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Soccer Team Tactics Question

Discussion in 'Coaches Corner' started by Finn's Dad, May 12, 2018.

  1. Finn's Dad

    Finn's Dad Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    Hey guys. I'm the varsity coach at a pretty large school, and I am thinking about tactics for the coming season. The team has traditionally been middle of the road in terms of record and playing, with most seasons being around .500. Last year was my first year in charge, and along with the assistant coach, we really hammered home a different style for the team and it lead to great success. Most high school teams in our area tend to play long ball, and sure enough, our players were thinking of that when we started.

    We played a base 4-2-3-1 that morphed into 3-3-1-3 on offense and 4-4-1-1 on defense. In possession of the ball, we really emphasized patience and moving the ball around to open up the defense. We typically ended games with 15-20 shots, but didn't always find the back of the net as often as we should have found it. Our record was 14-4-1, and we made it to our section finals for the first time in school history (previously, they never won a playoff game). The run included beating the #4 team in the state 5-4 in PKs (after going 0-0). At the end of the season and into the playoffs, we incorporated an offsides trap since so many teams relied on the long ball. This was brutally effective - in the playoffs, we had some teams offsides over a dozen times, causing major frustration.

    The last two years, I've been researching and thinking about utilizing gegenpressing with the teams I coach. In the coming season, I have players that are extremely dedicated to being fit, and I'll be working with them essentially all summer in preparation for the season. We'll be doing major fitness activities and soccer tactics the entire time. The majority of the returning varsity players fit the mold for successful gegenpressing. The ones who don't either need to figure it out, or they won't play since it'll be a team tactic.

    That leads me to my question: does it make sense to incorporate both the gegenpressing and offsides trap? I feel like gegenpressing will force the early turnovers, while the offsides trap prevents a long ball escape. I have a forward that is extremely vocal and is being looked at by a few DI schools, and he has an incredible work rate. He would be a great catalyst for this. But I know that the offsides trap requires major organization, so I don't want the gegenpressing to expose the backline.

    Any thoughts on this would be much appreciated. Thanks!
  2. Cellar-Door

    Cellar-Door Member SoSH Member

    I can't think of anyone who plays a pressing style without an offside trap incorporated. The whole point is the compress the area the opponent has to operate, and force long balls or bad passes. Now on the high school level you might get burned just because of the risk involved, but a high pressing line helps in that it gives you room for your fastest players to catch back up on a blown trap.
    May also want to play an aggressive sweeper keeper to help out on cutting off long balls.
  3. Finn's Dad

    Finn's Dad Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    That's kind of what I was thinking, but wanted to make sure that I wasn't setting myself up for doing too much. In some of my readings, it talked about dropping players deeper to protect long balls, and so that made me pause to think maybe it's too much to do both in unison.

    I think our keeper last year would've been great as a sweeper keeper. I can work on it with our new one this year, since he plays in the field for one of his clubs.
  4. DrewDawg

    DrewDawg Dorito Dink SoSH Member

    I love the idea. A high line frustrates undisciplined teams, so most high school and club teams will get caught over and over. Have some speed back there to cover the occasional long ball that works and an aggressive keeper and that should work.

    The press should be popular too. A high work rate is needed, so in theory, even your subs should realize they’ll get some time on the field, and quick turnovers can lead to quick scoring chances, keeping everyone engaged.
    #4 DrewDawg, May 12, 2018
    Last edited: May 13, 2018
  5. Finn's Dad

    Finn's Dad Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    Last season, we purchased some GPS units (PlayerTek) that we use to monitor intensity, among many other things, so we can clearly identify with players the level that they need to play at for this tactic to work. We can isolate times that subs are in the game to make sure their intensity level matches the starters. It'll be a fun adventure. I'll post updates on how it goes in a few months.
  6. Dummy Hoy

    Dummy Hoy Angry Pissbum SoSH Member

    I’ve always thought pressing would work well in HS with your unlimited subs, and frankly it would be motivating for a lot of bunch players who knew they would get some burn.

    What I’ve read of the gegenpressing, the main way it differs from more traditional counter presses is that for most teams, the press it largely defensive in nature- used to regain possession. For Klopp and disciples, it’s an offensive ploy- immediate attack against teams that are out of their preferred shape.

    I don’t know how this would make a big difference, but given that you’ve described your team as a possession team, maybe you’d rather implement the press the way Pep does. Full admission I don’t understand the tactical nuances of this as well as some, but it seems there is a philosophical difference there that may be a factor.
  7. Finn's Dad

    Finn's Dad Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    Yeah, I hear what you're saying. I know that when they lose possession (Liverpool), they immediately look to win it back in order to quickly pounce when the other team is transitioning to an offensive shape. With our team, we played two general styles, labeled gold and blue (based on school colors... simple enough). When we were up and/or wanted to assert our dominance, we would play gold, which was maintaining possession. Our 6 and 8 would regularly check to the ball carrier and we played the simple, easy pass. This was extremely dominant at times, and what we really focused on for the most part.

    On the other hand, if we were down OR if the game situation called for it (we saw that we physically overmatched our opponents, we saw a lack of speed on their part, we wanted to get a quick strike before halftime, etc.), we would switch to blue. Blue was the counter-attack, high-tempo offense where we looked to transition from one end to the other in a few passes.

    (side note: we also played a third style to pack it in and effectively kill off the game for our opponents. We did this in one game that we played down a man - our starting keeper - for 75 minutes, and still managed to win 2-1.)

    My vision of how gegenpressing fits for us is that if we lose possession, we immediately pounce to force the mistake and retake possession. If the opportunity for the quick strike is there (like we win it within 25 yards of goal), we go for it. If it isn't, we back it out and switch back to our possessive style and make the other team run and run and run and run...

    Offensively this year, we're looking to exploit Zone 14 as often as possible when in our possessive style. That's the dead space between the midfield and the defense for the opponents. That's where the False 9 can find space. We're going to work with our 9 to drop into that area and look for the immediate distribution into the box for a winger to get a chance. There's also a lot of fluidity within the positioning, so players will be shifting around regularly on the pitch. This is based on a playoff game last year, where our semifinal opponent man-marked our striker, who was an all-state player. During the game, I shifted the kid out to the wing, and his marker was extremely confused, even asking his coach in the middle of the game, "Now what do I do?" So we'll be looking for lots of fluid movement out of our players on a regular basis to cause confusion, because high schoolers don't know how to cope.

    I think it'll work, because we should be winning the ball in opportunities that would continue to create chaos in the minds of our opponents. Say our 9 pressured a back to the right side and the ball is won by our 10, who is in the middle. That leaves a vacancy in the 9 spot, so the 7 (on the side the 9 is now on) can move into Zone 14 to receive a pass and temporarily take on the 9 role. That frees up our real 9 to cut in for the shot on the defense (OR, alternatively, if he's being man-marked by a CB, that pulls the CB completely out of position, leaving a potential 2v1 with the 7 and 11 on the other CB). That's just one of the many rotations that we can utilize within the game.

    With the idea of unlimited subs, as you suggested, we'd use that to our advantage for sure. We have a ton of depth this coming season, outside our top few players. Most of the next 15 or so guys will be essentially the same player, so it should be easy to sub in and out. And the constant pressure on another team can be absolutely demoralizing and psychologically unnerving, causing them to make tons of unforced errors as well.

    That's the grand scheme, in a nutshell. Make sense?
  8. Dummy Hoy

    Dummy Hoy Angry Pissbum SoSH Member

    I’m impressed you’ve got HS kids able to follow those rotations so well.

    I realize we’re getring off track here but:

    1) what do you say the percentage is you divy up practice time between skills and tactics? Also, how long are your practices?

    2) what drills do you use for these tactical situations and retaining shape (O and D) and/or rotations? Do you do a lot of front 6 v back 6 small area games?
  9. Finn's Dad

    Finn's Dad Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    The rotation is a work in progress. I got this job last season a week before the season started, so we discussed it but it was too much for the team to get at the time. We nixed the idea last year, but with the idea we will implement this coming season.

    At the varsity level, I focus solely on tactics and not skills. Most players at this age have their motor patterns developed, so we don't spend much time on it unless something is significant. For example, our striker last year kept trying to blast the ball through the net, even from six yards out. We spent several practices working on repeatedly passing it in instead. I'd say overall, 90% of all practices were tactics since I was implementing a brand new system for them. Practices were 90-120 minutes, depending on what we did the day before and when the next game was going to be (lighter practice before games). Film sessions helped a ton as well, because we broke down when players were in the right vs. wrong spot.

    In a quick nutshell, here's what we taught for the system.

    I'm going to use #'s, since it makes most sense to me. 1 is GK, 2/3 are LB/FB, 4/5 are CB, 6/8 DCM, 10 ACM, 7/11 Wingers, 9 striker.

    From the base 4-2-3-1, the movement goes like this:

    2/3 push up to midfield in line with 8, 4/5 spread wide to the spot behind 2/3, 6 drops to the middle between 4/5, 7/11 move up to join the striker. That makes the 3-3-1-3. There's a buttload of space in the middle, and the play is dictated by the 8. They have to be a constant presence, always being a target for a pass and then making smart decisions. They can't lose possession. Once our team understood this, it was lights out. Last year, we rotated the 6/8/10 based on what happened in the game. Say the 6 had it, they may do some give and go's, and the 8 would drop to cover, and if they press further, the 10 drops to the 8. I had our 6 score goals based on this, which was nice.

    Defensively, they settle into a standard 4-4-1-1, but in the process of getting there, the defenders play a ton of containment to slow the initial attack if we're caught out of position.

    2. The plan to teach it this year is to start small, then develop complexity. We will start with two player swaps, which should be simple. We are teaching the 18 zones this season, and pushing play through zone 14, with the idea that if the pass goes into zone 17 (18 yard box), we want a shot on target. So depending on who checks into zone 14, that sets up the rotation. Our 7/2 can swap, 9/10, 9/11, 9/7, 10/7... It's limitless. We have four squads at our school - varsity, JV, B, and C. I've instructed our coaches to teach these swaps with their team, even if it is one scripted swap. The hope is that C squad learns to do two player swaps, B learns 2 and 3 player swaps, JV learns 3 and 4 player swaps, and Varsity goes nuts with 4+ player swaps.

    To teach the movement, we start with shadow play first. Literally just pass the ball around, and then begin movement on verbal and non-verbal cues are given. Do this many, many times, and then start slowly inserting opposition. Keep the numbers in the offensive favor at first, and then build to 5v5 drills. For the offense, the key needs to be how we approach it with explanation. It could be, "Your position is the 7 to start, but at any point, you could be playing 2, 10, 9, 8, 11. As your teammates check back and get back to their spot, you're released to return to your starting position." We really emphasize scoring from the top 4, and for that reason, we have the wings playing different from what they normally do. I had lefties on the right side because I wanted them to score, and vice versa. As they move around the field, they need to understand their responsibility in the new roles. To make sure they get that, our film company has a new feature that allows coaches to give quizzes when players watch film. That gets them to think and really focus on what we want during s session, and I envision that is how we will drive it home.

    (I'm sorry for the ranting. I get excited about this stuff!)

    Finally, to really drive home defensive shape, the assistant coach is a great defensive mind. He really was the key to getting our guys to get organized in the back for the trap. He just responded to me about implementing gegenpressing with our team, so he's going to dig in deeper to get it down. During our season, we will dedicate practices weekly to pressing, fluidity, or traps. The kids picked up our instruction really quickly last year. I know this will be extremely complex, but I'm very hopeful that it can go well. From a recruiting aspect, it will be a great sell for some of these kids to play at the next level. This won't be an easy system, but if they get it down, it can really up their game.
  10. Finn's Dad

    Finn's Dad Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    I forgot to mention... With gegenpressing, we want to win the ball back in 4-6 seconds (off the top of my head, I think that's the time). If they don't, they should then check back to their 4-4-1-1 positions and wait for the next time to press. That will help eliminate space for the opponents as well, like how a full-court press settles into a half-court defense if it is broken.
  11. CPT Neuron

    CPT Neuron Got Pitching? SoSH Member

    I coached at the HS here for a few years and really tried to bring up the level of play as best I could. The biggest draw back I found was that we had the wrong ratio of athletes:soccer players - so we could press and run and be physical, but lacked the technical skill and tactical awareness to keep up a pressing style without being exposed. Now, I coached the girls team, and I've found after spending time coaching both boys and girls at a variety of levels, including HS, that the tactical side seemed to be more intuitive for the boys, and that girls tended not to make the threatening runs and movements without the ball that really needed to happen to make that pressing/counter-attacking style as dangerous as it can be. I did a ton of technical, possession based small sided training sessions to bring that level of play up, with pretty good success (we defeated the 2x defending state champions on their own field my last year in the playoffs, so that was a real coup).

    For the high line/offsides trap, I worked extensively on 2v2 pressure/cover defending drills with my central defenders - if the center backs don't get that, the trap is broken before it gets deployed and you're in a world of trouble against the vertical game that HS teams tend to employ. If the central defenders get it, the outside backs can be trained to never see the numbers of their center backs, and you can make that work.

    I always stressed the idea of 5 seconds - if you lose the ball, you work harder than anyone else on the field to get it back for the next 5 seconds, and the team as a collective follows suit with good pressure/cover/balance based defending.

    It is amazing that you have the funding for GPS devices and a film company.....we had a hand held camera and a volunteer tethered to the roof of the announcing booth! But it is Maine!
  12. teddykgb

    teddykgb Member SoSH Member

    Been meaning to respond to this for a few days. You've presumably got coaching badges and I do not but my initial thought on reading your post was that it would be a bad idea to seek to implement the press for two reasons. Firstly, the press relies upon speed, particularly in closing down the opponent, and I just don't think HS boys can shrink the space the way grown men do. Secondly, the press works best against teams who are trying to play it out, but most HS games I've seen are long ball fests as it stands. So you're spending a ton of energy forcing hopeless long balls you were going to get anyway. It seems to me to be a decent tactic if you have an opponent or opponents who try to play it out a little bit more and if your team really is fast enough to create havoc with the rapid closing of space but in general I don't think it's creating many opportunities you wouldn't already have due to the generic nature at this level.

    In any case, yes, you need a high line as you don't want to leave a massive gap in front of your defenders for the other team to exploit.
  13. Finn's Dad

    Finn's Dad Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    Yeah, you bring up a few good points, teddy. That's why I like bouncing ideas off of people. Most of the teams do play a long ball already, which is terrible in it's own sense. Some of the better teams will play the possession style, but it isn't often that even they play it. Our team does have speed and athletes in general, and the thinking is with some extra time working with them this summer, we can get some basics down on pressing, communicating, etc. I've opened up discussions with the coaches I work with as well so we can throw ideas out there. I should watch the clips of Liverpool/Leicester, since Leicester plays more of a direct style, and see what happened there.

    My main reason for wanting to do something like this is, ultimately, to make teenagers REALLY nervous, force terrible mistakes, and create opportunities that way. Many teams tried to find their couple of players that were legit, wether it was a midfielder or striker, within a couple of passes. Then, that player would be forced to dribble and make plays. By causing chaos when we lose the ball, the plan is that they don't have time to see this person and force lots of terrible decisions. But we'll see. I have two pre-season opportunities to try it out - one against some poor teams, so we can see if it is effective vs. long ball, and one against two of the top teams in the state, so we can see if it is effective against the possession teams. From there, we go into our season and we can continue to make adjustments as necessary. I don't think teams will be as deep as us, so if we can keep running them into the ground, we should have more and more opportunities as the games progress.

    CPT - yes, having the resources for those things are nice. We made $9000 last year in one fundraiser alone. It's been a huge benefit. Using the GPS and tape helps us really break stuff down. I can show you some of the taping that we did. We recorded the game, but then another company breaks it down for us after we upload it to their site. It's incredibly helpful.
  14. SocrManiac

    SocrManiac Member SoSH Member

    Things may have changed since I was in high school, but we found our offside trap being broken all too often by the referee. Even the best will miss a couple a game, but the lower quality referees can absolutely murder you. It can even change half to half, building a pattern of play and a lead in the first only to have it squandered in the second by a bumbler.

    I think it's a great and effective tactic against the bang and chase sides, but there has to be a backup plan in case of ineptitude on the lines.

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