By Waleed Zaghloul
A team that creates a lot of scoring chances in a variety of different ways is usually a sign of a well-coached team. On the other hand, a team that puts away its chances is usually a sign of good players. So as a coach, you are responsible for defining how your team will create chances and which of the following methods they need to utilize against a specific opponent. The coach needs to build his team’s arsenal of attack and make sure that they can score in a variety of different ways, otherwise the team will be easily shutout by superior teams.
Wing Play and Crosses
For years, wing play has been a very important and entertaining way for teams to create chances and score goals. Players like David Beckham became famous operating on the flank for Manchester United, Real Madrid and England. Developing a good winger requires finding a player that has a combination of important attributes.
A good winger must have very good physical attributes. The winger needs to have pace and endurance, so a combination of aerobic and anaerobic fitness attributes are critical. The winger is usually entrusted with created scoring chances for strikers and midfielders making runs into the box, but once the ball is lost, the winger is required to drop back and defend. The winger has to be in great to shape to provide the “balance” in defense in many defensive situations when the ball is on the opposite wing.
On offense, the winger needs to have great ball control in order to be able to dribble past opponents, be part of combination play, and finally be able to deliver a good cross into the danger area. Every winger should be able to provide crosses to both the near and far posts as well as crosses to the area around the penalty spot. And to make the challenge even bigger, the winger needs to be able to make crosses at the appropriate height to his strikers or midfielders, but should also be able to provide low crosses (known as Brazilian crosses).
Another critical skill needed from the winger is finishing! In many situations, a winger will provide crosses and the winger on the opposite side is required to attack the far post and finish if the ball is missed by the attackers in the middle.
Penetration through the Middle
Penetration through the middle is one of Barcelona’s favorite methods of breaking down their opposition (they use it even against Real Madrid!) A player like Messi can be dangerous because of his ability to make critical penetrating runs or passes depending on what the defense gives him.
For your team to be able to effectively utilize penetrating passes and dribbles, they need to reach a certain level of proficiency on ball control and tactical awareness. It is important for players operating in and around the opponents’ box to be able to control the ball well under pressure. That includes passing, receiving and dribbling. The technique is not enough as good opponents will be tough to break through the middle. To counter an organized defense, runs of the ball would be crucial. Barcelona usually expects their wingers or their full backs to make runs from the outside when the ball is in the middle. This makes it very hard for the defense to keep track of both the ball and the runner at the same time occasionally resulting in very dangerous scoring chances.
If the opposition defense is caught early without getting a chance to get everybody organized, it could be a chance for a penetrating dribble. This skill requires players like Messi who can easily take on a defender or two before going through on goal or making a through pass to another teammate who have been left wide open because of the numbers up situation for the attacking team. The players need to be disciplined into recognizing what the best option is in any given situation.
Long Distance Shots
Many situations could produce chances for long shots usually from outside the penalty box. Coaches need to train their players to recognize these situations and be able to utilize them as goals scored from distance usually provide great entertainment. Teams having long range shooting options will force their opponents to adapt accordingly which will open up some other opportunity elsewhere.
One of the situations that could result in long distance shots is after clearances from corners, free kicks and crosses. Teams could also create a long distance shooting opportunity by moving the ball around and switching play and then quickly making a pass back to the middle for a shot. Counter attacks also sometimes present an opportunity for a long distance shot before the opponents get a chance to drop back.
Another common situation could arise when a team has a player like Messi. Messi can provide through passes and great dribbles, but if defenders drop off him and do not close him down promptly he can take a quick long range shot to great effect. How well your team recognizes the situation and how well they finish will all depend on how well YOU prepare them!
In many situations teams have to endure a lot of pressure from superior opposition (for example the USA against Brazil in the confederations cup final in 2009). If your team has a hard time getting a lot of possession, sometimes the best way to create scoring chances will be though quick counter attacks (and set-pieces). Counter attacks could be utilized when the opponents are pushing up many of their players and the goal is to catch them before they have a chance to drop back and defend properly. Another similar situation could arise when the opposition pushed up several players on set-pieces.
Opponents are most vulnerable to counter attacks when they take attacking shape, but the ball is turned over (usually by a central midfielder or central defender). Your team can take advantage of this situation with a quick counter attack.
When all else fails for your team to create scoring chances, there is always set-pieces. Many professional teams spend a lot of times on set-pieces because they could be a very useful attacking weapon. In the last World Cup, Brazil was vulnerable on set-pieces which cost them dearly again the Dutch. It is always a good idea to build an arsenal of different plays for your teams to utilize on corner kicks to keep the opponents guessing. Also, remember that opponents will sometimes use man to man marking or zone marking or the combination of both. Your team has to know how to handle all cases.
Also, it is a good idea to have players who are good with free kicks (preferably someone who can take a shot on goal, but could also deliver a good cross into the danger area). Finally do not forget to have a play or two for indirect free kicks, especially ones awarded inside the penalty box. Some professional teams also have set plays for long throw-ins, but on the youth level that is not a necessity.
Any talk about set-pieces would not be complete without talk about penalty kicks. Teams should always have at five or six players who can take penalty kicks with one or two identified as regulars and the others being ready for shootouts.
- It is a great idea to always teach your teams a variety of different ways to create chances.
- Do not forget to teach your players how to finish these chances they will be creating!
- Coaching skills is important, but so is coaching the decision making.
- If you make a plan to coach “creating chances”, you will have to work on a variety of important skills like ball control, shooting, finishing, set-pieces, attacking awareness and fitness!
- Do you think that “creating chances” should become the theme for your coaching?
Waleed Zaghloul is an NSCAA Premier Diploma coach. He has been coaching on the youth soccer scene for about 15 years. He has coached a variety of youth club, High School and all-star teams in Nebraska, Utah, Colorado and now the Northern Virginia area.