Pressing can be defined as the elimination of space and time by the defending team, through quick and immediate action. The goal of pressing is to delay the attacking team a route to go forward, while working as a unit to win the ball back. Pressing from the front takes place in the opposition’s half, as opposed to the general concept of pressing or pressure, which more or less refers to anywhere on the field. This is a guide to some of the key coaching points to pressing at the 9v9 level.
Key Coaching Point: Striker First To Press
Two wingers, one striker and one central midfielder combine to create a diamond shape in defense. This shape needs to be maintained throughout the press. The striker should be the first to press on goal kicks and should curve their run toward the player. Immediate and quick action is required. The near-sided winger offers support in behind and covers the wide option. If the striker cannot get there in time, the near-sided winger is the first to press instead, but this is not ideal as it exposes the wide area as a passing option. Elsewhere on the field, the closest to the ball should be the first one to press for simplicity purposes.
Key Coaching Point: Pressure, Cover, Balance
When pressing, we should create a diamond shape and ensure we have each of the defending priorities in place. We have pressure on the ball from the striker, now we need cover in behind from the right winger, shutting down the most logical passing option for a second pass from their team. Providing balance, the far-sided winger should shift to the middle to offer support and close down potential passing options back across goal. The nearest central midfielder completes the diamond and covers in behind, closing down space and preventing forward passing options. We also can have the nearest defender provide balance, thus creating a second diamond. In this example, this involves the right-defender. The remaining players provide compactness, shifting to and closing down the middle of the field.
Key Coaching Point: Force to the Inside
In the opposition half, the player leading the press needs to force the player on the ball back toward their own goal (inside).
The body angle of the first player to press needs to be slanted to cut off the outside. The run of this player also needs to be curved rather than straight to set them up for this angle. This diamond shape is maintained as we force the defender toward a dangerous area, where one of our players is waiting to pounce.
Key Coaching Point: Shift and Disturb
If the ball somehow finds its way to the opposite side, a different four players may need to be involved in the press. This means that quick and immediate action is required from all players in shifting with the play. The striker should no longer be the first to press. Instead, the closest to the ball should be the one, which should probably be the left-winger. The two central midfielders will then work together to cover the potential passing options as they shift across, as the striker provides the balance. The left-back could in theory also cover the right winger if the central midfielder could not get there in time, but this is riskier as if they get beat, there is no one behind them.
Pressing is one of the key concepts in the modern game and as such is a crucial session topic for any coach at any level. This guide provides some of the key factors and coaching points to pressing from the front including which players are involved and the general roles and responsibilities of each player. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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