How we play

Out of possession

Out of possession phases model
out of possession

out of possession phases

England teams aim to regain possession intelligently, with a focus on winning the ball as early and as efficiently as possible.

To do so, we aim to develop England players with outstanding skills and decision-making abilities in all three aspects of the out of possession philosophy:

- Pressing
- Delay, deny, dictate
- Emergency defending
- All aspects of the out of possession philosophy take into consideration the state of the game, the environment and the pre-determined game plan.

The fluid nature of the game means each aspect of the out-of-possession philosophy is closely linked. Possession may be regained at any stage prompting a transition to the attacking philosophy.

England Lionesses pressing in training
out of possession


Pressing involves pressurising the opposition in a strategic and controlled manner with the aim of regaining possession.

Why is pressing an important part of the England DNA?

Quickly pressing the opposition after losing possession prevents the opposition initiating their own attacks and is the preferred method of regaining the ball if there are opportunities to do so.

What skills are needed for effective pressing?

Pressing is triggered by the nearest defending player attempting to regain possession. Support from surrounding teammates is necessary to ensure attempts to press are not done in isolation. Maintaining a compact team shape behind the ball is crucial to effective pressing.

There are three main strategies for pressing the ball: high press (pressing the ball as high up the pitch as possible), mid-press (from the attacking mid-third area) and low-press (from half-way line).

The goalkeeper supports pressing by adopting an appropriate start position and communicating effectively with individuals, units and the team.

England U21 putting the pressure on a Swedish player in possession
out of possession

delaying, denying and dictating

If effective pressure can not be applied, England teams will attempt to delay, deny and dictate opposition attacks. This involves denying space, dictating the direction and speed of play and preventing the opposition from using their preferred attacking method.

Why is delaying, denying and dictating important?

By delaying, denying and dictating the movement of the opposition, a compact defensive shape can be achieved and attacking opportunities reduced.

Channeling the direction of opposition attacks into areas of defensive strength helps to control the momentum and speed of attacks and helps lead to the regaining of possession.

How does delaying, denying and dictating happen?

All effective defending techniques (1v1 defending, zonal marking, man-to-man marking, screening, blocking, tracking and recovering, intercepting) contribute to success in this phase of defending.

Jordan Pickford makes a great save for England
out of possession

emergency defending and goal protection

Emergency defending is a method of protecting the goal when it is at its most vulnerable and when all other defensive options have failed.

What skills are needed for effective emergency defending?

Goalkeeping is the main method of goal protection with England goalkeepers expected to demonstrate a wide range of effective goalkeeping skills and desire to defend the goal.

Emergency defending skills for outfield players include blocking and intercepting shots, crosses and forward passes, defending one versus one, reacting to rebounds and making clearances.

Emergency defending also includes aspects of the other areas of effective defending including: recovering to an organised defensive shape, dictating the direction of opposition attacks and pressing, marking and tracking opponents.