midfielder to either stay in the hole or drop deep in-between them depending on the opponent uses a single forward or an attacking midfielder – two forward trident. The defensive midfielder in the hole will be both the tip and the bottom of the central diamonds.
If the defensive midfielder receives the ball, he got multiple options, either he looks for the close by deep-lying playmaker (support) who drops into the whole between the opponents attacking midfield/forward line and the central midfield line. The importance of the DLP-S to drop deep at this stage is significant as he literally decides whether the team shall move the ball forward or patiently probe for a new angle to advance play. The deep holding playmaker (DLP-D) can be entitled as the spare player when building up play out from the back and his positioning and anticipation will be mandatory for successfully play out of defence as he can be described as a deep controller. Every movement of the other players in the defensive line is decided on the deep controllers’ movements.
I’ve also highlighted the advanced playmaker attack who sits too deep in this illustration. Normally I’d like him to stay as close to the central circle to stretch the central triangle formed by the DLP-D, the DLP-S and the AP-A. In this event, the opposition sits deep and it’s no need for him to drop as deep as this as I’ll want him as an effective outlet as the ball advances up the pitch from the central defenders to the defensive midfielder and the DLP-S.
The intention of the wing backs who are positioned fairly high up the pitch aims to pin back the wingers while creating space for the central defenders to receive the ball. The role of the wingbacks helps to prevent the central defenders to be closed down as effectively while acting as pressure relievers if the passing lanes between the central defenders and central playmakers / defensive playmaker is shut. The wide pressure relievers (in this case the wing backs) looks to make the opposite wide forwards insecure of where the ball shall go. If they push up to close down the central defenders there will be huge amount of space behind them, making it easier for the central defenders to reach the wingbacks with a pass, either directly or through one of the central midfielders. Their positioning also increases the options the goalkeeper has when he’s in possession, as a pinpointed pass can help the team advance quickly up front.
The wingbacks help to maintain a wide shape and are ready to get the ball as play enters the final third, as long as the central defenders can make passes into the center. Their wide positioning also forms a triangle with the inside forward and the midfield playmaker (AP-A / DLP-S). While I use wing backs in the DM-strata, using fullbacks or wingbacks in the centre back strata will impact on the illustration above. They will be positioned a tad deeper (in wide channel – box 2) which creates diamonds on both sides. Some will say, and I agree, that it provides better circumstances for passing play in the first stage of attack but requires a much lower tempo to ensure the players are able to take up an advance position and enter final third in combination with the movement of the ball.
For the beginning of the build-up play, the striker (in this case the false 9) needs to provide depth by taking position as high up the pitch as possible. His job to provide depth is important for a whole lot of reasons;
- Ensures the opposite defenders cannot congest play and push up in support for the attacking line. The impact of the high press the opposite attacking line might incorporate will be minimized as it leaves areas behind them that can be utilized.
- Ensures the opposite defenders are forced to take him into account and watch his moves as he can provide a counter attacking opportunity. It’s important that he constant moves between them and gives impression to get into the space behind them.
The striker within a single forward system is required to move vertical. Here you can opt for the false 9, deep-lying playmaker or the Trequartista. It’s favorable to have him learned the trait ‘Comes deep to get ball’ in order to make him active in the build-up play.
His positioning and movements towards the midfield line helps to build up play in a progressive manner as a penetrating pass from deep towards the forward who has dropped deep may open up the entire opposite defensive line – creating space for the inside forward to get the ball.
* Note! Playing out from the back with a back four has different set-ups and passing patterns outside the illustrated example above. There will be a slight difference to playing with two defensive midfielders versus one, and using a deep-lying playmaker with tendency to drop deep á la the half back versus the role defensive midfielder defend or the regista. In the most traditional setup of using 2 defensive midfielders (for example in a 4-2-3-1 formation), it’s natural to use a defend – support duty partnership which makes the positioning somehow similar, but creates a distinct box shape or a rhombus shape between the four working the central channel.
When using a single holding defensive midfielder, who does not drop into the holes between the central defenders, you’ll get a distinct triangle between the three. As he stays higher up the pitch, more pressure are set on the central defenders to be able to play out cleanly. The benefits of his positioning will naturally increase as soon as he receives it. His positioning connects perfectly with the fullbacks, central midfielders and the central attacking midfielder / deep-lying forward (depending on whether you play a striker-less 4-1-2-3 or a more traditional 4-3-3 / 4-1-4-1. I might come back to writing about any of these set-ups at a later stage in relationship with new tactics released.
The Power of Centralized Build Up Play
By applying the team instruction ‘distribute to centre-backs‘, I ensure the team builds up play centrally rather than done via the fullbacks or wingers. It’s the similar approach of play I use in the final third with ‘Focus play through the middle’ and ‘Work ball into the box’ applied. The reason for this approach is the benefits of the players positioning in the central channel as you are able to use the entire field and its likely passing options. On the contrary, if you build up play on through the wide channels, you limit yourself to play down that side as passing options to get the ball to the other side are restricted. By playing down the wings when you make the pitch as big as possible, you shut off one half of the pitch. Not only will there be fewer players involved which makes play more predictable, but it makes it more difficult to change the point of attack and easier for the opposition to limit the passing options to as few as possible.
The body angle of the central defenders at this phase is as important as the positioning of the playmakers and their ability to ‘take control’ of the half spaces. Due to their positioning they will have the best vision on the pitch. In the corner of their eye, they got the wing backs, in front of them the central midfielders, between them the defensive midfielder while they got their goalkeeper at support.
At all stages, you’ll notice the numerical superiority which better ball circulation and provides effective passing patterns to advance play. Notice also how two players on either side of the pitch is asked to stretch play, while two players on either side either surges into or are positioned inside the half space channel. Their positioning is desired for their connection with the defensive unit in the hope that as some players stretches the width it will become enough space for a penetrating third line of pass through the channel that has been created between the wide and central players of the opposition. The positioning of every player looks to open up spaces, increase the amount of possible passing lanes whilst being defensive solid as each player has a player in support (one that covers the zone behind).
Finally, wherever the ball is, a backward pass can be made in what we can call the defensive safety zone where the central defenders, the defensive holding midfielder and the goalkeeper are prepared to receive the ball and can change the point of attack easily, either by switching play to the other flank by a diagonal pass (which can be risky), or a short pass from one central defender to the other.
The idea to build up play centrally derives from the interpretation that the team is strongest in the central line. The benefits of utilizing central build up play are the connection between the players, the high amount of passing options and the defensive solidity it provides while offering prosperous attacking options 2, 3 or even 4-5 moves ahead.
A central build up puts huge demands to the technical abilities of your central defenders. Not only are they required to pass the ball, but also excel in one on one situations, being calm and able to read the occurring situation.
Most important are the abilities of not only your goalkeeper, who also needs to be good with the ball, but the anticipation and vision of your defensive midfielder as he will become the main playmaker at this stage as he needs to offer himself for a pass.
To effectively play out of defence he’s required to move into open spaces, take a position which creates room for another player to receive a pass, and finally understand when to hold onto the ball if the situation demands it (see trait; ‘dictate tempo’), lay off simple passes or quickly move the ball further with as few touches as possible (most desirable in one touch) to get the ball out of danger.
Build Up Play Against The High Press
A good manager is able to quickly understand when to change his approach after careful analysis of the match and how it evolves. If you’re playing out from the back and the opposition sets up an extremely high press which shuts off normal passing lanes and connection between players, it’s time to alter your approach. Sometimes it may not require huge changes, but the changes you do should reassure you of retaining possession and transit it forward without gifting the opposition the ball, or at worst, a goal.
How to successfully build up play from the back against a high press continues the focus on numerical superiority at the back, but also takes advantage of the other areas of the field, where space has opened due to their pressing intensity, by involving specific players/positions earlier. Depending on the setup of the opponents attacking line and their formation you still got a chance to play out of defence utilizing short passes. The most effective way that I tend to use with my 2-3-2-3 Tiki Taka tactic is to (not necessarily in this particular order);
- Play Even Wider
- Drop one or both of the wingbacks to the FB-strata to connect them with the central defenders and defensive midfielder better – and actually involve them in the build-up play earlier than before
- Ask the defensive midfielder to drop deeper as early and quickly as possible (or by default) by changing his player role
- Change the distribution method for the goalkeeper in order to take advantage of spaces that has opened up.
Here are some examples on how to build up play against the high press. The following tips are my own opinions and views on how to do it effectively. Yet again, the starting point is the 2-3-2-3 formation (4-1-4-1 in defensive phase) and the tactical instructions from above in the article.
In this illustration I’ve tried to summarize the different opportunities you may have when facing a high press. As the image shows, the opponent marks out the deep lying playmaker (DM) and the central midfielders while being as close as possible to close down and set immediate pressure on the central defenders, if they receive the ball. It’s easy for them to set up a pressing trap and it’s risky to ask the goalkeeper to play out of defence by distributing the ball short as passing lanes can easily be blocked after the goalkeeper distributes the ball.
In order to cleanly build up play against the high press and combat it, it sets even more demands of your central midfielders anticipation, off the ball movement and positioning. They needs to move opposite of each other – either one drops deeper and one moves forward (either diagonally or vertically). Their contrary movement aims to open up passing lanes from the back line to the forwards, while diminishing the pressure on the deep holding playmaker.
Here I’ve selected a deep-lying playmaker with the trait to comes deep to get ball, but the same scenario will happen when selecting a half back. As the DLP-D drops deep, it forms a diamond with the goalkeeper and provides an alternative passing outlet for the goalkeeper. As the defensive midfielder drops deep, you’ll want the central defenders to split wide.
This tactical concept is entitled the ‘Salida Lavolpiana‘ as written about in the Tiki Taka article. In summary the Salida Lavolpiana, which can also translate to “La Volpe’s way of departure”, looks to make it tougher for the opposing forwards to press effectively without moving out of position. It opens up passing lanes whilst providing numerical superiority at the back.
View how to accomplish Salida Lavolpiana in Football Manager in the beneath illustration.
This tactical concept is often used against opponents who uses two forwards and an attacking midfielder to ensure numerical superiority at the back, and can be used with great effect outside the high press too, as it looks to make the pitch as big as possible at the build up phase.
The movement of the deep-lying playmaker ensures that playing out of defence can be continued. The goalkeeper has the option to pass to him (3 and provides one versus one scenarios at the entire back line. In order to create a free man, the ball must move quickly between the players, using both wide passes, supporting passes backwards whilst looking into the depth. It will be qualitative superiority versus tactical intelligence.
A normal tactical instruction to play out from the back safely and cleanly when facing the high press is to change your tactical approach to which area or player the goalkeeper shall distribute to. These instructions can be modified at;
Tactics Overview > In Transition > Goalkeeper in Possession > Distribute to Area/Player
While the traditional way of building out from the back is to feed the central defenders (2) with the ball by instructing the goalkeeper to play out of defence with either short kicks or roll it out to one of them, Salida Lavolpiana in practice provides an alternative method as the deep lying playmaker drops deep. Changing the area of where you’ll want your goalkeeper to distribute to looks to take advantage of the numerical superiority by feeding the ball to the player. Selecting ‘Distribute to Playmaker’ will ensure the playmakers drops deep enough and into space for a short pass.
One thing to note about the above illustration is how closely the defensive midfielder is marked. If he receives it, he’s required to play a backward pass due to his body positioning – facing the goal. Since the central defenders have split wide they are in support of the defensive midfielder, but as the illustration shows, they may come under pressure quickly, especially with a poor first touch, and the build up might break down. It may be favorable if you have technical good players within your back line as there are still opportunities to play out of defence.
By ticking distribute to playmaker the goalkeeper will be more lenient to play the ball to the red marked zone, as the MCR (or the MCL for that matter) comes short to receive it. The central midfielder who has dropped deep has the central defender and the deep holding playmaker in support, but can also quickly turn with the ball and make a third line of pass to the centralized winger at the right flank, or move it wide to the wing back. Distribute to playmaker could be a beneficial approach when using a 4-4-2 formation (midfield box) against a two forward attacking line up, taking advantage of the space between the opponents forwards and wingers.
The second option (1 is to distribute the ball to the flanks by playing the ball into areas with less pressure on the players. Similar to the defensive third can be seen as the defensive safety zone can the wide channel be looked as ‘safe zones’ as well. If you look closer at the above illustrations of playing against the high press you’ll see that there are clear overloads on the flanks. The rhombuses between the central defender, defensive midfielder, wing back and the inside forward provides at least one passing option for every receiver of the ball. The build up will be a bit more direct than by feeding the central defenders immediately, but provides a favorable option to enter final third in an effective way as 50% of the opposing players marks your defensive line.
The Importance of Width Against a High Pressing Intensity
It’s also worth to point out the benefits of the width when facing a high press. With the opponent looking to dominate the center, congesting play, blocking off passing lanes and stressing the team to make errors a rehearsed game model of how to build up play against a high press by stretching play even further becomes even more valuable.
With more ground to cover the pressing intensity might not be as effective if utilizing the width featuring its open spaces. Here the safety zones are particular important in the build up play. It requires a change of approach to the goalkeeper distribution who might need to kick long aimed at the flanks. With the risk to lose possession so close to the goal, the team is required to take more risks than usual. It requires the accuracy of the goalkeepers kicking, otherwise the ball will go over the touchline, but the long term benefits of progressing into the opponents half makes it advantageous.
I’ve highlighted the opponents central midfielder with a question mark. Since he’s required to maintain a high positioning in order to cut off passing lanes and contribute to the high pressure whilst controlling the center channel, there will be doubts in his mind of whom he shall close down or how he shall move as the ball goes wide. Most naturally he will drop and mark the central midfielder closest to him, but then there’s the defensive midfielder open again (not in passing shadow).
Notice also the connection between the wingbacks and the wingers. If you focus on qualitative superiority (relating to dribbling, first touch, off the ball movement, acceleration and agility), it’s easier to advance play down the flanks if the passing lanes between the wingback and the central midfielder is blocked. Having players capable of getting around the opposition marker with the ball and accelerate into space (e.g. run wide with the ball), can be prospourus in order to stretch play further.
Playing even wider can be done in two ways;
- Change the attacking width with 1 to 2 points
- Change the player instructions of the wide players by ticking ‘Stay Wider’ (if it’s not a default tactical instruction and part of the role)
Note! In contrary, if the opposition looks to block off passing lanes down the flanks and they man mark your wingers, having fullbacks who cut inside with the ball might be as advantageous in these situations. His movement with the ball aims to overload either the center or the flank, depending on what’s more beneficial in terms of your formation versus the opposition, their pressing intensity versus your capabilities.
The Role of the Forward
As mentioned briefly before, you’ll want a forward role that drops deep towards the midfield line always wanting to get the ball. At times when the opposition sets up a high press the link between the defensive midfielder and the forward is advantageous.
While he has provided depth when the goalkeeper has the ball, the forward looks to utilize the open spaces left within the opponents formation. In this illustration, the goalkeeper distributes to the playmaker against an opposition who press high and with great intensity. They are already locking down passing lanes and are ready to set up a pressing trap, squeezing the area which the defensive midfielder has to maneuver in. With a great body positioning (with the face and half the body already angled towards the front), the player can within two touches get the ball in the right location for a pass. As the goalkeeper passes the ball, it’s the trigger for the forward to move between the lines and within a second receive the ball from the defensive midfielder. Since the forward is marked by the centre-back who tracks his run, he might not be able to turn. Instead, and the whole point of this, is to make a support pass to the central midfielder who got the opportunity to make a through ball to the winger who are ready to surge into the space behind the opponents defensive line.
Notice also the option the forward has in the wide channel with the wing back who has an advanced positioning. The opposite fullback does not know whether the forward will look to turn, play in the central midfielder, make a second line of pass to the closest inside forward or use the wingback to the left of him. The movements of the players as soon as the forward receives the ball is a factor for what the decision will be, but most importantly it puts an insecurity factor which makes it hard for the defensive line. Shall they close down the new receiver of the ball, hold the line or cover the space behind them. Either way, it gives the team in possession a mental advantage.
With the forward dropping deep, it creates a numerical superiority in the heart of the midfield. A three vs two is created whenever he drops, forcing the opposition to either reduce their pressing intensity of one of the midfielders, change formation to one with an attacking midfielder (e.g. 4-2-3-1) and ask the attacking midfielder to mark the defensive midfielder while the two deep defensive midfielders track the zones which the forward might drop into – changing to a more space dependent marking.
Training Schedules to Effectively Build Up Play / Play Out of Defence
With the brand-new Football Manager 2019 training schedules you can put an extra effort to build out from the back effectively according to the tactical instructions you’ve selected. Your approach of play is one important aspect of your football philosophy, either you prefer to play out of defence relating to a possession game (read short passes) or you look to get the ball forward quickly and efficiently using mainly direct passes (long balls or middle passes).
Whenever you’re trying to incorporate a specific playing style, equal focus needs to be set on ball distribution and how you like to approach play as the tactical focus relating to player positioning and getting players familiar with their individual player roles. Which attributes that’s favored to improve and focus on at training, depends mainly on the approach of play, then secondary the distribution methods / types by the goalkeeper, either you prefer him to take short kicks, throw long or take long kicks directed to a specific player or zone of the pitch.
The recommended training sessions to look at for improving the effectiveness of building out from the back are (and can be located at);
- Ball Distribution (Technical); is a training session for the different positional units, which emphasizes on the distribution methods for the goalkeeper where the attacking unit looks to retain possession whilst the defenders looks to recover possession.
- Key Attributes: Vision, Teamwork, Anticipation, Passing, Kicking (GK), First Touch (GK), Positioning, Decisions
- Distribution (Goalkeeper); is a special training session for the goalkeepers where their skills relating to distributions are focused on whilst the other players work on their individual roles.
- Key Attributes: Vision, Passing, Kicking, First touch, Composure and secondary Throwing
- Secondary Attribution: Throwing (if you are using a distribution type where the goalkeeper shall ‘Throw it long‘
Ball Distribution and Ball Retention are two training schedules I look at as closely connected with each other. Whenever I setup a weekly training schedule I ensure the team will get at least one training session working on ball distribution and ball retention per week, and preferably following each other. This means that the team works on how the goalkeeper shall distribute the ball and how they shall approach play to get the ball from the defensive third to the final third, before working on the technical side of keeping possession and aggressively win it back.
A secondary training session to look at in terms of player positioning is the attacking shadow play which from my point of view looks to work on the players positioning with the team is in possession of the ball, despite the session is done without a ball. It helps the players to learn and get adapted to runs and movements whenever player X has the ball and the following patterns that happens when player Y gets it. Even though it graphically not details it, my assumption is that it also covers the player positioning at build up play, from the goalkeeper distributes the ball to the team enters final third.
At last, you got the specific Match Preparation session Teamwork which helps to improve the understanding between the players and their positioning as well as their vision and reactions. The ‘Teamwork’ session helps to blend the squad together and make them a stronger unit. It looks to develop the players tactical familiarity with their roles and duties plus getting familiar with the passing style, the tempo and the width you’ll be using.
Practicing playing out from the back and having clear plans about how you want your team to build up play is adventurous for several reasons:
First of all, it provides you with clear plans and intentions that can be carved down in your clubs DNA statement and provides you with clear ‘rules’ to follow (both in playing style and transfer policy).
Secondly, playing out of defence may provide a mental benefit over your opponent. If you’re looking to play a possession game, your philosophy might be to overplay and dominate the match. By playing out from the back you look to create beneficial options further up the pitch by synchronized movements, specific passing patterns and a risk-free approach as every pass has a clear intention.
The player positioning in ideal triangles helps you to build up play in a clean manner.
Finally, the opponents mental state might decline as they are put into a defensive state of mind for a longer time. As the ball moves quickly from one to another, the opposing players are forced to hunt the ball and use a lot of energy chasing it/closing down channels and passing lanes. Their self-esteem might drop as they believe it’s impossible to get the ball back. While they tire chasing it, less energy is left when they finally receives it, which hopefully decreases their attacking power.
Spending some time creating game models for how to achieve success building up play according to your playing style is highly beneficial. Pre-match analysis of your next opponent and make slight adjustment to how you approach the build up phase according to their opponents and weaknesses, but remember the core philosophy you’ve detailed in your club DNA statement.