Tactics are used to score goals, prevent goals, to win games and achieve the best possible result at the end of the season. This article aims to define what is understood by the term tactics. It also describes the roles of the coach and players when implementing the chosen tactics. Finally the different influences on tactics are briefly mentioned as well as an overview of the tactical manoeuvres or actions required to achieve the desired result.


Tactics in addition to technique and fitness, play a fundamental role in achieving success. Tactics may be described as systematic success-orientated manoeuvrings and methods used to achieve a desired goal. The tactics used depend on whether or not the team has possession. It is more simple to define tactics by distinguishing between individual, group and team tactics.

Individual tactics are based on how the individual player reacts in certain match situations and are often used when in contact with an opposing player, e.g. making space, player marking, tackling...

Group tactics are based on co-operation between several members of the same team who work together to achieve their goal, e.g. offside trap, space coverage, wall passes...

Team tactics are methods adopted by the team as a whole to counter the opposition's game plan, e.g. playing for time, counterattacks.

The aim of tactical training is to improve the choice and use of actions within different playing situations. The coach must define offensive and defensive tactics for the team, groups of players and for the individual. Players must aim to take advantage of opponent weaknesses and to seize on occasions that arise.


Tactics also encompass other factors such as the planning, preparation and organisation of matches for a given day. Before training and matches, it is important for the coach to take into account several factors. Are the age and quality of the players at his disposal good enough. Is the player too young to learn difficult match tactics or is his skill level high enough ? If the player demonstrates a tactical problem, it is up to the coach to decide whether it is due to poor technique, a lack of application or understanding or even a lack of perception. Could the playing system be too inflexible and does it it allow the use of the chosen tactics ?

The coach can also study the opposition to weigh up it's various strengths and weaknesses, game strategy or tactics on order to thoroughly prepare his team for the match. During a game he should be able to recognise the need for change.

The player can as well analyse his opponents through past experience or information. The team must be ready to give feedback during and after training sessions or matches on the success of the tactics. The Captain is an important link between the team and the coach.

Different factors influencing the choice of tactics include, the long-term strategy of the team and its current form/position, match type/objective (cup, force replay...), where the game is played, weather conditions, players available and the quality of the opponents. For a more detailed review of factors affecting playing performance go to our external factors section.

Tactical actions are based on tactical knowledge, tactical skills and tactical abilities. Mental skills such as motivation, attitude, anticipation, composure, intellectual ability and courage play a part as well as physical factors such as speed, agility and co-ordination. Skills and techniques allow a player to perform a certain play, but tactics define the action and its affect on all players.

The tactical learning processes involved in game situations are perception, anticipation, choice of action and feedback. Varied, realistic step by step practice along with the player's own ability to learn must be combined with good instructional methods to enhance the learning process. The tactics practiced and learned in training should be applied in competitive games.

The number of choices and possibilities faced by a player when simply receiving the ball are enormous, should he dribble then pass, simply dribble and try to beat the player, or pass directly ? If he passes directly, is the receiver moving and at what speed, should he hit the pass along the ground etc...? Below (Fig 1) is a tactical match situation often faced by players which can help us understand how the learning process acquired by a player has been put to use. Initially, the player's actions are always based upon the position of the ball on the field and the specific match situation. The detailed phases involved in this tactical situation are described as: Situation analysis, comparison, anticipation, planning, decision, implementation and memorisation.


This article has summarised the importance of understanding, developing and using the tactical knowledge acquired by both coaches and players. Players have to learn through good training methods when and how best to use their tactical skills. The coach needs to know how to teach players these tactics as well as their implementation under real match conditions. Players need to develop both technical and mental ability to succeed in their tactical play.

For further information on tactics go to back our specialised section.