Door 22: Dynamic space occupation in the centre

By Eduard Schmidt

Although the title of yesterday’s contribution was „Counter-dynamics“ and the first part of the word is missing today, both are complementary topics. Dynamic occupation of the centre can be counter-dynamic. Sounds complicated and absurd but is pretty much true.

It’s because we deal with different kinds of dynamics here. Above all, the occupation of the centre refers to one’s own team and how its structure arranges itself in a certain moment. For example, you clear certain zones on the field, then run into and finally occupy them.

Counter-dynamics, on the other hand, refer more to how the opponent reacts to moments like these. If he simply follows with a movement or is attracted by it in a certain way, then you can take advantage of it by applying counter-dynamics. If he hardly or not at all reacts to a movement or in a way that hardly or not at all restricts the effectiveness of such a movement, an action into the existing dynamics remains possible.

The word „dynamic“ in relation to the occupation of the centre also has a different context – a temporal one. It represents the counterpart to „static“ in the sense that one or more players do not constantly occupy a zone, but do so alternately and always only briefly.

If this model is consistently applied throughout an entire game, it would hardly result in a fixed structure at all. This, in turn, would require that each player has sufficient skills at virtually every spot on the playing field to solve situations that arise. In practice, this was most likely the case when Barcelona once introduced kind of a 3-7-0.

For most teams, on the other hand, it seems that different players are assigned zones in which they move (based on the formation used). This happens in the context of the positioning of the other players and depending on where the different factors create free space.

To put it simple, it could be said that each team in its basic orientation has a varying ratio of rather static and „free“ players. Where the „free“ players and open spaces are generally located within the formation determines which zones are most likely to be used dynamically and which remain occupied at all times. The latter is once again demonstrated by the tasks Pep Guardiola often has for his wingers, demanding them to hold wide positions at all times.

A typical example for a dynamic occupation would be to fill the open ten space of a 4-3-3. Either the central striker can do this by dropping back, one of the wing players can move in or one of the central midfielders can move up. As a coach, you could determine which of these players is responsible for occupying this space. This can clearly be one player or simply all players (A rule then could be: Maximum of one to two players in the ten space at once).

Furthermore, more specific rules for general scenarios can be described, such as: „Ball far winger or ball far central midfielder occupies ten space when ball is on wing“, „Striker drops back when ball is in the centre“, etc. Last but not least, all this depends on the available player types, which according to their general tendencies automatically are likely to perform such movements or not.

It would make little sense for a tempo dribbler, who ideally needs more space for his game, to repeatedly move into the ten space. He will hardly do that by himself. At the latest during a tight game he would fall back into old behaviour and movement patterns, thus possibly changing the playing style of his own team as a whole in a crucial moment. Not least because of such factors, the careful choice of suitable player roles is essential.

The centre (including inner half-spaces) is identified as the decisive zone, as this is where the possibilities for action are greatest. If, for example, the wing is occupied dynamically with a run to the outside, the orientation goes to the side line and a turn towards goal is necessary – often impossible to perform under pressure. You can’t even occupy the wing dynamically with orientation inwards unless you start the action on one of the benches or in the stands.

In the centre, on one hand, you can receive the ball coming from the wing while looking inwards. On the other hand, you can still have possibilities for immediate follow-up actions (half-space/wing) with an orientation towards the outside. You don’t even necessarily have to turn in for it but while it’s still possible as well.

In the following, I will deal with deliberately vacating the six space, here again following the theme of „counter dynamics“ and the way Holstein Kiel plays under Tim Walter. The back four is understood as completely „free“ in its positioning and should occupy open space dynamically.

Double 4v3 through middle zone

The field is divided into two penalty areas as outside zones with a middle zone between them. In addition, a lane is marked on both wings. The wing doesn’t belong to the playing field in the middle zone and can therefore only be occupied in the outside zones.

The ball starts with one of the goalkeepers, who plays out from the back with four of his own players against three players of the other team in the first zone. In the opposite zone, on the other hand, three attackers face four defenders. In order to connect to this part of the field, they must play through the middle zone. It can be occupied in a variety of ways – hence the many arrows in the graphic.

A maximum of two players from the team in possession can be in the middle zone at the same time. Only if the ball is actually played there, a defender from the far zone is allowed to press. If a player of the possession team drops back from the far zone, one of the deeper players can push from the build-up zone all the way to the front.

This is usually one of the wing players, running through the central zone without stopping outside the pitch. Only one player of the possession team is allowed on the wing at the same time.

If the possession team enters the last zone, a maximum of 5 against 4 can be generated here to finish off the attack. If the defending team wins the ball, there is a free game.

Training in team context

After using drills like the one described before, you should go out and train on a bigger field. In order to ensure a high number of repetitions, the ball always starts with the build-up team. This team is in its own half in a 7 against 6 and can also use the goalkeeper.

Higher up, another zone is built in which there is a 3 against 4. The last marked line serves as an offside line. During the course of the game, the build-up team can push any number of players forward into this zone. The defending team can initially only drop any number of players back. Later on, completely free defending should be allowed, but the offside line will still stay the same.

Both teams can score goals in any way. After a ball has been won, a free game is automatically played. Goals from counter attacks give two points.

However, the central zone in the own half of the team in possession is decisive. If you play through it successfully without the opponent touching the ball, the team in possession receives one point. If they then score a goal without the other team winning the ball in between, three points are added, which adds up to a total of four points. All other goals count for a single point.

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