Flank is a term used in soccer to describe the area of the field that is located on either side of the pitch, just beyond the touchline. Most Americans call this part of the field, “the sidelines”.
This is the area where most wingers operate. Wingers are responsible for moving the ball up and down the flank, and crossing the ball into the penalty area for their teammates to score. Or, cutting in to score themselves if there’s an opportunity to do so.
Also, the flank is used by fullbacks, who are responsible for defending against opposing left and right wings and preventing them from advancing the ball toward the goal.
Obviously, the flank is an important (but sometimes underutilized) area of the field that players use to create scoring chances and defend.
In this article, we’ll dive into some positioning and tactics along the sideline area.
Where is Flank on a Soccer Field?
The flank in soccer is the area on either side of the field, just beyond the touchline. Here is a graphic of the area…
In soccer, the flank is divided into two parts, the attacking flank, and the defensive flank.
The attacking flank is the area where the team with the ball is trying to create scoring opportunities.
The defensive flank is the area where (you guessed it) the team without the ball is trying to prevent the other team from creating scoring opportunities.
But, you probably already knew that by now! Let’s explore some of the responsibilities and tactics along the sideline.
Soccer Responsibilities in the Flank?
As a soccer player positioned on either sideline, your responsibilities will vary depending on your team’s tactics and the specific game situation. However, some common responsibilities of a flank player include:
- Providing width: You should stay wide on the flank, stretching the field and creating space for your teammates to move into.
- Creating scoring opportunities: You should look for opportunities to cross the ball into the box or make runs into the box to receive crosses from your teammates.
- Defending: You should help your team defend by tracking back to cover the opposing team’s wingers and fullbacks.
- Supporting the midfield: You should help your team maintain possession and build up attacks by providing an outlet for your teammates to pass to and making overlapping runs.
By understanding your responsibilities as a flank player and positioning yourself correctly on the field, you can become a valuable asset to your team and make a significant impact on the game.
Tactics in the Flanks
As we mentioned previously, the flank can be used to attack, defend, or transition the ball from one side of the field to the other.
What are Some Common Flank Tactics?
There are several common flank tactics that teams use to gain an advantage over their opponents. Here are a few examples:
- Overlapping Runs: This tactic involves a defender or midfielder making a run down the flank and then passing the ball to a teammate who is further up the field. The teammate can then cross the ball into the box or take a shot on goal.
- Cut-Ins: This tactic involves a player on the flank cutting inside towards the center of the field. This can create space for other players to make runs or take shots on goal.
- Switching the Play: This tactic involves moving the ball from one flank to the other in order to create space and confuse the defense. This can be done through long passes or short, quick passes.
How to Defend Against Flank Attacks?
Defending against flank attacks requires good communication and teamwork. Here are a few tips to help you defend against flank attacks:
- Marking: Make sure to mark the opposing player on the flank closely and prevent them from making runs down the field.
- Covering: If the opposing team does manage to get the ball down the flank, make sure to have a teammate ready to cover for you in case you get beat. For example, a right back may need to move up to slow down an offensive wing player going down the sideline. The center-back or midfielder should cover for the right-back.
- Pressing: If the opposing player on the flank has the ball, try to pressure them into making a mistake or passing the ball back.
Now that you understand what the term “flank” means in soccer, you can better appreciate the importance of these positions on the field.
Flank or sideline players are responsible for creating opportunities for their team to score, by moving the ball up the sidelines and crossing it into the box.
They also play a crucial role in defending against opposing attacks, by marking their opponents and preventing them from getting past.
If you’re a coach reading this, it’s important to recognize the value of flank players and to train your team accordingly. Make sure your players understand their roles and responsibilities on the field and give them the tools they need to succeed.
Offensively, encourage them to attack with the ball and anticipate where their teammates will be going.
Defensively, urge your players to stand their ground and make strong tackles.
By mastering these positions and not overcomplicating it, you can help put your team in opportunistic positions!