Over the past decades, we have seen ample evidence of the long throw-in and its effectiveness. Most notably, Rory Delap’s bullet throws long proved a useful piece of weaponry for Stoke City. Launching howitzers into the box towards tall and powerful players turned out to be a winning strategy.
The success of Delap and Stoke proves that football need not be complicated. Find someone to lob the ball into the box and have your strongest players shove around defenders and the goalkeeper. Since you can’t be offside from a throw-in, you can bring up your strongest players to cause mayhem in the opposing box.
This strategy of pumping the ball into the box towards a waiting assortment of strong, powerful and brave players is something I like to call the pandemonium philosophy. To explain it, I will quote the movie “300”.
“They shout and curse, stabbing wildly; more brawlers than warriors. They make a wondrous mess of things.”
The big boys create a mess in the penalty area and we get quite a few goals from such antics. Just to showcase my point, here are three match clips.
We’ll leave the disturbing metamorphosis of the wing-backs into a human trebuchet out of the equation. Seriously, this shouldn’t be happening. The flight of the ball is batshit insane and realistically, any half-decent professional goalie should be able to claim these floated crosses.
In the example above, the ball flies towards a cluster of players in the penalty area. In the clump of players, Zlatan is unable to get to the ball. With just about every defender assembled around Zlatan and friends, the defensive integrity is completely messed up. Franck Kessié is left wide open to tap in the rebound, with a bit of help from an appallingly slow De Gea.
The example above is far more common. The ball is lobbed into the box and the big and bulky forward bullies his way towards the ball and nods it past a perplexed goalkeeper. A very straightforward approach to scoring goals, about as refined as a caveman wooing a woman, but it’s an effective one.
Attributes-wise, I tend to look beyond the logical attributes of Heading, Jumping Reach and Strength to determine who this powerful header is. I also quite like players with high values for Aggression and Bravery, players who really get stuck in and aren’t afraid to either get hurt or hurt someone else.
I have even found that smaller players but with high values for Aggression and Bravery tend to be more effective, as they attack the ball and batter through defenders to get into a position where they can cause trouble. At first glance, that may seem counterintuitive but on the other hand, it makes sense that you look beyond sheer physical power and try to look at the mental attributes required.
The final benefit I manage to reap from this setup is the amount of penalties it causes. Somehow, the defenders seem utterly clueless in dealing with these flyballs and they just run into players or trip them up even when the ball is nowhere near. VAR fucking loves that shit and we have scored seven or eight additional goals pro season thanks to these silly fouls.
So what does this setup look like? It is as straightforward as the eventual execution. Simplicity says it all. A basic setup and select the right players for the right positions. I call it bully-ball as it is all about bullying defenders around.
The basis of the throw-ins is to offer multiple options for the throw-in taker in two crescent shapes. The first one is the offensive shape, which lists the players who are supposed to cause mayhem, while the second crescent shape consists of the first line of defence; the players recycling possession and smothering counter-attacks.
The player lurking at the near post is our main aerial threat, our main bully. He should be strong and powerful, preferably blessed with a healthy dose of aggression and bravery as well.
The player marking the keeper is our obstructor. He is supposed to run interference on the goalkeeper, just get in his way and be a nuisance without actually committing a foul. Aerial prowess is a bonus here, strength, bravery and aggression are far more important.
The players attacking the near post and lurking at the far post are my brawlers. They are often not the tallest players in my squad but they are the most aggressive and bravest. They will dive in and pop up, challenge for loose balls and generally run around the box causing mayhem.
The players in the secondary crescent are there to recycle possession. It helps if they can shoot the ball with some force as well. I have selected my central defenders in these positions so they can track back faster if we fail to win back possession. It makes us less vulnerable on the break. It also helps that my central defenders are not my strongest headers.
So to sum it up, these are the various roles I use, where I position them and which attributes you should look at.
|Bully||Lurk near post||Heading, Jumping reach, Strength, Aggression, Bravery|
|Obstructor||Mark keeper||Strength, Bravery, Aggression|
|Brawlers||Attack near post, Lurk far post||Aggression, Bravery|
|Recycling||Lurk outside of area, Attack from the edge of the box||Decisions, Anticipation|