Train Effective logo and link to the Train Effective app.
Apple App Store picture and link to the Train Effective app.
Google Play Store picture and link to the Train Effective app.
Two players on a soccer pitch in a 1v1 situation.

How off-the-ball movement makes you unstoppable

updated on February 16th 2023

5 mins read

Off-the-ball movement in football is an often overlooked yet crucial aspect of the game, with the potential to significantly impact a player's performance.

Whether you're an aspiring young player or a seasoned professional, understanding and mastering off-the-ball movement can elevate your game to new heights.

In this guide, we analyse the importance of off-the-ball movement, key principles, and practical tips to make you unstoppable on the pitch.

A. Importance of Off-the-Ball Movement

Off-the-ball movement refers to the strategic positioning and actions of players without possession of the ball. It plays a vital role in creating space, disrupting the opposition's defense, and generating scoring opportunities. Here's why off-the-ball movement is so important:

Creating Space:

Off-the-ball movement creates space for both the player in possession and their teammates. By making intelligent runs and positioning themselves effectively, players can open up passing lanes and create opportunities to receive the ball in dangerous areas.

Confusing Opponents:

Dynamic off-the-ball movement can confuse and disorientate defenders, making it harder for them to track their opponents and maintain defensive shape. Players who constantly change their positioning force defenders to make split-second decisions, increasing the likelihood of defensive errors.

Scoring Opportunities:

Off-the-ball movement is instrumental in creating goal-scoring opportunities. Whether it's making a well-timed run into the box or pulling defenders out of position to create gaps, intelligent movement can lead to clear-cut chances on goal.

B. Principles of Effective Off-the-Ball Movement

To excel in off-the-ball movement, players must adhere to certain principles:


Constantly scan the field to assess the position of teammates, opponents, and available space. Awareness of your surroundings allows you to make informed decisions and anticipate potential opportunities.


Timing is crucial in off-the-ball movement. Make your runs and adjustments at the right moment to exploit gaps in the defence and maximise your effectiveness.


Incorporate a variety of movements into your game to keep defenders guessing. Mix up your runs, change direction quickly, and utilise feints and decoy movements to create uncertainty among defenders.


Effective communication with teammates is essential in coordinating off-the-ball movement. Signal your intentions, communicate verbally or non-verbally, and develop an understanding of each other's playing styles to maximise your team chemistry.

Two players on a soccer pitch in a 1v1 situation.

C. Practical Tips for Improving Off-the-Ball Movement

Here are some practical tips to enhance your off-the-ball movement skills:

Study the Pros:

Analyse footage of top players known for their exceptional off-the-ball movement, such as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, or Kevin De Bruyne. Observe their positioning, runs, and decision-making to glean insights into effective off-the-ball strategies.

Practice Awareness Drills:

Engage in drills that focus on spatial awareness and scanning. Set up scenarios where you must constantly assess your surroundings and make quick decisions based on the movement of teammates and opponents.

Work on your Timing:

Practice making runs and adjustments with precise timing. Experiment with different tempos and angles to find the most effective approach in different situations.

Develop Communication Skills:

Foster communication skills both on and off the field. Build rapport with your teammates, develop a shared language of signals and gestures, and actively communicate during matches to coordinate movements and capitalize on opportunities.

Stay Dynamic:

Avoid predictability by staying dynamic and unpredictable in your movements. Constantly vary your runs, change direction abruptly, and adapt to the evolving dynamics of the game.

Off-the-ball movement is a nuanced yet essential aspect of football that can significantly influence the outcome of matches. By understanding the principles of effective off-the-ball movement and incorporating practical tips into your training regimen, you can elevate your game and become a more formidable presence on the field. Whether you're a striker, midfielder, or defender, mastering the art of off-the-ball movement will undoubtedly contribute to your success on the pitch.



Subscribe to our Newsletter

and receive weekly articles, announcements & training tips!

By subscribing you can also save 10% on our PRO & Academy Memberships!

By sharing your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy.


picture of a football player who got into a D1 college through Train Effective

“It’s helped me to get into a D1 college soccer program”

We use cookies to allow us to better understand how the site is used. By continuing to use this site, you consent to this policy. Click to learn more