Tactical Periodisation - Part 1

Tactical periodisation is a concept in football that breaks the game into 'logical structures'. Developed over 30 years ago, it is still one of the most contemporary training approaches in soccer. It was popularized by Jose Mourinho when he led an underdog Porto team to a Champions league win in 2004. In this series we try to understand the system and apply it to field hockey. All aspects of tactical periodisation mentioned in this article can be applied to hockey. Try and think of the way your team plays and trains, see what your team is doing well and what your team can do better. 

This part talks about how to divide a game of hockey into fairly predictable moments of the game and prepare for a match accordingly.

Think about how unpredictable a game of hockey or football can be. What tactical periodisation tries to do is divide a game into four moments of the game. Namely: 

  • Offensive Organisation
  • Defensive Organisation
  • Transition from Defence to Attack
  • Transition from Attack to Defence

We will go into details of each of these moments of the game but first you have to understand one thing that the game is still going to be highly unpredictable. You as a coach can tailor the training session according to these four moments and ask your team to follow the patterns during the match to make it a bit more predictable.

Offensive Organisation

Offensive Organisation is the way in which a team build up from the back. This would include a formation the team uses when attacking, and the way in which the team passes and progresses the ball up the pitch. This would be useful in situations like restarting the game from your D or getting a free hit close to your goal.

There are different ways in which the ball can be moved up the pitch. The ball always travels faster than a player so it is always better to pass the ball rather than trying to dribble the ball forward as a player but offensive organisation goes further than that. It also talks about what players should and should not be involved in the build up. For example some teams might choose to use shorter passes and get the whole team forward as a block and some teams might prefer to cut the midfield out completely by directly throwing an overhead to the forwards. We will go into different ways in which the ball can be moved up the pitch in the article 'Building up from the back' but for now you need to know that there are different ways it could be done and every way has its own advantages and disadvantages. This is going to be true for all the moments. I will give you a few examples of each but we will go through each and every one of these moments in their separate detailed articles. Let me know in the comments which ones you want me to do first.

Defensive Organisation

Defensive Organisation is the way in which a team organizes when the other team is building up from their half. This involves organizing a press and having some form of back up in case the press fails.

A team could choose to press in different ways. A team might choose to sit back and let the opponent come to them or do a full press and press aggressively or maybe a middle ground between the two. A team can also have different presses planned for different times in the game (eg. if the other team is a player down or if they desperately need a goal). Whatever the system your team decides to press with, the rule of thumb would be to identify an area where you want to create a turnover and try to push the opponent towards that area.

Transition from Defence to Attack

Transition from Defend to Attack involves deciding the way in which a team moves forward after a turnover due to a foul or your press or any other way.

Once again it all comes down to how a coach wants his team to move forward. It could be in a fast counter attacking style of a slow building up style. A team could also think of areas it wants to exploit if the opponent is weak in that area. They could choose to push through the middle or use the wings and attack from the T spot. 

Transitioning from Attack to Defence

This is probably the one I have seen many teams ignore. It involves deciding what to do in case of an unsuccessful attack. If you think about what happens during a game, your team is always going to miss a few attacking chances and give the ball away. No team ever is going to convert every attack. Therefore it is very important to have a plan on what to do once you lose possession. 

Say the opponent have organised a good press and your team losses the ball at the half line(hopefully not) or the 25 in opponents half, ideally you'd want to get the ball back as quickly as you can, as higher up the pitch as possible. For that the players must know where to go as soon as they lose the ball. This is called counter pressing. It mean to press the opponent before they get the chance to organize their attack. This could be done in many ways. For example putting pressure on the player who has just tackled and got the ball (that player is going to have the least ball control in the first few seconds after tackling) as soon as possible or maybe by making sure the player doesn't have a good passing option by cutting all the passing lanes. Again we will go through all this in detail in further articles.

For now hopefully you have got an idea of what the 4 moments of the games are. 

Tactical periodisation is a very detailed concept and hard to fit into one article so I have divided it into 3 parts. In the next parts we will talk about how a club should organize their game model according to Tactical Periodisation to be successful and how trainings can be set up by coaches.

Talk to me in the comments if there is something you don't understand and want me to clear it up for you.


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