Importance of the Final Pass In Scoring More Goals

By Stevie Grieve, Author of Coaching the 4-2-3-1Modern Soccer Tactics and Winning Soccer Tactics.

Manchester City and Arsenal go into this match both undefeated in the league, with Arsenal looking like a different team after some major changes in the summer – losing Robin Van Persie and Alex Song, Pat Rice retiring and Steve Bould moving to become Assistant Manager, signing Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud. Different doesn’t mean worse, but defensively solid and with a new talisman in Santi Cazorla.

Man City brought in two central midfielders and a centre back in Javi Garcia, Jack Rodwell and Mateja Nastastic, but they still have major players like Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany and David Silva.

In this game, both teams lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, but City playing mainly on the counter attack with Arsenal enjoying 59% possession.

Arsenal’s defensive organisation in the 4-2-3-1

Aguero receives as Arsenal drop back to recover into defensive positions, the back 4 and 2 holding midfielders are in position and able to deal with the 3 Manchester City attackers. Jenkinson will go to press the ball while Arteta and Diaby will get back and pick up the zone around the edge of the box.

Aguero cuts inside but Arsenal are organised to force an easy to save shot

As Aguero cuts inside, Mertesacker is in position to press, with Koscielny covering the central line and the front of Silva with Gibbs marking Silva himself. Arteta can press Sinclair if he is passed to with Diaby covering the centre line behind Arteta. City have 3 v 6 here and Arsenal clear the ball.

Arsenal find a way through City’s narrow 4-2-3-1 defense

Arteta turns away from Toure and see’s Gibbs making the run ahead of City’s narrow defence. Arteta must find a pass for Gibbs but as City have the centre covered; it must be lifted over the top. Podolski spins and makes the run central for Gibbs, who will have an option to pass to.

Gibbs makes a decision and Podolski doesn’t read the intentions

As Gibbs receives the pass, Podolski holds his run in the space between Lescott and the edge of the box looking for Gibbs to control and lay-off into. Gibbs volleys 1st time when controlling the ball could’ve given him more time to pick out a pass or score himself.

Arsenal penetrate quickly but Gervinho’s bad touch loses the chance to score

Cazorla plays a pass 1st time to Ramsey who drives into space ahead of the City midfield. As Ramsey takes his 1st touch, Gervinho makes a run behind Clichy to offer penetration, Ramsey plays the pass but fortunately for City, he receives 22 yards out and with his first touch, passes the ball 10 yards into the hands of Hart in the City goal. If Gervinho takes a good 1st touch, it is likely Gervinho scores at the end of a good fast penetration attack from Arsenal.

Man City’s goal – Podolski loses concentration and Lescott punishes him with a goal

Arsenal have set up to defend along the 6 yards box with 4 players along the 6 yard box, 4 inside 6 yards with the GK, and 2 towards the edge of the box. All players seem ready to defend except Podolski who is circled. City have 5 runners and a late runner from deep.

Podolski’s lack of movement is punished

As we can see, all other Arsenal players have moved forward to attack the ball in expectation of the corner coming in, and expect Podolski to have done the same, but he hasn’t leaving a space inside the far post that Lescott can attack. Lescott has moved away from the ball so he can make a run and jump to attack the cross ahead of Podolski and scores for 1-0 City.

City creates a 3v2

Aguero knocks a pass off to Silva as City win the 4v3 battle for possession. Silva dribbles ahead of the Arsenal midfield line.

Silva drives forward at pace but unfortunately plays the pass a little behind from where Aguero would ideally like the ball to be to receive and shoot with where Koscielny can’t tackle.

City waste another 3v2 – Toure fails to pass on time and allows Arsenal to recover

Toure touches the ball ahead of 2 opponents in midfield and drives pace into the space, with Tevez making a clever diagonal run across the field to make a 3v2 with options on both sides for Toure.

Toure gets into perfect position to release either Tevez or Aguero who could go through on goal to score, but he fails to play the pass and continues into the box with 3 Arsenal players recovering.

Aguero finally receives the pass but Koscielny is in position to make the shot difficult

Toure takes too long and Gibbs presses him, forcing him to play a rushed pass which reaches Aguero slowly, giving Koscielny more time to press the ball and make the shot more difficult, which Aguero misses from a tight angle.

Gervinho has Arsenal’s last chance to score and win 2-1 in the last minute

Gibbs dribbles forward and splits Man City’s midfield, with Gervinho checking off to receive the pass into feet. Walcott makes a diagonal run to the left which helps take away Kompany, with Giroud pulling wide to take away Clichy, leaving Gervinho 1v1 against Lescott.

Gervinho turns and beats Lescott, but loses composure and misses the chance to win the game

As Gervinho receives, he flicks the ball away from Lescott and with the goal infront of him, he loses all composure and instead of picking a corner and scoring, he smashes the ball well over and wide of the goal, leaving the match to end 1-1.

Training session to develop timing of the final pass and scoring of chances

Set up 3 teams of 4 or 5, playing on a field 50 yards long and 60 yards wide. To score, the scorer must be inside the final 12 yard zone when receiving to score in one of the 2 small goals.

To start the attack pass into the coach (white) who returns the ball into an attacker, the defence move to defend from that starting position. After being the attacking team, you become the defensive team starting on the opposite end line. Play with high intensity at game speed.

Coaching Points:

  • Ask players questions of which runs make space or allow a possibility to receive
  • Ask players which passes in various areas would be most effective to create chances
  • Ask players how to isolate one defender and how they can make 1v1s or 2v1s to find a way to score from inside 12 yards


  • Play with an attacking or defensive overload depending on abilities of players
  • Remove 2 of the small goals and ask one team to score into the full size goal from inside 20 yards
  • Make a time limit for each attack
  • Play an individual points tournament game – 5 points for a team win, 2 points for a draw, 1 point for a player who scores, 4 points for a clean sheet for the defending teams players. For example – a 0-0 draw scores both teams players 6 points, a 1-0 win scores 1 point for the goal scorer, the team all 4 points for the clean sheet and 5 points for the win – 10 for the scorer and 9 for everyone else.
  • Give challenges to certain players –
  • the playmaker; makes x amount of assists gets an extra x amount of points for hitting target
  • The striker; try to score as many as possible gets an extra amount of points for hitting target
  • The winger; try to dribble 1v1 against full back and create a goal - as above

By Stevie Grieve, Author of Coaching the 4-2-3-1Modern Soccer Tactics and Winning Soccer Tactics.

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