Pressure or Stress?

Whether attacking or defending the idea is to control the pace of play.  Modern defenses play a pressing style that seeks to speed of the decision making process of their opponents.  Modern attacking schemes are relying evermore on making a set zonal defense side to side while probing developing in and out of developing seams until a breakthrough to goal can be achieved. This type of attack applies pressure to the opponents defense.

My question to you, is pressuring the opponent enough to turn the tide in a contest?

As regulars of this site will know, I got my start in basketball.  Many of the ideas expressed on this site have their roots in my basketball background. When zonal defense began presenting problems for my team, I looked to my basketball roots for the answers. When teams began playing a pressing style against us, I again turned to my basketball roots for the answers. And I am not alone in this approach.  There are a growing number of articles being published relating how soccer coaches are turning to basketball for answers to the problems modern soccer defending are presenting in the game.

However, this is not an article on applying basketball tactics to soccer. Rather, what I want you to consider today is the difference between pressuring and stressing the opponent.

First of all, a press in basketball is often about controlling the pace of play.  If the press is aggressive, the pace of play can be speeded up.  If the press is passive, the intent may be to slow the pace of the game down.  In either case the pressure applied is meant to force the opponent to alter their decision making process. Turning an opponent from a multiple decision player into a single decision player.  Taking the opponent from their comfort zone and forcing them to re-establish it on another level.

Pressure can be dealt with. Pressure can be solved if the team being pressured is adaptable.  In fact, an opponents pressure can be used against them if your teams decision making process is well defined and purposeful.  That is if you approach pressure with calm and poise.

Stressing an opponent is something altogether different. 

Stressing an opponent simply means presenting them with on-the-pitch problems they are not equipped and or able to solve.  This is where systems of play, tactics and schemes come into play.  In the youth soccer ranks we have discovered that releasing the outside backs not only pressures a defense to account for them, but can actually stress a defense to the point of completely breaking down.  Also in youth soccer strict adherence to disciplined zonal defending principles of play can stress an attack into unforced turnovers.

I encourage you to consider the differences between applying pressure to opponents and stressing an opponent.  You might also consider the differences between pressure and stress when conducting training sessions with your own team.  It is good to introduce elements of pressure into your training. You want to provide your team with opportunities to problem solve as a part of their training. This is a primary way to build confidence in the players and their play.  If this is true, then stressing players in train can surely destroy their confidence in their ability to play, correct?

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