Foottheball simplifies: Transitions

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Have you ever been completely confused by the technical terms that coaches use in their post-game conferences?

In this series, we’ll continue to slowly unravel and simplify the technical jargon used by top coaches in interviews.

One of those terms that causes a lot of confusion is “Transitions.” At Foottheball we are here to make these concepts simple for you.

Not to be confused with counterattack, it is a different concept all together. In fact, the counterattack is only a small part of these ‘Transitions’ as a concept.

(Exploiting the space)


A transition in soccer is defined as the process of recognizing and responding in the first few seconds after losing or regaining possession of the ball. Experts define transitions as a process that involves pressure and counter pressure in midfield. The purpose is to win the ball relatively close to the opposing goal, then use the disorganization of the other team to catch them off guard.

The general tactics of a team involve a constant interaction between the patterns of attack and defense. the complex nature of these interactions, guides the passage of the game from one area of ​​the field to another, so it requires an adaptation time, which includes varied responses in the case of defending after attacking (defensive transition), or attacking after defending (offensive transition).

Often times, spaces are left empty when the ball changes possession in a fraction of a second, the player closest to the change of possession is said to have the highest probability of influencing the game in the next few seconds.

From a defensive standpoint, it involves cutting passing lanes, pressing and rearranging the shape of defensive coverage, and making it harder for attacking teams to take advantage of gaps left by players who are not in defensive position.

An offensive transition is something that is most noticeable in a game as it often leads to high quality goals or opportunities that are usually created at an incredible rate. So, in the offensive sense, a transition simply means the team’s ability to exploit spaces and establish a numerical advantage in dangerous areas of the field against a disorganized defense.

Therefore, today’s coaches seek to develop the speed at which they can make their players act or react immediately after they have regained or lost possession, helping them understand how they can take advantage of such situations.


(Son’s goal that won the Puskas award recently is an example of a perfectly executed offensive transition)

Transitions have become the most crucial part of soccer tactics in today’s date and time. All teams in world football today, consistently or incoherently, have developed patterns of play that can be defined as transitions. All coaches from Klopp to Allardyce use these transitions to attack and defend.

Jens Bangsbo, former Juventus sports scientist, and Birger Pietersen, former coach of the Danish women’s team, in their chapter on tactics and strategies in the new book, Soccer Science, mention the importance of transition and can be quoted as saying: “During the In recent years, transition has become a crucial tactical concept in the game plan of many teams. The teams are focusing on taking advantage of the situations in which they recover the ball, because the opponent’s defense is usually disorganized at that time ”.

In the recent match between Crystal Palace and Liverpool, Firmino’s first goal was a perfectly executed offensive transition. Liverpool snapped after dealing with a Crystal Palace corner, Firmino released Robertson over the wing around the midline, and received the ball in space just on the edge of the area, and calmly passed the ball past Guaita. for Liverpool’s third goal.

(Firmino perfectly embodies the transition principles of the Klopp system)


Players like Klopp, Guardiola and Flick look to dominate possession through these transitions as they tend to take the game away from their opponents, ensuring that their team is always trying to recover the ball in the defensive third of the field. opposition using these transitions as a number 10. As a result, leading to the high intensity press style followed by their teams. Mourinho and Ole, use the transition principles to configure their teams differently. Their teams are prepared for quick counterattacks, as they set traps in the middle of the field and their own defensive third, allowing opposition teams to have the ball and dominate possession, only to invite the other team higher up the field. leaving space behind the defense of the opposition.


(Guardiola organizing his team)

Often in games he forces the teams that have recovered the ball to go and attack, and when these traps come into play they seek to break the rhythm and attack the disorganized defense. An Allardyce or Steve Bruce, on the other hand, doesn’t use transitions to attack the aforementioned batch as much. However, their teams rely heavily on defensive transitions to make sure they don’t concede “dumb” goals. They do this by making sure their set of players always maintain their form, even when they lose the ball. This makes it extremely difficult for the opposing team to take down stubborn and organized defenses.

Hopefully you now have a better understanding of transitions in soccer and how relevant they are. Now when you play soccer manager, FIFA or soccer with your friends, you can use these tactical principles to take your game to the next level.

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