When attacking with three forwards, width is crucial to the team’s success. When teaching your team to attack, it is important to speak of passing through seams as their minds are typically focused on passing to players. It helps to line up a back four with three wide and high forwards and number the seams for the players. From left to right:
Seam 1 = space between outside back and left forward (or touchline);
Seam 2 = space between outside back and center back;
Seam 3 = space between both center backs;
Seam 4 = space between center back and outside back;
Seam 5 = space between outside back and right forward (or touchline). (the video has a clear diagram of the seams)
It is important that the outside forwards maintain their width until they get in the defensive third to prevent the seams from shrinking. However, they must understand that they need to start cutting in behind the outside backs in the attacking third when the player with the ball can break the pressure and pass. If they stay wide the entire time, then they will be doing a lot of crossing and not getting to goal. Straight balls usually end up in the goalkeepers reach. Playing the initial penetrating pass wide to one of the outside forwards will lead to more success. If that ball is played to the wide forwards back foot, no penetration will be achieved as the defense will be able to drop in behind the line of the forward. If the ball is played to seams 1 or 5, the wide forward will still receive pressure from an outside back. If the ball can be played through seams 2 or 4, the outside back will be eliminated from the equation as the wide forward will have his or her body between the ball and the outside back. The outside back is forced to make a decision to foul the forward or allow them to pass. Once that wide forward gets in behind and has eliminated the outside back, the target forward, central midfielders and opposite wide forward must be rapidly on the hunt for service. At this point, I encourage the wide forward with the ball to dribble towards the near post. This creates three important options for the wide forward. The first is the option of going for goal straight away, although the angle may be too poor. The second being cutting the covering center back away from goal and bending a ball in the far post. The third (my favorite option) is to commit the goalkeeper to the near post with the dribble and then pass to a teammate for a tap in. Arsenal has been using the third option to perfection for years. Below you will see a video of some of their classic goals that result from a penetrating pass being unselfishly squared for a tap in. In the other video the first goal is from a penetrating pass from a midfielder to the right forward who squares it up for a tap in. The second goal is from playing the target which forces the center back to step and creates an even bigger seam for the left forward. The left forward then squares it for a tap in. The closer you are to goal, the less work the wide forward must do. For instance, if you are playing the initial penetrating ball from your half and the wide forward gets in behind from 40 or 50 yards from goal, then the wide player still has some significant ground to cover before they can finish. A speedy defense might catch the outside forward as he or she is running with the ball and the defense is just running. It might be necessary to play an early bending ball to the other wide player in this situation. Train your central midfielders to try to find the target when they win the ball from a deeper position as the opponent’s defense will drop off (at least a decently trained team will) and the central midfielders may receive the ball off the target and run at the dropping back four. This will create opportunities to play a penetrating pass closer to the opponent’s goal. Now, the wide forward can accomplish his or her job in less than three touches and it negates a speedy defense. Also, it is imperative to stress that all of the balls be played on the ground. The old method of endlessly pumping crosses in until a chance is scored is a hit and miss proposition. You can live and die by it. The attacking patterns that are being discuss in the context of this article will produce fewer chances due to a bit more complexity, but the chances will be of much higher quality. Aerial balls create complications as youth players struggle to receive them in stride, ultimately resulting in slowing down. This slow down may allow the defense to recover and the penetration is lost. If the seam is too small and requires an aerial ball, Then the player must look to the opposite side seam as it will be wide open if the opposite forward has maintained width. Watch both videos.


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