Having covered the use of small-, medium, and large-sided games in the development of players physical components, we will now take a closer look at how these games can be used to improve players’ tactical skills. We will look at the importance of game size, pitch size and rules/game format.
Each game carries its own advantage, with each stimulating different principles and behaviour. Before discussing which game will develop or reinforce which tactical concept, it is important to define each so that we all are using the same ‘football language’ (Table 1).
In comparing the different tactical behaviour that 3v3 and 5v5 elicited, it was found that 3v3 increased principles of “Penetration” (offensive principle) and “Delay” (defensive principle), whilst 5v5 had a higher frequency of “Offensive Unity” (offensive principle) and “Balance” (defensive principle). This research alone indicates that each game has the ability to develop both offensive and defensive principles – this is important and should be considered by coaches when selecting which game they will use in their training sessions.
If a coach wants to focus on penetration (movement of the player with the ball towards the goal line), then 3v3 should be used in training, but if they want to focus on offensive unity (movement of the last line of defenders towards the offensive midfield to support offensive actions of teammates), then 5v5 should be used.
The use of sided games, ranging from 4v4 – 9v9 have been found to allow players to have more touches of the ball, take more decisions and have increased levels of concentration. Importantly, there will also be more attacking and defending situations, as the players are continually under pressure. All these factors will allow for tactical development of the players and coach’s game model. Of course, these are not the only options available to coaches, and there will be several drills that coaches will implement to coach a desired tactical behaviour, but after completing that set drill, coaches can always look to implement a small-, medium- or large sided game to reinforce the coaching outcomes from the drill.
Beyond the size of the game selected, it has been found by researchers that coaches are able to create a more accurately recreate the tactical conditions experienced in competitive matches through the manipulation of field size and the location of the ball on the pitch. It has been recommended (table 2) that pitch sizes with relatively larger individual playing areas should be used for training build-up play, and smaller areas for transition play. One should also note that pitch sizes with longer width than length are recommended for training transition play and square pitches are recommended for training build-up and finishing.
Rules: game format, neutral players
Session objectives become of utmost importance when considering game format, with researchers finding that possession-based games increase exercise intensity, and the use of targets or goals increases the defensive organisation around the goal, and thus has a tactical focus compared to a conditioning-based one.
Neutral players can be used in different ways in sided games, with their inclusion affording one team a temporary numerical advantage. This overload can be used to emphasize tactical content that the coach feels is necessary in developing their team – player acts in the attacking or defensive process, depending on the tactical focus of the training session.
As with our previous articles, I hope this has added to your knowledge base and understanding of how versatile football can be as a training tool. If you would like to know more about soccer specific training and methodology, take a look at the courses offered by our Official Education Partner, the International Soccer Science and Performance Federation on https://learn.isspf.com/partner/amazulu/a/110/.Share