Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Florian Wirtz Acceleration and Deceleration

Florian Wirtz is an expert at combining acceleration and deceleration to manipulate the position of the feet and hips of the defender, creating space.

Figure 1.1 - Florian Wirtz carries the ball forward from the wing.
Figure 1.2 - Mohamed Simakan challenges Florian Wirtz.
Figure 1.3 - Florian Wirtz slows down to lock Mohamed Simikan's feet pointed right.
Figure 1.4 - Florian Wirtz shifts his body weight left while taking a touch with the outside of his left foot.
Figure 1.5 - Florian Wirtz dribbles inside while Mohamed Simikan begins a 180 degree turn.

Slowing the dribble towards the defender locks the defender’s hips, making them less mobile. But you can’t wait too long to take that next touch into the space you want to attack because if the defender can get both feet pointed towards Wirtz, he’ll have the necessary range of motion to stick a leg out.

Wirtz times that touch with outside of his right foot to perfection and even uses his hips to fake the move to the left, when he intends to dribble right.

Every great dribbler does this but Jérémy Doku is another that I recently wrote a post on. Wirtz doesn’t have the raw speed that Doku has, but you don’t need it in the smaller spaces if you have the timing down.

Once the defender has to do a full 180, Wirtz sold him to the left, he has the move locked.

Figure 1.6 - Florian Wirtz carries forward, drawing in two defenders.
Figure 1.7 - Florian Wirtz plays the pass when both defenders are close enough to not intercept the ball.

And then Wirtz doesn’t immediately force the pass, like most would. He waits till both defenders are close to draw the most attention to himself, to open space for others.

Now the man receiving the pass has space and he drags the defender in which creates space for Alejandro Grimaldo on the wing.

Figure 1.8 - Side angle of Florian Wirtz's pass.
Figure 1.9 - Alejandro Grimaldo crosses on the ground to the back post.
Figure 1.10 - Nathan Tella tap-in on the back-post.

It goes back to what Pep Guardiola said about attacking the center-backs:

“If the central defender has to step out, everything opens up; the whole defence becomes disorganised and spaces appear that weren’t there before. It’s all about breaking through lines to find space behind them. Open, then find.”

Figure 2.1 - Florian Wirtz passes back and immediately begins a run forward.
Figure 2.2 - Florian Wirtz is played the pass.
Figure 2.3 - Floria Wirtz receives the ball in a pocket.

First a pass and move to both create space and enter into the space inside the box.

Figure 2.4 - Florian Wirtz slows his movement and cuts back to lock the defenders legs and feet pointed away.
Figure 2.5 - Florian Wirtz fakes a shot by hopping up into the air, further halting the shift in body position from the defender, forcing them to continue to point their body towards the corner flag.
Figure 2.6 - Defender has now recovered but still pointed away from the space Florian Wirtz is attacking.

The hop Wirtz does is genius because look at the amount of separation he has to the defender. That one hop and the stop locks the defender in. It decelerates their turn to challenge the ball. The defender is forced to continue to point their body away from the ball.

Figure 2.7 - Note the separation between the defender and Florian Wirtz when he begins to shoot
Figure 2.8 - As Florian Wirtz takes the shot, the defender begins a lunge with their left leg.
Figure 2.9 - The defender couldn't get their leg over in time to block the shot.

And then in the end, he has the space to get the shot off. Most would receive, take two touches forward, and then perform none of the stutter steps to accelerate and decelerate. They’d take the touch and get their shot blocked.

This ability to read when to both time a movement and judge what speed to execute said movement, is what separates the good dribblers from the world-class dribblers.

Match: RB Leipzig 2-3 Bayer Leverkusen, 20 January 2024

Back to top Share on Twitter Email this post Copy link