By Bob Pearce and Mihail Vladimirov.
‘Out of nowhere’
Someone once told me that Johan Cruyff had said football can be explained in three words – ‘Identify vulnerable space’.
In football everything gravitates around two basic but crucial concepts – what you do with the ball and what you do without the ball – creating and taking full advantage of free space in attack and denying the opposition the space in defence. In order to do something with the ball, you need the space to do it – to pass the ball, receive the ball or take a shot. Everything is space related. To have space you must first create it. To create space you need team mates to move ‘off the ball’. What you do both ‘on’ and ‘off the ball’ is with one simple aim – to create space and then exploit it to cause the most possible damage to your opponents.
Not all space on the pitch is ‘equal’. Is it helpful to divide the pitch into three zones – 1) High risk (final third), 2) Medium risk (middle third), 3) Low risk (first third)?
Yes, it could be said that way. The higher up the pitch (i.e. the closer you get to your opponents’ goal), the riskier it becomes for them, so your opponent will more actively try to limit all your players for space and time, both ‘on’ and ‘off the ball’. The same goes from their point of view – the closer they get to your goal the riskier it becomes for you.