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Tactical theory: Staggering

What is staggering?

Staggering is a tactical term that can be used in both the defensive and the offensive phase of play, albeit it mostly refers to a team who doesn’t have the possession of the ball. Essentially, staggering means adding different layers to your structure by ensuring your players are occupying different horizontal and vertical lines. While defending, this ensures the unit stays compact and doesn’t allow the opposition to find pockets of space between the lines of the pitch.

In attack, it means the team is properly occupating the main zones and areas of the pitch where they can receive the ball and orchestrate their advance. It also ensures there are multiple connections created which can be used in tight spaces. With multiple different connections on different lines, teams are able to link-up better and any player has a plethora of different options to pick from.

When it comes to staggering, some of the other tactical terms closely related to it are defensive organisation, compactness, combination, space occupation, horizontal and vertical lines, access, channels and block.

Examples of staggering in football

There are multiple different instances when staggering can be in full effective in a football match. When a team is attacking, if they stagger their players in their shape, it means they will position them on different vertical and horizontal lines, making them that much harder to effectively mark and also ensuring multiple connections in certain areas are created.

For example, if the midfielders are positioned in a straight horizontal line, they will be extremely easy to shut down by the opposition defensive block. The same goes for the forwards who have to occupy different zones in order to evade their markers. In defence, however, this is equally important as a team who properly staggers their lines can cover more of the pitch at the same time.

If not, they risk giving access and opening different channels to the opposition who will gladly and easily advance up the pitch.

Why use staggering?

The tactics of staggering are a highly effective tool to not only ensure compactness and defensive stability but also give more attacking power and better space occupation. For that reason, it is always a welcome and mostly a necessary addition to any team’s general approach to a football game.

It is also not something that is inherently unique to a certain style of play or coach’s philosophy but teams who use it properly will undoubtedly have more success than the others.