The Sideways Game: Playing with a Half Turn in Football!


Football, often referred to as the beautiful game, relies heavily on the ability of players to adapt to ever-changing situations on the field. While forwards may showcase their goal-scoring prowess and defenders demonstrate their tenacity, there is a distinct yet often overlooked element of the game that can greatly enhance a player’s performance: playing with a half turn. This article explores how football can be considered a “sideways game” and highlights the importance of adopting a half-turn approach in both attacking and defensive situations.

Understanding the Sideways Game

In football, the term “sideways game” refers to the idea that players frequently receive and release the ball using a sideways orientation rather than facing directly forward or backward. By positioning themselves with a half turn, players gain a 360-degree view of the field, allowing for quick decision-making, improved spatial awareness, and better control over the game’s dynamic pace.

This is an essential skill to learn if you want to be considered an elite football player. If you can’t see the game how can you expect to play it effectively? Playing on the half turn allows football players to play 2 to 3 moves ahead which in turn allows them to play quicker.

The top players in football are masters of the half turn and it’s one of the main reasons that they are so effective in their position. Players such as Martin Ƙdegaard, frenkie de jong and James Maddison are all excellent examples of players who play on the half term with great effect and I recommend watching players such as the ones above to gain insight on how to effectively execute the skill.

Attacking with a Half Turn

In the attacking aspect of the game, players who adopt a half-turn approach gain a significant advantage over their opponents. By positioning themselves sideways when receiving the ball, attackers can scan the field, assess the position of defenders, and identify potential passing options or open spaces to exploit. This method allows for enhanced peripheral vision, enabling attackers to make split-second decisions and create opportunities for their team.

Furthermore, playing with a half-turn allows attackers to face the opponents’ goal, keeping them in constant threat and forcing defenders to stay alert. Even with their backs to the goal, attackers can still maintain a clear understanding of their surroundings, enabling them to make quick turns, take on opponents, or pass the ball creatively, significantly increasing their effectiveness.

A common problem I find with youth players is that they receive with their chest showing towards the ball too often. This forces them to take extra touches on the ball in order to turn and move forward. Encourage your players from early to play on the half the turn teaching them good habits from the beginning.

Defending with a Half Turn

While it may not be as evident in defensive situations, adopting a half-turn approach offers defenders numerous benefits. By positioning themselves sideways when they anticipate receiving the ball or engaging in a one-on-one duel, defenders gain a tactical advantage. This stance allows them to keep a close eye on their opponents, monitor their movements, and quickly react to potential threats.

Additionally, playing on the half turn as a defender provides a greater range of vision, encompassing both their marker and the other attackers in the vicinity. By simultaneously observing the player they are marking and their peripheral opponents, defenders can anticipate passes, track runs, and intercept the ball effectively. This technique becomes even more crucial in defensive transitions, where quick decisions and situational awareness significantly impact a team’s ability to regain possession and neutralize attacking threats.

Developing the Half-Turn Technique

To master the half-turn technique, players must focus on several fundamental aspects: body positioning, scanning the field, and practicing in training scenarios. Coaches and trainers play a critical role by emphasizing the importance of a half turn in their players’ development, implementing practices and exercises to improve their ability to receive and release the ball while maintaining an advantageous sideways position.

For me, nothing beats training in realistic scenarios that mirrors what actually happens in the game. Creating problem solving situations that help encourage players to use the half turn I find are more effective then mundane drills that require players to wait for their ‘turn’ or follow constant instructions from the coach.

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The sessions are from Mark Higginbotham, a coach with a range of qualifications from many different football authorities such as the English Football Association, NSCAA, National Federation of High Schools and the AYSO.
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Football, undoubtedly a dynamic and ever-evolving game, rewards players who can adapt and make swift and informed decisions. Embracing the concept of a “sideways game” by employing the half-turn approach allows players, both in attack and defence, to gain better control over the tempo and flow of the match. By unlocking a broader range of vision and spatial awareness, athletes who adopt a sideways position enhance their ability to create scoring opportunities while maintaining defensive solidity. The half-turn technique ultimately serves as a crucial skill for players seeking to excel in the world of football.

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