Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Recover to stop the counter attack

davidscwnew

By David Clarke

Every coach has been in the situation where his team loses the ball, the opposition race towards goal, yet his own players stand and watch the inevitable conclusion unfold.

For younger kids especially, the idea of heading back to mop up the mess is generally taken as being “someone else’s job”, and even the most organised teams’ defenders can find themselves alone at the back with the opposition haring towards them.

So encouraging your players to get back and help defend is hugely valuable. It will add to a player’s game, enhance team spirit and may be worth quite a few points come the end of the season.

How to set it up:

  • Use a standard pitch for a warm-up sprint drill.
  • Mark out an area measuring 35 yards long by 10 yards wide with a goal at one end – this will form the main part of the session.

Getting started:

  • Start first with a sprint drill to teach defenders, who are tracking back, the key areas they should be running to.
  • Players should run as fast as possible and take the shortest route towards the danger area. Players on the wing should take a line back towards the nearest goal post, while those in the centre of the pitch should run towards the penalty spot.
  • Now move to your 35×10 yards area.
  • Three strikers attack against one defender and a goalkeeper.
  • A second defender is 10 yards behind the play. His aim is to make it back to the ball to help prevent a goal.
  • The middle striker is a server and cannot move. He plays the ball to either of the two forwards. As soon as he does, play begins and the recovering defender can move.
  • The lone defender must hold up the strikers until the second defender arrives. The recovering player must make one of four decisions. 1) Challenge for the ball 2) Cover the defender 3) Mark an opponent 4) Mark space between the opponent and goal.
  • When a move comes to an end, play restarts with the serving attacker.

Why this works:

The move combines pace and awareness because players must concentrate on recovering by moving quickly, then supporting the other defenders.

Another crucial part of this is in making sure that once your players have made it back, they don’t turn off mentally and subsequently fail to complete the defending task.

It can be all too easy to get back and think that the job is done, when really it has only just started!



Coach yourself a Carles Puyol – Barcelona legend

davidscwnew

By David Clarke

Barcelona’s captain Carles Puyol is known for his intense commitment and strength as a defender. According to Barcelona’s head doctor, Puyol is “the strongest, who has the quickest reactions, and who has the most explosive strength”.

Love him or loathe him, he is the sort of player who gives everything for the cause, who prides himself on being alert to wave after wave of attacking threats in and around the box. He is also the sort of player who is not afraid to put his body in harm’s way. And he’ll grab you the odd goal or two.

Ensuring that your players are back on their feet after a good tackle or clearance and ready to combat a second wave of danger is essential.

To keep them alive and reactive, here’s a defensive move that asks for quick reactions and tireless commitment to the cause.

How to set it up:

  • Create a playing area measuring 10×10 yards.

  • The drill requires four servers and one designated defender.

  • Each server starts on a different side, with a ball.

  • Place your defender in the middle – his job is to react to a different serve from each player around the area. After each serve, his task is to keep the ball within the box.

Getting started:

  • Starting on the left-hand side, server 3 throws the ball up for server 1 to head into the middle. The defender tries to stop the ball from going out of bounds.

  • Immediately, server 2 passes a ball towards the opposite line. The defender must now react, running to slide and stop the ball from crossing the line.

  • Now server 3 dribbles onto the pitch and attempts to get to the line opposite. The defender tries to stop him.

  • Finally, server 4 throws the ball over the defender’s head and attempts to run around him to win it back. The defender’s task is to shield the ball, letting it run over the line. If the ball stops dead before the line, he can then kick it clear to the left or the right.

  • Now rotate so that a different player acts as the defender.

Why this works:

Adopting the mindset that a defender’s job is rarely complete is absolutely vital if players are to counter all of the threats on a match day. After each phase of this drill, the defender needs to be alert to a new test, reacting quickly to each ball and clearing the danger.

Each test offers a new skill, and provides you with a quick-fire snapshot of where the defender’s game can be improved.



Control the game without the ball

davidscwnew

An important characteristic of modern teams is their ability to control the game even when they haven’t got the ball. The whole team plays a part in this tactic with the intention of forcing the opposition into awkward situations.

The formation succeeds by covering all avenues of opposition attack, meaning that play is stifled. It relies on pressing as soon as the opposition has the ball. The defending team always keeps the action in front of them and tries to stop any balls through the centre or in behind.

This tactic requires good fitness from players because it is hard work. And for pressing to work, the team must prevent any switches of play as this will give overload initiatives to attackers. But performed well, the game rewards are significant.

How to set it up:

  • Set up an area measuring 30×20 yards. Make three 10-yard zones across the width of the pitch.

  • You will need bibs, cones, balls and goals.

  • The players in the middle zone must prevent other teams passing through them.

  • This featured session uses nine players split into groups of three (one group in each area), but it will work with any equal denominations.

  • No balls are allowed over head height.

  • Players are restricted to two touches.

Getting started:

  • Play starts with either end zone team. Players pass amongst themselves before threading a ball through to the team in the opposite end zone.

  • For the first two minutes, the middle team is not allowed to move any player out of its zone.

  • After two minutes, allow one player from the middle zone to go forward into the an end zone to press the ball. Play this for three minutes.

  • If the ball is intercepted, play restarts at the other end.

  • Rotate play so that each team fulfils defensive duties in the middle.

Now try this:

  • Remove the zones and add two goals, with a keeper in each. Also add a halfway line.

  • Keep the teams in threes but this time the middle team attacks one end, then turns and attacks the other.

  • The outer two teams must defend the area and clear the ball using the pressing technique.

  • If a goal is scored, play restarts with the middle group and they attack in the opposite direction. If a tackle is made, the defenders’ reward is to now switch places with the middle group, thus becoming the attackers.

Why this works:

Pressing the ball is a great tactic for winning back possession. This activity shows the value in doing that, compared to standing off waiting to intercept. Pressing means opposition players rarely settle on the ball and mistakes can be forced, either through poor control or a rushed pass.



Running from deep – whole-part-whole session

davidscwnew

Many defenders and midfielders think that once the ball has been fed to a striker, their job is done. But they should be supporting the front men by running past them and into unmarked attacking areas.

So here’s a session that helps players understand the value of supporting play and passing into dangerous areas of the pitch. It uses "whole-part-whole" coaching – namely going straight into a game, then breaking things down to show players coaching detail, then back to the game.

How to play it

  • Set up as shown in the pictures above – this is a 6v6 game (including keepers).

  • One player from each team stays in the zone in front of the goal – the target man, who can only use one or two-touch. He cannot score and can only assist others.

Whole

  • The game starts with teams looking to score in the opponent’s goal.

  • Using peeled, overlapping or blindside runs, players must create space to receive the ball then shoot at goal.

  • Play for 10 minutes to allow players to get a feel for the game.

Part

  • Change the game now to focus on the movement from deep of the supporting players.

  • Now all players start in the same half, with the defending team’s target man moved back to the halfway line.

  • The attacking team combines to feed a pass to its target man before attacking the goal.

  • If the defending team turns over possession, it can attack the other goal by passing to its target player on the halfway line. Players have only three touches before they must shoot but their players cannot be tackled.

  • Play for five attacks then switch teams over so both teams experience the same conditions.

Whole

  • Replay the first part again. This time, you will find players automatically making more runs from deep.

Technique and tactics

  • Players have to make supporting runs because the target man can only play the ball back to a team mate to create goalscoring chances.

  • Runs from deep involve movement to lose a player, to reach a position for the target player to pas to them, to use good technique in order to control or shoot at goal.

  • Players should use different types of passes to find the target player and must support from deep with a wide variety of well-timed and well-angled runs.



Score with both feet

davidscwnew

The best attackers can shoot with either foot… is this true? Well attackers that can shoot with either foot have more opportunities to score so the individual will be much better placed if they can score with the foot that naturally takes the ball towards goal.

The complete attacker should be able to at least direct the ball on target with both feet even if one has a more powerful shot than the other.

Young players instinctively go for their preferred foot so you need to get them shooting with both of them or they will come to rely on one foot rather than the other.

I often see attackers, even professional attackers, making awkward shapes with their bodies so they can use one foot rather than the one they should use. Once again it’s down to the amount of practice they do and how they practise.

I like this great exercise  to get my players shooting with both feet:

How to set it up

Use an area 40 yards by 30 yards with two goals and two goalkeepers.

How to play it

  1. The shooter makes a long pass to the coach and runs to receive the ball back.
  2. The player now shoots with one foot.
  3. After shooting, the player reacts and runs to receive a second ball from another server and shoots with the other foot.

How to rotate it

After completing the circuit, the player becomes a server for the next shooter.




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