A style of play is the way in which the particular system of play chosen by a team is used. Like playing systems, the choice and success of the style of play will depend upon the abilities of each player and the overall qualities of the team. However, one must not forget other external factors such as the weather which can play a part in choosing or adapting a particular style.
Different teams often have totally contrasting styles, depending upon a clubs tradition or the personal philosophy of the coach. The different styles of play seen in football are described below.
Direct Play: Must not be confused with kick and rush. Direct play is different in that a team whilst still playing the ball forward as quickly as possible, does so consciously with the aim of finding a team mate who can then try to finish quickly or maintain possession. Kick and rush simply involves the ball being exclusively played high and long with the hope that a team mate can get on the end of it. Passes seen in direct play should aim to exploit a sudden weakness in the defence such as a player pulling away into space whereas kick and rush is often a pass simply aimed at a marked player who will try to flick it on.
Slow build-up play: Often used by so called "flair" teams. Involves a slow meticulous build-up of play where the ball is patiently passed around the pitch, often in defensive and midfield positions. The aim is to keep possession until an opening is created and there is a possibility of a shot at goal. This does require high technical skills as the last action is often explosive and more risky to lose possession, e.g. a tricky turn or run at defenders.
Counter-attacking play: Teams who use this particular style of play allow teams to come at them and aim to soak up the pressure. As soon as the opposition loses possession, the defending team aims to capitalise and attack as quickly and accurately as possible. Often involves a longer pass which eliminates several players and leaves the opposition defence outnumbered. Does require much training to perfect the actions.
Total Football: Term coined to describe the play used by the great Dutch national team of the 1970s. Required players who had the ability to interchange positional roles thanks to high levels of skill and fitness. During attacking play, the players are spread out over the pitch and constantly rotate between positions making marking extremely difficult.
Block defending: Refers to a defensive block or unit of players. The 4-4-2 system is famous for it's flat back four mixed with zonal marking (where the players have a particular area on the pitch to cover). The block of players moves backwards and forwards at the same time according to where the play is and relies on excellent communication so that gaps do not appear and players are always correctly marked.
High pressure play: This maybe described as an attacking way of defending. Teams try to win the ball back as quickly as possible where ever it be on the pitch and as close as possible to the opposition goal. It does require the other defending players to push up at the same time as the pressure is placed on the opposition player. Thus, offside is often played to prevent an attack behind the defence and as the opposition player will be pressured to play the ball as quickly as possible (often a long pass) he will have less time to judge the accuracy of his pass making the offside trap even more efficient.
Low pressure play: This is where a team invites the opposition to come at them and aims to soak up the pressure. When the ball is lost, the team retreats back to it's own half of the pitch and only attempt to win the ball when the opposition moves over the halfway line. Two distinct lines or units of players close to their own penalty area mark the opposition. Is often associated with counter-attacking play.