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Phases of Attack

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From a coaching perspective, attacking and defending can be broken down into four different phases where the tactical elements differ significantly from one zone to the next.

Phase 1 – The opposition have the ball in and around their full back line. Typically, it makes no sense to press here, unless you have the opposition cornered. It’s all about slowing them down so you can filter men back and meet them in more ideal circumstances in “Phase 2”. Sadly, fouling is often important here. Clever teams and players understand it well and will try to delay oppositions here so they can set up better in the next phase.

Phase 2 – Typically in the two thirds of the field between their full back line and shooting range. This is where only the most tuned in onlookers spot the key detail. It’s where less than excellent defensive thinkers get the lines muddled and don’t drop into the correct space.

Crucially, what happens here tends to be the difference between creating overlaps or man-on-man attacks, or having to attack into zonal defences. It’s an underrated, yet absolutely key element of football. Sides who seem to play badly but still win, tend to excel here.

Equally, it’s where excellent thinking players spot the moments when the opposition ‘s shape is compromised and exploit it to its max.

Phase 3 – This is where the attacking side are within one line-break or semi-line-break of kicking a score. Typically, it’s between about 48 and 55 metres from goal.

Phase 4 – This is where the defence have to actively press the opponent on the ball or he’ll be able to shoot. Typically it’s inside 48 metres.