The successful throw-in playbook (ft. Forge FC)

CPL Winners Forge FC ranked second in successful throw-ins across the 2022 season – at 90.9%. They exceled through movement off the ball to create space, and a series of meticulous routines to unbalance the opposition. Assistant coach David Edgar deserves immense credit for his throw-in designs and installment of clear principles of play, by which the players could immediately utilize to respond to the moment appropriately. Here is how the Playoff Winners achieved success with their attacking throws.

INTENTIONALLY LEAVING SPACE TO ADVANCE INTO

One of the hallmarks to Forge’s approach is that they will often intentionally vacate space toward the thrower, that can then be adopted by advancing runners. By over-compacting themselves, they only leave less space for variety in movement and rotation. But by leaving space available and not just sticking a player in every position imaginable, runners can then find room around the opposition’s marking scheme.

In the above example, we can see how Forge smartly positioned four players as backward options for the thrower, thus attracting more pressure away from the hole that the runner could move into.

In contrast, here’s an example where Forge over-compacted themselves in their own half, thus leaving no space for runners to roam. With no space to float around, the players became stationary, and left themselves tightly marked by the HFX defense. The thrower was then forced into going long due to the lack of movement around him, losing possession for his team.

In Forge’s other unsuccessful first contacts against HFX (their lowest performance of the season from throws), they also came as a result of trying to thrust the ball forward, when backwards would have allowed the team to keep the ball. This is why some teams will even go all the way back to their keeper, knowing that this is often a safe and available option left unmarked.

When a backwards first option became readily available, Forge would often take that option on. The likes of Rama would often even hustle to retrieve the ball, ensuring they could catch the opposition off-guard.

BOUNCE PASSES WITH THE THROWER

Forge enjoyed plenty of successful moments throughout the season via bounce passes back to the initial thrower. Even in shapes like this where they overload one side of the field, the right movement at the right time then allows Forge to play a safe lateral pass into their man as soon as he moves in front of the defender.

This player can then bounce back to the unmarked thrower. The defenders will then often become attracted to that player due to a diffusion of responsibility, thus leaving space for others. The ease at which this type of throw can be achieved allowed Smyrniotis’ side to use a frequent combination of three of their smoothest operators on the ball. Rezart Rama would take the throw into Hojabrpour at the vital moment, who would then bounce back to his fullback. Rama could then release and recycle to Achinioti-Jönsson, away from any players who may have started the move by marking him.

This type of throw-in scheme can not only be used to safely reset the play, but to play down the side of the overload.

On this particular move, Forge nicely constructed a play by which the deepest player moved into the initial starting position of the first receiver. The receiver then shifted wide of Rama to receive again, attracting the pressure of that deepest player’s marker. This then freed up that player to receive in space.

Here we can see the benefit of playing that safe and simple lateral pass as the first option, allowing the team to then inject immediate variety to unbalance the opposition.

Another smart way of undoing the opposition’s defense could involve a dribble away from goal after the throw. Alessandro Hojabrpour would often attract pressure toward himself as he dribbled toward his intended target of a follow-up pass, thus freeing that player up to recycle the ball and potentially switch play to the other side.

By maintaining that balance on the other side, Hojabrpour can then dismark the teammate he wants to play the pass into, and allow for an easy switch of play since the opposition have over-compacted themselves to stop the throw.

USE OF THE STRIKER

Many teams will now use their striker as a frequent first receiver on attacking throws, due to this player’s familiarity in playing with their back-to-goal and holding the ball up against unwanted attention. Even if they are not tall or aerially adept, strikers are still frequently adept at receiving the ball into their feet, and pushing off opposition defenders. This also gives a team like Forge the advantage of using a player who starts the move further away from the ball, who the opposition may deem less likely to receive. A forward like Woobens Pacius can then move toward the ball unmarked, and receive from the thrower as soon as they appear in front of an unaware defender.

Others, including the thrower themselves, can then advance toward the striker to give options for a safe bounce pass.

This subsequently allows a player like Pacius to ghost into the penalty area at the end of moves, rather than occupying defenders the entire time, and waiting for the ball to fall into his feet.

VARIETY OF MOVEMENT

In any successful rotation, one player will move away from the ball, as another moves toward it. The player that moves away from the situation often acts as a trigger for the intended target to receive. Forge are masters of this art, and frequently used Aboubacar Sissoko to shift away from the situation, as Pacius advanced toward the ball. This again allowed Forge to free up one of their best back-to-goal receivers, away from any opposition defenders.

The benefit of this kind of movement is that the opposition will always see the decoy runner as the more dangerous option, since this player’s movement is advancing closer to goal. This can then be an easy mechanism for attracting pressure to release a free man for a lateral, safer pass.

It’s worth noting that Rama often made himself adept in these moments in faking that forward pass, attracting all the more pressure, and creating more room for that intended target to receive in acres of space. He did this throughout the season, even luring the opposition backward when a lateral or backwards pass became the obvious decision for the thrower to make.

Again, this is human nature, since the opposition will always see the forward thrust as the more dangerous one. They simply have to react to his initial body positioning and his pretend forward arm thrust that quickly follows, thus leaving space for some of the best possession-based players in the team to receive in space.

On the more meticulous end of the spectrum, Forge designed some intuitive attacking moves to unbalance the opposition and create the option for a one-two in the attacking third.

In working a combination closer to goal, Forge will often start the move by positioning someone close to goal, who appears disengaged. As the defenders keep their eye on the ball, that player is then free to move into open space to receive in behind the defensive line.

As you can probably guess, as one player moves toward the ball, that then creates the opportunity for someone else to move away from the ball, now closer to goal, and unmarked as the opposition persist with their ball watching.

They could even use that advancing player as a decoy runner, freeing up their intended target. This kind of surging run will always pull a defender away, thus vacating space for someone else.


So there it is! A tactical analysis of how Forge FC achieved success with their attacking throw-ins throughout the 2022 season. Be sure to check out more of our set-piece analyses, and follow on social media @mastermindsite to never miss an update. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

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