Space creation with static and dynamic positioning
The purpose of destabilizing the defense is to create space by causing misalignment between the defenders´ relative position between the goal and the attacker (Memmert et al., 2016). Whilst a central defenders’ focus is predominantly on tracking opponents and maintaining proximity to their specific pitch regions, video-based positional data has shown offensive players exhibit greater freedom of movement and spatial exploration when their team is in possession of the ball (Moura, Martins, Anido, Barros, & Cunha, 2012; Moura et al., 2015; Couceiro et al., 2014). When an offensive player is positioned or moves to the blind side of a defender, it forces the defender to prioritise his field of vision. Taken from a sample size of 14 players over the course of 6 matches in the Portuguese Primeira Liga, a spatial exploration index taken from GPS positional data revealed that wide forwards and centre forwards deviate furthest from their average position in the time-series, whereas central defenders deviated the least (Clemente et al., 2018). Although offensive variability appears useful for destabilizing the defense, further work is needed to understand the effects of distinct spatial exploration strategies in various contexts presented by a match between two teams.
In addition to variability, numerical superiority, and numerical uncertainty, the dynamic shifts of players into and out of an area from adjacent areas over time, are common characteristics of successful attacks. Through the assessment of an English Premier League match, analysis showed the winning team risked more players forward while maintaining higher stability in its back regions (Vilar, Araujo, Davids, & Bar-Yam, 2013). A more extensive dynamic analysis of inter-team coordination during Germany’s championship success in the 2014 FIFA World Cup also revealed they displayed considerable entropy, a measure of diversity, with greater variety and frequency of numerical differences in areas of play closer to their opponents' goal (Santos et al., 2015). These perturbations in the defense may explain why some of the most effective attacks are counter-attacks that occur immediately after recovering the ball and the defense is in a compromised position, as demonstrated in notational analysis (Barreira, Garganta, Castellano, Machado, & Anguera, 2014). Accordingly, detaching from defenders on an individual level, using variability and numerical discrepancies to cause confusion amongst defenders on a team level, and counter-attacks are all ways to create imbalance in the opponent’s defense. The following section looks more closely at passing behavior to both create, occupy, and exploit spaces within a defense, resulting in more favorable chances on goal.
Penetrating the opponent’s defense with passing
Disturbing the balance of the defense leaves spaces for the opponent to be overcome with passing, thereby creating goal-scoring opportunities (Tenga, Holme, Ronglan, & Bahr, 2010b; Kempe et al., 2014; Clemente, Martins, & Mendes, 2016; Santos et al., 2015; Rein, Raabe, & Memmert, 2017). Dribbling and penetrating passes through the defensive line caused an increase in “dangerosity”, a quantitative representation for the probability of a goal based on the position of the ball, the degree of ball control, defensive pressure, and density of opponent players in front of the goal (Link, Lang, & Seidenschwarz, 2016).