Take it easy


The Half-Spaces ハーフスペース 翻訳 後編


Switching positions, overloads and half-space features

The half-spaces have the benefits of being close to the other zones and offering more choices to the attacker; one can therefore combine with players from the wings and the middle.
While the same is true of the middle, it doesn’t offer the same synergy.
If the players all slide to the middle then it lacks the potential of shifting the ball over two zones to the flanks.
Meaning: if you have the ball then you usually can’t leave the wings empty, otherwise it will be too tight in the middle.
Usually both wingers are providing width and hugging the touchline, making them disappear as combination partners; this means (depending on the desired players on the wing) having two to four fewer combination options.
In the half-spaces this is different.



The half-space is close to the wing.
The nearest wide player is thus quite playable and not too far away.
The players who are normally in the center and in the far half-space can also indent and operate closer to the half-space where the ball is without neglecting their zone.
The far wing player can also indent more towards the center and take up a position in the half-space; something Jürgen Klopp often does with his far full-back.
Now there is an interesting interaction between the time component and the opponents’ lack of space.


In the time component, it is the length of the shifted ball that supports the indenting; even if the winger indents more (and thus covers the far half-space player potentially indenting further), he is still playable on the wing.
Once the ball-carrier sends off a switched ball, he can already be in motion and run to the wing.
Once the long ball arrives, he is usually already close to the touchline.
For an indirect shift with short passes between several players this works easily.
As mentioned, if the ball is already lost, the indented wide player can indent further and immediately take up his proper position for ball-oriented shifting, thereby being less prone to counter attacks.
Bayern took advantage of this with their false full-backs this past season; they let the actual width givers indent more in the first third, in order to open these spaces and overload the half-spaces and were good at counter-attacking in the strategically important central areas while being less protected on the wings.

時間でいえば、 内側に入る動きをサポートするのはサイドを変えるボールの長さという事です。

The second interaction, with the opponent’s lack of space, is also easy to explain:
If the ball is in the middle, then the opposing team is relatively stable there and mostly occupies the middle and the half-spaces; the wingers in a 4-4-2, for example, usually hover near the wing spaces because the time factor also affects the supporting shift.
Until the ball comes to the side, that supposedly open side may be barred shut.
But if the ball is in the half-space or on the wing, the far player needs to indent really far or they’ll have trouble maintaining the horizontal compactness needed.
The wingers must also not stand very wide but next to the opponent’s formation in order to give width.
This will enable them to indent and cover; allowing them to quickly provide better local compactness in the half-spaces while in possession.



Overloads of players from the strategically least important zone, the wings – especially in the protection of their own attacks – are thus possible; which brings us to the false full-backs of Bayern Munich again.
The half-spaces can be quickly overloaded by players indenting a few meters and players swapping positions is no problem due to the high number of players in the three zones (half-space, middle, half-space) and the short distances between them.
These position switches, the brief abandoning of the wing, and the general features of the half-space also provide other positive effects, which aren’t possible in the middle or on the wings.


Thus, the half-spaces also have a very collective nature; the possibility of rapid and targeted diagonal combinations, the harmony and feedback effects of the fields of view, and the way many players can combine ensures variety and constructiveness in a team’s play.
This is interesting and important not only in the defensive and offensive game, but also in transition.

したがって、ハーフスペースは多数の性質をもっているのです。迅速に斜めの連携をもつ可能性、 視野の効果によるハーモニーとフィードバック、


The half-spaces in transition

Anyone who deals with the Spanish and South American football school will often come across the phrase that the defense and offense are not separate but “one”.
Therefore, the opportunities and benefits of half-spaces for the team in possession have been presented, but the importance of the half-space also applies to the defense.



Basically, the division of defense and attack is only helpful to directly consider the strategic aspects of certain situations and phases.
What is behind this unity of defense and offense, is the mixing of many aspects that directly affect the other phase of the game.
So a stable, intelligent, high-scale, and well-secured possession game supports the defense; a good press and counterpress also supports a decisive offense.
The half-spaces have a special character in this regard.


If one plays very half-space oriented in possession, moving frequently from half-space to half-space and holding on the ball a long time within them, they not only have some offensive advantages but allow for the integration of some interesting pressing options on turnovers.
For example, it’s possible that the far half-spaces are quickly filled and covered by the indenting of the far winger.
The player in the half-space can go aggressively into the middle, pressure the opponent there and win back the ball or guide him towards the wing. The opponent must then either play around the block or counter over the zone where the ball just was and a relatively compact shape now stands. Likewise, counterpressing traps are possible, which are generated from the previous occupation of the half-spaces, making it easy to block the middle.


When transitioning from defense to offense the process is similar.
A team that dominates the half-spaces in their defensive phase can either isolate the middle, where they will have a lot of access or guide the opponent to the wings.
Then it is possible to go beyond the half-spaces, partly to open space (for example, passing the enemy on the wings, opening its half-spaces and then counterattacking there) and then use the half-space to create options.
One can seek passes from the “heap”, i.e. the group around the ball and more easily and freely rotate to give a little bit more resistance to counterpressing.
From the half-spaces one can play to the wing, move the game into the middle, or switch the ball to the far half-space.


Pressingtrap on Chelsea from Atlético. After winning the ball they can counter quite nicely, no?


In addition, most teams are fanned out wide when they are in possession:
The width-giving effect of the wing is no longer needed in a direct counterattack as the half-space can provide it.
The opponent has only a few players and more space to defend, so one can sufficiently pull the opposition apart across the half-spaces with less width in their attacking play; all without losing nearby passing options and Dynamik.
At the same time this effectively gives the opponent space out wide, therefore a very narrow counterattack, e.g. the teams of Roger Schmidt, are still promising.
Even for Schmidt, taking the center and the half-spaces plays a key role in understanding the threat of their counterattack.


But even if it is not used vertically, the half-space has a positive effective on transitions.
Gladbach under Favre paired ball-oriented shifting with their tight, position-oriented coverage (both were at their peak in Favre’s second season) and always had a good occupation of the half-spaces and a collective narrowness in offensive transition.
They could then either move forward with rapid one-touch combinations, like Reus and his offensive partners, or move away from the opponents’ counterpressing by playing backwards and build play forward with a deep, stable possession; Neustadter, Dante, and ter Stegen were natural players for this system.
The halfspaces offer not only ideal connections to different horizontal, but vertical zones as well.

ポゼッションを安定させるために ノイシュテッター、ダンテ、テアシュテーゲンはこのシステムに必要な選手でした。

In a way, the half-spaces are a “connection zone” under the umbrella of the other various zones.
One could see the middle as more of an “organization zone” while the wings are suited to breakthroughs.
In theory, a division of the different characteristics of the zones that takes into consideration certain play styles (ball circulation method of defense, etc) is an interesting article for the future . . .

But first … let’s look at the reason why, among other things, the half-spaces have these characteristics and special tactical significance.



The special characteristics of the half-spaces in tactics history

The half-spaces have a fundamental strategic nature, which is reflected in their different consequences, interactions, and properties.
However, the half-space derives its own character not just from these basic aspects but from tactical reasons.



One often has a small advantage in this zone against the most commonly used formations.
The frequency of certain formations – and hence the positive tactical effects of half-spaces – are historical.
Formations are ultimately, after all, only arrangements designed to meet a certain objective within a manager’s game philosophy.
From different cultures and traditions, similar processes and formations evolved that are often synonymous with a particular country or playing style.
Ultimately, formations are only heuristics, which intend to simplify a way of playing according to a specific philosophy handed down by the coach in training.


*1 ヒューリスティック・・・人が意思決定をしたり判断を下すときに、厳密な論理で一歩一歩答えに迫るのではなく、直感で素早く解に到達する方法のことをいう。

Formations are also created on the drawing board as an attempt at arranging the players, giving them a linear character.
There are no circular formations or arbitrary distributions on the field, but clear structures in lines or at the most three triangles, which are mostly also organized in lines and merely used as a way to get things set up.


These two aspects – the nature of creating formations and the cultural characteristics in football – in combination with the previously mentioned way of categorizing the “middle” and “wings” ensures a very unique, specific character in the half-spaces.
In short: because players were/are never really planned to be in the half-spaces in the design of formations they can cause unpleasant effects in the shifting and combination options for the opponent; many teams move their central players a little towards the wing, others have turned to man-oriented play on the wings or – very often, especially in England – the wingers do not move towards the center of the field.


In all of these scenarios, the half-spaces are extremely effective and valuable.
Because the half-spaces have historically never really been considered (excluding managers like Ernst Happel), they are often particularly effective and fatally surprising to opponents.
So, for a long time, certain aspects of the usual, boring formations and standard movements have always been prone in the half-spaces.
The horizontally unkompakte and generally symmetrical 4-4-2 of the 90s and 2000s is a prime example, whether in the buildup (spaces next to the passive strikers) or in the offensive game (widened gaps in the half-spaces).
This was also due to the standard tactics like isolated wingers and their man-orienting.
With a better shape and positioning, these formation problems can be fixed, but the vulnerabilities often remain and certain formations just have special characteristics that can be taken advantage of in their classical interpretation.
The motto rings true: the ball runs faster.


Then there are the tactical and strategic aspects of the half-spaces and why they are effective against standard formations; the pass angles and gaps are generally easier to break with diagonal play and this effect is enhanced because of the wing and central orientation of opposing formations.


Imagine a team that is defending in a wide 4-4-2.
Because they are wide, the half-spaces are open (their central players are in the middle and their wingers are on the wings).
The attacking team moves two players into the half-space in a vertical line; one in the offensive half-space in midfield and the other into the attacking team’s own defensive half-space.
Neither the six or the striker of the defending team will be able to cope with covering these players or their shifting movements.
If the defending striker takes on his opponent he will concede space in midfield, harm the compactness of the formation and have problems establishing access.
If the opponent was on the wing, he could at least be guided away and isolated from his teammates and if he was central the striker could more easily establish access.
Furthermore, in the shift forward, the striker is usually at the same level and can’t protect the middle very well.
In today’s space-oriented football, these problems are rare but have been seen.
The English Premier League says hello.
All of these circumstances beg the question:


Conclusion: Is the half-space better than the middle?

Out of sheer enthusiasm, it may seem like the half-spaces are not the second-but the most important area from a strategic perspective.
Although the center has numerous benefits and is simply the closest zone to the goal, there are many similarities between the half-space and center in terms of advantages.
Furthermore, the half-spaces are complemented with more variability:
From the center you can play on two similar things, from the half-space two different zones, e.g. even the middle.
There is also the following effect; to play from the half-space into the middle is, due to the synergy effects (the shifting of the opponents and the momentary opening of spaces for direct passes into the forwards), more effective than playing from the middle into the half-space or trying to overload within the middle two zones.



Then there is the natural diagonal character of the half-space.
Central fields of view are vertical and the combination play requires you to divert yourself somewhat from the goal.
In the half-space, the basic options and the eight directions of movement remain, but the field of view is directed towards goal.
Also the practical negotiating of two zones and the long-range shifted ball is more effective from the half-space than the wing.
In the middle there are two sides to which the ball can move two zones and in the half-space there is only one.
However, in the half-space there is the potential to shift the ball over three zones to the other half-space, which is probably the most optimal location to switch play – from wing to wing the ball must travel so fast that it becomes almost impossible to control.


All in all, the discussion here is already too technical.
The fact is that the half-spaces are rarely mentioned in the public media, although they belong to the standard vocabulary of Jürgen Klopp in his game analysis and Josep Guardiola explicitly coaches them when training positional play and is strategically important.
This article aims to give a broad overview of the strategic aspects of the half-spaces even though we are just scratching the surface here; individual tactical aspects and dribbling options or even passing options (such as how the half-space affects the potential for through balls) as well as the tactical processes for the defending the half-space are all topics for a future article.