Long ball  






Long ball soccer is often looked down on, and it’s not my own favorite style. Still, it has its uses. In particular, it may be necessary to go to longer passes when

·         the field is too poor for possession soccer

·         weather conditions make possession soccer too difficult  (e.g. high winds or a very bumpy field)

·         team technique is too weak to sustain possession passing

Long ball soccer is simple to describe, but requires a tremendous effort from the attackers to be successful.

Essentially, at every opportunity the defenders and midfielders fire long balls toward the edge of the box. Attackers take turns competing for the ball, and moving into space to pick up the resulting second ball, whether from the attacker winning the ball or simply a loose ball near the edge of the box.

Because midfielders are hardly involved in the attack, they basically become extra defenders playing in the middle of the field, which makes these teams hard to score against.

The forwards just keep working. The long ball attack fails almost all the time, because it makes no effort to get “numbers up,” or to support the strikers. They are always outnumbered.

Usually strikers try to find seams in the defense or areas where there are fewer defenders, and the long ball is aimed at these less strongly defended spaces. See Figure 36 below.


Working the long ball


In the figure above, D1 has the ball and is planning an immediate long ball.  D6 is showing for the ball in front of the defense.

Note that midfielders D4 and D5 are essentially playing as extra defenders. 

·         strikers keep trying to confuse the defense and find a small opening

·         strikers must compete for every long ball

·         target area is usually (but not always) toward the sideline where defense is weakest

·         midfielders mostly play defense

·         defenders make no effort to maintain possession. When they win the ball they send it long as soon as possible.

·         Defenders try if possible to put the ball over the defense

·         No pressing in attacking third because midfield is primarily defensive, and attackers must save energy to challenge for long balls

Long ball soccer is not the “beautiful game.” And against teams that are highly skilled, long ball soccer usually loses. Still, at the right time and place, it can be highly effective. It may be necessary on really bad fields, or in very poor weather conditions.



Every team needs to know how to play long ball when they find themselves in an emergency situation where only long ball soccer will work.



Contact: rgaster@north-atlantic.com