When is a goal not a goal? … when it’s offside

Offside has been in the spotlight since VAR technology in the Premier League has highlighted the tiniest parts of the body that can be deemed offside and a goal cancelled out. There have been many instances this season where common sense would overrule VAR, not least Patrick Bamford’s disallowed goal for Leeds against Crystal Palace at the weekend.

I can think of at least one of my strikers over the years who would be in tears when the linesman’s flag ruled out a great goal – but as a coach I cannot and should not make it be known that I disagreed with the decision. I have run the line on many occasions and found it a difficult job to do – I would rather referee than have to make judgements on a player being offside.

The look of disappointment on a young player’s face is never nice to see. However it is vital that players understand that from 9v9 at Under 11 the offside rule comes into play. So how do you go about instilling into your players how offside works?

The rule states 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 getting behind a defence but failure gives the ball back to the opposition in a key area of the pitch.

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.

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. 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.

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

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

> 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

> 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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