Is A Throw-in More Valuable Than a Penalty?
Although we have seen a greater focus applied to throw-ins in the last few years, most recognisably Thomas Gronnemark, who was appointed as a throw-in coach by Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool. The skill has rarely had focus, and at times when it has had focus, it has just involved a player who is able to throw the ball significantly further in to the box than the average player. But are we as coaches missing an opportunity here, with penalties being regularly practiced, but the average team only receiving a penalty once every four games, are we missing an opportunity when in that time the average team would have had 192 throw-ins
It was claimed by Thomas Gronnemark that a throw-in coach could add 15 goals per season to a club, this is more than the average team have penalties in a complete season. But is there any evidence to support this ? in 2008-09 Rory Delap the notorious throw-in specialist created 53 shots on goal, scoring eight of those. Other clubs such as Midtjylland have had success using throw-ins, taking the Europa League by storm providing a challenge to the opponent that they are not used to.
Within the last 10 years, it has been claimed that teams spend less than 15 Minutes per training week on throw-ins, they are often seen as a natural moment in the game, and a high opportunity for transition when you are out of possession.
But what is the coaching influence and how can this be adapted. With as much as 33% of goals coming from set-pieces in some leagues it is astonishing really to think that throw-ins have still not received the attention their repetitive quantities represent. This is from both an attacking and defensive point of view. How often do we as coaches see the opponent squeeze our team in to our own defensive space and look to transition and steal possession. But what if our player was able to throw the ball 20 yards further, and able to take us from a defensive position to an offensive position in one move, breaking the opponents pressure?
It has been a common tactic of Midjylland as previously mentioned, with Kian Hansen having as many as 10 assists per season directly from throw-ins (Not including secondary Assists). But what from a coaching point of view to have a positive influence on these moments, is it simple or does it require specialist training?
The throw-in can be broken down in to many different areas the rules, the technique, the tactics and the players you have. The rule play a significantly important role, this is because the throw-in is the only free pass you will receive all game. It can go in any direction, with no offside and can be taken again if it does come in to play. This means it is a situation that is fully controllable by the team in possession. This unique situation means we are able to dictate the rules to influence our control.
Another key area is technique, as some coaches online have tried to share, the technique to a throw-in is key, it involves a hinge at the hips, a flexion in the spine and good arm speed and a low release point to ensure the ball travels far but flat to make it difficult for defenders and goal keepers to defend against because of the trajectory. This technique does vary dependent on the outcome you want, so when training throw-ins we must start with why? But more importantly this is probably one of very very few closed skills that exist within football that allow us to train this in isolated, unopposed practices where we can experiment and expose technique.
As mentioned in the above paragraph, stating with Why is key, its always important. When devising the technique and exploring the benefits of the rules, we must first understand why we want to dominate the throw, is it to receive controlled possession and expose the opponent on the opposite side, are we going to use throw-ins as a means to remove the pressure applied to us by the opponent, are we looking to put the ball in the opponents penalty box and force the goalkeeper to make a decision. What ever our choice, we must be comfortable with the why!
Finally the important of our players, when deciding on a technique or a tactic we must consider our own players, do we have physically dominant players who are going to be a threat in the penalty box, yes or no? This will have huge influence on our success in the box. Do we have fast players who can counter attack quickly, Yes or No? This will also influence our decisions.
As we can see throw-ins are clearly a far more complex situation that we probably ever assumed, but do they offer some of the greatest opportunity to us as coaches and organisations stretching to find that extra 1%. Do we sometimes spend so much time looking to find something outside of the box, that we forget to check within it? This should provide some food for through on throw-ins and the opportunity they provide to us.