Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Why unopposed exercises work

David ClarkeI will often run an unopposed session to encourage my players to move the ball and support each other without the added distraction of defenders.However, to make the session more realistic to the game I will add defenders at the end to reinforce player learning.

Unopposed sessions allow your attackers to be more confident in receiving the ball because they get the success they require from doing it.

Using unopposed exercises for build up and combination play in attack is a good way of coaching your players to move the ball, and encourages movement to support the ball as play moves around the pitch.

In this session, strikers and midfielders combine with a neat lay off and a precise threaded ball to set up a shot across the goalkeeper.

Set up a 40 yards by 30 yards playing area with four mannequins (poles or cones will do), two cones and two goals. You need eight outfield players and two goalkeepers.

How to play it

  1. The forwards move away from the mannequin to receive a pass.
  2. The forwards set the pass back to the supporting midfielders.
  3. The midfielders return the pass into space for the forwards to spin and run after. The forwards now shoot across the goal.

Rotation

The midfielder becomes the forward for the next turn.



Chris McGinn takes strike

Chris McGinn is running some great courses to help coaches understand what they need to coach and how to coach it. I was at his defending course recently which he did at Fulham’s academy and it was very educational.

Any coach struggling to use defensive sessions or struggling to understand positional sense, how to coach positional sense or the words to tell youth players to use when they are defending 1v1, 2v1, 2v2, or when they are outnumbered will get a great deal out of Chris’s courses.

A former coach at Arsenal, Chelsea, Wigan, Fulham, QPR, Gillingham, Sheffield Wednesday, Bristol Rovers & Bristol City, Chris has a vast knowledge that coaches can learn a great deal from.

Chris is now going to do an attacking one-day course and I for one am going to make sure I go on it. It’s always a great day and a great way to meet other coaches and find out what they are coaching and what they hope to gain from going on coaching courses.

Chris told me: “I’m now ready to share my experiences of working with strikers like Nathan Dyer, Scot Sinclair, Bobby Zamora and Sanchez Watt .”

And he tells me that I can’t miss his course because he’s going to reveal his ‘Working with Strikers’
system on the course.

As usual the course fees are very reasonable which is especially good. They usually cost around £40 but he’s always got special offers on so why don’t you check his course out and maybe I’ll see you there!

Check his course out by CLICKING HERE



Recovery – I had to point out to my U11s that they were doing it

David ClarkeI spoke to Charlie at half time in a match this week. He was rather cross that I wouldn’t play him up front. He had been player of the match the previous week playing up front and thought this would be his position for keeps.

He said he was doing nothing playing in central defence and wasn’t sure why he was playing there. I explained to him about how he knew I moved players around the pitch to let them try different positions. But I also pointed out to him that he had twice recovered back and stopped a certain goal by tackling the player before they shot.

Not only that he had also cleared a long ball with his head away from danger. Is that good, he asked? Brilliant – as good as scoring a goal, I told him, and off he went pleased with himself.

I use this session to coach recovery with my players. It 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!

How to set it up:
• Use a standard pitch for a warm-up sprint drill.
• Also set-up an area measuring 35×10 yards 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 tracking back the key areas they should be running into.
• 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 goalpost, while those in the centre of the pitch should run towards the penalty spot.
• Now move to your 35×10 yard area.
• Three white strikers attack 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 white 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.

U11 soccer drills



Puyol, we love your labour

David Clarke

Carles Puyol is the type of player every team would like. He is the classic old-fashioned captain. Quick and powerful, committed almost to the point of comedy, he is an inspiration to team-mates and an idol for the fans.

His intense commitment to Barcelona runs deep – he often stays behind to train and reportedly comes in on his days off to put in some extra work.

He makes a good roll model for youth players because he has made himself great even though he does not have the reputation of some of his team mates. Puyol has played for Barcelona since 1999 and been club captain since 2004. In his early years as captain before Iniesta, Messi and Xavi came on the scene he said of his team mates: “I don’t have Romário’s technique, [Marc] Overmars’ pace or [Patrick] Kluivert’s strength. But I work harder than the others. I’m like the student who is not as clever, but revises for his exams and does OK in the end.”

“Puyol is the key,” says Xavi, the Barcelona midfielder, “not just because he is one of the best defenders in the world but because of his character. He never lets up. If he sees you relax at all, he’s suddenly at your side demanding more.”

He has starred in more than 500 official games for the team, winning 18 major titles, notably five La Liga and three UEFA Champions League championships. At international level he has won the Euro 2008and the 2010 World Cup tournaments with Spain.

Team mate at Barcelona Gerard Piqu&eacute said: “He’s someone who, even if you’re winning 3–0 and there’s a few seconds left in the game will shout at the top of his voice at you if he thinks your concentration is going.”

More recently said, “Even four goals down he thinks we can still win.”

“The fans appreciate that I work my hardest all the time,” Puyol explains. “I need no encouragement because I’ve always been a cule – I’ve never hidden that fact. I am living the dream playing football for Barça and it is my dream to retire playing here. I know someday that I will have to leave and I am not looking forward to that day. I will work hard to realise my dream but if I can’t then I would like to play in another country. I wouldn’t want to play in Spain. I would go to England or Italy.”



A poorly built wall blew £90m

By David Clarke

One of the most lucrative matches in world soccer is just around the corner… the play-off match between the English Championship teams hoping to get the last promotion place into the English Premier League.

Last season saw Blackpool beat Cardiff to win promotion and an estimated £90m in revenue this season. It is a huge boost to any team so they have to make the most of it when they get there.

In that game star player Charlie Adam for Blackpool scored a great free-kick that highlights the importance of player positions in the defensive wall – had the wall and the goalkeeper been more coordinated maybe that £90m would have been heading for Cardiff rather than the seaside.

Watch it below and leave me a comment about the organisation of the free kick.



Getting things wrong as a coach is part of your learning curve

dave clarkeFaced with entertaining the team that has scored the most goals in our league last week I decided to play three defenders for the first time this season, bring my wingers into midfield with a lone striker up front.

It meant my team was sitting deep allowing the opposition to come on to us. It was a tactic we used to great effect last season hitting teams on the break after they lost the ball to us. It relies on us keeping a clean sheet up to half time then adjusting the team accordingly to try and get a goal. We have been much more attack minded this season and are the second highest goal scorers in the league so I was expecting a lot of shots on goal.

Unfortunately the plan was never tested properly because we let in two early goals and then struggled to change our tactics to get ourselves back into the game. Such was the intensity of the match I was finding it hard to get my views across to the players – not helped by the squeeling parents around me.

We found it hard to take the initiative back and all our hard work in training where we practice compact defending had gone to waste.

In the same week Steve Bruce the manager of English Premier League team Sunderland also decided to play three centre-backs to deal with Stoke City’s threat from set pieces, but the plan did not work for him either as the home side scored all three of their goals this way. The final two Stoke goals were similar – coming from excellent Jermaine Pennant free-kicks, and converted by Robert Huth, who is ironically enough a centre-back.

It is disappointing when your tactics don’t work, but it doesn’t mean you were wrong to try it. As a coach using tactics in matches should be part of your game. It’s not just the players that need to experiment – getting things wrong is part of your learning curve as a manager.

Watch these highlights of Sunderland playing Birmingham in which both teams use three centre-backs and both get caught out.

 Soccer Skills and Drills



Stop stronger teams scoring against you

dave clarkeWhen you play against really strong teams you can use tactics to win the game. However this often means your team needs to score first. When Manchester City played Everton just before Christmas in the English Premier League there was a classic example of a less skillful team winning the game.

Everton scored twice in the first 20 minutes then sat back for an all out defensive strategy. City had Carlos Tevez and Balotelli up front who like to come inside and attack in front of goal. So Everton set up a narrow defence with players protecting the defenders.

The one technique most in evidence for Everton was the defensive block with players getting their bodies in the way of shots. City struggled to break this down and ended up frustrated and lost the game. They didn’t create many clear cut chances because of Everton’s determination to stop them. City’s goal in fact came from a deflection.

I use this example not to encourage negative play but to help you coach players to cope with all types of situations they will face in games. There will be matches when you need all your players to help out at the back to stop strong attackers.

These tactics can stop your team leaking lots of goals in games where your players would struggle against stronger opposition.

Get the views of the managers involved by watching the clip below:



Decisions for defenders

Watching the positioning of Ashley Cole for Chelsea in their match at Newcastle United was a timely reminder that defenders positions can block goal bound shots. I think my U10s defender must have been watching because he did exactly the same thing in training the next day.

How vital that clearance by Cole was will not be known until the end of the season, but it certainly helped the team. Heading the ball off the line is a skill in itself, especially if the ball has been struck hard.

Knowing when to move to the line is important because things like offside come into play and players can get in the way of goalkeepers. However it is worth talking to your defenders about when and where to position themselves during defensive moves.

In the same match the Chelsea defender Alex plays a backpass which goes past his goalkeeper Petr Cech giving Andy Carroll a simple sidefoot into the empty net – in this case that was poor decision making by Alex. He had time to clear and should have been able to look up and see the goalkeeper coming.

You can see the highlights of the game by clicking on the link below:

Highlights of Newcastle 1-1 Chelsea



How QPR’s fast central defender saves the team

Twice my team broke clear of the defence at the weekend and twice a fast defender caught up and dispossed my attacker before he could shoot. Fast defenders are priceless in youth soccer, speed is something you cannot ignore when choosing the positions of your players in matches.

I was reminded of the Portsmouth v QPR game last month in the English Championship when Portsmouth should have taken all three points.

When the speedy John Utaka broke free at the end of the game the QPR fans must have been thinking that it was all over. 1-0 down in the 87th minute QPR’s unbeaten run was about to come to an end.

In an entertaining game the QPR defence were a man down after the dismissal of Matthew Connolly who conceded the penalty which had put Portsmouth ahead. Neil Warnock the QPR manager had thrown on all three substitutes in an attempt to save the game – the team had to keep their defensive shape though because Portsmouth were quick on the break.

On this occasion the defence was undone by a through ball from Liam Lawrence. Utaka ran past a turning Kyle Walker, a young defender onloan from Tottenham HOtspur. But Walker turned and accelerated, catching a surprised Utaka, and won the ball off the striker then played a lovely pass to a midfielder up the pitch.

It was a brilliant bit of defending and one which changed the game because QPR scored a late, late penalty to draw the game. Without that fantastic defensive run QPR would have tasted their first defeat of the season. Warnock’s team has been outstanding in defence with 10 clean sheets already this season and Walker is one of the reasons for that.



Fernando Torres and 1v1 situations

At the weekend Liverpool played away at Everton, hoping to change their recent poor run.

Key this has been the form of their striker Fernando Torres. His loss of form has been one of the reasons the team has struggled. The Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson decided Torres should go up against Everton’s Sylvain Distin at centre-back rather than attack Phil Jagielka.

This was a key battle in the game – if Torres won most of these he was likely to score or create lots of chances.

However Torres won just four of the 14 head to heads he had in front of goal mostly with Distin. Distin won 10 of the 14. Torres and indeed Liverpool didn’t score or create many chances.

One of the key reasons that he didn’t win many of them was the poor service into him, balls in the air rather than into his feet or body. It is much easier for a big centre back to win crosses into Torres than trying to stop him with the ball at his feet.

But the other key reason is that when commentators say he is out of form what they actually me is he is no longer winning the 1v1 situations he is famous for.

Watch the two video clips below. In the first he scores in the final of Uefa Euro 2008 to beat Germany 1-0. The second is a compilation – watch the number of times Torres is 1v1 and the number of times he scores after beating a defender 1v1.




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