What are the 6 principles of attacking in soccer?

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We all know how exciting and exhilarating it is when our favorite soccer or football players score a goal. Watching soccer games can be dragging for some as these thrilling moments are very few and far between. But if you’re truly a lover of the sport, you’d know that there is more to the game than kicking the ball past the goalkeeper.

Soccer fans watch not just for the goals, but for the actual gameplay of the top players in the world. It may seem normal for casual viewers, but how the players move in the field is a result of years and years of practice and repetition. The way the players in the offense dribble and weave through the defensive players is no simple feat. Watching how the players attack, when you’re aware of how difficult what they do is, makes the 90 minutes of the game full of entertainment, despite the fact that only a total of two goals were scored in a game.

Whether you’re a casual fan who wants to have a deeper appreciation of the game, or an avid player who wants to be like the pros you see on TV and YouTube highlight reels, knowing the 6 principles of attacking in soccer will be one of the things that you’d want to keep in mind.

These are the 6 principles of attacking that all professional players observe when on the offense:

  1. Penetration

Simply put, penetration is when you’re moving forward towards the goal, looking to get past the opposing players, and playing through or behind the opposition. You attempt to penetrate when you dribble forward, run forward, pass forward, or shoot. Penetration is what makes the action happen in a game. Who would want to see the offense not make it past midfield, right? When penetrating, the best players always look to score first, and if scoring is not possible, they look to make a pass. When neither scoring or passing is possible, look to advance the ball by dribbling or running.

  1. Depth/Support

The observance of depth and support is a team effort. Those who aren’t in actual possession of the ball are supposed to find their respective spots in the field. The players in the offense must be dispersed to spread the field in order to support their other teammates and to stretch the opposition as well. When players observe depth and support, they help the ball carrier by providing him options to pass to or by drawing away nearby opponents from the area that the ball carrier is running into. Supporting players are also essential when changing the offense’s point of attack. In essence, support and depth is when teammates support each other by providing communication, creating options for passes and opportunities to move the ball around the field towards the ultimate objective of scoring a goal.

  1. Transition

Transition is vital when looking to gain an edge over the opposing team. Soccer is a two-way sport and possessions may take anywhere from a few seconds to a couple of minutes. Having a good transition strategy allows the team to smoothly shift from defense to offense, and to take advantage of the other team trying to play catch up after losing the ball. Transition strategy depends on the team’s overall style and system of play, but nevertheless, a team with the better transition strategy is bound to have an edge over the opposing team.

  1. Mobility

Mobility basically means movement. Movement is essential for those who don’t have the ball in order to keep the offense flowing. When you’re not the one with the ball, you should always look to move constantly to prevent the offense from getting stagnant, repetitive, and predictable. By observing proper movement, players are able to create space for themselves and for their teammates, resulting in the creation of scoring opportunities. Having good mobility also allows the offense to continuously keep the defense on its toes.

  1. Width

Creating width means using the entire width of the field when on the attack. The offense must spread itself out across the field to create space for the players to move fluidly and provide opportunities for penetration. Good width on the field also forces the opposition to have gaps in their defense which the offense can exploit in order to create easy scoring opportunities. A good offense that observes proper width provides opportunities to attack from any part of the field.

  1. Improvisation/creativity/surprise

The best players in the world instinctively know when to switch gears and surprise the opposition. They are creative in their movement either on and off the ball through feints, fakes, and fancy but effective dribbling skills. This creativity allows them to fool defenders into thinking that they’re moving one way when they’re actually moving to the opposite side. By improvising, players make the attack unpredictable and they are able to break down defenses to create opportunities for themselves or their teammates. The skill of improvisation is also not just an individual skill. The best teams know when to improvise through creative sets using small group combinations that ultimately allow the offense to put the ball between the goalposts.

Bottom Line

Now that you know the 6 attacking principles, you’ll be able to enjoy watching the sport more with a deeper understanding of how the players move in the game. You’re now in a better position to put yourself in the shoes of the players on the field and see who’s playing well and who’s observing these 6 principles.

Plus, if you ever find yourself playing on the field, you’ll be able to incorporate these principles to lead your team to victory, but remember that these 6 principles by themselves aren’t enough. Becoming the best player that you can be requires determination and hard work in pushing yourself towards improvement. Knowledge is only half the battle.


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