When it comes to pressing there are a number of considerations that need to be taken into account whether that be by the: team, unit or individual. In this tactical analysis piece, we will explore some of these considerations as well as providing you with some examples of some key principles and coaching points for pressing high to regain possession from mini soccer through to 11 v 11.

A high press is the defending team looking to win the ball as high up the pitch, as early as possible from the opponent. A high press takes place in the final third, or the defensive third from the defending team and typically happens from restarts i.e. Goal Kicks, Throw ins etc or teams counter pressing to win the ball back once they have lost the ball. The diagram below shows the difference between the three thirds and how your team can approach this defensively, supported by a help line which can be used a guide to ensure a team is able to maintain it’s compactness and balance:

Delay:

The defensive team when pressing should look to delay the opponent by preventing them both time and space on the ball. If in balance, the defensive team may look to delay the opponent by pressing high and looking to win the ball back quickly by limiting their immediate time and space for the player on the ball. If the defensive team is out of balance, or has lost their shape, it may be that they look to delay the opponent by recovering into their shape and reorganising themselves. Typically, restarts are a great opportunity for teams to organise themselves defensively and get set into their shape and therefore preparing themselves to press with the intent to force the ball one way or to win the ball back in a specific area of the pitch. In play, or if a team has lost the ball, there are two options to try and delay the opponent; either recover back into shape/space or counter press and win the ball back quickly once they have lost possession of the ball.

An example of how you can delay the opponent time / space once in shape or in-balance:

An example of delaying the opponent the opponent by recovering back into shape / in-balance:

Compactness:

When pressing high, it’s important the defensive team moves collectively between them to limit the distances between them. Compactness will help the defensive team to both prevent the opposition from playing beyond and between them as well as helping them to position themselves to intercept the ball as well as cover distances to quickly win the ball back. Encourage compactness both horizontally and vertically to ensure 8-10 yards between them. If the team is out of balance, they should look to recover back into spaces where they could be exploited by the opposition. See below an example of how the team can use both the help line as well as the five channels to get them to defend 3 out of the 5 to maintain compactness:

Depth:

To enable the defensive team to be able to be in a position to win the ball high, they should look to reduce the space behind each individual, unit or team. The reduction of space in beyond or between players will make it more difficult for the opposition to be able to break lines or play over the top which will allow them to beat the press. To help the team to press high, it may be that as a team that you drop to ensure the opponents cannot play into the space behind which may be needed when pressure cannot be applied onto the ball i.e. goal kicks, free kicks or in opponent play. Likewise, the distances between players when pressing will make sure there is suitable cover and support in place to help the team win the ball back quickly. It’s important that depth is provided by all units of the team, including the goalkeeper. See below an example of how the team can ensure there is depth between them and also beyond them as well:

Balance:

Refers to the supporting players based around the primary player that is pressuring the ball, or the nearest player to it. When pressing high to regain possession, the balance your team provides is essential in both supporting that player that is pressuring the ball to stop the opponent from beating the press but also to help the team to ‘step on’ to the opponent when the ball is played into a particular area or player. A help line can is a great way of supporting your players to ensure that players are in a position to support the nearest player to the ball, or the player that is pressing to prevent the opponent from exploiting space beyond, between or even on the opposite side of the pitch. See an example of how the help line can be used to support your opposite wide player and full back:

Control / Restraint:

Based on the context and guidelines for the players, players will need to decide individually and collectively how they press. To support this, I have highlighted some of the considerations below for pressing high, but also some key coaching points for the players too.

When looking at this topic to both plan how you want your team to press and how you are going to coach it I would consider coaches consider:

Context will help you to support your players in order to decide both how and when they will look to win the ball high up. Some of the considerations that you may have to take into account are:

  • Game scenario i.e. does your team change the way that they press based on the state of the game i.e. losing the match?
  • Game situations i.e. does your team press regardless of where the ball is, or do you take advantage of restarts to organise yourself in your shape and then you look to press.
  • Area of the pitch i.e. do you look to press the ball when it’s central, wide or when the opposition is facing their own goal
  • Organisation i.e. do you press regardless of whether you’re in – balance or not, or do you make sure that the team is back in their shape once the ball has been los
  • Reaction i.e. do your players drop on their first thought when they’ve lost possession of the ball to protect? Or do they have a mindset to press once they’ve lost the ball

Coaching Points:

Here are some of the key coaching points that you may need to focus on when working with your players on this topic:

  • Triggers (a trigger may be the ball moving into a certain area, with a certain opponent or when the attackers have their back to the goal etc).
  • Approach (how you approach the ball with your movement i.e. do you need to curve your run? The speed of the approach too, are you in a position where you can move aggressively and win it or do you need to slow down upon your approach?)
  • Body Shape (to force the opponent the direction that you wish to show them, whilst preventing options for the opponent to play in that direction)
  • Individual Defending (side on and on the outside of the ball to try and use their body to win the ball, looking to come away with the ball after the 1 v 1 duel with either using on the front or back foot)
  • Anticipating / Intercepting (encourage players that are in covering and supporting positions to check their shoulders and look to position themselves in an area where they can look to intercept passes or pinch the ball from an opponent)

Lastly, once they have won the possession of the ball in area, a decision needs to be made on whether they can launch or quick attack or whether possession needs to be secured. There are multiple benefits of pressing high with the main one being winning possession need the goal when the opposition team is out of balance which will give opportunities to exploit the space left. Therefore, it’s important you help support your players on their decision in transition of them winning the ball.