A swap is a defensive action performed by a footballer by which he occupies the position, and therefore the functions, of another teammate on the field of play. It is a very simple but at the same time highly effective tactic.

Many coaches choose a defensive pivot to carry out the swap, who immediately replaces the position vacated by his teammate once he goes on the attack. This action helps to maintain order and balance in all lines.

When the player who keeps possession of the ball passes a player, the defender who was covering him must quickly go out to meet him, i.e. he must leave both his position and his duties free, which will be immediately occupied by the player who was previously passed.

However, the swap does not necessarily have to be carried out by the overrun player, but sometimes a team-mate who is well positioned and close to the play will be in charge of carrying it out. In this way the action will be much quicker and more effective.

There are two types of swaps:

  • The space exchange, which consists of occupying the space abandoned by the teammate who is covering.
  • The man-to-man exchange, in which the player is in charge of both the space and of marking the opponent who had the team-mate who has provided the cover.

The player who carries out the exchange must be totally focused on the game, maintain a sense of teamwork, have great coordination in his movements, know how to play without the ball in order to continue the play once he is overrun, be confident enough to decide and know the precise place he should occupy and, of course, be able to adapt to positions other than those he normally occupies.

Objectives of the swaps

When an exchange of positions takes place, the aim is to economise the players’ efforts as much as possible and to carry out defensive actions quickly. In addition, this way, there will be no numerical inferiority when the opponent attacks, creating security, solidity and coordination in the defensive work.

The aim of the permutations is to occupy all defensive zones in a rational way, as well as the spaces that could pose a danger. Its use is also intended to avoid pigeonholing the player in a single job, and to avoid that after a player is overrun, the whole line is left unsettled.

Another objective of the permutations is to avoid, as far as possible, free spaces or gaps near the goal. In addition, thanks to these actions, the defensive efforts are distributed among all the players in the team.

How can swaps be countered?

Although this is a very effective defensive action, there are some ways to counteract it. These include:

  • Through the speed with which the offensive play is executed.
  • With the quick support of other players to the ball holder.
  • Making changes of direction once the first opponent has passed.
  • Quickly releasing the ball to avoid slowing down the play.
  • Carrying out high passes, which can easily overcome the position of the defender.


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