​The concept of the third man

Jan. 5, 2018, 1:49 p.m.

​The concept of the third man

The concept of the third man is something that we listen to very often when we watch a match or listen to a soccer show. It is an aspect of the game that coaches and teams increasingly try to apply to their style of game.

This concept is driven by coaches like Pep Guardiola and Juanma Lillo, who in their teams practice the positional strategy, which consists on the following: by means of the possession of the ball, they attract the opposing players, in order to find free players isolated from the ball.

Here’s where this concept becomes important as we have to look for the free player of our opponent, or in other words, we have to play with the 'Third Man'. The objective is to create a positional superiority, which means, attract players by using the ball. We have to look for those remote players who play close to the the third player who suddenly appears without drawing the opponent’s attention.

Here is some practical advice as to how to put the ‘Third Man’ concept in practice. You will also find passes exercises that you can use in your training sessions to work this concept:

  • There has to be a good attack structure. The players must be placed at different altitude to be able to leave free space and to block the defense.
  • Formation of triangles. The players must have amplitude and must be prepared to perform in the next action.
  • The first player who has the ball has to make an important decision. If the player has spaces to progress he must move the ball to attract the opponent team and find free players to execute the pass.
  • When the first player has the ball, he has to be able to look far. With his pass, he has to break his opponents’ pressure lines and find remote players.
  • The receptor of this first pass has to move between lines in an interval between opposing players where it can quickly receive and play with the 'Third Man'. This pass should be very quick (1 or 2 contacts with the ball) so that the line that we have just overcame, does not have time to return.
  • The beneficiary of this action will be the 'Third Man' who must be able to see the space so it can take advantage and receive the ball.

Here is an example of a pass exercise to use in your training sessions:

  • The exercise begins when player (1), gives a pass for (2) who does a first touch with the third man (3) and then plays with (4).
  • The player (4) starts another action looking for the Third Man. It gives a pass for (5) who does a first touch with the third man (6) who controls and passes to (1) and starts again.
  • The players make a rotation to their right once they’ve passed the ball.