How to Maintain Possession and Out Play Your Opponent - Switching the Point of Attack
Switching, or changing, the point of attack can help your team maintain possession, gain control of the game, and move into a goal-scoring opportunity. Today, Blayze professional soccer coach Mike Semenza, is going to discuss switching the point of attack and how to perform this skill.
We will dive into some complex ideas around switching the point of attack but keep this in mind, in the simplest of terms, switching the point of attack is moving the ball from one side of the field to the other. It is an offensive-minded strategy and is done to create opportunities to move the ball forward. That’s about as simple as it gets!
Why, Where, and When Do We Switch the Point of Attack?
As we break down this concept, it is important to remember the purpose behind switching the point of attack on the soccer field:
To maintain possession of the ball on offense
To unbalance and stretch the shape of the opponent
To advance play into more dangerous areas of the field
To create goal-scoring opportunities
Where do you switch?
You can switch the point of attack anywhere on the field. This can be done in the defensive third, middle third, or the attacking third of the field. It will all depend on the shape of the opponent.
When do you switch?
When the opponent is compact as a unit. What I mean by that is there are 10 field players on the defensive team. If they are really stretched out and there are players in the wide channels and the middle channels, then we can’t switch the point of attack because they have the opportunity to intercept the ball. But, as soon as that team closes down and becomes tight and is working to win the ball back in a certain area of the field, it will leave other areas of the field wide open. That’s when we would switch the point of attack.
Another chance to switch is when your teammates move or make runs off the ball. Again, those will all be in different areas of the field.
How Do We Switch the Point of Attack?
There are a couple of different ways you can switch the point of attack. The most common way is to circulate the ball from channel to channel with short to medium passes. But it needs to be done quickly, in order to move the opponent.
Another option is to play a long ball from one wide channel to another wide channel. We could cross the ball into the box from a wide channel, or we can dribble from a wide channel into a different channel on the field.
I personally break the field into four channels, but many coaches break it into three. It’s all about the same. There are two channels in the middle of the field, called the middle channels. Then there are wide areas of the field where we can do a lot more dribbling, a lot more getting forward, and getting into dangerous areas where we may be able to swing a cross into the box.
Check out an in-depth coaching article on Crossing into the Box HERE!
When I say wide channel, I mean those wide outside areas of the field. When I say a middle channel, it refers to the middle of the field.
Pros Switching the Point of Attack
For this example, we will focus on Trent Alexander-Arnold, right-back for Liverpool F.C., In almost every game, he flawlessly executes switching the point of attack. Specifically, Alexander-Arnold switches from one wide channel to the opposite wide channel. He spends a lot of his time in the game moving up and down the wide channels.
What you will see in the example video is Alexander-Arnold’s ability to hit a 40- or 50-yard-long ball across the field. That is switching the point of attack. He does this because he notices the defensive team is compact, in a tight space in the middle, and this leaves the second wide channel open. His left-back or left midfielder can get forward in that channel and move into space to create dangerous scoring opportunities.
There are dozens of clips online showcasing Alexander-Arnold’s skills. In this first example, he has the ball in a wide channel, he hits a 50-yard-long ball across the field to the other channel. You can see what this does for his team. It allows them to get out of the defensive third and it moves them immediately into the attacking third.
This forces the defensive team to turn, shift, and do a lot of work to get all the way to the other side of the field. While they are working to get to the other side, it’s going to leave a bunch of open space for Alexander-Arnold’s teammates in different areas.
Let’s look at the first clip in slow motion. There are six defenders compacted into one area of the field. There are four other defenders on the field, all stuck in one small space. And they are all looking at and moving into the wide channel to try and win the ball back. But, by doing this, the defensive team leaves the entire opposite wide channel open. This area is only occupied by the left-back and the left-winger of the offensive team.
Alexander-Arnold’s head is up, and he is looking all the way across the field. He knows if he hits a 50- or 60-yard driven ball, all the defenders are going to have to turn, work back defensively, and work all the way to the other wide channel of the field. Again, this will open up different gaps and different lines to break with their passes, which will expose the defense.
Check out our session on Passing to Break the Lines HERE!
Look at the reaction of the defenders. All the players are in a sprint to get back to the other side of the field. Moving and sliding over. It is a lot of work to do for the defending team. It gets them tired, gets them out of their shape and now Liverpool has new options of space to play into and create a dangerous opportunity to score a goal. This is the point of switching the attack.
How to Improve Your Ability to Switch the Point of Attack
It is important to remember that Alexander-Arnold is very special, and he can do this with one pass. We talked about different ways to switch the point of attack. You can still circulate the ball with your teammates to go from a wide channel to a middle channel to the other middle channel to the second wide channel.
To improve your ability to switch the point of attack, work on your driven long balls. Get out to the field and work on hitting the ball 40 to 50 yards and getting the ball into the exact spot you want it.
You can use cones or any items as targets and start with 30 yards. Once you have those driven balls accurate and on target, push your cones back to 40 yards and repeat. Keep practicing!
Remember, you can still switch the point of attack in other ways. You can circulate the ball with your teammates. You can dribble from one channel into another channel. But this long, driven ball is a very special case.
Get out there, start working, get this in your skillset and it will change your ability as a player moving forward. If you have any questions on this concept, please reach out to us.
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