The A-Z of Football Terminology

Vicente Del Bosque, Spain managerThe new season is almost upon us and that means watching seamless amounts of games, reading scores of match reports and generally breathing and living football. And don’t we just love it? However, the game has changed somewhat in recent years, with different tactics, different formations and different positions all put to use by managers these days. For example, who would have thought Vicente Del Bosque would go through Euro 2012 without playing a striker. After all, David Moyes has tried that one for years…

Still, there’s a number of phrases and terms that still make the mind boggle in the beautiful game and although we don’t have the ridiculous number of names or complicated terms like American Football or in fact cricket for that matter, there’s still a few things that could do with some explanation. To help you out, we’ve put together an A-Z of football terminology that will help you through the season:

A – is for Anchorman – Modern midfields always need someone to stay back to steady the ship, basically weighing anchor to ensure the midfield isn’t easily broken through. To play in the anchorman role, having a ball-winning ability is key, while starting the play with short passes to other players is also particularly crucial. Cheik Tiote does this effectively for Newcaslte.

B – is for Box to box midfielder – The modern day footballer has to have a decent engine on him and none more so than those who play in the centre of the park. Players like Jack Wilshere or Yaya Toure are expected to involve themselves with play between both penalties areas, busting a gut to get forward in attack, but also help out in defence.

C – is for Christmas tree formation – You would think it’s a rather bizarre name to give to a football formation, but it in fact it makes perfect sense when it’s written down on paper. Four at the back, three in midfield, two men just behind the striker and one lone target man, exactly in the shape of a Christmas tree.

D – is for Dead ball specialist – The team’s main man in terms of set pieces, expect him to take charge of corners and free kicks. David Beckham is the ultimate dead ball specialist, wrapping his right boot around every ball that lies still on the football pitch.

E – is for Early Bath – Refers to a red card as the player is sent off, ensuring he’ll be the first one in the bath before everyone else. Well, these days they tend to have singular ice baths to aid player recovery, so it’s not strictly relevant anymore. It’s still one of our favourite clichés though.

F – is for Fox in the Box – This refers to a striker that’s pretty handy around the penalty spot as he tends to finish everything that comes his way in the opposition area. It tends to involve either scoring headers, tap-ins or seizing on opportunities that are presented without much time to react. Gary Lineker is probably the greatest fox in the box the English game has ever seen, while Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Robbie Fowler weren’t bad either. However, Francis Jeffers was once called a fox in the box as well…

G – is for Giant killing – Often to be used in the FA Cup, where little minnows meet the Premier League big boys. In the modern days of oil rich owners and global superstars, it’s much harder for the small clubs to upset their rivals higher up the football league, but every year we hope for a giant killing at least once a round.

H – is for Hairdryer treatment – Although modern day footballers are much more appearance conscious than they used to be (indeed you’d expect old Goldenballs to make his barnet immaculate during half time), the hairdryer treatment is what you might call a good old fashioned bollocking rather than a fashion faux-pas in the dressing room. Sir Alex Ferguson is the king of unleashing half time fury, indeed if United are losing at the interval, the Old Trafford dressing room wouldn’t be a particularly pleasant place to visit.

I – is for In the Hole – It’s rare to play with two men up top these days, indeed one man usually drops just off the main striker, in the hole as you might say. Rafael van der Vaart perfects this for Tottenham, while Wayne Rooney does it more and more for Manchester United these days. It gives key players more time on the ball, allowing them to cause maximum damage to the opposition.

J – is for Journeyman – In football, a journeyman is someone who swaps from club to club and seems unable to settle anywhere. Or they’ve not good enough for whoever they’ve signed for. Steve Claridge is probably football’s ultimate journeyman, he’s had more clubs than Tiger Woods, 23 in total.

K – is for sweeper Keeper – Brought to light essentially by Football Manager, the sweeper keeper is expected to patrol his penalty area and clean up anything that comes within 20-30 yards of the box. Obviously not if there’s a striker within the vicinity though, we don’t want any blunders now!

L – is for cultured Left foot – No one quite knows why a talented left footed football’s boot is often described as cultured, indeed I doubt they can play the piano or recite every chapter from War and Peace, but it refers to a player than can often deliver a quality ball or possesses fantastic skills. Right feet never tend to be cultured for some reason though.

M – is for the Makelele Role – Perfectly by the French midfielder Claude Makelele who starred for Real Madrid and Chelsea, the Makelele role basically involves sitting in front of the defence and protecting the back four. Anything that moves behind the midfield needs destroying and Scott Parker is a good example of a modern day Makelele. Expect a yellow card here and there.

N – is for No man’s land – Made famous in World War I as the position between the German and British trenches that consisted of just barren wasteland. Funnily enough, this isn’t quite the same in football, indeed no man’s land is the position a goalkeeper gets himself into if he comes for a corner or a free kick and gets nowhere near. David De Gea spent the whole of last season there.

O – is for Offside trap – Often a high risk strategy, back fours play higher up the pitch as a line, trying to catch the opposition strikers offside by stepping up when the ball comes over the top. Play it at your peril though, those good at springing the offside side trap can make defenders look like right mugs.

P – is for Playmaker – Often the key man in the team, the playmaker is the one who everyone looks to get the ball to as soon as possible. Always the most skilful player or most likely to thread a pass through the heart of the opposition, Zinedine Zidane is probably the greatest of the modern era. Cesc Fabregas wasn’t half bad for Arsenal either.

Q – is for Quarterback – A phrase borrowed from our cousins across the pond thanks to their position in American Football that involves the key player sitting back and spraying passes across the field. The position is similar in football, as a midfielder picks up the ball and has the vision to spot available teammates all over the pitch. Charlie Adam perfected the quarterback role for Blackpool, while Paul Scholes is the master for Manchester United.

R – is for Rough-arm tactics – Step forward Stoke City, here is your moment. Tony Pulis deploys rough-arm tactics to try and unsettle the opposition, be it through strong tactics or pushing and shoving at every opportunity. Don’t take it too far, otherwise you’ll end up down to ten men, oh and remember…Arsene Wenger doesn’t like it.

S – is for Studs up – Tackling is not what it used to be, indeed the days of Norman ‘Bites yer legs’ Hunter or Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris have long gone. Nowadays, any sort of poor challenge can lead to a red card and going in with your studs up often results in a sending off. Keep it nice chaps.

T – is for Tiki-taka – It’s no longer total football, it’s now tiki-taka that dominates the beautiful game. Barcelona have revolutionised modern football using this style that demands short passing and movement, maintaining possession and working the ball through various channels. You’ll hear plenty of it in the Premier League as Brendan Rodgers tries to introduce it into his Liverpool team. Good luck…

U – is for Unintentional hand ball – Handball is often a confusing concept, but it revolves round whether the player intentionally handled the ball or not. If he makes a movement with his arm and touches the ball, he gets penalised, but if the ball accidently makes contact with the arm, play on.

V – is for peripheral Vision – The all-seeing central midfielder often possesses what some call peripheral vision so they can see everything around them, not just what’s in front of them. Xavi is the master, but Paul Scholes ain’t half bad either. Gareth Barry’s could do with some improvement…

W – is for WAG – Surely everyone in football knows this one by now. John Terry and Ryan Giggs’s antics have made the Wives and Girlfriends almost as famous as the actual footballers themselves. Look out for them during major tournaments, there’s quite a selection.

X – is for X-Rated tackle – A mark reserved for particularly explicit films, while the same applies to football tackles. A horror slide challenge, or a two footed leap will often be called an X-rated challenge, nobody likes to see that.

Y – is for Yoyo team – Used to describe a club that’s always being relegated and promoted between two divisions. West Brom are the best example, they’ve been flittering in and out of the top flight ever since they first got there.

Z – is for Zonal Marking – They say a zone can’t score a goal, but more and more managers use zonal marking to defend set pieces these days. Pick an area and let no man make contact with the ball if it gets into that zone.

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