Tactics are about manipulation of Space

Whenever two or more soccer coaches are gathered to talk about the nuances of the game talk invariably turns to formations, tactics and space. Formations are employed to accentuate certain and specific areas of space on the pitch that a team either wishes to deny to an opponent or utilize themselves to attack through. How a team manipulates space is its system of play. Specific tactical emphasis such as a pattern of play, particular combination play or purposefully channelling an attacker a certain direction serve to manipulate play towards or away from specific areas or space on the pitch.

In it's simplest form, when defending a team will want to deny space in front of the goal and when attacking will look to create space in front of the goal to be used only at the moment of striking a shot on goal. In a broader sense, manipulation of space must in each phase of the game and in each third of the field of play.

If a team wishes to attack directly they must preserve "negative space" between the opposing backs and their goal keeper until they are ready to play in that space. Target players playing in the seams between defending backs and defending midfielders are essential in keeping the defending backs high and negative space open while looking for vertical seams to attack through.

If a team is more about possessing the ball and building an attack, they will want forwards pushing the defending backs to create more space in front of them to possess the ball in. Possession teams are very much about changing the point of attack and forcing a defense to move laterally to create seems to attack through.

In summation, the coach needs to identify individual and collective strengths and weaknesses of his players. Then the coach must selection a formation that will accentuate strengths and cover weaknesses. Finally a decision needs to be made concerning space - how to deny space, how to create space and how to utilize space to his teams best advantage. This manipulation of space is what tactics are all about.

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