This week's MSC Breakdown looks at a challenge that many coaches will face when they are looking to build-up against a pressing system. As player profiling becomes more deliberate and detailed, the technical demands of the holding midfielder are continuing the rise in the modern game. Passing ability, dealing with pressure and creating angles of support are just three of the technical requirements of the position today, but if our tactical frameworks do not support those skills, then we could be in danger of under-utilizing the role. With many pressing systems, it's extremely difficult for a holding midfielder to find space. Below is a simple graphic to show how a 4-2-3-1, 4-4-2 diamond, and 3-5-2 all restrict the space of the holding midfielder and often mark that player throughout the build.
Like many aspects of the game, you can look at this as high risk or high reward. If you do play through the holding midfielder under intense pressure and lose possession, you risk gifting the opposition an immediate opportunity in transition. However, if you do utilize your holding midfielder and break the opponent's press, you increase the probability of turning the build into an attacking opportunity with access to the opposition back four and vertical space ahead. In this breakdown, we focus on finding solutions that can be used by adapting our tactical framework in the build to help the holding midfielder solve the initial pressure and contribute to the attack.
There are three solutions that we look at in the MSC Breakdown video.
The three solutions that we discuss in the video are all designed to manipulate the pressing shape of the opponents in different ways. For example, the bounce option is highly effective against an extremely aggressive 4-3-3 press where wide forwards look to 'jump' forward and press center backs. This bounce pass allows you to attract pressure and then break out to find an advanced player with time and space to go forward. The drop option however, requires a little more time as the holding midfielder needs to re-position themselves, so this may be more effective against a 4-4-2 press. If a coach is able to anticipate the press through scouting and analysis, or can effectively read the shape of the press early in the game, then they can help their players solve these challenges and instead ask questions of the opponents further down the pitch.
You can watch the full breakdown of the three solutions on the video below. If you enjoy the content, please subscribe to the MSC YouTube page for more breakdowns!!