Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Even Carlos Tevez misses sometimes

dave clarkeWhen Yaya Toure sprinted half the length of the pitch for Manchester City, 15 minutes into their English Premier League match at Sunderland, few expected what would happen next.

Toure’s outstanding pass presented Carlos Tevez with a goal as wide as the mouth of the river Tyne. Tevez scooped it over.

Okay so every week we all see players miss, even those as good as Tevez. The amazing thing about it, though, was the time and space Tevez gave himself.

In youth games we have all witnessed the miscued shot that goes out for a throw in or an airkick as the player takes their eye off with the defender bearing down on them. But Tevez had all the time in the world to score and it was probably that miss which put the team off and left them 1-0 down at the end.

So next time your young striker is in tears at missing a chance tell him the tale of Carlos Tevez and the amazing miss at Sunderland.



My five best attacking centre-backs

dave clarkeHow many professional teams won at the weekend due to a centre-back scoring from a corner? They do it so often because they are the players who practice outjumping their opponents when they are defending – hence they can do it when they are attacking.

A lot of youth teams keep their centre-backs covering on the half way line, rather than see them get up into the penalty area for a corner in case the defending team wins the ball and makes a quick break. But you don’t have to be so cautious, other players can cover, it doesn’t always have to be your centre-back.

When you are coaching attacking situations make sure you use your centre-backs to attack the ball as well as your strikers. They can learn a lot from positional play when they are attacking so they can understand how to defend the same situation.

My five top centre-backs to use as an example to your players are:

  • Gerard Piquet, Barcelona
  • Nemanja Vidic, Manchester United
  • Carles Puyol, Barcelona
  • Lucio, Inter Milan
  • Thomas Vermaelen, Arsenal

Watch the clip below of Gerard Piquet scoring for Barcelona:



Long passes open up tired defences

When play is down the centre of the pitch, clubs are often criticized for playing direct long passes to the attackers. However if the pass is a good one it can create quick goal scoring opportunities.

A long pass is different to a long ball and if the opposition defence opens up and the attacker sees the chance to run into space in view of their team mates then they should do it.

Playing long passes doesn’t mean you’ve sold out and are playing the long ball game, they mean just that they are playing a passing game over a greater distance.

Long passes can be counter attacks that catch out the opposition especially when they are getting tired towards half-time or full-time. It does require good skills from the passer and the the player receiving the ball, and may require the receiver to adapt to the bounce of the ball or choice of left and right foot.

It is worth practicing with your players because they can use the long pass as an option in attack when they are finding it difficult to pass the ball up the pitch.

On my blog I have posted a diagram and drill to practice the long pass.

Try this exercise
Use 6 players for this drill to get accurate long passes.

  • Strike the bottom half of the ball and hit an imaginary vertical line that bisects the ball.
  • Strike with the laces.
  • Keep the ankle firm, extend the kicking foot.
  • Lean back slightly.
  • Sweep through and across the ball.
  • How to set it up
    In an area approx 10×40 yards, all the players stand in two lines at opposite ends and take it in turns to hit lofted passes. Switch to weaker foot.

    Advance it by putting one player in each of the middle two zones. The player at the end side foots a pass along the ground to the centre of the playing area, where the nearest player returns it on their second touch. The player at the end controls it, then hits a lofted pass to the far side over the heads of both players in the middle. The sequence is repeated at the opposite end.

    Watch this long pass from Tottenham’s Tom Huddlestone:



    The diamond united

    dave clarkeIt is interesting to speculate how Roberto Mancini will galvanise the galactico-style squad he is assembling at Manchester City.

    Reports suggest he is going to copy the formation used by Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea which helped them win the Premier League last season. And what a diamond formation it could be.

    This is how I would play the diamond formation at City…

    World Cup winner David Silva will be the tip of the diamond, the outstanding Yaya Toure at the base, with Gareth Barry and latest recruit James Milner left and right.

    Now that looks a strong set up to me and a great use of the diamond midfield.

    Although Silva made his name at Valencia on the left, I’ve seen enough of him to know he can operate just behind an attacking pair – with lots to choose from lets say Carlos Tevez and Emmanuel Adebayor.

    Study this clip of a goal by David Silva for Spain against Poland. Watch how the support is in front and at the sides of the player on the ball and watch how Silva at the tip of the move continues his run and scores the goal.



    Young strikers should take second chances

    dave clarkeA big part of being a striker is being in the right place at the right time, following up shots to put any rebounds in the back of the net. In a youth game spectacular goals are a rarity – but rebounds are plentiful.

    When I think about players following up to put away rebounds I think of Pippo Inzaghi when he was in his pomp at AC Milan. He was always in the right place at the right time to pop the ball into the back of the net when it had been parried by a goalkeeper.

    I like my strikers to follow any shots however feeble they are because young goalkeepers often push the ball away rather than risk catching it giving predatory strikers a second chance to score a goal.

    So when you are coaching strikers make sure they keep on their toes once the shot has been sent goalwards and are ready for any rebounds coming their way.

    Watch this clip of Inzaghi and see how he is always in the right place at the right time.

    Soccer shooting drills



    Pass and support to create goals

    When players pass the ball it is vital to their team’s success that they don’t just pass the ball then think their job is over. Support play will help your team keep possession of the ball and create goal-scoring chances. There’s a lot more to build up play than simply making good passes.It is often the pass into space that a player runs on to which creates the scoring opportunity.

    This needs accuracy, good weight and timing of passes and runs. Supporting runs make life easier for your player on the ball, which means your team will have more chance of scoring goals.

    Watch this goal from Landon Donovan and see how passing and support creates the chance to score then try the exercise below it to help you coach support play:

    dave clarke

    How to set up the soccer drill

    Mark out an area around 10 metres x 20 metres and start with three players in this soccer drill.

    In the first part of the diagram, attacker A is in possession of the ball.

    Defender B holds his position and allows A to pass.

    Player C makes the overlap, creating the opportunity to pass past the defender.

    Note: If you are playing offsides make sure player A has timed the pass so that C is not beyond B, and in an offside position, when the ball arrives.

    Get your players to read the defender

    B can set off towards C once A has passed the ball. One of the skills to pick up is the timing of the pass and the accuracy.
    A has to has to be decisive with a crisp pass for C. Note that in the second diagram B is much more active.

    Advance the soccer (football drill)

    In the second soccer drill, player C plays the ball into A, who has to control, and pass back into the path of player C who has run on to support his pass. Player B meanwhile has come out of the corner and must try and win the ball, so C’s pass must be sharp, A must control, turn quickly and get his pass away to player C’s run. Player C must then hold off player B’s challenge
    and get past the end line.

    Soccer drill’s third phase

    The third phase makes a much more demanding run from player C – the overlapping player. The move takes place like an attacking corner. Player A takes a short corner to player B, who controls the ball and shields it from defender D. Player A moves away into the field, while player C overlaps around the outside of B who lays the ball off to C in a dangerous attacking position, running into the penalty area.



    Is Yaya Toure the best midfielder in the world?

    Manchester City are paying a lot of money to have Yaya Toure in their team, but is he worth it? A player that has played for Barcelona and been courted by Chelsea and Arsenal must have something.

    He’s been kept out of the Barcelona side a few times as Sergio Busquets has come into the reckoning. But apart from being a very strong midfielder who wins the ball and closes all the midfield gaps, when he does get the ball he can surge into space and beat players on his way to goal.

    He’s an exciting prospect for Manchester City fans and I for one am looking forward to seeing him in the English Premiership. How Barcelona will cope without his surging pace will also be interesting to see.

    To me he’s the real deal, let me know what you think. Check out the video below and tell me he’s not going to bring an added dimension to Manchester City’s game…



    Running with the ball – like Theo Walcott

    There is no finer sight whether you’re watching junior soccer or professionals to see a player running at with the ball under control and destroying the other team.

    This is why you shouldn’t tell your players to always pass the ball when they have created space. If they run into that space they are threatening the opposition causing them to react in a different way. Running at a back four means the defenders are caught between going to the runner with the ball and the other attackers moving into dangerous positions.

    If they are pressed and can’t beat the player then they can pass and the result will be another player running into space.

    Very difficult to defend against. It’s running with the ball and facing 1v1 decisions on the way to goal. I they can run with the ball the whole way they will have split the opposition defence open and have a good chance of scoring.

    Give your players the freedom to run with the ball and don’t tell them off if they lose it!

    Watch Theo Walcott do it below:



    The rise of the defensive midfielder

    One of the things that stood out for me at the World Cup in South Africa is the importance of the modern defensive midfielder.The rise of the technically limited “reducer” has led to players like Nigel De Jong of Holland taking up prominent roles in elite teams.

    The modern defensive midfielder first came to light through Claude Makélele. Jose Mourinho used him in the position and his role in Chelsea’s success can be seen as the jumping point from where other managers took up the idea.
    In terms of tactics Makélelé’s role was to break up attacks through timely tackles or interceptions in the gap between midfield and attack. However he would also be required to effectively cover the full-backs when they pressed higher up the pitch to support the forwards. It it is very effective against modern teams that use quick counter attacks.

    However, it has been condemned by pundits for promoting players with a big physical presence over skilful ones.

    This is something that is very evident in youth teams – players that are big and physical they are more likely to play. It is these teams that spark the debate over the role of defensive midfielders in the modern game and cause worries over the development of young players.

    There are exceptions – look at Jack Rodwell in the Everton team, a player with the physical capacity to play at the heart of a Premiership midfield or defence he also has sublime technical skill and has the talent to develop into a true box-to-box midfielder in the mould of Roy Keane or Patrick Vieira in their prime.

    In a world where teams like Spain, Germany, Barcelona or Arsenal have the ability to turn defense into swift attack the deep defensive midfielder is a must. In youth teams they will not face that kind of swift attack the “reducer” is less effective, especially if they are keeping a more skilful player out of the team.

    Remember the way De Jong stopped Xabi Alonso in the World Cup Final in South Africa? Watch it below…



    Attacking headers: How Ronaldo makes space

    Space is vital to an attacker, they need to get into it and keep the defender out of it. This is especially true of an attacking header where the attacker has to get into the space either by wrong footing the defender or to get across and into the space in front of the defender.

    It is that movement away from, then back into, the space that wrong foots the defender.

    In the Champions League Final of 2008 between Manchester United and Chelsea Cristiano Ronaldo had been giving Chelsea’s Michael Essien a hard time, but his movement to score the goal was a great example of the art of attacking.

    Ronaldo fed Essien a dummy then stepped back and soared in the air to head the ball into the net. Essien had carried on running and lost Ronaldo – he didn’t even jump for the ball he was so far off it.

    Simple movements at the right time can create lots of space to create goal scoring chances, it works with young players too.

    Watch how he does it in the highlights from the game below:




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