Switching play – Make the tactic work for your team

Watching the success of the England women’s team at the Euros in Holland earlier this month they showed why teams need to use tactics to create space at the back for clever attackers to exploit.

Mark Sampson Eng Women

England women’s manager Mark Sampson prepares a training session (above).

Understanding the session Switch To Score on page 4 is the key to playing the session with high tempo. There is a need for communication so players are aware of the goals and the movement of team mates around the goals.

Look for crisp passing and good movement with teams exploiting the angles so that players are able to transfer the ball with accuracy and speed. Players must communicate well, with awareness of team mates and opponents, and be alert to a turnover of possession, be that near to them or in a different area.

Pressing a possession team

Given the success enjoyed by Barcelona in recent seasons, many teams are now playing a pressing game with a high line. In other words, working hard to close down the opposition whenever out of possession, primarily in the opponents’ half, hoping to overturn possession and hone in on goal themselves.

Yet whenever teams take this approach, particularly when they are squeezing up as a unit, they are susceptible to being caught on the counterattack. To take advantage of this situation, you need a player in midfield who can quickly switch play – a player who, in one swift movement, can gain control of the ball and use his technique and vision to send a raking pass from one side of the pitch to the other into space behind the pressing defenders.

This enables a striker to run onto the ball and head for the goal. Speed of thought, technique and both long and short passing are all important when switching play.


Switching play is one of the best ways to open up your opponents. Make sure your players learn the essential rules of switching play…

    > In possession players must spread to both wings and go high up the pitch to make it as big as possible
    > Players should look to see where the space is on the pitch and move to it to think one step ahead
    > Think about the different ways to switch play: wide to supporting players or forward where there is space behind the defence
    > Create space by turning with the ball and changing the angle of attack to open up the opposite side of the pitch
    > Make sure passes are accurate and timed to the runs of support players
    > Communicate to be sure where and when team-mates want the pass

Tony Carr on why you switch play

Struggling to create goalscoring opportunities against defensive teams? West Ham United’s former academy director, Tony Carr (above), says switching play is key to the solution.

The youth team guru believes the secret to opening up an impenetrable back four is switching the play and getting opposition defenders to leave their posts.

Carr says you how to open up the pitch and exploit space in behind a packed defence.

“You want to try and catch the opposition off guard by dragging them over to one side of the pitch, where we can quickly change the play to the other side of the pitch to exploit the space,” said Carr.

“It needs to be done quickly, it needs to be done sharply. Once we’ve got the ball into that wide position, we’re asking the wide player to cross the ball as early as possible for the two strikers waiting in the middle.”

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