Common soccer strategies can have a huge effect both upon defensive and attacking styles of play. A coach generally chooses a strategy with two thoughts in mind: the perceived strengths and weaknesses of the opposition and the known strengths of his own players.
The long-ball strategy is the most basic tactic in soccer. The ball is moved from defense to attack in the most direct manner possible, with long, lofted passes often bypassing the midfield altogether. The long-ball strategy is most effective when a team possesses a tall and physically strong forward or striker. This “target man” uses his height and strength to gather up the long ball or direct the ball to a supporting player.
Possession soccer is a strategy designed to give a team greater control of the game. A short passing system is used, often combined with a slow tempo, to deny the opposition possession of the ball. Possession soccer is a highly technical strategy, requiring skillful players and good team awareness on the field.
Counter attacking soccer can be very effective, particularly for teams with fast attacking players. A counter attack is launched as soon as an opposing attack is snuffed out, the defending team surging forward in an attempt to catch the opposition off guard.
Wing play is a strategy that focuses upon playing the ball wide down both sides of the field. There are two main reasons why this strategy could be implemented. Firstly, a team in possession of quick and talented wingers or wide midfielders may wish to give these players more of the ball in order to maximize their effectiveness. Secondly, a coach may spot a weakness in the opposing defense that could be exposed by attacks down the wings.
The overlap strategy is a style of wing play. Wide defenders, known as fullbacks, are given permission to get forward and attack by advancing up the field and overlapping the wide midfielders, or wingers. According to Jens Bangsbo and Birger PeitersenIt in “Offensive Soccer Tactics,” the overlap is “used mainly in the opposition’s half of the pitch and is an effective weapon for creating depth and width in the attacking play.” Other players need to cover for the defender when he attacks.
Closing down, or shutting down, is a defensive strategy. It is a high-pressure form of defense often applied to all parts of the field. When the opposing team has possession of the ball, the defending players will close them down immediately. This can unsettle the opposition, giving them little time to choose their passes.
The offside trap is a defensive strategy and has little influence upon a team’s attacking play. As described by Robyn Jones and Tom Tranter in “Soccer Strategies: Defensive and Attacking Tactics,” the defenders “step up in front of an opposing forward when appropriate, thus stranding the latter in an offside position.” This strategy relies upon good organization. If one defender fails to advance with the rest of the back line, the opposing attacker may not be caught in an offside position, leading to a clear goal-scoring opportunity.