Soccer Attacking Plan

Hi SoccerHelp,

I've been a Soccer Help Premium member for a few months now and I enjoy the site though I find the amount of information here to be overwhelming at times. One thing I expected to see relates to soccer formations. While you have a ton of info on various formations for various leagues (6v6, 7v7, etc) I would like to see some diagrams of how to line kids up in a 2-1-2-2 or whatever. Do they all stand in a row or do the 2 mids in, in this case play out more as wingers or what. Seems silly to have everyone down the middle of the field when we teach kids to move the ball up the touch line.

So, formation diagrams would be helpful. Thanks.

P.S. I intend to try the soccer patches this year and will be ordering a bunch shortly.

Coach Pat, PA USA

Hi Pat,

We don't show diagrams of formations because the specifics depend on coaching preferences and the ability of the players -- anything we showed would apply to some teams but not to others, and would do more harm than good. Also, where players should be depends on where the ball is, whether they are on offense or defense, and whether their coach "Pushes Up" on the attack or "Defends Deep". The important concepts are "shift and sag", "first defender/second defender", "first attacker/second attacker", and that positions are "relative" to each other and generally when on Defense, the "left" side players should stay on the left side of the field, the "right" side players on the right side of the field (left and right are as you face the opposing Goalie), Fullbacks should be closer to their Goalie than their Midfielders are, and Midfielders should be closer to their Goalie than their Forwards are. (These guidelines also apply when a team is on offense, but not as strictly. Offense is more creative than defense and players may "overlap" in order to advance the attack; this is particularly true with Midfielders and Forwards, because most coaches may want their Fullbacks to be conservative and stay in a defensive position in case there is a counterattack by the opponent).

Regarding how to get the most out of Premium, start with "Most Important Things" and go from there.

3 Tips: Read "Stopper Importance" (worth 2 goals per game), teach Coaching Rule #3 (worth a goal or 2 per game) and play "Dribble Across A Square" and "Dribble Around Cone and Pass Relay Race" a lot, which will help your players hugely.

If you have a Rec team I recommend you:

  1. Defend Deep (read "Defending Deep Basics" on Premium).Teach "First Defender/Second Defender" and "Shift & Sag"
  2. Control the "Center of the Field" (the area between the 2 goals). You MUST control the "Center of the Field" (between the 2 goals) or you will probably lose; let your opponent have the "wings" (in fact, encourage them to attack down the wings, they will run twice as much as your players, your players will have plenty of time to "recover" by dropping back into a defensive position, and most opponents can't score from there; just DON'T give up the "Center of the Field" and allow easy goals). If you need to "hide" some weak players think about a 2-1-3-1 formation and put the weak players at RMF or LMF, and leave a strong player at CMF.
  3. An attacking plan that works better for most Rec teams: Why do you teach your players to attack down the sidelines? Is it because they can't attack down the Center? If you can attack the Center, do so; it's a more direct path to goal; only attack down the wings (the sideline aka touchline) if you can't attack the Center. For most Rec teams, we don't recommend a short passing style of attack except in the Attacking Third. Instead, we recommend "clearing the ball" from the "Defensive Third" by kicking it hard straight ahead and teaching Midfielders and Forwards to "shift and sag" with the ball so they are in position to win the cleared balls; this way everyone knows what to expect and where they should be and what their "job" is. The MF's and Forwards know that the Fullbacks and Stopper will "clear" the ball by kicking it hard straight ahead if it's in their "Defensive Third" (or, if you want to keep it simpler, tell them to clear it if it's on their Defensive Half, which is the half their Goalie is on). Thus, when the ball is in your Defensive Third, the MF's and F's should expect their Fullbacks or Stopper will kick the ball straight ahead, and the MF's and F's should have shifted with the ball so they are in position to win the ball when it's kicked straight ahead. When positioning to win the ball they expect their FB's or Stopper to clear, the MF's and F's should be a pass apart from each other (which is about 10 of their steps), the MF's should be a pass away from the ball, and the Forwards should be a pass farther out than the MF's; this will give you good field coverage in the area that the ball should be cleared to; make adjustments to this if necessary (for example, if your FB's can't kick it far, your MF's will need to stay closer to the ball so they can win it when the FB's clear it). Teaching this style of attack teaches players to: "pass the ball to space" (which is much more effective than just "passing to feet"; it may seem like the Fullbacks are just "booming" the ball, but they aren't, they are really passing it to a space where they know their MF's and Forwards will be waiting; this is very different from just kicking the ball to the opponent; even some national teams play a similar style of clearing the ball from the Defensive Third), the concept of a simple "attacking plan" and how to implement it, to "shift and sag" with the ball so they are in position to win it, the importance of keeping a proper amount of space between MF's and Forwards, that every player must do his job and trust his teammates to do theirs (for example: Forwards must NOT come back too close to the Fullbacks or no one will be there to win the cleared balls), and that MF's and Forwards MUST fight to win the ball or their team will almost certainly lose the game.

If you try this, I think you will score a lot more goals. Thousands of coaches now use this style of play. You can read the Testimonials to see the results.