What is Transition?

Transition is the process of recognition and response in the first few moments following the regain or loss of possession. Transition is often neglected when coaching players in favour of in/out of possession with coaches often working with the team when they’ve either got the ball or when they are without it.

Why is Transition Important?

If your team is able to respond quickly to a turnover in possession it will allow your team to exploit opportunities to attack (when in possession) as well as reorganise quickly (when out of possession).

How To Use Transition?

When working with your players you will be able to support them through recognition of game situations, decision making /positive thinking, first player actions (including GK), first unit and team actions.

Out of Possession Principles:

In order to help support your players to create positive transitions, applying principles on how your team will defend will be integral to create these opportunities. Each individual club and team will have their own interpretation on these and you may need to consider how you as a coach will want to set up your team out of possession. In the meantime, here are some of our ideas of what principles you can use when your team is out of possession:

Delay – How will you delay the opposition from attacking i.e. decision making of when to press and when to drop. We have seen contrasting examples of how teams can apply this principle to create positive transitions with Atletico Madrid often delaying the opposition by dropping deep (https://footballdna.co.uk/features/key-principles-of-defending-deep) into their half where as teams like Liverpool will look to counter press and win the ball back immediately to build or exploit through a counter attack.

Compactness – Is the distances between individuals / units both laterally and horizontally to deny space between them to prevent the opposition playing into. The compactness of your team will make it difficult for the opposition to play between but also giving you more opportunities to block and intercept to create an opportunity for you to begin a positive transition.

Balance – In order to cancel the threat of mobility provided by the offense, balance is required by the defending team to retain defensive shape. Balancing is an extension of delay and compactness with your team ‘sliding’ across the pitch in order to provide horizontal compactness. A helpline can often be deployed down the middle of the pitch, with your team defending half the pitch when the ball is on one side. This will help you as a team to have sufficient numbers to limit being overloaded by the opposition.

Depth – Relates to how deep your players will be individually as a unit as well as a team. Providing depth will ensure the opposition isn’t able to exploit the space in behind, however, some teams may to decide to play a high line to maintain compactness and when pressing. When possession is won by your team, you may need to look at how you can exploit the oppositions lack of depth by how you can play in behind or evade pressure from them.

Control & Restraint – Refers to the decision making of players of when to step in to intercept or win the ball from the opposition. Making an incorrect decision on this may allow the opposition to exploit space left by that individual or unit. Understanding triggers are critical in when your team should leave their defensive shape in order to apply pressure/intercept to begin a positive transition. Examples of these triggers may be when the opposition has their back to goal or when the ball is played into a particular area of the pitch.

In Possession Principles:

Dispersal – Once your team has won possession how will they as a team team disperse to create space. Dispersal is essential not only to supporting the team in securing possession but also helping to exploit a counter attack. For example, it may be that individuals look to move into certain areas of the pitch once the ball is won in order to help exploit via a counter attack, a great example of this how Salah does this for Liverpool: https://footballdna.co.uk/features/liverpool-fc-counter-attacking-analysis/

Penetration – Once possession is won, how will you look to penetrate as a team. This may be done individually through players travelling with the ball into space, or through following your passing order i.e. playing into space in behind, into centre forward etc. Providing a framework for your players on how they will penetrate individually as well as a team will help them with their decision making but also the skill required to perform the action to penetrate too. To create a counter attack, teams will need to penetrate quickly (6 second rule).

Movement – How do your players move once possession is won i.e. do they look to move into space behind or between lines? The movement of your players will help you to not only exploit with a counter attack, but also help you to secure and build possession once the ball has been one if you then are succumbed to immediate pressure from the opposition.

Support – Links to movement but more specifically focuses on how you will support the player on the ball. For example, it may be that you have played into the space for an attacking player to begin the counter attack, but if left isolated you will lose the opportunity to exploit it. Therefore, who and how players support will be integral in you begin able to make the most of the positive transition.

Innovation/Creativity – Will be required not only to exploit the counter attack but also to help your team to evade pressure to secure possession as well. This may be as a collective combining together to exploit or an individual using a 1v1 to change direction or beat a man to create an opportunity for their team.

Before, During & After:

When approaching a positive transition, a simple way of helping you and your players with understanding how to create and exploit a counter attack you can apply the ‘before, during and after’ approach’. What is required before the counter attack takes place i.e. how will your team set up out of possession and what is their strategy to win the ball back? During the launch of the counter attack how will your unit/individuals make decisions on how/when they should look to intercept/block or pressure to win the ball back and what should that individual do to secure possession once it is won? After the ball is won, how will the individual/team look to move will effectively exploit a counter attack?

Before – How will you set up defensively? What ques/triggers are you waiting for to begin a counter attack?

During – How will players recognise when to intercept/block? How will the player that has won the ball secure possession?

After – What is the individual focusing on once they’ve won the ball? What decision should they make? How will individuals/units move to support them?

Individual and Team Tactics:

Individual and/or group tactics will need to be developed in order to help your players to understand how to use transition from a regain. Tactics consist of ‘a planned action to gain an advantage or achieve a specific end’, which in the case of having exploiting the opposition once possession is won it’s important your players understand how they need to set up out of possession to give them the best chance of creating these opportunities, as well as what they should aim for once they’ve won the ball too. A simple strategy for you to ‘exploit the counter’ is applying a ‘six second rule’. The six second rule consists of once your team wins possession, exploiting space left by the opposition (out of balance)to create a counter attack. If not successful in doing so, a team may look to retain and then build possession if the defending team is then able to get in balance with their defensive shape. By supporting your individuals, units and team to understand the 6 second rule, you can then look at develop tactics which will help you to achieve success in not only creating the opportunity to counter but also to exploit it as well.

Player Centred – A Four Corner Approach:

When looking at positive transition and how you may develop it in your environment their may be certain attributes or traits that you may need to develop within your players to enable you to do this effectively as a team. Below details some of these areas using the Four Corner Model: Physical – Ability to win 1v1 duels, maximal speed to exploit space on counter attack, agility to change direction quickly to intercept and block, endurance to be able to sustain high levels of pressure throughout the game.

Psychological – Control to stay in shape, decision making both in and out of possession, concentration to continually be scanning for opposition when without the ball but also once the ball has been once to help team secure and exploit a counter.

Technical/Tactical – 1v1 defending technique to win possession, running with the ball to counter, 1v1s to beat players or evade pressure from opposition, combination play to work collectively to exploit counter, receiving and passing skills to secure and begin counter.

Social – Communication within a unit to work together when out of possession to create opportunities to create a counter attack.

“Together we decide what kind of aspects we want to develop for the team and then I create the exercises. It’s quite simple; it’s just about the continuing stimulation of our mentality to conquer the ball as quick and as high up the pitch as possible. That element comes back in every exercise. We as staff always try to find ways so the players can be more spontaneous and more creative.”Pep Lijnders.

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2019/dec/02/liverpool-pep-lijnders-jurgen-klopp-assistant-paddle-tennis-james-milner Klopp and Lijnders approach is heavily geared around ‘Intensity’ which runs throughout everything that they do. This is their identity. What will be the identify of your team both in and out of possession but also once you’ve won the ball back?