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Get onside with offside

Your youth team may not use the offside rule now but one day it is going to drive you all crazy, so here’s the lowdown on how to attack and defend using the offside rule.

You may play 7v7 or 9v9 at the moment, but when your team gets to the stage where the offside rule becomes relevant to their game, coaching them the advantages and disadvantages of attacking and defending using the rule isn’t simple. So you might as well start the process early to give your players a feel for what’s coming up.

Stopping the goal hangers

The first thing to remember is that the offside rule is very important in the youth game because it stops players hanging around the goal. There must be two players from the defending team between the receiving player and the goal when the ball is played – usually a goalkeeper and a defender, making it more difficult to just hoof the ball downfield as a tactic to scoring goals.

It means that if attackers are looking to avoid being offside, timing is key – success means carving through a defence like a knife through butter but failure gives the ball back to the opposition in a key area of the pitch. The perfect move is a pass that leaves a team-mate’s foot just as the attacker hits the last line of defence, with a through ball leaving the attacker bearing down on goal.

Of course the defenders are not going to make it easy for this to happen. Defending with the offside rule is all about organisation and communication. If defenders leave holes on the pitch that they are not covering, the opposition strikers will be drawn to the gaps, thus making it easier to play balls through to them. In a professional game you will see players covering each other at the back to fill the holes that attackers could exploit – and for this to happen, communication between defenders is vital.

A great tactic

When it works, the offside trap is one of the best tactics employed to snuff out an attack, not only winning the ball back for the defence but causing huge amounts of frustration to the opposition forwards and their coach.
Designed to snuff out the threat of the through ball, the defenders all step forwards quickly at the same time to leave an attacker high and dry in an offside position. However, if one of the defender is not on the same wavelength or has been distracted by something happening off the pitch, it can leave an attacker clean through on goal. So again, communication is key.

Think logically

If you think logically about the offside rule, it should make sense to push your defence high up into midfield to give attackers less space to time their runs. But this is a risky tactic because it only takes one alert opponent to knock the ball over the defenders into the vast space behind – and a fast attacker will normally be able to beat retreating defenders to the ball. So if you plan to play a high line, you will need a fast defence to cover this possible threat.

Another way to beat the offside trap is with a long throw, as notoriously used to great success in the Premier League by Rory Delap at Stoke City. Players cannot be offside from throw-ins, so attackers can go just about anywhere, dragging opponents out of position and filling the penalty area without fear of defenders stepping up catching them offside. A long throw is similar to a cross and without the worry of offside, it a very effective weapon.
If you want to get your players onside with the offside rule, try the activities below to teach them all they need to know.

Top tips for understanding offside

If you want your young players to understand the concept of offside, here is our basic guide…

OFFSIDE
> Receiving the ball nearer the goal than the second last opponent
Interfering with play

NOT OFFSIDE
> Receiving the ball directly from a goal kick, a throw-in or a corner
> Running from the player’s own half
> Level with the second last opponent
> Level with or behind the ball
> Not actively involved in play

THE OUTCOME
> For any offside offence, the ref awards an indirect free-kick to the opposing team, to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred.

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