Possession Style

Possession style play emphasizes ball control and many short passes that requires a great deal of skill and precision. Passes will be made in all directions on the pitch, creating a rhythm with possession. As the ball is moved across the pitch, players send probing passes forward and along the pitch waiting for the right opportunity to advance forward. Until this opportunity is seen, or an advantage is gained, possession will remain with the team. Contrary to the direct playing style, players put the ball into each other’s feet as they are able to maintain control of the ball and further possess it. Moving the ball to spaces and long balls is not in the criteria for possession style play. One of the most important aspects of the possession play style is the back line who play a pivotal role in controlling the pace and movement of the ball around the pitch. Maintaining possession and starting the gradual movements up the pitch begin with them. Midfielders also play a similar role as they decide when to push the ball on an offensive threat and probe or send the ball back to back line to reset the possession. Should the team get a stop, the keeper will often throw the ball into build from the backline to move the ball up-field slowly. Very rarely will the keeper punt the ball in as it is not a controlled way to get the ball up the pitch. This is the same with throw-ins and free kicks, which are played for possession rather than offensive threats.



Clapham, Alex, et al. “How to Coach Possession Football.” These Football Times, 23 June 2016, thesefootballtimes.co/2014/09/13/how-to-coach-possession-football/.

Dorris, Derek. “To Keep the Ball or to Use It Quickly? Or…both?” Barca Blaugranes, Barca Blaugranes, 16 Feb. 2015, www.barcablaugranes.com/2015/2/16/8043687/direct-football-or-our-possession-game-or-is-there-room-for-both.

Navarro, Javier. “Attacking and Defensive Styles of Play in Soccer: Analysis of Spanish and English Elite Teams.” Taylor & Francis, 7 Apr. 2016, www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02640414.2016.1169309.


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Author: Jake Seau

How to cite this article: “Possession Style,” Written by Jake Seau (2018) Soccer Politics Pages, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp/tournament-guides/mens-world-cup-2018-guide/playing-styles-of-world-cup-favorites/general-playing-styles/possession-style/ (accessed on (date))