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Possession Play or Positional Play?

Possession Play or Positional Play?
Possession Play or Positional Play?


In this newsletter we will talk about the basic principles of positional play.

Recent examples of this style are Ajax, Barcelona, and Manchester City.

But let us start by once again by restating what the purpose of soccer is … win by scoring more goals than the other team.

Otherwise, it is meaningless. We all understand that to win we need to score. To score, we must shoot on the goal, and the closer we are to the goal, the higher the chances of scoring. First, positional play is not the same as possession football.

Positional play is a philosophy of play that seeks to create an advantage over the opposition by a focus on the positioning and the movement of players to generate superiorities.

You can have a phenomenally successful possession-style soccer without positional play, e.g. long distance passing from side to side, it keeps the ball in possession of the team.

Teams playing this style move the ball forward one step at a time in search of superiority, with an emphasis on possession, positioning, and passing.

This associative style allows the team, the players, the positions, and the ball to travel together.

We move the ball forward together, away from our own half of the field and allows us and the ball to move closer into the other team’s box, where our chances to score a goal are higher.

The overriding objective of positional play is to find, or create, the free man (spare man) who will carry the ball forward to start a new 2v1 situation.

With the result that the free man will gain space and will get closer to the goal to score. After each pass the players need to create new supporting and passing options.

All the players need to be connected as a unit through all positions, so that they cannot be isolated by the opponent.

Consequently, the players must position themselves in relation to the position of ball, opponent, and teammates to create numerical advantage around the ball.

This occurs through staggering positions by creating triangles and diamonds shapes.

The position of the ball and consequently of the player move continually.

This requires the opponent to change and adapt their positions.

This way we want to create 3v1, 4v1, or 4v2 situations as well as gaps in the defensive wall to get closer to the opponent’s goal or to create chances to score.

In the following picture you can see the diamond and triangle shapes that can be created in a 4-3-3 formation.


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