What If We Started Over?

2 Nov

I’ve discussed before whether 5v5 (including the goalkeeper) was the right platform for seven year olds to learn the sport of soccer.

But with our existing ruleset for our age group (which I’ll detail further), and assuming we had an experienced team (perhaps beyond what a seven year old was capable of), how would you structure your system of play to make the most opportunities to score?

On Sunday, our adult team was again short handed – and our opponents were, too.  We were left with six players and our opponents five – so we ended up playing 5v5 on a U12 sized field – about 75 yards long with less than full size goals.  Our league doesn’t play offsides for 7v7, either.  Midway through the match, I was struck by a big similarity: this is the same format our U8 team plays, although they play on a smaller pitch!

So if you had a 5v5 team, with good knowledge of the game, how would you play?

Our U8 Rule Set, or at least what’s relevant to creating a system of play:

  • Five players on the field, including a goalkeeper
  • No offsides (but we’ll assume that no one camps out near the goal and cherry-picks long balls, either)
  • All free kicks are indirect
The way we approached our adult match resembled either a 1-1-2 (one defender, one midfielder, and two forwards) or a 1-2-1 (one defender, two midfielders, one forward), or a 2-2 (two defenders, two forwards).
To backtrack a little bit, during the fourth quarter of our U8 match Saturday in the last minute I pulled our goalkeeper up to midfield to act as a high defender with our prior defender moving fully into the offensive zone.  Essentially, I was throwing everything I could at the offensive end of the field.
Could I take a similar approach in normal situations, and move everyone further up the field in offensive situations?  When we have the ball, we could work in a diamond formation to move the ball effectively and force the defense to play the full width of the field.  This would rely on experienced players who are capable of making good passes and patiently holding the ball before taking a shot.
In any situation where we lost the ball, we would need to quickly switch into a Barcelona-style pressing defense.
Everyone would need to work immediately to regain control of the ball and prevent a long pass and breakaway for the opponent.  Obviously, a breakaway could quickly turn into a 1v1 with our goalkeeper who is already pulled up from the goal (although he would be capable of collecting any long passes that get past their target).
Risky?  Probably, but I have to wonder if we would have more success in keeping the ball in the offensive zone and forcing their fourth player to be an active part of their defense.
How would you design a 5v5 offense given this ruleset and moderately experienced players?

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