Taking advantage of throw-ins

Exploring tactical possibilities of the throw-in, and how to practice them. 

Every throw-in starts a new attack. But most teams, even the top ones, don't meet those high standards. Lots of throw-ins are "freebies" for the opposition, because they're incorrect or ineffective. But actually, that's not so surprising - after all, the throw-in is probably the most overlooked of all the set plays.

The throw-in: tactical potential and training

The throw-in is the most common set play in soccer. For technically clean, tactically creative execution, the throw-in should be a regular part of practice. Unfortunately, in reality this is rarely the case. Let's look at the tactical possibilities of the throw-in, paying special attention to these aspects:

  • The rules do not require a whistle from the referee to initiate the throw-in, so it makes sense to throw in quickly. This makes it harder for the opposition to organize its defense.
  • On throw-ins, the offsides rule does not apply, thus increasing the options for effective attacks.
  • Players should throw the ball so that receivers can control it as quickly as possible. This means: no hip-level throw-ins! In principle, it's easier to aim the ball with the hands than with the feet. However, many players lack the coordination this requires. Therefore, the first priority should be to practice the technical aspects of the throw-in:
  1. conformity to the rules
  2. accuracy
  3. distance

Choosing the right target

In terms of tactics, the location of the throw-in is important:

  • Near your own penalty area, it's best not to take any chances. Throwing in to a teammate who is running backwards helps protect the ball.
  • In the midfield or the opposition's half, teammates need to cover plenty of ground when making their runs. For example, one attacker moves out of the area where the throw-in is supposed to go, taking an opponent along with him. Another attacker takes advantage of this space by moving into it and receiving the ball.
  • Level with the opposition's penalty area, a long throw-in into the penalty are is ideal. A teammate waiting at the near post can head the ball to the far post. This makes a throw-in nearly as effective as a free kick or corner kick.

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