Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Passing success means team success i.e. winning

Listen to Arsene Wenger and he will tell you the facts: there’s a direct relationship between overall team success and both the total number of passes and the passing success rate.

I use combinations of 2v1 and 3v1 to get my players passing their way to goal.

Good teams pass more, and good teams pass successfully. Your team can be successful passers if you show them how to do it. It will soon become second nature and if they are passing they will stop their opponents from passing so much.

Practice playing your midfielders down the touchline working to create space for themselves on the wings. If they are tightly marked, they can combine with their supporting midfielder for a “short-short-long” ball; if they are marked loosely, they can turn with the ball and combine with one of the central strikers.

On this diagram you can see two of the ways I coach my players to beat opponents. Quick one-twos and clever running in both cases leaves the opponent behind and your players are advancing on the opposition penalty area.

Look at it in this way. If you are an under 7s coach give your players plenty of encouragement and let them experiment with their passing. It may be the first time they think in terms of passing to beat a player rather than just passing to a player who is open.

When you coach older kids you can talk them through it and just watch. Often they will be able to do it straight away, show them the diagram and get them into threes to practice give and go.

Watch this clip of Barcelona making 30 passes then taking a shot at goal… watch them passing and moving for each other until they create the chance to shoot… brilliant!

 Soccer Skills and Drills


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The problem with the Barcelona example is that as nice as the goal is, it is unrealistic in relation to the actual demands of the game. If 30 passes and a goal were the norm, most teams would be doing it. But that is not the case. Most passing sequences don’t last more than 7 passes, and most goals are scored in 5 passes or less. I’d say that number of passes is not an indicator of success, as statistically the chances of scoring DECREASE the longer a passing sequence goes on. I think the better indicator of success is passing success rate. More accurate passes means less chance of losing possession, which means more chance of finding the ball in a shooting position.

Comment by Eric McGrath

Barca game is about possesion, rolling the ball and passing it straight between and / or behind the defenders. Statistically(even in LaLiga) they do a lot more actions (movements, passes, runs, covers etc.) in time than their opponents. They are patiently looking for the momentums(open space, 2-1 situations, breakthroughs…)

And yes they can even do it fast. In counter attacks for example.

Comment by Raimo von Konow

Isn’t it more about the culture? Listen to the crowd; an ‘ole!’ after every successful pass. Can’t see that happening in most Premier League matches, where the culture is on fast, mainly forward movement.

Comment by Steve Johnson

I’m a language major (French and Spanish), and as a football fan i usually relate my studies to the game. Spanish is know to be one of if not the most “flowery” of all Romance languages. it has a direct bearing on their football. many touches and a lot of subtle movements on the pitch. NO ONE standing still equals many passing opportunities. Spanish people are never lost for words because there are so many ways to say one thing. Patience is a virtue, especially in attack.
it’s not about how many passes made before an attempt on goal, what’s important is the patience to let your movements open gaps in the opponents system.
that being said, patience doesn’t necessarily a slow-paced attack. when Barca play fast, their hard to catch, but if the opponents shut them down, they don’t force the play (ideally!!), it just starts over…

Comment by Anton

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