La Pausa – Tactical Analysis

La Pausa – Spanish for ‘The Pause’ is a fantastically useful skill for players looking to fool their opponents. La Pausa is a skill whereby players in possession of the ball pause momentarily, drawing in defenders and enticing them to make a movement toward the ball. After the defender makes a movement toward them, the player in possession will often quickly speed up play or then make their pass or movement in a direction that exploits the fact that the defender has approached them. Typically, La Pausa is associated with a midfield maestro who operates in between lines, such as a Xavi Hernandez or David Silva. However, the master of the disguise might just be Xavi’s former Barcelona and Spain teammate – Sergio Busquets. Busquets is fantastic at many things, but his ability to slow the game down and then speed it up in an instance is quite incredible.

La Pausa is thought to have originated from Argentine footballer Ricardo Bochini, who was known for having a natural knack in predicting the behaviour of his opponent. With the slowing down of the game and then quick passes or movements based on the reactions of the defenders, the tempo of the game can effectively be controlled. Sometimes maintaining possession as a player and doing “nothing” often draws in defenders and entices them towards the ball. This then creates optimal space for players to move into, especially because the longer a player holds the ball, the more time defenders may spend ball watching and not watching the movement of the players around them off-the-ball. In slowing down the game when in possession, Busquets will often look one way and pass another, completely fooling his teammates. This can often entice players toward the wrong player.

In many of these examples, not only does Busquets slow the game down and often force defending players to approach him, he also completely opens up the space for his opponents.

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Slowing to a walking pace and then speeding up or looking one way then passing another are perhaps the two most common examples of how to implement La Pausa in a match. However, another really useful method of La Pausa is what is known as “La Pelopina” – a 360 degree turn. When pressure is applied, a player implementing La Pelopina will turn around as though they are going to pass backward and then swiftly turn again back the direction they came, on the opposite side of the pressuring defender. Below you can watch how Xavi did it against Zinedine Zidane way back in the early 2000s.

As evidenced by Xavi, this kind of turn often involves the player protecting and putting their body in between the ball and the defender as they rotate 360 degrees. When the turn is correctly performed, not only does it open space for the individual in possession, but it creates a moment of time to allow teammates to gain a positional advantage.

Many young players have a habit of doing one of two things after receiving the ball – either they take off without looking at what’s around them, or they just kick it without looking at what is around them. By trying to implement La Pausa, players will be more meticulous in their decision making and are encouraged to scan the field before making the best course of action in possession. Patience can be a very crucial skill for a player to have. It’s different from a lack of urgency and it needs to be done at the right moment. There is a time and place for this skill to occur and players hardly ever pull this kind of skill off in their own half.

La Pausa doesn’t even necessarily have to refer to slowing down, but can instead be used as a method of waiting for the right moment to pass. When they have space to do so, players can often give themselves optimal thinking time and draw defenders toward them by delaying a pass. In the below example, Xavi is very clever in waiting for exactly the right moment to pass into his winger – Pedro, leading to a goal.

In the video above, Xavi is constantly aware of Pedro’s position and movement. However, he waits to draw the defenders in first before sliding the pass into Pedro. He is also constantly aware as the seconds tick on that he needs to make a pass, but he does not rush into a rash decision. He does not try to slip in David Villa or Lionel Messi, who remain unmarked the entire time. Instead he has the vision and foresight to wait for the perfect moment to slip Pedro in. He waits for Pedro to make a little backwards movement off the back of Nemanja Vidic and at that exact moment, slides him in through on goal. Pure genius.

The ability of a player to hold the ball, see their options and then play at the right moment based on what they see is a highly sought after skill. If players learning their trade can harness this skill and slow the game down before speeding it up, they can become twice the player and completely open up the game for their teammates. For more articles like this check out our Coaching and Tactics sections.

Thanks for reading and see you soon!


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