Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Passing out from the back (Part 1)

Teams get praised for it all the time when they get it right, but as soon as a defender is caught in possession he is chastised for overplaying. Depsite this, I think playing the ball out from the back can create some great situations for teams and, in my opinion, is worth the risk both for aesthetic reasons and for practical reasons. This is especially truee when you consider that although the consequences of losing the ball may be greater, the short passes played make it much more likely that a side will retain possession than if they play a long ball to a striker who has around a 50% chance of winning the header and then has an even smaller chance of that header finding a team mate.

There are many ways to play the ball out from the back so I thought I would try to demonstrate a few, this is part 1.

Releasing the Centre Back

I saw an example of this recently in Benfica vs Chelsea in the Champions League where John Terry, a player not exactly known for his ball playing qualities and movement in the same way as someone like Pique, Vermaelen, Kjaer or his partner on the night David Luiz.

Step 1

Mikel moves between Luiz and Terry in order to get free

Step 2
Terry then has the space to move forward until he is closed down and plays a pass into the feet of Kalou
Step 3
This move breaks down as Kalou is pressured by Right Back Maxi Pereira into passing the ball back to Mikel but Chelsea maintain possession and Terry continues to have time and space on the left where he again receives the ball

Step 4
Terry again moves forward and plays a simple pass to the feet of Kalou when pressured, who is again closed down by Pereira
Step 5
This time Terry, still being covered for by Mikel,moves forward unmarked. Kalou finds Lampard who sees Terry’s run and nearly plays him in behind the Benfica defence. Benfica Centre Back Luisao is torn (as you can see by him turning to run back having been dragged up the pitch) between pressing Torres and helping Midfielder Axel Witsel who is now stuck between Terry and Cole (having tracked Cole's forward run after the Right Back Pereira has moved up the pitch pressuring Kalou). Cole, in fact, was also released by Terry’s movement to the left and Mikel coming into the centre

This short sequence shows the potential of playing out from the back if a team is patient, keeping the ball when pressed by playing a simple backwards pass, and move off the ball in a sensible manner with others filling in when players make runs from deep.


  1. This is something Newcastle rarely do, we tend just to kick it long a lot. I guess we aren't as comfortable at the back?

    1. The stats indicate they are relatively good at passing out from the back, Steven Taylor has their highest clearances per game with 7.9, though he hasn't played many games. The same goes for Williamson who makes 6.8 per game which makes him the 28th highest in the league and behind the highest clearers for Manchester Utd, and Tottenham as well as Swansea (renowned for their passing football). Also, Terry, Ledley King and Kompany have similar rates. The highest number of accurate long balls per game from an outfield player is Tiote with 4.2 (42 in the league) and they have the 12th highest total long balls per game in the league. Being 14th for short passes and having 11th highest possession suggests they are relatively balanced between short and long passing, however, their defenders do have a relatively low number of passes per game, probably equally attributable to a game fairly balanced ebtween long and short passing as well as low possession in general.