Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Stop or change direction to create quick, usable space

I’ve been getting my players to stop and turn or change direction to create themselves immediate space the can use to play a pass or cross the ball or just shoot.

Space is vital to youth players because it gives them the confidence to try things out and to make better use of the ball.

I’m talking stop turns or flicks inside but also just getting your players to stop when they are running side by side with an opponent – as long as they stop the ball as well then they will lose their opponent for a split second giving them time to quickly use the ball.

Sounds simple? Watch the clips below of how the professionals create space with a flick or turn and you can see the effect it has on their ability to use the ball:

Running the game without the ball

I am always going on to other coaches about coaching teams to think about how they set up when they haven’t got the ball. I don’t mind the oppposition having the ball as long as my team are in control of the positions they are playing in.

If we can identify a player low on confidence on the opposition team then my players can position themselves so the ball goes to this player. IF that player has the ball they may be forced into an error that will benefit my team.

In the match between Manchester United and Chelsea that decided the Premier League Champions the United manager Sir Alex Ferguson always plays his left winger narrow when Chelsea play Branislav Ivanovic at right-back. Ivanovic was given all ;the time on the ball he wanted because the United coaches were sure he couldn’t harm them when he had the ball.

In this case it was Ji-Sung Park on the left and he created the opening goal after only 40 seconds by sitting narrow and catching Ivanovic off his guard. The pattern of the game was shaped here with Ji-Sung Park staying narrow allowing Ryan Giggs to run at Ivanovic.

It also gave Wayne Rooney space to work in, and the Chelsea midfield were overrun for much of the game.

Choosing the right pass

Dave Clarke

We’ve all witnessed a lot of passing in the past couple of months. Barcelona with short crisp flicks and tricks, Arsenal’s through passes, Manchester United defence splitting passes and Stoke City’s more direct exorcet missile passes.

They are all aimed at getting the ball into a position to score a goal – Barcelona take a lot more passes than Stoke to get the ball up the pitch.

And for all the clever passing that Barcelona can do sometimes getting one of your players to see a long pass will have much more effect than those short passes. If you can pass to a player further up the pitch why not do so? It isn’t a sin to play a long pass it’s just as skilfull and can be far more effective.

So what makes a player choose a pass? Communication from a team mate, space, time, vision and tactics. There is a lot going on in the mind of a young player when they have the ball at their feet.

They have to practice to give them the tools to deal with these situations and that come from you. Give them the tools show them how to use them then watch as they develop through games.

This is a nice easy drill to get them playing long passes.

Move the ball before you kick it

In a soccer match the ball is moving when you receive it, so when you practice your long kicking make sure you move the ball to make your kicking practice more match like.

The technique you need to teach your players for long kicking:

  • Push the ball to the side, slightly in front of the body.
  • Put the non-kicking foot next to the ball
  • Kick through the centre of the ball.

To kick it long along the floor, you don’t need to follow through after striking the ball. Instead, strike it sharply and stop your follow through just after hitting it.

Soccer passing drills and games

Running without the ball to create space

dave clarkeI will often play with just one attacker up front and three midfielders controlling the middle of the pitch supported by two wide players.

The player up front is there to create space by running off the ball and dragging defenders away or getting beyond the opposition defenders to run onto through balls from midfield.

This works best when my team is counter-attacking – if we play short passes and build up to the penalty area the attacker is focused on movement to draw the defenders away rather than run onto the through ball. This means the attacker in this role has to be clued up when the team moves forward.

Compare this to Fernando Torres at Chelsea. He thrives on though balls and although Chelsea
can be devastating on the break and play some raking balls down the wings, the coach Carlo Ancelotti prefers short-passing build-ups. You often see a few quick interchanges outside the box before a quick release.

Torres is not at his best in close-range build-up. When he plays for Spain the coach Luis Aragones uses Torres’s acceleration and direct running as decoys, getting him to stretch defences and give the Spanish ball players more space to play.

Ancelotti recognises this: “He likes to receive the ball at a certain point, so we have to improve this. Sometimes he moves well on the wrong side of the centre-back and the ball does not arrive.”

When Torres played for Liverpool the majority of his goals came come from running into space, getting to loose balls first, catching defenders out and running on to through-passes.

So remember if you are coaching your team to play a formation with one player up front you have to play to their strengths and get them to exploit the space they create behind the defence.

Defending against the overhead kick – Wes Brown v Vincent Kompany

dave clarkeOnce all the talk of the Wayne Rooney amazing overhead kick against Manchester City had died down I began to take note of other overhead kicks and how to defend against them.

Rooney’s goal at Old Trafford was a spectacular winner, but often in these situations the referee blows the whistle for dangerous play. On the same ground in the FA Cup Manchester United were playing against Blue Square Bet Premiership non-leaguers Crawley Town and the minnows were a goal down when Crawley striker Matt Tubbs almost did the same thing as Rooney.

His spectacular overhead kick just cleared the bar, but this time the referee blew for a free-kick – had the ball gone in the net it wouldn’t have counted.

This would have been very contentious because of the occasion and the scoreline. However, the difference in this case was that the Manchester defender Wes Brown put his head in the way… so it was considered dangerous play. If Vincent Kompany had done the same against Rooney it would probably have been considered dangerous play as well.

In youth matches I’m sure most referee’s would blow the whistle for dangerous play if your players hold their ground and try to win the ball.

Watch the clip below and around 3.40 minutes of it you will see Matt Tubbs’ attempted overhead kick and Wes Brown putting his head in danger.

If only I could go out and buy young players like Manchester United do…

dave clarkeWouldn’t it be great if we could go out like Manchester United have done and buy the best young players for our teams!

Attracting players gets harder and harder as more teams than ever before set up to play the game. Players have a lot of clubs to chose from so coaches need to think about their set up so it is their club which gets the players and not another.

These are the issues you have to think about when you advertise for players.

Quality of coaching
Cost per player
Playing time
Attitude of the club

In the case of my club the important thing that attracts players is the set up of the club and the attitude of all the coaches – players come first – which means fun in a safe environment with all players getting equal rights on the pitch.

This message gets around and parents and players like the idea of joining a club with this philosophy – you will find that they don’t mind paying the fees if the set up is right.

Meanwhile, Adnan Januzaj from Belgium has joined Manchester united academy. He has signed a four-year deal for Sir Alex Ferguson’s team, the right winger being brought to Ferguson’s attention after some brilliant displays in Anderlecht’s youth team.

Januzaj will get £120,000 a yearand becomes the highest paid academy player at Old Trafford. Manchester united will have to pay a training and development fee to Anderlecht.

Anderlecht manager Herman Van Holsbeeck said: “Interest in Adnan Januza is a great compliment to the youth of purple and white (Anderlecht). Adnan Januzaj has been at Anderlecht since he was 10 and has not played first team football yet.

Watch this clip of him and think about what he could do for your team!

Xavi plays the perfect through ball

Once your players can pass and move the ball you need to get them to focus on more advanced types of passes. The through ball is a ball passed into space for the target player to run on to – a great attacking weapon. It is a skill players develop over time, theability to put a ball where an attacker can run on to it.

Below is a clip of Xavi at Barcelona playing an amazing through ball to Thierry Henry. It is such a clever ball that the defenders do not see it coming. Watch though how good recovery play from the defender and a brave goalkeeper block Henry’s attempt to score.

You can also see two great goals from the FA Cup games at the weekend. When Leeds shocked Manchester United the goal came from a perfect through ball by Jonny Howson of Leeds who played the ball into space behind the Manchester defenders. Jermaine Beckford was quickest to the ball and he beat the goalkeeper with his shot.

The second goal was in the Tranmere v Wolves game when Wolves’ Nenad Milijas played a ball through the heart of the Tranmere defence to Matt Jarvis who fired home from just inside the box.

Watch all three goals below.

You can get your players to practice playing the through ball using coned off zones at either end of the pitch with an attacker and a 3v3 in the centre where players have to compete for the ball then pass it through to the attackers.

 Soccer Skills and Drills

The reason Ryan Giggs is such a good crosser of the ball

By Dave Clarke
dave clarkeAt the ripe old age of 35 its amazing that Ryan Giggs is still good enough to win the PFA player of the year award which he did in April this year. One of the reasons for his longevity is that he is constantly on the training pitch going through his paces.

One of the best training exercises for any winger is the training he does so he can get pinpoint accuracy on his crosses. His delivery in to the box is the right weight and direction almost every time.

The secret behind his success is this little exercise.

david clarke

If you look at the diagram the coach had split the penalty area up into very tight squares numbered one to ten. When he called out a zone to Giggs the player had to cross the ball so it landed in that square. It was a very precise exercise, the coach had a lot of balls and played it to either position 1 or position 2 for Giggs to run onto and cross first time to the called out zone.

As I was coaching under 15s I could use all the zones but for younger age groups you could just shout near, far and penalty spot. There is also an opportunity to practice cutbacks where the player is crossing the ball back to the edge of the penalty area for players running in.

For players who cannot cross the ball very far it is good practice for them to run onto the ball and cross it using a good technique – they will soon progress.

 Soccer Skills and Drills

What do you do when you celebrate a win?

DavidClarkeAs coaches we have all been through a period where we haven’t won for a few games and we begin to doubt what we have achieved. Losing is a part of sport that we all must accept and I include myself in that.

However hard we try to achieve a winning team you must be realistic and accept that losing is something that happens to most coaches. Remember that for every game you win opposite you is a coach and team that have lost, so try to respect that and not be over enthusiastic in your celebrations.

I know sometimes it isn’t easy to keep your emotions in check. I can remember after losing three games in a row how fantastic it felt to win again and so did my players. Coaches must try to set an example to their players in victory and in defeat because young players are easily influenced by your reactions.

Watching Maradonna when Argentina won a place in the World Cup in the recent qualifying matches diving full length onto the pitch is a good example of what you shouldn’t do. When my team won the U10 title having been second all season I could easily have done the same. Thankfully I can look back at the occasion and see photos of smiling coaches not idiots!

Watch these clips, one of Maradonna when Argentina beat Uruguay to claim a place in the 2010 World Cup against the odds, the second clip shows the moment Argentina score (goooooooooooooooooooooal!) and Sir Alex Ferguson when his team scored twice in the final minutes to help them on the road to winning the Premier League in England in 1993.

Why Burnley beating Manchester utd is inspirational

DavidClarkeI can sit for hours and argue that a good coach can mean the difference between winning and losing, and then a good coach makes the headlines by struggling at their new club.

The victory by Burnley over Manchester Utd is important for coaches of youth teams for a number of reasons. First Manchester Utd lost! But seriously I can take this result with me and talk to my players about it at training.

Burnley beat Man Utd… Never! they would have said before the game. Now they can see that you can beat the unbeatable teams at the top of the league. It can help inspire them to great feats over their own unbeatable teams they will face in the coming season.

But it also shows how tactics and good coaching can produce results like this. Pitting your wits against Sir Alex Ferguson is difficult at the best of times but playing him with a less gifted team is a nightmare and yet Owen Coyle the Burnley manager has managed to do it.

He has got Burnley promoted and now they are gracing the Premier League with style and good football. I will watch them with interest over the coming months. And especially when Burnley go to Old Trafford and see what Sir Alex Ferguson has in store for them next time.

 Soccer Skills and Drills


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