Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Neuer the Keeper Sweeper

Joachim Löw played his defenders in a very high line against Algeria which with the heat and not exactly speed players seemed like a risky strategy with balls over the top tempting for the opposition.
However, Algeria found the imposing figure of Manuel Neuer, who Löw described as playing as a keeper sweeper.
Neuer made some fantastic clearances coming out of his area to clear the danger. There were some tricky moments like when the Algeria striker Islam Slimani got around him but ran out of space to turn the ball in.
Neuer made a number of heart in mouth sliding tackles outside his area but his timing was superb.
“Neuer played an extraordinary game,” Löw said. “He didn’t have to make saves on his line but he participated in the game. With all those long passes from Algeria, he saved us very often. He played as a libero. He delivered for us.”


Sweeper Keeper session

Preparing for the conditions is vital for young players

davidscwnewOne thing’s for sure, it hasn’t been great weather for goalkeepers this winter. Changing weather conditions can cause problems. How will the ball bounce? Will it skid through or stop? What kit to wear? Rain is bad enough but I always feel sorry for my keeper when it’s really cold.


The ball is more slippery, and cold arms and legs make catching and kicking much more difficult.  Because a young keeper is standing  around for long spells it is much  harder to keep warm – just last month,  right at the start of the match my  U12s goalkeeper dived full length  and ended up soaking wet. The temperature was very cold and we had to get him a change of clothing pretty sharpish.

The opposition manager wasn’t happy that we asked for the game to be stopped, but it was face him or let my keeper freeze to death. His mum was worried but we had a change of kit and she had a clean base layer for him and he was soon back out there.  So what can keepers do in the worst kinds of winter weather?

For the prevention of injury on cold days, a warm up is essential and it gives your keeper a good opportunity to see how the pitch is going to play. And when they warm up, they should wear at least a waterproof jacket so they don’t get wet and cold before the game.

Also, carry a spare towel so the keeper can wipe his gloves or dry his face if it’s raining. The most important thing is to try and get your keeper to remain focused for the whole game, so work out a little routine that he can do when the ball is at the other end of the pitch – something like jogging to the edge of the penalty box and then backwards to the goal line, but make sure he is keeping a close eye on where the ball is.

Any routine is a good way to help focus and concentration on cold or wet days. The other side of play that can be hit by changing weather conditions is close control and dribbling. Running with the ball is hard if the ground is very wet so I always get my players to do some running around to get used to the conditions. If the ball is sticking in the soft ground they need to use more power with their control.

However, on some pitches the ball will be much faster if the grass is wet. When the weather is unpredictable, my advice to you is to make sure your players are both physically and mentally prepared and that they have the right kit on for the conditions.

Building from the back


This practice looks at attacking movement that begins with every team’s last man – the keeper.

Starting these forward moves from the back takes courage and confidence but utilising possession in this way is good for technique and means opponents are being asked to work hard to get near the ball.

It rehearses passing into and creating space, forward movement, counter-attacking and support play. And with practice, players can really enjoy the benefits of such skilled and attractive build-up patterns.

How to set it up:

  • Use a 40×30 yards area with three small goals – each two yards wide – at each end.

  • You’ll need balls, bibs and cones (or poles).

  • The pictures above use 12 players (6v6) but you can adjust player numbers to suit.

  • Each team has three outfield players and a keeper in their defensive half, with two attackers in the opposition half.

Getting started:

  • The ball starts with one of the keepers. He has to patrol three gates at once and, given that the majority of his work is performed with his feet, he cannot use his hands.

  • The keeper passes the ball to a team mate in his own half.

  • This attacking team must make three passes – something they should be able to do quite easily with their 4v2 overload.

  • Once they complete the three passes, a player can pass or dribble into the opposition half of the pitch, supported by his team mates, which creates a 5v4 overload.

  • To score, attackers must dribble the ball through any of the three opposition gates.

  • If the defending team wins the ball back, it can counter attack – there are no offsides. If it cannot counter, passing back to the keeper resets play – opposition players return to their original positions, and the exercise restarts by building from the back.

Why this works:

This session works because it helps coach breaking into space when attacking, and covering space when defending.

Players are encouraged to create overloads by exploring space, and having three goals to aim at offers the chance to combine width with intelligent running.

The threat of the opposition in counter attacking reminds attackers that while considered build-up play is encouraged, they must stay aware of their defensive positions as well.

Goalkeepers can counter attack


Goalkeepers like nothing better than having the ball in their hands, running to the edge of their area, then blasting it into the sky.

But throw-outs can be better, not to mention more valuable, because the ability to throw the ball quickly and accurately is becoming an increasingly important skill for goalkeepers in the modern game.

Many of the world’s top keepers can throw the ball more than half the length of the pitch, and the distance and accuracy they can achieve is a big counter-attacking weapon for the team.

The overarm throw allows your goalkeeper to clear the ball over a long distance and at a great height. And it can be more accurate than kicking the ball.

Here’s my seven-step guide for goalkeepers looking to master the art of the long throw:

  1. Tell your goalkeeper to adopt a side-on position and put their weight on the back foot.
  2. Your goalkeeper’s throwing hand needs to be positioned under the ball, and their throwing arm kept straight.
  3. The non-throwing arm must point in the direction of the target.
  4. The goalkeeper can then bring this arm down as the throwing arm comes through in an arc over the top of their shoulder.
  5. The goalkeeper’s weight should be transferred forward as the ball is released.
  6. It is similar to a bowler’s action in cricket.
  7. Over long distances, get your player to concentrate on powering the arm downwards on the same line as the target spot. This will help with his accuracy.

The goalkeeper has nowhere to hide

davidscwnewWatching one of the Under-12s goalkeepers at my local club this week picking the ball out of the net seven times I was reminded me of an article I had read by David James, the former England stopper who is now at English Championship club Bristol City.

When the 41-year-old was playing in the Premier League with Portsmouth, he once suffered the humiliation of conceding 10 goals in two games. Recalling that and other similar events, he said: “I try to get on with it; I take the dogs out for a walk. I try to move on and prepare for the next game. I have a debrief with my psychologist…” Psychologist?

Now that is where the similarities end…!Coaches of youth teams don’t have psychologists at hand when they lose a game, and neither does the poor lad whose goal has been under constant bombardment. More likely is that said keeper will be in the car home getting a pasting from his dad, your words of comfort a distant and fading memory!

But that’s the problem for keepers… their errors are highlighted every time the ball goes in the net; they have nowhere to hide. That’s why you must not let your keeper take the blame because, trust me, if you do, he won’t be your keeper for much longer! Protect him and nurture him so he wants to play in goal no matter what the score is.

At training nights make sure he joins in with all the fun bits – the match, skills, fitness – before you move him between the sticks for some designated keeper practice. It is important for you and the team that he feels part of it all. You can also get him to be vocal at training – to shout at his defenders and order them around, if necessary. Not only will this give him a unique status, but it will cement his value to the rest of the team as a leader and organiser on match day – someone who can survey all that’s in front of him with ease.

And encouraging him when he makes a mistake rather than criticising means that most of his team mates will do likewise.

At the end of the day keepers are vital to your team and their influence is stronger than you may realise. Let’s make sure they don’t go home crying.

A quick thinking goalie can start counter attacks

By David Clarke
David ClarkeGoalkeepers can distribute the ball from the back to get the team moving forward. They should be able to look around and communicate with the players in front of them, to play the ball into space and launch an attack.

Especially when the opposition have just been on the attack from say a corner, they often react slowly to getting back if the goalkeeper gets the ball. They can then throw the ball to take advantage.

I often play this game to get my goalkeeper thinking about quick plays that can get my team reacting quicker than the opposition. Every time the team wins the ball it must go back to their goalkeeper before they launch an attack. I use it to get my goalkeepers thinking about how and where they are going to play the ball to gain advantage.

A game for goalkeepers
In this small-sided game the goalkeeper is at the heart of every move. When your goalkeeper has the ball in a match they should be looking to use throws as well as kicks to get the ball to a team mate in space. Throwing the ball can often be a better way to distribute the ball because by using the technique in the diagram, goalkeepers can catch out the opposition with quick, accurate throws.

How to play it

  • Set up a 40×20 yard area with two end zones.
  •  Play normal rules but when a team wins the ball it must go to their own goalkeeper before the team can launch an attack.
  • No backpass rule – in this game the goalkeeper must pick up backpasses and throw to a team mate.
  • When the ball goes out of play it must be restarted with the goalkeeper throwing the ball to a team mate.
  • If the goalkeeper gets the ball off an opponent they must use a throw to get the ball to a team mate.
  •  Only the goalkeepers can go in the end zones.
  • Make sure the goalkeepers use the full width of the end zones to create space.

Ten of the best goalkeeper drills

Tactics at short goal kicks can free up a congested midfield

David Clarke

Temperatures have plummeted over the past few weeks and the result has been that a number of games have been called off. My side couldn’t dodge a frozen pitch, but one of our younger teams managed to get their match on, so I went along to watch them.

They are a good team and have a clever coach who is always ready to try things out during matches if he sees a problem. During the match, his goalkeeper was not having much luck from goal kicks.

Every time he kicked the ball it was going into a packed midfield and the opposition’s physical advantage in the centre meant they were often emerging with the ball. In fact, the opening goal had come as a direct result of a goal kick coming straight back from midfield. With his team losing 2-0 at half-time, it was clear the coach had to change something.

The first thing he did was alter the routine of the goal kicks to give his keeper more options.

He got two defenders to drop short left and right of the goal so the keeper could play a simple pass to ensure that his team retained possession. When this happened, the opposition players moved forward to close down, something that freed up space in the midfield area. As you might expect, this made a huge difference straight away, and having previously been overrun in the middle third, the team were now finding it easier to build attacking moves.

His mobile defenders also utilised space down the line, with attacking midfielders able to take the ball forward further, frequently sending dangerous crosses in towards the near post. After his team had won a succession of corner kicks they scored to pull the scoreline back to 2-1. In working harder to win the ball from goal kicks, the opposition lost a lot of their attacking speed and were less able to get the ball forward.

The match had effectively been turned on its head, all because of a change in the goal kick routine. The team had a number of chances to equalise but couldn’t take them, but that’s football. Nonetheless, they had won the second half 1-0, and learned a great lesson in tactics at the same time.

I love to see goalkeepers playing short balls to the wide defenders. If watch the video clip below of Victor Valdes the Barcelona goalkeeper continually playing short balls against Real Madrid. Even after he makes a mistake he continues to pass the ball short.

I could watch this all day!

70% of a goalkeeper’s work is done with his feet

David Clarke

It was raining this weekend. It was muddy and it was windy. Who in their right mind would be a goakeeper on days like this?

I always like to warm my goalkeeper up so he is ready when the match starts.

And you want to warm-up their feet as well as their hands because in these conditions, it is the footwork that will often be the deciding factor when the ball is crossed or shot in with the rain, wind and mud making handling treacherous.

I use this warm-up all the time in the winter – and often during good weather as well! It’s so easy to set up and you can get a couple of dads to help out while you take the rest of the boys for other warm-ups.

It’s one I got from Mike Toshack, the goalkeeping coach for Houston Dynamo. All you need is a goal and two cones with a couple of helpers and balls.

Set it up like this:

      • Put two cones five yards in front of a goal in the centre, four yards apart creating three “goals”.
      • You need a goalkeeper and two players or helpers.
      • First helper passes a ball to the goalkeeper in the middle goal, who passes back firmly with his right foot.
      • The goalkeeper then moves to the “goal” on his right to save a shot from the second helper.
      • The goalkeeper then moves back to the centre goal to make another pass and so on. After five shots to the right, the goalkeeper must then move to the goal area on his left.
      • You want to see the goalkeeper moving quickly between the goals while keeping his hands and head steady.
      • He needs to be on his toes, ready to react to the ball.

Goalkeeper drills and games

Watch senior goalkeepers train to get ideas to use with youth stoppers

DCThere’s a lot to be said for watching others coach if only to get ideas for your own coaching. When I go to professional matches I always watch the teams warm-up and often come away with a good idea for an exercise or drill that I can use with my team.

Often it is the simple ideas you see players doing that work the best when I get back to my club and try them out with my team.

One of the hardest ones is working with my goalkeeper pre-match or warming them up in training. There are a great variety of ways to get goalkeepers to dive and to catch and generally get in the right frame of mind for the game ahead.

One of the best goalkeeping exercises I like to use before matches is one that Barcelona use to warm their goalkeeper up.

Click here to go to my blog and watch a video clip of the Barcelona goalkeeper warming up and one of the Chelsea goalkeepers before a match.

Back to the future – or how to play out from the back

dave clarkePlaying out from the back is an ideal in the world of youth soccer – but it is an achievable ideal. Like any ideal though don’t make it an absolute for your team – you MUST play out from the back is wrong, play out from the back every time you get a chance to do so is much more realistic.

I spoke to a coach this week who has been working on the tactics for his team. From goalkicks he had put his tallest player wide on the wing and the idea was the goalkeeper punted the ball towards him for him to head on towards the attackers. This was his main tactic and one which would probably bore the pants off his players.

Players need to experience for themselves the right way to play the ball out from the back. IF all the defenders are marked heavily by a team pressing high up the pitch the goalkeeper can go long into the space left by the pressing opponents… it makes more sense than trying to play it to a defender deep in their own half without an outlet.

I use this overload game to get my defenders used to running the game from the back. IT is a really good exercise that allows them to make decisions and because of the overload experience their decisions working and being successful.

How it works
In the diagram you can see the defenders have a normal set up defending a penalty area with a goalkeeper and a full-size goal. The attackers are defending two small goals – use small hockey style goals or mark out small goals with cones. You stand between the small goals to coach and encourage the players.

You want the central defenders – 4, 5 and 6 – to control the game by playing the ball across the back four to the two wing backs – 2 and 3. They can then run up to the half way line where the goal is. They can play it into the goal first time from their position at the back or run past the attackers.

What to get your players to do
Your attackers must work tirelessly, encourage them to keep running and when they have the ball to try passing or use clever skills to get into a position where they can have a shot.

You need to give your defenders the confidence to use the ball by controlling and passing it to the players on either side of them. Encourage them to control the ball with their first touch rather than a panicky pass which could put their team-mate into trouble.

You must also encourage your defenders to use both wings so they have options when they are playing matches. Encourage your two attackers to ‘load’ one side and force play down the other side.

How to advance it

  • You can add two defenders to the A and B attackers who can stand in front of the two goals to make it harder for the wing backs to put the ball in the net.
  • Or you can add another attacker so there are three and try to get them putting the ball into space behind the defenders to pass the ball through them.
  • After you’ve coached this session you can move the players around so it’s 4 v 4 with one team defending two small goals without any goalkeepers and four outfield players, while the team defending the big goal has a goalkeeper and three outfield players.
  • There are some great passing from the back moves on this compilation:


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