• Training runs behind the backline in a two-forward system - 2023 Advent Calendar Series

    In a three forward system, teams like Real Madrid like to isolate the wide forwards, enabling them to either run onto a pass sent behind the lines, typically in the half-space, or running at a defender 1v1. With the current Barcelona squad, the front three are very narrow, offering vertical runs and outlets for deep completions and combination play. In either situation, the three forwards are tasked with occupying the entirety of the opposition’s backline.

    In a two forward system, the occupation of the opposition’s backline is more targeted. In the majority of these tactical systems, the two forwards look to occupy just the centre-backs. They might position themselves between a centre and outside-back on occasion, but it’s nearly always the central player’s responsibility to pick up the central forward.

  • A comprehensive guide to direct possession - 2023 Advent Calendar Series

    Often when you hear someone speak about direct vs possession football, you’ll find “direct” used in a pejorative manner.

    Whereas possession is associated with structure, control, intricate movements, and purposeful attacking, direct is often derided as a less aesthetically pleasing form of football. It’s simple, less intricate, and more easily replicated. There’s also the reduction of direct play to a hit-and-hope Route 1 philosophy. Any old squad can have success with the direct approach whereas possession is the burden of talent.

    That’s where we’ll make our first distinction. Rather than distinguishing direct from possession, we’re reframing the concept to think of it as direct possession vs indirect possession.

  • The Regista: How to control a football match - 2023 Advent Calendar Series

    Known for their sublime technical qualities and elegance possessed by few, Andrea Pirlo, Xabi Alonso, and Kroos captivated us from their deep-lying role. We want to move beyond the surface of these mesmerizing displays to better understand how these registas asserted themselves upon the match.

    This tactical analysis examines three ways in which these legends controlled the game. The first two relate to the attacking tactics of the game, whereas the third looks at the defensive aspects of the role.

  • Let's Talk about Direct Possession

    Far from Route 1 soccer, direct possession is a controlled approach to direct attacking. It often starts with low tempo, deep buildouts, but those actions are by design. Rather than unbalancing the opposition in their own defensive third, where there’s less space to disorganize them, direct possession looks to maximize space on the vertical axis and attack it once the opponent’s overcommit high up the field. Plus, that change in tempo is deadly.

    It’s quick, structured, purposeful, and lethal.

    It’s also a lot of fun to watch.