Football tactics are constantly changing as managers and coaches scramble to find more innovative and effective ways of sticking the ball in the opposition net, and keeping it out of theirs.
You might think the days of long-ball 4-4-2 football are behind us, but you’d be wrong. While you’re unlikely to see Barcelona go long and targeting the big man, there are plenty of teams around that world that still thrive from this system.
Below are seven tactics in football that teams can adopt in the hope they will result in wins. We’ve also thrown in some football betting tips too. Some of these systems may feel a little antiquated now but they’ve all produced winning teams.
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Football tactics explained
We’ll begin, as many kids did when they were learning to play the game, with the classic long ball tactic…
Back in the day there was a greater split between defenders and attackers. You either protected your goal or you sought to score. The best way to get the ball in the goal was playing it long, targeting your big striker, who would knock it down or flick it on for your diminutive striker to latch onto and score.
Long ball football is still played all over the world. It’s conservative in its nature because the idea is to keep the ball away from your goal. It can work wonders but requires either big or lightning fast centre-forwards to work. A forward needs to win the aerial battles or beat defenders when running into space.
Football tip: If you want to bet on a team that plays long ball football then back the central striker or a centre-back to score first. Long ball teams are usually good at set pieces as they launch the ball towards goal.
The antidote to long ball football came in the 1970s when the Dutch remastered the game. Total Football is the idea that everyone in the team can play any position. Players are trusted to be skillful enough to hold defensive shape, tackle hard, distribute, take on players, and score at any opportunity.
Total football isn’t exactly common these days. Tactics have developed so that there remains a sense of rigidity and discipline across a team’s set-up. However, it is the precursor to many modern football tactics.
Deploying a low block is when a team sits back in their own third and tries to stifle the opposition’s access to goal. A low block usually involves two lines of defence, with one striker up top isolated. It is an effective defensive tool for underdogs coming up against teams that enjoy exploiting space. After all, the low block reduces the space available to the attacking side.
You will see the low block used a lot in the Championship when high-flying teams become unstuck against lowly sides that are battling for their lives.
Bet tip: If a team is using a low block then they’re unlikely to score than a goal themselves, which makes the over/unders market worth checking out.
A team playing the low block may seek to use the counter attack as their only option to threaten the opposition goal. However, the counter attack isn’t just for those who sit deep. Being able to hit your opponent on the break and exploit space that has naturally opened up can prove hugely effective.
Teams can seek to hold opponents at bay before unleashing two or three fast forwards to flip a game in seconds. Counter attacking football used to be considered negative but in recent years its effectiveness has meant fans are more accepting of it.
Bet tip: A counter attacking team will get chances to score but be mindful that they are also more likely to concede as they have so little possession. BTTS isn’t a bad shout in these instances.
The high press is the idea that everyone on a team acts as a defender when not in possession. Forwards are instructed to close down opposition defenders who have the ball, and effectively force an error.
High pressing teams require high fitness because forwards need energy to both defend and attack. If the opposition successfully wriggles out of the press within a few seconds then the pressing team will fall back into a more defensive position.
Bet tip: Look at how opposition defenders respond to being pressed high. If they’re panicky then it’s likely the pressing team will get a golden chance or two before the game is out.
The counter press is an evolution of the high press and works in a similar way. Forwards are expected to close down opponents and muck in with the defensive duties. The difference here is that the counter press is triggered as soon as the ball is lost, regardless of where play is, and that everyone in the vicinity moves towards it.
The idea is to spook opponents into losing possession in vulnerable areas. Crucially, you do it before the opponent has got back into position themselves.
Bet tip: Counter pressing sites can get caught out themselves when they commit too many players to the press. Keep a close eye on how opposition defenders cope with the press before playing a bet.
Barcelona and Spain mastered tiki-taka football in the 2000s and led to a monumental shift in how football is played globally. At its core, tiki-taka is possession-based football where you keep the ball and wait for gaps to open up in your opponent’s defensive structure. It requires supremely talented ball players.
Defensively, tiki-taka is a useful mechanism for winding down the clock and frustrating the opposition. After all, how can you concede if you have the ball? There is no rush with tiki-taka football, it’s all about keeping possession and waiting for your chance. If you’re 2-0 up with 10 minutes left and the opposition can’t even get the ball off you, you’ve won.
Bet tip: Tiki-taka is a football tactic that doesn’t really exist in its original form anymore but teams capable of retaining possession even when the opposition is chasing the game are always worth backing.