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Soccer Counter Attacking Strategies to Burn Your Competition

Here’s an interesting statistic.  Teams are more than half as likely again to score from a counter attack than a standard, positional attack.  Of course, we can deduce anything from statistics.  Because the same analysis shows that by far the majority of goals scored come from other than counterattacks – but that is because the counter attack is a much less regular aspect of our game. But clearly, teams with soccer strategies to play on the break, as it is sometimes called, are likely to find great rewards from performing in this way. Even better, the very, very best sides, such as Barcelona, develop both effective positional attacks alongside excellent skills on the counter attack.  Their brilliance lay in the speed in which they could transition between defense and offensive.

Soccer Strategies: Setting Up for the Counter Attack

As with everything in soccer, becoming effective on the counter does not just happen. Teams need to drill their work when winning possession deep, and each player needs to know their responsibilities when a counter attack is on.

Soccer Strategies: Breaking on the V

This is an effective way of counterattacking from a defensive set piece.  It requires a keeper who reads the game effectively and is consistent as well as reliable.  As soon as the ball is played in, and in the possession of the keeper, two fast players who have been defending the edge of the box break to their respective wings in a V shape. 

The sooner they can break, the better the chance of an effective counter, so these players need to judge whether the keeper will make a clean catch.  If they get it wrong, then they will have abandoned their defensive duties; but then again,most moves in soccer rely on an assessment of risk against benefit.  In that way, soccer is like life!



Soccer Strategies: The Dangerous Soccer Dribble

Often the ball will be won with a tackle deep in our own half.  The changes over the last twenty to thirty years in the nature of tackling have led to this type of counter attack becoming much more prevalent. In the past, the tackle was often a fully committed, rumbustious contact with the tackler frequently going to ground. Thus, even when the ball is won, the tackler is unable to launch a counter attack.

These days, tackling tends to be with the player remaining on his feet.  The ones who has been tackled, frequently goes down, hoping to win a free kick (a bit of karma, then, when he or she has been seeking to gain an unfair advantage!).  This means that the player who has made the tackle has a bit of time and space.

He or she breaks at speed, driving forwards, with the head up.  With players breaking around him, he chooses the best moment to lay off the ball, often continuing the run in the hope of getting on the end of the move.


Soccer Strategies: Getting On The Outside

Most teams press with their full backs (or wing backs) far up the pitch.  This leaves space on the flanks when the ball is lost.  Here, a striker needs to quickly get on the outside of his central defender, between him and the touchline.  A ball should then be played into the channel behind the central defender.  This creates a 1 v 1 situation, which is what is sought in a counter attack.  If the striker stays between the two defending players that most teams leave when they attack themselves, then success on the counter is significantly less likely.


Soccer Strategies: Striker Coming Short

Sometimes, the central striker may feel that the best option is to come short on the counter, rather than look to get in behind the defense.

This may be the case if up against a particularly quick defender.  Here, once the ball is won, the striker moves towards the ball, dragging his defender with him.  This creates space in behind the defender.  A quick wide player accelerates towards this space.  The striker receives the ball to feet, and lays off a first time pass wide.

The striker is under pressure here, so must confident of where his team mates are running. This confidence comes with drills to practice the situation.  Of course, while the pass is difficult because the striker is under pressure, he or she does have plenty of space into which they can play the ball.

soccer counter attack 1


Summary of Soccer Counter Attacking Drills and Strategies

We have seen that counter attacking soccer is a key part of team play.  It can be effective against stronger teams, since it is easier to defend than attack, and therefore the opponent can be drawn into areas which they cannot break down, while being exposed defensively on transition.  It can be effective against weaker teams,where our own greater speed and better accuracy of passing can exploit spaces behind the defense.

But, there are constants in effective counterattack play.  Teams need players who read the game and can see the pass; they need players with speed and they need to be drilled so that the quick, dynamic play that epitomizes effective counterattacking has much greater prospects of success.  Here are some examples of great goals scored from a counter attack:

Perhaps the biggest advertisement for counter attacking football came from a little team in an East Midlands city in England.  Throughout the major leagues in the world, it is usually the biggest, richest clubs that bring home the title with (some would say) depressing regularity. Barcelona and Real Madrid in Spain, PSG in France, Bayern Munich in Germany, Manchester City, Manchester Utd or Chelsea in England.

But it was in this country’s Premier League that, a couple of seasons ago, Leicester City shocked everybody by lifting the trophy.  Yet, they did so with one of the lowest possession rates in the entire league. Their skill?  Deadly on the counter attack.

If you like this blog, you’ll like our post on Soccer 4 v/s 3 Drills for kids/beginners.





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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Tom

    That’s an awesome video that you have posted! I can really see that the key is definitely counter attacks. These drills and strategies will be a great help. Very glad I found your site.

    1. abiprod

      Yes. The video show the importance; the drills shows you how.

  2. Tom

    I’ve been looking at the books you have to offer and I believe “Soccer Offense” is what I’m most interested in. Is that written for young kids or like the more experienced players?

    1. abiprod

      It’s for coaches and more experienced players. Basically, for any team that’s struggling to score goals.

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