How to Tackle in Soccer

A soccer tackle implemented correctly can be an extremely valuable asset to have. Many soccer players shy away from going in for the challenge, while some players really look forward to the physical side of the game. The art of tackling seems to have faded away in the modern game – the focus is now more on proper technique for dribbling in soccer, the ability to pass a soccer ball correctly, kicking a soccer ball, and receiving. As recently as the mid 1990′s, the game of soccer was a lot more physical. Go back even further to the 1970′s and the 1980′s and you would expect to see two-footed tackles made regularly during a game – it was the norm at the time, and there was very little action taken against the tackler.

Nowadays, player safety is of prime importance. Referees are under strict instruction that any tackle with malicious intent should be punished – this however is open to the interpretation of the officials. One ref may blow his whistle while another may let play continue – consistency is critical for match officials. The past couple of weeks has seen some unwanted attention surrounding tackling in the English Premier League. Newcastle United’s Hatem Ben Arfa suffered a double break in his left leg after a tackle from Manchester City’s Nigel De Jong – the injury suffered by Ben Arfa required surgery and the player is out for six months, a devastating outcome for club and player. De Jong however is yet to see any retribution from the tackle – the referee deemed it a fair one.

Soccer Tackling: The Correct Technique

The key to a soccer tackle is about timing. Deciding on whether to use a slide-tackle, or a block tackle depends on the situation.

  • Is the surface wet and slippy?
  • Can you win the ball if you stay on your feet?
  • If you miss the tackle are there other players on your team around you?
  • Is tackling the right decision? Can you delay the player instead?
  • What’s the risk?a soccer tackle

The most common mistake soccer players make when learning about soccer tackling is diving in too quickly. If you want to know how to become a soccer player, you need to eliminate the basic mistakes. Time and time again soccer players who are eager to win the ball dive in or ‘stab’ at the ball. The attacking player just knocks the ball forward and leaves the defender in his wake. As we’ve already mentioned, it’s not so much about the actual tackle, but rather the timing of the tackle.

If you’re playing travel, high-school, or college level soccer, you’ve probably heard your coach mention the following tackling technique when defending:

  • Defenders should approach the player with the ball quickly, but then slow down when they get within a few feet. Approach too quickly and the attacking player just knocks the ball forward. Approach too slowly and the attacking player will have too much time on the ball.
  • A balanced stance such as ‘surfing position’ should be taken up once close to the player with the ball. This gives the defending player options and avoids the embarrassing nutmeg through the legs if he approaches squarely.
  • The defending player should keep the attacking player at arms length. This ensures that the correct distance is kept between ball and player, and doesn’t get beaten with one move.

When is the right time to make a soccer tackle? When the opposing player touches the ball – they have the least amount of control at this point. Just like you would lock your ankle when passing and striking a soccer ball, you should do the same when tackling. Otherwise, you could be in for a serious injury. A block tackle uses the inside of your foot (which is locked), and you put your weight through the tackle. A poke tackle is performed when you want to steal the ball away from a player, as opposed to winning a 50/50 ball.

Slide Tackling

slide tackling in soccer
Slide tackling is all about risk. Miss the ball and you can’t recover quick enough. Always weigh up the situation before diving in.

When slide tackling it’s important to actually challenge for the ball. Don’t go sliding in with less than a fifty percent chance of winning the ball. If the other player is clever, he may see the tackle coming, push the pull forwards making it look like you timed your slide badly. It’s difficult to stop momentum once you start to slide.

When sliding, you should do so on the leg closest to the ball, and try and get the ball with the foot furthest away from the ball. Try and anticipate the movement of the player.

Due to the nature of the sliding tackle in soccer, referees can have a tendency to blow for a foul. Never slide in from behind, that’s an automatic free-kick. If the ball is in and around the penalty area players may be more inclined to go to ground. In this situation, stay on your feet. Giving away needless free-kicks will frustrate your coach and put your team under pressure. Coaches are looking for players with a good ‘soccer brain’. Players who make the right decisions win soccer games, with and without the ball.