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Attacking against Low Block Teams

German Top Level Tactics

  • Match Solutions against a Back Four and Back Five

  • Change in Perpective

  • Drills

    • For own Ball Possession

    • For Counterpressing​​

Author: Steven Turek

Edited by: Peter Schreiner

Layout: Oliver Schreiner

Publisher: Institut für Jugendfußball

Pages: 98

Picture: 66


Prologue by Steven Turek

Dear Coaching-Colleagues,

there are numerous duels in soccer between uneven teams - David versus Goliath. Thereby, it is not uncommon that “David” chooses an extremely defensive tactic with the single aim to prevent any goals against. Coaches used to operate with a back four, but recent trends show that now, coaches even utilize a back chain of five players, which promises an increase in the stability of the defense. However, these kinds of tactics are not only used in duels against an uneven opponent. Teams like Atletico Madrid regularly make use of such tactical alignments. They draw back deeply and defend in a compact formation with an intense manner so that a breakthrough seems impossible. To grasp this alternative of defensive tactics as a great challenge is the obligation of every coach.

Steven Turek attack low block teams

Due to this reason, the by now fifth part of the series “German Top Level Tactics”deals with the tactical play against deeply defending opponents. You will find detailed tactical ideas against low block opponents in the known segmentation (principles - solutions - exercises). A concrete differentiation takes place in view of the chosen tactical formation of the opponent. Thus, you can find tactical solutions against a 4:4:2 as well as solutions against a 5:4:1, which strongly differ in their constitution and execution. To change the perspective and analyze how the opponent will probably defend in their tactical alignment of a back chain of four or five players shall further contribute to the understanding.

The already known counterpressing could play a major role in the operation against a low block team - also to score goals. Thereto, you find concrete examples of exercises in the practical part. In this section, you also find various exercises, which aim to improve the creation of goal scoring chances. The book is rounded off by principles of training as well as by numerous variations and coaching cues.

Enjoy reading, Steven Turek

Attacking against low Block Teams

Tactical Principles​
Attacking against low Blok teams tactics
Outplay Entire Lines


The first fundamental principle refers to the build-up of lines in the defensive construct. A key element of the attacking play is to outplay entire defensive lines. From this basic concept emerges a variety of possibilities of execution. In the lower illustration, several players offer passing options into the direction of the ball (6 and 8), secure the up moving of the ball and the save outplaying of the defensive line from Blue. 

The downside of the possibility to outplay entire defensive lines is the fact that many players remain in the first or second third of the field. Therefore, often times unfavorable ratios of players are created and a successful attack is complicated. This condition remains even when players move up and possibly improve the ratio - initially, there will be unfavorable situations. Furthermore, one

could assume, when playing against a deeply defending opponent, that players, who drop to the height of their defensive back chain (as for example 6 or8), are not followed. Thus, no free spaces are created, which could possibly be used and exploited.


Thus, the following guiding principle holds true: Outplay opposing lines with a minimum of own players!

outplaying the opponents strikers
Outplaying the opponents strikers


High Ball Distant Center Back​


The primary goal for every build-up is the outplaying of the opposing forwards with as little effort as possible (which means with as few own players as possible). This aim could be realized especially by shifting the play. 2 is situated on the wing in ball possession. The opponent quickly and effectively shifts towards the ball-side and closes all passing options into the depth (for instance to 7 or 9). Both forwards (9 and 11) shift as well towards the ball-side. Depending on the pressing strategy or the trigger, the ball-distant forward (11) tilts distinctly to create contact to both CM’s (6 and 7). The positioning of both center backs is crucial. If the ball is combined out of the side over 4 (the height of 4 is another crucial aspect in order to prompt Blue into movement), 5 gains as much height as possible without risking to suffer a loss of the ball.

Change in Perspective

"Attacking against Low Block Teams" consists a lot of change in perspective. In that a situation is presented from a different point of view mostly by the opponent. This way the strategies and principles are understood easier.  

pulling out the centre back soccer tactics
Pull Out the Opposing Center Back​

The best option to overplay the opposing defensive construct results from the position of the CF. If he releases into the between space of the chains, the following difficulty for the blueteam is created („Pick your Poison“): If 9 is passed to and no CB follows him, he can open up to the pitch and dribble towards the chain. However, if 4 follows 9 man-to-man, he rips a gap into the back four. This gap can be exploited by a third man. Due to the positioning of 9, the demand of defending for the Blue team increases.

With the pass from 5 to 9 (and the pulled out 4), 8 sprints into the created gap (“Head Towards Open Passing-Lanes”) and can receive a pass as a third man into the depth (3 - attention: No horizontal pass at 2!). All further players in the upper area (10 and 7) start in and around the box to generate further passing options.

Advantages of a Back Five
Advantage of playing with a back five soccer tactics

Stepping outside the chain

Formations with a back five respectively three center backs are especially meant for the movements of the opposing players between the chain. The difficulty at what moment a center back exits the chain to cover a player is eliminated by the fact that now three center backs are positioned. Thereby, it is possible to exit the chain at any time to cover a player since a back four is guaranteed at all times, even with a bad timing of the exit. Occurring gaps, created by leaving the chain, are distinctly smaller and thus, harder to pass into.

Consequence: Whilst the in-between play and the pulling out of a center back represents an optimal strategy against a back four, this is no effective option against a back five. Especially movements of the center forwards, who draw away from the chain into the between spaces, are effectively intercepted.

Drills to develop playing against low block Teams​
Soccer Drill playing against low block teams

10 vs. 9 with Zones for the OM

Organization: In the marked field is played a 10 vs 9. Thereby, the back four of the defending team is positioned inside the marked stripe. Beyond that, two redplayers are located in the boxes for the offensive midfielder (exclusively). If one of these offensive OM’s is passed to, only the defenders located inside the stripe can interfere. The attackers try to score. If the zone is outplayed, no defender is allowed to interfere anymore. The defenders counterattack on the mini-goals if they gain possession of the ball. In case of a ball exiting the field, the central forward reopens the play with a ball from the depot (this player does not play inside the field, but only serves as an additional passing option).

Coaching: It is due to the organization, that the opposing center backs are regularly pulled out of their positions. These spaces shall be recognized and headed to.

Variation: The defenders defend up to the goal.

Soccer Drill Safe area against low block teams
9 vs. 9 with Safe Areas

Organization: A field is set up from penalty box to penalty box. Additionally, a one meter wide outside-zone is set up. Moreover, in each half offside-lines exist. The team in ball possession is allowed (not the defenders) to use the narrow outside-zones (“Safe-Areas”). However, in the zone solely up to two touches are allowed - at the latest, the third touch must redirect the ball into the field. Passes inside the safe-area are not allowed. 

Coaching: The players shall outplay the lines by the first touch by moving along that line as close as possible (Safe-Area). The thematic priority lays on the first and second touch of the outside players and his continue of the play. 

Variation: Widen the Safe-Areas. The rule of limited touches is reversed. Therefore, an additional defender enters the Safe-Area.

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