Possession Football

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

  • How possession football works – a brief description of the mechanics of possession football tactics, as well as important player attributes, to help you to decide whether possession football suits your team and your preferences.
  • Suggested formations for possession football – tips for choosing a formation to use with possession football tactics, along with a list of suitable formations. The formations are listed in order of how attacking they are, with more advanced playing positions being considered to be more attacking.
  • The recommended team instructions for possession football – these are the team instructions that are typically used in possession football tactics.
  • Other suggested team instructions for possession football – these are additional team instructions suitable for possession 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 possession football – these are player instructions suitable for possession football tactics that you may want to look for in the player roles and duties that you choose.
  • Balancing risk in possession football – advice on how to balance your use of team instructions and player instructions.
  • Suggested transition tactics for possession football – these are additional transition team instructions suitable for possession football tactics that you may want to use.
  • Suggested player roles and duties for possession football – these are player roles and duties suitable for possession 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 “short” in these descriptions indicate suitability of the role/duty’s player instructions for possession 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 possession football example tactic – this is a possession 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 Possession Football Works

Possession football is a combination of defensive football and short 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 short plays attacking, your team, when in possession, will carefully penetrate space and keep possession by cycling possession, mainly creating space by drawing players out of position.

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 creativity (Anticipation, Decisions, Flair, Teamwork, Vision) – for M/AM(C/R/L)s and STCs in particular
  • Good mobility (Acceleration, Agility, Balance, Pace) – for M/AM(C/R/L)s and STCs in particular
  • Good physical presence (Strength) and aerial presence (Jumping Reach) – for D(C/R/L)s, DMCs and STCs in particular
  • Good off the ball movement (Off The Ball, Anticipation, Decisions, Teamwork) – for D/WB(R/L)s, M/AM(C/R/L)s and STCs in particular
  • Good control (First Touch) and passing ability (Passing, Technique) – for M/AM(C/R/L)s and STCs in particular

Suggested Formations for Possession 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 two MCs and an additional DM/M/AM(C) make it easier to cycle possession in central areas.
  • 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, while they also enable you to create overlapping movement between D/WB(R/L)s and M/AM(R/L)s or between AM(R/L)s and an STC (the former overlapping the latter in both cases by making more forward movement), which can create space more effectively.
    • 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.
    • In addition, formations with only D/WB(R/L)s on the flanks can still enable off-centre M/AM(C)s to be overlapped, while also making it easier to cycle possession in central midfield and central attack, which are the two most useful areas to keep possession in.
  • Formations with one DMC (especially if used as a Half Back) make it easier to use D(R/L)s that make more forward movement, such as Wing Back (D(R/L) Attack)s. However, this also makes it more difficult to cycle possession in more advanced central areas.

Suitable formations include:

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