Principles of Passing
Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso, David Silva, and Cesc Fabregas. What do all these players have in common? Yes, they excel in all facets of the game at the highest possible level, but they made their mark by being some of the greatest passers of all time. Their pass completion rates at the end of matches are the highest on the field because they are masters of the principles of passing. You can never underestimate the value of a playmaker. They may not be the player putting the ball in the back of the net, but they are the direct supply line for goal scorers.
There are four principles of passing: pace, accuracy, timing and disguise. Each aspect is of equal importance. Elite passers of the ball master each of the four principles, and create opportunities where other players see obstacles. We will breakdown each principle to understand how they apply to the perfect pass.
Pace is the “weight of the pass." When making a 10-yard pass, we use the in-step of our foot to control the pace. When looking to send our winger in-behind from 50 yards away, we want to ping the ball with our laces to make sure it travels the distance. Passing is all about keeping possession, so the pace of the pass is vital to setting your teammates up for success. Blasting a ball at a teammate who is only a few yards away makes it very difficult for them to control the ball and maintain possession.
Accuracy is the most obvious principle of passing. We need the pass to go where we intend it to go. However, this does not always mean it needs to go right to a teammate’s foot. Sometimes we look to play a teammate into space. We may even want to play a ball to a different part of the body, such as the head, in order to create a one-time finish opportunity for strikers.
If we play the ball too early or late, our teammate won’t be in position to receive it properly, resulting in a turnover. Soccer is a free-flowing game, and the windows for passing opportunities open and close within fractions of a second. Play a through-ball too quickly, and your teammate has no chance of getting on the end of it. Play it too late, and the runner risks being offside.
Disguise is the ability to hide intentions when passing a ball. An obvious way to disguise a pass is with a back-heel, a flick-on, or even a no-look pass. These bits of flair can make passing more effective. Disguise can also be known as unpredictability. If you continuously play a long diagonal to the right-side midfielder, defenders will catch on and easily close down future opportunities. Disguise is your ability to vary your passing in length, frequency, and technique so defenders never know your intentions.
Each principle of passing leads to one outcome: making our teammates successful. We advance the ball up the field by finding teammates in a better position to make a play. At the end of the day, soccer is a team sport, and your passes are only as good as the players receiving them. Players need to be constantly moving off the ball into space to be open for passes. A world class team like Barcelona can make four consecutive one-touch passes because their players are always in a position to receive the ball.
Header photo courtesy of Nike Academy.