Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Control midfield to win the game

David Clarke

By David Clarke

The quality and organisation of a team’s support play is crucial in any match scenario – the midfield must have good control of the ball to create space for a pass into attacking positions. Controlling the ball in midfield and then making sure possession is retained is key to making forward attacking passes.

In this game the onus is on the midfield to win and retain possession and provide quality balls into a target man.

For the attacking team, accuracy of pass from midfield into the target man is one thing, but only the quality of the layoff will offer the chance of a goal – a bouncing ball or one that is too fast or too slow will affect the way the attacker controls the ball. Ideally a one touch shot will be the best option if the quality of pass is there.

For the defending team, there are two key aims – to block off the pass to the target man, then to recognise where the threat of the bombing support player may come from. If the defenders are too late, they may not be able to get back and tackle before a shot has been unleashed.

How to set it up

  •  Pitch size: 30×20 yards (min) up to 40×25 yards (max).
  •  Create two end zones, 10 yards in from each goal-line.
  • You’ll need two teams of four players, plus two keepers.

The rules

  •  Each team selects one player to be the ‘target man’. This player stands in the attacking end zone.
  •  The aim of the game is to make a pass into the target man. A supporting player will then receive his layoff before shooting at goal.
  •  Defenders can track back only when the second supporting man makes his run.
  •  After a shot is made, the shooting player swaps position with the target man.
  •  The game is played for five minutes.
  •  If the ball leaves play, you have a few re-start options:
    1. The coach passes a new ball onto the pitch
    2. The players take a roll in
    3. The players take a throw in
    4. The players make a pass in
    5. The players dribble in
  • There is no offside

Drills and games for midfielders



The romance of youth – will Argentina change the way they play?

dave clarkeAfter the Argentinian side went out of the World Cup I have been watching with interest to see if they, like Brazil, will adopt a more European style or stick with its traditional style of attacking play.

At youth level, coaches are encouraged to play either 4-3-3 or 4-3-1-2 on the grounds those formations should ensure the continued production of attacking midfielders. In games you rarely see any pressing of the ball, so players can stroll around with all the time in the world to be creative.

On TV they like to highlight the best moments of skill from the weekend much like they do on Soccer AM but the skill is the highlighted whether it leads to any attacking or defending move or not.

I warm to the idea, its all about the fun element, and that is what I should be seeing up and down the country in the parks and grounds where youth soccer takes place – it’s the idea that playing the right way is more important than winning.

It gives young players the time to be creative and leads to very watchable matches. When did your U8 midfielder get time on the ball without someone shouting “pass it!” or worse “get rid of it!”

There is one problem with this romantic idea of how the game should be played – the only side Argentina has beaten in a World Cup knockout game without going to penalties in the past 20 years is Mexico.

What does that do for the beautiful game?

Take a look at the latest Argentina sensation Javier Pastore the future of Argentinian football – linked with a £40m move to Manchester City.




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