In 2012, Austrian football team Red Bull Salzburg surprised the world with exciting football using the 4-2-2-2 shape. Ajax and also Bayern München had a hard time with the 4-2-2-2 ball oriented defense developed by Roger Schmidt and Ralf Rangnick. In this article, I will analyse the 4-2-2-2 pressing from a new perspective based on basketball defense tactics. First of all, I would like to explain some basic principles and rules of basketball.
What is a good defense in basketball?
Don´t let the opponent player short or pass easily. And to be able to immediately prepare a double team for the opposition dribble motion.
What is the best defense against the ball handler?
Shoot, Pass. Dribbling. Which play should a defensive player avoid most? The most dangerous play is to allow an open shot. Next is the pass. If the opponent pass the ball quickly, the will find a free player and hence an open shot.
The final one, Dribbling. Dribbling allows oppositions to move forward. However, from another perspective, the opposition´s ball handler can´t pass or shoot while he dribbles. It can be understood that the furthest state from the shoot is a dribble. The defensive player will be able to actively ball challenge to the dribbling player using an overload.
Basketball tactic “Pack Line defense”
Before explaining football, let’s introduce one of the basketball defensive tactics, “Pack Line Defense”. This tactic was created by Dick Bennett of University Wisconsin(USA). However, the model of this tactic was born long ago. So it’s also one of the most classic basketball defense.
What is a “Pack Line”?
The “Pack Line” is a virtual line about 1m behind the 3-point line (Fig.1). The concept of pack line defense is to compactly protect the area inside the pack line. It is a kind of man-to-man defense, but it has a unique point.
Fig.1 Pack Line
“Don’t go outside the pack line”
For example. Fig.2 shows the situation that # 1 has the ball. In a common man-to-man defense, the defensive player positions in the b’and c’. These positioning is a little like the cover shadow in football. But, in the pack line defense, they are positioned at B and C.
B and C are positioned on the edge of the shadow created by A as if the ball is the sun. At this time, B (C) can point to both ball-man # 1 and mark-man # 2 (# 3). This stance is called a “pistol stance” because it is similar to holding a pistol in both hands. And, the position overlooking the ball-man and the player who next ball-man is called “Gap” (next the next is “Help”).
# 1 can easily pass to # 2, but it is difficult to shoot with a dribbling straight ahead.
Fig.2 Gap position
Close-out of B is an important action (approach quickly to the opposition from the gap position is called close-out). Due to the close-out, #2 can’t shoot and pass to the far side. It is also difficult to dribble inside.
Fig.3 shows the pass from #1 to #2.
Under no circumstances do we let the opposition drive the ball baseline. We need to force the dribbler towards the middle of the floor where our help defenders are located.
Fig.4 shows the pass from #2 to #4.
And finally pack oppositions dribble-man!
Only three actions are allowed to the oppositions player with the pack line defense.
- Pass to the both side player.
- Shoot outside the 3 point line, in our close outs pressure.
- Dribble toward the middle of the floor, but we must not dribble or pass through the five points (Fig.5). Because it ’s easier for the opponent to shoot with free.
Fig. 5 Protect 5 point
Let’s talk about football!
4-2-2-2 consists of four DF, W6er, W10, and 2FW. FW, W10, W6er and CB are inside the PA width as shown. Make a hexagon, like surround the area several meters outside the center circle. You can set the height freely. The fig.6 is only convenient for explaining the width using the center circle. However, the distance between FW and CB should be keep within about 25meter.
Now, let’s draw a pack line and hit five points as in basketball. I think Figure 6 is the best. Draw the Pack line a few meters outside the PA. If “Plug” is located at the edge of the center circle, “Elbow” is in the middle of the half space and “Block (I call Frank)” is about 10m ahead of the offside line.
For example. Opposition’s shape is 4-4-2 with W6er. When the opposition’s RightCB is Ball-man, Left10 and Right6er step on the shadow created by LeftFW, and pistol stance. RightFW and Right10 stand Gap Position with pistol stance (Fig.7).
If oppositions right CB chooses a pass to RightSB, Left10 is closed out to oppositions rightSB. LeftFW and Left6er step on the shadow created by Left10. At this time, Left10 allows oppositions RightSB only three plays. Pass to RightSH and ball sweep past the right side of the body, pass, or dribble. Finally, LeftFW challenges the ball that moves inside the field.
In this situation, problem is too far between LeftFW and oppositions RightCB for close out. So RightFW move to near the oppositions RightCB.
If oppositions RightSB choose a pass to RightSH, Left6er and LeftSB are close-out to oppositions RightSH. LeftCB and Right6er step on the shadow created by Left6er. (Fig.8)
At this time, LeftSB must never let oppositions RightSH vertical dribble. We need to force the dribbler towards the middle of the field where our help defenders are located. And finally pack ball!
Fig.9 Pack ball
4-2-2-2 Weaknesses and 4-D-2
The weakness of 4-2-2-2 is 3DF with WGB. For example, oppositions shape is 3-4-3.
If oppositions RightCB is a ball-man, LeftFW approaches as shown in the fig.10. If Left10 steps on the shadow created by LeftFW, he can’t close out to the oppositions LeftWGB. Because the distance is too far.
If the Left10 positioned more outside. Oppositions RightCB can pass via Elbow or Frank. This is big problem.
The simplest of improvement is to transform the shape into 4-D-2. 4-D-2 consists of four DF, Pivot, WSH, 10, and 2FW. In 4-D-2, widen the distance between two FWs. 10 must protected “Plug”. So I call 10 “Pluger”.
If LeftFW approach to oppositions RightCB, LeftSH and pluger step on the shadow created by LeftFW (Fig.11). The distance between LeftSH and oppositions RightWGB is shorter than 4-2-2-2 shape. So LeftSH can close-out to RightWGB.
Pluger and LeftCB steps on the shadow created by LeftSH.
Finally, as shown in the fig.12, press the oppositions RightFW as in 4-2-2-2 shape.
Exercise Example 7vs6 Game
The purpose of this exercise is to help our defensive players understand tactics and choose the right role.
Fig.13 7vs6 Game
- 2 player step the shadow created by close-out player.
The blue team tries to connect the ball from A to A’. However, they must go to A’ via B . The red team is defensive. Take the ball and try to dribble through either end line.
Divide the field into three parts in this exercise. Prepare a pack line and 6 points as a mark.
– Special rules –
Blue team can use only 3 people in zone1 (Zone2). Red team has a maximum of 4 people.
Zone 3 can only use B of the blue team. B must not go out of Zone3. As an exception, Red team’s players are allowed to run through within Zone 3. So, Red team can intercept in Zone 3.
4-2-2-2 defense made by Ralf Rangnick and Roger Schmidt is a ball-oriented defense. But my plan is more man-oriented. But very similar. But if you focus on the space occupied by a player. Three things are important in my plan.
- Is the distance for closeouts good?
- Are you in the gap position with a pistol stance?
- Can you take care of the right side of the player who has closed out?
When a team meets these three conditions, the center of gravity of the team inevitably shifts greatly to one side. like their 4-2-2-2 defense.
Finally. Pack line defense is more effective in college basketball than the NBA. Why? Because there are many good 3Point shooters in the NBA. But, no 3 point shoot in Football. So, I think this 4-2-2-2 / 4-D-2 defense plan has great potential.