The principles of play
Posted by Dean Holden at June 3rd, 2013
by Ron Smith, 21 May 2013
There are four principles of attack and defence and they oppose each other.
The diagram below shows each principle.
Penetration in attack refers to getting past the opposing defence and ultimately into a position where a goal can be scored. It is done by passing, dribbling, running with the ball and shooting or heading the ball into the goal.
Delay in defence is the opposing principle and the objective is to prevent a strike at goal forever. Once a player is within shooting range it is achieved by a player getting between the ball and the goal no matter where the ball is on the field. This is often referred to as 1st defender work, opposing the 1st attacker, i.e. the player in possession of the ball.
Support in attack is provided to help the player in possession. Support is provided in front of the ball, so it can be passed forwards and from behind the ball when forward progress cannot be achieved, (when a player has his back to play or maybe under pressure from an opponent) from a position where the ball can be played or taken forward by the player in possession. The support players near the ball are referred to as 2nd attackers.
The opposing principle is Depth or Cover in Defence, which is the next line of defence near the ball. If the 1st defender is beaten with a dribble the covering defender, the 2nd defender, tries to prevent forward progress of the ball or a shot at goal by becoming the new 1st defender. Every time the ball is passed from one player to another the role of 1st attacker and 1st defender changes.
Mobility refers to the opportunity or ability to change the point of attack. Players who are some distance from the ball are referred to as 3rd attackers and not surprisingly the opponents responsible for being able to defend against these players, if the point of attack is switched, are referred to as 3rd defenders. The opposite principle of defence is Balance. Teams often look to change the point of attack to test the Balance of the opposing team and many try to switch the play quickly to get a 2v1 situation on the other side of the field.
Width is the fourth attacking principle and refers to the spread of the attacking players across the field. Width in attack allows for the point of attack to be switched and may create more space between defenders across the field so forward passes can be made. Width in attack also tempts defenders to spread out more than they might like to making it harder to cover each other.
The opposing principle of defence is Concentration. This refers to how close players are together going across the field and from end to end. When teams defend near their goal in number it’s common to see the back four within the width of the penalty area and four midfield players to be within ten to fifteen metres in front of them, i.e. two banks of four. This defending shape makes it difficult for opponents to penetrate because there isn’t much space between opponents in any direction and defenders are able to cover and help each other because they are closer together.
As a coach, whenever you find yourself unsure about what a player should do in any situation it is a god idea to think about what the player or players should do to apply one of the principles of play, depending whether the team is attacking or defending at the time.
The principles of play provide you with a reference point for eveything that happens in the game, which is why it is important to understand each one and how they combine.