The Through ball
Through balls describe passes that are passed through defenders into space for a team mate to run onto. Typically a midfield player plays the ball in between say the defending team’s left back and the central defender. Through balls can be a straight pass to a player making a diagonal run, or a diagonal pass to a player making a straight run. Just watch Cazorla from Arsenal play this kind of pass for Theo Walcott to run onto as an example.
The biggest challenge when playing a through ball is to use the correct amount of pace on the ball or the correct strength on the pass. Often through balls are over hit and run through to the opposing goal keeper or out of play for a throw in or goal kick.
Through balls can be long driven passes (Ryan Giggs to Van Persie is a recent incredible example) and can also be deft little passes in the box (watch any FC Barcelona game to see many examples through a 90 minute game.)
So here are the key points for through balls:
Choose the angle of the pass. This is what makes the through ball work. Play the ball into space between two defenders at the correct angle to give your team mate every opportunity to burst into the space to collect the pass.
Choose the correct strength/pace/weight on the ball. Again this is the most difficult factor. This is affected not only by the pace of the defenders being passed through, but the pace of the receiving player and also the condition of the playing surface. If the grass is long and wet, it will require a harder hit pass than playing on a very short hard and dry field.
Decide if the pass is going to be played on the ground or in the air and then select the appropriate passing technique (side foot pass, lofted pass, chip etc.)
Learn to recognize the kind of pass each of your team mates prefer. Some like a pass well out in front of them so that all they need to do is to sprint onto it and shoot. Others prefer the ball played just in front of them so that they can quickly receive the ball and run with it or dribble with it.
Learn to read the defenders, find out which is their weaker side or weaker foot, learn which defenders are slower than others, use this information and exploit it by playing the through ball to cause them the most difficulty.
Try incorporating some kind of feint or trick to deceive the opposition. Ronaldhino is famous for this. He often looks one way and then plays the ball the other way, very effective and fun to watch!
Remember to communicate to your team mate your intention to play a through ball. There’s nothing worse than executing the perfectly weighted pass into a deadly position only to look up at the intended player who is stood there admiring the same pass wondering who was supposed to be running on the end of it!