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6 Tips For Effective High Pressing In Football

6 tips for effective high pressing in football

High pressing tactical mechanisms have been really popular in the modern game of football.

High pressing has been primarily popularized by Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund but there is a handful of coaches that were already using high pressing tactics in football such as Pep Guardiola and Marcelo Bielsa.

It is a tactic that many offensive-oriented teams use to win the ball closer to the goal.

It offers the opportunity to win possession of the ball higher up the field, close or inside the attacking third. As a result, the chances of scoring a goal drastically increase, making it a valuable tactical tool in any coach’s hands, if used properly.

In case you also want a visual representation of all the points mentioned in this article, we have created this in-depth video to give you a better idea of how a high press can be effectively applied.

What Is High Pressing?

High Pressing is a zonal defending mechanism in football that teams use to win possession of the ball near or inside the final/attacking third to score a goal on a fast attack.

There are many terms associated with high pressing tactics. Each of them is basically used to describe a slightly different form of high pressing.

For example, the term “Gegenpressing” is directly linked to the German Liverpool coach; Jurgen Klopp.

Gegenpressing translates into “Counter-Pressing” or countering the counter-attack.

In other words, players press the holder of the ball immediately after the loss of possession.

RELATED ARTICLE – High Pressing In Football – How To Beat It | A Guide For Footballers

Some other terms such as “Pressing Traps” or “Positional Press” are also commonly used.

THE DIFFERENT HIGH PRESSING MECHANISMS IN FOOTBALL

Here’s an overview of the most common high pressing styles in football and their key aspects;

  • Gegenpressing – a form of pressing applied immediately after the loss of possession by the players that are positioned closer to the ball with the aim of regaining possession of the ball and scoring on a fast attack. This press is characterized by the application of intense and fast pressure on the player in possession of the ball.
  • Positional Press – a form of pressing applied close or inside the final third, primarily by the attacking duo or trio with the aim of blocking passing lanes/options. This may result in a sloppy pass or missed 1st touch by the opposition. The positional ress is characterized by smart positioning, communication, body language, and attackers who can utilize their opponents’ mistakes fast and effectively.
  • Pressing Traps – a hybrid pressing style that is used to force the ball to the weak link of the team (positional pressing) and then apply intense and fast pressing (Gegenpressing) to gain possession of the ball and score on a fast attack.

Although these pressing terms aren’t officially linked to any of the purposes mentioned, they can offer clarity and structure to one’s “tactical database”.

All of the pressing styles mentioned have some key aspects in common, with some slight modifications that make each of them unique and specific to the scenario they are used.

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COMMON CHARACTERISTICS OF ALL PRESSING STYLES

  • Block passing lanes
  • Minimize progressive options (passing options/open spaces)
  • Force a mistake (tactical or technical)
  • Shift the opposition/ball
  • Lead the ball to the weak link of the team
  • Win possession of the ball as close to the goal as possible

RELATED ARTICLE – 9 Ways To Become A Smart Footballer | (World-Class Level)

The Characteristics Of A High-Pressing Team

The use of high pressing tactics in football requires a series of technical, tactical, physical, and mental skills, not every player possesses. This is also the main obstacle coaches with a high pressing philosophy usually meet.

The solution to that is either good scouting and player recruitment or the development of the core characteristics of high pressing. The latter definitely is a difficult job, but it’s well worth the effort and time.

Here are some of the most common characteristics high pressing players and teams have.

1. Well-conditioned players

High pressing tactics are really intense and demanding on the body and mind. The application of pressure basically includes short high-intensity bursts and lots of changes of direction.

Game stress can slowly build up fatigue during the game. This fatigue can lead to a less effective application of high pressing later during the game. In some cases, this inefficiency can leave many gaps behind and the defense out of balance.

As you can understand, a high-pressing style of play requires a good level of physical and mental conditioning.

Both their aerobic and anaerobic capacity needs to be at a high level so that they can press effectively for longer periods during the whole span of a 90-minute game.

On one hand, they need to develop a good anaerobic system that doesn’t leave them out of breath in those high-intensity bursts. On the other hand, they also need the aerobic capacity to be able to apply intense pressure for the whole duration of the game.

2. Fast and agile players

On top of great conditioning, players also need to be fast and agile. These two traits will enable them to cover more distance in less time making their high pressing strategy more efficient and effective.

Fast and agile players simply won’t allow their opponents to commit mistakes, even those little ones! Powerful players simply won’t leave any margins for failure for their opponents.

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3. Smart positioning – Cover Shadow

A vital aspect of an effective pressing strategy is smart positioning. The primary aim of high pressing in football is to block progressive passing options.

This can only happen with smart positioning.

Cover shadow defending is the most appropriate way to do so. You’re essentially positioning yourself in such a way that you’re preventing a pass to anyone that’s behind your back.

To cover that space and block passing options, you certainly have to be aware of the movements happening in your blindside and then adjust your pressing with proper body language/by curving your run.

RELATED ARTICLE – High Pressing In Football – How To Beat It | A Guide For Footballers

4. Proper body language and curved runs

Positioning is one key aspect of pressing, however, the way you press aka your body language and the direction of your run are also really important.

It all comes down to the details!

Use your body and the direction of your run to lead your opponent to where you want them to go by blocking the space you don’t want them to move into.

You can use your body and running direction to either a) direct/shift your opponent to their weak side/link or b) fool/force them to commit a mistake.

5. Achieve relaxed aggression by properly managing your emotions

Since most attacking players hardly ever have to defend, they have a hard time controlling their emotions and tend to get overhyped when it’s time to press.

This gives their opponents an easy way out (at least most of the time). A simple touch on the ball and you’re out of the play. Not only that, but you’re also leaving your team vulnerable.

Don’t get me wrong. Going all in and showing work ethic is great. Having said that, we shall also note that going with 100% intensity and speed into a defensive action isn’t quite the best solution.

Instead, you need to gain awareness and clarity on when you need to switch on and off.

This is what you call relaxed aggression, a term that I stumbled upon listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Deep Game Basketball.

Play with the intensity of your actions; accelerate and decelerate, stay balanced, be ready to react, and fire yourself up when it is ACTUALLY time to catch your opponent off balance.

In other words, play with the emotions of your opponents by managing yours properly. Don’t let excitement take control of how you press. That’s a shortcut to failure.

Stay relaxed and attack when it is time to shock your opponent.

6. Teamwork makes the dream work – push the backline up!

Pressing is a zonal defending mechanism. Because it is zonal, it is wise to say that the positioning of every player plays a major role in the success of the mechanism.

Despite pressing being a sub-team tactical action, the positioning and movement of each player on the team are critical.

Apart from the players that are closer to the ball that are obviously pressing more actively, every player on the team simply has to move higher up the field and close in any gaps to provide defensive cover and support.

This is done to block even more passing options but to also react faster and more efficiently in case the opposition beats your press.

Without teamwork, the opposition will find a gap and exploit it. This can have some detrimental consequences for your team.

Everything starts from the keeper and ends with the attackers actively involving themselves in the press. One miscalculated move from a player, even by one that isn’t apparently the most important in the press, and your team is out of balance.

Press as a unit – move as a unit. Leave no gaps. There are no margins to fail in a high-risk-high-reward tactical mechanism.

RELATED ARTICLE – 10 Ways To Build Chemistry With Your Teammates In Football

Final Thoughts

Using a high pressing strategy in football obviously is effective. There’s no doubt about that. However, players and coaches just need to be more aware of how they’re going to pull this mechanism off when it’s game time.

Balance, structure, teamwork, intensity, body language, are just some of the self-talk and communication triggers you can use as a player/team to navigate the press.

THE “SECRET SAUCE” TO MASTER HIGH PRESSING IN FOOTBALL

Theory is great.

It allows you to better understand the what, when, and why behind your actions. However, theory without practice becomes useless.

I highly encourage you to start practicing these high pressing principles at team training. Practice simply makes perfect.

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REVERSE-ENGINEERING THE HIGH PRESSING STRATEGY IN FOOTBALL

One strategy we use at FootXFit to gain clarity on a new skill, movement, etc. is reverse-engineering the process.

I strongly encourage you to read our article on how to BEAT a high pressing strategy in football to better understand how you need to act.

Knowing the opposition’s “secrets” gives you a major advantage.

Take that advantage now.

Click here to read.

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