Attacking Objectives

A team's attacking objectives are the tactical objectives that it has in the attacking phases.

The main attacking objectives that a team typically has are:

Creating a Goal-Scoring Chance

Generally, in order to score a goal the attacking team must first create a goal-scoring chance.

Creating a goal-scoring chance involves the attacking team moving the ball and a player into an area where the player has a goal-scoring chance.

A goal-scoring chance is a situation where it is reasonable to consider that the player on the ball might score a goal should he have an attempt at goal.

An attempt at goal involves a player, who has a goal-scoring chance, attempting to score a goal by moving the ball over the defending team's goal-line.

The quality of a goal-scoring chance relates to how likely the player on the ball is to score if he has an attempt at goal; the more likely the player is to score, the higher the quality of the goal-scoring chance is. Generally, a player is more likely to score from an attempt at goal the closer he is to the defending team's goal, the less acute the angle between him and the goal is, the fewer defending team players there are between him and the goal and the more available space there is around him.

Available space, also known as free space, is space that does not contain any defending team players. A significantly long stretch of available space is known as a channel. A horizontal channel is a significantly long stretch of available space that exists in horizontal space and a vertical channel is a significantly long stretch of available space that exists in vertical space.

A high quality goal-scoring chance is called a clear-cut chance, a moderate quality goal-scoring chance is called a half-chance and a low quality goal-scoring chance is called an unrealistic chance.

To create a goal-scoring chance the attacking team must penetrate space and create space.

Penetrating Space

Penetrating space, also known as penetration, involves the attacking team moving the ball and a player into a more threatening area while also keeping possession.

A more threatening area is either an area closer to the defending team's goal (a more advanced area from the perspective of the attacking team) or an area from where an attacking team player would have a higher quality goal-scoring chance.

A penetrative opportunity is a situation where it is reasonable to consider that the attacking team might successfully penetrate space in a particular more threatening area should it attempt to do so.

The quality of a penetrative opportunity relates to how threatening the area concerned is, how likely the attacking team is to successfully penetrate space in the area if it attempts to do so and the expected quality of any further penetrative opportunities that could occur as a direct result of penetrating space in the area; the more threatening the area is, the more likely the attacking team is to successfully penetrate space in the area and the higher the expected quality of any further penetrative opportunities is, the higher the quality of the penetrative opportunity is. The attacking team is more likely to successfully penetrate space in an area the more available space there is in the area (as this makes it easier to keep possession in the area) and the more available space there is around the player on the ball (as this makes it easier for him to move the ball into the area).

To create higher quality penetrative opportunities and, therefore, to penetrate space more effectively, the attacking team must create space.

Attacking Pressure

By attempting to penetrate space the attacking team can apply attacking pressure to the defending team.

Attacking pressure refers to how the attacking team attempting to penetrate space causes defending team players to make quicker decisions so that they can restrict space and protect space effectively. Making quicker decisions increases the likelihood that a defending team player will make a defensive mistake that makes it more difficult for the defending team to achieve its defensive objectives, as explained in the Player Behaviour guide, and so makes it easier for the attacking team to create a goal-scoring chance and keep possession.

Creating Space

Creating space involves the attacking team increasing the amount of available space, either in a more threatening area or around the player on the ball.

Creating space enables the attacking team to create a higher quality penetrative opportunity, both by increasing the likelihood of the attacking team being able to successfully penetrate space in an area and, where space is created around a player who could have a goal-scoring chance if the ball were to be moved to him, increasing the quality of the potential goal-scoring chance, while creating space can similarly increase the quality of any further penetrative opportunities.

However, creating a higher quality penetrative opportunity by creating space is only effective if the attacking team penetrates space in the area concerned, which requires both the ball and an attacking team player to be moved into the increased available space, or if it leads to space being created and penetrated in another area.

The attacking team can create space by using physical power against a defending team player or by drawing players out of position.

Using Physical Power

Using physical power against a defending team player refers to an attacking team player using his physical strength to make it more difficult for a defending team player to move into a particular area. This essentially increases available space in that area.

In particular, a player can create space immediately around himself using physical power by shielding the ball from opposition team players when it is at his feet and outmuscling opposition team players when attempting to receive the ball in the air.

Drawing Players Out of Position

Drawing players out of position refers to the attacking team moving the ball or a player, or both, into available space in an area and one or more defending team players moving in order to restrict space or protect space in that area or in another area that the attacking team could subsequently more easily move the ball into. This increases available space in the area that the defending team player or players move away from, although it may be subsequently reduced by another defending team player which in turn can increase available space elsewhere.

Drawing a player out of position in vertical space (that is, the opposition team player moves in vertical space) creates space by creating a wider horizontal channel and drawing a player out of position in horizontal space (that is, the opposition team player moves in horizontal space) creates space by creating a wider vertical channel. In particular, a team can create wider channels by stretching play.

Stretching play involves attacking team players moving into more advanced or wider areas so as to increase the amount of space between each other. It is therefore also strongly related to penetrating space.

If a defending team player chooses not to be drawn out of position then it may be easier for the attacking team to keep possession and penetrate space in the area where available space is, as a result, not reduced by the defending team player but it will be more difficult for it to penetrate space effectively in the area around the defending team player.

The more threatening an area around a defending team player is the more likely it is that he will choose not to be drawn out of position, or that there will be another defending team player nearby who can allow him to be drawn out of position, as that player can then reduce the available space in the area, or who can be drawn out of position instead. The attacking team can create space and penetrate space in relatively more threatening areas more easily by using build-up play and overloads to eventually isolate defending team players in such areas from their teammates.

Build-up play is the process of creating and penetrating space in progressively more threatening areas.

An overload occurs when an area contains more attacking team players than defending team players. An overload requires a defending team player to move away from another area in order to end the overload, therefore resulting in this player being drawn out of position.

Keeping Possession

Keeping possession simply refers to the attacking team remaining in the attacking phases by retaining control of the ball. It therefore enables the attacking team to undertake build-up play and prevents the defending team from doing likewise.

In particular, cycling possession can directly help the attacking team to create space by drawing players out of position.

Cycling possession involves the attacking team moving the ball between multiple attacking team players in different areas while keeping possession.

To keep possession more easily the attacking team can move players and the ball into areas with more available space and can move the ball in a more controlled manner.

Retaining Solidity

Retaining solidity involves attacking team players occupying space reasonably close to areas that would be relatively more threatening in the defensive phases (from the perspective of the opposition team) should the attacking team concede possession. It enables quicker defensive transition when possession is conceded as it helps a team to protect space in the defensive phases.

An important aspect of retaining solidity is providing cover.

Providing Cover

Providing cover in the attacking phases involves an attacking team player occupying space behind a teammate in order for the attacking team to retain solidity more effectively. Movement of an attacking team player away from an area that would be relatively more threatening, as part of an attempt to create space or penetrate space for example, may require a teammate to move into the vacated area in order to provide cover for him.

An attacking team player who is providing cover can also be used for recycling possession.

Recycling possession involves the attacking team moving the ball into a deeper area to a player who is providing cover so that he can in turn move the ball so as to restart build-up play. Recycling possession can help the attacking team to undertake more effective build-up play when there are insufficient high quality penetrative opportunities that can be exploited from more advanced areas.

In addition, an attacking team player who is providing cover can potentially create space for teammates who are ahead of him, by drawing players out of position into a deeper area, and can enable teammates who are behind him to more easily move the ball forward so as to penetrate space, by remaining in available space closer to them.

Retaining Compactness

Retaining compactness is both an attacking objective and a defensive objective. Retaining compactness in the attacking phases enables quicker defensive transition when possession is conceded as it helps a team to retain compactness in the defensive phases.

Retaining compactness in the attacking phases involves attacking team players maintaining short distances between each other and between themselves and the different areas of available space. It is a particularly important attacking objective as it helps the attacking team to create space, penetrate space, keep possession and retain solidity effectively.

Movement of an attacking team player, as part of an attempt to create space or penetrate space for example, may require a teammate to move into the vacated area in order for the attacking team to retain compactness.

The two main aspects of retaining compactness are retaining player compactness and retaining spatial compactness.

Retaining player compactness in the attacking phases involves attacking team players maintaining short distances between each other. In particular, it helps the attacking team to retain solidity more easily, since it makes it easier for players to move in order to provide cover when necessary. Furthermore, providing attacking support, which is a particular aspect of retaining player compactness, helps the attacking team to penetrate space, create space and keep possession more easily.

Two further aspects of retaining player compactness are retaining horizontal compactness and retaining vertical compactness.

Retaining horizontal compactness in the attacking phases involves attacking team players maintaining short distances between each other in horizontal space. Retaining vertical compactness in the attacking phases involves attacking team players maintaining short distances between each other in vertical space.

However, in order for the attacking team to create space, penetrate space, keep possession and retain solidity effectively in all areas of the pitch attacking team players also need to spread out to some extent. This is done by retaining spatial compactness.

Retaining spatial compactness in the attacking phases involves attacking team players maintaining short distances between themselves and the areas of available space that they could move into. A particular aspect of retaining spatial compactness is linking play, which helps the attacking team to retain player compactness at the same time as retaining spatial compactness.

Providing Attacking Support

Providing attacking support involves one or more off the ball attacking team players occupying available space close to the player on the ball. It helps the attacking team to penetrate space, create space and keep possession more easily because players providing attacking support can provide options for the player on the ball to more easily move the ball to a teammate and can create space in the area around the player on the ball.

In addition, providing attacking support can help the attacking team to create overloads, therefore creating space in other areas as explained above.

A player providing attacking support can also provide defensive support should the player on the ball concede possession.

Linking Play

Linking play involves an attacking team player moving from one area towards another area to the extent that he is able to easily provide attacking support to players in both areas when appropriate.

By linking play an attacking team player can therefore help his team to retain spatial compactness in the space between the two areas while still retaining player compactness effectively.