Antonio Vacca can remember the Moment well

Truthfully, the Italian will not forget this experience anytime soon. He gets to not only see his “little theory put into practice” every time he watches Brighton & Hove Albion play on television, but he also has Roberto De Zerbi’s initials tattooed on him.

The story Vacca recalls goes back to De Zerbi’s time in Charge of the Foggia Serie C, from 2014 to 2016, and an incident in a The training match that changed the way people think about how to train the Brighton manager watched the build-up and contributed to a goal of football’s modern tactical trends.

As you can see, a The five-aside game is a great way to get into futsal.a-side player in His home city of Naples Vacca developed a natural instinct for using the sole of You can find out more about it here. foot As well as a Method of Receiving Possession “I found it easier to stop and control the ball that way,” He tells The Athletic.

De Zerbi was a man of intelligence and talent in Vacca believed that he was able to play at a There were moments when he felt a little out of his depth, but he also had moments where he found himself. the midfielder’s use of the sole of You can find out more about it here. foot frustrating. De Zerbi would sometimes stop training and tell Vacca: “Sorry, if you need the sole, you have to use it. But if you don’t need it, you don’t.”

Practice match in Another question could be a threat of De Zerbi asked Vacca to move on those occasions. the This time, the ball will move faster. the coach received a Response that stopped him in His tracks.

“My team-mates on the opposing side weren’t stepping out to press me, so the Mister (coach) kept telling me: ‘Pass it, move it’,” Vacca explains. “So I replied: ‘Mister, if our opponents on Sunday come here and play for a point and I move it without getting one of them to jump and press the ball, it’s no use’.

“I argued that if I put the sole of my foot on the ball and lured my opponent out, I’ve invited him to press me. As he does that, we can break the line with a pass.”

Some coaches may react negatively towards a Player disagreeing with him on the Training pitch and Making a tactical suggestion, but that was never De Zerbi’s way. Vacca, Vacca’s friends and colleagues would spend hours together. in the coach’s office talking tactics.

“People who don’t know him might have another idea, but he’s really humble and a footballer can tell him anything,” Vacca says. “He’s the one who has the final say, but when you say something to him, he’ll go away and think about it.

“I remember the following day he said, ‘Vacca’s right. When our opponents sit back, we need to put the sole of the foot on the ball and get them to come out, provoke them, because when a player sees you standing on the ball like that, it sparks something inside them’.”

Many years later, in the year a De Zerbi said that Vacca’s two-hour webcast opened his eyes. the tactical Value of When using the sole of the foot As well as a You can also say: of Inviting pressure and giving one of His core building principles are a coach.

The images below, which are taken from Brighton’s FA Cup tie against Liverpool last season, illustrate what that looks like.

Adam Webster wears his studs at the top of the Cody Gakpo is tempted to press the ball by the ball. Alexis Mac Allister comes short to offer an option…

… Webster feeds the Ball into the Pascal Gross, a midfielder (circled), is the Free man


Mac Allister has worked with Gross and Brighton. the Triangle perfectly


Vacca’s influence on De Zerbi feeds into a Discussions about the Use of the word “increase” is increasing. of the sole of the foot in Build-up at other clubs as well the tactical Game Description of Cat and mouse often sits beside it.

Sunday’s Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester City was a Classic example

When David Raya, the goalkeeper of Arsenal, put his studs at the top of the Ball in the Below is an image of the original. the trigger for the City midfielder Rico Lewis in the lead the press. For context, Raya had already received the Arsenal Defenders – Ball twice in This paragraph is a good example. of play (City didn’t always choose to press Raya when he used his sole).


Second, of William Saliba is shown below. You can also see how City’s six-man press is narrow to stop Arsenal from playing through them.


Raya ends up playing a ‘bounce’ Jorginho is the one who will receive this pass. the The intention of the author is to encourage you to use your own language. of dragging City’s press further forward and freeing space up elsewhere.

But what’s interesting here is the home supporters’ growing anxiety, which could be heard loud and clear (and it was not fuelled by the moment when Julian Alvarez nearly scored after pressing Raya — that hadn’t happened at this point).


A hurried clearance upfield from Gabriel follows — all that patience turns to panic — with Martin Odegaard (circled below with his arms outstretched) frustrated that the centre-back didn’t slide the He threw the ball at his feet.


Raya and his entourage foot Top of the Ball a Lot on Sunday, and taking his time in selecting his passes. in the Hope you can help a Arsenal player would leave him free and a City player would press on.

This was the Plan but some of its supporters were concerned.

“It’s all my fault,” the Arsenal manager said in reference to the Reactions of the crowd “They can boo me. He (Raya) was excellent. He’s got ‘big ones’ because with the crowd going like this, other players — I’ve seen it — they start to kick balls everywhere. I said to him, ‘You don’t do that’.”


Raya, in the final example on Sunday, had the It must have felt like an eternity when you are surrounded by 60,000 people. in the The stadium and City may jump and press at any time. Arteta’s remarks were a hint. “big ones” It is a must a The following are some examples of the use of of Keep calm, and stay calm the Listen to background music and wait the This is how the movement patterns unfolded.


Declan Rice (circled below) rotates with Jorginho from left to the right and eventually receives possession. Mateo Kovacic gets caught between the Two Arsenal players, who arrived late, committed a crime the Rice should have been punished for his foul play a Second yellow card


The static element of the Modern games are fascinating from a tactical The point of view is: of view, even if it’s not everyone’s idea of Enjoy the fun of a family day out with a friend or loved one. in the Watching the game at home or on the stadium the sofa.

“Playing with a pause is massive at the moment,” You can find out more about this by clicking here. a Coach at a Speaking on condition, a leading Premier League club spoke about a club that was in the Premier League. of Anonymity, as he has not been authorised to do an interview.

“As football has developed in the last 10 years, pressing and build-up has become the key feature. You watch a top-level game and a lot of it is about, ‘How well do you press the opponent’s build-up?’. So these more sophisticated ways of attracting pressure to take advantage… like Ederson, he’ll put the sole of his foot on the ball.

“It’s basically bait… who is prepared to let a ball be completely static? That’s why it’s quite interesting now when you watch games against Manchester City — and it will happen against Brighton — when the ball will just be completely still and nobody will press anyone. That’s also the next evolution: if we know they’re trying to do this to us, what do we do to counteract it?”


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There are many ways to get help. a The technical element is also included a tactical Benefits of receiving the Ball the sole during build-up.

“If you receive the ball leaning to one side, you exclude yourself from a play,” De Zerbi explained in His webinar. “If you have it to the left, you could not play to the right. If you receive the ball with the sole and from the front, you can play to the side you want. There, you have total control of the ball.”

The images below, taken from Manchester City’s Premier League win over Arsenal towards the The end of the world is near. of Highlight that last season. Granit Xhaka chose to press Ederson when Rodri passed. the Back to the ball the City goalkeeper

Sole2EdersonArsenal1 1

Receiving with his sole Instead of taking the Ball the Ederson does not indicate to Xhaka what he will do next, whether he turns left or right.

Sole3EdersonArsenal2 1

Ederson still has the option to move in any direction up until the Last second

Sole4EdersonArsenal3 1

He finally slides a Ilkay Gundogan lays the ball the Rodri, please pass the ball to Rodri. of Xhaka’s decision to jump and press Ederson) and City are ‘out’.

Sole5EdersonArsenal4 1

By controlling the with, he can also keep his options for passing open. the soleEderson was never distracted from his team-mates, or Xhaka.

“You don’t have to look down again for the ball,” Paul McGuinness is a former 25-year employee of the Department of Defence. a Manchester United has a youth coach who is a big advocate of Use the sole of the foot. “You have 360-degree control, you can look at your opponent and instantly play the ball. It’s the timing of it, it’s the milliseconds it gives you.”

The word “it” can also mean: the The opposition has a difficult time coordinating their press.

“They’ve taken the clues away,” Ian Cathro explains that he worked with Nuno Espirito-Santo at Valencia, Porto Wolverhampton Wanderers & Tottenham Hotspur. “Usually, when the ball is in movement, there’s an indication as to where it’s going next and that also triggers presses. So if a centre-back receives the ball and takes it across his body, that’s indicating where the pass is likely to go.

“If the ball goes still, you force the opponent to be the one who makes the decision. You then just need to be good enough to be able to act upon the decision (the opponent makes) and be willing to take that pressure.”

In Brighton’s case, acting upon the Decisions are not made at random. They are heavily influenced by the way and where their opponents press, and they practice these patterns on a regular basis. the training ground.

“The sole-of-the-foot stillness element is to force the opponent to jump. Based on that jump, De Zerbi and the players already know: ‘Here’s my one, two, three patterns to take the space that’s been left by this jump’,” Cathro explains. “In Spain, they refer to it as ‘automatismos’.”

Those moves were well choreographed. Lewis Dunk’s infamous dunk was already in the works before Dunk even put his foot Top of the Ball in the Billy Gilmour signalled where to go below. the Next pass should be played.

SoleDunk1 1

As soon as Fred (circled) motions to step forward, Julio Enciso comes short and…

SoleDunk2 1

… Gilmour (circled) is now free on the The other side of Fred.

SoleDunk3 1

It is still necessary to use it. a High Level of Technical ability to execute the We saw that the passes were a good idea in Brighton’s 2-2 draw against Liverpool on Sunday, the There are severe consequences when a The mistake is deep in They are responsible for their own half.

But there’s also another question to ask here: what happens if the opponent doesn’t take the bait?

West Ham United refused to adopt and press a Low Block in Brighton’s 3-1 victory over the Blues in August, leading to De Zerbi’s team slowly probing, which isn’t quite the Same as the “stillness element” Cathro was talking about. Cathro talked about. the latter scenario, the When a team is provoked, it will not back down. the bait isn’t taken.

You can watch the moment in England vs Israel below to get a better idea. the Under-21 European Championship in July. Levi Colwill was born on July. the All you need to do is keep the ball at his foot for 32 seconds then 12 then 14 in the Space of Fewer than a Minutes a half. It was a bizarre passage of play, genuinely uncomfortable to watch — there were loud whistles in the stadium — and made you wonder if the Television had frozen.


Burnley’s match against Manchester City was similar. the opening day of the Vincent Kompany, the captain of Manchester City’s Premier League team, instructed his players not to press Ederson in order to keep Ederson. the ‘outfield’ Play 10-versus-10. Burnley’s supporters got more and more annoyed as Ederson (pictured below) stood alone with his foot Top of the ball.


There are many ways to get help. a Theoretical explanations of some phenomena ‘lesser’ Some teams find it easier to hire than others the Burnley and Israel Under-21s use deep blocks.

“One of Brighton’s real benefits is that they are a ‘smaller’ club — there are at least seven teams who go to the Amex feeling a responsibility to press and attack them,” You can find out more about this by clicking here. the Premier League coach who earlier spoke.

“If you are Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, you can’t go to Brighton and sit back — it wouldn’t be accepted.

“If you imagine that you’re a United striker and a Brighton player has actually stopped the ball dead on the pitch, your reaction would be: ‘I have to engage with the ball. We are Man United. We can’t have a Brighton player standing with his foot on the ball’.

“But that’s exactly what they want. They’re waiting for that moment and the minute you jump, someone is free and they play these really well-timed combinations in midfield and play around you.”

Cathro nods. “It’s difficult for the stadium to accept, that’s true,” He says. “It becomes a much bigger test for the strength of character of both coach and players — but probably more so the players because they’re the ones who are on the pitch and going to feel the heat.

“It always comes down to simple things, like the dynamic between players and fans, the score and then you’ve got the other bit — the things that are in your mind: ‘Have we lost in the last eight games? Have we won in the last eight games?’.”

Higher up the pitch, the Use of the sole of the foot As well as a The receiving method is a controversial topic. There are two opinions on the receiving method. of the The criticism from some coaches is that they are controlling the Ball the sole Can become a The default setting for all players of Each phase of the process is explained. of Play looks and slows down decision-making a result.

The identifier was a Bruno Guimaraes had a problem before he moved to Newcastle from Lyon in January 2022 Performa Sports a Based on consultancy in Rio has begun working with Guimaraes to provide bespoke performance analysis in September 2021 highlighted a region of the midfielder’s game that needed to improve.

“At the start, we had one strong perception with Bruno: that he had a lot of vices from futsal,” Eduardo Barthem, an analyst for Performa Sports and Guimaraes’ main point of Contact at the Consultancy is told The Athletic in August.

“He had played it (futsal) for a long time — longer than most kids in Brazil — and you could tell. The main one was his first touch: every time he received the ball, he’d put his foot on it like they do in futsal. Only then would he start to open up his body. It meant he wasted a lot of time.

“We showed him a few videos that demonstrated this really clearly. You have to control the ball in a way that gives you time and allows you to make the most of the space that is there. The way he did it, he missed out on a lot of passing opportunities.”

Barthem described the Video footage of Guimaraes was shown. a “lightbulb” Moment for the Player, and the Brazilian adjusted his game accordingly.

It feels as if there are two of them. a Balance to be struck in There are times when you can receive with the sole of the footEven in As you get more advanced, it can be very beneficial. a You can also find out more about the form. of disguise.

Below is an example of Philippe Coutinho during his Bayern Munich career, who was threatening to shoot and controlling with. the soleThen threading a clever ball down the side for Ivan Perisic.




Coutinho’s use of the sole of the foot The following are some of the most common questions that people ask. a Adam Lallana was a big influence when they were teammates at Liverpool.

This says a lot about the way players are — or were — developed differently in Other parts of the Lallana spoke of the world the First time he has ever seen players regularly using the sole of the foot Control the When he saw Roberto Firmino, Coutinho, and the rest of Liverpool’s players playing futsal as youngsters, he was in awe. Both Brazilians were futsal players when they were young.

“I wish I’d learnt it off them sooner,” Lallana told The Athletic Last year.

Buy on the benefits of Use the sole of the foot, Lallana has brought up his son, who is with Southampton’s academy, to receive the Ball in a He never learned to do it himself. “I’m saying to him: ‘Control it with the sole of your foot, it will buy you an extra second’. Not every time, but in moments. You need to keep doing it to know when you can do it and when you can’t.”

It is hard to tell how widespread the coaching is, but there are some working in the Game are sceptical.

“It’s good that people like De Zerbi are coming in — a bit more progressive. But there’s still a lot of people in English football who are very stuck in their ways,” says Saul Isaksson-Hurst, a A one-to-1 coach that works with elite players at both senior and academy level.

“The key thing is challenging players to stay on the ball. Normally it’s, ‘Get the ball, get rid of it, play forward quickly’. That’s always been how we play. So players tend to develop these skills autonomously. But the reality is that we should be challenging all of our players to have these assets, not just some of them.”

Interestingly, Brighton’s academy recently added “provoke the press” The core principles of coaching

“Each year we do a review of our coaching and playing philosophy,” explains Dan Wright, Brighton’s academy coaching and pathway manager. “It’s a principle-based programme that we use — that’s important. So it’s not like, ‘(former manager) Graham Potter played like this, so we play like this. De Zerbi plays like this, so we play like this’.

“We have principles from pre-academy to under-nines and all the way through. ‘Provoke the press’ is now one of those principles. How you do that would involve the use of the goalkeeper and the sole of the foot.”

Academy players will make mistakes, but they are bound to do so, particularly when it comes down to knowing what to do. the Right time to release the pass. To pass the Wright: concept is easier for children to understand of His staff makes a Comparing taking out your bread of the Toaster before it catches fire

“Interestingly, this year, probably because of De Zerbi, teams are coming to our training ground and sitting in a block on the halfway line — that’s at under-11s and under-12s — and letting us have the ball,” Wright Adds.

“So the whole idea of provoking a press is to get in behind. It’s like an artificial transition, creating a counter-attack even though you already have the ball and that works.

“But now some of the coaches just park and put a bank (of players in a low block), so the kids are really waiting, putting their foot on the ball and saying: ‘No one is coming!’. So that’s a new football problem for us: how do you play through a block?”

Vacca is a good example. a There’s a clever solution in his sleeve. Now, however, the De Zerbi, Brighton and 33-year old enjoy his moment of Wisdom on the Back in the day, there was a training ground.

“It gives me great pleasure to see the Mister put my little theory into practice,” Vacca says. “I often watch Brighton — no, scratch that. I always watch them. When they lose, I feel like I lost, too. I really care.

“I’ve been over to Brighton to see the Mister. I was there with him for five days, dining at his house, in his office, at the training ground.

“I have a tattoo of his initials, RDZ. He left a mark on me, on my skin but in my head, too — because now I can’t watch football any other way than his football.”


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Jack Lang: Additional reporting

(Top photo by Getty Images, design by Eamon Dalton)