A counter attack is simply when a team attacks after immediately regaining possession of the ball from the opponent. A quick counter attack can be effective for the team winning it to exploit space left by the opposition team. In this tactical analysis write up, we are going to explore some considerations and guidelines for coaches on how you can support your players on counter attacking quickly.

Thinking Defence, Whilst Attacking: Supporting your players in understanding how they need to defend whilst they are attacking will help prepare them for the transition for when they have lost possession of the ball. A team that is organised narrowly with little depth, will be in a better position to regain possession once they have lost it. Most recently, we have seen examples of this at a professional level with full backs positioning themselves inside the middle of the pitch to prepare to protect the middle of the pitch if possession is lost, so they can press immediately in this situation. Ultimately, encouraging your players to think about ‘defending whilst they are attacking’, will help the team to be able to delay the attack by pressing or dropping before being able to regain the ball and potentially launch a counter attack.

Quick Transition: A quick transition from defence to attack will allow the team that has regained possession to be able to exploit spaces left by the team that has lost possession of the ball. Teams in possession of the ball, often create space to enable them to retain possession of the ball as they look to progress up the pitch to create goal scoring opportunities. In doing this, they will often leave spaces that can be exploited on the counter attack due to players being out of their defensive positions. Therefore, a quick transition from defence to attack will best provide the defending team with the opportunity to exploit these spaces.

Think Forward, Run Forward, Play Forward: Once possession has been won, encouraging your players to think, run and play forward will help your players to exploit spaces left by the opponents and be able to counter attack quickly. The player that has won possession of the ball, should be encouraged to think forward immediately, but will need support from team mates by them making forward runs. Playing forward will allow for the team to progress up the pitch quickly, taking advantage of any spaces left by the opposition. If the team isn’t able to counter attack, they should look to retain possession and try to progress through the pitch with controlled possession of the ball.

Utilise Counter Attacking Methods: There are multiple ways players can counter attack quickly varying from: running with the ball, playing over, through balls, overlaps & underlaps etc. The player that has won possession of the ball should look to play the furthest forward pass possible to help the team progress up the pitch, however, equally travelling the ball can be effective in exploiting space left by the opposition as well as disorganising them whilst travelling with the ball.

Finishing the Attack: The final part of the counter attack, is how the team finishes it. Encouraging attackers to play quickly in and around the area will prevent opponents from recovering and regaining their defensive shape. Attackers should look to finish quickly, taking as few touches as possible whether it’s from a wide or central area.

Check out some counter attacking practices here!