Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: attack, drills, midfield, passing, shooting
It’s understandable for some players to want to bypass the crowded, pressurised environment that is the centre of the pitch.
But hitting long balls forward or always targeting play to the wings makes teams predictable and boring.
This is a practice that will boost confidence and remind players that getting the ball into midfield and using it smartly can often be the best way to attack.
How to play it
You need balls, bibs, cones and goals.
Mark out a 50×30 yards area split into three zones.
There are two teams of six, each also has a keeper.
The team in possession is allowed up to 20 seconds unchallenged in the central (safe) zone. It can stay there for that time or break out, but if still in the zone when time elapses, the opposition can go in and try to win the ball.
If the team in possession loses the ball in any area of the pitch, its players must vacate the central zone.
The size of the central zone is key to the challenge and skill of the game as players will discover so, after six minutes, increase or decrease its size to see what effect it has on the game.
Developing the session
- You can advance the session by allowing one opposition player to go in the central zone. This puts more pressure on midfielders.
Technique and tactics
The safe zone encourages play to go through midfield, with players getting used to receiving on the half-turn or practising controlling technique.
While doing this without the fear of being tackled, the option to survey options and pass the ball on is encouraged. However, the margin for error increases when the central zone is shortened.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: aguero, attack, communication, heroes, manchester city, midfield, shoot, team bonding, team spirit
Isn’t it great when you hear players shouting the names of their heroes in the professional game? Twice this week I heard a pro’s name shouted by one of my players when they were bearing down on goal, as I’ll go on to explain…
To put it into context, my Under-11s were playing a really important end-of-season match last week. I was nervous for them, as were the cluster of parents gathered on the touchline, but how refreshing to see the kids just playing the game with so much relaxed spirit. It was a tight first period with relatively few chances, and with the scores level in the second half, a series of passes led the ball to my midfielder Marcus through on goal at an angle.
Before he shot, he shouted “AGUERO!” and tried to emulate the player he had seen in his living room score that fantastic title-winning goal for Manchester City . Needless to say the shot went high and wide – oh well! Even so, that didn’t stop his team mates appreciating at least the fact he had put himself in the right place as we drove forward looking for a goal.
“I heard you shout that!” one of his team mates said with a smile on his face. “That was brilliant!”
Another came over laughing and told him he too had thought of Aguero as the move developed. I find it heartening when I see my players inspired by great and memorable events on the pitch that they want to emulate.
Kids learn by watching and there is no better league for them to learn from than the English Premier League. Their appreciation for the game is a far cry from some people’s perception that kids are sometimes only taken in by some of the more unsavoury aspects of the modern game. I disagree with that notion. At the end of the day they take the positives, and this season has been full of them – great players, great skills, great goals, but also great stories.
And not always on the pitch – look at the reaction to Fabrice Muamba recovering from his heart attack and the draw of affection from the football family, for instance. I have started to realise there’s a lot in football to inspire those of us in the grass roots game. And if ever, as coaches, we’re unsure which of those influences are having an effect, just watch the kids!
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Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: Barcelona, brazil, creating space, midfield, tactics
We were playing against a tough-tackling midfield-heavy outfit. It was near half-time and we hadn’t even produced a meaningful shot on goal. The opposition had been pressing us hard in midfield and our fast passing game was hitting a brick wall.
I could see my players were getting frustrated with being unable to get the ball through the midfield – that was, until one of my centre-backs decided to take the game into his own hands, and punted a ball over the midfield and behind the opposition defence. One of my forwards eagerly took it in his stride and found the back of the net – fantastic!
The opposition then had a problem in deciding how to defend against the type of ball that had caught them out. After a couple more lobs over the top, they had to pull players out of midfield. Reacting to that, we quickly reverted back to our fast passing game, and the success we know that brings.
The long ball isn’t pretty, but used tactically it can be very effective. And I have to admit I had nothing to do with instigating it – it was my players’ frustation that led to them formulating their own instinctive solution, and that’s something a coach always likes to see.
Players need to be aware of all sorts of things in matches and space is a certainly one of them. If they are struggling to find space then they need to do something to create it – individually, by losing markers, or as a unit, by stretching play.
After all, if you watch passing teams like Barcelona or Brazil you will see them pinging long passes forwards or sideways to lose the predictability of their set-up play. So even for the best in the world, a long ball maybe isn’t such a bad thing!
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Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: billy clifford, Chelsea, England, fa youth cup, midfield, playmaker, youth, youtube
At the moment he thrives in the atmosphere of Chelsea U21s where he has built up a great understanding with the more famous Josh McEachran. Their appreciation of what each other can do gives them an extra dimension to the quality and skill of play all over the pitch.
His youth team manager, Dermot Drummy is very impressed: “He’s a very good player Billy, an absolutely excellent standard of player for me and he’ll set the way we play; a leader on and off the field. [He’s] a fantastic trainer and he’ll set the standard for us on and off the pitch like that…we want that sort of leadership.
“He’s a player who can play anywhere. He has a footballer’s intelligence, he has everything, and he’s a winner.”
Indeed he is, having played a key role in FA Youth Cup and Premier Reserve League trophy successes in recent times. He also joined Andre Villas-Boas’ first-team squad on tour in Asia in 2011 and has been on the substitutes bench in the UEFA Champions League.
His versatility and ability to also play wide or at full-back will make him an enticing and intriguing prospect for a loan move to a Championship team – in the right team he would be a huge asset.
Hopefully he will progress over the next couple of years because this boy is exactly the type of player England needs.
Watch this video clip of him and see his vision and skills.
See also The Brazilian attacker
See also The German defender
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: attacking, creative, drill, exercise, midfield, passing, shoot, skills, target man
By David Clarke
The quality and organisation of a team’s support play is crucial in any match scenario – the midfield must have good control of the ball to create space for a pass into attacking positions. Controlling the ball in midfield and then making sure possession is retained is key to making forward attacking passes.
In this game the onus is on the midfield to win and retain possession and provide quality balls into a target man.
For the attacking team, accuracy of pass from midfield into the target man is one thing, but only the quality of the layoff will offer the chance of a goal – a bouncing ball or one that is too fast or too slow will affect the way the attacker controls the ball. Ideally a one touch shot will be the best option if the quality of pass is there.
For the defending team, there are two key aims – to block off the pass to the target man, then to recognise where the threat of the bombing support player may come from. If the defenders are too late, they may not be able to get back and tackle before a shot has been unleashed.
How to set it up
- Pitch size: 30×20 yards (min) up to 40×25 yards (max).
- Create two end zones, 10 yards in from each goal-line.
- You’ll need two teams of four players, plus two keepers.
- Each team selects one player to be the ‘target man’. This player stands in the attacking end zone.
- The aim of the game is to make a pass into the target man. A supporting player will then receive his layoff before shooting at goal.
- Defenders can track back only when the second supporting man makes his run.
- After a shot is made, the shooting player swaps position with the target man.
- The game is played for five minutes.
- If the ball leaves play, you have a few re-start options:
1. The coach passes a new ball onto the pitch
2. The players take a roll in
3. The players take a throw in
4. The players make a pass in
5. The players dribble in
- There is no offside
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management | Tags: Barcelona, control, iniesta, Manchester United, midfield, passing, shielding, xavi
The midfield is the engine room of the team, everything must pass through it for both attack and defence.
Watch the clip of Barcelona’s Iniesta and Xavi as they hold the ball and pass into space for each other in the 2009 Champions League Final.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills | Tags: brazil, confederations cup, counter attack, final, interception, midfield, usa
By Dave Clarke
If you are playing possession soccer, one of the things you have to take into account is winning the ball back. Sure, all your players know how to tackle but do they know what to do when they win the ball?
What you have to do is take your best tackler and show them how to stop attacks and then hit the opposition hard with some good passing.
When the opposition loses the ball they will be at their most vulnerable and your midfielder will be able to put them on the back foot with a good pass.
This will become a key tactic for match days – a player the rest of the team rely on to win the ball back.
The midfield ball winner
Tell your player to play in the hole in front of the central defenders.
Get them to close down any player running at the defence and stop them in their tracks.
You’ve seen games where the opposition kick off and runs right through your team to score. This player stops that by targeting the player with the ball and making the tackle.
And when they do get the ball,they need to be off running, passing, opening up the opposition defence.
The rest of the team have to be ready to support this role and be open for the pass.
It’s not always a great tackle that wins the ball in midfield. When USA played Brazil in the Confederations Cup Final it was an interception just outside the USA penalty area that led to a breakaway goal by Landon Donovan to put USA ahead 2-0 of Brazil.
It was a fantastic move. Landon Donovan takes possession, finds Charlie Davies and races forward, collects Davies’ return pass, takes a brilliant touch to create room on the edge of the Brazil box and fire left-footed into the far corner past Julio Cesar.
Passing and movement at its best. Watch out England.
Watch the position of the covering midfield players and the pass out of defence that set up the perfect counter attack: