He Knows Where the Goal Is: Mapping the Modern Football Pitch

The modern footballer must know his place. If the forensic analysis of Zonal Marking is to be believed, most of them are mindless chess pieces moved around at will by their gesticulating manager. But, while the positions they are allocated have well-established names, the areas of the pitch they occupy are still subject to the eccentricity of the football cliché.

All credit to @jon_foley for putting the image together

The Engine Room
Smack-bang in the middle of the park is the British Crown dependency of the midfield engine room, the domain of the Lampards, the Gerrards and the Parkers of this world. As the name suggests, everyone within the engine room must possess an engine, or at least be full of running.

Going Nowhere
You know the drill - a bumbling winger, in a desperate attempt to track back, fouls an opponent as they loiter (facing the wrong way) in this specific, innocuous part of the pitch. Located near half-way and close to the touchline, the vast majority of free-kicks conceded here will be classified as silly.

The Hole
The hole is fast becoming a quaint anachronism in the era of false nines who flit between the lines. A stealthy place to inhabit, the hole confounds opposing defenders who struggle to pick up the deep-lying forward.

The Channels
The thinking man's wings, the channels represent the dire straits between penalty area and touchline where full-backs can be given a torrid time - either by fleet-footed (or jet-heeled) wingers or by their swashbuckling opposite numbers.

The endangered species of the old fashioned winger (centre-forwards and cup-ties can also be old-fashioned) has been forced inside to survive, leaving its former home of the wing (or the "flank") derelict and languishing under the vague term "wide areas". 

In a figurative sense, one of the worst places a footballer can find himself is on the periphery, from where it is very difficult to get into the game.

David Beckham Territory
A hotly disputed area, but various attempts to annex it permanently over the last decade have proved fruitless, many coming to a ignominious end up in Row Z.

It is the most popular strategic base to launch attacks on the tiny enclave in the top corner of the goal - known as the postage stamp - located just next to the angle of post and bar.
The Mixer
There's a distinct whiff of Big Ron about this (Ronglish was an unsanctioned splinter lexicon which is thankfully fading from view), but the mixer remains a great leveller. From Sunday League to the top flight, last throws of the dice find their way into this perilous badland. The mixer must be accessed with a hopeful long ball - no team has ever attempted to walk the ball into the mixer.

To further emphasise the stresses of the mixer, it often gives proverbial nosebleeds to no-nonsense defenders who venture upfield, often with the kitchen sink tucked under their arms.

many thanks to @Steve_Sub for the image
No Man's Land
A horrid void in which hapless goalkeepers are said to have "gone walkabout". Littered with suicidal backpasses, this is where the custodian feels most alone. But it's not the only danger that 'keepers face...

The Corridor of Uncertainty
One of the most poetic of all the football cliches. Originally a cricket phrase, as many seem keen to point out, but now undeniably adopted by football. The narrow corridor of uncertainty straddles the six-yard line, and is permeated regularly by crosses fizzed in from the channels.

Whether you're marauding, swashbuckling, rampaging, venturing, flooding, backpedalling, gliding, ghosting, wandering, drifting, racing, slaloming, jinking or simply ambling
always know where you are.


Neil said...

Regarding the Corridor of Uncertainty, I've seen it mentioned in regards to fizzing crosses pinged in from the flanks, but I've most frequently heard it mentioned regarding long diagonal balls into the mixer, which go over everyone and end up bouncing in at the far post. The keeper doesn't know whether to track the path of the ball or anticipate the header.

FootballClichés said...

Yes, those types of cross are said to "evade everybody".

Anonymous said...

Thowe crosses are also 'impossible to defend' and 'a defenders nightmare'.

Anonymous said...

Which part of the pitch do forwards "drop their shoulders" to beat defenders? Where do defenders "build from the back"?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

"With 2 banks of 4, it can be very difficult for strikers to open their accounts, even if they have a wealth of talent. However if one is able to pick the pocket of a defender, the aforementioned striker may profit from his mistake. To prevent this a defender at this point should set out his stall, but must never under any circumstance give anyone change. If the defender is sold a dummy by an attacking player, he will somehow need to get out of jail. This is an institution which would be located somewhere between the hole and no-mans land. If the defender is able to avoid such problems, the forward may be unable to buy a goal from anywhere." - Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

James said...

Brilliant, had me sniggering away like a fool in the office...all so true

Anonymous said...

you forgot to mention the danger zone