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3 Attacking Patterns in Final Third

This week on the MSC Breakdown, we look at attacking patterns with a tactical base. From a session design perspective, it feels that there has been a certain evolution with attacking patterns. Years ago, they used to be presented as simple crossing and finishing exercises but we have seen them evolve as tactics have become more prevalent in the game today. Coaches will always differ in their ‘final third philosophy’ with some opting for more freedom than others but in this week’s breakdown, we look at how you can implement movement, relationships, and even an element of decision making in your final third patterns. 

Below is a YouTube breakdown detailing three different patterns and we also explain the organization of each one. If you enjoy this content, please subscribe to our MSC YouTube page.

Below is the breakdown of all three exercises in the video.

Exercise One

This is an effective exercise is you are looking for more freedom and movement in the final third. Four players are positioned in an expansive diamond shape (cones positioned 15-20 yards from one another) with a front three and an attacking midfielder (#10). The ball starts at one of the wide attackers, who plays into the #10 and then sprints into the center to support the fourth pass underneath the center forward. After every pass, the attackers are sprinting into a new position and ideally it results in a wide cross with two players in the box and one attacker on the edge of the box. The next set then works the other way. This is a really good exercise to encourage players to take up new positions in the attacking area of the pitch, and the pattern also challenges players to do it at maximum speed. 

Exercise Two

This patterns is designed for a 4-4-2 or a 3-5-2, with an emphasis on the relationship between the front two players. The ball is played wide by the central midfielder and this is the trigger for the front two to begin their movement. The ‘strong side’ forward checks to the ball, while the ‘weak side’ forward sprints across the line to occupy the space that the forward had just left. As the ball is played into the second forwards run, this movement is likely to unbalance the opposition defensive line and open space in the middle, which is where the runners are now positioned to finish the attack. The pattern is then repeated on the other side. 

Exercise Three

This exercise provides a good blend between opposed and unopposed work, this time from a 4-3-3 perspective. The initial pattern involves the midfielders playing at angles and passing the ball forward into one of the wide attackers. As the attacking midfielder support and the defenders are now active, the exercise now becomes a 4v2 to goal. There is also an emphasis on decision making here, if the defenders sprint out to the wide players, space can open up for the central players to sprint into and create an opportunity. If the defenders choose to stay more compact, you can get the attacking midfielder into the box and then take advantage of the numerical overload from a crossing situation. The midfielders can all rotate in this so each gets an opportunity to join the attack.

If you would like to follow up with Gary Curneen about personal consultation, please email him at:

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