Unlocking Defensive Spaces: Exploiting the Central-Lateral Interval

March 27, 2024, 9:52 a.m.

Unlocking Defensive Spaces: Exploiting the Central-Lateral Interval

Strategic movements in the finishing zones do not solely rely on the individual skills of players, as commonly assumed. Increasingly, solutions are sought to dismantle opposing defences from a collective gameplay perspective.

Therefore, in this article, we will explore a movement during the finishing phase that involves capitalizing on the spaces between the centre-back and the full-back of the opposing defensive line. To take advantage of these situations, it is essential that our team has width in play and the ability to create depth. Without proper width, it will be extremely difficult to expand the defensive spaces between opponents and will also limit the depth of our game.

The predominant logic in defensive systems is to protect the central area of the field, as that is where the goal is located and centrally placed balls are difficult to defend. However, when the ball is played towards an outer flank of the field, that is when we observe shifting movements of the opposing defensive line, which can open up opportunities to find spaces.

Let's analyze a game situation:

In the image, we can observe that the defensive line is well-positioned, with short distances between players. However, a pass to the outside causes a defensive player to leave his position to press the receiver near the ball, attracting the defender and creating space in the rear area. It is important to highlight the position of the highlighted player, who will move to deepen the space once the ball reaches the outside.

As shown in the image, the spaces in the defensive line have been widened, and the interior player takes advantage to break into the free space that forms between the centre-back and the full-back who has come out to press the ball on the outer flank.

In these situations, a maxim is established: the second-to-last player should always break into space when the last player receives the ball.

We observe another situation in which a player receives the ball on the outer flank and another teammate remains open, not as a receiver but as a marker. Their role is to split the opposing defensive line and draw the defender to widen the defensive interval between the centre-back and the full-back, allowing the interior player to make a breaking run into space.


* Images taken from longomatch. *

Author: Andrés Bretones
Instagram: @andresbretones7