Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Coach yourself a Carles Puyol – Barcelona legend

davidscwnew

By David Clarke

Barcelona’s captain Carles Puyol is known for his intense commitment and strength as a defender. According to Barcelona’s head doctor, Puyol is “the strongest, who has the quickest reactions, and who has the most explosive strength”.

Love him or loathe him, he is the sort of player who gives everything for the cause, who prides himself on being alert to wave after wave of attacking threats in and around the box. He is also the sort of player who is not afraid to put his body in harm’s way. And he’ll grab you the odd goal or two.

Ensuring that your players are back on their feet after a good tackle or clearance and ready to combat a second wave of danger is essential.

To keep them alive and reactive, here’s a defensive move that asks for quick reactions and tireless commitment to the cause.

How to set it up:

  • Create a playing area measuring 10×10 yards.

  • The drill requires four servers and one designated defender.

  • Each server starts on a different side, with a ball.

  • Place your defender in the middle – his job is to react to a different serve from each player around the area. After each serve, his task is to keep the ball within the box.

Getting started:

  • Starting on the left-hand side, server 3 throws the ball up for server 1 to head into the middle. The defender tries to stop the ball from going out of bounds.

  • Immediately, server 2 passes a ball towards the opposite line. The defender must now react, running to slide and stop the ball from crossing the line.

  • Now server 3 dribbles onto the pitch and attempts to get to the line opposite. The defender tries to stop him.

  • Finally, server 4 throws the ball over the defender’s head and attempts to run around him to win it back. The defender’s task is to shield the ball, letting it run over the line. If the ball stops dead before the line, he can then kick it clear to the left or the right.

  • Now rotate so that a different player acts as the defender.

Why this works:

Adopting the mindset that a defender’s job is rarely complete is absolutely vital if players are to counter all of the threats on a match day. After each phase of this drill, the defender needs to be alert to a new test, reacting quickly to each ball and clearing the danger.

Each test offers a new skill, and provides you with a quick-fire snapshot of where the defender’s game can be improved.



Press and drop in tight areas

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.



Simple defensive block session

davidscwnew

This game works on reactive speed and forces the players to work at match speed in order to be successful.

Set up an area 25 yards square with three poles, three balls and one goal.

The steps

  1. Split your players into two lines with one line acting as defenders and one line as the attackers.
  2. The players pass the ball back and forth. On your whistle, they quickly run around their poles.
  3. The attacker must then shoot first time and the defender must try to clear the ball or block the shot.

What to call out

  • “React”
  • “Get in line with the ball”
  • “Stop the shot”


Closing ranks at the back

davidscwnewGetting your defenders to close ranks on an attacking threat is vital for taking control of defensive situations in a match. Give the opposition time on the ball in your half of the pitch and they will find it much easier to create goal scoring chances from good passes.

All your players should be able to quickly close down the opposition no matter where they play on the pitch. If attackers are helping out the defence, they become an important part of helping to close the opposition down.

What you want your players to achieve when they are closing down is to make it harder for opponents to pass the ball. The discipline needs good timing and anticipation so the defender can stay balanced on their feet.

  • Try and anticipate while the ball is moving
  • Concentrate on the opponents around the ball
  • Wait until the right moment to make the tackle
  • Try and stay standing at all times

I use this game to get my defenders moving to block the pass and keep attackers at bay. They need to watch the ball at all times and keep tabs on the opponents.

How to play it

  • Defenders start on the edge of the pitch and pass the ball across to an attacker.
  • Defenders must follow the ball to mark the attackers.
  • Attackers can only have three touches each and must cross the line of cones before they can pass to attacker 3, who must stay off the pitch at the defenders’ end.
  • Defenders must move to block passes to attacker 3.
  • Defenders should have their knees slightly bent in a crouching position, and be slightly side on to the attacker.
  • Defenders should be close enough to the attacker to pounce if a chance to tackle is offered.
  • Defenders should stay on their feet and move quickly.
  • Good communication between team mates is necessary when passing or covering the space to block.


Play out from the back

davidscwnewOne of the things that is important in playing out from the back is the pass from the goalkeeper out to a defender in space. This is an important part of the tactic. A pass that puts the defender under pressure will usually end up in disaster.

A good first pass and the defenders are on their toes ready for the ball.

Play this game which keeps the defenders on their toes but gives them a target to aim at.

Pitch size: 30 x 20 yards (minimum) up to 40 x 25 yards (maximum)

  • One full-sized goal
  • One keeper
  • Two teams of four players
  • Three mini target goals
  • One team starts the game as the attacking team.
  • One team starts the game as the defending team.
  • The keeper starts the practice with the ball in his hands.
  • The defending team must attempt to pass out of defence and into one of the mini goals in order to score a goal.
  • The attacking team must try to win the ball and shoot into the net to score a goal.
  • The game is played for 10 consecutive balls.
  • The two teams then reverse roles for a further 10 balls.


Control the game without the ball

davidscwnew

An important characteristic of modern teams is their ability to control the game even when they haven’t got the ball. The whole team plays a part in this tactic with the intention of forcing the opposition into awkward situations.

The formation succeeds by covering all avenues of opposition attack, meaning that play is stifled. It relies on pressing as soon as the opposition has the ball. The defending team always keeps the action in front of them and tries to stop any balls through the centre or in behind.

This tactic requires good fitness from players because it is hard work. And for pressing to work, the team must prevent any switches of play as this will give overload initiatives to attackers. But performed well, the game rewards are significant.

How to set it up:

  • Set up an area measuring 30×20 yards. Make three 10-yard zones across the width of the pitch.

  • You will need bibs, cones, balls and goals.

  • The players in the middle zone must prevent other teams passing through them.

  • This featured session uses nine players split into groups of three (one group in each area), but it will work with any equal denominations.

  • No balls are allowed over head height.

  • Players are restricted to two touches.

Getting started:

  • Play starts with either end zone team. Players pass among themselves before threading a ball through to the team in the opposite end zone.

  • For the first two minutes, the middle team is not allowed to move any player out of its zone.

  • After two minutes, allow one player from the middle zone to go forward into an end zone to press the ball. Play this for three minutes.

  • If the ball is intercepted, play restarts at the other end.

  • Rotate play so that each team fulfils defensive duties in the middle.

Now try this:

  • Remove the zones and add two goals, with a keeper in each. Also add a halfway line.

  • Keep the teams in threes but this time the middle team attacks one end, then turns and attacks the other.

  • The outer two teams must defend the area and clear the ball using the pressing technique.

  • If a goal is scored, play restarts with the middle group and they attack in the opposite direction. If a tackle is made, the defenders’ reward is to now switch places with the middle group, thus becoming the attackers.

Why this works:

Pressing the ball is a great tactic for winning back possession. This activity shows the value in doing that, compared to standing off waiting to intercept. Pressing means opposition players rarely settle on the ball and mistakes can be forced, either through poor control or a rushed pass.

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Pressure, support and depth – go defensive

By David Clarke davidscwnew

Teaching defenders technique and the ability to move into the right places at the right time can be done on the training ground.

Here though, we combine the teaching with an immediate attack versus defence scenario, so players are straight away putting into practice what they have learnt.

So they must ensure they react to the call well, adopt the right shape, then be ready to defend immediately.

How to set it up:

  • Create a 25-yard square with 10 x 5 yards end zones.

  • In front of one end zone, place three cones across the width of the area, plus a mini goal just in front of the central cone.

  • Three defenders start behind the cones and three attackers start at the opposite end.

  • Stand halfway up the area on the touchline.

The technique:

The three defenders will need to move as per your instructions, so teamwork and unity is essential in maintaining a solid backline. So you will call either:

“Left” – the left defender pressures and shows inside, the central defender supports and stops the forward pass, the defender farthest away supports the central player and provides depth.

“Centre” – the central defender pressures the ball while the two wide defenders take up supporting positions behind, and to either side to stop the forward pass.

“Right” – the right defender pressures and shows inside, the central defender supports and stops the forward pass, the defender farthest away supports the central player and provides depth.

Getting started:

  • On your call, the defending team completes the defending technique task.

  • You then pass a ball to the attacking team at the opposite end.

  • Immediately, the defenders must run onto the pitch and use the group defending technique to stop their opponents from scoring in their target goal.

  • Each team has six run-throughs before the roles are reversed. The winning team is the one to have scored most times in the goal.



Stop attackers turning

By David Clarke davidscwnew

This session is all about stopping the opposition players with their backs to goal turning with the ball, so they won’t be able to pass or dribble into the space behind your defence.

The idea of the session is to:

  • Stop forward or through passes.

  • Stop good dribblers from turning and attacking your defenders.

  • Force opponents away from goal.

What players need to think about

  • Make up ground to within touching distance of the attacker while the ball is passed from the server.

  • Position body between attacker and target player.

  • Stand slightly sideways on ready to move quickly in any direction.

  • Get a clear view of ball.

  • Tackle when attacker is half-turned and not screening the ball.

How to play it

Use the centre circle for this session or an area 20 yards in diameter.

2 players – 1 attacker and 1 defender – start inside the playing area, with the defender initially giving the attacker some space.

1 server and 1 target player start on the edge of the circle in one half, with the other server and target player on the edge of the other half. All 4 players on the outside of the circle should be spaced apart equally.

The attacker receives the ball from a server and must attempt to turn and pass the ball to the target player on edge of the other half of the circle.

Whatever the outcome, the drill is repeated with the attacker next receiving a pass from the server in the other half. Rotate players so they all have a go at being the defender.

How to develop it

The unused server becomes a target player. The defender now has to cut off two options for the attacker.

Increase the size of the circle.

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Play sat nav football – so players know where they are on the pitch

davidscwnew

When young players are involved in fast, action-packed matches they often lose their position and don’t realise what is going on around them. You find that the pace of some matches they play in will be just that bit too fast for them and they lose their soccer sense.

What I do with my teams is to play a fast, constantly moving game where players must think about position, action and direction.

How to set up and coach it

You need a 30 yard x 20 yard pitch. Use two teams of four players, and four mini goals. Create a triangle in the centre. One team defends the triangle the other team defends the four mini goals.

The team defending the triangle goal must nominate a goalkeeper whilst the other three players try to pressure and win the ball.

Play for 15 minutes then reverse the roles.



Coach the supporting defender

David Clarke By David Clarke

If you’re facing a team where the attackers are getting good support from the wings, you need your defenders to support each other in dealing with the threat. The supporting defender in this situation is vital for cutting off attacking options.

In this session players learn how to improve the understanding of covering and support between team mates.

How to play it

Set up a 30 yards by 20 yards area and add a 5 yards end zone at one end. Split the playing area down the middle with a row of cones so you can run two drills at the same time and allow more players to participate.

To begin, the defender near the end zone passes to the attacker at the other end. He must then stop the attacker from dribbling back towards him and into the end zone. The supporting defender, standing behind the playing defender, must give verbal support such as, “get tight”, “stand up” or “force wide”.

How to develop it

Remove the cones to create one pitch. Now two defenders work together in a 2v1 situation against the attacker. The first defender must put pressure on the attacker while the team mate covers and supports.

After the ball has been played, a second attacker enters the pitch from the other side and the defensive roles are switched. The defender creating pressure now covers and supports while the covering defender has a turn at putting pressure on the new attacker.

Turn it into a game

Play as above, but with the addition of a goalkeeper and goal. Now the attackers can shoot from distance so there is extra pressure on the defenders to move across quickly. The goalkeeper can provide additional support, communicating with both defenders.




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