Soccer Skills:

How to Effectively Scout a Soccer Team – The Opposition

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The first part of our “ How to effectively scout a soccer team “ edition saw us look at the benefits of what a good scouting system can offer you as well as looking at certain areas within scouting, specifically team shape. The second part covered practical tips for scouting an opponent.

This week we will look at defensive and attacking tendencies of the opposition and what we should look for within them.

Opposition: Defensive Tendencies

Soccer Scout (Photo: abbeyroadsblog.blogspot.com)

The name of the game here is simple, we want to work out how we are going to score goals against our opposition and by looking at our opposition’s defensive tendencies, we might help our Team do just that by looking for ways to exploit and attack any areas of weakness that we see.

Some of the things to consider when looking at this part of scouting are:

  1. Preferred defensive formation both with and without the ball: Do they play with advancing full backs? Do the central defensive players play tight to the attackers they face or do they prefer to play in a zonal defense where they are more likely to be concerned about their positioning and a certain area rather than an attacker? Are the central defenders quick or do they rely on their strength? Are the full backs willing to come inside to a more central position to support the central defenders when the ball is on the opposing side of the pitch?
  2. Transition: How does the defense react and cope when they lose the ball? Does the defense organize itself well enough and quick enough with quick transition of the ball? If so, how do they do so?  Do they actively press in order to win the ball back? If so, where do they press, do they press in certain areas only, who presses and is there a noticeable trigger for their pressing?
  3. Distribution: Do they defense play the ball out from the back and start team attacks in that manner? Do they prefer to look for longer passes?  If so, are they to specific players and areas?
  4. Support? Does the defense get support from their midfield and attackers? Are more midfielders and attackers more defensive minded than others and if so, make sure you note which ones are. Also note the shapes and formation of how the defend in other areas of the pitch, do they defend in a different shape when rebuffing attacks than they do when attacking? Once again, make sure you take note of this. Do the attackers make any attempt to close down players on the ball? Do the midfielders track back and track their runners when required?
  5. Set pieces: Locate their aerial strengths. Who are they? Where do they position themselves? Why does they position themselves there? Is it to mark specific players or is it a specific area? If it is an area, locate and take note of what players are responsible for what areas or zones. Who doesn’t venture forward and how do they defend when they have attacking set pieces IE do they go 2 v 1, 3 v 1 etc defensively.
  6. Defensive patterns – Do they play with a high line? Do they look to play the offside trap? Do they defend deep? Are they willing and confident to pass back to their GK? If so, how confident is he where his feet are concerned? What foot is he more comfortable with? If not, it may mean that the GK nor the team are not very confident in the GK’s kicking ability.

Opposition: Attacking Tendencies

For all the good it does gaining information on a team’s defensive strengths and weaknesses, it is of course equally important to get a comprehensive understanding of what they do at the other end of the pitch.

Some of the things to consider when looking at this part of scouting are:

  1. Preferred attacking formation: Do they play with a front pair? Do they play with a lone striker who receives support from wide positions as well as midfield? How many players do they commit to the final third area of the pitch when they are attacking in a controlled manner and where are they positioned?
  2. Transition:  How quick do they try to break when they win possession of the ball? Do they counter attack in a direct manner or do they prefer to slowly build up controlled, strategic attacks?
  3. Attack preferences: How do they attack? Do they attack from the wings? Do they go through a playmaker who they look for to conduct their attacks? If so, what areas does he receive the ball from and from what players? Do they attack with a front pair who work in tandem, or do they attack with and use midfield runners who may get ahead of a lone striker and look to play off of him?
  4. Goals: Where do they come from? Who scores them? Identify the main threat, most teams have various sources of goals but there will also be a player that is there main goal threat, identifying that player and try to collate as much information as possible on him such as what positions he tends to take up, where he likes to receive the ball, how he likes to receive the ball IE to his feet, on the run, on his head etc.
  5. Set pieces: Who takes them? Where do they look to deliver the ball? Who comes forward and what positions do they take up? How is the ball delivered? Are in swinging or out swinging deliveries preferred? Who are the most dangerous aerial threats?
  6. Final Third: Be aware of any other things that you observe in the most critical area of the pitch, the final third. Any and all instances, patterns or attacking methods that you feel the opposing team is instructed to do should be noted where possible in order to be able to relay your report back to your team.

Remember, what you are doing here is to obtain and ultimately present information to help your players, coach and team as a whole. An effective Scouting Report will help the team and players to prepare themselves properly and improve their end results while helping them to understand the game and the different areas within it.

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About the Author

Wes has coached soccer at various levels of the game in North America, Europe & Asia. Originally from London, Wes started his footballing life playing with and against the likes of John Terry, Paul Konchesky and Jermaine Defoe in the School and League systems of East London and Essex. Now, a qualified scout, Wes works with the Sports Management Worldwide Scouting Network in Portland, Oregon. He also holds various English FA, LMA & USSF Coaching Licences and Certificates. You can connect with Wes on Twitter.

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