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How to beat the High Press

updated on February 28th 2023

10 mins read

If you’ve watched some of the top football teams in the world, you’ll notice they hunt in packs high up the pitch and force their opponents into making mistakes. It’s a common theme these days that defence starts from the front, with the idea of the high press leading to errors which creates goalscoring opportunities. 

Is it possible to beat the high press? Well, of course, it is, and, in this article, we can teach you everything you need to know.  

You’ve just gotta learn how to do it and the correct strategies to help you master the art. 

By learning these new skills, you’ll equip yourself with loads of new attributes, such as staying calm under pressure, learning to read the game properly, and how to communicate effectively with your teammates, which are all things every scout and coach is looking for in a player.

The role of the goalkeeper 

Let’s start with the goalkeeper. Years ago, goalkeepers had one job; to keep the ball out of the net. You may occasionally see them pop up in the opposition box trying to score a winner, but not much else apart from being stuck on their line barking orders at the defence.

Not anymore! If you want to play this position now you need to have great feet, vision, and ball-playing abilities, as well as being able to save shots.  

Beating the high press starts with the goalkeeper having the ball at their feet and distributing it effectively. This sets up the initial stages where the team looks to build out from defence.  

Let’s take Manchester City’s, Ederson, as a prime example; he is very often spraying passes all over the pitch and looks as comfortable with the ball at his feet as any outfield player.  

For any aspiring goalkeeper, you need to hone your football-playing skills as much as your shot-stopping skills.

Two players on a soccer pitch in a 1v1 situation.

Importance of centre-backs 

If you play in central defence, you’re pivotal in beating the high press. You’re the starting point for receiving the ball and playing forward passes, so you must have a great passing range and superb vision.

To master the art of playing in this position, you need to train effectively in the arts of defending, passing, and learning to read the game in front of you.

Full backs are vital!

The role of the full-back has evolved over the years. Let’s take Trent Alexander Arnold as an example; when he was playing in that position, he’d register more assists than a lot of wingers, which tells you where on the pitch he spent a lot of time. 

Learn how to adopt a wide position near the touchline so that you can stretch the play and give your team more space. Find appropriate spaces so that you can receive the ball with more time at your feet. Develop forward passing skills so that you can help drive your team up the pitch. Improve your off-the-ball running technique so you can make over and underlapping runs. 

Two players on a soccer pitch in a 1v1 situation.

Communication is key

You need to talk to each other on the pitch. Master the process of effective communication to develop relationships and an understanding of how to play together which will help you understand their position and whether they can receive the ball. 

Use your speed

For those of you who are blessed with pace, use it to your advantage! If a team is pressing high, then there will be plenty of space to run in behind them which you can exploit.


If you want to see a great example of this, check out Adama Traore when he played for Wolves – very often you would see him positioned on the halfway line waiting for a ball over the top where he could use his blistering pace to terrify opposition defenders. 

Two players on a soccer pitch in a 1v1 situation.

Scan and read the game

Every player on the pitch should be able to scan and read the game. It’s this ability that helps our decision-making process, whether that’s in an attacking or defending scenario. 


Commit to developing a deep understanding of what’s going on around the pitch. By upgrading this area of your game, you will notice how much more time you have when you receive the ball, which will lead you to be able to play better passes.

The positioning problem (solved!)

Positioning is everything in football. If you are a striker, then there’s no point spending the whole game in your penalty area as you’ll never score. Similarly, if you’re a defender, charging up the pitch and leaving space behind will leave your teammates exposed.   

You can learn to fulfil your positional requirements whilst allowing yourself to be dynamic and pop up in different areas to receive the ball. 


By effectively communicating with teammates and reading the game, you can develop an understanding of when to hold your position and when to make forward runs.  

The under and overlapping runs can be extremely effective when attempting to beat the high press as these are what help to create space.  

Develop your one-touch passing skills

Can you confidently pass the ball on the first attempt, or do you require additional touches? This is a key question to be addressed because if you need multiple touches before being able to pass the ball, you will need to train to become more effective in this area. 

You can use a variety of drills and training scenarios in the Train Effective app to help you improve in this area, which will significantly help with your one-touch passing skills.  If you’re not great at one-touch-passing, why not set yourself some SMART goals so you can measure your progress?

Two players on a soccer pitch in a 1v1 situation.

Work together to create an overload

We’ve already mentioned communication in this article, but here’s another example of when it’ll work well. 

Talk to your teammate and work together to outnumber the opposition – two versus one is easier than one versus one! If you can use this tactic effectively it’s a great way of developing space that can be exploited to your advantage. 

Receive the ball in an open-body position

If you’ve not come across this term before, it basically means that you’re in a good position to receive the ball and make your next move.  

If you receive the ball with your head up and chest open, you’ll have a greater awareness of what’s going on in front of you. This will make it easier for you to make your next move, whether that be dribbling the ball or making another pass.  

Two players on a soccer pitch in a 1v1 situation.

Train your movement

Developing effective off-the-ball movement is key to finding space on the football pitch.  

Learning to find out where the spaces are will give you the advantage of being able to receive the ball with more time.  

By creating the space you’ll have more time to make passes, help your team stay in possession or have time to fire a shot at goal. 

Be calm under pressure

Calmness is key when you have a football at your feet.  

Panicking in possession can lead to mistakes. You can work on techniques to help you become calmer in possession which will help to increase your confidence. 


As you become more confident, you will be able to learn to be one step ahead of the game and you’ll already know what you want to do with the ball before it arrives at your feet.  

The key principles we’ve touched on in this article are not only gonna be super effective for beating the high press, they’re gonna elevate your football game into the stratosphere!  

Two players on a soccer pitch in a 1v1 situation.

Now head over to the Train Effective app and watch the full masterclass video which can be found in the Virtual Academy tab!

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