Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Great way to switch play

davidscwnewSwitching play (moving the ball from one side of the pitch to the other) will allow teams to create significantly more space on a football pitch. And that, in turn, can lead to better goalscoring situations.

Changing this angle of an attack requires intelligence and reasonable passing ability, but get it right and it’s a potent weapon for your team.

Here’s how to do it.

How to set it up:

  • Set up a 45×20 yards playing area.
  • On both long sides, position three goals using poles or cones, each five yards wide. Each team protects three goals.
  • In the area, a 4v3 takes place. The overload is designed to help one team achieve the coaching focus.

Getting started:

  • Teams must maintain possession, use quick switching of play to find space – with both short and long passes – and score in any of the goals.

Progressing the session:

  • After 10 minutes, add two players in sweeper roles behind the goals their team is defending. The opposition cannot score in a goal the sweeper is protecting.
  • Rotate players regularly.

Game situation:

  • Set up a 50×40 yards area with a full-size goal at one end and three small goals at the other. Play 5v4 (including the keeper), use normal rules. The team with the overload attacks the three goals. Here, look for switches from deep and quick breaks forward.

Why this works:

The session encourages forward angled passing, one-twos and through balls, and rehearses offensive as well as defensive principles. Teams that can hold onto the ball and make use of the space will create lots of scoring chances.

* Editor’s choice *

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Simple skittles – but very match relevant

davidscwnewHow often do you watch your striker reach great attacking positions only to then delay his shot, offering enough time for defenders to get back and put in a tackle? It’s a frustrating part of the game and something that’s certainly not exclusive to youth football!

It’s important to give players the confidence to shoot from anywhere on the pitch, rather than them trying to walk the ball into the net. So below I’ve put together a great practice that, quite simply, encourages players to shoot at the earliest opportunity from all areas.

How to set it up:

  • You will need six target cones and seven balls, plus additional cones to mark out a pitch. You will also require bibs and a goal.
  • Create a pitch measuring 35×25 yards.
  • Three yards in from each end touchline, and halfway up the area, place three cones in a triangular shape.
  • Each cone has a ball placed on top of it.
  • The game can be played either 3v3 or 4v4.

Getting started:

  • Each team defends its set of cones.
  • Players must try to knock the balls off the cones at their opponent’s end of the pitch while ensuring their own cones do not come under threat.
  • If a player shoots and gets a “strike” (knocks all three balls off with one shot) the team gets six points, otherwise it’s one point scored for each ball.
  • Should all three be dislodged, the balls are set up again before resuming.
  • Play for three games of six minutes, ensuring players are ambitious in their attacking play and do not hang back crowding around their cones as a defensive tactic.

Developing the session:

If you have three or four teams, play so the team that knock three balls off, then faces a different team. Teams waiting on the sidelines act as ball boys.

Note which teams are the best at winning a strike – undoubtedly this will be because of the frequency of shots and from all distances – and point out to the other teams why they are so successful.

How to advance it:

  • Put a goal and a keeper at one end and set up a bowling alley-style group of six cones with balls on at the other end.
  • This is a straight knockout, with one team trying to knock all the balls off the cones and the other trying to score three times past the keeper. Which team will fulfil its task first?

Why this works:

The initial practice encourages players to shoot at targets from all areas of the pitch. Teams defending cones will also be pushing forward trying to attack, so the scoring options should be plentiful.

Direction and power are, of course, vital to a team’s success, while the set-up ensures players are aware of the need to shoot quickly and positively. Should they not, a tackle could see the other team attack and complete their task first.



Ghost attackers can be the real deal

David Clarke

Young players often stand and wait for the ball to be passed to them, then wonder why they are either second to it or have nowhere to go once they have it.

I like to get my attackers moving around and thinking about where they can go to make it easier to receive a pass. In this tight 2v2 game tell them to behave like a ghost, appearing in a defender’s line of sight one second, then gone the next. It will give the defenders nightmares.

Use this exercise so your forwards ask questions of the defence. I like to make my practise sessions as game-like as possible so there is some form of soccer realism created.

Get your attackers to try and prise openings around the penalty area while your defenders are keenly marking and watching out for players dropping off and moving, creating 1v1, 2v1 and 3v2 situations.

Set up on the edge of your penalty area as in the diagram above. You need three attackers, two defenders, a goalkeeper and a few balls.

The middle attacker acts as server and plays the ball to attacker 1 who is marked by defender 1. Attacker 1 must break away from defender 1 and get the ball under control. He will be supported by the server, who is close by, and attacker 2 on the far side, who must try to lose his marker – defender 2.

The defenders must be aware of the attack building up around them. Defender 1 has two players to worry about – the server and attacker 1 – while defender 2 must stay with attacker 2 and not be drawn to the action.

There are a lot of situations developing here in a short space of time. The attackers need to move quickly to first take advantage of the developing 2v1 situation and then the 3v2 situation.

When you are coaching this, try to get attacker 2 to move inside defender 2 and not go wide. If he does go wide, it will create a difficult angle and allow defender 2 to get between him and the ball.

In the second diagram, both attackers must move quickly to the areas marked B and C to put distance between themselves and the defenders.

The server must quickly decide who to pass to – whichever attacker moves fastest – and then play develops from there. You want to see attackers moving quickly to areas B and C and away again, putting the defenders on the back foot.



Stop or change direction to create quick, usable space

I’ve been getting my players to stop and turn or change direction to create themselves immediate space the can use to play a pass or cross the ball or just shoot.

Space is vital to youth players because it gives them the confidence to try things out and to make better use of the ball.

I’m talking stop turns or flicks inside but also just getting your players to stop when they are running side by side with an opponent – as long as they stop the ball as well then they will lose their opponent for a split second giving them time to quickly use the ball.

Sounds simple? Watch the clips below of how the professionals create space with a flick or turn and you can see the effect it has on their ability to use the ball:




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