How to Use our Understanding of Ball Traveling Time - "Doubling Up"


What You Will Learn:

  • Once you understand the concept of ball travelling time you can use it to your advantage. This applies to both attacking and defensive tactics, and over long and short distances.

Now players are aware of how long it takes to pass a ball from one side of the pitch to the other, they need to see how this affects attackers and defenders.

There are three basic defending tactics:

  1. Stay in the danger zone and scoring zone and use ball travelling time to close players down.
  2. Double up (have 2 players marking) on wide players who are in a dangerous crossing area. Ron Atkinson, March 17th, 2003, The Guardian:

    To my mind Arsenal left him to face one-against-one scenarios too often - they have to make sure the midfielders cover any weaknesses. Gillespie would knock the ball down the line past him, knowing he could beat him for pace time and again a negative square pass.

  3. A midfield can compress the area around the ball and try to win it. See example on page 78

If we consider moving the ball when attacking a useful lesson is emphasised by the drill on the next page. Ask the back four to pass the ball as quickly as they can from one full back to the other, using firstly all four players. The team times this. Then three, then two as before. Ask the team what this tells them. If this is done slowly (with the exception of the example above) you will be closed down and cannot exploit space. It is the same in midfield.

The way the ball is passed obviously impacts on ball travelling time. Players need to practice moving a ball as fast as they can between 2 spaces.

Ball travelling time allows players to both attack and defend. You can cover the ground quickly between the two penalty areas. The midfield (at least three of them) should do this to create chances then defend if possession is lost A player in midfield (Roy Keane is a good example) can easily both attack and defend box to box. Roy Keane, in is his autobiography, comments

I worked box to box, unceasingly defending as well as I attacked.

The key point is, however, to remember that if you commit players forward then you have to be able to switch to defensive positions quickly. During the transition it is the job of the players near the ball to slow play down and allow the team to get its defensive shape. The danger during the transition is highlighted by Houllier who says

This is why the switch from attack to defending has got to be a bit better and we are working on that (Observer, 2nd November, 2003).

Players often don't realise how easily this is done, as a midfielder can soon cover the ground between the opposition's and his own penalty area. A sprinter would do this in between 6 and 7 seconds. An average player would do this in around 8 seconds.

The key then, is to buy time in the transition. Often players waste time tutting or putting their hands on hips or shouting their disappointment. This one second can be costly. Centre halves can also be used to attack, especially if a wide player has the ball and will cross. They can use this time to get to the opposition's box and back. The team should have players in their position until they arrive back.

Extra Tips

  • A wide midfielder or full back can be in position 4 when the ball is on the opposite side of the pitch and still cover the wide player by using ball travelling time.
  • The basic point is to see how far away this player can be to use ball travelling time to close the receiver down.

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