In The Tactics Board there are a lot of graphics used to describe the formation and movement of players during the game. In order to make it easy for you to understand what the graphics mean, we are providing you with the legend to understand the formation graphics and all the items shown in the StatsZone pictures. In the formation graphics, players are shown in their average position with lines indicating where they move on the attack and where they move on defense. Players are shown across the whole pitch, not just in their own half. It makes it easier to understand how the teams line up against each other, and where the space is for the teams to exploit. If there are major formation or personnel changes, it will often be reflected in a second graphic.
The Tactics Board uses FourFourTwo’s StatsZone to highlight specific players or events in the game. Many people use this app already, but we’re including the legend for this app for those of you who don’t use this app. Hopefully this will make it easier to understand on the graphics, to see the offensive and defensive contributions that players are making to the game.
This website will help you understand some of the more detailed and niche phrases that are used in ‘The Tactics Board’. If you need help with more basic football positions, try looking here for a good place to start. This page will include some phrases that are specific to to certain regions, such as Italy, South America, and France. I try to keep things fairly simple, but there are some positions in other areas that the British have not come up with something similar. If that’s the case, I’ll use the foreign phrase for it so this is a good place to find it.
Used to describe any player whose main job is attacking – such as out-and-out strikers, withdrawn strikers, trequartistas, wingers, and poachers.
+An outfield player stopping a shot on target
+An alternate for defensive line. A high block means pressing with a high defensive line, and a low block means sitting deep. Sitting in between is called a medium block
Refers to the most dynamic all-round/complete midfielders, who provide both defensive and attacking prowess. Increasingly rare, as most midfielders are now attacking midfielders or defending midfielders.
This refers to the two widest players in a midfield diamond, between the holding midfielder and the attacking midfielder. Means ‘Shuttlers’, to link the defense with the attack.
Refers to the defensive system made famous in the 1960s by the Internationale Milan squad of Helenio Herrera. The system utilizes a very defensive sweeper playing behind a back four of defenders playing a man-marking system. Incorrectly used now to refer to a team utilizing overly defensive tactics, especially Italian clubs.
A winger playing behind the lone forward in a 4-2-3-1 who drifts to the flanks. Mesut Ozil for Real Madrid is an excellent example.
In the 1950s, it described the central midfield player in the 2-3-5 shape. It is frequently used now in the United Kingdom as a synonym for ‘Center-back’. On this site, center-half will occasionally be used to refer to a holding midfielder. A modern center-half is often described as a holding midfielder who drops into the backline from the midfield, similar to Sergio Busquets for Barcelona.
The space between the center-backs and full-backs in a back four defense.
Christmas Tree formation
Refers to a 4-3-2-1.
A midfielder who sets up the attack from a withdrawn position. He spreads the play and dictates the game from deeper in the midfield. Despite their deep role in the midfield, the player is not classed as a defensive midfielder as tackling and defense are not their main function and they are often supported by a holding midfielder.
Deep-lying playmakers are typically given a moderate amount of defensive responsibilities, but are granted freedom positionally to dictate the play as it evolves, as well as a license to attempt long riskier balls, to the forwards. Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes are good examples of deep-lying playmakers.
A defensive unit that pushes up the field from their own goal is described as a High Defensive Line. A defensive unit that stays close to their own goal is described as a deep defensive line.
The use of two holding midfielders, who take turns to move forward rather than one having the job of sitting deep while the other is responsible to move forward. Central midfielders Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes played this role well in Manchester United 4-4-1-1 in early 2012.
A South American term similar to the Italian trequartista.
An unconventional lone striker who drops deep into the midfield. Lionel Messi plays this role for Barcelona.
The most advanced line of players on the pitch.
A defensive midfielder, often tasked with screening in front of the center-backs.
From touchline to touchline, also “Lateral”.
Wingers who move into a central position when their side has the ball. James Milner and Samir Nasri played this role in Manchester City’s 6-1 defeat of United at Old Trafford in 2011.
A winger who plays on the opposite side of his strong foot. A right-footed winger playing on the left wing, or vice-versa. These players prefer to cut inside to their strong foot, rather than playing along the touchline.
Moving across the pitch, from touchline to touchline.
See also ‘Sweeper’
Man-to-man marking, or man marking, is a defensive strategy where defenders are assigned a specific opposition player to mark rather than covering an area of the pitch.
A similar role to a holding midfielder, but not as deep a typical holding midfielder and definitely not as deep as a modern center-half. Michael Carrick is a good example. A defensive minded center midfielder, but is more of an all-action player rather than just a simple defensive holding midfielder.
A player on the wing who doesn’t belong there. Sometimes refers to a central midfielder played out wide, or more often a striker played out on the wing.
Nine and a half
Often playing as a second striker. A cross between an out and out goal scorer and a number 10 ‘trequartista’. He is neither purely a goal poacher, nor a creator. Wayne Rooney played this role for Manchester United for most of 2011/2012 season.
Outside left or right
Referred to the wide forwards in a 2-3-5 formation. Once teams switched to 4-4-2, this term died as these players became wide midfielders. With many sides playing a 3 man attack, similar to 4-3-3, the two wide forwards who support the central strikers can be called an Outside Left or Outside Right.
Pushing up the field on defense to deny the opposition space and time on the ball.
Out and out striker. Main job is to score goals but are often technically limited elsewhere on the pitch.
Italian term for deep-lying playmaker. Andrea Pirlo is ideal example. Luka Modric is an example in the Premier League.
Second striker, who plays alongside a central striker but is comfortable dropping deep or to the wing.
Refers to a player who stays high up the pitch in a central position to score goals. More specific than ‘Forward’
A spare man at the back, mostly common now in a three-man defense against 2 forwards. Formations are mostly drawn up with the sweeper behind the two center-backs, but they can equally be positioned in front of them as Franz Beckenbauer played for the German national team in the 1970s, being used to bring the ball out of the defense and start the attack.
The Sweeper doesn’t necessarily start deeper than the two center-backs, as he would play the opposing forwards onside, but he is free (no specific man-marking responsibilities) to cover any mistakes by the center-backs. With most teams playing 1 striker up front, you could argue that one of the center-backs in a 4 man defense is taking up the role of a sweeper.
Switching the Play
Controlling possession, and moving the ball laterally from touchline to touchline in the hopes of stretching out the opposition’s defense and finding defensive gaps.
The phrase used to describe the intricate passing game played by Spain and Barcelona. It depends on good passing ability from almost all outfield players to control possession.
The stage in play when a team switches from defense to attack, or attacking to defense.
Means ‘Three-Quarter’. Used to describe a player who plays centrally, in the gap between the opponent’s defense and midfield. This player’s main role is to act as the offensive pivot of the team, to create goal-scoring opportunities for his team mates, and perhaps to score himself. This position is also known as playmaker or the Number 10.
The three forwards in a 4-3-3 or 3-4-3 formation. This phrase describes several shapes, ranging from a central striker with 2 advanced wingers, or two strikers supported by a deep forward.
Up and down the pitch, from goal line to goal line.
Used to describe the wide defenders with a three-man defense. Does not refer to attacking full-backs in a four man defense. Wing-backs are usually employed in a 3-5-2, and could be considered part of the midfield, but they may also be used in a 5-3-2 formation and therefore have a more defensive role.
Wingbacks are a cross between a winger and a full-back. Wingbacks are more adventurous than fullbacks and are expected to provide width to the attack.
The stereotypical winger is fast, tricky and enjoys ‘hugging’ the touchline, that is, running downfield close to the touchline and delivering crosses. However, players with different attributes can thrive on the wing as well. Some wingers prefer to cut infield (as opposed to staying wide) and pose a threat as playmakers by playing diagonal passes to forwards or taking a shot at goal. Even players who are not considered quick have been successfully fielded as wingers at club and international level for their ability to create play from the flank. Occasionally wingers are given a free role to roam across the front line and are relieved of defensive responsibilities.
A defensive strategy where defenders cover an area of the pitch rather than marking a specific opponent. If an opponent moves into the area a defender is covering, the defender marks the opponent. If the opponent leaves this area, then marking the opponent becomes the responsibility of another defender.