Switching the point of Attack
What does a Coach mean when he/she says to switch the point of attack?
Switching the point of attack is a strategy that players use to play away from pressure, break pressure and advance the ball. The basic premise of switching the point of attack is to create space faster than the opponent can deny space. This is why you will hear coaches ask players to create width and depth in the attack. There a number of ways to switch the point of attack but they all require the right moment and the right space.
The point of attack can be switched at any point on the field and will likely utilize different players in each part of the field. The key players used when switching the point of attack in the defensive third will be the Goalkeeper and back line. The key moment in the defensive third is when the opposing team has committed more numbers on the strong side of the field (the side with the ball), and there is space to play backwards to the goalkeeper or a center back. Space is key in this moment because without the proper space a mistake could turn into a goal for the opponents. The main idea is to pivot the attack from probing down one wing to quickly attacking the middle or opposite wing. We want our goalkeeper involved in this moment because he/she can see the whole field and make the appropriate determination. A quick switch in the defensive third can allow the weak side back a lot of space to advance the ball forward into the middle third.
There are two main options when switching the point of attack in the Defensive third: and that is through the midfield or through the back line.
When switching the point of attack in the middle third there will be options to play backwards, forwards or sideways. A switch can be done through the back line, midfield line or even forward line. There are two key moments that determine when a switch in the midfield should occur: attacking players are beginning to be outnumbered by defending players, there is space on the weak side behind the forward line, midfield line or back line. A switch through the middle through could lead to penetration into the final third or simply allow a team to keep the ball and continue probing for weaknesses.
Switching the point of attack in the final third is much different than in either the defensive or middle third. In the final third the goal is nearby and there is very little forward space. The final third is about exploiting the little space that is available, and finding ways to penetrate the defense. When switches do occur they usually happen on the edge of the middle and final third. The final third is where defenses become the most compact and where it becomes the most difficult to keep possession of the ball. This is why it is important for coaches to work through the defensive and middle thirds prior to attempting to teach how to play in the final third.
I have seen the coaches work through these points this season and expect that we will see better decision making as we near the end of the season versus what we saw at the beginning of the season.
It is important to keep in mind that a player might make the correct decision but fail in execution and to recognize that as part of the learning and development process. It is also important to recognize that players might make the incorrect decision and yet still make something happen.