In recent times, the so-called “high press” has become synonymous with the world’s leading coaches, including pioneers in this respect such as Ralf Rangnick, Mauricio Pochettino, Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola and Thomas Tuchel.
While this is highly rewarding and capable of helping sides to sustain possession and attacks in the opposition’s defensive third, it’s also difficult to coach and requires a tremendous emphasis on positional play and collective movements.
In this blog post, we’re going to look at the key tenants of the high press, particularly in terms of how it’s coached and the key technical considerations.
Understanding the Space You Need to Defend
When teams adopt a low block, they usually have to defend a relatively compact space that stretches from the halfway line to the 25-yard line outside their own penalty areas.
However, teams adopting a high press are required to defend a much larger space, namely the entirety of the opposition team’s defensive half.
This even includes the opposition’s penalty areas, as teams regularly play out from the back now and high pressing sides will be required to immediately close down defenders when they receive the ball from their goalkeeper.
Because of the space involved here, it’s important that you identify key triggers, timings and areas in which to press, in order to minimise your workload and potentially reduce the space that needs to be covered by team members.
This is especially crucial when you consider that goalkeepers tend to be additional outfield players in the modern game, affording the opposition a numerical advantage as they play out from the back.
The Key High Pressing Coaching Principles
With this basic proposition in mind, the next step is to identify some of the key considerations when actively coaching the high press. These include:
1. Your Defending Style:
Ultimately, pressing high up the pitch requires a particularly aggressive style of defending that’s proactive in nature and seeks to force errors and quick transitions when the opposing players are out of position and lacking orientation. You’ll also need to identify a viable timeframe or set of triggers to sustain the collective press, as if the first line is beaten, you may want the side to drop back into a deeper and more compact defensive shape.
2. The Importance of the Collective Press:
With considerations such as space and pressing triggers identified, it’s also crucial that your team presses as a collective until. This relies heavily on positional understanding and an ability to maintain minimal distances between individual players, as otherwise the press is too easy to beat with vertical passes that could expose a necessarily high defensive line. A good understanding between players also lends itself to a particularly intensive high press, which is crucial to quick ball recoveries.
3. The Relationship Between Pressing and Covering:
During periods of high and intense pressing, one player must also move forwards from his starting position to pressurise the ball. In central areas, this requires him to be flanked on either side by at least two covering teammates, who protect the second line of the defence and prevent easy passes to bypass the press. This requires positional discipline, while you may look to provide additional cover in certain areas of the pitch to create overloads (such as instances where you want to target a player who is poor in possession).
The Last Word
With a basic understanding of the high press, the space covered and the key coaching principles, you can begin to coach this playing style and develop your team’s philosophy.
The key here is practice and repetition, as this helps your players to develop an innate understanding of their positional requirements and the required intensity, which can be honed in training and then deployed on matchday!