Door 8: Dribbling into open space

by David Goigitzer

Dribbling is, mostly, mainly trained to beat opponents, often in smaller exercises and variation of 1v1-4v4. Rarely is  dribbling into free space the focus of a session. In the Advent Calendar 2016 (scroll down for english version) there was a good example how to train dribbling of central defenders. With my following game, the training of this football element should be kept somewhat more general and simpler.


  • Blue tries to keep the ball. You are allowed to position yourself freely in the boxes.
  • Touch-restrictions: There are several possibilities. The simplest one is: You may make more than 1 touch, but you have to dribble into the next box. Otherwise you can play directly (depending on the game level this is also possible with 2 contacts).
  • Red tries to win the ball. If they manage that, they try to counter in one of the mini goals.


Dribbling into open space (Andribbeln)

Most of the readers of this blog will be aware of the german word “Andribbeln), and possibly the importance of this. Nevertheless, I would like to remind you once again how rarely it is actually properly integrated and how rarely, especially defensive players, recognize the possibility of dribbling into free spaces. Since I analyse several football matches of the same league every week in my work, I always see situations where I just think “COME ON, DRIBBLE”. Often, dribbling into free spaces is only used when there is no other option and the player has a lot of time, for example when the opponent is deep. Especially with defenders it takes too long to recognize the free spaces, often they could make up a lot of space with a dynamic first touch, lure the opponent to pressing and create possibilities to play over the third man. I’ve found out from conversations with some players, that they do recognize the room to dribble as such, but are afraid of failure of the follow-up action. That if they lure the opponent into pressing, the other players don’t offer themselves in a suitable way, so that you don’t have a passing option and lose the ball, or have to hit it away. From these two cornerstones, perception and follow-up action, the most important coaching points for this exercise emerge.


Coaching points


For the players, an awareness of their own position, that of the other players, open spaces and the position of the opponent is always essential. With an open body position, an important step can often be taken, in addition to pre-orientation. This includes checking their shoulder, but above all the look into the depth. In this game you should scan where the players are for a possible direct pass, as well as where free spaces for dribbling arise. In the ideal case all this takes place before receiving the ball. The decision should be already made when the ball is controlled. If a direct pass is played, one should re-orient oneself immediately in order to offer oneself for a backpass and to already awareness for possible follow-up actions. If you dribble, this should happen into a free square if possible. Also during the dribbling orientation should happen, the view should be directed away from the ball and onto the field, in order to be able always make quick decisions.

Follow-up action:

For a successful follow-up action, on an individual-tactical level, the aforementioned orientation is of course a significant part of it. To be able to make decisions before the ball control or before and during dribbling. On a group tactical level, the most important thing here is to offer a suitable passing option. The supporting players must know whether their teammates  want to dribble or pass directly. The following questions then arise: “Is my teammate under pressure?” and further: “Do they have space to dribble?”. The answers to these questions will then also determine your own supporting behaviour. If he’s under pressure and has no space, players who offer must come closer to receive a direct pass. If the player with the ball has room to dribble, the offering player should offer themselves in such a way that they:

A. Can keep this space open

B. Is free that they can be played to, after the dribbling of the other player.

A player moves away from the opponent to receive the ball freely and to dribble at an open space.

The opponent moves in the direction of the ball. In order to enable the dribbling player , their teammate moves outwards to the side, goes away from the person onthe ball so as not to take away space from them. In anticipation of the next action, another player also moves into free space (“up”, away from the ball).

The player on the side has received the ball, is now under high pressure. That’s why the central player comes closer to get a direct pass. The previously dribbling player remains in their position and is the third man over whom the ball is played away from the pressure. Every blue player had their part in the dissolving of this pressing with their positioning (whether they went away, stayed or came closer to the ball carrier).

These two points often include holding the position, or at least the distance to the other player. So also in this exercise, principles of positional play are built in. Offering an option is of great importance here, and above all a focus on space-opening movements and staying in the position.

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