Within this tactical analysis write up, we are going to explore what is a mid-block and how it can be used as well as what are the benefits of it. We will be also exploring some of key principles and coaching points that you may need to consider as a coach.

What is a mid-block?

A mid-block consists of defending the middle third or section of the pitch whilst trying to prevent the opposition from playing between or beyond you. A mid-block consists of all players dropping into an organised defensive shape with small distances between each of the units. The distances between the goalkeeper, defenders, midfielders and forwards is often between 8-10 years which means that it’s quite tight for opposition to play through players. The mid-block consists of three defensive lines (bottom, middle and top), with the bottom line and top line being around 20 yards from 18-yard-box. Within a mid-block, teams often defend within the width of the 18 yard box, however both the width and depth of the mid-block will vary from one team onto the next.

What are the benefits of using a mid-block?

The mid-block is a way of organising your team when out of possession in a controlled press which will apply pressure onto the ball to prevent the opponents from being able to play between or beyond them. A mid-block is a great way for teams to sustain energy throughout the duration of the game or in periods where they are not able to pressure the opposition fully.

A mid-block is often used by teams to help conserve a lead or when playing against a team that typically dominates possession to allow them to counter attack against their opponents. For example, when the attacking team is looking to beat a mid-block often their offensive shape is organised to create width and depth which can provide opportunities for the defensive team to exploit if they regain possession.

Another benefit of using a mid-block can be when playing against a team that has strength in central areas of the pitch through their midfield or forward players, a mid-block can prevent attackers from being able to receive and play in spaces between the defending team.

Principles Of Defending In A Mid-Block

As explored in other tactical analysis pieces, defensive principles can be used as a great way of providing your players with a guideline on how they can defend within a mid-block.

See below the principles and how you may look to apply them to defending within a mid-block:

Delay (Press/Drop): Firstly, the defending team will need to make a decision whether they are in or out of balance on whether they should press or drop. The decision is usually led by the nearest player(s) to the ball by performing the movement to the ball or into a space to trigger the decision for the team. If the team is in balance and the ball is in a particular area or with a particular player on the pitch they may look to begin to press as a team. Likewise, if the team is out of balance or in the lead, they may decide to drop within their mid-block and allow the opponents to have the ball in their defensive third.

Compactness: The compactness of the team is linked to the distances between the units and the players within each of the unit both laterally and horizontally. Using references within the pitch can help with how the team can be compact i.e. defending within the width of the 18 yard box. If the ball is played into a wide area, teams may concede space in the wide area and remain compact, or they may slide across to that side of the pitch and leaving space on the opposite side.

Balance: Balance is provided by the units or sliding across to one side to provide cover and support to the nearest player to the ball. Balance is key to ensure the defending team can provide suitable cover to the player nearest to the ball whilst also being prepared to cover any switches of play.

Depth: Depth is provided by the units either dropping up or moving forwards when the team either drops or presses. Depth can be provided by the goalkeeper too, who can act as a ‘sweeper keeper’ covering the space in behind the defensive line for any balls that are played beyond them. For the defending team to have depth, they must ensure that there is sufficient distance between each unit when the opposition have the ball. The team will need to adjust their positioning when there is no pressure put onto the ball, when that player then has their head over the ball looking for a longer more direct pass.

Control & Restraint: Throughout being in a mid-block the defensive team must maintain concentration and continue to have control and restraint to make sure that they can make the right decisions of when to press, drop and slide as a team. This is reliant on individuals choosing the right time to make movements once in their mid-block. Failure to do so, could provide space for the opponents to exploit so it’s vital that the defensive team communicate between one another to ensure they’re working collectively in how they work within their mid-block.

Considerations:

When working with your players on this topic of defending within a mid-block, there are some considerations that need to be considered on how you can support your players to develop their understanding of it. These considerations should be:

  • Individual Defending Detail: Providing your players detail on how they defend individual when in a mid-block can not only mean that they have have success within it, but also the unit and team can too. Some of the key considerations for your players when working with them individually may look like: what is their position? How do they press / drop? How do they provide cover / support to their team mates? What area of the pitch or opponent are we trying to force play to? When do we begin to press? How deep do you drop?
  • Decision Making: The individual defending detail will certainly help players to make the right decision of how they defend in their team. Some of the decisions players may need to make will be based around: how they press or drop, cover and support their players, track runners and where they position themselves on the pitch too.
  • Scenario/Game Management: Providing your players with understanding on how they may ‘manage’ the game based on scenario that they’re in i.e. winning 1-0, having a player sent off etc. Will support the team on their decision of when to enter a mid-block but also how they will set up within it too. Exposing your players in training to different scenarios is a great way to support their decisions on how they manage the game.

Key Coaching Points:

  • Scanning/Awareness
  • Movement
  • Positioning
  • Decision Making
  • Individual Defending
  • Body Shape