How To Be More Aggressive in Soccer (Without Fouling)

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Soccer is a contact sport, so there’s room for some aggression. But if you go over the top, the referee will call a foul. The trick is to get to maximum aggression without conceding a free kick or a penalty.

It’s not easy, but we’re here to help you out.

Some key points we’ll look at today are:

  • Aggressive play
  • Hustling for the ball
  • Timing tackles
LONDON, ENGLAND FEBRUARY 26, 2020 Thiago Alcantara of Bayern and Ross Barkley of Chelsea pictured during the 2019.20 UEFA Champions League Round of 16 game Chelsea FC vs. Bayern Munich at Stamford Bridge
LONDON, ENGLAND FEBRUARY 26, 2020 Thiago Alcantara of Bayern and Ross Barkley of Chelsea pictured during the 2019.20 UEFA Champions League Round of 16 game Chelsea FC vs. Bayern Munich at Stamford Bridge

How to be aggressive in soccer without fouling

In soccer, you can be aggressive without fouling in these 5 ways:

  1. Shoulder charge
  2. Put pressure on the ball
  3. Get to the ball first
  4. Mark players closely
  5. Time your tackles

Let’s look at these 5 areas more closely and outline ways you can be aggressive without fouling.

Female soccer players shoulder to shoulder

1. Shoulder charge

The shoulder charge (or shoulder tackle) is a great way to be aggressive in soccer without fouling. But you can’t just charge in any way you like. There’s a technique to an aggressive shoulder charge that minimizes your chances of fouling.

You’ll want to ensure your shoulder makes contact with the opposing player’s shoulder.

Don’t charge into their back or chest because the referee will give a foul.

Knock your shoulder against theirs with enough force to nudge them off the ball. It won’t take as much force as you might think. Getting them off balance will give you a great chance of winning the ball without fouling.

Now, we should say that it’s up to the referee to give a foul. But the chance of a foul is low if you do a shoulder charge the right way and with just enough aggression.

Remember that you don’t want to go over the top because that can lead to dangerous play. Then, the referee will give a foul against you.

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Check out this shoulder charge drill to get an idea of the technique:

This drill shows a forward trying to create space to shoot on goal. But a defender can use the same technique to get space to get the ball away from attackers.

Notice in the drill that the player didn’t raise his elbow. That makes sure he’s charging with the shoulder. Otherwise, it’d be a foul.

You can practice this with your friends at home or in training. The more you practice it, the better you’ll get.

Kwadwo Asamoah players of Juventus
Kwadwo Asamoah players of Juventus

2. Put pressure on the ball

To put pressure on the ball means getting close to the player with the ball. You don’t want to give them too much space. They can pick out a pass or shoot on goal if they have space.

It’s aggressive play to get close to the player with the ball. You don’t even have to touch them.

Just make sure you make things more difficult for them.

So, when you see a player with the ball, be aggressive and get close to them. If they’re running with the ball, run beside them and shield your goal.

If they stop with the ball, stay close in front of them and block them from moving further or passing.

You don’t have to tackle.

That’s important to highlight because sometimes people think to be aggressive you have to tackle hard. But it’s not like that at all.

You can play aggressively just by making yourself a pest to the opposing players.

Close them down and don’t give them space. That is, put pressure on the ball.

If you play with that type of aggression, coaches will notice. They love seeing players working hard like that.

Tow players challenging for a for a ball.KHARKIV UKRAINE JUNE 08 Netherlands vs Denmark in action during football match in European soccer league 01 June 08 2012 in Kharkov Ukraine ○ Soccer Blade

3. Get to the ball first

In a scenario where no player has the ball, it’s aggressive play to try your best to get to the ball first. This could involve running super hard. Or you could be hustling with another player to get the ball.

Maybe you and another player are running shoulder-to-shoulder. Trying your hardest to get to the ball first is aggressive play.

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Now, maybe the other player is a faster runner than you and gets to the ball first. But that doesn’t matter because you tried your hardest. You were aggressive, and you hustled to get to the ball.

And guess what, after you put in that effort, you’re close to the ball. You’re in a great position to do precisely what we discussed in the previous section: put pressure on the ball.

So, get to the ball first, or try your best. You don’t have to push or pull the other player and give away a foul. Hustle with aggression and run for the ball like it’s yours.

That type of play leaves you in a great position, even if you don’t get the ball first.

Three players challenging for the soccer ball e1620676408217 ○ Soccer Blade

4. Mark players closely

This is very similar to putting pressure on the ball, but you can do it when the player doesn’t have the ball. Sometimes it’s called man-marking.

Imagine the opposing team has a corner kick. They’ll kick the ball into the 18-yard box.

You can be aggressive by marking a player closely.

Stay close to them and don’t let them out of your sight. This will put pressure on them and make things very difficult for them.

You can stay within touching distance of them. Or you can even put your chest against their back and keep them off balance.

Just don’t grab them with your hands or pull their jersey. That’ll be too aggressive, and the referee will give a foul.

Marking players closely and not giving them space is aggressive play without fouling.

And it doesn’t have to be done only on corner kicks. Check out the video below of Marcelo Bielsa’s Athletic Bilbao man-to-man marking Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona. It’s an aggressive style of play (the video quality is very poor, but it’s a great example).

Bielsa Man Marking

5. Time your tackles

Tackling is an aggressive part of soccer, especially sliding tackles, but time them right and you won’t foul. You don’t want to lunge in at the first chance. Be patient and choose the right time.

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If you wait for the right moment, you can come in with an aggressive tackle without fouling.

The sliding tackle is the most aggressive one in soccer. And you want to time it well because there’s a high chance of a foul if you don’t. It’s not easy for beginners, but with practice, you’ll be timing your sliding tackles well in no time.

That’s a great way to be aggressive in soccer without fouling.

Watch this video on how to slide tackle to get started.

Soccer Drills: How to Slide Tackle with Shannon Boxx

Those are our 5 ways to be aggressive in soccer without fouling. If you follow these, you can play with more aggression without hearing the referee’s whistle too often. Just remember not to go over the top.

Soccer Analyst and Publisher at Soccer Blade | Soccer Blade | + posts

Joel is a seasoned soccer journalist and analyst with many years of experience in the field. Joel specializes in game analysis, player profiles, transfer news, and has a keen eye for the tactical nuances of the game. He played at various levels in the game and coached teams - he is happy to share his insight with you.

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Playing Soccer FAQ

Is soccer a contact sport?

While tackling with excessive force, charging, and striking opponents are illegal in soccer, players often overstep the boundaries. Although this generally results in appropriate sanctions being awarded, it doesn’t prevent significant contact from occurring.

What do soccer teams do at halftime?

At halftime, soccer teams exit the field. They return to their bench area. For youth teams, they may not have a locker room. However, many college and professional teams do head back to the locker room. 
The break is an opportunity for teams to collect themselves. They may talk about what is going well in the game, and what they need to resolve.

How do I join a soccer team?

Attend trials for schools, teams in your local area. If no trials are due, then contact the coach to see if you can join a practice. Search for local soccer teams and try a few to see if it suits your ability and it also needs to be a place that you would enjoy. Scholarships are also available depending on your age, ability, and location. 

Why does a soccer ball curve?

The angle and speed with which the soccer player’s boot strikes the ball determine how far the ball travels. The ball won’t curve or spin if the player hits it right in the middle with their foot following through in a completely straight line.

What are some injuries players get when playing soccer? 

The most common knee and ankle injuries are mild to severe sprains, strains, and tears. Other less common knee and ankle injuries include dislocations and fractures.

What are some ways to pass a soccer ball?

+ Inside foot: Using the area above and inside of the big toe.
+ Outside foot: This creates a spin on the ball to swerve the ball around players
+ The Laces: A powerful volley can be performed with a straight leg swing.
+ Spin: If the toes get underneath the ball with some force you create a backspin.
+ Back heel: Connect the heel with the ball to reverse play.
+ Header: Often used for clearing and shooting, but can be a creative passing move.
+ Body: Use any part of the body to deflect the ball into the path you desire.

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