Soccer coaching tips on playing diagonal passes from deep positions

Your players don’t always need to be in an advanced position on the wing in order to deliver an effective cross into the penalty box.

There are many advantages to be gained from playing diagonal passes from deep positions.

In any match there is often space between the last defender and the goalkeeper so teaching your players to deliver the ball at the right moment (and before the defence has retreated fully) can be extremely valuable if you want to take advantage of this space.

The attacking players can affect the speed at which defenders fill the space by making diagonal runs to complement the diagonal pass of the ball.

This causes

  • The defence to be slower in reacting, so it is slower in retreating.
  • Central defenders to be moved out of their normal recovery line.
  • Space to be created between the two central defenders, offering room for attacking midfielders to run into.

Exploit the space

The attacking team can exploit the space by moving between the defenders when receiving a ball played into this key area.

The best chance for attacking players to get to the ball is to come from deep because the central defenders are usually moving to mark the wings. If the defenders are watching the ball, they will not see the movement of the opposition players.

Here’s a session that rehearses these principles and outlines the value of the long cross behind the backline.

How to set it up

  • Use half of your regular-size pitch.
  • You’ll need four attackers, three defenders and a goalkeeper.

Getting started

  • In anticipating the delivery, the defenders should, at no time, be allowed to stand in the key space in front of the keeper, or this will defeat the object of the practice.
  • Serve the ball to one of the four attackers. These players advance upfield towards the three defenders.
  • Nominate one attacker to play the through pass while the other forwards split the defenders.
  • One attacker advances from deep to run into the space the ball is played into.
  • Observe the quality of the pass and the runs.
  • Ensure that, if successful, an attacker finishes with a shot at goal.
  • Restart the move from the halfway line.
  • Develop the mechanics further by adding extra defending players who challenge the player with the ball.

Why this works

Although performed with attackers in mind, this move rehearses defenders in the dangers of failing to marshal the space in behind. Playing out this scenario makes players aware of threats, and for many players it may be the first time they have practised passing into space rather than to feet.

If performed well, the goalscoring rewards will quickly make the experiment worthwhile.

This session originally appeared in Soccer Coach Weekly.

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