by Lawrence Fine
Many good attacking teams spend much of their time trying to find ways to spread the defense out and create holes in the defense to attack into. Once these holes are created it gives the attacking team numbers up situations in most cases which is what good teams are constantly looking to create.
Because of this, good defending teams should spend most of their time trying to stay compact thus taking the spaces to attack away from the attacking team.
The way a good defending team stays compact is to make sure that when one player moves in one direction the rest of the team shifts accordingly. This means that if the ball is on the right side of the field, one of the defenders doesn’t go out their on her own but instead, the whole team should shift in that direction. If one defender runs out on her own, there will most likely be space around or behind this one defender for the attackers to go at. If the whole defensive unit shifts accordingly, they don’t allow that space to be created (instead, the space is created on the far side but since most players can’t accurately and consistently play a ball 60-70 yards in the air it’s not dangerous). By having all of the defensive players stay “in touch” with each other as opposed to getting spread out it makes it harder for the attacking team to create dangerous situations.
The same thing is true forward and backward. If the attacking team plays a ball backwards and one or two defensive players decide to chase after it, if they don’t win the ball there will be huge spaces for the attacking team to work into. However, if the whole team steps up hard they can put pressure on the ball and take away the spaces between them. The only risk now is the long ball over the top but if the keeper is aware, this should be no problem. Again the key is when one player goes they all have to go and if the team isn’t in a position to do this than the team needs to stay back as a unit.
Defensive teams that compress the field defensively and stay compact are very difficult to attack. They key is good communication so that all the players know when to shift up, back or to the side or when they should stay where they are. Also, staying compact sometimes means being patient and daring the opponent to attack with the long ball over the top or to the side.
Staying compact is a simple concept to write about but much more difficult to execute in a game because the natural tendency defensively is to not be patient and try to do it on your own. If you can get your team to stay compact (whether playing
high pressure or low pressure and whether playing man to man or zonally) you will have a much better defensive team