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How to beat a low block in football – Parking the bus style of play



How to beat a low block in football has been the primary focus of some big sides, even as some teams prefer parking the bus instead of playing good football with opponents.


Parking the bus has been a tradition in football history due to the team’s inability to acquire quality players that would match the standard of the given competition.


Today’s modern-day football is now looking to be centred around setting a low block as teams face each other when it matters to the teams.


This technique is often not a regular practice in the top soccer leagues.


The tactics employed by some of the biggest football clubs in the world would easily bypass these techniques clubs, especially the average sides.

How to beat the low block in football - Parking the Bus

Jeffrey F Lin – Unsplash Photos


Because of beating these traps by some average clubs, advanced have developed a strategy that would work for them.


However, teams have managed to figure out the tactics set up by some of these big sides, including Manchester United, Manchester City and Real Madrid, to block them out defensively and limit the creativity of their attackers even though the attackers are the highest-rated players.


To counter this, some of the big sides a constantly looking for ways to blow open deep blocks set up by opposition sides which can be seen in smaller teams looking to protect their backline from conceding unnecessary goals at the back.


But how would one ascertain a team’s readiness with a poor run of form throughout a calendar season?


Taking Juventus as a case study, the emergence of Inter Milan, Lazio and AC Milan created a new dimension in the Italian Serie A.


For Juventus, this is one of the periods in the club’s history; turbulent times will overshadow the whole team across all competitions, including the UEFA Champions League, where they got eliminated in the quarter-finals by FC Porto.


What is the main problem for the club at this point, paving the way for smaller clubs to grab a point or collect the maximum points at the expense of the old lady?


Smaller teams have managed to understand the new tactics employed by the new coach.


And as such, parking the bus becomes the only option to deprive the old lady of scoring.


Why Juventus just could not beat it is the poor tactical approach by the manager even though quality players are present in the team.


In a football team, the major problem that would affect a team is a complete breakdown of the defense, which could lead to a flurry of goals from the opposing side in the game.


One way to avoid these scenarios is to improve the team’s general style of play or the condition that would at least bring normality to the entire setup.


However, failing to fix these issues, the low block would continue to be an obstacle to the overall growth of the club all season long.


Once again taking Juventus as a case study at this point.


How Parking the Bus by smaller teams have helped the bigger team to success


In the Italian Serie A, Inter Milan has had the apparent luxury of facing more minor oppositions outside the top half of the league table.


They are utilising the low block system in most of their games which has been behind the Milan-based club’s success.


The way it appears to be in the Italian league, some of the average sides fighting to beat the drop whenever they come up against big sides are constantly feeling relaxed.


Thus, giving more opportunity for others to hit them on counterattacks constantly.


A technique AC Milan once used before the unnecessary injury.


Zlatan Ibrahimovic left the team wholly vulnerable and paved the way for Inter Milan to leapfrog them to the top of the league standings quickly.


If you watch closely this season, Inter Milan solely relies on the services of Romelu Lukaku, who plays through the centre of the attack on most occasions, only to be accompanied by Lautaro Martinez.


In all, the coach of Inter Milan, Antonio Conte, runs the team around Lukaku.


Over the years, Juventus have also used this method to dislodge smaller clubs during the reign of Massimiliano Allegri at the club.


In a situation whereby the middle is the best option for the club’s attacking mindset, the deep block thrives efficiently without having many problems on it.


The low block has been effective so far for most clubs in Europe.


However, the advantages it presents to clubs are also there.


For Manchester City, it denies them the opportunity to play the usual Pep Guardiola style of football where you make quality, well-timed passes to your teammates, dribble and winning one on one situations with opposition players.


This was seen during the Premier League clash with Manchester United, which ended 2-0 favouring the red devils.


Manchester City was busy doing all the work just as Pep Guardiola had instructed them to do.


For Manchester United, what Ole Gunnar Solsjaer did was to allow the City players to play to their total capacity while his team made all the simple counterattacks.


Luke Shaw made that quick drive through to net the Manchester United goal by taking the Manchester City players on notice.


The low block is a problem for big sides like Manchester United, Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid since there’s no longer an opportunity to play their typical game on the open field.


When clubs sit back to wait for their attackers to come at them, it slows down the game’s pace by removing creativity on the part of the opposing side, which ends up changing the dimension of the play.


How big football clubs in the world overcome the low block


Manchester City

They are managed by one of the best managers in football, Pep Guardiola.


Manchester City has their way of beating the low block even though it ends up not working effectively in some games like the one against Manchester United, which they lost in the end.


Pep Guardiola introduced the tactics he used during his time at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, which aided in winning those trophies he had with them.


For City, they have some of the best players in the world right now, including Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Zinchenko, Gabriel Jesus, Ederson Moraes, Bernardo Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, etc.

How Man city is overcome is simple.


The players play through the midfielders, which play directly at the opposite side without going through the fullbacks.


As the ball is being passed onto the midfielders, most especially Kevin De Bruyne, who has been the club’s best performer lately, he finds a way to create chances through loose ends in the middle of the park and score goals.


Known for his versatility, the Belgian international take long-range shots from outside the box unexpected after making his towards the opposition half.


Also, the legend himself, David Silva, sits in between the teammates to dictate the game’s pace for them.


So what Silva does is dictate the tempo game while keeping the ball flowing to other players on the pitch.


Now, with these two super midfielders, the team is more balanced in the middle of the park to create problems for their opponents by playing a very high-intensity game that would overwhelm their opponents.


Manchester United’s ability to utilise the low block ideally has been behind the success whenever the two teams meet. However, it turns out different in most cases.


Further down the line for Manchester City, natural wingers like Riyad Mahrez, Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva could easily dislodge defenders and create goal-scoring opportunities.


These players, once they break from the midfield, are capable of scoring goals whenever they are well-positioned in the opponent’s half.


Raheem Sterling has used his ability to dribble past defenders to score many goals for the club.


Inter Milan


Inter has a well-organized squad with Hakimi, Eriksen, Martinez, Lukaku, Brozovic, Skriniar, etc.


Conte usually plays a two-person frontline with Lukaku and Martinez and the two upfront.


It comes in different ways. The attack could play through Ivan Perisic at the flanks or through the excellent position of Hakimi.


Also, it could come through the middle with Eriksen, Barella and Brozovic handling the ball nicely in the middle of the park.


The way and manner in which Inter Milan has handed low blocks have been the only tool behind the team’s success since the start of the new season.


Paris Saint-German

PSG have some of the best players, including Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Julian Draxler, Colin Dagba, Marquinhos, etc. Neymar’s front line makes a few dribbles to force defenders out of their position.


How teams can beat the low block and improve the overall team performance


Let’s put Juventus in the picture. If you look at the entire team, you will find out that there are a lot of areas that need better improvement as things stand out currently.


The overall team play needs improvement.


Defenders and midfielders must learn how to effectively connect with the midfielders, creating goal-scoring opportunities for the attackers.


A glance through the Juventus squad list, you will see that player quality is not the problem because Juventus have some of the best players in the world right now.


But the intensity and tempo of the old Juventus have to return quickly before it turns out different.


For teams in general, you want to beat the low block effectively; you need creative midfielders who can easily connect with the attackers and dislodge defenders to score goals.


Technically speaking, your team needs to have pacey wingers because this is the focal point in the operation.

How to beat a low block in football - Parking the balls style of play

Ryan Clark – Unsplash


Your wingers must learn to stretch wide opposition defenders to allow your attackers to move into positions quickly.


The beauty of stretching the defense of your opponents wide open is that it allows your team to gain more control by opening up more spaces for your players to operate without which you cannot penetrate easily.


Your players should avoid long balls in this case because it will not work for them. Instead, short passes should be played throughout the game.


There’s a need to have quality players like Eden Hazard, Lionel Messi, Neymar or Hakim Ziyech. They can dribble their way through a simple opening after you have opened the opposing team’s defence.


Other aspects of successfully breaking Parking the Bus


Your defenders also play a crucial role in this operation.


Your fullbacks need to understand proper positioning. They should be able to run in between open spaces to make essential crosses.


MORE: Most Valuable football players in the world

This is one unique ability Canadian soccer player, and Bayern Munich defender Alphonso Davies possesses.


Your defenders should be able to run in behind deep and run into the opponent’s box, which they have to time themselves to achieve.


Also, in a situation like this, your team should not sit and wait just as the opposing team already utilises.


Instead, they need to move further into the opponent’s half by making advances.


The frontline must ensure the defenders are trying to get the ball off their feet. By so doing, empty spaces will be created for them to exploit easily.


Take the game to them by taking the defenders out of their current position by making quick passes like you want to begin your regular style of play.


Remember, the low block will not allow you to play your usual style because it has several drawbacks quickly.


The best formation to use


4-2-3-1 formation is the best formation to beat parking the bus style of play. With this formation, your attackers will play a narrow attack instead of the usual comprehensive attack.


4-3-3 formation is also another recommended style to overcome it. In this technique, the attackers will push through from the inside and not through the wings anymore.


Why do teams play low block, prefer to Park the Bus


Teams love to play low block when they probably have an advantage, likely leading the game to prevent the opposition from coming back to score a goal that would return the game against them.


Time wasting is another reason to do so. Players from the opposing side would rather sit back and pass the balls around in their half.


They wait for you to attack, probably obtain a loose ball and hit you with quick counterattacks, which is also disastrous in some cases.


Thirdly, teams do it when they are at a disadvantage.


Maybe a player was taken off due to injury or probably was sent off for dissent. This is another reason clubs prefer to park the balls rather than coming all out to play.


Another one is the tradition of a particular coach.


Today, some coaches enjoy this technique because they feel it gives problems to your attackers, causing them to work harder


As your team carries out all the work on the field of play, they will hit you on a counterattack and probably score you unexpected goals.


There have been the tactics of some of the top coach’s ideas for football.


Parking the balls kill the entertainment of football since one team will be running around to score, and the other side sits back and wait.



Teams on the winning side that have low-quality players will always consider playing the low block because it is the best available option out there.

It guarantees points for them. Average teams are usually interested in this type of operation that will kill off the game.


However, if you want to win, you must try to dislodge the defenders from their current position and force your way through loose ends.


The technique can be achieved by having players capable of driving defenders out of their comfort zones, without which the plan cannot yield better results.


The main reason Manchester City, Chelsea, Real Madrid and PSG have survived the low block is simply taking the game to their opponents by letting them out of their half, creating spaces and quickly launching attacks.


Well-timed attacks will also go a long way in ensuring that the entire operation comes out smoothly.


Your team needs to have the best legs to achieve this without worrying about the effects that could arise.


Football is an entertainment sport that should offer thrills and moves fans would like to see. Parking the balls only slow the entire flow of the game since it has become a one-sided affair.


Parking the bus; some notable world-class coaches have frequently used it to overcome high pressing teams in big matches.


To beat the low block is to make the defenders leave their position, and then you hit them with a well-timed, unexpected attack.

I'm a sports enthusiast, love writing about football. I have been writing about top teams in Europe, the Premier League and La Liga.

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