Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Recover to stop the counter attack

davidscwnew

By David Clarke

Every coach has been in the situation where his team loses the ball, the opposition race towards goal, yet his own players stand and watch the inevitable conclusion unfold.

For younger kids especially, the idea of heading back to mop up the mess is generally taken as being “someone else’s job”, and even the most organised teams’ defenders can find themselves alone at the back with the opposition haring towards them.

So encouraging your players to get back and help defend is hugely valuable. It will add to a player’s game, enhance team spirit and may be worth quite a few points come the end of the season.

How to set it up:

  • Use a standard pitch for a warm-up sprint drill.
  • Mark out an area measuring 35 yards long by 10 yards wide with a goal at one end – this will form the main part of the session.

Getting started:

  • Start first with a sprint drill to teach defenders, who are tracking back, the key areas they should be running to.
  • Players should run as fast as possible and take the shortest route towards the danger area. Players on the wing should take a line back towards the nearest goal post, while those in the centre of the pitch should run towards the penalty spot.
  • Now move to your 35×10 yards area.
  • Three strikers attack against one defender and a goalkeeper.
  • A second defender is 10 yards behind the play. His aim is to make it back to the ball to help prevent a goal.
  • The middle striker is a server and cannot move. He plays the ball to either of the two forwards. As soon as he does, play begins and the recovering defender can move.
  • The lone defender must hold up the strikers until the second defender arrives. The recovering player must make one of four decisions. 1) Challenge for the ball 2) Cover the defender 3) Mark an opponent 4) Mark space between the opponent and goal.
  • When a move comes to an end, play restarts with the serving attacker.

Why this works:

The move combines pace and awareness because players must concentrate on recovering by moving quickly, then supporting the other defenders.

Another crucial part of this is in making sure that once your players have made it back, they don’t turn off mentally and subsequently fail to complete the defending task.

It can be all too easy to get back and think that the job is done, when really it has only just started!



3v3 to coach support play

davidscwnew

In this 3v3 game, you can get players to learn about providing support and being in the right position to cover when the ball is lost.

Support play

In a 3v3 situation, one of the most important jobs is to support the player on the ball. There should be forward support to provide an attacking outlet and rear support to give a defensive outlet.

A pass back to the player covering the defensive area of the team can be an attacking move because it can open up space on the other side of the pitch.

Support players need to think about:

  • The angle of support
  • The distance of support

Getting this right means the supporting player:

  • Has a full range of forward vision.
  • Can receive the ball comfortably.
  • Has space to pass the ball to a team mate.
  • Can move forward into space in front of them.

How to set it up

In this game, rear support comes from the goalkeeper who must move out of his goal when the team is attacking. When the team is in possession of the ball none of the three players are allowed in their defensive end zone.

Goalkeepers have to support from the rear and be ready to get back if the team lose the ball. So the attacking team always has an empty end zone so the defending team can quickly attack if it wins the ball.

The attacking team therefore has a 3v2 advantage in the middle of the pitch. The defending team can have players in any zone, but when it wins the ball and attacks, all players including the goalkeeper must move out of the defensive end zone.



Winning the 1v1s

davidscwnewIn the game my U10s B team played on Saturday they were involved in a lot of 1v1 duels both in defence and in attack, which had a big effect on the game. By winning the majority of these battles, my team held a huge advantage by having possession of the ball much more than their opponents.

Fortunately in the session before the game I’d been using this session designed to improve 1v1s in the midfield. Players are forced to continually attack and defend 1v1 in order to forge a chance to score a goal.

These are the kind of duels they would face in a real game. Remember to also alert your players to the fact that beating an opponent in a 1v1 will remove them from the game, allowing more space to attack.

How to set it up

Use an area 50 yards by 30 yards with a 10 yards by 10 yards area in the centre of the larger area.

How to play it

Pass a ball into the smaller area where two players must compete for it. The player successful at taking the ball outside of the area has the chance to run and take a shot at goal.

How to develop it

The player that wins teh initial batlle in the centre area has take on the defender in 1v1.

However, if the defender wins the ball from the attacker then they can pass the ball back to their team mate in the centre square.

The team mate can now go 1v1 at the opposite end.

Now when winning the 1v1 duel, your player attacks as he would in a game with the attackers outnumbering the defenders (the picture showing 3v2 can be changed to suit the players available in your session).

Play it in a game

The objective is to show the players in your team the benefits of competing and winning the duel against their immediate opponent in the game.



Cut out the pass

davidscwnew

One of the things the modern greats like Xavi, Lionel Messi and Yaya Toure have is the ability to receive a ball under the pressure of onrushing opponents – it seems to me they don’t need any space at all to control the ball and keep it away from an opponent.

Of course, you and I are coaching young players who can easily be put off by a player running towards them – they need a lot of space to control the ball.

Defenders must close down opponents quickly so they reach the player at the same time they receive the ball. With no time to get it under control, it will be much easier for the defender to step in and win it.

How to play

  • Using the penalty area, mark out an area the same size opposite it with a 10-yard "no man’s land" between the areas, as shown in the top picture.

  • Play 5v5. Use a goalkeeper, two defenders and two attackers on each team.

  • Put two attackers from one team and two defenders from the other in each half.

  • Players must stay in the area they start in.

  • Toss a coin for kick off, play starts with the goalkeeper.

  • Restarts are by the goalkeeper if the ball goes over the end lines. There are no corners. Take throw-ins as usual.

  • Play is continuous – when a team wins the ball, it looks to pass and attack the goal.

  • Attackers must create space for the defenders to pass to.

  • Defenders must try and win the ball from the attackers.

How to advance it

  • The passing player can follow the ball into the attacking half.
  • Widen "no man’s land" to 20 yards to make passing and timing of runs harder – do this by moving the orange/outer area back 10 yards but keep the areas the same size.

  • By making "no man’s land" wider, you make the pass longer giving the defenders more time to see the ball and close the attackers down.

  • It also means that it will be harder to make the pass accurate because the player will need to think about power.



Communicate with your players through challenges

davidscwnewHow do you get and keep your players’ attention in training? One way to ensure this is to ask questions of your players to check they are listening. And rather than just do this through verbal means, why not create challenges? Not only does this reveal to you how well certain elements have been understood, but practical play is a great way of cementing ideas in the minds of the players too.

Why challenge?
1. The answer needs some thought from the respondent, allowing the questioner to effectively gauge their level of understanding
2. Asking a player ‘an open question’ helps to reinforce learning, and the learning of the other players around him. A ‘yes/no’ question requires virtually no effort from a player. He’ll brush it off and you’ll be left with nowhere to go!
3. And answers to open questions give you immediate feedback on the player’s understanding of a technique, skill or situation
Before you head to training, think about some of the situations that will crop up. By anticipating what may happen during the session it will help you plan in advance the challenges you want to set and the sort of questions you might ask.

Examples of challenges
- In a counter-attack session, develop a scoring chance within three passes of gaining possession.
- When running with the ball or dribbling, challenge a player to attack and shoot without using his team mates.
- In team sessions, instruct that the player who starts the attack must pass the ball on and receive it back before a goal can be scored

Examples of questions to follow
- What did you do as an individual (or group) to successfully penetrate the defence with three passes?
- What did you do as an individual to keep the ball and get past your opponents? What did you do if you lost the ball?
- In the team session, what factors influence your choice of action? How can you make sure you are successful?

The answers your players give you will provide you with opportunities to further explore their understanding. You can do this by asking supplementary questions.

And when listening to answers, replicate and use their words as a focus for different questions.

And of course, if a player comes up with a ‘wrong answer’, try saying, “I like your thinking. Can you think of an alternative?”
Great communication can make such a difference to how players take on board information. Why not try it for yourself?



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.



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.



Attack and defend in quick, simple overloads

When playing matches the elements are constantly changing.

You can be attacking on your own one second, then have a team mate aor team mates in support to pass to pass to the next.

In your sessions it is a good idea to run exercises that are constantly changing so your players can prepare for this happening in matches. You can sometimes see players switching off when you do repetitive drills that have them doing A, B or C and they don’t have to think about it.

This exercise is a high intensity, near continuous game using five players. You can set up two or three of these depending on numbers at your training session.

How to set it up

Set up a few 15 x 30 yard pitches marking out with cones a couple of small goals at each end. You will need one pitch for every five players.

How to play it

  • Choose 3 players who will be given the ball first against the remaining two. Decide which end the 3 are to attack. The attacking team start with the ball bringing it out from the goal line. They can choose to pass or dribble, but no direct goals are allowed on the first touch. The emphasis is on restarting quickly.
  • The 3 play against the 2 until either: the two defenders win clear possession of the ball; they must have it under control; or the ball goes over the goal line last touched by an attacker.
  • If either of these two things happen, the two players who were defenders become attackers trying to score at the opposite end in a game of 2v1 against whichever attacker last touched the ball, the player who lost possession or took a shot.
  • The attackers retain possession on all balls that go out over the side lines.
  • You will need a coach or knowledgeable soccer parent to act as referee…the point is to designate immediately which player stays on and which players go off (ignore the “it wasn’t me” shouts). The attackers who go off should quickly step well out of the way of this new 2v1 game and sit out until it is finished.
  • The 2v1 game continues until it resolves in the same fashion as for the 3v2 game; the lone defender wins clear possession or the ball goes out off one of the two attackers.
  • Now the 3 players who just played 2v1 immediately join together in a team of 3 attackers against the 2 who had to stand out, with the 3 now attacking, so we are back to step one.


Quick, easy centre circle warm-up

David Clarke

There are times when I have turned up to find the equipment not where I would expect it and all I am left with is a ball and a pitch. So while I wait for the cones, balls and bibs to turn up I play a game that uses a ball and the centre circle.

How to play it

  • Set up as shown in the diagram with players split into pairs. Two pairs start in the middle of the centre circle with others spread around the outside.
  • In the middle, one team is nominated as attackers and the other pair defenders.
  • The attacking pair must keep possession for 30 seconds in order to score a point. To help them do so, they can use players around the outside for one-twos.
  •  If the possession is lost, the other pair now attempts to retain the ball for 30 seconds.
  •  Rotate the pairs every 90 seconds.

CentreCircleWarmUp
Technique and tactics

  •  The central players need to work hard at all times – either in moving to support, or closing down opponents in possession.
  •  Outside players must be alert and ready to receive the ball at all times.


Midfield magic – play like Frank Lampard

By David ClarkeDavid Clarke

Combining pace and aggression going forward with the wherewithal to track back, this is a move inspired by one of the best in the game, Chelsea ‘s Frank Lampard. For over 10 years, the England man has proved a pivotal force in the centre of the park, so here’s an opportunity for your players to try out some of that classic Lampard box-to-box play.

How to set it up:

Play 3v3v3, in an area of 30×30 yards. There are three goals, two in each of the corners and one placed on the opposite side in the middle. One player from each team acts as goalkeeper.

Getting started:

  • The practice starts with one player from each team attacking the goal to their left – unopposed dribbling and shooting in turn.
  • Players must concentrate on controlling the ball and approaching each goal at an angle.
  • At the end of each attack, the two attackers move clockwise around the playing area, ready to attack the next goal. Goalkeepers remain where they are.
  • To advance this, add defenders to the practice so your attackers have an additional obstacle. l Make sure you rotate players so that everyone gets a chance in each position.
  • You can also switch play by attacking each goal from the right-hand side.

The key elements:

  • The focus is on individual skills such as dribbling, shooting and 1v1 attacking and defending.
  • Highlight those players who are using good technique and creating space.
  • Don’t be afraid to stop the game, pointing out to your players what they are doing right and wrong in terms of technique and positioning.

Why this works:

Play is centred on a tight area that represents the compacted nature of the midfield. Therefore players are forced to make quick and efficient decisions in attack and defence. Rather than undertake an exercise that encourages a player to pass, this is a great move whereby taking on an opponent can be shown to have a much more dynamic effect on the game, something that is good for players to recognise in a full match situation.




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