Team shape  

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Modern defenses work very hard to retain a compact team shape. In a nutshell, this means that on defense, the team squeezes together vertically and horizontally to reduce spaces between players, cover better for each other, and create numbers up around the ball.

Compactness specifically closes down the “hole” in front of the defense, a danger area if opposing attacking midfielders and strikers get free there


A compact defense


The diagram shows a well-organized team in a compact shape.

Key points:

·         Even the sweeper is out of the penalty area

·         Near side midfield and defense are channeling play down the flank

·         The striker is cutting off lanes across the field

·         Midfielders are closing down attacking lanes to opposing midfielders

·         Defense is set up well to support

·         Few gaps, every player is within 10 yards of another player


Example: Loosely organized defense


Now that the defense has spread out, it’s got problems:

·         Loose defense is covering almost twice as big as a compact defense

·         Lots of holes and gaps

·         Easy passing lanes to midfield, where opponents have numbers up

·         Striker is detached and no help defensively

·         Far side players are spread far to the side, effectively out of the play

·         Sweeper is very deep, disconnected from rest of the defense


How do you stay compact?

Everyone on the team has to work on this, but there are four keys:

·         Striker works to isolate the attacker with the ball, channel play as required by team strategy

·         Defense pushes up to compress the field

·         Midfielders drop back quickly toward goal, and push in toward the center of the field, away from the wings. They do not hang around upfield, and do not allow the play to pass them on the inside

·         Far side players pull in toward the center of the field