Club Style of Play

The game is forever changing at the top level but if we are aiming to maximize a players full potential we have to start with the highest level in mind. There are key trends that are happening at the elite level which will allow us to predict the future and build our Learning Objectives and style of play around that. As coaches we must move with this otherwise we are spending years preparing players for something that is no longer relevant. The core principles of the game are the same as they were decades ago, however, the increase in resources, education and athleticism has influenced specific changes.

Below are some significant factors we look at:

Without the ball, heat maps show teams at the elite level are defending on average 12 yards deeper than in 2009. There are much longer defending phases on average and Average ball recovery is much deeper. Teams block the center of the field faster, and in a more organized and compact way than ever before. Due to factors such as an increase in athleticism and more organized coaching, players recover behind the ball faster and are more compact and organized than ever before. A top player has to be able to play in tight spaces.

There are generally three defensive blocks that an opposition can be in, regardless of the system or formation, High, Medium and low block. Watch any Premier League, international or Champions League game to see this. To further the point of creating players who can play in tight areas and in chaos, look at the best or most expensive players currently in world football: Ronaldo, Pogba, Salah, Kevin De Bruyne. Our style of play is built around the four ‘moments’ of the game. 


1. In Possession 

 2.Out of Possession 

 3.Counter Attack

4.Counter Defend

 Out of Possession

  • Minimize space between lines- compact within our ‘Block’
  • Highly active defending – fundamental 1v1 & group defending
  • Quick pressure in transition with numbers out of possession play
  • Reorganize behind the ball
  • Contain and direct play to key areas of the field to dispossess
  • Be aggressive to create mistakes but be under control
  • Stay focused on the details of your job for the team and communicate effectively.

 In Possession

  • Quick Transition to Attack and get into possession
  • Look Forward / Play Forward
  • Patient to create advantage to attack with numbers
  • Control match tempo and rhythm through possession (Patience)
  • Create & Recognize advantages/opportunities to penetrate always having options ahead of the ball
  • Play from the back when possible, having knowledge of why we shift, press how to play against various systems and all pressing styles
  • Play with width and depth
  • Trade spaces through interchange and rotation
  • Have knowledge of how to drag opponents out of all defensive shapes
  • Create overloads
  • Be comfortable receiving under pressure
  • Recognise where the spaces are
  • Trust each other to play out of pressure
  • Dominate 1v1’s

We want our players to be able to outplay opponents 1v1 from a young age so developing the skills that will allow that is high on our priority list.

In order for our players to outplay 1v1, the club have designed the following 1v1 scale. Every player is at different stages of the scale at different times and it is the coaches job to understand where the player is and what the player needs at any given time. 


Counter Attack

When winning the ball back in a game the opposition are extremely vulnerable. Still in an attacking shape, the opposition have gaps all over the field for the team in possession to exploit. Counter attacking plays a huge role in the modern game. At the 2018 FIFA World Cup there was 169 goals scored (two fewer than the record). The FIFA technical report state one out of every two goals scored in the 2018 World Cup was scored from a counter attack or set piece.

Every counter attacking situation is different but at Elk Grove Soccer we understand the importance of being able to play on the counter attack.

We train in way to exploit our opposition weaknesses depending on many factors when winning the ball back. Below is a brief guide of what we consider when counter attacking:

Counter Defend

Elk Grove teams will look to win the ball back as quickly as possible after losing it through Gegenpressing. The term, which translates to “counter press”, is a tactical approach developed by current Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp that combines high-pressure defense with a modern twist. The best moment to win the ball is immediately after your team just lost it. The opponent is still looking for direction where to pass the ball. He/she will have taken his/her eyes off the game to make his/her tackle or interception and he/she will have expended energy. Both of these make the opposition vulnerable.

The gegenpress operates on the basic assumption that a team that has just lost possession (especially while attempting to counter) is in its most vulnerable state. The quicker you exploit that vulnerability, the more likely you are to score. For the system to function effectively, however, fitness and intelligence are key. Elk Grove Soccer players must be capable of quickly closing down space and hassling an opponent in an intentional manner without committing fouls, diving in or leaving your teammates exposed. We practice transition in everything we do at trainings so we can master the art of winning the ball back with this very modern style of defending.


We understand that Every player is different. If a player comes to us at U8 he/she could have over ten years with us. This weekend is not the concern.

The curriculum we have follows specific guidelines. We don’t believe in lines, laps or passing to cones. When Gareth Southgate spoke about the England DNA program he said “whether a player is 6 years old or 36 years old, they don’t particularly want to stand around for too long and have a coach talking and talking and talking. The messages need to be concise, the training sessions need to be enjoyable and within that learning can take place. The time on the grass, we have an hour or an hour and 20 minutes. Lets maximize it and have the ball out for as much as possible”. We follow this belief and want to maximize quality touches on the ball in realistic game situations from the start.

We encourage, promote and stimulate players to invest in themselves away from training. The player has to have the self-sacrifice and self-motivation to do so alone. Our coaches spark this through video, encouraging development areas, having role models to aspire to, etc. The best players never stop learning and developing. Phillipe Coutinho was interviewed and spoke about how he spends time studying Ronaldinho on Youtube to watch how he simulates his use of his shoulders and hips to outplay opponents with the defender in front. Bear in mind that this is a Champions League player who is an international and worth over £120m.
Players should be watching the games from a tactical point of view. All young players should have a role model in their positions that matches their IDENTITY.