Teams that press high are more likely to win possession of the ball in more dangerous areas of the pitch which could lead to better goal-scoring opportunities. So how do you press high in soccer?
The high press is led by the forwards but It involves the team collectively moving up the pitch.
Some teams can do this a lot better than others, so what’s their secret?
This is how you press high in soccer
The high press in soccer can be broken down into the roles of the forwards, the midfielders, and the defenders.
If each line decides to press on individually the high press will be useless.
However, when the 3 lines combine and press high together this can give your team a huge advantage.
Each of the lines in the team has a specific role to fulfill.
Key principles to pressing high in soccer
A high press will occur in the opposition’s defensive third.
It is a great tool to use against teams that take risks playing out of the back or are not comfortable with the ball at their feet.
These are key principles when implementing a high press
Solid defensive shape
When implementing a high press the pressing team must remain compact and tough to break down.
This will reduce the amount of space between the defensive lines of the pressing team for the possessing team to exploit.
The possessing team will be forced into the wider areas of the pitch where the pressing team will find it easier to regain possession.
These are the defensive shape soccer drills I use with my teams.
When pressing high you want to make the opposition team have as little time on the ball as possible.
This means the opposition players need to be pressed as quickly as possible.
By limiting the amount of space they have on the ball you are rushing them into quick decisions, where they are more likely to make mistakes.
Closing down their space quickly will also mean reducing the number of options they have on the ball.
Knowing when to press
Playing with a high press takes can be incredibly taxing on your players.
This means teams that play a high press are very specific as to when they press and when they decide not to press.
When looking to press high teams will look for pressing triggers.
These are cues as to when a high press should be initiated.
This could be a pass being played into a certain part of the pitch or even a poor touch from the opposition player!
Shutting down passing angles
When pressing high up the pitch there needs to be a purpose as to why you are pressing.
This can vary depending on the pressing team’s tactics and the playing style of the opposition team.
Typically the pressing team will want to force the opposition players to pass the ball to certain areas of the pitch, where it can be easier to gain possession of the ball.
To achieve this pressing players will angle their, to close off the passing options of the opposition players.
There are 6 pressing skills in soccer your players must master if the high press wants to be successful.
For a team to fully take advantage of the high press they need to be able to quickly transition from defense to attack.
The quicker a team transitions the better the advantage they will have against the opposition.
A quick transition will allow the pressing team to exploit space in dangerous positions of the opposition’s defensive third.
Roles of the forwards in a high press
For these examples, the pressing team is in a 4-4-2 soccer formation.
The forwards in the soccer team are going to be the players that initiate the high press.
They will identify a pressing trigger and sprint to close down the space of the player on the ball or the player who is just about to receive the ball.
The forwards will spearhead the press by closing down passing options, forcing the team to play into certain areas of the pitch.
To help maintain the pressure of the press the forwards should not dive in to try and win the ball!
If a forward is unsuccessful in their attempt, the opposition player will easily break the press.
Instead, the forward should stand the opposition player up and try to force them into a mistake.
Roles of the midfielders in a high press
As forwards push up to initiate the press the midfielders need to move up to reduce the space between themselves and the forwards.
By moving up they are restricting the amount of space the opposition players have to receive the ball through the defensive lines.
Even if the opposition players are able to receive the ball through the defensive lines, they shouldn’t have enough space and time to turn.
This will force them to play backward.
The role of the midfielders is to prevent the opposing team from playing any forward passes.
The midfielders are acting as the second pincer to restrict the amount of space the opposition has to play in.
Roles of the defenders in a high press
Similar to the midfielders moving up to reduce the space behind the forwards, the defenders will have to move up to reduce the space behind the midfield line.
Moving up will reduce the amount of space the opposition forwards have to operate in.
This is an important factor of the high press, as this will prevent the opposition from playing a long ball to break the press.
Even if they do decide to play the long ball, it puts the possessing team in a really good position to gain possession of the ball.
The defender should press up in a staggered line.
There should be one central defender to attack the ball if a long ball is played.
With the other central defender sitting back to cover.
Teams that press high in soccer
To see how a high press works in soccer there are some teams that have mastered the art of how to high press to a tee.
During these clips, you can see how intense the team is when they press.
They work together as a team to force the opposition to concede cheap possession of the ball and create consistent goal-scoring opportunities.
Liverpool has become renowned for being a high-pressing team and they have gained huge amounts of success by implementing a high-pressing tactic in soccer.
Manchester City is relentless at pressing.
Here is a great breakdown of what makes their high press in soccer so effective.
Final thoughts on how to press high in soccer
Pressing high in soccer can be incredibly rewarding if used correctly.
For your team to be successful at pressing high you need to ensure that:
- Your forwards are prepared to run and close down players
- You can quickly transition from pressing to attacking once the ball is won
- The team presses together to prevent space from appearing that could be exploited
- Have a good team’s physical fitness levels
If your team struggles to implement a high press, here are some other effective pressing styles your team can try.
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