Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Manchester United’s three-ball routine

By David Clarke

davidscwnewManchester United’s first-team coach Rene Meulensteen developed what he called the three-ball routine to increase team speed and mental awareness. I saw it in action and it was a real flurry of movement and attacking action.

I created my own version of it to use with my youth teams.

It provides a very effective way of getting a side prepared for a forthcoming match because it improves the speed of defenders and the movement of attackers.

The routine starts with a shot from outside the box, then moves on to a cross that needs to be defended. As soon as the crossing element has finished, a third ball comes in from the other wing.

Meulensteen said: “It’s an exciting exercise – you’re looking at the quality of the passing and the variety from the wing, while watching runs at the near and far post. Can the players react to the ball?”

How to set it up:

  • Player numbers can vary but we’ve used 10 in this instance.
  • You need balls, cones and a goal, plus one keeper.
  • Place a pole or cone just outside the D of the penalty area, plus two additional
    cones on each wing – one to mark an early cross and the other a deep cross.
  • Four central players stand so the cone just outside the D is between them
    and the goalkeeper, with one player further forward than the others.
  • Two players position themselves on each of the wings.
  • There is one defender in the penalty area.
  • Ensure the central group have a good supply of balls.

Getting started

  • The central players one-touch pass to each other. When the ball arrives at the
    most advanced player, he turns on the cone and shoots first time at goal.
  • As the central group lays a ball to the right wing, the shooter makes his way into
    the penalty area to challenge 1v1 against the defender. Both players prepare for
    the cross from the side.
  • The right crosser then joins the action and the defender must defend 2v1 on a
    cross from the right. The ball is again fed from the central group.
  • The left crosser now joins to complete a maximum 3v1 in the middle.
    Repeat the crossing scenario with the two remaining wingers, this time from the
    deepest crossing cones.

Developing the session:

  • Set up as before but have an attacker and two defenders in the penalty box.
  • The advanced central player lays the ball back to a team mate
    before joining the other attacker – he needs to head for the post not covered
    by his team mate.
  • The ball is switched to the wing and the subsequent cross challenged 2v2 in
    the middle.

Why this works:

This is a great workout for defenders because it’s very match realistic.

There is reward for good play from the attackers in the form of goals, and the growing number of attacking players creates a constantly changing proposition for the lone defender – who ends up defending against a 3v1 overload.

Finally, the variety of attacking angles mean both attackers and defenders need
to stay aware at all times.

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The Brazilian attacker

David ClarkeAre you Jairzinho in disguise?

Brazil have a team that could win the next world cup not just because it’s on home soil but because they are beginning to put together a fabulous young team that will give Spain and Germany a run for their money.

They play a fast passing game 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 and at the top of the formation is a young striker called Lucas Moura – and finally it seems Brazil have a player to match the Brazil great Jairzinho.

Like Jairzinho, Lucas, aged 19, can play as a quick forward or winger and will hope to emulate his fellow countryman. Jairzinho was part of the legendary Brazil team that won the 1970 World Cup – he became one of only three players to have scored in every game his team played in the tournament.

Lucas has a low centre of gravity and runs with speed at defenders, dribbling past them or using skills to beat them. He has also been compared with Porto’s Hulk and AC Milan’s Alexandre Pato, but I like to think of him as Jairzinho.

He’s being chased by Inter Milan and Manchester United both of whom hope to prise him away from Sao Paulo but it’ll take a lot of Euros.

Lucas also wears Jairzinho’s number seven shirt for the national team.

Watch him in action in the clip below:

See also The English playmaker

See also The German defender



Coaches with enough balls… try this

Nani dribbles through a pattern of footballs without touching any. Set this up for your players, great fun…



My top six penalty misses

David ClarkeIt’ll sson be Euro 2012 in Poland and the Ukraine and that usually heralds a whole load of penalties – here’s my six top penalty misses in all competitions.

John Terry, CHELSEA v Manchester Utd (Champions League Final 2008)

After a 1-1 draw on the night, Cristiano Ronaldo missed his spot-kick to put Chelsea within touching distance of the trophy, but his crucial slip sent the ball crashing against the outside of the post, leaving the England international on the floor and in tears.

Lionel Messi, BARCELONA v Chelsea (Champions League Semi-Final 20120)

Barcelona started the second half 2-1 up but Chelsea were down to 10 men. Messi had the chance to gain the psychological advantage but hit the bar and Chelsea went on win the game.

Denis Bergkamp, ARSENAL v Manchester Utd (FA Cup Semi-Final replay 1999)

Bergkamp could have won the game with a last minute penalty. The match was notable for a disallowed Arsenal goal, the sending-off of Manchester Utd’s Roy Keane for a second bookable offence, a last-minute penalty save by Peter Schmeichel, and finally and most memorably a winning goal by Ryan Giggs, intercepting a pass near the half way line, before taking the ball past five Arsenal defenders and scoring past goalkeeper David Seaman.

Ruud van Nistelrooy MANCHESTER UNITED v Arsenal (Premier League 2003/04)

With the scores level at 0-0, United were given a controversial penalty in injury-time after Patrick Vieira had earlier seen red for a kick-out at Van Nistelrooy, but the Dutch striker made it three consecutive misses from the spot after he rattled the underside of the crossbar.

Gareth Southgate, ENGLAND v Germany (Semi-Final Euro’ 96)

After Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle failed at Italia ’90, it fell to Southgate to end the hopes of the Three Lions on home soil six years later, as football ‘came home’ but then swiftly left for Germany on penalties.

Roberto Baggio, Brazil v ITALY (World Cup Final 1994)

The first World Cup final to be decided on penalties, it was a moment that would define Baggio’s career despite some of the great things he achieved for both club and country.



Ramires v Barcelona: My top six goals scored from an angle

David ClarkeBy David Clarke

Champions League Semi-Final 2012: Barcelona v Chelsea

Ramires is the king of technique. His goal for Chelsea against Barcelona when his team was 2-0 down with John Terry sent off was as good as you will see. An impossible situation, but the through ball to him from Frank Lampard just before half time putting him into the penalty area at an angle to the goal was perfect. His finish was sheer class.

Here’s my top six goals scored from tight angles:

Ramires, Barcelona v CHELSEA (2012)

Marco van Basten, HOLLAND v Russia (1988)

Gabriel Batistuta, FIORENTINA V Arsenal (1999)

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, CHELSEA v Manchester United (2001)

Ronaldo, REAL MADRID v LA Galaxy (2011)

Robin van Persie, ARSENAL v Barcelona (2011)



Quick skill session – the Giggs move

Patience is key to beating the Barcelona of your league

David Clarke

How do you beat Barcelona? Real Madrid, Valencia and Manchester United have all tried to do it by getting more possession of the ball and none of them have managed it.

If you find you’re playing a team like Barcelona who won’t allow you to have the ball don’t try to stop them playing – you end up not being able to stop them and ruining your own game plan.

Sure your players will be thinking that it’s time they had the ball because all teams want the ball but if they hold their positions and when they do win it hit quickly on the break they can make the game theirs.

When teams lose patience they often lose the game because they become easy to pick off with one-two passing and 1v1 skills.

If you jump in like Nani does on Lionel Messi you will easily be beaten. Watch the video clip below of Messi beating Nani.




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