clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Talking Tactics: The Elements of Soccer Tactics

Have you ever wondered what’s encompassed within soccer tactics? We’re taking a dive into the basics.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Minnesota United FC Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Tactics is on the mind of nearly ever soccer fan. Countless articles are released weekly going over different tactical approaches and how they affect the game.

Crammed with information is is easy to get lost, so let’s run through the basics.

A board definition of tactics is any collective actions of players during a match. Certainly a vast concept, tactics can include everything from a single pass on up to complex attacking interplay used to open up space.

This will be the the all-encompassing box for this discussion.

The most primitive elements of soccer tactics are the players (or their abilities) and the style of play (or coach’s directive).

Think of it like this, the players are the hardware and the collection of instructions on how to run plays are the software. Tactics are executed by the hardware, utilizing the instructions within the software.

These elements combine to create the basic policy of tactics. This policy is referred to as ‘basic’ only because of necessary in-match adjustments that are made depending on various situations. Situations that can elicit a tactical change include, but are not limited to, the opponent’s tactical approach, injuries on either side, and the in-game scoreline.

A policy of tactics is required to maintain squad performance through cooperative actions. Without such a strategy, the game would be driven through individual aspirations and abilities of players. Such an approach would only highlight singular actions, such as a shot, possibly discounting the string of cooperative actions leading to the aforementioned shot. This is incongruous with a team atmosphere and cannot lead to a successful season but might win a few matches.

It is the responsibility of the head coach to construct a complete policy of tactics. Before a team can operate collectively, it is necessary for the management to determine a policy of tactics first.

A policy of tactics is composed of four classifications of tactical actions, each defined by a single action, such as a pass or a dribble. Moreover, the four tactical actions categorizations are used to create collective movements through a combination of offensive and defensive attitudes, in addition to the tendency towards ball possession.

First, there are Ball Offense (BO) actions. These actions are specifically designed to create shots when in possession. An example of this type of action is a key pass in the opposition’s third.

Alternatively, actions for preventing opposition shots when in possession are called Ball Defensive (BD) actions. Such actions include pulling up defensively in an offside trap.

Non-Ball Offense (NO) actions, however, are actions for shots, when the opposition is in possession. This includes things such as the strikers jostling for position with the opposition’s defensive line.

Finally, actions to prevent opponent’s shots when the opposition is in possession is categorized under the Non-Ball Defense (ND) actions umbrella. Examples of these sort of actions are is the movement leading up to blocks, interceptions, and clearances.

The basic concept for each of these tactical actions is, when executed, movements of the ball and players are roughly determined to achieve the desired objective. As a result, three components come together to create a tactical action:

  • The basic understanding of the tactical action by the players;
  • The synchronization of player movements;
  • And, the formation.

These components operate on the assumption that a ball moves faster than the players’ running. So, in order to successfully complete a tactical action, all three components have to combine.

The heart of the matter is, tactics is a combination of all of these elements that lead to incredible synchronizations. These seemingly choreographed actions leave many in awe, and thus they call it the Beautiful Game.