When creating a training plan, it is vital to understand the purpose behind the training session, understand the role that each player has in the execution of the session objectives and most importantly, the optimal outcome that is expected to occur once the session ends. When these three components are noted, the session plan is ready to be created.
In the section Style of Play Overview in our club's Game model, there is a paragraph that states the following: "We want to be Protagonist of the match. Defensively we place players in scheme oriented defending to place opponents in situations that are in our control even when out of possession." That is our purpose behind working on high pressing defending.
Your purpose behind working on high pressure defending might be a weakness in your upcoming opponent during their build up phase or to disrupt an opponent's rhythm of play at certain moments in the game. In youth soccer, it could be a lack of technical ability from the goalkeeper and backline to skip lines via a long pass that will provide more opportunities to apply a high pressing tactic, due to the threat of a long pass being non-existent.
We will be working with a 4-1-2-3 (4-3-3). It will be vital that we create a visual picture for the opponent that shows we are pressing high but due to our positioning, the opponent still has the confidence to play out of the back. It is crucial that the opponent has this confidence, if this does not occur, the match will become a more physical game with defending aerial balls as a key theme.
We will move from top to bottom of the defensive shape and explain the roles and responsibilities of each player:
The #9 (Center-forward) will position himself centrally in preparation for the ball to be played to either side. The #9 (Center-Forward) helps discourage the switch of play while helping create a "pressing funnel" to force play into our center-mid. The #7/#11 (Wingers) will start their position in line with the opponent's center-backs. When the ball is played for the opponent's center-back, our #7 or #11 (winger) will press the ball while angling pressure to create a "cover shadow". A cover shadow provides the defending player an opportunity to press the 1st attacker while closing a passing lane to the 2nd attacker.
The #10 (Center-Attacking Mid) will cover the central area near the opponent's defensive midfielder, looking to man-mark the opponent's center-mid that checks in support of the ball. The #8 (Center-Mid) will play slightly underneath on the opposite central area, The #8 role is to press high if the ball is played to the opposite Center-back or defend a long ball from the goalkeeper with the intent to win the 1st or 2nd ball. It is vital our ball side center-mid either steps in front of the opponent Center-defensive mid or plays very tight on his back, this will provide the opportunity to force an error during the opponent's build up.
The #6 has an important role in marking the opponent's Center-Attacking mid while helping if possible "screen" or "shadow" the passing lane to the opponent's center-forward. The #4/#5 (Center-Backs) will get connected and be prepared to defend the long ball. The #2/#3 (Fullbacks) need to be ready to step up into the space between the opponent's winger and fullback. The key will be the ability of the fullback (i.e. #3) on the side where the ball is played to step into the midfield line and the opposite fullback (i.e. #2) to shift inside as an extra Center back.
Our defensive shape will become a 3-4-3 when the ball is played. The opposite flank will be named the "No danger zone". This is due to the understanding that if a long ball is played to the opposite side, we will have enough time to adjust our defensive shape while the ball is in flight.
The players need to be prepared for the ball to be played across to the opposite flank through a switch of play. When the ball is played across, we will continue shifting with the ball and if possible continue the high press on the opposite side.
Players need to be prepared to adjust their defensive organization and attitude when the pressing fails. If the opponent is able to eliminate the front 3 during the build up phase, the team needs to get into a connected defensive shape in the middle third with the emphasis on delaying the opponent's attack. The remaining defenders need to force play to wide areas or force a backwards pass. The players eliminated from the play must recover and connect to the defensive shape.
It is important to prepare players to be able to apply their correct roles and responsibilities for positive and negative situations.
The optimal outcome that should be achieved is to win possession of the ball in the middle to final third by forcing the opponent to make errors while attempting to build an attack out of the back.
The benefits of forcing these errors are the following:
Gain possession of the ball in the opponent's half.
Create more chances on goal due to the proximity to the opponent's goal.
Disrupt the rhythm and timing of the opponent's attack.
Make the match be played on our terms (We are the protagonist, even when we are not in possession of the ball)
I believe matches in any sport are about momentum, applying this tactic effectively will help the high pressing team dominate the momentum of the match.
Visual Example: (Pro Level)
Visual Example: (Youth Level)