Why crosses are essential?
When a team attacks in the attacking third, there are two ways to attack generally: central attacks and flank attacks. Due to the importance of zone 14, the majority of the defenders would concentrate on defending the central area. The defenders’ aim is to deflect attack toward the flanks which is away from the danger area (zone 14). As a result, a good attacking team should be able to attack effectively down the flanks. The two flanks are the areas where a team can expect to find most space in the attacking third of the field.
Figure 1. Organisation chart showing the options of attacking in the final third
Generally, I divide flank attacks into three main categories:
1. Crossing from the goal-line (It happens usually when the winger beats the defender(s) by dribbling or pace and run towards the goal-line)
2. Wing crosses (The crosses are from the wide or deep area along the touch line)
3. Diagonal passes (It can be classified as passing or crossing because I think it is a combination of both depending on where the pass is made. It is very similar to crossing when it is used in flank attacks from wide areas to exploit the space between the rearmost defender and the goalkeeper)
What is the prime target area?
Charles Hughes suggested the concept of “prime target area” for the wingers to cross the ball. He argued the most successful type of crosses is to cross the ball to the back of the defense and into the prime target area. The prime target area extends out 8 yards, from 2 yards inside the 6-yard box to the penalty spot, and across 20 yards, the width of the 6-yard box.
Figure 2. The prime target area (red) in the penalty box
Where to release the ball?
There are three different positions to release the ball in crossing: goal-line, wide area and deep area.
Figure 3. The goal-line area to deliver crosses
This area is just inside or outside the penalty area near the goal line. As mentioned before, it is difficult for the winger to get into this area unless he can beat the defenders by dribbling or by pace. Moreover, it is rarely possible for the winger to play the ball to the back of the defense because the defenders will position themselves in and around the 6-yard box
Figure 4. The wide area to deliver crosses
This area is within a few yards of the touch line and next to the penalty box. Usually the winger makes cross on the run without halting his stride.
Figure 5. The deep area to deliver crosses
This area is just inside the attacking third of the field. Therefore, it is more suitable for the full backs to cross the ball.
The organisation chart in figure 1 is a guideline for the topics I am going to cover in the following few weeks. Since zone 14 was discussed before, I will focus on three types of flank attacks.
HUGHES, C., 1987. Soccer Tactics and Skills. Great Britain: Queen Anne Press
HUGHES, C., 1990. The Winning Formula. London: William Collins Sons & Co Ltd