Sechser (ZDM) - Pressingresistenz, Freilaufverhalten und Vororientierung

Sixer (ZDM) - resistance to pressing, free running behavior and pre-orientation

Posted by Luis Österlein on

The position of the six (central defensive midfielder ZDM) is the pivotal point in the football game. Due to the central position in width and depth, there are many passing routes to the other midfielders and parts of the team - the defensive midfielder is a central link between defense and midfield in the build-up to the game. It supports the full-backs in combination play, sets the scene for the wingers with interface passes or shifts in play, or serves as a passing station for strikers who act with their backs to the goal.

Types of players

The six-man seems to have an influence on his own team's game everywhere on the pitch . However, he does this in sometimes very different ways, because the position of the defensive midfielder can be interpreted very differently . The implementation of the role of a six depends entirely on the trainer's instructions and your abilities. The sixes can be roughly divided into 3 types of players with different tasks and rooms for which they are responsible:

1. Box-to-box player

As the name suggests, the box-to-box player operates from penalty area to penalty area. He works the entire playing field in a vertical direction. This type of defensive midfielder seeks to sprint behind the defense, occupy the penalty area when receiving crosses and is very involved in actions in the final third. At the same time, the “box-to-box player” also fulfills his defensive tasks and ensures stability in the important middle of the field. One of the best box-to-box players currently is N'Golo Kanté from Chelsea FC.

As a box-to-box player, you therefore need exceptionally good stamina:

2. Clearer

The pure clearer, who only concentrates on playing against the ball, has largely died out. A defensive midfielder must have qualities in both offensive and defensive play. Nevertheless, there are still sixes (most likely Casemiro from Real Madrid), whose main focus is on winning the ball. The responsibilities of these sixes when playing against the ball can be, for example, securing counterattacks, closing gaps between two lines or permanently occupying the central space in front of the defense.

3. Tipping sixes

For many players, especially the wing players, owning the ball means moving one line forward. Things look a little different with the “tipping six”. This type of player even lets himself fall back a row when playing with the ball. The “tipping” six supports the central defenders on the first line in building up the game. To do this, the six-man drops between or next to the central defenders in order to create a superiority. For example, if the opponent operates with 2 forwards and your own team with 2 central defenders, a tipping six will quickly turn a 2 on 2 situation into a 3 on 2 majority situation.

Graphic of the tipping six position, which sticks closely to its own central defenders.

This blog post will help you shape your team's game as a tipping six: Central defender - the "modern" playmaker

Get into an open position

As already mentioned, the (tipping) six can be dropped between or to the side of the central defenders in order to stimulate the build-up of play. In this withdrawn position you can easily play as a six in an open position. However, if you hold the midfield and don't drop down to the level of the defense, it will be much more difficult for you to be used openly in the direction of play.

When building up the game, as a six, you always have an opponent behind you. As a result, after a pass from a central defender, you can only pass the ball back or look for the risky 1 on 1 with your back to the opponent. Losing the ball in your position can cause major problems in the build-up game, as the ball is in a central position and the distances in the build-up game are very large.

However, as a six there are easier and safer options than 1 on 1 with your back to the goal in order to be able to act with the ball in the direction of play. Your movement without the ball plays an important role.

Offering against the direction of displacement

Almost intuitively, many sixes always run towards the central defender of their own team who has the ball. If you move as a six with the movement of the ball, you always run parallel to your opponent. This means that you are always in the immediate vicinity of the ball, but you are also easy to cover and therefore cannot be played openly in the direction of play. In addition, with these running routes you always pull opponents into the vertical passing paths of your central defenders, which makes the game in depth more difficult.

Instead of moving with the ball, you can offer yourself in the opposite direction. So you don't follow your opponent's shifting movement but instead offer yourself on the side far from the ball. After the central defender plays you against the direction of the opponent's movement, you can take the ball openly in the direction of play and use the space to your side.

Graphic of a midfield behavior against the direction of the ball

Goes close to the ball, comes far from the ball

If you don't play alone in the defensive midfield, you can adapt your free-running behavior to the second six. This will help you come into the game with an open mind about the direction of the game.

If your teammate is in the six-man position on the side near the ball, he can look for a route into the depths. This means that the second defensive midfielder on your team will pull his opponent along with him. You can then fill the resulting gap in the opposing midfield line very well as a six-man away from the ball. You don't have to approach the central defender head-on, but you can offer yourself in a lateral movement. This helps you to break away from your opponent more easily and take the ball forward.

Graphic of the possible interaction between two defensive midfielders

Steep clapping game

As a six, you have the best opportunity to be played openly if a line is overplayed when building up the game - provided you move forward immediately and at the highest speed after the deep pass.

For example, if one of your two central defenders has the ball, you can hold the middle instead of coming towards the central defender. This means you tie your opponent in the center and don't pull him into the half space.

This creates ideal conditions for your central defender to play the ball directly into the depths. If the gap in the half-space is large enough, the central defender can pass the ball directly to an attacker.

He will almost certainly have an opponent behind him, which is why the striker needs a pass-off point for a swatting ball. This is where you come into play. As soon as you are outplayed, you immediately go after the ball and leave your opponent behind. The striker can simply pass the ball to you and you can act immediately while facing the opponent's goal.

Graphic of how a six can open up the passing space from your own central defense to the attack

This video will help you explosively detach yourself from your opponent:

Pressing resistance

With the help of these forms of free running, you will be able to be used as a six in an open manner depending on the direction of play. Nevertheless, continuing the game in the center can be very difficult because you have very little space in the middle of the field and can get pressure from every side.

The enormous lack of time and space in the center forces you to quickly find solutions and keep the ball close to your feet. If you don't have full control of the ball or miss the right time to make a pass, the opponent's pressure will quickly become too high and you will most likely lose the ball.

At a high level, however, there are always six players (for example Sergio Busquets ) who hardly have any problems even with little space and time. These defensive midfielders can easily hold onto the ball against multiple players and remain calm even under high pressure - sixes with these skills are known as pressure-resistant players.

In order for you to develop good resistance to pressing and be able to hold onto the ball even under high pressure, you need three skills above all - outstanding ball control, a good overview and excellent pre-orientation.

Ball control and overview

As a six, you can get pressure from the front, the side and also from behind - basically from every direction. Even if you let the first opponent drop out, the second opponent will already be in front of you. If you also dribble around this opponent, the pressure will usually be too great because opponents number three and four are now attacking you.

As a six, you have to be able to react quickly to many new dangers and quickly play the ball out of pressure - ideally forward and into a free space. To complete these challenges as a six, you must...

  • able to keep the ball close to your foot and always have control over the playing equipment. A safe and tight ball control helps you to maintain the ball in the dense center and to be able to react to opponents as quickly as possible. In addition, you can pass the ball quickly if there is a pass point deep down. If you advance the ball too far, the free player may have disappeared into the shadow of an opponent.
  • ...when dribbling, regularly take your eyes off the ball and thus maintain an overview. This is the only way you can recognize passing stations and quickly play the ball out of pressure. Otherwise, it will take you too long to find a free teammate and you will lose the ball due to increasing opponent pressure.
  • ...can do tricky dribbles. In the center you don't need complex feints. It is often not your goal to leave your opponent behind you with a feint. Much more often, the use of feints is just about briefly opening up passing or dribbling paths. Passing or body feints are particularly effective. Combine the first contact with, for example, a lunge or a pass feint in the direction of the passer and then take the ball to the other side.
  • able to carry the ball with both feet. The easiest way to hold the ball against an opponent is to hold it with the foot that is far from the opponent. This means you can always keep your body between the ball and your opponent. A good “weak” foot will help you to always be able to shield the ball, no matter which side your opponent is coming from.
For this reason, you should definitely work on your two-footedness:


The demands on the dribbling skills of a six-man are varied and high. But even if you have strong ball control, you have to be able to use it effectively.

It will help you if you know exactly what is happening around you - your gaze will constantly move from the ball into the depths and back. This gives you an accurate and up-to-date overview of the playing field. This means you already know where you will play it next before you receive the ball.

When you get played, you don't have to think twice. You can use your dribbling skills to pass the ball to your free teammate quickly and accurately.

Training in Soccerbot360 serves as an exercise to get extremely good preliminary orientation. However, the whole thing can also be done with 1-2 training partners or a simple wall:

About the author:

Luis Österlein (Twitter: LOsterlein ) is a game analyst for the U23 team at FC Bayern Munich and a freelance author. In close collaboration with 360Football, he writes specific blog posts that support players in their football development support.

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