The Five Fundamental Soccer Attacking Principles of Play That’ll Make You Thrive

By Luís Miguel
Updated on

You must be thinking:

Understanding the attacking principles of play seems REALLY difficult and complex.


If you read just a few lines you’ll quickly see how they are actually simple to grasp…

…plus, by learning how to use them, you’ll dramatically improve your team’s level.

In today’s post, I’ll be showing what those attacking principles are… and specifically how they can be used to improve yours and your team’s knowledge of the game.


No matter what style of play, the formation, or the age level you play at or coach, the funda-mental attacking principles of play in soccer all remain the same.

In fact, the attacking principles of play are what give a team its attacking style, for the combination of decisions made by players and coaches add on to one another like building blocks.

In this article, we are going to look at each attacking principle and why they are important to every single team.

Soccer Attacking Principles of Play: Definition

The principles of play are quite simply the fundamental aspects that compose a team with the ball in their possession.

They help a team that has the football move it forward and then to create chances.

Without knowing these principles — which are always present despite many not knowing about them by name — you are losing valuable knowledge that can help your team succeed.

How the Principles of Play Relate to Each Other

Each principle is linked with one another so, in essence, you can’t have one without the other.

It is the yin and yang of association football, yet we need them all to have a truly coherent strategy of play.

Next, we are going to go over each principle. Please don’t assume that there is a most im-portant or a least important. Each is equally important and vital to the success of your team.

Principle #1: Penetration

This principle is the idea of getting in behind the opposition’s defense.

The way to do this is be able to play the ball (via passing and/or kicking) behind or in between the other team’s defenders.

Without being able to do this, your possession is very predictable and you aren’t able to ad-vance the soccer ball into a dangerous area.

(Just think about if you always passed from side to side; that would be very easy to defend!)

The other team’s defense wants to prevent this — no matter how they are set up to play — because players in behind cause havoc and can lead to many chances to score from various areas.

Principle #2: Support

Unless your plan of attack is to give the football to one single player and have him/her dribble the ball down the field without passing or, if you are going to just launch it and run after it, you are going to need support.

Support is the basic skill of being a team and moving together.

A center midfielder is at their best when they have wingers on either side of them to give them an option to go wide and with a forward to pass it up to.

If you want to keep possession of the football for longer than a second or two, you need to have players close by.

Your angles, the distance to your teammates and the timing at which you pass can vary, but the best teams work on it and make these an art form.

Principle #3: Width

Making sure your team is spread out when in possession separates the best from the rest at nearly every level of the game.

No matter if you are a professional or a six-year-old, the team that spreads out and refrains from playing the same positions (or running into one another) is likely to win.

A good defense is at its nature set up to be narrow in order to allow few cracks.

A good attack must stretch that defense as wide as possible to allow for penetra-tion.

Crossing can be great if you have the right amount of width as you can draw the opposition to one side and then switch the field up on them.

Principle #4: Mobility

Just as important as support is the need to be mobile and agile. This is referring to both your ability to move and think.

Sometimes, it takes an individual to use their speed to impose their and their team’s will upon the other side. They may have tried everything else, but this is just the way it has to go sometimes.

Pure athleticism is huge and can’t be taught, but sometimes being able to quickly think and then move into a position is also critical to your team’s cause.

While not all players can turn into freak athletes (although their stamina can be increased), everyone can improve and be good at making quick decisions to get into better areas.

Keep in mind that this is with and without the ball. In fact, moving without the soccer ball is a much bigger deal than moving with it in many cases!

If your teammate has the ball and there is one defender, your run could free him up to shoot, or it could allow you to be open for a pass.

Principle #5: Creativity

The last piece of the puzzle is being creative.

If all else fails, you need to come up with something clever to trick your opponent and get the goal.

This is closely linked with being mobile and agile in both mind and foot.

It’s not always about being the biggest, strongest or fastest.

Many of the great players in the World — like Luka Modrić — are more creative than anything.

When you first get the ball your whole possession can be determined in the first couple of seconds.

A creative player can turn it into a goal or an assist, or at least a chance for someone to score, through just their creativity.

Bonus Principle: The Counter

The counterattack is a classic ploy that has been used since the dawn of man.

You are in a war and your adversary sends in their men only to be surprised by you.

This is the same idea in soccer.

You sit back and soak up the pressure and then on rush quickly when you gain possession.

This is called transition.

How you move when this change occurs — which is unpredictable in soccer — is crucial, and it links all of the principles together in one fell swoop.


The soccer attacking principles of play sound like they are a big and difficult subject for many, but in reality they are easy concepts to behold.

In order to carve out an effective strategy, you must look at all of them and then determine how far you want to go on each one.

If you want to be one of the best teams you can possibly be, everyone on the team needs to understand each facet of play and how they relate to the team’s ultimate strategy.

By knowing these, you will score more goals and have more fun as your team becomes much more aware of their surroundings and the game itself.

Next time you’re on the pitch, remember these principles and you’ll see how your team’s level will drastically improve!

Guy wearing an SL Benfica jersey holding soccer ball over his head

Article by:

Luís Miguel

As a true soccer enthusiast, I’m Soccermodo’s team captain. My job is to make sure the site’s content is top-notch so that you, our reader, can focus solely on improving your game and reach new heights.