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Tactical theory: Superiority

What is superiority?

Superiority is a tactical term we can describe as a type of advantage one team has over the other. This was already explained in our tactical analysis of the term Positional play. Still, superiority can be further divided into four main categories: Numerical, qualitative, positional and dynamic superiority.

Numerical superiority simply translates to one team having more players positioned in a certain zone of the pitch, thus creating an overload on them and having an advantage in that way. Qualitative superiority, on the other hand, implies there is a difference in quality between the players who may face each other in certain positions.

A team having positional superiority over their opposition means they have players positioned in advantageous areas or pockets of space on the pitch. These areas, such as the half-space or just positions between the lines, force the opposition into a decisional crisis, giving an advantage to the attacker. Finally, dynamic superiority relates to movement and the timing of said movement. So if the attacker starts his run from the deep while the defender has to register the action first and then react, the former player has a dynamic advantage or superiority.

Examples of superiority in football

We have already explained that teams who prefer a more positional approach to their tactics may be more likely to create superiorities across the pitch. The best and most general example of a simple superiority would be the dropping of a midfielder into the backline to create a numerical superiority against a side that defends in a 4-4-2 structure.

That way, the attacking team would have three players against the defenders’ two in the first phase of the build-up and would achieve superiority. Similarly, teams will often try to overload the wing-areas by creating a numerical superiority and ease their ball progression into the final third and the box. Defenders, on the other hand, will want to establish superiority as well since that will essentially make their jobs much easier in the first place.

Why use superiority?

Establishing superiority of any kind is a huge advantage in any phase of the game. In attack, it eases ball progression and enables access to the danger areas while in defence it ensures the opposite – it stops ball progression of the opposition and their access to advantageous positions.

Using superiority is not essential but it makes the life of any coach that much easier, whether they like to use positional play or garner a more direct approach to their tactics.