One Way to Keep the Compact

By Stevie Grieve

Atletico Madrid may not regain the Spanish League title that they earned last season, but Diego Simeone has kept them competitive in 3 competitions with arguably a weaker starting XI than last season, losing Goalkeeper Thibaud Courtois, Left Back Felipe Luis and Talismanic Striker, Diego Costa all to Chelsea. Simeone replaced these players with players of similar playing profiles;

Jan Oblak and Guillherme Siqueirha from Benfica, Mario Mandzukic from Bayern Munich, while adding mobile attacker Antoine Griezmann from Real Sociedad. This has given them a team with similar profiles in each area from last season while arguably a weaker team, other additions such as creative midfielder Cani, have given them more options Siqueirha is an attacking left back, Manduzkic is the

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Using a Fluid Formation

By Stevie Grieve

Lyon have been this season’s ‘surprise’ package in Ligue 1, with a team of cast-offs who have proved unsuccessful at other clubs and academy graduates, staying in the top 6 would be the realistic aim and top 3 would’ve been ambitious. As it has unfolded, Lyon have been one of the most attack minded teams in the league, scoring 60 goals in 31 games, and having the best goal difference in the league.

Some of the success has come from the emergence of Nabil Fekir and the continued improvement year on year of Alexandre Lacazette, the return to form of Yoann Gourcuff, and a stable 4-4-2 diamond formation, with attacking full backs providing the width when the dual strikers are more central.

Lyon use a fluid formation and one of the reasons for this is the

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Moving from Diamond to a Flat Midfield

By Stevie Grieve

Massimiliano Allegri was appointed Juventus coach in the summer after the departure of Antonio Conte to the Italian National Squad, and has tried to adapt the Conte 5-3-2 formation and solid defensive system, to a more expansive 4-4-2 diamond formation, using the energy or Pogba and Marchisio in central midfield while giving Tevez and new summer recruit Alvaro Morata more freedom of movement by playing a front 2 with an attacking central midfielder giving a central presence behind them.

This has led to success in the Champions League this season, and currently leaves them in an almost untouchable position at the top of Serie A. A large part of this is the coach and team’s ability to alter the 4-4-2 diamond and change to a 5-3-2. In the game v Borussia Dortmund, Andrea Pirlo was unavailable and inside the 1st 20 minutes, Juventus lost exciting midfielder Paul Pogba to injury.

The coach reacted to this by changing to

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Changing Defensive Shape During Play

By Stevie Grieve

During the run to winning La Liga in 2014 and reaching the Champions League Final in 2014, Diego Simeone’s well organised team were very flexible in their defensive structure. Normally a team who would play 4-4-2 in attack, they could play defensively in multiple formations; 4-4-2, 4-1-4-1, -4-5-1 and 4-3-3.

To do this from a starting position and stay in these positions and defend in the one shape is fairly easy to coach, but much more difficult is to teach players to understand how to come out of a compact 4-1-4-1 into a high 4-4-2 press and who compensates for the player coming out of line to help the front player, and what the different roles are for the players around the space which is vacated.

Thiago of Atletico de Madrid has been able to demonstrate the flexible positional qualities to understand when to move forward or back, how to shift laterally and cover space, without being exposed between the lines or in the space left to press, such as against Bayer Leverkusen.

Thiago between the lines in a 4-1-4-1


Here, we can see a clear 4-1-4-1 shape for

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Moving the Ball Away from Pressure

By Sean Pearson

Session Length: 90 mins

This session focuses on players recognizing when, where are how to move the ball away from pressure on one side of the field to a point on the other side of the field to attack from. One of my frustrations with players is not seeing the ‘bigger picture’ of the situation in front of them when the space around them is crowded. Players either force the ball further into the ‘scrum’ or if the ball gets passes out or pressure, because of a lack of awareness and incorrect body position the player receiving this ball, plays the next pass back where it has come from. The end result? Usually a loss of possession. So below I talk about when to switch the ball, player movement to help the switch and where to attack from after the switch. The reason I talk about this last point is the point of a switch is to change the point of attack to create a scoring chance, not to just keep possession by going back and forth over and over again.

Warm Up: 10 mins

Use a basic passing warm up to get players moving, receiving, passing and making decision.

  • 3 teams passing to only their own team, everybody on two touch. So players have to move to see the ball and make decisions on where and when the ball can be played,
  • Players can pass to anyone but if they receive from the same color they keep the ball, if they receive from a different color they must play a one time pass back, but it can’t be in the same direction.


 Technique Time: 15 mins

The first points of switching the ball are correct

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Adjusting Defensive Tactics

By Stevie Grieve

Pep Guardiola a main exponent of ‘positional play’ (or ‘Juego de posicion’ in Spanish) and uses a system based on overloads via occupying multiple defenders, occupying specific spaces, creating overloads and spaces to attack into whenever possible, and looking for ways to turn 11v11 into a 2v1 or 3v2 by placing players in areas where a zonal defence can be exploited.

A common feature of this is positioning a player in a pocket of space between the lines and in particular in the channels between wide and central players while between the lines. If a defender comes out of his zone to press, this leaves a gap for another to move into, and often de-stabilizes the defence for a few seconds, which is often exploited and leads to scoring chances.

If a player is unable to receive in any position, often they will only stay there for 2-3 seconds then make another quick run; the position will be interchanged with someone else, and the defenders have the decision – mark or stay in zone. The attackers regularly rotating positions causes confusion and often leads to Bayern overloading 2v1 or even leaving someone 1v0 in a dangerous area against the defensive line.

With the regular movement and occupation of several defenders with 1 or 2 players, this frees up players in defence or midfield to overload, gain control of the centre of the field then force the defence deeper.

Playing against positional play with a zonal defence is a job which requires a well drilled team and have the ability to deal with playing 3v2 or 4v3 in wide zones, but

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