On crosses

This talks about something I’ve (I think?) been banging on about for ages.  Crossing can be a really inefficient way to attack.horror+of+dracula+end

I think the part missing here is that wide play in attack is essential.  Somehow you need to find space to attack in, otherwise your shots will be blocked, charged down, etc.


I remember years ago I went to see England at the Old Wembley.  Steve Stone was playing.  We were sitting in the right back area and got quite angry at how slow the full-back (Gary Neville) was to shuffle across.  Now, this anger was based on ignorance – Neville was deliberately leaving this space vacant so he could remain compact in the middle of the pitch with his co-members of the back four.  But I remained stunned at how much space the team was leaving in wide areas.  Of course, when danger arrived the team would close down the space – they were fine – but the point here is that in closing this space they were leaving space somewhere else.

And that’s what you want as an attacking team.  You have to create space.  Defensive teams want to minimise space, so they actively want you to try to attack an area where there are most people.  That might mean funnelling teams into the crowded area on the edge of the area, or it might mean something else: either way, the game’s about space and controlling this space.

This is one area Fulham have been awful at since Hodgson/Hughes.  In the relegation season the team’s let opponents do more or less what they wanted to, while doing nothing much going the other way in mitigation.   Anyway, my point here is that in the wrong hands, crossing can be a sort of act of last resort.

Under Hodgson the team work in tandem: so if we did cross there would be a point to it.  I remember the goal we scored against Reading in the Great Escape season:

Roy said that they’d been working on crossing in the week, and sure enough, it worked. But what Roy meant was that they’d have worked on pre-determined moves, how to create space wide, how to make runs that drag defenders away, how to get on the end of things.  Crossing should be part of a pre-ordained plan of attack, not something you do because it’s a bit crowded in the middle and you haven’t thought of something else.

2 thoughts on “On crosses

  1. Out of curiosity, was this post inspired by our signing of the most prolific crosser of the last Championship season, or is that just a coincidence?

  2. Well there are loopy, crosses from advanced midfield and others from the byline that pick out a man. Stats unavailable, but evidence of eyes says the former are innocuous, the latter dangerous. Corners are crosses too — poorly taken, or whipped in with pace, in which event they cause havoc when directed at us anyway.

    In general the defensive side of this topic matters more right now, given that our goals-for tally was almost adequate, but vastly too many were conceded. As a spectator one had the impression that teams were forever probing behind the full-backs — sometimes putting in crosses, sometimes balls pulled back…and that we were targetted and vulnerable in both ways. I check this out with whoscored.com via four teams, deliberately selected.

    Over the season, 31% of our own attacking play was down the middle third of the pitch, therefore not the flanks. The equivalent for Bournemouth, Watford, Birmingham, Rotherham was: 42%, 44%, 41%, 43%, i.e. similar to each other but fairly different to us.

    However, in their 2 games against Fulham, they attacked down the central third this amount: Bourn 22% then 26% …Watf 30% then 24%….Bhm 25% then 26%….Roth 33% then 25%. So against us they attacked down the flanks much more than usual Much more.

    Nothing special shows up for the two promoted teams in terms of crosses, either over the season or when facing us (4% of all passes, our own quota). The other two
    were already prone to slightly higher cross percentages (6% and 5%), but the second time they faced us, this rose very markedly to 9.3% and 8.8%. Both those matches, at The Cottage, were drawn. Attendees will remember the havoc caused in our defence by the crossing particularly of Cotterill and (hooray) Pringle.

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