Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Get The Better Of Cheats In Six Steps

BY Alistair Phillips GUEST BLOGGER

Despite the best efforts of football’s governing bodies, some teams bend or even break the rules to give themselves an advantage. Here are some handy hints to help you get
the better of match day cheats…

STEP 1 RUN A CLEAN TEAM

Make sure your own team is squeaky clean and that all players understand the rules of the game and the expectations of players as stipulated in your FA’s Code of Conduct. If you have to take any form of action against a team that does turn out to be cheating, it will be taken much more seriously if you and your own players have a reputation for fair play.

STEP 2 STICK BY THE RULES

Prior to kick off present the opposing coach with your list of your registered players. By doing this you should encourage them to do the same thing and you will be able to check they are using only properly registered players. It also sets out your stall as a stickler for doing things the right way and as someone who holds the rules of the game in high esteem.

STEP 3 REMAIN DISCIPLINED

If a team you are due to face has a bit of a reputation or you have experienced problems when playing them in the past, remind your players of the need to remain disciplined at all times. Tell them not react to any heavy challenges or verbal provocation during the game but to inform you of any problems they have at half-time and at the end of the game.

STEP 4 CHECK WITH THE REF

When the referee arrives, make sure you introduce yourself and go through a few points briefly before the game. Ask that he punishes bad behaviour and foul play, perhaps letting slip you have had some problems with this in previous games. Then go to your opposing coach and relay the contents of your chat, making sure they are happy with this in advance.

STEP 5 DON’T INFLAME THINGS

Be vocal if you see any cheating during a game but in a way that will not inflame the situation. Remind your team to play to the whistle if a decision goes against you and try and establish eye contact with the referee when you do this. If things have got really bad, speak to the ref at half-time but remember to invite your opposite number into the conversation if you do so.

STEP 6 ALWAYS SHAKE HANDS

At the end of the game make sure your players shake hands with all opposing players. Listen out for any ‘under-thebreath’ remarks and, if you hear any, act on it by reporting what you hear to your opposing coach first. The match may be over but your opponents will remember this before you play them next time. Remember to congratulate your team for playing by the rules.



If there’s one course you should go on…

davidscwnewI firmly believe that if you want to develop the skills of individual players you need to start young and you need to do so at grassroots level. So this summer I decided to attend a number of courses based on skills coaching and individual excellence that would add to my knowledge of youth coaching. And this was the pick of the bunch.

Coerver Coaching’s Alf Galustian was the star skills educator at his Play Like Spain course at the London Soccer Dome – and it was like being in Spain on one of the hottest weekends of the year.

DCAlfWillie+spanish players1

Coerver’s course is based on the Spain national side and the success they have had playing with Spanish style and the phases of play that make up that style. Alf coached sessions where the emphasis was on individual ball mastery and how the development of the individual creates a winning team.

Alf said: “I have worked in Spain as a coach educator several times throughout my career. It is common knowledge that Spain are the current leading developers of football talent and they have implemented a style of play that is the envy of world football”.

I found it very interesting because last year I spent a lot of time  working on the phases of play used by Barcelona and why they have had so much success in the last few years with their style of possession play – I broke Barcelona style down to Possession/Patience/Penetration and did a presentation for the NSCAA on the Barcelona phases of play.

Alf broke down the Spain style into four phases of play

Protecting

Protecting the ball individually by coaching shielding techniques and as a group moving the ball quickly to keep it away from opponents.

Pressing

Individually and as a team. This is the Spanish way, lose the ball win it back by pressing high up the pitch giving teams no time to settle on the ball.

Probing

Running with the ball into space or finding the killer pass, with drills to develop individual and team skills

Penetration

The creative end product from the combination of the other three parts of the course – ­including creativity in the final third (the one thing English players find hard to do).

Coerver have been over in Spain recently and Scott Wright the UK director of Coerver told me: “We have had coaches from all levels attend our courses in Spain including La Liga clubs Real Madrid, Getafe, Real Mallorca and Rayo Vallacano as well as other coaches and ex-players from across Spain and Europe.”

Dave Clarke with Manuel Ojalvo

Dave Clarke with Manuel Ojalvo

So I felt I was in good company on the course and that there was a real Spanish aspect to the sessions. Added to that Coerver had brought former Athletico Madrid youngster Manuel Ojalvo, and former professional Diego Camacho, who has amassed more than 400 appearances in La Liga.

Manuel has a background in youth coaching and gave some great insights into what it was like to be a youth player in Spain. Diego doesn’t have the command of the English language that Manuel has but he managed to get across the frustrations of being coached in one position for all his time in youth football – defensive midfield. He has played against the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Lionel Messi, asked how he stopped Messi he shrugged and gave a chopping motion… it was fascinating stuff.

Both players are convinced the Coerver system can help grassroots in Spain – and of course in England.

Diego said (with Manuel acting as interpreter): “Every ex-professional player, no matter the level, who is thinking about moving into coaching should definitely study the Coerver System; I wish it had been available to me when I was a young, it would have made me a better player”.

Dave Clarke and Diego Camacho

Dave Clarke and Diego Camacho

Alf also introduced former ManchesterCity and Scotland defender Willie Donachie who is now development coach at Newcastle United. Again the advice was very interesting because Coerver are very much an attack minded in their tactics. Willie talks defence and used the example of Ian Rush the former Liverpool and Wales striker as an example of a forward whose first thought on losing the ball was to win it back. Alf too had praise for an attacker who likes to win the ball back – Lionel Messi “he is the best defender in the world”, said Alf.

Dave Clarke and Willie Donachie

Dave Clarke and Willie Donachie

Some great course material to take away in the form of a book that included the sessions Alf had put on during the weekend added to the overall success of the course.

It was a great way to spend a weekend in the summer and a very valuable one for my own personal development adding to my knowledge of Spanish football, giving me lots to take back to the teams that I coach. I suggest if you get the chance you should go on the course – it is a great learning experience.



Press and drop in tight areas

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.



Give your players targets like Barcelona

davidscwnewEven Barcelona give their players targets. Sergi Roberto spoke last season about how he stepped into Lionel Messi’s shoes in the first-team, all part of the club’s policy of giving youth players the chance to prove their worth whenever possible.

Now 21, he has spent a third of his life at Barça, having made his first team debut it 2010 and now in 2013/2014 he has finally been made an official member of the first team squad and is closer than ever to a regular spot in the first eleven.

Following Thiago Alcántara’s departure for Bayern Munich, FCB director of football Andoni Zubizarreta, sadi: “Thiago having gone, our choice is Sergi Roberto,” he said. Yet another example of the club’s philosophy of promoting local talent.

Roberto said: “It’s good that so many Barca B players are getting chances because it shows things are being done right, and that the first-team coaches have faith in the young players.

“We always go out with a special attitude when we play for the first-team – that’s why we try to do our very best for the whole match.”

They may be some of the best youth players in the world to but to get better even Barca’s players need to have their own targets. In my own teams I give targets. A target might be something as major as moving into a team at a higher level, but often they are much simpler – crossing, dribbling, heading – and every single player has his own.

I was explaining my ‘youth’ policy at a dinner party last week when one of the other guests on my table said, “But is it necessary? After all, the players are all the same age – why not just coach the same principles?

”What this guest didn’t understand was that within an age bracket 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 – they might be taller, struggling to cope with coordination; or smaller, finding they are brushed off the ball easily. So treating them like individuals rather than a group of 10-year-olds is actually really important.

You should try to give each of your players targets to meet during the season. By helping them to develop in different ways and try out new things, you may just find a gem you didn’t realise you had. So this week, why not try specific targets, such as “Anthony will try to head every ball that comes to him at head height”, or “instead of dribbling into the box every time, Simon will cross the ball”.

Get your players changing their natural approach to a situation and you may just be surprised how much quicker they develop!

Watch the video clip below of Sergi Roberto at Barcelona:



Advance the pass

davidscwnew

This advanced passing and moving exercise gets players thinking about where they are moving as they control and pass the ball. It helps young players perfect the weight and accuracy of the pass while they are on the move and looking around them for the player to pass to.

How to set it up

  • Set up an area 30 yards long by 20 yards, with a cone at each corner. Have a queue of players at the first cone and one player on the next three cones.

  • The game is continuous but because there is a lot of passing and movement, it relies on your players to listen and then perform the tasks using good technique, running and passing skills.

What you want to see in your players

  • Follow the steps in the diagram. Your players will have to concentrate as you talk them through the steps. Read the diagram carefully so you can see how the ball is moving around the cones.

  • Make sure your players are concentrating on all the aspects of the exercise – passing, controlling, awareness and moving with ease around the cones. Explain to them that the weight of the pass and accuracy of the pass are vital to the exercise.

  • When you have run the exercise for 10 minutes (or less if you are only using a few players) have a drinks break then tell your players you want to see them do it again at full speed for five minutes. They will either be brilliant at it or have a great deal of fun and laugher trying to be brilliant at it!

  • End with a small-sided game where you want to see some of the aspects the players have learned in the session.



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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Barcelona team playing basketball at training on Saturday



Simple practice to keep the ball – use the space

David ClarkeA lot of the basic exercises that teams work on in training involve passing to a team mate. So once players are proficient in that, it’s time to coach them in passing into space.

One of the great things about passing teams is that they know how to use space to maximum advantage, and the effects can be devastatingly good.

Even as individuals, the ability to anticipate where a team mate is moving to is an important part of player development – and one that initially takes a while to master. While this can be frustrating for coaches, rehearsing and practising using space will eventually work, so always persevere.

The size of the playing area is important in this practice, because the bigger that area the easier the task is. Therefore, start off in a space measuring 20×20 yards, then make it bigger or smaller depending on how your players cope.

 How to set it up:

• In your 20×20-yard area, mark a halfway line to create two boxes.

There are three attackers and two defenders.

• In one box it’s 1v1, while the other has two attackers and the remaining defender in it.

Getting started:

• The idea of the game is to have continuous 2v1s in each box. So for their team to retain possession, one of the attacking players has to move each time the ball changes boxes.

• Start the game in the box that contains two attackers. They must combine before passing to their team mate in the other box.

• As soon as the ball is passed, one of the two players must move into the other box to create a new 2v1 overload. All other players must remain in their designated box.

• While attackers must always be on the move, looking to create space for the pass, defenders are more cautious. They defend passively at first, so can only intercept or force an error, rather than tackle. If they do succeed in winning the ball, they simply put it out of play.

• Time to see how long the attackers can keep possession of the ball.

• Play for five minutes then swap teams around so each player has a go at both attacking and defending.

• Award extra points for feints or skills that create space for the pass.

 Developing the session:

• You can develop the session by instructing attackers to make three passes before sending the ball into the other box.

• Encourage attackers to produce a two-touch game so that they control and pass in one fluid movement.

• Allow defenders to tackle.

Why this works:

To retain possession of the ball, attackers must create space to pass into, at the same time sending the defender the wrong way. They need good skills and sound technique to prevent defenders from winning the ball. This is a skills workout that makes players think about moving, and how their movement creates space that the defender cannot defend. You should see signs of improvement in your players if this session is run over a handful of consecutive weeks.



How Celtic beat Barcelona – the counter attack

David ClarkeWhen Celtic beat Barcelona the amount of possession tells a very strange story. Barcelona had 89% of the ball. That gave Celtic very little chance of keeping them at bay let alone scoring two goals.

But they did score two goals, and they used the counter attack to great effect.

In youth football, constructing a good counter-attack often comes down to one team being quicker than the other – a case of who can control the ball and combine before the opposing team has managed to recover its position. The quick counter-attack requires players in a team to react with speed and concentration, and often the most important man will be your striker, who receives the ball under pressure from a defender.

He must control it and either shoot at goal himself, or be aware enough to lay it off into the path of a supporting attacker. Speed is vital because the opposition players will be recovering their positions at pace as, often, a lone defender holds up play. Using this exercise, you can replicate counter-attacks in training, perfecting the process using recognised support and teamwork, rather than just raw pace.

Counter-attacking talent is as much about routine and teamwork as it is the ability to control and pass. By rehearsing this move, attackers become accustomed to knowing the right areas to run into, and when to make their move.

Defenders must also practise getting back at pace, watching all the time the movement of their lone team-mate in order to prevent the attack. Counter-attacking talent is as much about routine and teamwork as it is the ability to control and pass. By rehearsing this move, attackers become accustomed to knowing the right areas to run into, and when to make their move. Defenders must also practise getting back at pace, watching all the time the movement of their lone team-mate in order to prevent the attack.

Practice makes perfect, and although workmanlike in training, the counter-attacking move can prove hugely valuable and visually brilliant when played out in a match situation.

How to set it up:

• Set up a playing area measuring 30×20 yards.

• There is an 8-yard zone at each end of the pitch. At the near end this is marked by cones across the pitch, while at the far end it’s best to use a pitch marking or cones on either side to denote the line.

• There is one goal, with a goalkeeper in place.

• Put two teams of three players in the near end zone – one acts as attacking support, the other as defending support.

• Place a striker in the middle area of the pitch, and a defender in the zone near the goal.

Getting started:

• The coach serves the ball out to the striker.

• As soon as that pass is played, the attacking support can move.

• When the lone attacker controls the ball, the defending support can move, as can the defender in the far end zone.

• Attackers must work together to move the ball forward and finish with a shot on goal.

• Replay the move so that players become comfortable in their roles, but going forward, experiment with different conditions to keep the counter-attacks challenging.

For instance, change the time between defenders and attackers moving by calling out “attack go” and “defence go”. Also try varying the number of players in the near end zone in order to favour either defence or attack. This also means you can involve all members of your squad at once. • Rotate players often so that everyone samples the demands of each role.

 



Creative attacking through tight defences

By David Clarke

David Clarke

Modern day football formations make it essential that midfielders and attackers become accustomed to playing in congested areas. If they can display the skills needed to produce short, sharp interchanges of play, the rewards in the final third can be impressive.

This session replicates the free-flowing passing football of Arsenal and Barcelona.

It will provide a platform to help your team find a way through opponents with flooded backlines, as well as those who attempt to break up play by deploying one or two holding midfield players.

Why this works

The session requires speedy and decisive passing over short distances. Opposition defenders are used as solid obstacles meaning attackers are encouraged to sidestep their man so as to find an angle for a pass.

The move should prove that the fewer touches each player takes, the quicker and more accurate the pass is likely to be, and with two attacking outlets, the last two defenders will need to make quick decisions as to which player to track.

Try to repeat this move until the attacking players can produce the quick interchanges using only one touch each.

Starting with an attacking triangle, you can adapt the attacking elements of this move to show the freedom of space that players can move into.

How to set it up

  • Four attackers and four defenders are required for the session to work – in the picture above, the attackers are labelled A, B, C and D.

  • The activity is carried out in the final third of the field using the goal and a goalkeeper in position.

  • Players A, B, C and D form a triangular shape.

  • The four defenders are positioned in the shape of an upside-down letter "Y", spread apart from each other but close to attacking players. They must hold shape and allow the attackers to work the angles.

Getting started

  • Player A starts with the ball. He must make an angle to evade the first defender and pass to player B, before making a run towards goal.

  • Player B lays a similar ball to player C, who after laying a pass to player D makes his own forward run.

  • Player D controls the ball and look for runs from A and C, then he lays a pass off to his chosen man.

  • In this instance, player A receives the pass. Making sure to stay onside, he fires at goal with a first-time shot.

  • Player C must continue his run in order to take advantage of any loose balls or rebounds.

  • Vary passing shapes but always ensure a centralised midfield move breaks out into a double-headed attack.




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