GAME model

Four Moments of the Game (Mendez-Villanueva, A. and Delgado-Bordonau, J.L., 2012)

A GAME model is defined as the coaches “overall view of how he wants the game to be played” (Tamarit, 2007, P48). The GAME model “can be thought of as the top level principle” (P48) which explains the coach’s playing philosophy.

‘The GAME model is the is the overarching, planned, tactical/strategic approach adopted, and tactical principles of play, conceived by coaches to enhance player functionality in specific sub-phases of play’.

(Garganta, 1997; Guilherme, 2004)

The GAME model is often built up from the ‘four moments of the game’ (Frade, 1985) that present football in its simplest form. Each moment of the game contains principles, sub-principles and sub-sub principles that “dictate how this philosophy is accomplished” (P48) in each moment of the game.

I have created my GAME model from my mental model. A mental model (defined as explanation of an individual’s thought process about how something works in the real world’. Tokuhama – Espinosa, 2010, P280) similarly presents football in its basic form. My model simplifies football into four main phases of the game (Attack, Defensive transition, Defence, and Attacking transition). However, my model provides two sub-phases for each main phase. Each sub-phase explains specifically what the team executes in each main phase (for example, in attack, the team will either attempt to score or maintain possession of the ball).

My mental model provides the basis for creating the GAME model. Each ‘sub – phase‘ can be transformed into ‘performance problems‘, which pose the question of how each sub-phase will be accomplished (i.e, how will the team attempt to score?).

The solutions of how the team will accomplish these performance problems form the principles of the GAME model. It is these principles that explain how the team will accomplish the GAME model in each sub-phase of game. (i.e, the team will attempt to score by quick through balls into zone 17 to score from wide zones or zone 14 etc).

‘The GAME model demonstrates how a coach wants the team to play soccer; a conception of the game. Given the high unpredictability that exists during a match, a coach tries to create predictability through preparation, planning and training’. 

(Delgado-Bordonau & Méndez-Villanueva, 2012, n.p)

My playing model can be seen below:

The addition of these principles to the mental model forms the playing model

“A game model provides a framework to map a set of characteristics to bound the implementation of defensive/offensive principles or systems of play in team sport athletes (including player roles and tactical systems during play). A game model encompasses tactical patterns of play, considered of fundamental importance for system (team) organization and functioning. A tactical principle of play encompasses a set of basic game rules (previously defined by the team coaches) that constrain the actions of the players and the teams toward intended performance outcomes for specific sub-phases of play”.

(Garganta, 1997, quoted in Ribeiro et al, 2019).

My GAME model is based on the 4-2-3-1 formation and explains how the team will achieve my playing philosophy of offensive-minded possession based football, which is attractive, creative, fast to watch and includes player rotation.

The images below show the principles of the playing model in more detail for each sub-phase.

The model was created from conducting intensive inductive and deductive research into Ajax’s Philosophy based on how their first team play. Therefore I use my GAME model as an ‘alpha model’, in essence, this is the target performance for how I would want the team to play at first team level. When coaching in a youth development setting, I contextualise my playing model to create a ‘beta model’, this is an adapted version of the playing model with ‘lowered expectations’ that is more suitable for a particular group that I am working with based on their current age and stage of development.


Frade, V., 1985. Foira de jogo o Tempo Todo. Oporto: Libros Portugal.

Mendez-Villanueva, A. and Delgado-Bordonau, J.L., 2012. Tactical Periodization: Mourinho’s best-kept secret. Tactical Periodization: a new soccer training approach. Soccer NSCAA J3, pp.28-34.

Tamarit, X., 2007. What is tactical periodization. Live the game to condition the game .

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