Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Get your players to shoot

davidscwnew

How 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.



The Perfect Penalty Kick and an English FA record

Brockenhurst and Andover Town set a new English FA record when they scored 29 consecutive penalties, until the unfortunate 20-year-old Andover Town player, Claudio Herbert, had his shot saved. The previous record was set when Dagenham and Redbridge beat Leyton Orient in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in 2011.

“I didn’t realise the magnitude, it was a bit of a blur, the keeper pulled off a great save,” Herbert said.

The record for the longest penalty shoot-out came in 2005 when the Namibian Cup had to be settled by a record-breaking 48 spot-kicks, with KK Palace holding their nerve to defeat the Civics 17-16 following a 2-2 draw in normal time.

Watch the video then follow my advice on how to take the perfect penalty

The Perfect Penalty Kick
davidscwnewWait for the keeper to move or hit it low and hard into the bottom corner without looking at the goalkeeper? Where should your players strike the perfect penalty?

Research carried out by Liverpool John Moores University in the UK came up with a solution, according to Professor Tom Riley “A well-placed ball, high to the corner, will not be stopped by the goalkeeper even if he anticipates it,” says Prof Riley. “There is not enough time to react, so a kick placed in this area would have a 100% strike rate. Some players blast the ball straight down the middle, assuming that the goalkeeper will move, but it’s not always successful.”.

But it’s an interesting alternative to the conventional theory that you will often hear from professionals, managers and commentators: “Hitting the inside of the side netting, low down just inside either post is often the target for a penalty taker.” According to Professor Riley this conventional approach has a greater chance of being saved but it’s an easier one to execute. Get your players to try hitting the top corner in training – it may work.



4v4 ice hockey style

davidscwnew

I love setting up new challenges in small-sided games for my players – the emphasis in this game is on positive passing and determined movement. And while quite basic, this is a clever set-up that tests players’ ability to think "outside the box", or rather "inside it"!

Goals are no longer fixed to the touchlines, which means that scoring opportunities can be manufactured using unconventional routes. If players can replicate this thinking in a standard game, you may find them producing goalscoring chances out of unpredictable actions.

How to set it up:

  • Create a playing area that measures 35×25 yards.

  • There are two teams of four players.

  • Two goals are made using cones or poles, and are placed five yards in from each end of the pitch.

  • Add a keeper in each goal.

The rules:

  • The players can score in the front or back of the goal.

  • The game is played for a set period of time – 20 minutes.

  • Tell your players that if they are blocked when in front of the goal they need to look to play quickly to the other side and try to score in the back.



My best switching play session

By David Clarke

David Clarke

I keep this session in my little black book of ‘must-have tactics and how to coach them’. It is a great way to show young players how to move the ball to find space.

When their team is on the attack, young players need to be alert to the possibilities of switching play from one side of the pitch to the other.

It’s a tactic relied upon by every professional football team and takes craft, vision and confidence.

It works so well because of the need for defending teams to play a pressing, compact line in the modern game. That makes them susceptible to the switch and the potential of being caught out.

That’s why it’s crucial for attacking players to know when and how to switch – either by a long pass or a series or quick, short balls from one side of the pitch to the other.

In this exercise your players first have to work out how many ways they can get the ball from one end man to another. They will then move on to put that technique into practice to score points.

How to set it up:

  • For this practice, you will need bibs, balls and cones. The session uses three teams of four players.
  • Create a 30 yards long by 15 yards wide area, split into three equal zones.
  • In the middle zone, mark out three cone gate goals along each line across the pitch.
    These should be one yard wide and evenly spaced along the line.

Getting started:

  • Start by getting the teams to work out all the combinations of play that can ensure the ball moves from one side of the pitch to the other in their groups… so either a long ball across, passes to each man individually, etc.
  • Get them to switch positions.
  • Practise this for five minutes.
  • Then split the middle row of players into two teams of two.
  • One team defends the three gates towards the top of the area, while the other team defends the other three gates towards the bottom.
  • The outside teams must pass the ball within their area and score points by putting it through an empty gate, but any scoring effort must be passed through the gate, not struck hard.
  • Rotate teams every five minutes and play for a total of 15 minutes, seeing how well attackers switch play and defenders cope with the demands of a versatile strikeforce.

Developing the session:

  • In a 36 yards long by 20 yards wide area, use a goal and goalkeeper at each ends. Play 4v4 with two neutral players who run the lines but cannot go onto the pitch.
  • Teams play a standard game but must involve a neutral player in every attack.
  • Play for 10 minutes.

Why this works:

Getting players used to switching play encourages them to use the technique in matches, and in this session, you are showing them how and when to make the correct decision.

In the main game, having three goals protected by only two defenders means attackers will always be keen to hunt out space in which they can score.



How Celtic beat Barcelona – the counter attack

David ClarkeWhen Celtic beat Barcelona the amount of possession tells a very strange story. Barcelona had 89% of the ball. That gave Celtic very little chance of keeping them at bay let alone scoring two goals.

But they did score two goals, and they used the counter attack to great effect.

In youth football, constructing a good counter-attack often comes down to one team being quicker than the other – a case of who can control the ball and combine before the opposing team has managed to recover its position. The quick counter-attack requires players in a team to react with speed and concentration, and often the most important man will be your striker, who receives the ball under pressure from a defender.

He must control it and either shoot at goal himself, or be aware enough to lay it off into the path of a supporting attacker. Speed is vital because the opposition players will be recovering their positions at pace as, often, a lone defender holds up play. Using this exercise, you can replicate counter-attacks in training, perfecting the process using recognised support and teamwork, rather than just raw pace.

Counter-attacking talent is as much about routine and teamwork as it is the ability to control and pass. By rehearsing this move, attackers become accustomed to knowing the right areas to run into, and when to make their move.

Defenders must also practise getting back at pace, watching all the time the movement of their lone team-mate in order to prevent the attack. Counter-attacking talent is as much about routine and teamwork as it is the ability to control and pass. By rehearsing this move, attackers become accustomed to knowing the right areas to run into, and when to make their move. Defenders must also practise getting back at pace, watching all the time the movement of their lone team-mate in order to prevent the attack.

Practice makes perfect, and although workmanlike in training, the counter-attacking move can prove hugely valuable and visually brilliant when played out in a match situation.

How to set it up:

• Set up a playing area measuring 30×20 yards.

• There is an 8-yard zone at each end of the pitch. At the near end this is marked by cones across the pitch, while at the far end it’s best to use a pitch marking or cones on either side to denote the line.

• There is one goal, with a goalkeeper in place.

• Put two teams of three players in the near end zone – one acts as attacking support, the other as defending support.

• Place a striker in the middle area of the pitch, and a defender in the zone near the goal.

Getting started:

• The coach serves the ball out to the striker.

• As soon as that pass is played, the attacking support can move.

• When the lone attacker controls the ball, the defending support can move, as can the defender in the far end zone.

• Attackers must work together to move the ball forward and finish with a shot on goal.

• Replay the move so that players become comfortable in their roles, but going forward, experiment with different conditions to keep the counter-attacks challenging.

For instance, change the time between defenders and attackers moving by calling out “attack go” and “defence go”. Also try varying the number of players in the near end zone in order to favour either defence or attack. This also means you can involve all members of your squad at once. • Rotate players often so that everyone samples the demands of each role.

 



Attack the box like Drogba

By David Clarke

David ClarkeBalance, coordination and ball control skills are vital to the art of being a good striker. When he was at Chelsea, Didier Drogba could weave his way to goal and unleash an unstoppable shot at the end of it.

I want my strikers to do exactly the same, so I run through this exercise with them. I call it the slalom exercise because it’s just like what the slalom skiers have to do when racing downhill through a series of poles against the clock.

Get your players to run through this once then start timing them. Tell them you are not looking to see who is the quickest, you want to see who can beat their own time over the course of three runs each.

This means you are going to have to keep scores and names handy so you can check on players’ progress. You also need a stopwatch.

How to play it

  • Your player must dribble in and out of the coaching poles, go around either side of the cone – by selling a dummy or skill move – and finish with a shot on goal.
  • On the next run the player must do the same movement but beat the goalkeeper at the end.
  • Finally the player must do the same movement but beat an active defender before scoring past the goalkeeper.

Key coaching tips

  1. Tell your players you want to see close control and the use of both feet through the poles.
  2. When they are faced with the cone they must try to show a feint or skill, not just run around it.

They can use any shooting technique they like – inside outside of their foot, laces or even a chip, the most important thing is to hit the target.

Neymar is another player who attacks by going past defenders – watch this:



Three ways to score like Sergio Aguero

By David Clarke

David ClarkeRate your players’ shooting prowess with this three-shot test that calls for speed, touch, accuracy and confidence. Can they hit the top corners and score maximum points or will they play safe?

The Sergio Aguero challenge

I’ve named this after the Manchester City striker who shoots from all over the pitch – long range, short range and every angle you can image. He has been successful for club and country, and provided some memorable moments in his career – like his last second goal to win the Premier League title for his team last season.

How to set it up

  • You will need six poles (or cones), a stopwatch and timesheet.
  • Starting on the 18-yard line, place three poles two yards apartlined up with the goalposts. Repeat in line with the other post.
  • Put three balls on the 18-yard line, one in the middle, one tothe left and one to the right.

Getting started

  • Starting in the middle, the player flicks the ball into the air,keeping it up twice. On the third kick, he volleys at goal,trying to achieve the highest score he can.
  • He then runs to the ball on the right, passing it toward thegoal with a good weight so they can weave through the polesto get on the end of his pass.
  • He should shoot across goal with his right foot aiming forthe far corner.
  • The player then runs back to the remaining ball, repeatingthe process on the left side.
  • He should end with a left-footed shot into the
    opposite corner.

How to score

  • Back of the net = one point
  • Side netting inside the goal = two points
  • Top corner = three points

How to advance the session

  • To keep this move fresh, move the poles further away from goal so that players can shoot from greater distances.
  • Later, add a goalkeeper into the equation. Can your players still find the high-scoring areas of the goal?


How to score from every chance

David Clarke

Three ways to finish using dribbling, combination passing and a shot at goal. Great fun, concentrate on direction and technique. Power for younger age groups will come later. All goal scoring greats work on this exercise.

How to set it up

You need to set up a 40 yards by 30 yards playing area and use three cones, three outfield players a goal and goalkeeper.

How to play it

  1. Player 1 dribbles and shoots at goal.

  2. Player 1 now turns and makes a choice of which player to combine with. The player chosen passes to Player 1 then runs inside to receive a return pass and passes out to the opposite wide player.

  3. Player 1 and his chosen team mate now run into the penalty box and attempt to score from the wide player’s cross.



We lost 2-1 but it created a great session

David Clarke

2v1/3v2 transition game

OK, I’m going to say it – my team absolutely pummelled their opponents at the weekend and, yes, you guessed it, we lost 2-1. The number of times my players had an overload in their favour in front of goal was unbelievable and yet they didn’t exploit a single chance.

So what will we be working on this week? This session which exploits 2v1s and 3v2s in front of goal.

How it works

The advantage switches as the attack changes direction after every phase of play.

How to set it up

Use a 40 yards by 30 yards area with a goal and a goalkeeper at each end.

How to play it

  • The central player dribbles on to the pitch and passes to one of the two opponents.

  • Immediately, a 2v1 situation begins.

  • Once this ball is played, two team mates join the defender and a 3v2 game commences in the opposite direction.

Rotate your players

  • Rotate the players’ positions so both teams have a chance to attack 2v1 and 3v2.



Messi is also a goal machine…

David ClarkeLionel Messi became Barcelona’s all time top scorer on Tuesday night with a hat-trick in the 5-3 victory over Granada.

Messi has now found the back of the net 234 times for the European champions, eclipsing César Rodríguez’s record of 232 made in the 1950s.

He is truly a great player – and we all know that is just part of his amazing all-round play.

His manager at Barcelona, Pep Guardiola says: “Messi doesn’t score goals, he scores incredible goals.

“There are no players capable of dominating a sport with such superiority … Messi can be compared to [the former US basketball star] Michael Jordan.”

Johan Cruyff said: “Messi is by far the best player in the world. He is incomparable, he plays in a different league.”

Sit back and enjoy this 15 minutes of Messi scoring goal after goal:




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