10 Football Manager Tips for Beginners

Ah, Football Manager. The best sporting game ever made, at least in my humble opinion.

As infuriating as it can be at times, Football Manager is a soccer fan essential that provides hours of entertainment as you try to take Walsall FC to the Champions League final.

If you’re new to the world of FM, I’m here to help. I’ve been playing Championship Manager and Football Manager for longer than I care to admit, and I want to help you ease your way into the game.

So, without further ado, here are ten Football Manager tips for beginners that will help you get started.

Tip 1: Keep things simple

One of the beautiful things about Football Manager is that you can create systems, formations, and tactics that you think your team should be playing in real life.

Sick and tired of Everton’s real-life inability to score goals via their 4-4-1-1 formation? In FM, you can have them playing an ultra-attacking 3-3-4 formation with flying wingers and pacey advanced forwards.

As great as this sounds, such exciting transformations are seldom successful, even in the wonderful world of FM.

Therefore, when you’re just starting out, keep things simple. Ironically, you can take a leaf out of Sean Dyche’s book (the current Everton manager). A solid 4-1-4-1 or 4-4-2 formation typically does pretty well in FM and is a good way to set up while you’re getting used to the intricacies of the game.

Tip 2: Delegate tasks to your assistant manager

One of my absolute favourite things about the newest FM games is the ability to delegate responsibilities to your assistant manager.

When I first started playing FM when it was Championship Manager (I’m showing my age, here!), it was a case of signing some players (Freddy Adu, anyone?), picking a formation, and scoring as many goals as possible.

Today, FM managers have to deal with everything from press conferences to youth staff contract renewals. While some players like the level of detail, I think it gets in the way of what’s important.

That’s why I delegate lots of responsibilities to my coaching team. For instance, you will never see me at friendly matches, and I don’t have anything to do with youth staff contract renewals.

I pretty much focus on signing players, training them to be better, and picking them to play in matches. I also like getting fired into rival managers in press conferences, but you can skip them, too, if you wish!

Tip 3: Use FM forums to help you

One of my most valuable Football Manager tips for beginners is to recommend some brilliant FM forums that do a lot of the hard work for you.

Specifically, Sort it out SI is a superb resource for everything from tactics to player recommendations, while FM Scout is another brilliant forum that you can take advantage of.

Tip 4: Start with a big team

As a Glasgow Rangers fan, I started my career as the Rangers manager. Here is how I have setup for my first two seasons (winning the SPL both years). The Mezzala is key to my 4-3-3 system.

One of the biggest conundrums facing any new FM player is what team to start with. While there’s something romantic about taking a fallen giant back to the big time (Kaiserslautern, Sheffield Wednesday, Malaga, etc.), such a career is not for the inexperienced.

My advice for FM beginners is simple – start your first game by managing a big team in a league that isn’t overly competitive. This gives you the best opportunity to learn how the game works without getting demoralised by savage weekly defeats.

Some of my recommendations for getting started include:

  • Glasgow Rangers (Scotland)
  • Benfica or Porto (Portugal)
  • Ajax (Netherlands)
  • PSG (France)
  • Olympiakos (Greece)

I’m not saying that you have to play with these teams forever, but I am suggesting that you kickstart your career with one of these teams so that you don’t want to throw your computer out the window as you’re learning the ropes!

Tip 5: Use the in-game tutorials

When you’re getting started in FM, it’s tempting to want to get straight into the action. However, when you set up a game for the first time, you are offered tutorials on everything from tactics to training.

My advice is simple. Spend the time going through the tutorials so you know what to expect. It only takes a few minutes, but it can make a huge difference to your understanding of the game.

Tip 6: Understand some of the tactical roles

I don’t want to get too intricate in this article, but it does help if you familiarise yourself with some basic tactical roles. On the tactics screen, you will see that you can use one of FM’s pre-set systems or create one of your own.

Within each system, you will find a host of weird and wonderful tactical roles that probably make no sense at all to you right now. Helpfully, we’ve spent a fair amount of time explaining many of these roles at SKH, and you can check out our guides to the following to help you:

Tip 7: Look for wonderkids

Signing wonderkids is one of my favourite things about playing Football Manager. It doesn’t always work it, but it’s such a great feeling when it pays off (quite literally, in many cases!).

To the uninitiated, a wonderkid is a player that is expected to go onto great things in the game. I’ve already mentioned Freddy Adu in this article, who, in my opinion, was the original FM wonderkid who never quite made it.

But sometimes, FM gets it right. Players of the original FM games will know all about Vincent Kompany’s promise, long-before he became Manchester City’s title-winning captain.

Anyway, you can check out wonderkid lists published by FM Scout and Sort it out SI (introduced above), or you can use your scouts to find wonderkids yourself, as I explain below.

Tip 8: Use your scouts properly

I have set my scouts up to find the best players in Scotland that I can poach from my rivals. Duk (playing for Aberdeen) always seems to score against me, so I might just sign him this summer!

Signing players to suit your system is a hallmark of any experienced FM player, and the best way to do this is to setup a good scouting network.

Countries like Brazil and the Netherlands are wonderkid hotbeds, but you need to be mindful of Work Permit issues, which are often the scourge of FM players worldwide!

Think about the type of players you would like to sign for your team and instruct your scouts to go and find them. You can then use the transfer windows to bring the right players into your squad.

Tip 9: Don’t change your setup every week

When things aren’t working as you had hoped, it can be tempting to switch things up on a tactical front. However, unless your players have adaptability in abundance, they won’t respond well to constant changes to their shape.

Instead, you can increase the intensity of your team’s tactical training, which is a great way to get your players more familiar with your setup. In other words, they will be much more likely to play well within the system that you opt for.

Tip 10: The save button. To use or not to use?

Now, my list of Football Manager tips for beginners wouldn’t be complete without the controversial mention of the save button.

Some players, though they will never admit it publicly, hit the save button before big games (or every game, in some instances), and if the outcome isn’t what they expect, they simply exit the game and reload it to play the game again.

FM purists will be apoplectic with rage at the mere mention of the save button, but it’s something that many players utilise.

I’m going to sit on the fence – be aware of this little FM hack and use it if you wish. I’m not going to judge you, but others certainly will.

Conclusion: Football Manager tips for beginners

Thanks for reading through my top ten Football Manager tips for beginners! I hope you enjoy the game as much as I do.

If you’re keen to download FM23, you can order it online from Steam.

Mizuno Soccer Cleats: Good Option?

Are Mizuno soccer cleats a good option if you’re in the market for a new pair of cleats for this season? As someone who has worn Mizuno for the past two seasons, I give you my honest opinion of how these cleats shape up and how they compare to the cleats that I usually wear.

I also recommend the Mizuno Rebula cleats as they’re a great value option that offers comfort, style, and suppleness – perfect for any soccer player.

*Our published content contains affiliate links that may lead to a small commission. Full disclosure here

Introducing Mizuno

Mizuno is a Japanese sports equipment retailer with a stellar reputation in Asia. The company has been going strong since 1906, and Mizuno has come a long way since its inception in Osaka.

US-based readers may be familiar with Mizuno, too, as they have an excellent range of baseball cleats that are the choice of many professional MLB players.

But what about Mizuno soccer cleats? Do they exist? And are they a good option? Let’s take a closer look.

Why choose Mizuno soccer cleats?

Though they might be better known for providing baseball and running gear, Mizuno soccer cleats are also available and offer great quality at a reasonable price point.

I decided to write this review of Mizuno soccer cleats because I recently made the switch from Adidas to Mizuno, and I have been very impressed by the results.

While Mizuno’s top-of-the-range cleats like the Alpha and Morelia Neo will set you back around $300 per pair, you don’t need to break the bank to experience the comfort and support that Mizuno soccer cleats are renowned for.

They have a couple of excellent mid-range options (the Rebula, in particular), which are perfect for most recreational soccer players.

One of the reasons that I switched to Mizuno was that I wanted to try something different, and as I play baseball in Mizuno cleats, I figured that I should give them a go for soccer, too.

A non-negotiable for me with soccer cleats is the material – I always look for cleats that come in K-leather, as it’s the most durable material that stands the test of time.

As I play most of the year in Florida, I also look for cleats that are comfortable on firm ground, which is why I’ve gone for those with a rubber sole and smaller studs. Metal studs are helpful in some conditions, but not on the hard pitches that I’m used to playing on!

With that in mind, I decided to buy the Mizuno Rebula soccer cleats, as I introduce below.

Good Value Mizuno Soccer Cleats: Two Options

Mizuno Rebula (perfect for outdoor soccer)

The Mizuno Rebula soccer cleat retails at around the $140 mark and is a solid option for any recreational soccer player. The rubber sole offers suppleness and support, and the K-leather is high quality, ensuring that you don’t need to buy a brand-new pair of cleats every season.

I also love the fact that these Mizuno soccer cleats are lightweight and extremely comfortable, which is so important when it comes to choosing cleats to wear throughout the season.

When compared to my usual choice of Adidas cleats, I found the Mizuno Rebula cleats to be slightly cheaper, more lightweight, and equally as supple, so I’m certainly not disappointed with my choice.

Mizuno flat rubber sole shoes (perfect for indoor soccer)

Though I don’t play much soccer indoors, you can opt for these Mizuno indoor soccer cleats if you often play on hard surfaces. Available in bright yellow or white, black, and blue, the non-marking outsole provides excellent grip, and the rubber sole is super comfortable.

These soccer shoes are available at a slightly lower price point than the Rebulas and are a great option if you play little league soccer or train indoors during the winter months.

Why trust SKH?

I’ve been playing soccer my whole life, and I’ve gone through more pairs of soccer cleats than I care to admit! While I have worn Adidas cleats in the past – I love Adidas World Cups for their durability, as I explained in another SKH post – I recently made the switch to Mizuno for something a little different.

I’ve worn my Mizuno Rebula soccer cleats for the past two seasons and have been super impressed by their suppleness and support. The K-leather is still in great shape after all this time, and I’m very happy to recommend them to our readers.

I believe the saying goes, “you get what you pay for.” So, while you can certainly buy cheaper cleats than the Mizuno Rebulas, they’re worth the extra bucks, at least in my opinion.

The verdict on Mizuno

Mizuno soccer cleats are well worth considering if you’re looking for high-quality cleats at a reasonable price point from an industry-leading brand.

As I have worn them for the past two seasons, I highly recommend the Mizuno Rebula soccer cleats, as they’re affordable, high quality, and extremely comfortable.

I also recommend a pair of Mizuno soccer cleats for indoor players, which are equally worth buying and represent good value for money.

Overall, Mizuno soccer cleats are well worth considering if you’re looking to buy new cleats this season.

If you need some more guidance before choosing which soccer cleats to wear, check out our complete guide to buying soccer cleats online.

SKH Visits … Sabah

When people hear about the island of Borneo, naturally their minds will jump to miles of dense jungle terrain and wildlife unimaginable to those of us who reside in urban society.

What you probably won’t expect here is top-flight soccer. Yet, on the northern coast of this idyllic and rugged island, there’s a club with a fervent fanbase, Brazilian flair electrifying the atmosphere within the stadium that harks back to European days of old, and affectionate warmth from locals who are frankly surprised to see a westerner amongst their ranks for the evening.

Let me fill you in on Sabah FC, a unique club within Malaysia for so many reasons.

Introducing the Rhinos

If you’d told me a couple of years ago that I’d have attended two Malaysian Super League games in the near future, I’d have thought something was wrong with you. However, to follow up on my recent visit to Kuala Lumpur City FC, I had to check out how different, if at all, soccer in Borneo was.

Without turning this into a geography lesson, Malaysia is split into two main regions: there’s peninsular Malaysia, where the capital and other more urbanized areas are, and then there’s eastern Malaysia on the tropical, but massive, island of Borneo. Then, within Malaysian Borneo, there are the three federal states of Sarawak, Labuan, and the one we’ll be focusing on – Sabah.

The people of Sabah, at least from my short amount of time, are very proud of their unique heritage and culture. You simply can’t lump this distinct part of Malaysia in with the other parts, there’s too much difference. One of the main stereotypes I’ve heard about Sabahans is how hospitable they are.

This was evident in the stands and streets before kickoff. There was genuine surprise among what were presumably regulars that I, clearly not a local, was attending this game. I’ve never been spoken to more by complete strangers at a sporting event.

Children approached me and said “Hi”, waving at me as they did, and locals asked “Where are you from?” with smiles on their faces. South-East Asian friendliness is heartwarming but I didn’t expect to receive it to this degree at a soccer match.

Back to soccer, I needed to inspect how Sabah was performing this season and what their prospects were. I touched on Johor Darul Ta’zim’s dominance of Malaysian soccer in my Kuala Lumpur City FC article so I won’t go into that too much here but, to put it simply, Sabah seemed to be in a battle to finish in second place – or ‘the best of the rest’.

Before kickoff, the Rhinos were in 5th position in the Malaysian Super League, four points off Selangor in 2nd. While they weren’t going to challenge JDT for the title, 2nd place in the table would mean qualification for the Asian Champions League, a much sought-after prospect for a club like Sabah.

Sabah has been the national champion on one occasion in its history: in 1996 when the league was known as Liga Perdana. That was the club’s last major title, something I’m sure they’re desperate to correct.

So far this season, it’s been Sabah’s home form that has propelled them up the league, only dropping two points at Stadium Likas all season. Speaking of which, their stadium looks the part. Situated in the largest city on the island, Kota Kinabalu, Stadium Likas has a huge grandstand, which is an impressive structure when dwarfing its neighboring stands behind the goals.

Maintaining their home ground’s fortress status for the rest of the campaign would surely result in a high finish.

Matchday vs Perak

Ironically, the stand I was in for this game was called ‘The Old Fortress’. The ticket, which set me back 22 Ringgit ($4.80), was easy to purchase 15 minutes before kickoff, giving me just enough time to gaze at the floodlights and admire the partisan nature of those around me.

Vuvuzelas, an instrument I thankfully haven’t seen or heard in many years, were being sold outside the ground as well as scarves which, other than swinging them over their heads, there is no use for in Borneo.

As I took my seat on yet another extremely humid night in Kota Kinabalu, the spectators in attendance were ready to lend their vocal support as the 12th man. Whether they could be heard by the players or not was another matter; it was surprising how far away from the pitch fans were, given that it wasn’t a massive stadium. Having said that, 22,000 seats in the ground was still impressive considering the stature of the club.

Today’s opponents were Perak, a club from the city of Ipoh, another place I briefly visited when I was in peninsular Malaysia. The visitors were having a much tougher time of it this season, sitting in 11th in the standings, fourth from dead last. Did that mean this was to be a straightforward evening for Sabah?

The players were greeted by thousands of cheering supporters at a fairly well-attended Stadium Likas as they stepped onto the field. They lined up for the national anthem and we were ready to get things started.

Before many had even entered through the turnstiles, the home side found themselves a goal up. After a floated free kick wasn’t dealt with by the Perak defense, a side-footed effort came back off the post before the ball ricocheted around the visitors’ penalty area, eventually landing at the feet of Darren Lok, who controlled then volleyed home to bag his second goal in as many games to put the hosts in front.

The jubilant scenes around me were actually a little surprising – as if the Sabah fans were shocked that their immense home form was continuing. It was great to see such animation, however. Clearly, the regulars weren’t as complacent about this fixture as I might’ve been.

Sabah didn’t relent either. It was constant pressure from the home side from the first whistle and Perak offered nothing going forward. Truly a case of men against boys. I won’t dwell on the fact that I bear witness to one of the worst missed chances I’ve ever seen live; an open goal that should’ve been simple (spoiler: it wouldn’t matter).

Particularly enjoyable was the performance of Brazilian winger Jailton Paraiba, whose nifty footwork and speed were a thorn in Perak’s paw all evening, frequently showing off his samba skills to the delight of all in attendance.

While the finish from the second goal was of high quality, the defending was simply amateurish. I don’t expect world-class soccer everywhere I go and I’m aware that the standard that I’m watching in some parts of Asia simply can’t compete with the Premier League, but I implore you to watch in bemusement at how static the Perak defenders were when Park Tae-Su doubled the home side’s advantage. It should be a lesson to youngsters for everything not to do when defending. The goalkeeper had every right to be furious with his teammates.

The game was already over, I’d decided, so I was just hoping to perhaps be proven wrong. Any glimmer of hope was dashed when the third goal arrived 5 minutes before half-time. Genuine quality was on show here as Paraibo swung a delicious ball into the Perak area which was dutifully headed home by Baddrol Bakhtiar into the roof of the net. I’ll give Perak a break here, this goal was a tough one to defend.

The concourse and the second half

Putting the visitors out of their misery, at least temporarily for half time, felt like a charitable act from the referee. 3-0 to Sabah who had been simply blistering.

In the interval, I explored the stalls and kiosks serving food. So much on offer here, almost all of it fried but looking delicious nonetheless. Chicken, corn dogs, curries, burgers were all served up with local twists to them. When I saw roasted and salted chickpeas in a bag, I found it too obscure as soccer food to pass up. A helping of pork dim sum (bringing my food total to 8.80 Ringgit = $1.90) made this truly the most random soccer food experience of my life.

Bizarrely, there was a boxing ring outside the Old Fortress stand at half-time too with a number of children playing in it. Some of the displays were more of a fight than Perak was putting up.

The second half commenced and I expected more of the same; basically how many goals could Sabah win by?

Sadly, the home side took their foot well off the metaphorical pedal and made this half quite a dull one. It was too little too late for Perak, of course, but this at least meant there were occasional attacks at both ends of the field this time.

Those forays forward were scarce though, especially for Sabah who lacked the requisite motivation to drive up the field with any great intent.

On the hour, Perak thought they could mount a comeback when an overhit cross looked to be heading in beyond the hapless goalkeeper, only to be denied when the ball crashed against the crossbar and back out. On another night, this might have sailed in.

In truth, the second half was largely noneventful. The loudest roar from the home stands was when Jailton Paraibo, the game’s standout performer, was substituted and walked down the touchline bowing to the fans. There’s obviously a connection between him and the club.

In the 83rd minute, a consolation goal arrived, however. Catching the ‘keeper out at the near post with a fierce strike, Harith Naem cut the deficit to two and make the remainder of the game somewhat interesting.

I must commend the considerable number of traveling Perak fans too. Despite their side being thoroughly outplayed, they made themselves heard all match and it only struck me during the first half just how far they had to travel to get here – it’s over 1,000 miles between the two cities!

I stayed until the last minute because I witnessed Aston Villa come from 3-0 to draw with only 8 minutes remaining once. I was tempted to leave early that day but I’m so glad I didn’t, hence why I never leave early now.

More home comforts for Sabah

Little did I know, that Perak strike was indeed the last meaningful act of the game. Sabah couldn’t keep their clean sheet but they won’t care, their charge up the league continues, as does their sublime home form.

Although I couldn’t understand exactly what was being said among fans as everybody walked out of the stadium, it wasn’t hard to decipher that the general mood was a jovial one. It’s hard not to be so positive about things when you’re winning so much.

Getting back to Kota Kinabalu was easy and I got to meet an extremely friendly taxi driver who treated me as part of his family. This really does exemplify how courteous and friendly the people are in Sabah. They seem to radiate warmth and curiosity.

I’m hesitant to say that it’s unlikely I’ll go to a third Malaysian league match because I didn’t think I’d make it to two. This, however, felt almost like a totally different experience than Kuala Lumpur. The food, the atmosphere, the climate, and the people made this a very enjoyable evening. Oh, and I didn’t hear a single vuvuzela in the stadium either!

The Sweeper Keeper: Effective?

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Defenders will accept all the help they can get to prevent the opposition from scoring. That help usually comes in the form of midfielders dropping deeper, but are there others on the pitch who can contribute?

Yes! Goalkeepers are asked to clear the lines more and more in the modern game, but why is that? Is it as risky as it sounds?

This article will look at the role of the sweeper keeper and help you decide whether you believe it’s an effective deployment or something that should be avoided at all costs.

What is a sweeper keeper in soccer?

A sweeper keeper is a goalkeeper who actively comes out of their goalmouth to clear away any errant danger behind the defensive line.

Throughout the history of soccer, goalkeepers tended to stay in their goalmouth and only collect the ball should it enter their penalty area. However, the position has evolved to the point where goalkeepers can almost be considered an 11th outfield player when the moment calls for it.

Sweeper keepers can also offer another passing outlet for defensive players that might be out of options. This isn’t the primary role of a sweeper keeper though, but many managers utilize their ability to pass capably as a way of overwhelming opponents.

Imagine that a through ball is played in between two defenders and a pacey attacker is likely to latch onto it. Sweeper keepers will often rush out of their area to tend to the danger, neutralizing the attack.

What are the benefits of using a sweeper keeper?

If you thought the defense was the last line of… well, defense, then think again.

If a ball happens to penetrate your defensive line and there is nobody else to cover an oncoming attacker chasing a through ball, having your goalkeeper mop up by clearing the ball as far away from danger as possible acts as a safety net.

Sometimes, if the goalkeeper is skilled enough, they will pass the ball calmly to one of their teammates so their team maintains possession – this is something we’re increasingly noticing in the modern game.

It’s not just desperation mode that teams deploy a sweeper keeper, either. Managers might decide to use their goalkeeper in the possession game, effectively giving them an extra passer of the ball.

Whether a team decides to do this so close to their penalty box is up for debate, but a lot of sides have their goalkeeper sitting on the edge of their area, almost like a linchpin for the defense, to spread the ball from one side to the other.

Is deploying a sweeper keeper risky?

Having your goalkeeper frequently charge from their penalty box to sniff out danger naturally possesses risks.

The most obvious risk is that your goal is now entirely exposed should the goalkeeper misplace a pass or simply lose possession. 

We will talk about him a little more later, but there one instance that springs to mind is Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson costing his side’s perfect season with a moment of poor judgment at Anfield.

With his side already 3-1 in their January 2018 meeting with Liverpool, the Brazilian decided to come way out of his area to clear a long ball, only for it to fall to Mo Salah 40 yards from the goal, who expertly lofted the ball over Ederson as he desperately tried to sprint back to make amends. He couldn’t, and Liverpool were 4-1 up all of a sudden.

The game ended up finishing 4-3 to the Reds, so who knows? Maybe City might have gone unbeaten that season had they salvaged an away point that day.

Additionally, critics feel that using a goalkeeper as a sweeper keeper exposes them to physical injuries they wouldn’t otherwise face.

There’s an argument that goalkeepers aren’t used to combative tussles with opponents, either because it’s infrequent or because they receive protection from the referee, allegedly. It could be viewed as a waste of time in training if you have them involved with physical engagement when it’s less likely to occur so they’ll be ill-prepared on matchday.

Who are the best sweeper keepers in soccer?

Although I’ve already spoken about an instance where he made a huge mistake, it would be unfair to leave Ederson out of this list because many believe he is still the best sweeper keeper in soccer today.

Pep Guardiola, his club manager, clearly feels that deploying a goalkeeper like Ederson in this role pays off more time than it costs his side, and it would be tough to argue against that given their recent Premier League track record. Aside from that aforementioned moment, it’s difficult to think of many occasions the Brazilian does make errors, a true testament to his skill and footwork.

Next, we head over to Germany, where Manuel Neuer rose to fame because of his intuitive reading of defensive situations to help his defense out. It was never a gimmick, it was always a hugely beneficial trait that served his sides well.

The Word Cup-winning German has been performing the role of a sweeper keeper even before his Bayern Munich days, where he currently plays. It was his remarkable ability with his feet at his previous club Schalke 04 that persuaded Bayern to sign him and neither the club nor the player has looked back since.

What attributes do sweeper keepers need?

Sweeper keepers need to have good awareness. If we put aside shot-stopping and other forms of traditional goalkeeping for a moment, the primary role of a sweeper keeper is to clear any threat approaching. You need to be able to know when that threat is coming and judge in an instant if the reward outweighs the risk.

Of course, sweeper keepers need strong footwork. If a goalkeeper makes phenomenal saves with his hands but is suspect on the ball, you probably shouldn’t deploy them as a sweeper keeper. Being a good passer is necessary in this role.

And lastly, composure. Panicking gets you nowhere in this role. Remain calm in your abilities and it will show your teammates that you can be trusted on the ball as an extra passer or the last line of defense.

The verdict: Are sweeper keepers effective?

There you have it, the ultimate guide to the sweeper keeper role. It’s a useful role and fun one to watch from the stands or the comfort of your home because of the jeopardy involved (unless, it’s your team, of course!).

As long as you deploy the sweeper keeper with possession in mind and mitigate the risks attached, it can be an effective way to keep the ball.

How to Use a Ball-Winning Midfielder

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As we watch Kevin De Bruyne or Luka Modric thread sumptuous passes through defenses for their strikers to feed on weekly, it’s no surprise so many kids out there want to be the creative player that instigates attacks. Assists are a valued statistic that many players take great pride in.

But perhaps underrated statistics that shouldn’t be swept aside are tackles won or interceptions made. They’re integral to your side’s chances of success.

This article will look at why a ball-winning midfielder offers so much to a team in a world wherever flair takes center stage, and offer some examples.

What is a ball-winning midfielder?

A ball-winning midfielder is a player whose focus, when the opposition is in possession, is to take the ball from them by either tackling, intercepting, or forcing them into a mistake.

Operating centrally, these players usually have strong physical attributes and good reading of the game. 

Sometimes these players will be asked to shadow the most creative midfielder lined up for the opponents to try and neutralize their threat. This can be an extremely effective ploy that frustrates opponents and offers your side a morale boost.

Rather than leaving the defense to handle dispossessing opponents, a risky tactic because of the territory you’re in, a ball-winning midfielder subdues the move before it gets that far.

Is a ball-winning midfielder the same as an anchorman?

No, the roles aren’t the same and you can have one of each in your line-up at any time. However, the players in these roles usually share some attributes.

An anchorman is asked to sit deep, in front of the two central defenders, and dictate the playing tempo by shifting the ball from side to side.

Whereas, a ball-winning midfielder could theoretically be lined up slightly more advanced than an anchorman, although it’s rare that they would focus in more attacking positions, positionally speaking.

A ball-winning midfielder also isn’t necessarily tasked with spraying the ball from flank to flank. Sometimes, once they have won possession for their side, they will present the most simple of sideways passes to a more creative teammate. An anchorman could well be that creative player.

Occasionally, if the player is good enough for the job, both roles can be conducted by just one person. You know you have a high-quality player on your hands when this is the case.

For more information on the anchorman role, read our article on it here.

Is a ball-winning midfielder necessary?

Strictly speaking, no, you don’t have to line up with a ball-winning midfielder in your team. There are many teams out there that don’t strictly have this role dedicated to anyone in particular and find other ways of dispossessing their opponents.

High pressing of defenses can swamp an opponent out and force them into errors, leaving the job of ball-winning redundant for your midfield. This carries some risk, however, because if your attacking line doesn’t hound out the enemy, then your midfield is facing a threat without a dedicated ball-winner in the middle of the field.

But it also depends on your definition of the role. If we look at Real Madrid’s new boy Jude Bellingham, you’ll understand what I mean. At Borussia Dortmund, the Englishman was a classic box-to-box midfielder; getting involved in the attacking moves but dropping deep to cover defensive duties too.

He’s an incredibly capable ball-winner and has proven so remarkably well in the Bundesliga (hence the big-money move to Spain), but very few people pigeonhole him in the role of a ball-winner.

Therefore, you can line up with ball-winners in your team, but ball-winning might not be their primary responsibility.

Who are the best ball-winning midfielders in soccer?

I’ll start with Manchester United’s tenacious Brazilian: Casemiro. The experienced ball-winner has a trophy cabinet that most players crave, and he has featured heavily in those successful sides because of his desire, motivational skills, and sometimes force.

Lining up against him as a creative midfielder or attacker must be a daunting task because his physicality and non-stop hassling would leave you spitting feathers.

N’Golo Kante has recently moved to Saudi Arabia in a somewhat surprising move, but he left Chelsea as a club legend because of how successful he is as a ball-winning midfielder. Theoretically, there are numerous positions you could have N’Golo Kante in, but as a ball-winner in midfield is where he’s at his strongest.

He might be shorter than some midfielders, but he possesses the requisite strength to go alongside his legendary relentlessness in hassling opponents and the vision of a hawk to spot slightly under-hit passes that he can steal. His legacy in England is permanent.

What attributes do ball-winning midfielders need?

Strong awareness is key to being a ball-winning midfielder. Without reading the game well, you might misjudge your position or where an opponent is going to move into. Constantly assessing the patterns of play to see the most likely outcome can’t be ignored as an attribute.

Next, some form of physicality is required, but not necessarily brute strength. José Mourinho alluded to this during his spell as Tottenham Hotspur’s manager. You might be the best tackler in the world and not rely on physicality for that aspect, but ultimately, as a ball-winner, you’re going to be asked to engage in shoulder-to-shoulder combat, the occasional aerial duel, and other forms of contact.

Therefore, with no disrespect to wingers with slight builds, you wouldn’t fancy them in a battle as much as somebody weighing 225 lbs, for instance.

Finally, a good degree of stamina goes a long way in this role. 90 minutes is a long time and you need to be able to quell the threat of opponents throughout the duration of the match. To do this, you can’t become complacent and rest when you don’t believe a threat is likely, keep moving into the best positions.

Recap: The role of the ball-winning midfielder in soccer

A ball-winning midfielder can be just the tonic for a leaky side. Don’t leave it to your defense to do all the work, deploy a ball-winner in the middle of the field and stop the opponent in their tracks.

Offside Rule for Beginners (Explained Simply!)

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When the assistant referee indicates an offside, this is a cause of despair and frustration for the attacking team, but a reprieve for the defensive side – amplified further in the world of VAR!

The offside rule has been part of the beautiful game’s rules for decades, but what exactly does it mean? How does it work? And are there quirks to the rule?

This article will examine everybody there is to know about the offside rule for beginners so that you have a better understanding of it and how it’s applied.

The offside rule for beginners

Essentially, there must be two defending players between you and the opposition’s goal when you’re in the attacking half of the field, otherwise, you are in an offside position.

For offside to be awarded against an attacker, all of the below criteria must be met when a teammate plays the ball:

  • Having fewer than two defending players between the attacker and the goal they’re attacking.
  • Being in the opposition’s half of the pitch.
  • Being active (meaning interfering with play or being in a position where you could interfere with play).
  • Any other body part except the arms are in an offside position.

This doesn’t mean that the referee will definitely blow for offside, however, as they will only do so if the ball is played forward into an area that you can feasibly interfere with play. This means that it’s legal to linger in an offside position as long as the ball isn’t being played into an area where you will be considered active. 

People often assume that only one defending player needs to be between the attacker and the goal for the attacker to be onside, but this isn’t the case. The goalkeeper counts as one of those two defending players that the law stipulates but is so rarely in advanced positions that attackers normally only need to be on the right side of one defending player.

You can’t be offside from corners, goal kicks, or throw-ins, nor can you be offside if the ball is played to you erroneously by an opponent.

What happens if you’re offside in soccer?

If you’re in an offside position and interfering with play, the assistant referee will indicate this to the referee.

Once it’s been decided that there has been an offside infringement, play will be halted and an indirect free kick to the opposition will be awarded from where the player was adjudged to be offside.

As we’ll explain, the VAR reviews every goal or penalty incident for offside. Also, any offside that is eventually flagged but left to play on because it was dubious is checked by the VAR too. 

Being offside is not a bookable offense in soccer and will only result in an indirect free kick to the opposition.

How is offside indicated?

An offside is indicated when the assistant referee who is officiating the half of the pitch the ball is in play raises their flag before lowering it horizontally, pointing across the pitch in roughly the line the player was offside.

VAR has made this slightly more confusing for officials and fans alike, but if the assistant referee believes the offside decision is obvious, they will alert the referee immediately.

However, if it’s a close call but they feel it probably is offside, the assistant referee will usually not signal anything until the attack is over. If the play results in a goal or penalty incident, the VAR will review it to assess whether the call was correct or not.

Do offside goals count in soccer?

No, offside goals don’t count. If you are deemed offside by the match officials, any scoring chance is deemed redundant and a free-kick to the defensive team is awarded.

However, because of how VAR is implemented across most leagues, if a goal is scored then the official raises their flag to indicate offside once the play is over, the VAR will review the decision. If it appears that the assistant referee made a mistake, a goal can then be awarded – but this isn’t viewed as an “offside goal” because the attacker was actually onside.

Also, the on-field referee’s decision in any match is final. Therefore, if they believe that the offside decision made by the assistant referee is wrong, they can overrule them, but this is extremely rare because assistant referees have the best view to judge from.

Does VAR get involved in offside calls?

Yes, VAR regularly checks potential offside incidents and overturns the referee’s decision when on-field decisions are deemed incorrect.

In fact, an offside is one of the only instances where a referee will not go to the pitchside monitor to review a contentious decision themselves – the referee will take the VAR’s word that it’s offside or onside and base their decision on that.

Generally speaking, the VAR system works quite well with offsides, but that doesn’t mean it’s been flawless. The first year or two of its usage in the Premier League, for instance, saw long delays to decisions being made and the VAR trying to draw the line to surgical precision when perhaps “benefit of the doubt” would have made more sense.

In Italy, there was an extremely poor error on the part of the VAR when an offside was given against Juventus against Salernitana in a crucial match for the hosts.

Milik thought he’d nodded home the winner for Juve in the 4th minute of stoppage time, only for the VAR to intervene and award an offside, which appeared to be the correct call from the angles everybody was seeing.

However, it wasn’t until after the game that an Italian TV channel had another angle which proved that the goal should have stood and that every Juventus player was clearly onside.European newspapers called it a scandal: how did one Italian channel have an angle that the VAR didn’t have?

Juventus were understandably angry as the game finished 2-2 when the side from Turin should’ve walked away with 3 points.

Check out our opinion piece on whether or not VAR is helping the beautiful game.

What are semi-automated offsides?

A contemporary solution to some of the offside controversy we’ve seen with VAR, semi-automated offsides are a refined and more accurate way of deeming whether a player is offside or not.

Rather than depending on the VAR drawing lines that aren’t entirely accurate, semi-automated offside uses numerous cameras located around the stadium to render a 3D image almost instantly.

Because of its appearance, it’s much more obvious to fans watching on TV whether an offside should be called or not, making it a quicker and far less contentious use of technology than the lines drawn we still see in many top-flight leagues.

Not everybody is a fan of this technology, however. Many purists believe that it will eventually take the job away from the assistant referee running the line entirely.

Recap: The offside rule for beginners

Learning the offside rule from a young age will mean that you intuitively understand the rule as you grow up and position yourself better for your side’s attacks.

While offsides can dampen joyous celebrations, they are a crucial part of the game that is there for the better.

The Role of a Box-to-Box Midfielder

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One of the most crucial positions within any soccer team is in the center of the midfield. You will often hear that midfield battles can be won and lost, and typically, the team that wins the midfield battle, wins the game.

As such, many coaches deploy a box-to-box midfielder in the engine room to help takeover the midfield. But what exactly is a box-to-box midfielder? What attributes does this position require? And who are some of the best box-to-box midfielders in soccer? Let’s take a look.

What is a box-t0-box midfielder in soccer?

In soccer, a box-to-box midfielder is a central midfielder who is required to be active in both attacking and defending. This position requires a high level of fitness, as the midfielder needs to get up and down the pitch throughout the game.

This position gets its name from the fact that the midfielder quite literally spends most of the game running from one penalty box to the other, engaging in attacking and defensive duties in between the respective penalty areas.

Many box-to-box midfielders are combative and extremely hard working, proving to be valuable assets for their team. Let’s take a closer look at why you might decide to use this position when you set up your team’s tactics.

Why use a box-to-box midfielder?

A box-to-box midfielder is a great option because it gives your team excellent energy. The midfielder turns up everywhere on the soccer field and actively participates in attacking and defending.

When deployed effectively, the box-to-box midfielder is required to act like the beating heart of a team. They are tasked with winning the ball back for their team, before passing it to more creative players, like the deep lying-playmaker or trequartista.

Utilizing a player in this type of role can be hugely advantageous to your team, as the best box-to-box midfielders actually do the job of more than one player! Given the fine margins in soccer matches, you don’t need us to tell you how valuable this can be!

Are there any disadvantages to playing with a box-to-box midfielder?

Perhaps the biggest drawback of using a box-to-box midfielder is that the role naturally offers a fair amount of creative license. Box-to-box midfielders appear all over the field, from your own penalty area to the far corners of the attacking third.

While this can be a good thing, it can also be disruptive if you’re trying to contain the opposition with a defensive shape or tactical approach (parking the bus is a good example of this). If you’re looking to be more defensively rigid, utilizing an anchorman in the center of the field might be a better option.

Another potential issue with a box-to-box midfielder is fitness levels. Not every player is up to the physicality of the role and it can be extremely difficult for some players to keep up the required levels of intensity for ninety minutes.

Therefore, you need to think carefully about which player to deploy in this position, bearing in mind the following attributes.

What attributes does a box-to-box midfielder need?

One of the most important attributes for a box-to-box midfielder is fitness. They need to be extremely fit to get up and down the field for most of the match, and they also need to possess an excellent work rate.

If a player doesn’t possess these attributes in abundance, they will really struggle to play as a box-to-box midfielder effectively.

Additionally, it helps if the player has all the other attributes that you would expect a central midfielder to have, such as passing and vision, for instance. As they’re often combative, it’s also a good idea to use a box-to-box midfielder who is strong in the tackle.

Finally, a box-to-box midfielder who is a good finisher can be an excellent asset to your team. When they arrive late in the eighteen-yard box, good finishers are likely to take their chances, helping your team score more goals in the process.

Who are the best box-to-box midfielders in soccer?

If you’re looking for a brilliant example of a box-to-box midfielder in soccer, look no further than Newcastle United’s Joelinton. Although he took a while to find his feet in the English Premier League, the Brazilian international is now a key member of Eddie Howe’s team.

He’s extremely strong, combative, and hard working, and gets between both boxes with ease. He’s also a decent finisher, though this is the part of his game that he could certainly improve.

Another great EPL example is Aston Villa’s John McGinn. The Scotsman is a superb box-to-box midfielder, playing a crucial role in Villa’s attack and defense. He poses a serious goal threat and often scores spectacular goals for club and country.

If you’re keen to deploy a box-to-box midfielder, you can model the role on these two talented EPL midfielders!

Recap: The role of box-to-box midfielders in soccer

Using a box-to-box midfielder in the center of midfield can be extremely effective. Blessed with work rate, strength, and good fitness levels, box-to-box midfielders get up and down the soccer field effortlessly and play a crucial role in both attacking and defending.

So, if you’re keen to win the midfield battle, using a talented box-to-box midfielder is a good way of going about it.

Do you know a mezzala from a regista? Check out more of our articles that explain some of the specialist midfield roles you can use on the soccer field.

What are Ball-Playing Defenders?

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Remember the adage “If in doubt, kick it out” that was drilled into us as kids?” Does it even apply anymore? That depends on who you ask. 

As the game evolves, so do a lot of the positions we thought we knew inside out. One of the biggest changes in soccer over the last two decades or so has been the rise in popularity of the ball-playing defender, adding another creative and instrumental element to how sides instigate attacks.

This article will examine what makes a good ball-playing defender, what it can bring to a team, and some of the players who’ve mastered the role.

What is a ball-playing defender?

A ball-playing defender is a term for a player in a team that has been assigned the defensive duties for their side but also dictates play and is willing to become part of a team’s passing move.

First and foremost, they are on the field to defend. Increasingly over recent years, however, it’s become an integral part of their matchday tasks to get involved with the passing moves a team creates.

Rather than focusing on clearing the ball as far away from their goal as possible, keeping possession and spreading the ball out to wider players is one of the tasks they’re entrusted with. 

The idea is to not sacrifice possession for territorial gain.

Why use a ball-playing defender?

Deploying a ball-playing defender can have numerous advantages. 

Firstly, a center-back that isn’t afraid to be on the ball and work as an operator for a team can drag their counterparts out of position. 

If a defender is comfortable on the ball without needing to boot it forward as far as possible, it will tempt attackers to close them down and create gaps between the opposition’s attack and midfield. 

Savvy managers hoped these attackers will be sucked in and trust that their players have the requisite skill to exploit the space left. Not to mention this closing down of defenders will expend the energy of attackers too.

Stepping away from central defenders for a moment, there are the more commonly seen full-backs or wing-backs that are technically as adept as lots of attackers. Having a skilful wing-back widens the pitch for your side, meaning you can exploit gaps in the opponent’s formation from different angles.

What are the drawbacks of ball-playing defenders?

Naturally, there are risks involved with entrusting a defender to spray the ball about. 

One of these risks is simply the territory you are passing the ball in. It’s closer to your goal, meaning the opposition has less of the field to navigate should they dispossess you. It also means that, unlike losing the ball in midfield, you have no other line of defense to win the ball back should your defender misplace a pass.

Another reason some managers aren’t fans of the system is that there is a perception that defenders simply aren’t as good technically as their midfield and attacking teammates. Times have changed and this isn’t strictly true anymore, as managers often grant defenders license to take more risks. But if you are lined up with an “old school” center-back who relies on physicality more than footwork, you can perhaps understand why you’d opt for a different approach.

Who are the best ball-playing defenders in soccer?

Unsurprisingly, there are countless modern examples of ball-playing defenders and fewer from bygone eras because the system has been favored contemporarily. 

One of the first obvious and concentrated uses of ball-playing defenders was the great Barcelona team of the late 00s and early 10s. Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano, both very skilled operators, frequently paired up in the center of defense and passed the opposition into submission.

It overwhelmed many in La Liga and further afield in Europe. Mascherano was, in fact, a midfielder before he joined the Catalonian club, but was converted into a central defender because Pep Guardiola knew how much possession his team would have and believed it was worth having an extra ball player who could also defend well.

Sticking with another Guardiola side (clearly there’s a theme to his setups), Manchester City stormed to a historic treble in the 2022/23 season and English defender John Stones has been credited with playing a huge part in that success. 

He is a defender by trade but his capabilities on the ball and eye for a pass have left many wondering if he can convert to an auxiliary midfielder. His defensive teammates Rúben Dias, Nathan Aké, and Manuel Akanji are all strong technically too, making the job less pressurized for Stones to flourish.

Heading over to Paris, you’ll see World Cup winner Sergio Ramos pulling the strings for Ligue 1’s most dominant side. While his prime years were spent at the heart of Real Madrid’s defense, which conquered Europe several times with Ramos at the back, the Spaniard is still incredibly influential at beginning attacking moves and keeping possession for his side.

What attributes do ball-playing defenders need?

Perhaps composure is the number one attribute you’d want in a ball-playing defender. Of course, that’s assuming they’re already capable of defending!

Being composed and not panicking on the ball is vital to accomplishing this role. It means you won’t clear the ball out of play frequently and instead look for options to remain in possession.

Next, you must have strong passing ability. Without this, it’s unlikely that your side will achieve their goals in the system they’re told to operate in.

Head coaches and sporting directors have been known to make this a priority in the transfer market: replacing a less capable technician at center-back with somebody well adept in the role.

Recap: The important role of ball-playing defenders in soccer

It’s a system that has become ingrained in soccer to the point where how children are coached has been altered drastically across nations.

The next time you tune in to a soccer match, keep an eye out for those ball-playing defenders who can offer so much to the modern team.

Do you know a full back from a carrilero? Learn more about other specialist soccer positions by reading more SKH articles!

What are Concussion Substitutions in Soccer?

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Thankfully the days of not addressing concussions in soccer are long gone, but until recently, when a soccer player was concussed, your side simply had to sacrifice one of their regular substitutions.

This is no longer the case since the introduction of the concussion substitution. Still in the dark? Here, we discuss what the concussion substitution is and how it’s applied in soccer.

What are concussion substitutions in soccer?

A concussion substitution is an extra substitution granted when a player is deemed to have suffered a concussion.

In a lot of elite leagues, teams are allowed five substitutions per match. However, if a concussion or suspected concussion occurs to either team, both sides will be granted an additional substitution so that the player who needs to be replaced won’t cost the team a regular substitution.

Using the Premier League as an example, an “independent” doctor (technically, this “tunnel doctor” is selected by the side hosting the match but the league insists they work neutrally for both sides) will assess a player who has suffered from a head collision before deciding on whether they’re showing signs of a concussion and therefore, continue or not.

We touched on concussion substitutes in one of our previous articles. To learn more about substitutions in soccer generally, read about it here.

When were concussion substitutions introduced to soccer?

When concussion substitutions were brought in (if at all for some leagues) depends on the league you are talking about.

MLS introduced two additional concussion substitutions to its usual five substitutions per team in the interest of player safety and welfare in 2021. 

This was a result of FIFA’s green light for pilot programs to go ahead in leagues under their jurisdiction.

This year, however, leagues around the world received the disappointing news that temporary substitutions for players being assessed for concussion wouldn’t be granted trial status by the International Football Association Board (IFAB). 

Part of the reason behind this was a second trial would contradict the results of the first trial (the current implementation of concussion substitutions) being conducted.

This means that teams could only make permanent substitutions, even if they were classed as concussion substitutions, for players who were suspected of having a concussion.

Why were they introduced?

Over the past decade especially, there has been a huge focus on player welfare. This extends to former players too, not just those still in the game.

There have been numerous studies regarding the long-term health impact that constant blows to the head have on people. One of the conditions it can contribute towards is Alzheimer’s disease, where the memory of a person gradually and increasingly fades.

A lot of the research done before it became such a hot topic in soccer was done in the NFL, where there this has been talked about for a very long time. One academic report concluded that over 90% of former NFL players were found to have Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which is a rare degenerative illness outside of sports that can lead to loss of memory and seriously troubling mental health issues.

While the fast and physical nature of football isn’t quite the same as soccer, the issues translate. Many permanent head injuries occur through clashes with other players and by simply heading the ball too frequently. 

The concussion substitution is beneficial for the player being replaced, but it also encourages more awareness surrounding the issue on a broader scale. It takes the decision out of the hands of potentially biased team employees or medically unqualified match officials.

What other sports have concussion substitutions?

Although not a contact sport, cricket introduced concussion replacements in 2019. The reason for this is that several players were being hit in the head by balls bowled or hit towards them at speed, making the checks necessary. 

Rugby has a similar concept, but they are called “blood subs” and are not centered around concussions. When a player is injured with visible blood that needs medical attention on the sideline, a team can make a temporary substitution until the player has their wound attended to and can come back on the field.

Other sports like basketball, football, and ice hockey have rolling substitutions anyway, with far less emphasis on who’s on the playing area exactly so long as the correct number of players are on.

Are concussion substitutions a good thing for the game?

Concussion substitutions have generally been received well by everybody in the game.

The introduction of the trials has put a greater focus on the safety of players and how medical staff should conduct their duties during a match. 

Despite IFAB and FIFA not agreeing with many league organizers on temporary substitutions for concussions for the time being, they still believe that concussions are front and center of their approach to player health. 

Before the introduction of concussion substitutions, if you had already made all your regular substitutions but then had a player go down with a suspected concussion, you would simply have to finish the match with fewer players. Almost universally, fans found this to be extremely unfair and a bugbear in the modern game.

However, there is a worry that concussion substitutions can be exploited by players. There was an incident when Wales winger Daniel James was “streetwise”, as then-manager Ryan Giggs claimed, by holding his head on the ground and reportedly faking unconsciousness. While the situation was a strange one because it wasn’t preventing a counter-attack, it raises questions about whether teams will bend the rules to gain advantages in future.

Recap: Concussion subs in soccer

There you have it, a complete guide to concussion substitutions in soccer. The introduction of this form of substitution is mostly viewed as a good thing and will benefit the welfare of players going forward.

What the future holds for medical intervention in soccer remains to be seen, so keep an eye out for any potential changes and advances to the rules.

The Role of the Advanced Forward Explained

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Using an advanced forward in soccer can be advantageous, but it depends on how you set your team up. Therefore, you need to think carefully about how you utilize your central forward to spearhead your attacks and bring other players into attacking moves.   

So, with that in mind, we explain everything you need to know about the role of the advanced forward in soccer and show you how it’s different from other roles that you can adopt in the central striking position.  

What is an advanced forward in soccer?

An advanced forward is a central striker that leads the line, looking to run in behind the defense to capitalize on goalscoring opportunities. Seen as the spearhead of a team’s attacking threat, an advanced forward needs to be quick, good at finishing, and adept at remaining onside.   

Advanced forwards pose a significant goal threat and look to unsettle opposing defenders wherever possible, be it by running in behind or by making intelligent runs into wide areas. Let’s take a look at why you might use an advanced forward in soccer.  

Why use an advanced forward?

Fundamentally, using an advanced forward in soccer helps your team get up the pitch. Rather than dropping deep, as is the case with deep-lying forwards, the advanced forward looks to stretch the opposing defenders wherever possible.   

It’s typical to deploy an advanced forward as far possible as forward, with the forward looking to play on the shoulder of the central defenders. As a result, it helps if an advanced forward is strong and agile, but they also need to be quick enough to get in behind without getting caught offside.   

When you utilize an advanced forward, you free up some space in the center of the field and help to stretch the opposing team. This means that your playmaker or trequartista can operate in attacking thirds without worrying about the central forward dropping deep and taking up their positions.   

What’s more, advanced forwards are equally adept at running the channels, which sees them run in behind the full-back in an attempt to draw the central defenders out of their comfort zones.  

This creates attacking opportunities for your team and means that the advanced forward is difficult for defenders to pick up.   

Advanced forward vs. pressing forward – what’s the difference?

There are undoubtedly similarities between an advanced forward and a pressing forward. But the main difference is the emphasis on pressing. As the name suggests, a pressing forward is responsible for leading the press from the front, hunting down the goalkeeper and defenders as soon as they get the ball.   

While an advanced forward might also be required to press, it’s not their main role. Rather, they look to run in behind wherever possible, stretching the play and turning the defenders in the process.   

Something else worth noting is that you typically see a pressing forward deployed as the sole central striker. It’s more common to see teams use an advanced forward as part of an attacking duo, even though some advanced forwards also play up top alone.   

Historically, many teams utilized an advanced forward alongside a target man with great success – think of Peter Crouch & Jermain Defoe, for instance!   

Ultimately, both a pressing forward and an advanced forward can be effective roles to spearhead your team’s attacking opportunities, but they are slightly different from one another.  

What attributes does an advanced forward need?

One of the most important attributes of an advanced forward is finishing. They are the player responsible for taking goalscoring opportunities when they arise, meaning that they need to be able to find the back of the net.   

It also helps if advanced forwards are quick, so you should look at how pacy they are. The faster an advanced forward is, the easier it is for them to get in behind to turn the defenders.   

Positioning is also key for advanced forwards, as they need to be able to use their discretion to stretch the play and get in behind the defense wherever possible.   

Example of an advanced forward in soccer

In the English Premier League, one of the best examples of an advanced forward is Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins. The Englishman is a thorn in the side of defenders as he spearheads Villa’s attacks, and he runs in behind and down the channels brilliantly.   

Although he struggled to adapt to the pace of the Premier League early in his career, he has become one of the most competent finishers in England in recent times and is knocking on the door of the England national team.   

Newcastle United’s Callum Wilson is also another good example of an advanced forward, leading the line for Eddie Howe’s team while not giving defenders a minute’s peace. He’s also a brilliant finisher, providing an excellent return for his team year after year.  

If you’re keen to utilize the role of the advanced forward in your system, check out the movement that helps Wilson score so many brilliant goals in this video clip.  

Recap: The role of the advanced forward in soccer

Though there are lots of different ways to play with a central striker in soccer, deploying an advanced forward is a great way to set your team up.   

The advanced forward poses a significant attacking threat to the opposition’s back line, stretching the game and helping your team get in behind for goalscoring opportunities.   

Ultimately, you can effectively use an advanced forward in various tactical setups, ensuring that your team scores as many goals as possible.