Understanding Soccer Tactical Periodization in 5 Minutes

Introduction to Tactical Periodization

 Game Model: How we play. Inside the game model, we build in a degree of tactical flexibility, but never straying from the core ideas or foundation of our soccer beliefs. Teaching the four moments of the game, specific to our game model (attacking transition, attacking organization, defensive transition, defensive organization)

Tactical Periodization: The way the game model is taught over a week, month and season. Teaching can be done using the entire team, inter-unit, unit, groups of players from different units and individuals.

Typical 1-Week Cycle: Game Day, Recovery/Off Day, Recover Day Training, Strength Day (shorter distances and less volume in training), Endurance Day (hardest day of training typically 10v10 larger field), Lower Intensity Training, Activation (easy day to review tactics & couple maximum exertions), Game Day.

Physical Periodization: Planning the workload of the team. The physical workload needs to be measured and coordinated with the tactical periodization training & supplemental physical work. Ideally we would have strength/movement specialist coach that would work with the staff to integrate the physical aspects.

Pre-season: In the college season (where I currently coach) this is very short for us, we rely on players reporting to pre-season in top physical condition. The aim of pre-season is to come to together as a team as quickly as possible, while the coaching staff gets to know the abilities of players. The game model must be taught very quickly, analyzed in pre-season matches & adapted/tweaked where needed. The idea is to hit a very high-level of performance and stabilize at that level, from a tactical, cognitive and physical aspect. The typical college season does not work this way because of the high demands of games (2-3 per/week). We try and schedule only 1 game per/week to ensure high performance levels are maintained throughout the entire season.

In-season: Constant analysis of game model for improvements, while getting specifically ready for the next opponent, making small-tactical and personnel adaptions for the next opponent if needed.

1 Week Cycle (Micro-cycle) Grey, Blue, Yellow,Green= 4 weeks  – Match Day’s in Pink

1 Month Cycle (Meso-cycle)

Full Season (Macro-cycle) – Four Parts Pre-season, In-season, Post-season & Off-season

Countdown to next Game in days = G-3 (game is 3 days away) G-2 (game is 2 days away) G-1 (game is 1 day away)

Sub Principles for the Moments of the Game

Attacking Organization

#1 Building out of the Back – (pass short to attract, switching play, using the keeper, playing direct, player positioning) – How you train your team to play out from the back, and tactical flexibility that accounts for the attributes and tactics of the opponent.

#2 Building Phase – building possession in the middle 1/3 of the field (using the width, player positioning, movment of players to more attacking positions)

#3 Scoring Phase – in the attacking 1/3, crossing intelligence, movement into dangerous areas, coordinated attacking team movements, penetrating movements

Defensive Transition

#1 Mental commitment to defend immediately

#2 Immediate pressing and team recovery

#3 Quality of 1v1 defending

Defensive Organization 

#1 Step-up/Push-up to stop opponents build-up play – normally in opponents defensive 1/3 from re-start.

#2 Lines of depth, correct spacing between lines and shifting of lines – this requires coordination between the entire team

#3 Defensive 1/3 lines of depth –  always trying to have multiple lines of depth, but if a tight line is held, must be a unit.

Attacking Transition

#1 Read the situation. Can we score right away with a shot? Is there a direct ball that can be hit, to create an immediate scoring opportunity or put the defense under pressure? If neither option is available, we should build the play, fill all channels (width) and allow for attacking positions to be taken up as the ball is possessed.

Attacking Principles

#1 Penetration – to create scoring chances

#2 Width – stretch the defense to open up gaps

#3 Support – allows for ball retention and switching of field

#4 Mobility – movement and the interchanging of positions to unbalance the defense

#5 Balance – if possession is lost the counter attack can be dealt with effectively

Defending Principles

#1 Press – if we can win the ball right away, do so

#2 Support – behind the pressing players are the supporting players, who cut out passing lanes

#3 Delay – give the team time to recover behind the ball

#4 Compactness – defending with numbers in a small area

#5 Balance – making sure all vulnerable spaces can be covered

Training Principles

#1 Complex Progressions – trainings should be simple to complex

#2 Propensities – train important moments over and over, but keep changing the experience to make the training a little unpredictable

#3 Specificity – all training sessions relate to the game model (debatable in player development model)

#4) Principle of Horizontal Alternation Specificity – workload must be monitored to keep training safe and productive

#5 Coaches Instinct – coach makes whatever changes are needed to trainings

Micro Cycle– the goal is to achieve the highest performance level for the match. Complete recovery comes only on the 4thday after a match. The micro-cycle helps plan the week so emotional, physical and mental capacities are at their best.

General Guidelines of Micro Cycle 

Saturday – Match Day

Sunday – Off completely

Monday – Players who did not play match will play 75 minute training match. Players who played 45+ minutes in match will do recovery and easier session.

Tuesday – Medium workload

Wednesday – Largest work day of the week (10 v 10 for 60 minutes)

Thursday – Medium workload

Friday – Low workload

Tactical Periodization is a training methodology, invented by Portuguese Professor, Vitor Frade. I personally find it very useful, in terms of planning and organizing trainings, staying focused on the game model, and being conscious of player physical workload. However, Tactical Periodization is just one part of my coaching tool box, I am not strictly tied to Tactical Periodization as a methodology. It is very important, I am not tied to a single “Soccer Coaching Dogma”, that limits my freedom when it comes to coaching the game. The overview I provided of Tactical Periodization is simple, direct and to the point, I did that on purpose, because that is the way I view it, and that is the way I implement it myself. If you want to study Tactical Periodization in more detail, there are plenty of resources available, just understand that this incredible popular training methodology is simply one person’s view point on training. I found it more useful to pick the pieces from Tactical Periodization that made the most sense to me, combining them with the ideas I have about coaching from many other places.

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