Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Perimetral and Spacial players

Teams that prioritize versatility will have an edge because spatial players are necessary if you want to implement relational principles. As Antonio Gagliardi and Francesco Bordin describe, this is an effective response to man-marking strategies.

Antonio Gagliardi and Francesco Bordin in Notiziario del Settore Tecnico:

Of course, this is just an example; depending on the team, the characteristics of the players and the level reached, there will be structures with a higher or lower number of perimetral players and spatial players.

The more spatial players are part of the same team, the more dynamic and fluid the system will become. This is a great response to man-marking strategies which can often struggle against the fluid movement of players creating these asymmetrical areas of numerical superiority: obviously, these man-marking structures would be totally disrupted if their objective is to continue to track down individual players.

The characteristics of the perimetral and spatial players are different. For example, the latter are much more associative players, good in tight space and usually technically skilled.

It is race to find those technically skilled players that can operate as spatial players. As they describe, teams are currently using a combination of perimetral and spatial players.

Figure 1.1 - Manchester City rotations against Brighton.
Figure 1.1 - Manchester City rotations against Brighton.

There’s many great examples in the article but the best example, that not many are talking about, that I have is Manchester City versus Brighton. Kyle Walker, Manuel Akanji, Nathan Ake, and Josko Gvardiol are the permiteral players, and the rest are spacial. Brighton could not keep up with all of the coordinated movement.

And here comes one of the greatest challenges brought by this evolution: to delegate and to accept the players making apparently random movement and positions.

I don’t think it’s “random”. It’s expressive but there’s a purpose behind every movement, be it hidden or obvious.

Realistically, even in positional football, choices and movements are almost always decided by the players on the pitch (fortunately, we would say), but there is still the illusion of control. Precisely, an illusion: because then, in a situational sport like football, the random element is an absolutely influential factor.

It is a system built on trust. Like a trust fall. One player falls and you have to trust the next will catch them, cover for them.

But what happens when a team of Manchester City’s quality abandons the permitter allow every player on the pitch to move freely, even the defenders? I think that would be completely overwhelming.

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