Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Running without the ball to create space

dave clarkeI will often play with just one attacker up front and three midfielders controlling the middle of the pitch supported by two wide players.

The player up front is there to create space by running off the ball and dragging defenders away or getting beyond the opposition defenders to run onto through balls from midfield.

This works best when my team is counter-attacking – if we play short passes and build up to the penalty area the attacker is focused on movement to draw the defenders away rather than run onto the through ball. This means the attacker in this role has to be clued up when the team moves forward.

Compare this to Fernando Torres at Chelsea. He thrives on though balls and although Chelsea
can be devastating on the break and play some raking balls down the wings, the coach Carlo Ancelotti prefers short-passing build-ups. You often see a few quick interchanges outside the box before a quick release.

Torres is not at his best in close-range build-up. When he plays for Spain the coach Luis Aragones uses Torres’s acceleration and direct running as decoys, getting him to stretch defences and give the Spanish ball players more space to play.

Ancelotti recognises this: “He likes to receive the ball at a certain point, so we have to improve this. Sometimes he moves well on the wrong side of the centre-back and the ball does not arrive.”

When Torres played for Liverpool the majority of his goals came come from running into space, getting to loose balls first, catching defenders out and running on to through-passes.

So remember if you are coaching your team to play a formation with one player up front you have to play to their strengths and get them to exploit the space they create behind the defence.


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