We all know the age old saying, “defense wins championships.” This is absolutely true in soccer. The best teams may be known for scoring goals, but their success starts at the back. Great team defense is the basis that transitions to the start of offensive success. In soccer there are many different ways a team can defend but there are two common forms of team defense that sides will look to use at varying on the spectrum.
The High Press
In most circumstances this will happen as soon as possession is lost. Pressing immediately allows defending teams to recover the ball quickly. Jurgen Klopp explains the strategy well, “The best moment to win the ball is immediately after your team just lost it. The opponent is still looking for orientation where to pass the ball. He will have taken his eyes off the game to make his tackle or interception and he will have expended energy. Both make him vulnerable.”
Playing this style often leads to a high volume of attacking opportunities. Playing this way though can leave defenses vulnerable if the press is broken with a few passes.
Conversely, teams may elect to defend late and allow their opponents to come to them. This strategy allows the defense to recover and gather themselves with a strong defensive shape that is hard to break down. An extreme form of this defensive style is known as, “parking the bus”. Parking the bus means to have almost all your players drop and defend in your own penalty area in a rigid box shape. This style of defending works well for teams that wish to counter attack with pace from their forwards and catch their opponents out of position.
The drawbacks to this defensive approach at times is that it leaves teams with an outmanned attack going forward on the counter. The strategy can lead to few chances but if taken advantage of properly it’s all that is necessary to win games.