Defending is a collective responsibility. The best teams do it without having to hit the floor or make tackles very often. They accomplish this by picking passes off. This requires a very high level of collective organization and tactical awareness and strong work ethic. The objective is make the other team as predictable as possible, by first dictating what the player on the ball does next.
Some teams press high forcing the opponents to play longer passes or try to play through pressure. The forwards are extremely important as they must disrupt the flow of the game by making life difficult for the defenders to build the ball from the back. Particularly when the full back are in possession. The defending team will send 3 to 5 players so that the attacking team is unable to serve the ball due to immediate pressure, and unable to switch the point of attack due to the presence of a defending attacker with the centerback.
The alternative is to play through midfield, so this makes it easier to read passing lanes. The defending midfielders must stay connected, so that there are no gaps and so that they can deny the opposing midfielders time and space to play. The backs must also follow suit, so that they condense the playing area for the attacking team. The objective is to win the ball back as close to the opponent’s goal as possible. This allows for fewer passes being made before creating a goal scoring opportunity.
The other style of defending occurs when teams sit back and do not start to high pressure, until their opponents get to midfield. A shell of 9 or 10 players sit behind the ball denying the attacking team any space in between or behind the bands or zones. The premise is to frustrate the attacking team into committing numbers forward in vain, so that a loss of possession results in an opportunity to counter attack. This style of defending requires patience and organization, because if one player loses discipline then the entire group is compromised. This style of defending encourages the attacking team to force passes forward, because they a allowed only to make square and negative passes with relative ease.
Regardless of the style, communication, discipline, organization and work ethic are vital for group defending to work. Working smart gets much more accomplished than working hard alone. The way a team decides to defend depends on the players they have at their disposal as well as the abilities of the opposition. When done well, there is rarely a need to tackle an opponent, because in today’s game the best time to win the ball is when it is in motion. With the individual ability of players now, trying to win the ball back when it is at their feet will often be futile.