Just because there aren’t 22 players on the field and just because the field isn’t full size, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be bringing your A-game to the match.
As everyone who has played five-a-side football knows, the fewer people on your team, the more important your tactics are. A disorganised team with five wannabe Messi’s can still be trounced by a well practiced group of average Joes. So, without further ado, here are 5 top tactics for you to use next time you’re on the pitch, and looking to win.
Understand the basic principles
Always have at least one person attacking.
Ever heard the old saying the best defence is a good offence? Well they were right, and having someone up front focussed on attacking at all times means your opponent’s defence will always have some level of pressure on them. This in turn takes off some of the pressure on you. There’s no point creating opportunities to score if there is nobody there for the killer finish!
Always have at least one person defending.
Some of the best teams fall apart because there isn’t at least one person staying back and defending. It doesn’t matter how skilled your strikers are if your opponent can walk in a goal because nobody was willing to track back. Keeping one person behind also means you’re less likely to be caught off guard on a counter-attack. A solitary defender buying the rest of the team some time can mean the difference between victory and defeat.
Always have a dedicated keeper
5-a-side football can be fast paced, but that doesn’t mean you should stick your slowest player in goal and hope for the best! When all else fails (and believe me, it will!) the only thing standing (literally) between your opponent and a goal will be the keeper. And investing wisely in someone skilled and willing to take up this often thankless job can be the difference between a good team, and a great one.
Understand your formations:
Because your opponents certainly will. That means putting aside the playground rules where every man goes for goal seeking glory, and understanding the big boys play in formation.
The exact formation you and your team decide to use will vary on a lot of things, from your teammates style of play to your opponent’s tactics and your own general level of fitness.
Five a side requires different formations than when you’re fielding a full team.
Some examples of basic formation tactics include:
Otherwise known as the 2-up-2-down or the box formation. This is a staple for many teams for the simple reason that it is easy to implement and can suit a variety of situations. You can have a mixture of experienced and inexperienced players and still pull off some decent passes and have a balanced level of attack and defence. The major downside however is that this rigid structure is easy to predict and you can quickly find yourself outmanoeuvred by a savvy opponent.
Also known as the 1-2-1, this is a formation famed for its flexibility. It’s highly adaptable to respond to your opponent’s style of play and allows you to probe constantly for weakness. It relies on keeping one person up in attack, another back in defence and having two midfield players able to switch between the two.
This is a great tactic that allows you to adapt to the flow of the game, as your two midfielders can either push up when attacking or fall back to defend with relative ease.
However, the diamond’s effectiveness relies on your two midfielders being exceptionally fit as they will be charging up and down the field for most of the game and to remain tactically aware throughout. Some of the most catastrophic failures of the diamond have been when midfielders decide they prefer attacking and fail to fall back to support their sole defender, or sit back comfortably and leave their lone striker in an impossible position. Keeping the balance between the two is the key to making this formation work.
Also known as the 1-1-2, this is a very offensive formation designed to do one thing, score lots of goals. This tactic keeps up the pressure on your opponent’s defence with two strikers looking to maximise any goal scoring opportunity with a high pressing game.
There are drawbacks though. The biggest being that your defence is all but exposed as it will often be down to your solo centre-half to bear the brunt of the defensive work. This can be fine when playing against a weaker or more inexperienced team, but against a well organised attack you can expect to concede a few goals. Consider switching to a square or diamond formation when you lose possession to maximise your defence and keep your opponents on their toes.
Also known as the ‘reverse Y’, this is a defensive formation with a singular purpose, keep your opponents from scoring. In this defensive formation you deploy a central midfielder with two defenders either side to protect the goal, limit space and soak up pressure from the opposing team. With so many players ready to defend, your lone striker is free to focus on attacking.
This formation is great against more experienced or skilled teams or when you are trying to defend a narrow lead. It can be especially effective when used alongside a well timed counter attack, where upon retaking possession, your midfielder pushes forwards to assist your striker as your opponent (having committed more players to overcome your robust defence) leaves their own solitary defender exposed in 2 on 1 situation.
Be warned though that this tactic relies on an exceptionally fit midfielder who can not only bear the brunt of defending but, when the time comes, can also counter attack with great speed.
Learn from your game
Don’t leave it until match day to work on your game, by then it will be too late. Instead take some time after your last match to go over what worked and what didn’t. Breaking things down tactically after the match is something most teams neglect to do, and doing so can give you the upper hand.
It’s a useful way to figure out holes in your formation. Are your players getting dragged out of position and becoming exposed? Is your passing game on point but the finish lacking? Whatever your weakness, addressing them after the match (ideally over a pint) can help take your game to the next level.
One of the best bits about playing 5-a-side football is its unpredictability. With just ten players on the pitch, every pass or tackle change the course of the game. With that in mind its important to remember that your formation shouldn’t be a straitjacket, but rather a rough idea of where every player should be and what their responsibilities are. With every twist and turn you should re-assess your tactics and adapt them to each game as you need to. Adaptation is vital to ensuring you aren’t outmaneuvered against a well organised team.