In modern football, creating space is crucial for attacking teams to be successful. One way to do this is by exploiting the half spaces on the pitch. Half spaces refer to the areas between the edge of the penalty box on either side of the pitch towards the D as shown below. These areas are often referred to as the “inside channels” and are considered to be strategic locations for creating and exploiting space.The use of half spaces in football is not a new concept. It has been around for decades, but has become more prevalent in modern football due to the emphasis on possession-based play and the use of wide formations. When a team is in possession of the ball, the half spaces can be used to create opportunities to score, while defensively they can be used to restrict the opposition’s ability to create chances.
In order to understand the importance of half spaces in football, it’s important to first understand how teams set up tactically. Many teams now play with a 4-3-3 formation, with three attackers, two wingers, and one central striker. This formation allows for a lot of width, which is key for creating space in the half spaces.The wingers are positioned close to the touchline, which stretches the opposition defence horizontally, creating space for the attacking midfielders to run into. The central striker acts as a focal point for the attack, holding the ball up and bringing others into play.
When the ball is on one side of the pitch, the attacking midfielders will move towards the opposite half space, creating space for themselves and the central striker. This movement often pulls the opposition defenders out of position, creating gaps for the wingers to exploit. If the opposition defenders do not shift across to cover the half space, the attacking midfielder will have more time and space on the ball, which can lead to chances being created.
One of the most effective ways to use the half spaces is by creating overloads in these areas. This can be done by having a winger or attacking midfielder move into the half space, with the full-back overlapping to provide an additional option. This creates a 2 v 1 situation, where the opposition defender must choose which player to cover. If they choose to cover the player on the ball, the overlapping full-back is free to receive the pass and create a chance. If they choose to cover the overlapping full-back, the player on the ball is free to create a chance.
With correct body orientation a player within the half spaces can maintain a view of the goal and access all five zones. This allows a player within the half space to have most of the benefits from being in the centre of the pitch without moving too far away.
Another way to use the half spaces effectively is by playing quick, one-touch football. By playing the ball quickly in and around the half spaces, teams can move the ball quickly and catch the opposition defence off guard. This requires a high level of technical ability and spatial awareness, but when executed correctly, it can be incredibly effective.Utilising the half spaces is linked with playing between the lines. This provides the opportunity to isolate defending players, who will be required to mark multiple players. This provides the opportunity to combine and enter the area from within the half spaces. A cross into the area from within the half spaces is incredibly dangerous to the defending team. This increases if the ball is initially set back from the wide area.
This tactic is used by several top teams across the world, and in this blog, we’ll take a closer look at some of the teams that use it and how they execute it.
Manchester City is one of the most dominant teams in world football, and their use of half spaces is a key part of their success. Pep Guardiola, their manager, is a master tactician who has revolutionised the use of the half spaces in modern football. City’s attacking midfielders, such as Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva, are masters at exploiting the half spaces, and their movement is often key to City’s attacking play.
One of the key features of City’s use of half spaces is their quick, one-touch passing. The attacking midfielders will often receive the ball in the half space and play a quick one-touch pass to a teammate, which creates space and allows City to move the ball quickly up the field. This requires a high level of technical ability and spatial awareness, but when executed correctly, it can be incredibly effective.
Liverpool is another top team that uses the half spaces to great effect. Jurgen Klopp, their manager, has built a high-pressing, attacking team that is built around the movement of their front three: Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane. These three players are experts at exploiting the half spaces, and their movement is often key to Liverpool’s attacking play from 2020/21 & 22 season
One of the key features of Liverpool’s use of half spaces is their use of width. The attacking players will often play close to the touchline, which stretches the opposition defence horizontally, creating space for the attacking midfielders to run into. The movement of the front three often pulls the opposition defenders out of position, creating gaps for the midfielders to exploit.
Barcelona has long been known for their use of tiki-taka football, which relies heavily on the exploitation of half spaces. The movement of their iconic midfielders, such as Xavi and Andres Iniesta, is often key to their success in this area of the pitch. These players are experts at finding space in the half spaces and playing quick, one-touch passes to create opportunities for their teammates.
One of the key features of Barcelona’s use of half spaces is their use of triangles. The midfielders will often form triangles in the half spaces, which creates passing options and allows them to move the ball quickly up the field. The movement of the midfielders is often key to the success of these triangles, as they are constantly looking for space and creating passing angles for their teammates.
By understanding how to use the half spaces effectively, teams can create more scoring opportunities and restrict the opposition’s ability to create chances. It requires a high level of technical ability and spatial awareness, but when executed correctly, it can be a game-changer.