What is pinning?
Pinning is a tactical term that refers to the opposition restricting the movement of the defensive players through their own positioning and proper space occupation. If a player is pinned down, it means he can not move out of his area because in doing so, he might risk leaving his counterpart unmarked and giving the attacking team an open channel and access to progress into the danger areas.
We use pinning as a term for the attacking phase but it is always something that affects the team out of possession in a negative sense. The main goal of pinning a defensive player or a whole defensive line if executed properly is to open space or free up a man elsewhere on the pitch. This is then done through forcing certain defenders to stay put rather than react to the things that are happening around them. That way, they cannot intervene and potentially stop the attack from happening.
Some other tactical terms we closely associate with pinning are positioning, space occupation, movement manipulation, attacking phase of play and positional play.
Examples of pinning in football
Pinning is not something we specifically relate to a certain coach or a certain team. Anyone can utilise these tactics in their own gameplan because pinning is essentially a basic premise in football. A good example of pinning will always happen in the backline of the defending team. The attackers can be positioned between the centre-backs and the full-backs, pinning them down and restricting their movement.
In that scenario, a midfielder or one of the dropping forwards can receive the ball between the lines more freely because he knows the defenders won’t be able to jump up and mark him. If they do, however, they risk space appearing behind their backs and a ball being played into the danger areas as a result of them not holding their positions.
We can also call it movement manipulation but as opposed to moving the opposition around the pitch, pinning is a different kind of manipulation that ensures the target players stay put rather than change positions.
Why use pinning?
Pinning tactics are an effective way to create space or free up your key players on the pitch. If executed properly, it ensures the defenders cannot move and are forced to maintain their positions even though it may not be entirely beneficial for their teams.
Usually, it’s the forwards who do the pinning and the defenders who are on the receiving end of it.