Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Goalkeepers can counter attack

davidscwnew

Goalkeepers like nothing better than having the ball in their hands, running to the edge of their area, then blasting it into the sky.

But throw-outs can be better, not to mention more valuable, because the ability to throw the ball quickly and accurately is becoming an increasingly important skill for goalkeepers in the modern game.

Many of the world’s top keepers can throw the ball more than half the length of the pitch, and the distance and accuracy they can achieve is a big counter-attacking weapon for the team.

The overarm throw allows your goalkeeper to clear the ball over a long distance and at a great height. And it can be more accurate than kicking the ball.

Here’s my seven-step guide for goalkeepers looking to master the art of the long throw:

  1. Tell your goalkeeper to adopt a side-on position and put their weight on the back foot.
  2. Your goalkeeper’s throwing hand needs to be positioned under the ball, and their throwing arm kept straight.
  3. The non-throwing arm must point in the direction of the target.
  4. The goalkeeper can then bring this arm down as the throwing arm comes through in an arc over the top of their shoulder.
  5. The goalkeeper’s weight should be transferred forward as the ball is released.
  6. It is similar to a bowler’s action in cricket.
  7. Over long distances, get your player to concentrate on powering the arm downwards on the same line as the target spot. This will help with his accuracy.


Winning without the ball

davidscwnew

Call me strange but I like watching my team when we haven’t got the ball. In one of the matches we played this week my U10 team was attacking – all the players were in advanced positions. The opposition defence won the ball and were moving quickly to counter attack.

What was great to see was my players moving to cover the space they had left. The nearest player went to the ball and the others moved to cover. It was a great example of getting into a good defensive position and it stopped the counter attack immediately.

By moving into this defensive block, they were playing a compact game making the pitch smaller for the opposition by covering the space behind them.

This is a great tactic for young teams, they can work hard and win the ball back when they have lost it – but remember it is hard work and needs committed players!

To practise this I use a warm-up and a small-sided game:

 

Warm-up

  • Lay out several rows of two cones, about six yards apart.

  • Split your squad into pairs.

  • Players pass to their partner, then follow behind the pass and try to slow the advancing player using a jockeying technique – blocking the player’s movement without contact.

Small-sided game

  • Play a small-sided game on a pitch 30 yards long by 20 yards wide. I’ve shown a 4v4 in the picture but depending on the size of your squad you can use 3v3 or 5v5.

  • The player with the ball takes three touches on the move before they can pass. Players cannot kick the ball three times quickly when they are stationary.

  • No tackling at first, only jockeying. Allow tackling once the game has been played a few times. Opponents must close down quickly before the three touches are taken.

  • Play first to five goals or time it for 10 to 15 minutes.



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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When my players win the ball they can’t launch quick counter attacks

David Clarke

By David Clarke

Changing the dimensions of the field is a quick fix to a lot of problems.

  • Making the field larger gives the attackers and midfielders more space to show off their skills.

  • If a team is not scoring, increase the size of the pitch until they learn how to pass, shoot and score. Gradually reduce the pitch to the normal size and they will have learned what they have to do to score.

  • Making the field smaller helps the defending team by reducing the amount of space they have to cover.

The problem: Your team is not taking advantage when they win the ball to turn defence into attack.

The solution: Use a long narrow layout with small goals to force players into fast, direct attacks through the middle of the pitch. Attacking small goals needs swift passing to break the defence down and create opportunities to score. The shape of the pitch will force play to be quick and direct.

Set up a pitch that is 50 yards long x 10 yards wide, to create a tunnel effect where the players’ focus is narrowed like a racehorse wearing blinkers. Play games of 3v3 with small goals. No goalkeepers. Restart with a dribble or pass from in front of the team’s own goal.



Sometimes simple is best – try 2v2

David ClarkeI often set up a number of simple 2v2 games for my players to give them plenty touches of the ball and force them to think tactically and make decisions about when to drop when to tackle when to intercept or when to dribble or pass. There’s a whole lot of coaching going on in this one.

What I look for: quick defenders who move the ball quickly when they win it; good defensive positions – individual and pairs; awareness of space.

Key points

  1. Speed – keep passes and touches to a minimum and be ready to spring into action.
  2.  Move directly towards the goal/target.
  3.  Sometimes, the fast break is not possible. It is important in these circumstances for defenders to keep possession and wait for the chance to play a forward pass.

 

How to set it up

Play 2v2 in a 20 yards by 10 yards area, split in two halves.

How to play it

  • Each team lines up on its goal line.
  • Play a 2v2 with the defending team restricted to its half.
  • To score a point, an attacker must dribble the ball across the defenders’ goal line.
  • If the defenders win the ball, they can launch an immediate counter attack.
  • The attackers then have to get back to defend as quickly as possible.
  • Once either team scores a point, or the ball goes out of play, possession is handed back to the original attacking team.
  • Play for, say 2 minutes, then swap team roles.

How to develop it

  • This time, if the defenders win the ball, only one can enter the opposition’s half.
  • The defender in possession can either dribble towards the goal line or pass to their partner, who breaks quickly into the other half.
  • If the counter attack isn’t possible, the only way a player can release their team mate into the opponent’s half is by crossing back into their own half with the ball.


Counter attacking as a tactic

dave clarkeHitting teams on the break is a good tactic to use when your team is playing away from home against a team they know nothing about. Fast counter-attacks can take advantage of players being out of position.
Players need to be aware and alert to their team-mates and react quickly when the ball is turned over.

It relies on accurate passing and having the ability to hold off retreating defenders. You can watch the best counter attacks in the video below and play this exercise to help your players get used to running with the ball and holding the defenders off.

How to play it

  • Mark out an area 40 yards x 20 yards – you can make it smaller for younger players.
  • In one of the corners, mark out a 10 yards square with a small, coned goal in it.
  • In this soccer drill the ball is passed so the attacker can run onto it.
  • The attacker must take full control of the ball at this point. The defender starts his run as soon as the pass is made and his first action is to hold up the attacker. The attacker should change his pace to fool the defender.
  • The defender cannot tackle until they get into the marked-off zone.
  • Once they get into the marked-off zone, the attacker must try to lose the defender with a turn – for instance, a stop turn, then try to put the ball between the two cones.
  • The defender must stick close to the attacker and try to get a tackle in to win the ball.


Getting things wrong as a coach is part of your learning curve

dave clarkeFaced with entertaining the team that has scored the most goals in our league last week I decided to play three defenders for the first time this season, bring my wingers into midfield with a lone striker up front.

It meant my team was sitting deep allowing the opposition to come on to us. It was a tactic we used to great effect last season hitting teams on the break after they lost the ball to us. It relies on us keeping a clean sheet up to half time then adjusting the team accordingly to try and get a goal. We have been much more attack minded this season and are the second highest goal scorers in the league so I was expecting a lot of shots on goal.

Unfortunately the plan was never tested properly because we let in two early goals and then struggled to change our tactics to get ourselves back into the game. Such was the intensity of the match I was finding it hard to get my views across to the players – not helped by the squeeling parents around me.

We found it hard to take the initiative back and all our hard work in training where we practice compact defending had gone to waste.

In the same week Steve Bruce the manager of English Premier League team Sunderland also decided to play three centre-backs to deal with Stoke City’s threat from set pieces, but the plan did not work for him either as the home side scored all three of their goals this way. The final two Stoke goals were similar – coming from excellent Jermaine Pennant free-kicks, and converted by Robert Huth, who is ironically enough a centre-back.

It is disappointing when your tactics don’t work, but it doesn’t mean you were wrong to try it. As a coach using tactics in matches should be part of your game. It’s not just the players that need to experiment – getting things wrong is part of your learning curve as a manager.

Watch these highlights of Sunderland playing Birmingham in which both teams use three centre-backs and both get caught out.

 Soccer Skills and Drills



Counter attack like Argentina

Watching Argentina play Canada in a World Cup warm up game, there was a great counter attacking goal. What I liked was the attacker’s skill in taking on a couple of defenders once they got to the opposite end of the pitch.

I see breakaway chances in lots of youth games but it needs a good finisher to score a goal. Often young strikers will wait too long or try to kick too hard and shoot past the post.

You can watch a clip of the goal below and play this exercise which coaches your players in how to take advantage of a counter attack.

How to play it

  • Mark out an area 40 yards x 20 yards – you can make it smaller for younger players.

  • In one of the corners, mark out a 10 yards square with a small, coned goal in it.

  • In this soccer drill the ball is passed so the attacker can run onto it.

  • The attacker must take full control of the ball at this point. The defender starts his run as soon as the pass is made and his first action is to hold up the attacker. The attacker should change his pace to fool the defender.

  • The defender cannot tackle until they get into the marked-off zone.

  • Once they get into the marked-off zone, the attacker must try to lose the defender with a turn – for instance, a stop turn, then try to put the ball between the two cones.

  • The defender must stick close to the attacker and try to get a tackle in to win the ball.

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Strong midfielders hit teams on the break like the USA did to Brazil

By Dave Clarke

If you haven’t got the ball or you keep losing it, the best way to get it back is to have a strong midfielder whose job it is to tackle the opposition, win the ball and get your team passing again.

If you are playing possession soccer, one of the things you have to take into account is winning the ball back. Sure, all your players know how to tackle but do they know what to do when they win the ball?

What you have to do is take your best tackler and show them how to stop attacks and then hit the opposition hard with some good passing.

When the opposition loses the ball they will be at their most vulnerable and your midfielder will be able to put them on the back foot with a good pass.

This will become a key tactic for match days – a player the rest of the team rely on to win the ball back.

The midfield ball winner

Tell your player to play in the hole in front of the central defenders.

Get them to close down any player running at the defence and stop them in their tracks.

You’ve seen games where the opposition kick off and runs right through your team to score. This player stops that by targeting the player with the ball and making the tackle.

And when they do get the ball,they need to be off running, passing, opening up the opposition defence.

The rest of the team have to be ready to support this role and be open for the pass.

It’s not always a great tackle that wins the ball in midfield. When USA played Brazil in the Confederations Cup Final it was an interception just outside the USA penalty area that led to a breakaway goal by Landon Donovan to put USA ahead 2-0 of Brazil.

It was a fantastic move. Landon Donovan takes possession, finds Charlie Davies and races forward, collects Davies’ return pass, takes a brilliant touch to create room on the edge of the Brazil box and fire left-footed into the far corner past Julio Cesar.

Passing and movement at its best. Watch out England.

Watch the position of the covering midfield players and the pass out of defence that set up the perfect counter attack:

 Soccer Skills and Drills



Set up fast counter attacks like William Gallas

DavidClarkeQuick counter attacks are one of the ways you can make sure your young team makes the most of winning the ball.

Catching a defence out when the team has won the ball relies on quick thinking and accurate passing. Defenders will struggle to keep up with the ball so an accurate pass and a quick thinking attacker can combine to create good goal scoring opportunities.

Young players can get over excited when they win the ball and just kick it in the general direction of the goal. You need to get them looking and thinking about where to put the ball to cause the most damage to the opposition.

Try this drill with your players, you score points by hitting targets a bit like being at the driving range with your golf clubs hitting different distances. In this video the coach uses baskets to hit but you can make target areas out of cones.

 Soccer Skills and Drills




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