Corner, Corner, Post

EDIT:  I am constantly amazed how articles on this site can suddenly become popular once again months after their original publication.  Such is the case with this article.  Of a sudden it has received a number of hits so I am "re-publishing" it to the front page.


Soccer coaches the world over like to spread the field when in possession of the ball. Wing or flank players are encouraged to "stay wide" in an effort to draw defenders away from the face of goal. This is all good and well as it addresses one of the three elements necessary to play effective soccer - Penetration, Width and Depth. This is what some refer to as the triangle or diamond shapes in soccer.

Over the years I have become accustomed to using two different coaching phrases when teaching players to maintain width; "Heels to the touch line"  and "Corner, Corner, Post.

"Heels to the touch line" applies to the middle "third" of the field give or take a few yards toward either end.

"Corner, Corner, Post" is the path a weak side wing player takes toward goal.

As it concerns teams I coach, I do not assign any one player to be a "wing". My philosophy is it does not matter who mans the position as long as the position is manned.  This allows for freedom of movement among players on the field and can be very disruptive to opposing defenses, especially those of the man marking variety. This freedom of movement is a fourth element necessary to the game - mobility.  Our team shape on attack is not formation related in so much as it is ball position and space oriented. This has worked well from U12 through U20 age groups with an added emphasis on regaining defensive or formational shape asap upon losing the ball. Once again, I do not care who mans any given defensive  position initially just so long each position in our 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-4-1 defensive shape is manned as quickly as possible.

In the attacking third of the field I look for a lot of dynamic movement away from the ball. This can often mean a center mid moving to the weak side flank while the wing moves centrally.  It is at the moment of the cross or a shot that specific movements are needed as we seek to frame the goal.  When whoever is manning the weak side flank or wing sees a teammate preparing to cross or shoot we want that players path towards goal to be from the corner of the 18 through the corner on the 6 to the back post.  Corner, Corner, Post. This keeps that player in the back side wedge positioned well to shoot or redirect a crossed ball or misplayed shot off a teammates foot.

When young teams I coach play in this manner opposing coaches often question me about what formation we played against them or what system of play we employ?  They are amazed that 11 year olds can handle "postionless" soccer and seek to discover how we coach them to do so.  There is no secret. We just tell them the shape (formation) we wish to defend in and tell them they have freedom of movement on offense based upon the need to be in the vision of the teammate with the ball.  

Older teams, such as our U19 team this past spring, love playing in this system. They become very adept at holding "their" positions, even in attack, until it is advantageous for them to interchange with a teammate or teammates. All those dynamic runs we hear coaches imploring their teams to make?  We get them in large part because we empower players to execute them by not limiting their movements. We allow players to do their own problem solving on the field and trust their interpretation of the data they gather through their play. 

Do we get burned at times?

You betcha, but those are learning experiences.  We discuss those situations and often allow the players to offer remedies.  I trust the players. I allow them their say and listen to their input. I learn from them as they learn from me. The end product is a fun "system" the kids thrive in.  Think of it this way, Freedom of movement gives ownership to the player.  They are responsible for not only their movement but that of their teammates as well. They hold one another accountable to be properly positioned on attack and to regain defensive shape immediately upon lost of possession.  It works, if everyone is patient and willing to allow players to work through the initial learning curve / growing pains of freedom / responsibility and accountability to self and one another.

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