How to Improve My Positioning in Football
Like dribbling the ball, improving your positioning in football is a skill that players acquire through training and match practice. Improving your positioning has more to do with awareness than anything else.
Awareness in Football
One of the greatest skills a footballer can have is awareness. Unlike the physical skills of running with the ball, taking on defenders, tackling and striking the ball, awareness means understanding where both teammates and defenders are standing relative to themselves and the ball. In addition it means understanding where space and opportunities exist to both defend and attack.
It can be a difficult skill to impart with kids. In most cases, kids have a tendency to face the player with the ball, with their back to everything else: the goals, the defenders and the rest of their team. At the very least, trying to get kids standing in what can be called a half turn or sideways position will enhance their awareness, creating more options and provide a clearer picture as to what they can do next.
The half-turn position involves standing sideways to the player with the ball. By standing sideways, the defensive player has greater ability to respond to a change of direction and effectively slow the incursion of an attacking player toward goal. This delay tactic allows other defenders to get back and assist in subduing an attacking foray.
When a defensive player stands straight on to an attacking player, it can be much easier for the attacker to change directions and gain critical time evading the defender. It takes the defender longer to turn and chase when they stand flat-footed or with their full body facing the attacker.
Further, angling your body to the half turn allows the defender to steer an attacking player in the direction either away from goal or at least to a lower risk alternative.
In this picture, the red player is the defender, whilst Blue Player 3 has the ball. By positioning their body on the half turn, the red player has the ability to
- Tackle player 3
- Delay player 3
- Steer player 3 and the ball away from the direct path to goal
- Respond rapidly to a change of direction should blue player 3 attempt to get passed the red player
- See Blue Player 2
- Transition to Blue Player 2 should the ball be passed to them
The defensive half turn also allows the defender to be aware of opportunities off the ball should the attacker lose control of the ball. Defense can quickly transition to attack with the half turn and awareness. These opportunities will include the location on the field of both teammates and opponents relative to them.
In this picture, whilst the Red player remains on the half-turn, they can also see red player 5 and red player 6 should they gain control of the ball permitting a quick transition into attack.
It is good football, when playing out from the back, to play on the half turn. When receiving the ball, it is best practice to do so with your back to the sideline permitting maximum visibility of the rest of the field and players.
The attacking half-turn will allow a player wanting to receive the ball, to determine where their opponents, teammates, goals and space are relative to them. In turn, this will permit them to make a more informed decision whether to run the ball, pass the ball, shoot for goal or even kick the ball out or into space.
In this picture, as the goal keeper plays the ball to the nearest red player, the red player has both their back to the sideline and visibility of the rest of the field. This also allows the player to assess how much time they have to dispose of the ball.
If blue player 2 is approaching at speed, then the ball can easily be played to red players 5 or 8, both of whom are positioned on the half turn.
With all attacking players positioned on the half-turn, awareness is enhanced and better decisions can be made as to how the ball transitions towards their opponent’s goal.
If a player is receiving the ball with their back to the opposition, they limit their ability to safely dispose of or keep possession of the ball. It is also increases the risk of losing the ball in a potentially dangerous position and conceding a goal
What is the critical Shape in Football?
Triangles are one of the most important shapes multiple players can create in football. Triangles always give a player in possession of the ball at least two passing options. When players create a triangle whilst standing in a half-turn position, the effect of the triangle can be amplified as new triangles can result further up the field.
In this picture, even when you exclude the goal keeper, there are at least 5 triangles created by direct line passes. The most central players are facing towards the ball dependent on which direction the ball comes from will determine which half-turn position they will face.
As a team or group of players, creating triangles when in possession of the ball is an invaluable way to not only keep possession, but work your way passed defenders and successfully move the ball from a defensive position to an attacking position. Whilst the creation of the triangle is important, it cannot be successfully used unless the weight and direction of the pass is conducted effectively.
Successfully Improving Positional Play inn Football
Football players can enhance their skill level by taking half turn positions when both defending and attacking their opponents. Defensively, the half turn position prepares them better for spoiling the attacking play by steering them into a lower risk position or enhancing their ability to chase the attacker or another opponent.
From an attacking perspective, the half turn allows players to be more aware of opportunities and how much time they have to assess what they will do with the ball. This may include shooting for goal, passing or playing the ball out or into space. Players can use the half-turn most effectively by forming triangles with team mates and passing the ball passed defenders whilst transitioning into goal scoring positions.