Barcelona's Offside Trap

By Stevie Grieve

Luis Enrique took over at FC Barcelona in the summer and one of the first things he has done is make sure that the team are much more solid defensively than they have been in previous seasons. Part of this has been to introduce an aggressive offside trap with Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano; two players who can hold a defensive line high and read when to leave the strikers in offside positions.

There have been various ‘trigger’s for the offside trap, and I will look at 3 of these triggers to play offside;

• When the opponent is forced back under pressure

• When the opponent is on the counter attack but pressure is place on the ball in midfield and a long pass is expected

• When a pass needs to be played first time and the strikers are running beyond the defence in expectation for a long pass

The key to a successful offside trap is that pressure is on the ball when it is used; often an offside line is held when there is no pressure on the ball, resulting in the player in possession having time to pick the correct pass which catches the defence in a position where they cannot recover.
In Barcelona’s case, they offside trap is successful when only 2 of the back 4 are in deep positions, generally with the deeper of the 2 centre backs controlling the line depth.

Against Atletico Madrid, Barcelona secured their first win against the current La Liga Champions in 7 games and the fact that Atletico’s direct approach was nullified by the offside trap went a long way towards the solid defensive display.

Barcelona offside trap trigger – 2v1 on the side


Here we can see the compactness of Barcelona from the throw in, which is a good time to regain possession. Atletico like to play direct over the defence from here and win space. In this case, when the receiver is pressed from behind, Busquets will press form behind and double up with Iniesta, forcing the opponent back; the trigger for the defensive line to push up aggressively for an offside.


As pressure is made from behind, the centre backs immediately start pushing forward, to stop the expected long ball forward being recovered and forcing Barcelona deeper.

Offside trigger in the centre of the field – delay the attack and step up when pressure is made


As Atletico have a counter attack and have evaded the first line of pressure from the front, but Thiago is confronted with the midfield 3 of Barcelona, who delay the attack and put pressure on the ball, giving Mascherano and Pique time to set the offside trap.


As Thiago is under pressure, Mascherano and Pique move forward together to play offside and stop the rushed forward pass being effective.

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Playing offside ahead of a rushed 1st time pass


This time, a long ball evades the Barcelona midfield, arriving at Koke free between the lines. Here, both Mascherano and Pique squeeze forward before the ball is played, forcing both Torres and Griezmann offside. Pique presses Koke and forces the 1st time pass over the defence but to an offside player and the ball runs through to Bravo in goal.

Barcelona have had some criticism but there is no doubt that the introduction of the aggressive offside trap will help Barcelona stay in contention with the best defence in La Liga and one of the most potent attacks, capable of scoring against the most defensive teams in tight games.

By Stevie Grieve. (Follow on Twitter @steviegrieve)  Stevie is also the author Coaching the 4-2-3-1Coaching the 4-2-3-1 Advanced Tactics and From Futsal to Soccer

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