Rehan Mirza on Movement to confuse the back four

by Rehan Mirza (UEFA B-License coach, Notts County FC Centre of Excellence)

The following practise is designed to enable the front 4 players in a 4-4-2 formation to link and rotate. During the days of Arsenals sublime passing and elegant movement, I noticed that although their formation was 4-4-2, they rotated more or less very similar in every game. The likes of players such as Henry, Pires, Wiltord and Bergkamp formed a formidable attack that was planned to precision.

The diagram below suggests the layout of what the front 2 and the 2 wide men might adopt during an attack, with the ball starting in the wide left position (number 7). The game related activity is practised in the final 3rd of the pitch.

As the left sided player makes a run inside, the attacking number 9 player moves into a wide position, and the attacking number 10 player moves into a deeper position. The number 7 must have the qualities needed to run with the ball. Number 11 stays out wide.

If we now look at the same attack again, we can see that all the players have been marked out well with the front 2 also being tightly marked. Number 11 stays out wide.

As the left sided midfield player makes a forward run by cutting inside his marker, the number 9 attacker adopts a position wider, whilst the other attacking number 10 player drops into a more deeper role. By doing this, both attackers have now dragged their markers away creating a gap between the defending centre backs. Number 11 must now adopt a position where it makes it hard for his marker (number 3) to see him and the ball and the same time.

Below we can now see that the attacking player number 9 has adopted a wide position and has received the ball and has also rotated with the wide midfield number 7 player. The defending centre back number 4 has been dragged into a wide position to track the run of the attacking number 9 player. Number 10 has also dropped deep who is now another option to receive the ball. Either way, the defending number 5 player will have to decide whether to cover for their team mate (number 2) or pounce onto number 10 if they receive the ball. Number 11 can now make a run on the blind side of his marker.

As the defenders get tighter, the attackers use the room which is available. With the ball crossed in from the attacking number 9 player, number 11 has managed to create a 1v1 opportunity at the far post to win the header. Number 10 has successfully drawn his marker away from the attack into the second 6 yard box area (POMO – Position of most attack) and the number 7 wide left midfield player has taken up a position onto the edge of the 6 yard box.

I have attached a short clip showing the movements of the attackers. This form of attack was very familiar with the likes of players such has Robert Pires for Arsenal taking up a wide position. Once he had made a forward run inside, Thierry Henry went wide, whilst Dennis Bergkamp had dropped deeper. Sylvain Wiltord had at time’s come in from the opposite side to receive a cross from the left (a cross from Thierry Henry).