Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

All you need is speed and a good first touch…

dave clarkeOne of the sensations in the English leagues at the moment is another product of the Southampton youth system – Alex Chamberlain. Fast, furious and a fabulous touch this boy looks the real thing.

I’ve always been a bit envious of the teams I play that can just launch a long ball to their winger who with a bit of speed and a good first touch can score goals at will. But in youth matches the fast players can look really good without actually be a good player. First touch and speed make a huge difference at this level.

As a coach you can allow yourself to get caught out once by this sort of tactic but you shouldn’t let it happen once you’ve identified the tactic. Getting players to sit deep to counter the tactic is one way of stopping the player running through unchallenged to the goal.

A player running at speed is highly dangerous to both your team and your health! It can frighten the life out of your goalkeeper so the rest of the team have to make sure there is no room to run through the team and towards the goal.

On my blog I have posted a compilation of some of Chamberlain’s goals, check them out and think about how you would play against a player like this

Dealing with the ‘younger’ players in your squad

dave clarkeI was explaining my ‘youth’ policy for my younger teams at a dinner party last week when one of the other guests on my table said: “But your players are all the same age!”

What another coach would understand, but this guest didn’t, is that within an age bracket, say U10s, there can be up to a year difference between some of the players.

And that makes a huge difference in youth teams. some players will grow quicker than others and be taller and struggle to cope with coordination, while the younger ones find they are brushed off the ball easily.

You should try and give each one of your players targets to meet during the season and also give them as much time playing matches as the older ones in your squad. By helping them to develop you may just find a gem that you didn’t realise you had – and a lot of coaches never discover that the players they leave on the bench every week could make a difference to their teams.

You could give players targets at each session or match, like “I will try to head every ball that comes to me at head height”, or “instead of dribbling into the box every time I will cross the ball”. You must make a note of this at the end of the session or match and talk to your player about it.

It is not unlike the top teams who have to bring young players through to the first team. At Chelsea Carlo Ancelotti is keen to bring youth through and that is hard when you have such a strong first team. However Ancelotti reckons he has found a star player through his youth experiments. “In six months we have found a fantastic young player in Josh McEachran. Others from the academy are close to playing for us. We hope to find more.”

 Soccer Skills and Drills

My top five players at the Asian Cup Finals

Here are the top five players who stand out at the AFC Asian Cup Finals at Qatar 2011. I’m sure scouts from America and Europe have them in their sights.

Yusef Ahmed, aged 22

Forward, Al Sadd and Qatar
His first goal in Iran’s second game against China was brilliant, controlled the ball on his thigh volleyed into the net… love that one. Was a threat against Kuwait and Japan and looks like he will be one of the country’s best players in years to come. Watch the goal below.

Odil Ahmedov, aged 23
Midfielder, Pakhtakor and Uzbekistan
Fired Uzbekistan to the semis against Australia.
Boy this guy can hit the ball… watch his superb long range strike in opening game against Qatar and again against China. Pivotal role in bossing the central of the park.

Matt McKay, aged 27
Midfielder, Brisbane Roar and Australia
Stands out by being the only Australian based player Socceroos. Helped them get through to the semi-finals for the first time with his high-tempo passing game in the middle of the park or at left fullback role. Key player on the road to Brazil 2014.

Yoon Bit-Garam
Midfielder, Gyeongnam FC and Korea Republic
In only his third game at Doha – all as a substitute – he scored the winner to take Korea through to the last four. Voted the K-League Rookie of the Year last season he is seen as one of Korea Republic’s best youth talents.

Shinji Kagawa, aged 21
Forward, Borussia Dortmund and Japan
Player of the match performance in their 3-2 quarter-final triumph over Qatar and a stunning debut Bundesliga return of eight goals in just 17 appearances with Borussia Dortmund. Watch him score below.

 Soccer Skills and Drills

Technique: choosing the right tools

dave clarkeWhen a young player is faced with choices it is always a great feeling when you see them make the right ones.

In training this week I was coaching the correct technique for the stepover. I’m sure you’ve witnessed some amazing attempts at what players think is the correct one for a stepover. “But my dad showed me how it works…” is often the response when I get my players to change their technique.

During the match that followed two of my players were using the technique to great effect and one of them used it to create space to score a goal. The players loved it and began to realise when they could use it.

The same is true for situations where your players need to beat a defender, by turning with a flick turn or spin. And again, when you see your players in action and they use a technique you have coached them, you feel like it’s all worth it!

Watch the clip below of three goal for Roma against Cagliari in the Italilan Serie A. The first one scored by Francesco Totti is a penalty, well taken high above the keeper, the second is from Simone Perrotta who reacts fantastically well to rebound off the Cagliari goalkeeper, and the third was created by a control and turn with a through ball to Jeremy Menez who uses a stepover to beat the goalkeeper.

Three goals all very different but all use techniques and concentration to get the goal.

Roberto Carlos scores from a corner

Check this out

 Soccer Skills and Drills

Spectacular goals are match winners

dave clarkeOn Saturday the opposition goalkeeper took a goalkick and my attacking midfielder volleyed it straight back into the net. Spectacular goals do a lot for your teams’ confidence – and for the confidence of the opposition. Moral boosting for your team but strength sapping for your opponents.

There was a collective gasp from the parents followed by a roar of approval – it’s hard to stay calm when a goal like that goes in. I felt for the opposition coach whose team had done so well to keep my attackers at bay – there was no stopping this shot.

When spectacular goals go in it always seems to be for the team that wins. In the match between Villarreal and Osasuna in January midfielder Ruben ‘Cani’ Garcia produced a David Beckham-style goal.

A spectacular lob from just inside Osasuna’s half by Cani, 29, helped Villarreal to a 4-2 victory over Osasuna.

“You attempt these goals but they only rarely come off. I saw the keeper slightly off his line and luckily it turned out well,” said the Villarreal man.

On the first day of the English Premier League season in 1996 David Beckham helped himself become a household name with a similar goal against Wimbledon – interestingly enough he did so in shoes custom-made for Charlie Miller of Glasgow Rangers – the name “Charlie” was embroidered on boots – which had been given to Beckham by Adidas by mistake.

Watch the goals below:

Let your players showboat to win the 1v1s

davidscwnewI know it can be irritating sometimes when your team is playing well but everything is undone by a player who tries something different and ends up losing the ball – a backheel for instance.

However, you should let your players try out these little acts of showboating because if they can use them at the right time it could be the thing that lets them win the 1v1s.

This is all about the player making the right decision when to use a clever bit of skill, but with some players the only way they will learn when to do it and when not to do it, is to get it wrong during a game.

So if a player tries to dribble out of their own penalty area rather than pass it out and they lose the ball the team suffers and what seemed like a good idea to the player is clearly seen to have been a bad idea.

Let the players try out skills they have learnt at home from watching the professionals on TV and don’t be cross when they make the wrong decisions. Players who learn when the right time to use clever skills is will probably end up being match winners for your team.

In the clip below watch Gotze, Alves, Bale and Lewandowski use showboating skills to win the 1v1s.

Dealing with a sulking substitute and his parents

dave clarkeSubstitutes seem to be causing a lot of trouble to the coaches I have spoken to during our recent monthly meetings. What I hope to see is that every player starts a certain number of games and that it is not the same few players who start on the subs bench every match.

At my club we have worked it so that we have three teams in our age groups with one team playing friendlies and the other two teams matches. In this way we can spread players out and make sure everyone is starting matches to give each player a chance of developing during the season.

The problem is however much we try to make sure players are not always made sub there are still some players (and their parents) who do not like being substituted during the game.

This week we were playing on a heavy pitch and I wanted to change players as they got tired. So at half time I explain to one of our more advanced dribblers that I wanted him to sit out for the first five minutes of the second half and to watch how the defenders were sitting deep. I wanted him to work out for himself how he could exploit that situation.

“That’s a strange decision,” I heard his dad say. The player himself responding to his father’s sentiments threw himself to the floor in a big sulk. Not helping the team at all as the other players went over to see what was wrong. Players must realise from an early age that they must learn to accept substitutions with good spirit. So I kept him off for 10 minutes and explained to him and his father that the team is important and each individual player must help their team mates.

Managing substitutes is hard, and managing parents harder, but if you are fair with players over the course of a season then everyone should be more than happy.

If you go to my blog you can see an example of Wayne Rooney being taken off and his reaction to it. You can also see the substitution of Luis Figo when he played his last game for Inter Milan.

 Soccer Skills and Drills

Why demonstrations work for a coach

dave clarkeShow them how to do it… that is one of the best bits of advise I was given when I first started coaching. Visual coaching is vital to getting across to your players what it is you want them to do.

If you find it difficult to show players yourself get a helper or one of your players to do it for you. You will find if you do too much talking the players will lose concentration and half of them won’t have a clue what you are going on about.

Consider the art of shielding the ball. How do you put it into words? Okay so you can explain that you keep your body between your opponent and the ball and use the foot furthest away from the opponent. But while you can visualise what you are saying young players will have trouble doing it.

Watch the clip below of Roy Keane, former Ipswich Town manager and Manchester Utd and Irish footballer, showing young players how to shield the ball. The players can see exactly what they should be doing so have no problem when it comes to doing it themselves.

The visual art is an excellent tool for the coach.

 Soccer Skills and Drills

Is going to the toilet a goal celebration?

dave clarkeMy striker has got a new goal celebration. He’s always been one for diving full length on his stomach when he scores, but he has changed it. At the weekend he ran to the corner flag after scoring a goal and used the corner flag like a microphone… not only that the other players pretended to be the audience jumping up and down in front of him. He’s obviously been practising that one with his friends!

Goal celebrations have become much more complicated since the days of putting both arms in the air when they scored. You only have to watch the goals from any of the top leagues to see babies being cradled, robotic dancing, boot worship and so on.

The week after the England cricket team retained the Ashes in Australia, ex-LIverpool forward Robbie Fowler celebrated scoring a goal for Perth Glory by holding up a replica of the Ashes trophy.

getty images
Photo source: Matt Roberts, Getty Images

If any of you have players with special goal celebrations let me know, meanwhile you can check out the clips below and see my two favourites at the moment, “the toilet” and “the salmon dance”.


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