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Dropping Deep: Creating Space and Building Play

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Dropping Deep: Creating Space and Building Play

In the complex world of soccer strategy, one tactic stands out for its subtle brilliance and effective outcomes: forwards dropping deep to create space and initiate attacking plays. This maneuver, often employed by some of the game's greatest minds, combines player intuition with strategic coaching principles to unlock defenses and create scoring opportunities.

What Does "Dropping Deep" Mean?

When a forward "drops deep," they move away from the opposition's defensive line towards their own midfield. This movement, counter to the typical expectation of a forward constantly pushing towards the goal, serves several purposes:

  • Creating Space: By moving back, the forward drags one or more defenders out of their lines, creating space behind them.
  • Building Play: Integrating more closely with the midfield can help in maintaining possession and structuring more elaborate attacking plays.
  • Unpredictability: It adds an element of unpredictability, making it harder for the defending team to mark and anticipate movements.

Benefits of Dropping Deep

1. Space Creation

When a forward drops deep, defenders face a dilemma: follow the forward and leave space behind, or stay put and risk the forward receiving the ball unmarked. This indecision often leads to defensive errors or opens up pockets for other players to exploit.

2. Midfield Overload

A dropping forward essentially transforms into an additional midfielder, creating numerical superiority in the middle of the park. This overload makes it easier to retain possession and dictate the game's tempo.

Forwards who drop deep can act as pivot points, receiving the ball and swiftly distributing it to wingers, attacking midfielders, or overlapping full-backs. This facilitates fluid and dynamic attacking movements.

Case Study: Lionel Messi

Perhaps the most famed practitioner of dropping deep is Lionel Messi. His ability to drift into midfield, pick up the ball, and either thread a pass, embark on a dribble, or shoot from range has been a key element of FC Barcelona's and Argentina's attacking prowess for years. Messi's movement not only confounds defenders but also provides a master class in space creation and utilization.

Coaching Tips for Dropping Deep

Tips for Forwards

  1. Timing is Everything: Recognize the right moments to drop deep, typically when your team looks to transition from defense to attack.
  2. Communication: Maintain strong communication with midfielders to ensure they understand your movements and can adjust accordingly.
  3. Spatial Awareness: Always be aware of the space you vacate and the lanes you open up for teammates to exploit.

Tips for Coaches

  1. Training Drills: Incorporate drills that simulate game-like scenarios, emphasizing the movement and the subsequent attacking patterns.
  2. Player Roles: Ensure other players, especially midfielders and wingers, understand the importance of exploiting the space created by the deep-dropping forward.
  3. Video Analysis: Use footage from games to illustrate successful implementations of the tactic, helping players visualize and understand the concept.

Example Drill: The Drop and Turn

Objective: To practice the forward's ability to drop deep, receive the ball, and quickly turn to initiate an attack.


  • Divide the team into three zones: defense, midfield, and attack.
  • Position a forward at the edge of the midfield zone, with midfielders and defenders in their respective areas.


  1. The defender plays a pass into the forward, who drops deep to receive it.
  2. As the forward receives the ball, a coach signals an area or a player to pass to.
  3. The forward must turn and either pass to the designated player or move into the vacated space to continue the attack.


  • Add passive defenders to increase difficulty, making the forward's decision-making and spatial awareness crucial.


The tactic of forwards dropping deep requires a blend of player instinct and tactical discipline. By understanding and practicing this approach, teams can create dynamic, unpredictable, and effective attacking plays. So whether you're a player looking to enhance your game or a coach aiming to enrich your Teams tactical repertoire, mastering the art of dropping deep can be a game-changer.

Stay tuned for more insights into the beautiful game's intricate tactics!


  • "Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics" by Jonathan Wilson
  • Various coaching manuals and game footage analyses from top football academies