Category Archives for Game Review

Becoming More Flexible and Unpredictable

By Alex Trukan

Formations are often the first thing that comes to our mind when talking about tactics. We hear numerous TV commentators introducing a team starting with a formation they play: 4-5-1, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1. Formation is a big part of the team’s tactics as it is a tool which helps to fulfil team’s style of play, however, it is not the best reflection of it. Especially when attacking, we rarely see players in exact the same positions and shapes throughout the whole game. Modern teams are becoming more flexible, unpredictable and often playing in a very unusual ‘shapes’. That points our attention into considering a shape as something which is not ‘set’, but rather than that, very flexible, with different effects depending on its’ characteristics. For example, we might see a team playing with no players positioned around the opposition’s back line what will then create an overload in midfield and at the back as well as open up opportunities to make unpredictable forward runs. That makes the shape asymmetric and flexible.

One of the first examples of the asymmetric shape is creating overloads on one side of the pitch. That might involve winger staying wide, striker making a movement into wide areas as well as midfielder supporting them. By doing that, three players will be positioned within 5-10 yards from each other, what will create an opportunity to combine play as well as drag opposition players in to mark them. It can also help to isolate winger/full back on the opposite side.


On the other hand, a team might choose to leave no players on the opposite side to where the ball is. That makes it possible to play through the opposition as they will retain a certain level of width, no matter how narrow the attacking team is playing. This type of shape encourages to play forwards rather than recycle play and switch sides.


Another example might be when a team creates an overload on their own half, leaving a lone striker on the opposite side. That enables them to have controlled possession during build up play, gives them defensive security as well as invites the opposition to press what will open up possibilities to play forwards (into the striker) quickly.


In this type of situation, wingers might come towards central areas to create additional option when trying to play forwards through the opposition defensive block. As we can see below, striker is the player that stays high to create a degree of attacking depth and stretch the opposition shape.


Narrowness in the attacking shape can not only be applied in terms of width, but also in length. Positioning players only within the middle third leaves enough width to recycle the play but also provides opportunities to play into space behind the opposition’s back line. It also potentially stretches the width of the defending team’s shape what helps to break through them.



As coaches who design our team’s style of play, it would help to be aware of how does different shapes affect the attacking opportunities. It is, therefore, important to be open minded and not restricted by only looking at formations. That will help us to create our own identity and come up with new tactics and strategies.

By Alex Trukan, Development Coach, Nottingham Forest


Situational Training for Individual Skill – Part 2

By Alex Trukan

First part of the article covered brief introduction as well as different types of ‘1v1’ situations according to the position of the defender. The second part of the article will look more critically at the whole concept of ‘1v1’ situation and how it is understood and coached. In order to better understand how does ‘1v1’ look in the game and does ‘1v1’ even exist, it is worth to consider different components that surround it. These might include: pressure of the defender, players around the attacker (attacking support), players around the defender (defending support), direction, area of the pitch, body position of the attacker/defender, tactics or even score of the game.

These components are always ever changing and influencing ‘1v1’ situation. That is why, in fact, ‘1v1’ is only a buzzword used by players and coaches that simplifies a very complex game situation. Therefore, there is never a pure ‘1v1’ situation in the game (hence a quotation mark is used). There are always other characteristics (mentioned earlier i.e. players around the attacker, score) involved in it which make every ‘picture’ in the game unique. Understanding of how these concepts influence the player on the ball and how every situation is different can help us, as coaches to provide higher quality and more realistic training for our players.


First of all, let’s have a look at the pressure on the player with the ball. The types of pressure (front/side/back) mentioned in the previous article rarely happen in isolation. It is usually a combination of defenders coming from different directions and with different distances away from the ball. That is why, it might be the case that an attacker has got one defender from the front to beat, but couple of yards away from the back there is another one chasing him what determines attacker’s speed (if he slows down, the defender from the back will be able to apply pressure). There might be also one defender coming from the side which will make the attacker more likely to dribble in the opposite direction from him, restricting his options to beat a defender coming from the front.


The players around the defender and spaces available is another influencer of the ‘1v1’ situation. For example, ‘1v1’ with the defender from the front who has players around him in good supporting positions will restrict the attacker to exploit the spaces in behind the defender, forcing him to dribble sideways or backwards. Also if attacking support is available, it might affect decision making of the player on the ball who will be more likely to use support rather than dribble.


Another important component is the area in which ‘1v1’ occurs. That will usually affect objectives of the attacker and desired outcome. It will also influence the tricks used as well as change of tempo and direction. In example, when the attacker is in a good goalscoring position (i.e. in the penalty box), the objective could be to create an angle for a shot, not get past a defender. That will in turn require more upper body disguise as well as quick decision making.


Area of the pitch in which ‘1v1’ occurs will also influence ratio between risks (what you might lose if unsuccessful) and rewards (what you might gain if successful) involved. Attacker in the opposition’s penalty box might gain a shot on target if he gets past a defender but in case he loses the ball, the opponents will be still far away from his goal (therefore the risk is low). Risks and rewards might be also influenced by the players around the ball as well as score of the game.


Finally, even small details like body position of the attacker/defender will affect the effectiveness of ‘1v1’ situation. Attacker facing the opposition’s goal is much more likely to dribble forwards and see a teammate in a better position than the attacker facing away from the opposition’s goal. Body position of the defender might also ‘guide’ the attacker in a certain way.


Understanding some of the components that affect the ‘1v1’ situation help us to design more effective sessions that are not only more realistic but also fit exactly into the needs of the players. It also makes us appreciate different reasons why a player was successful or unsuccessful in his dribbling.

By Alex Trukan, Development Coach, Nottingham Forest


Situational Training for Individual Skill – Part 1

By Alex Trukan

Dominating 1v1 situations has been a widely discussed topic over the last years. Many clubs have chosen to design their philosophy around this area stating that they want to consistently win ‘1v1’ situations both in attack and defence. That approach can be adapted at all levels of the game, whether it’s U6’s or 1st team football. Although widely discussed, a ‘1v1’ topic is probably not fully understood, with many practices being not realistic and not reflecting the situations in the game. That is why, it would be useful to have a look at 1v1’s from the tactical point of view, investigating how it fits into team strategy concept and how different types of it can be applied effectively.

First of all, it would be worth to consider how does a ‘1v1’ situation emerge? There are two perspectives on that – reactive and proactive. Reactive approach is when a ‘1v1’ situations emerge randomly, and the team in possession tries to exploit them only when they ‘happen’. Therefore, they happen as a by-product of other objectives that team tries to achieve (i.e. attack through the wings, play 4-3-3 formation etc.) Proactive approach is on the other hand ‘creating’ 1v1’s. That might, for example, happen through choosing specific areas and players that will try to exploit 1v1’s as well players around them that will create space by their movements off the ball.


Pressure from the front

Once the team chooses ‘proactive’ approach to create 1v1 situations, it is worth to mention different types of 1v1s (according to the position of the defender) that might be created. Probably the most traditional and common type is when the attacker faces the defender. That puts an attacker into advantageous position as it gives him more vision to play forwards as well as possible options to go in various directions. Also from mechanical point of view, it is more efficient and quicker to run forwards (attacker) than backwards (defender).


In most of the situations, facing the defender will also mean facing the opposition goal, what is a disadvantageous scenario for the defending player. In order to further unbalance the defender, it can be recommended that attacker changes direction, tempo as well as uses a variety of tricks such as ‘scissors’, ‘step overs’, ‘maradona’, ‘shoulder drop’ etc.


Pressure from the side

Another type of ‘1v1’ situation is when the defender pressurises the attacker from the side. This is the scenario that is probably least practiced and from my observations, a lot of the players struggle with it. In particular, it can be seen many times when attacker slows down/stops and allows the defender to face him rather than taking him on when the defender is on the side. Winning this type of a duel requires bigger touches into space forwards as well as body strength to get past the defender. Upper body disguise (fake) movement might be also helpful to ‘freeze’ the defender.



Pressure from the back

Third type of 1v1 situation is when the attacker faces away from the defender. This is relatively the most difficult situation for the attacker as his ‘free’ movement options are restricted to only going backwards or sideways. His vision also points in the direction away from the opposition goal what makes it more difficult to see options in front of the ball and play forwards.


This type of situation also requires upper body disguise as well as physical qualities to change direction and turn away. It also often links to shielding and protecting the ball, requiring strength and core stability. Tricks to beat a defender are also relevant (‘scissors’, ‘step overs’, ‘shoulder drops’ etc.)


Finally, it is worth to mention that all three types of ‘1v1’ situations mentioned above happen in all areas of the pitch. That should be reflected in the practices design as well as players we coach on different positions.

Part 2 of the article will cover critical analysis and evaluation of the ‘1v1’ situation.

By Alex Trukan, Development Coach, Nottingham Forest


How Full Backs Have Changed Wingers

By Alex Trukan

Position of a winger has primary importance in the attacking strategy of many teams. Initially, their responsibilities were based around winning duels on the wings as well as delivering crosses into the box. However, that has evolved over the last years and now being a winger requires more versatile abilities and intelligence off the ball. Modern winger became a player that can be classed as a second striker or even a playmaker. That has happened due to evolving position of the full back which now started to occupy more attacking positions and spaces that used to be only utilised by traditional wingers. Evolution of a winger’s position has been also a response to increasingly better organised defences and changes in the role of a striker.

Once full backs started to be increasingly involved in the attacking on the opposition’s half, wingers started to move into more central positions in order to enable overlaps to happen. That has placed additional demands on them to be a ‘playmaker’ and link play with other midfielders and strikers. Having wingers cutting inside opened up possibilities to create a different angle for the strikers to run at and receive through ball as well as created more space for the midfielders who will be now less occupied by the opposition players. It has also started a trend to play ‘wrong footed’ wingers.



In addition to driving with the ball into central areas, winger can also have his starting position centrally to then receive the ball. The key space is the area between the opposition’s defence and midfield units and between opposition’s full back and centre back. Body position to play forwards it the technical detail to focus on.



Another role of the winger might be to cut inside when the ball is on the opposite side of the pitch. That will create an opportunity to support a striker (or be a lone striker if he is not in the box) and be a finisher. The run should start on the ‘weak’ side of the opposition’s centre back/full back and curve to arrive in the key area between the back line and the goalkeeper.



Another key area for the winger to be positioned in, is the ‘zone 14’. This is the space that is normally occupied by the striker but having a winger in it instead, gives an opportunity for the striker to go and support wing play, make forward runs into the penalty box or create an overload in midfield.



Positioning in the central areas in the early phases of the attack gives a winger an opportunity to make runs in behind the opposition’s back line. That does not necessarily mean that the ball will be played to him. Instead of that, this type of movement creates space for the full back (opposition back line will drop back) as well as midfielders to receive.



Having a winger making a run in behind the opposition’s back line instead of a central midfielder will usually (not always) mean that a run is made quicker as well as more players who are better ‘playmakers’ will remain in central areas (central midfielders not making forward runs).



All of the above mentioned changes in how winger’s position might look like, changes the way we should develop players at younger ages. As we can see, modern winger has to be able to execute elements of midfielder’s and striker’s craft. That will mean positioning players in different positions and being flexible in the formation might be the way forwards.

By Alex Trukan, Development Coach, Nottingham Forest