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Theory

A counter-attack is a fast and direct attack that occurs from a moment of transition. Transition is when one team wins the ball from the other mid-game.  


Counter-attacks consist of minimal passes. They aim to create a goal-scoring opportunity before the opposition can recover their defensive shape. If your team launch a counter-attack, it’ll usually start in the defensive half, within central areas of the pitch. 

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Example

When a team is countering, you may think they have the numerical advantage. But that’s not necessarily true. In fact, the 2020/21 FA Cup stats paint a very different picture... 

Practice

So, what does all this mean for your practice design? 
  

1. Build momentum

Counter-attacks are fast and direct. A great way to build this momentum into your session is to consider your playing area. Try using a pitch that provides space behind the opposition’s defensive line. This means your players have a chance to attack quickly – and prevent the other team from recovering their shape.  

Next, focus on a realistic challenge. In the FA cup, the average counter-attack lasts eight seconds. A grassroots team is unlikely to move quite that fast... but you can still recognise players for scoring quickly or using a low number of passes.  

Finally, have lots of balls ready for throw-ins and goal-kicks. This helps to keep a fast pace in your game. 

 

2. Consider your use of the pitch 

When counter-attacking, 73% of pro-game goals come through central areas only (rather than the ball being played out wide).   

To help your team get to grips with this, try rewarding attacks made through the middle of the pitch. Marking out this area can give players a visual reference and help them understand what’s expected. 
  

3. Create uneven teams  

When launching a counter-attack, players are often outnumbered. This means they must get used to playing against an ‘overload’.

 

Counter-attacks play a significant role in football – but getting good at them takes time. To master this move, your players need many opportunities to practise their skills in a realistic environment. One that reflects the demands of matchday.