"The ball cannot stop."

"Never slow down the game".

"Play faster – with one touch".

I think these are common information that we give to the players. It is difficult to disagree with this, especially because the speed of the game depends on the speed of movement of the ball. Nevertheless, I think there is never a situation on the pitch that should be categorized as black or white.

One of the concepts that may contradict this feedback is  "Pause"(from the Spanish "La pausa").

This is a deliberate slowdown in the game (often stopping) in order to gain some benefits. What are the benefits? We will answer this question as soon as we explain the concept of pause in details.

This is a slowdown in the game, but often to speed it up immediately. This is the skill of outstanding players who understand the game in a masterful way.

Those are players who can anticipate the movement of the opponent, because it is this concept that is designed to provoke a rival to press, to change his place or simply take his attention with the ball to perform a pass or drive to a certain area.

La pause is such a little anticipation for the scenario you want to appear, but only the opponent bothers

In the video below you can see how central defender Tiago Silva has no way to pass the ball to the central midfielder, but a moment awaits (pause) for the movement of a rival and immediately gives him the ball:

At the first moment there was no option to pass, but Thiago Silva stopped the game – he did not change sides and after a while this option appeared (due to the movement of his partner – on which Silva waited until he took the position, as well as due to de Bruyne's behavior).  De Bruyne as we look closely, we will notice that sometimes it is a matter of one meter.

The pause can be used not only by the central defenders. This is a concept useful for any position – but let's remember that we want to speed up the game as often as possible, but there are times where by accelerating we will only expose ourselves to unnecessary loss.


Pause is an excellent concept to use if there is currently no one asking for the ball. Instead of panicking with the ball at your foot, you need to stop the game and look around your opponents and teammates. The life of the passing line is short, but it is always born again and this new option we are looking for:

By slowly driving the ball – gently provoking pressure – we cause the opponent will leave their position. This could be a good signal for a ball carrier to try to pass behind his back.

The question is how to train that concept? Rondos are a great training game for practicing this concept. Below I present a video in which you can see that the blue player (in fact the central defender) has no passing option (at this point 4v4+3N games, the blue keep the ball with gray).

The pause creates the conditions for the grey player to take the right position, which will consequently lead to create passing option.


The most benefit of the pause concept brings when there is no possibility to play forward. After slowing down (stopping?) the ball, we provoke the opponent to press. Pep  Guardiola has often said that it is necessary to wait for the pressure of his opponent, because only then they begins to disorganize - there is a place behind his back. This creates the possibility of giving the ball to a place that had previously been obscured. Above you will see the famous “La Pausa” (and the most beautiful as well) from El Classico:

The player with the ball must first of all observe his nearest opponent and the place behind his back. It is best also to move your opponent with the ball and wait for the right moment to pass.

This involves some risk, so it's not always worth trying to give the ball forward. I would risk saying that most pauses end up simply going backwards and starting with another attack.

You don't necessarily have to pass the ball either. Pause can come in handy during a 1v1 duel in attack, especially if we have a player with a ball with good acceleration. If you have in your team great dribbler, that can be a great tool for him.

The risk is high, but it brings huge benefits. This allows us to focus a rival in one place and on the ball.  So you know how they are positioned and were their eyes looks. Now you can destabilize it by stopping the game. Then pass many opponents with one pass.

Not everything that looks so good in theory is easy to apply. The longer we wait with the ball, we really make more time (and easier?) for a rival to press. Too long holding the ball often leads to a forced pass or just a kick out the ball.

The key role here is also for players without the ball, who have to observe the space behind the opponent who press our teammate with the ball.

The most common errors within Pause:

  • 1.       No support for players without a ball – no passing lines/angles.
  • 2.       For too long hold the ball.
  • 3.       Driving with the ball too close to the opponent.
  • 4.       Panic – uncontrollable getting rid of the ball.

Pause, however, does not always lead to a slowdown in the game. Sometimes you should wait for the right moment to pass.  Perhaps at the time of adoption, your partner has only just started running into space. You can't always pass the ball immediately to free space, so slowing down the game gives you the opportunity to wait for your partner.

Slowing down the game is often a consequence of waiting for the right movement to pass!!!


To play really good football, speed of play has to be priority. To play fast your players always need to know “what’s next?”.

And sometimes this “next” is to slow down the game…


Radosław Bella

UEFA A License Coach.

Feel free to give me message:


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