Luis Enrique: How to play the pressing game

Understand the why, before the how

“It’s the coach’s job to decide his team’s style of play, how they attack and how they defend. They have to be effective at both ends of the pitch. If the team attacks well but defends badly, they’re not doing their job. The best way to defend is to have the ball in the opposition half – pressing the ball high up the pitch will achieve this.”

Get the team to buy into the plan

“Make sure the team understands the mentality of the pressing game. It has to be done by all 11 players, otherwise it doesn’t work. The players have to move in formation together. A great trainer must convince his players to believe in his vision and make sure they do. If a player only does it because the trainer says so, that’s not good enough! The players must believe.”

Speed kills

“With a good, fit team, pressing should start as soon as you lose the ball in the other team’s half. You want to win the ball back as quickly as possible. I’d like my team to have 100 per cent of the ball if possible. If your team is well positioned, if you’ve got the ball, the other team gets tired. Once you regain possession you need quality on the ball, otherwise it will go back and forth.”

Learn to think outside the box

“I like my teams to press: it’s a way to force the opponents into making mistakes. But if one player does not execute the pressing – including your goalkeeper – you’ve got a big problem. The opposing team may escape your trap with their quality or by playing the long ball, so your goalkeeper must be out of his box and ready to sweep up.”

Press from first minute to last

“Teams that play out from the back usually go from goalkeeper to centre-back to full-back. Chase that down, starting with the player closest to the opponent in possession. To do this for 90 minutes is tiring, but you can’t sit back. It’s a mistake when teams are winning 1-0 and change the way they play. If you’re winning 1-0, you want to make it 2-0. Why play safe?”

For more tactical tips see:
Stuart Pearce: How to defend from the front
How to make the opposition play the long ball game
Dion Dublin: Defending from the front
Chris Hughton: Stop the opposition's passing game

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Andy Mitten
Editor at Large

Andy Mitten is Editor at Large of FourFourTwo, interviewing the likes of Lionel Messi, Eric Cantona, Sir Alex Ferguson and Diego Maradona for the magazine. He also founded and is editor of United We Stand, the Manchester United fanzine, and contributes to a number of publications, including GQ, the BBC and The Athletic.