What is Pressing? Understanding the Playing Style of Pressing in Football


Professional football involves numerous tactics and different playing styles. Among them, Pressing is one of the most famous and widely used playing styles by many coaches. In this article, Football Skills will delve into the details of pressing in football, as well as how to counter it.

What is Pressing in Football?


Pressing is an English term in its present participle form (with “ing” at the end). The root word of pressing before becoming a participle is “press,” which means to squeeze, press, compress, or exert pressure.

Based on the meaning of the word “press,” pressing in football can be understood as a playing style that increases pressure on the opponent, whether they are in an attacking or defensive phase. Depending on the area where pressure is applied, Pressing can be categorized into three types: High Pressing, Midfield Pressing, and Low Pressing.

See also: What is VAR? Details About Football’s VAR Technology

Advantages and Disadvantages of Pressing Playing Style

The pressing playing style offers numerous advantages to teams that execute it well. However, in reality, this tactic is a double-edged sword and can backfire if not executed properly.

Advantages of Pressing

  • Increases ball possession rate
  • Enhances opportunities for attacking play
  • Reduces the opponent’s chances of counter-attacking or launching attacks
  • Exposes weaknesses in the opponent’s defense under pressure

Disadvantages of Pressing

  • Pressing can be challenging to implement if the quality of players is inferior or inconsistent compared to the opponent
  • Players need to execute pressing cohesively, requiring effective communication and coordination among them
  • Pressing may not be effective if the opponent knows how to escape from pressing
  • The pressing playing style can rapidly deplete players’ stamina. Ineffective pressing can lead to counter-attacks and losing the advantage towards the end of the match.

Common Pressing Playing Styles

When following football, you often hear commentators mention high press, misfield press, and low press. These are three common pressing tactics used in modern football.

High Pressing


This playing style applies intense pressure from the opponent’s final third, creating immense pressure and keeping the ball predominantly in the opponent’s half. Almost the entire team is present in the opponent’s half, including both center-backs, always in a position to trap the ball.

High press is executed for the following purposes:

  • Disrupting the opponent’s attacking play: In modern football, teams often build their attacks from the defense, so high pressing is like the first line of defense, preventing the opponent from smoothly initiating their attacks.
  • Increasing opportunities for quick counter-attacks: Usually, players who win the ball in the opponent’s half are attackers or, at the very least, midfielders. Therefore, organizing quick counter-attacks becomes relatively easier, catching the opponents off-guard.

Midfield Pressing

This pressing style constricts the opponent in their own middle third of the field, making it difficult for them to decide whether to attack or retain possession. It aims to block the opponent’s attacking attempts through the central area of the field.

Low Pressing

This pressing style exerts pressure in the defensive third of one’s own field to win the ball back and organize counter-attacks. Low pressing is well-suited for teams considered weaker or with less talented players.

Teams that primarily rely on a defensive, counter-attacking style of play often use low press. After winning the ball with low pressing, they can launch dangerous counter-attacks.

How to Counter Pressing in Football


Thepressing playing style is widely adopted by many modern football coaches. Therefore, to cope with pressing, various ways to “counter pressing” have been developed.

Pressing inherently involves applying pressure, constricting, and reducing the opponent’s playing space. Consequently, to neutralize pressing and escape from it, teams need to expand the playing space.

To break down pressing, it is crucial to control the ball well and quickly find ways to pass the ball to widen the playing space. Players often use long passes to bypass the opposition lines, effectively escaping from pressing. Moreover, modern professional teams also apply a tactic called gegenpressing to counter pressing.

Firstly, let’s understand the meaning of the term gegenpressing. This word is of German origin. “Gegen” in German means “against” or “counter,” which is equivalent to “counterpressing” in English.

Therefore, both gegenpressing and counterpressing are all-out pressing tactics. Below are the steps to execute modern gegenpressing:

  1. Maintain compact defensive shape: To execute effective Gegenpressing, players need to maintain a compact defensive shape. Each player must cover specific areas on the field but also remain close enough to support each other in quickly regaining control of the ball.
  2. Apply immediate ball recovery pressure: The “5-second rule” is applied for winning back possession. It means that within 5 seconds of losing the ball, players must give their utmost effort to regain possession, no matter what it takes. If unsuccessful, they must immediately switch to a defensive formation.
  3. Counter-attack: If they manage to regain possession, the final step is to counter-attack as quickly as possible. Attacking players must start their runs promptly after winning the ball back.


In summary, pressing in football is a dynamic playing style that aims to put immense pressure on the opponent, and teams can adopt different types of Pressing tactics. It offers numerous benefits but also poses potential drawbacks. To counter pressing, teams need to expand the playing space, control the ball effectively, and utilize tactics like gegenpressing to neutralize the opponent’s Pressing efforts.

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