Long Ball Football

This starter guide will take you through the process of creating long ball football tactics for your team. It includes:

  • How long ball football works – a brief description of the mechanics of long ball football tactics, as well as important player attributes, to help you to decide whether long ball football suits your team and your preferences.
  • Suggested formations for long ball football – tips for choosing a formation to use with long ball football tactics, along with a list of suitable formations. The formations are listed in order of how defensive they are, with deeper playing positions being considered to be more defensive.
  • The recommended team instructions for long ball football – these are the team instructions that are typically used in long ball football tactics.
  • Other suggested team instructions for long ball football – these are additional team instructions suitable for long ball football tactics that you may want to use. However, it is recommended that you choose your player roles and duties before deciding upon additional team instructions.
  • Useful player instructions for long ball football – these are player instructions suitable for long ball football tactics that you may want to look for in the player roles and duties that you choose.
  • Balancing risk in long ball football – advice on how to balance your use of team instructions and player instructions.
  • Suggested transition tactics for long ball football – these are additional transition team instructions suitable for long ball football tactics that you may want to use.
  • Suggested player roles and duties for long ball football – these are player roles and duties suitable for long ball football tactics that you can choose from. Different responsibilities in different positional areas are covered separately, with a list of roles/duties given that can be used to perform each responsibility. Selecting one or more appropriate roles/duties to perform each responsibility in each positional area should give you balanced combinations. Shown next to each role/duty is a brief description of its own natural playing style. The words “defensive” and “direct” in these descriptions indicate suitability of the role/duty’s player instructions for long ball football, and the roles/duties are grouped in order of how suitable they are in this respect.
  • Overall forward movement – this is an advised method for checking that the forward movement of your players is balanced. It involves adding up a few different scores for your roles/duties and checking that the totals meet suggested targets.
  • A long ball football example tactic – this is a long ball football tactic that applies the advice given in this starter guide to select team instructions and player roles and duties. You may want to use this tactic for your own team or modify it to suit your own players or your preferences. Reading the rest of the tactics guides can help you to do this.

How Long Ball Football Works

Long ball football is a combination of defensive football and direct plays attacking.

As with defensive football, your team will take a low risk approach by playing in deeper areas; patiently keeping possession and retaining solidity when in possession, and protecting space when out of possession, therefore inviting more pressure from the opposition team and allowing available space to open up behind opposition players which can then be penetrated.

As with direct plays attacking, your team, when in possession, will directly penetrate space, mainly creating space by using physical power and forcing defensive mistakes from opposition players.

As part of defensive football, attacks will be developed more directly, with the earlier stages of build-up play involving relatively longer passes from your more defensive-minded players in order to help your team to penetrate the space behind the opposition before they re-organise.

Important player attributes:

  • Good endeavour (Aggression, Bravery and Work Rate) – for M/AM(C/R/L)s and STCs in particular
  • Good physical presence (Strength), aerial presence (Jumping Reach) and mobility (Acceleration, Agility, Balance, Pace) – for M/AM(C/R/L)s and STCs in particular (and physical presence and aerial presence also for D(C/R/L)s and DMCs in particular)
  • Good crossing ability (Crossing) – for D/WB/M/AM(R/L)s in particular
  • Good dribbling ability (Dribbling) and heading ability (Heading) – for M/AM(C/R/L)s and STCs in particular

Suggested Formations for Long Ball Football

Tips for choosing a formation:

  • More defensive formations make it easier to invite opposition pressure before penetrating space behind opposition team players.
  • Formations with with three DCs and three DM/M(C)s make it easier to retain solidity in central defence and central midfield, which are the two most important areas to protect.
  • Formations with D/WB(R/L)s and M/AM(R/L)s make it easier to both retain solidity on the flanks and penetrate space behind opposition D/WB(R/L)s. However, formations with only WB(R/L)s on the flanks (and three DCs) make it easier to invite opposition pressure on the flanks and can still be effective at penetrating space behind opposition D/WB(R/L)s while also retaining solidity effectively. Formations with only D(R/L)s on the flanks (and only two DCs) make it difficult to combine penetrating this space with retaining solidity, while they also make it difficult to directly penetrate space in advanced areas on the flanks.
  • Formations with two AM/ST(C)s and either two AM(R/L)s or two STCs in particular make it easier to directly penetrate space in advanced areas.
    • Formations with two AM(R/L)s make it easier to directly penetrate space in advanced areas on the flanks.
    • Formations with two ST(C)s make it easier to directly penetrate space in advanced central areas.
  • Formations with two AM/ST(C)s are easier to choose balanced roles/duties for. However, they also encourage the opposition team’s deeper central players to stay back.

Suitable formations include:

  • 4-2-2-2 DM – fairly defensive
    • 4 Ds / 2 DMCs / 2 M(R/L)s / 2 STCs
  • 5-1-2-2 DM WB – neutral
    • 3 DCs / 2 WBs / 1 DMC / 2 MCs / 2 STCs
    • Instruct MCs to Stay Wider to provide support to the flanks
  • 4-2-3-1 DM AM Wide – neutral
    • 4 Ds / 2 DMCs / 1 AMC / 2 AM(R/L)s / 1 STC
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