Tag: basketball

Conceptual of 4-2-2-2 /4-D-2 defense

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

The 4-2-2-2

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.

Fig. 7 (left) and Fig. 8 (right)

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.

Fig.10 (left) and Fig.11 (right)

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

  • Close-out.
  • 2 player step the shadow created by close-out player.
  • Pack.

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.

3 thoughts newsletter

In my new newsletter format, I would like to delight you every Monday with a new article that should make you think. I will present three of my own thoughts about tactics or training. These points can often still be immature, badly explained or simply wrong. For me it’s more about writing down my own thoughts and maybe to exchange them with some of you.

I hope you enjoy the article! 😊

Basketball and football – the concept of dynamic space occupation

Besides soccer, I am also enthusiastic about many other sports such as tennis, handball, table tennis or even basketball. In particular I am passionate about the NBA, which is due to inspiring personalities like Gregg Popovich or Steve Kerr.

Due to the fact that I am more and more involved with basketball, I have been thinking about the parallels between basketball and football for quite some time. Are there perhaps concepts from basketball that can be applied to football?

The rules, number of players and the fact that basketball is a high-scoring game and football is not, make it difficult to find connections. But after I took a closer look at Steve Kerr and the Golden State Warriors, I came across one point – the dynamic space occupation.

By dynamic occupancy I mean that a particular space is not occupied by a player, but rather remains unoccupied, so that different players can always dynamically fill this space according to the situation. This makes it extremely difficult for the opponent to defend this space, because the opponent as orientation point is missing and dynamics is more difficult to defend than statics. If the opponent comes with speed while the defender is still standing still, the attacker has a decisive advantage. Interestingly, I have recently dealt with this in my analysis of the Kiel U19.

The Golden State Warriors used this concept regularly during their successful time. The paint was regularly unoccupied. Normally at least one classic Big Man is under the basket or near the zone. The Warriors, on the other hand, ordered their big players to the High Post. There they benefited from the passing strength of Draymond Green or David West. In a classic Warriors move, after a little ball movement, the ball was passed relatively early in the post to one of the big men.

The guards around the two outstanding shooters Klay Thompson and Steph Curry now began to move quickly, setting blocks for each other and thus presenting the opponent with challenges. The goal was for one of the players to move to the basket while the others positioned themselves behind the three-point line. Now the player in the high post could either pass the ball to the cutter or the ball moved to a three-point shooter.

Due to the high position of the big man, the opponent had to open the zone into which a player of the Warriors could then move. Either he received the ball or the defense was pushed back, which gave more room for the three-point shooters. In addition, the player who cut to the basket could move back towards the three-point line after not receiving the ball, while another player moved to the basket. As a result, it happened often that the first cutter escaped the defensive field of vision and could be found open at the three-point line. The constant movement of the ball and the players regularly caused problems and forced the opponent to make mistakes, which the Warriors mercilessly exploited.

“The main goal, is to just make the defense make as many decisions as you can so that they’re going to mess up at some point with all that ball movement and body movement and whatnot”

Steph Curry

What does this have to do with football?

A lot, because this principle resembles the idea behind the false nine. The hole created by the movement of the false nine could be occupied by other players at all time. I think that this strategy should be used much more often. Especially against man-oriented defences, certain spaces can be left open so that they can be filled by an advancing or falling player depending on the situation.

For example, a striker can drop deeper and at the same moment a midfielder can advance vertically to occupy the hole. Together with various runs of other offensive players behind the last defensive line, these situations are truly unpleasant to defend.

Even diagonal movements into the open space could pose immense challenges for a defender, as the diagonally advancing player would stay out of the defenders’ field of vision for a very long time. The decisive factor here is that the situations of dynamic space occupation force the opponent to make a decision. Do we occupy the space or follow the player dropping deeper?

The offensive structure of our team should then be so good that there is an alternative and the person with the ball ultimately only has to pay attention to the decision of the defenders to make the right decision.

As far as dynamic space occupation is concerned, basketball certainly still offers many exciting principles and lessons for football. One principle could be that for every vertical movement forward, a matching dropping movement of another player must occur.

Deliberate Practice – it depends on how you use your time

Recently I read the book of Kobe Bryant – Mamba Mentality, as I have always been fascinated by Kobe’s work ethic and professionalism. Although the book was unfortunately rather a disappointment, I came across the term Deliberate Practice through him once again.

I found a very interesting article by James Clear about the meaning of Deliberate Practice. An anecdote about Kobe Bryant explains very nicely why we should set ourselves goals instead of measuring our work enthusiasm by the hours invested.

Kobe Bryant started his conditioning work around 4:30am, continued to run and sprint until 6am, lifted weights from 6am to 7am, and finally proceeded to make 800 jump shots between 7am and 11am.

Kobe Bryant not only put a lot of time into his training, but also set himself goals. He trained to hit 800 jumpshots, completely irrelevant how long it takes.

Why am I telling you this? Because it’s relevant to all situations in life. Many of us define diligence by the hours of work packed into one thing. However, an hour of training, analyzing a game, or learning more does not automatically mean that you have really made progress or accomplished something – it depends on how the time was used.

“Consider the activity of two basketball players practicing free throws for one hour. Player A shoots 200 practice shots, Player B shoots 50, The Player B retrieves his own shots, dribbles leisurely and takes several breaks to talk to friends. Player A has a colleague who retrieves the ball after each attempt. The colleague keeps a record of shots made. If the shot is missed the colleague records whether the miss was short, long, left or right and the shooter reviews the results after every 10 minutes of practice. To characterize their hour of practice as equal would hardly be accurate. Assuming this is typical of their practice routine and they are equally skilled at the start, which would you predict would be the better shooter after only 100 hours of practice?

Aubrey Daniels

What can we as coaches take away from this?

A lot, especially for our own training. Before we go through 2-hour training sessions in preparation, which do not follow any real goal, we should think about what we want to achieve in this training. Which goals should be achieved, which contents should be learned, and which problems should be solved?

On this basis we can design our training unit, but always keep in mind that the length of the unit does not say anything about the quality. Sometimes it is better to use shorter, more intensive drills with more breaks instead of playing the small-sided game longer at medium intensity.

Of course, it can also make sense to train longer, I don’t want to exclude that. I just want to point out that every training should have a goal.

“Train with a purpose in mind”

How many principles do you need?

Only recently I had a very exciting conversation with Niklas Bühler about developing my own game idea. We exchanged views on his playing principles and came up against the question of how many principles a coach should teach his players and how universal they should be.

This question is not so easy to answer. Since I see principles as guidelines for solving certain situations, one could assume that more principles help the player to find a solution in more situations. However, too many principles not only confuse players, but also restrict their freedom and creativity. Ultimately, we coaches should create a framework in which the players can express their full strength.

It is probably worth keeping principles more general, so that players can apply them in whatever system they play in. Furthermore, more general principles cover several situations. This gives the players guidelines that can help them in many situations.

However, I have to admit that I have been thinking about this issue only recently. Therefore, I would be glad about your input and hope for an exciting discussion 😊


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