The 6 second rule, defining pressing. Solo Soccer training explores the unique principle deployed by Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp to suffocate the opposition and regain possession.

When you think about the players in a Pep Guardiola squad, you think about exceptional ability on the ball. Technique above all else, playing the right way and letting the ball do the work.

That’s only half the story.

Pep Guardiola based the foundation of perhaps the greatest soccer team ever, in his time at Barcelona on a high-tempo, ultra aggressive pressing game. It was the god-like desire to win the ball back, that meant Barcelona were able to keep hold of possession in games for so long.

Image of Barcelona vs Arsenal

Barcelona had 67% of possession during their Champions League match with Arsenal in 2011

Pep Guardiola believed that a short intensive burst of pressing in the immediate 6-seconds after losing the ball was most likely to pressurise the opponent into making a mistake in possession, as they were unable to gain composure without time on the ball to relax.

To carry out this tactic, the nearest players to the ball were instructed to quickly flood the man in possession, pressing the opposition quickly, while the rest of their team mates created a compact formation around them. This most often meant that the man in possession was force to play backwards (thus nullifying the likelihood of a counter attack) or had to depend on exceptional dribbling ability and passing skills to play out of danger.

Image of Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Barcelona

Despite winning La Liga in his debut season, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is considered to have been unsuccessful during his time at Barcelona, failing to establish himself.

For the 6-second rule to work, the whole team has to be pulling their weight and understand the philosophy. Guardiola was ruthless, selling the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Yaya Toure because they were unable to adapt to the intense pressing formula and tactics that Pep Guardiola wanted to implement. The tika-taka mentality allowed players to venture out of position, so when possession was lost, every player had to be aware of their team mates location and the importance of ‘filling in’ for a player who is out of position. The most pivotal and important example of this was Sergio Buquets, who would cover for the full backs or midfielders wherever necessary. As a holding midfielder, he was the man expected to be making the tackles, however he would in fact orchestrate his team mates into a more suitable position for shutting of passing lines and making interceptions. This is how smaller, less physically powerful players like Xavi and Iniesta were able to dominate stronger, more athletic midfielders.

Image of Busquets at Barcelona

Sergio Busquets played a fundamental role in the success of the ‘6 second rule’


Pressing has become such a key part of the modern game. The most important attribute, under tactical guidance, that you will need is excellent endurance and the ability to continuous close the opposition down in small, intensive bites.