Soccer coaching tips on when to dribble

Many soccer coaches believe there is a place for dribbling, which is in the attacking third of the pitch. Lose the ball here and the risk of the opposition creating a goal-scoring opportunity is reduced. I agree, but if one of your wingers runs out of defence with the ball, he is creating options all over the pitch not just in the attacking areas.

Dribbling skills

You have to judge the skill and determination of your players to handle this situation. Some players can cope, others cannot. I like to give my players the freedom to run with the ball in any position, relying on my defenders' positional strength to bail us out if the dribbler does lose the ball.

One of the key reasons teams employ wingers is to stretch defences widthways, thus creating gaps infield for forwards and attacking midfielders to exploit.

The most obvious way to do this is to ask your wingers to stick close to their touchlines when your team has possession. This way, they can either receive balls to feet, allowing them to run at the defender, or they can run into the space behind when a ball is played inside the defender.

Sticking wide also makes them free for the ball switched diagonally across, say from a central defender. Receiving this type of ball means a winger is more likely to find himself in a favourable 1v1 situation where the defender has no cover.

Once the player has beaten the defender on either the outside or inside, you want an end result. This means can they:

  • Shoot?

  • Cross the ball/pull it back for an attacker?
  • Play a defence-splitting pass?

If these options aren’t on they must retain possession – unless, of course, there’s another defender to be beaten!

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Click here for a simple soccer coaching drill designed to improve your young players' dribbling skills.