Switching play is a way for teams to find space on the opposite side of the pitch, and beat the compact opponents. Switches of play can take place by playing back, sideways, or diagonally forward with players looking to transfer the ball from one side of the pitch to the other. Whether it’s through a direct pass, a series of passes, or with a player travelling with the ball, in this blog we will explore some practices that you can use to help you when working with your team to support your players to switch play. Looking for some switching play videos? Click here

Why should the team switch play?

Well, switches of play enable the team to find space on the opposite of the pitch. It can also be used to exploit space or a weakness in the opposition’s defence. A switch of play can not only help a team to retain possession but also be a route to create goalscoring opportunities as well. It can also be a great way of moving defences as the attackers look to explore space over or between them as the ball is transferred from one side to the other.

In one of our tactical analysis write-ups, we covered ‘switching play to create goalscoring opportunities’, and some different ways a team can switch play to do this here

What will help players to switch play?

Scanning: One of the areas that will help players to recognise how and when they can switch play will be through scanning. Players should search for space and for their team mates whilst they’re off the ball. This will help them to identify where the best space is for them to move into, as well as before receiving it help them to find that space.

Movement: Players should look to move to create space for the switch of play. Players should look to move to help them to create width to support their team mate in possession of the ball to help them to switch play. This movement might help to drag defenders out of their shape, to also help them to play through. Movement may come from players to support ahead, behind or alongside the player in possession of the ball.

Body Shape: An open body shape before receiving the ball will help players to be able to play over, through or around. An open body shape will help players to receive and play to the opposite side of the pitch.

Receiving: Players can use a variety of different receiving skills to help them to switch play. This may vary from letting the ball run across their body, receiving on their back foot or playing a first time pass to the opposite side of the pitch.

Passing Detail: The detail in passes will support players in how successful they will be when switching play. Players will need to identify whether they pass into space, or into a team mates feet. Equally, the weight of the pass will also support players in their pass to switch play whether it’s needed to be played over, through or to their team mates feet. The type of pass to switch play may be longer and driven using the laces.

Space: Attackers should look to create space for their team mate by maintaining the width and depth. In possession, the attacking team should make the pitch as big as possible stretching the opposition that will create space to play through, around (switching) & over.

Staying On The Ball: Players that can stay on the ball, will also be able to create space to find ways of switching play. For example, if a player cannot play forwards they may need to use a change of direction to play to the opposite side of the pitch.

Switching Play Practices

With the above in mind, we are going to explore some different practices that can help you support your players with finding opportunities to switch play.

Four Goal Game

The four-goal game consists of an area split into four sections with a goal in each corner of the area. Organise two teams, with both teams trying to score the opposite two goals, whilst defending their own. The defending team should be encouraged to defend one-half of the pitch, to maintain their compactness whilst defending. The attackers should be encouraged to play across both halves of the area to maintain their width whilst attacking, with them being able to score in the box of the goal that they’re trying to score within.

This practice is a great way of providing players with an opportunity to search for space and look for ways to switch play to score if they cannot play over or through the opposition team.

Three Team Switching Play Possession

This practice consists of an area being split into thirds with a team in each of the areas. The team in the middle area is the defending team and has to try to prevent the attackers from being able to switch from one end third to the other. If they do win possession of the ball, they must score and they then swap roles with the attacking team that has lost possession.

This possession practice will provide players with opportunities to play longer passes to switch play. Whilst in possession of the ball, the attackers may look to transfer the ball from one side of their third to the other quickly to help them get into a position to transfer the ball to the other side whilst evading the defenders.


Switching Play Skill Practice

This skill practice creates a 1 v 1 in the middle with the emphasis being on the player in the middle’s ability to move and receive to create space to switch play. The player in the middle must receive the ball and transfer the ball across to the opposite side to score. If the defenders win possession, they must look to play to one of the target players and subsequently become the attack. Equally, the target players must focus on their movement to support the ball, as well as consider their passing detail when playing to the player in the middle.

The skill practice will provide the player in the middle an opportunity to focus on:

• Their movement
• Timing
• Space
• Receiving & Passing Skills
• Communication

All important skills that can help individuals to be able to create space for themselves to switch play.