Mid third transition and the six capabilities

Mid third transition and the six capabilities

The middle third is the area of the pitch where transition happens most often and teams at the FIFA Men’s World Cup 2022 had an average of 40 transitions in the mid third per game.  It is also the area where players have a real decision to make when they win the ball back on whether it’s possible to go direct to goal or if they need to be more patient in order to retain possession and build an attack. 

Clever players have the ability to anticipate and recognise where their team-mates are on winning the ball back, and where they might be able to exploit space in the opposition, with playing in behind, or to the opposite side of the pitch just two examples.  We have seen that 50% of counter attacking goals feature a pass or dribble behind the opposition’s defensive line and identifying this possibility early can lead to a greater chance to attack directly to goal. 

Check out the two videos below to see how this can look:

11% of shots originating from a mid third transition were taken in under 5 seconds, however, there was a larger variation with successful teams recognising when and how to attack on transition.  34% of these shots occurred within 5-10 seconds and a further 55% taking more than 10 seconds, further highlighting the importance of players who can read the game to make effective decisions on when to play forward quickly or when to keep possession until the opportunity to play forward through, around, or over the opposition appears. 

Transition and the six capabilities

When observing our players, we can use the six capabilities model to direct our attention to specific areas of performance.  Consider the following when observing your players on transition, remembering to notice what your players are doing before, during and after transition occurs:

Positioning – A player’s position determines whether they are in a position to support an attack and then be in a position to engage their opponent or support a team-mate when transition occurs.  There may also be an opportunity to counter-attack or support play when the ball is secured. 

Movement – Controlled movement as an individual, unit and team can create better opportunities to set traps and win the ball back through interceptions.  Quick movement through accelerations and decelerations at the moment of transition can provide an opportunity to win the back quickly before decisions are made on whether it’s possible to run forward with or without the ball.  Or if the ball isn’t secured recovery runs may be necessary.   

Techniques – Players may need to adjust their position as they get closer to the ball, enabling them to make an effective tackle or interception.  Once the ball is secured they may need to use their body to turn and protect the ball, before selecting an appropriate passing technique, or if possible get a shot on goal. 

Timing -  Recognising the right moment to pounce is critical.  Being able to identify and react to triggers effectively provides the best opportunity to intercept a misplaced pass or pressurise an opponent with their back to goal.  Once the ball has been secured timing that defence splitting pass before the opposition can recover often provides the most direct route to goal.

Deception – Staying organised and patient as an individual, unit and team can provide the opportunity to dictate where the opposition play, and showing them into your strengths, whether that’s inside the pitch or in wide areas provides greater opportunities to win the ball back.  It is then important to recognise and take advantage of imbalances in the opposition, either directly or by playing away from pressure to exploit space on the opposite side of the pitch.

Scanning – Scanning informs decision-making and helps your players identify where opponents are, where team mates are, and where the ball is.  Effective scanning can help your player recognise when a transition may occur and help them be proactive to support or win the ball back.  Developing these pictures helps players identify whether it’s possible to play forward quickly on transition or if they may need to secure possession and build an attack.

Watch the video below and see if you can identify how the six capabilities apply.  Which are most prominent?

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