Men's Soccer: BC Puts Tactics To Use When Formulating A Winning Strategy
Published: Sunday, October 6, 2013
Updated: Sunday, October 6, 2013 21:10
The 4-4-1-1. The 4-2-3-1. The false nine. The target man.
Those terms have become commonplace in soccer’s tactical world, which is creeping its way into the mainstream. Awareness of tactical behaviors has become increasingly important, as coaches across the globe look to gain advantages through different shapes in order to best use, with 10 outfield players, space on the pitch. Tactics illustrate the game within the game of soccer.
Soccer teams line up with formations denoted by three, four, or even five numbers. The first number represents the amount of defenders a team is playing with, while the second one denotes the number of midfielders, and the third the amount of forwards. For example, a team playing in a 4-4-2 is using four defenders, four midfielders, and two forwards. Boston College plays in 4-4-1-1, according to head coach Ed Kelly.
The four backs are shown in the graphic below. In front of them sit two holding midfielders. To their left and right are two wingers, who are also wide midfielders. The ‘1-1’ notation means that there is one player behind the foremost striker. The forward playing nearest to the midfield (the first ‘1’) is known as the supporting or withdrawn forward, while the ‘1’ closest to goal is usually the striker. He is the team’s furthest man up the pitch. These shapes can take different turns.
Offensively, the Eagles use a 4-2-3-1, because the two wingers, Isaac Normesinu, and usually Derrick Boateng, play in more advanced (forward) positions down their flanks.
The ‘2’ stands for the holding midfielder pairing which has become Nick Butler and Giuliano Frano. Zeiko Lewis, the supporting striker, plays behind Cole DeNormandie, who is the team’s target man. Defensively, the team’s wingers fall back, creating a 4-4-1-1.
“Target man” is a term for a striker that is the man to find. He is excellent for long ball situations, because he uses his strength to hold the ball up. BC’s target man is DeNormandie. Of the team’s 11, he is usually the man closest to goal. The back four send long balls to him on occasion, but more often than not, he holds the ball up with his back to goal after receiving a pass from a midfielder. This allows his teammates to make runs. DeNormandie, calm on the ball, can then pick his head up and get them involved in the attack.
When the team is getting forward, Lewis or Atobra Ampadu, who spend most of their time playing behind DeNormandie, play in what is known as “the hole,” which is a pocket of space between the opposition’s defense and midfield. It is for creative players, known as their team’s No. 10. Boateng can be found in that space as well, if he drifts to the inside. Being a playmaker requires a quick mind and excellent vision. Whoever is playing in the hole has to split defenders by spotting his teammates’ intelligent runs.
On the attacking right and left sides, Boateng and freshman sensation Normesinu are found. Normesinu is the team’s right winger. He uses his speed and skill to take players on down his side of the pitch. After receiving the ball on the right against Notre Dame, he dribbled around defenders to create enough space for a shot that put the Eagles ahead. Boateng can be considered a winger, but is more of interiories. This term describes a winger that drifts to the inside when his team is in possession.
The Defensive Midfield
Behind the four primary attackers are two holding midfielders. For BC, Frano and Butler make up the pair. When BC has the ball, their objective is to distribute it to the wings, find the target man, or possess with the other backs. In defense, they lend extra protection to the team’s back four. The duo breaks up the attacks of the opposition through tackles and interceptions. In addition, they provide a physical presence that blocks their opponent’s passing lanes.
Playing with four defenders has become commonplace in the past few decades of soccer’s history. In fact, when the game was first played, teams just used one or two defenders. Then, managers progressed to three, and eventually four backs, as teams gave up attackers to defend. Jonathan Wilson notes in the title of his book on the tactical history of the game, that clubs are Inverting the Pyramid.
Like most teams, BC plays with four defenders, a set that includes two outside backs, otherwise known as full backs, and two central defenders, also called center backs. Outside backs have played an increasingly important role on the pitch in the modern game, as they not only defend, but also boost their team’s attack. They must make lung-busting runs up and down the sides of the pitch to support their teammates via overlapping and crossing.