Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


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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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.



Simple tactics for throw-ins

By David Clarke

David ClarkeI find that when young players pick up the ball for a throw-in and are faced by one of their team mates very close to them they usually end up doing a foul throw because they aren’t throwing the ball very far.

The way to stop them doing this is to give them tactics that both the thrower and receiver have practised before the match.

A player too close to the thrower is not in a good position anyway. What you are looking for is a player on the move who can take the ball in their stride and use it to advance your team up the pitch.

Throw-ins are good attacking weapons but you also need to be able to make the most of them when you are defending as well.

I use these four throw-in tactics to give all my teams good basic ideas so they know what to do when they pick the ball up. You should try them too.

  • In diagram 1, player A throws to player B who gives the ball back to player A with the inside of the right foot on the volley.

  • Once your players have done it a few times with their right foot, player B does the same this time using the left foot like diagram 2 – again playing the ball from the throw-in before it touches the ground.

Concentrate on the quality of the throw-in

Player A should always make sure his throw makes it easy for player B to move to the ball and volley back. The throw should put the ball at the right height, in the right spot and at the right pace.

Make sure your throwers concentrate on this, aiming the ball in the general direction of player B is not good enough.

Players shouldn’t be put under pressure

A ball thrown at chest or head height will put player B under pressure, as defenders will have a chance of intercepting as player B tries to control the ball.

How to progress

  • You can progress the throw-in practice, as we have done in diagram 3, by adding a defender and another team mate.

  • Player A must then disguise his throw, so the defender runs to the wrong player.

Support and move from the throw-in

    • Add another defender, as in diagram 4. This time the thrower and his attackers must support each other once the initial throw has been made.

    • Player B receives the ball, passes to player C then supports the pass so player C can pass back to him. Or player C can pass long to player A who has run into an attacking position down the wing.

    • Alternatively, player B can either play the ball back to player A and set up an attack, or retain possession, and still set up a 3v2 situation.

Soccer coaching tips to boost player throw-ins



A top tactic to open defences – the fake striker

DCIn the English Premier League this season there are two tactics I want to take from it and give to my team next season.

First the use of a fake centre forward, a player that drops off from a normal attacking role to drop into midfield dragging the defenders out of their comfort zone creating space behind them.

Think Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez. Messi continually drags defenders out of the area to create space for players like Pedro to work in. Tevez not only plays as a striker but also links the whole of the team together making up for any lack of team play by always being available for the ball before breaking away with it to attack the goal.

Messi creates space for a new kind of winger, a player that cuts inside and attacks the heart of the defence where once a centre forward stood. The fake centre forward creates the space for the winger to cut into rather than take the ball wide and cross it they can cut into the danger zone and shoot.

Sounds simple enough so I’m going to try it.

Watch Carlos Tevez work on a drill you can set up for your players in the clip below




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