Understanding Principles of Play in Football - Width and Depth

The principles of play are the fundamental strategies that a team uses to effectively adapt to any tactical situation during a game. They consist of concepts that coaches use to focus their team’s objectives and to evaluate the performance of their players on the field. Understanding the basic principles of play also helps coaches guide and appreciate the movement and decision-making of their players.

In order to make our athletes understand the importance of Principles of Play in football, we recently conducted a webinar on this topic, as part of our Online Education Programme. The session, carried out by Saksham Kakkar, Coach Under 13, Reliance Foundation Young Champs, detailed out the aspects of width and depth and how their correct implementation proves to be a boon for the teams.

Saksham introduced the topic by touching upon why attacking principles of play carry so much importance by stating that:

  • They help players improve their performance
  • They are aimed at coaches coaching players aged 9 to encourage all-round development
  • They help players understand the game better

In relation to the above points, he mentioned the 5 most important attacking principles of play in football:

  • Creating space (Width)
  • Mobility
  • Creativity
  • Support
  • Penetration

As this webinar focused specifically on the principles of ‘width’ and ‘depth’, he explained the concept of width by stating that:

  • If we look at the pitch from the vertical view (behind the goalposts), the area on the sides of the pitch is known as the width
  • In simple terms, it’s the area closest to the throw-in line
  • Teams use it create opportunities since opposition’s defence formation is usually centrally aligned

In addition to that, Saksham also explained why teams use it and how they are benefited from its correct incorporation.


  • It is used mainly to stretch the opposition in order to create chances in the middle
  • Used to progress around the opponent
  • To trouble the defenders so that they are not able to cover ground
  • It works against the defensive principles of play
  • It enables the teams to press in wide areas in case of ball loss        


  • By circulating the ball
  • Building up with clipped passes
  • Long diagonal passes to switch
  • Through overloads
  • Through late/diagonal runs

Saksham then explained the details about depth through the below-mentioned points:

  • If we look at the pitch from a horizontal view (bench), the spaces closest to the goals are known as depth
  • Depth changes in relation to the opponents, teammates, and space
  • It is structurally used by 1, 2, 3, or 4 strikers or the back 4+6/8

As the webinar was coming towards a conclusion, Saksham comprehensively explained why and how teams effectively use the principle of depth.


  • To stretch the pitch vertically (near your own goal) so you can attract opponents to create superiority behind them/between lines
  • This won’t be possible if you don’t stretch the pitch vertically near the opponent’s goal
  • To have an outlet pass in the case of attacking transition
  • In order to gain more possession and more control
  • To have greater security in the defensive transition


  • Through a long goal kick
  • Short build up to attract opponents
  • Clipped/grounded passes into midfield
  • Long passes into or onto strikers
  • Backward pass to reset
  • Spins, decoy, and blindside runs

In the end, it can be said that players should have a good understanding of basic attacking principles and should be able to transfer these principles into practice on the pitch. When in possession of the ball, all players become attackers (with exception of the goalkeeper) regardless of their position on the pitch.

In case of queries or if you have any suggestions for webinar topics, please feel free to connect with us on Instagram/Facebook or email us at info@rfyouthsports.com

Understanding Principles of Play in Football - Width and Depth

Related News