The porous high-press? An experimental approach investigating tactical behaviours from two pressing strategies in football

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The aim of this study was to analyse footballers’ tactical behaviours from their position data, as an effect of two contrasting pressing strategies, high-press defending and deep-defending, using a trial-based experimental approach. Sixty-nine youth footballers participated in this 11 versus 11 study, performing 72 trials of attack versus defence, in a counterbalanced crossover study design. Players’ position data were captured using a local positioning system, and processed to calculate measures of inter-team distance, trial duration, distance to nearest opponent, dispersion, team length, team width, team shape, space control gain, inter-line distance, and individual area. This was augmented by the notational analyses of passes. The findings showed that using a high-press defending strategy leads to: closer inter-team distance; larger dispersion, due to a longer team length; and larger inter-line distances between defenders, midfielders, and forwards. The resulting effects on the attacking team include reduced ball possession time; larger individual areas for attacking midfielders and forwards; longer team length; and more penetrative passes performed. Some differences in marking behaviour were also observed. Consequently, the study recommends that high-press defending be used sparingly due to these trade-offs.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Sports Sciences
Issue number19
Pages (from-to)2199-2210
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Research areas and keywords

  • Tactical behaviour
  • collective movement behaviour
  • defending
  • soccer
  • tactical analysis