The most common formations in 11-a-side football

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As all of us who enjoy football know, there are different types of formations and styles of play when trying to win a match. We must start from the fact that the tactics used depend on the preferences of the coach and other important circumstances of the event such as the different characteristics of the players and the knowledge of the opposing team.

The use of all these tactics has a clear objective and that is to achieve a logical distribution of the players on the field, to compensate their efforts and to surprise the opposing team. Football has changed through time, so we can find important differences if we compare tactics in the past and now; for example, in the mid-19th century almost all the players were strikers and tried to score goals -they played with one defender, two midfielders and the rest attacked– but there are things that do not change, such as not leaving the goal without someone to cover it.

In the 1970s, attempts were made to improve teamwork and several new formations emerged. For this reason, it seems appropriate to explain on this occasion which are the most commonly used systems of play, what advantages and disadvantages they have and which are the most offensive and defensive, among other things.

Defensive tactics

High pressure: This technique consists of not waiting for the opponent at the back, but moving forward constantly in order to put pressure on the high part of the defensive line, especially on the ball carrier. This pressure is always carried out as a group, thus increasing the chances of the opponent, due to nerves, of making a mistake.

Man marking: In this formation a player is in charge of covering a specific opponent, even if that opponent does not have the ball at that moment, thus preventing him from receiving it and passing it to a teammate.

Zone defense: This defense is used to cover a specific space, for example, the defenders do not leave their zone, but wait for an opponent to cross the imaginary line that delimits it in order to defend him and not allow him to open a space inside it.

Retreat: Once control of the game has been lost and the ball is in opposition possession, almost all players go down for it with the intention of retrieving it or at least preventing them from advancing and not getting on goal.

Tilting: This is a joint movement of the whole defensive line to try to minimize the spaces left free on the pitch. It can be vertical, with defenders moving from bottom to top, or horizontal, moving to the right or left.

Pass interception: This basically means cutting off a ball going from one opponent to another and breaking up the play, however, for this tactic to work players must be very alert to find the right moment to get their foot in and get hold of the ball.

Offensive tactics

Triangulations: This technique consists of making passes between three players, as the name suggests, trying to prevent the opponents from getting the ball. For this tactic to be successful, the players must be quick in their short passes, and, in addition, another player can be included as the play progresses towards the goal line.

Long balls: This consists of using aerial play from one area to another and, once the ball has been picked up, trying to finish from the same point; in this way, it is vital to know how to overrun the defenders to achieve success with this technique.

Aerial play: Aerial play is similar to the previous one, with the difference that the balls are not thrown so far, but are lifted so that a team-mate receives it while everyone else advances on the pitch and, when it reaches a player who is well positioned, finishes it off into the net.

Two against one: It is logical that having numerical superiority increases the possibilities of breaking a position, in this way two forwards advance through an area defended by a single player and overrun him very quickly.

Interchange of flanks: This is used to confuse the opponents by moving two forwards indistinctly on either flank, trying to confuse the opposing team so that they don’t know which foot or who is going to take the shot.

Although it may seem that the best formations have already been used, in the future formations and styles of play in football will continue to be created and tested. Although different teams and their managers have different preferences, they all have to adapt to their opponents. Therefore, no matter how absurd a formation or tactic may sound in football, there is probably at least one coach whose model fits it.

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