What makes a good transition?
Is it mentality or shape? When you are looking to make a solid transition you need to ask yourself what you are trying to achieve. Are you aiming to sit back, defend and hit on the break? Or are you trying to attack relentlessly, camp and pummel the opposition into submission. The approach to making a good transition will depend entirely on your goals. A transition is any movement your team makes through phases in play. So you need to isolate these transitions when you are planning your system and then lay down roles and duties to achieve them. And it will depend on how you want to approach the game. The best systems have more than one route to goal, so you need establish how you plan to control space with some players and exploit it with others. Doing this well, will give you the transitions you are looking for. And your decision on whether you are planning a defensive or offensive style will dictate the roles and duties you have chosen within the system of play.
Let’s take a look at the example above. It’s a typical report you get ahead of your game. Here the report tells you the team is playing the system on Attacking/Fluid and its got high work rate to back it up. This should send alarm bells ringing. This is a system which aims to get plenty of players up in support (Fluid) and its approaching its game with a high degree of risk(mentality). Players will look to get the ball up quickly and move as a unit and it will do this as a pack.
It employs 2 full backs, but the full back on the right Mendoza is playing ostensibly on either support or attack duty, he has another midfielder on his flank playing on support and they both sit behind a winger who looks like he is on Attack. On the left side of the pitch the fullback looks like is slightly more defensive, but remember this system is playing on attacking mentality, which means that he could still get involved in transitions. And this could happen when the team is camped in the opponents half. We also have an Inside Forward who looks to be on support, alongside another on support in the centre in the form of P. Dybala. Up front we have a Complete forward.
The first thing we need to understand is how the roles and duties affect transitions. It appears that the ball will be kept in support down the left flank where they have plenty of players in close support. The DLP has options to play the ball through the middle or down the flanks. The winger looks ripe for attacking space down the right and when this team attacks, if it builds down the left, then the biggest concern we have is giving the DLP too much time to string passes together. Goals will come from the foraging runs of the winger down the right or from the potential diagonal balls Mendoza might release if this team is allowed to camp.
The biggest weakness this team has is actually down the right, however focusing down this area may be possible some of the time. What any team needs to do is adopt a two pronged approach. Deny the playmaker time on the ball and look to release quick balls down the flank where the fullback is attacking. This could keep the fullback in defence.
Whether this team plays on Fluid or Structured is irrelevant to its transitions. On fluid we should see more support players get into the final third, with the complete forward occasionally dropping off to lay passes to the winger. On structured we could see the demands increase on the winger who will more likely be attacking on his own trying to break teams down. Either way, their transitions will look almost the same. The numbers attacking the box may be less. On fluid shapes this team is vulnerable to balls over the top. On structured shapes the winger could get undone by a solid defensive fullback, who holds his ground and denies him crossing opportunities. In this case we need him to track and block. We do not want him to close him down and lose the player if he has poor acceleration. However if the fullback has good positioning and acceleration then we can close him down more.
Building a strategy to defend requires us to understand how transitions are built around roles and duties. These are by far the most important thing in the game.
Here we have a tactic that simply wants to worry about its defensive transitions. It has players in defensive positions and has elected to use a DCB on stopper duty to aggressively support the DLP(D). In midfield it uses a simple combination of a Mezzala who will roam the half spaces in front of him looking to release the occasional pass to the DLF(S) or play it into space for the Advanced Forward. Most of the transitions in this tactic will kick in when the team is in the defensive phase. It looks to release balls over the top by its use of a DCB and a DLP from deeper positions.
The DLF(S) and the AF are expected to work most of the chances on their own. Transitions will be fast, generated by balls over the top when the team moves from its defensive phase to its offensive phase, by its use of the DLP and the DCB. The use of the DLF(S) and the AF mean that it has two players upfront who will end up carving most of the chances for themselves. Both WB(S) are on support so they won’t move up in transitional play early, and will only commit if most of the team is in the opponent’s half. The Advanced Forward loves to attack defensive lines, so this system will work well if its defending and hoping to hit on the break.
Here we are looking at how the roles and duties help with transitions, note that I am ignoring mentality and shape. And that’s how I recommend you approach creating any tactic. Think about how you want to control space and how you want to exploit it.
Here’s a final example:
This is a simple 442.
Let’s take a look at how the roles and duties work together. We have very safe roles at the back, the two fullbacks are operating slightly differently and this in large part is driven by how the players in midfield have been set up. We have one winger attacking space down the left. The system hopes to draw players to the right where we have a player maker who has passing options in front of him, down the right and even with a fullback who will be overlapping. So he has 3 good passing options to keep the ball, but the big stick is the Winger on attack.
When the AI loads up down the right, it could leave pockets of space open for the winger, who needs to be good on the ball. Since he will have little to no support. If he has the acceleration and crossing to get around the defenders, he will whip in dangerous crosses. Here we have several transitions, at the core its still all about controlling space and exploiting space. It’s the reason why my Red Pharaoh system works so well with Ajax and Liverpool, and why the Leatherheads system will kick ass with a half baked Kingstonian side. You can follow those adventures on my youtube channel.
Roles and duties are the big factors to consider when trying to work good transitions into any system. I hope this helps you in some way.