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Tactical theory: Pitch division

What is pitch division?

Pitch division in a tactical term that is used to divide the football pitch into different zones and channels, which, in turn, provides information to both coaches and players alike. Generally, we can talk about different zone categorisations but an accepted division consists of 18 zones in total that are distributed across the pitch.

The counting essentially starts with number one, which is the bottom left corner just outside the penalty box, and then moves up until 18, with two being the box and three the bottom right corner. Number four starts just above number one and the count goes on like that until the top right corner on the opposite side of the pitch.

When it comes to different lines, we can differentiate between vertical and horizontal lines while channels generally refer to the space between players. Other important tactical terms that are connected to the pitch division are half-spaces, underload, overload, flanks, channels and space occupation.

Examples of pitch division in football

Even though we have a standard pitch division that sees the field divided into 18 zones in a six-by-three grid, channels and lines, some coaches like Pep Guardiola of Manchester City have developed their own method. The Catalan gaffer, for example, has divided the pitch into 20 zones instead of 18 and has added extra pockets that he feels are necessary to be occupied for maximum effect.

Still, the single most important zone to occupy is zone 14, which is positioned centrally and just in front of the opposition’s box. This is where the attacking team is trying to receive the ball and then progress into the penalty area. This zone is important because it’s relatively close to goal and in a good position to both shoot or create from.

On the other hand, however, defending tactics are often focused on overloading zone 14 in order to stop the opposition’s advance and cover one of the most vulnerable areas of their half.

Why use pitch division?

Different coaches may put more emphasis on different areas on the pitch, depending on their overall tactics. Some may prefer to progress through the wide areas while others are more central. Some may also play in a more direct way, bypassing most of the pitch entirely while advancing the attack.

But the pitch division plays a huge role in every tactical setup as it allows players to understand their roles better and eases their processing of information. Therefore, seeing the pitch through zones, channels and lines could lead to more success if employed properly.