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Why a long ball isn’t always a bad ball

davidscwnewWatching my Under-11s play at the weekend reminded me that a long ball can be really effective when it comes to creating space in midfield. Sound silly? Let me explain…

We were playing against a tough-tackling midfield-heavy outfit. It was near half-time and we hadn’t even produced a meaningful shot on goal. The opposition had been pressing us hard in midfield and our fast passing game was hitting a brick wall.

I could see my players were getting frustrated with being unable to get the ball through the midfield – that was, until one of my centre-backs decided to take the game into his own hands, and punted a ball over the midfield and behind the opposition defence. One of my forwards eagerly took it in his stride and found the back of the net – fantastic!

The opposition then had a problem in deciding how to defend against the type of ball that had caught them out. After a couple more lobs over the top, they had to pull players out of midfield. Reacting to that, we quickly reverted back to our fast passing game, and the success we know that brings.

The long ball isn’t pretty, but used tactically it can be very effective. And I have to admit I had nothing to do with instigating it – it was my players’ frustation that led to them formulating their own instinctive solution, and that’s something a coach always likes to see.

Players need to be aware of all sorts of things in matches and space is a certainly one of them. If they are struggling to find space then they need to do something to create it – individually, by losing markers, or as a unit, by stretching play.

After all, if you watch passing teams like Barcelona or Brazil you will see them pinging long passes forwards or sideways to lose the predictability of their set-up play. So even for the best in the world, a long ball maybe isn’t such a bad thing!

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A pressure and overload game that keeps on evolving

davidscwnew

This game is about pressing and dropping in tight areas of the pitch. It helps your players’ decision-making skills where overloads are concerned – their judgment of when to press and when to drop during a game, depending on numbers and position on the pitch.

Playing in exercises that have a game structure helps players understand training principles.

How to set it up:

  • This game requires cones and balls.
  • Use two 30×20 yards areas with a gap between of 10 to 20 yards. The bigger the gap, the fitter your players need to be.
  • Two teams – whites and greys – play 4v4 in each area, with a five-yard cone goal at each end but no keepers.

Getting started:

  • Start both 4v4s at the same time, instructing one team when to press high and when to drop back to cover lower down the pitch. Play for five minutes.
  • Now assign numbers – in both boxes whites are 1, 2, 3 and 4. Greys in both boxes are 5, 6, 7 and 8.
  • Returning to the game, when you call out a number the two players who have that number must switch pitches to create overload scenarios.
  • Play for a further five minutes.

Progressing the session:

The players now don’t have numbers, and can play in either box. If greys are winning in one box but losing in the other, players can switch to assist, leaving team mates behind to defend their lead. Play for 10 minutes.

Why this works:

As the players switch pitches they leave and join different overloads, adapting their game in the process. In the progression, the decision of when to support the other team is left to the players. The challenge is very match-like in that respect – when to press and when to drop.

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