Technique and Tactics

5 types of throw-ins and defensive techniques

Author: Francesco Farioli

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We have classified 5 types of throw-ins (long, to change game play area, to win the finishing area, to develop the strong side and fast solution) and we asked ourselves what the difficulties are in defending this solution.

I decided to concentrate on the special offensive (and defensive) organisation that Sarri’s teams have demonstrated these last two seasons (and few others) in these particular situations. We will analyse how Empoli, Napoli and Mihajlovic’s Milan were able to exploit throw-ins.

First of all, we will try to clarify what the possible offensive developments of throw-ins are.
We classified 5 types of throw-ins:
Long, to change game play area, to win the finishing area, to develop the strong side and fast solution.


1A)  Direct (like a Corner)
This requires offensive organisation similar to that of a corner kick and the individual quality of a specialised player capable of throwing the ball with a long trajectory from 25 to 25 metres (Riise and Delap’s throw-ins are historical). This usually takes place near the opposing team’s penalty area or midfield.

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1B)  For aggression (second ball pressure)
This usually takes place near your own team’s penalty area or at the midfield line. It consists in throwing the ball down the line and then attacking along the trajectory to win the rebound. Usually the attacking team has numerical superiority because obviously whoever hits the header does not have the time or space to win the rebound.

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2)  TO CHANGE THE GAME PLAY AREA (1-on-1 Weak Side)
If the opposing team tries to create numerical superiority in the ball area, it is the possessing team’s job to try and quickly get out from under pressure, changing the game play area and developing a situation of 1-on-1 on the weak side.

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3)  TO WIN THE FINISHING AREA (Shot, Through-Pass)
The same concept as above. If the opposing team tries to create numerical superiority in the ball area, it is the possessing team’s job to try and quickly get out from under pressure, making short plays in order to create an opportunity for a clean shot or a free ball to attack deep with a through-pass.

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4)  DEVELOP STRONG SIDE (To attack behind the defence and to cross)
This requires combinations of two or more players. Sometimes it is the result of a player’s individual skill to win the duel (Arsenal), sometimes is comes from combined manoeuvres that allow a player to get open.

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5)  QUICK SOLUTION (Offensive Unpredictability)
The quick solution requires quick thinking and action. A throw-in is a time when it would seem you could catch your breath, but if the opposing team is quick, they can catch their adversaries off guard and take them by surprise. This is the result of an individual choice, but it stems from a collective way of thinking.

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What are the main difficulties when defending against a throw-in?


Since the ball is in his hands, the player has the opportunity to choose the timing, to accelerate, to slow down or even interrupt the momentum to look for the best solution.


A long lateral throw-in is difficult to defend because the trajectory of the ball is unusual. In fact, the ball start from a different height than the ground and there is a sudden drop in speed, giving the ball a lofting trajectory which makes things difficult, for example, for the goalkeeper.


This is a concept very similar to basketball, but we can borrow from it in this case.
On a throw-in, the player who wins the advanced position (in this case, static) has the advantage of dominating the space and, consequently, the ball. If we think of a pivot in the NBA, it makes it much easier to understand why.


The attacking player has the opportunity to occupy the rebound area ahead of time and set himself up in areas where the opposing team is structurally weak. Getting open preventively (see the Seville images), the midfielder behind and the opposite outside insertion that closes off development are difficult solutions to defend.


If you decide to mark man-to-man on a throw-in, you become a slave to the attackers’ movements and, if they are well organised, they can easily find a space from which to attack.

If you do not have the clear advantage (and therefore not sure that you can recover the ball and control it), a possible solution is to loosen up man-to-man marking and occupy the space in a more even way, trying not to lose your positions and your points of reference (ball, teammates, opponents), attacking the ball carrier later and aggressively only after he has controlled the ball.  Defensive Stalling.

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Francesco Farioli
Aspire Academy (Qatar Football Association), Senior Goalkeeper Coach, Video Match & Performance Analysis.