Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Match day and only 9 players turn up

davidscwnewAt the weekend everything was looking good – the weather had cleared up and our game was on. But then, as I was preparing to leave the house, I was informed that three players had gone away for the half-term holidays without bothering to tell me.

So I had a problem. And sure enough, within the hour I had only nine players present, and was being asked what time the others were turning up. “Well, this is it, lads, this is the team… we’ve been let down”, I replied.

We’d beaten our opponents 1-0 earlier in the season, but a repeat performance seemed unlikely… not that I told my players that.

We gathered for our team talk and I assured them that they could still perform with only nine men. It’s not the first time this sort of setback has happened, and in the past I’ve used different tactics – one being to tell them to pretend we’d had two players sent off. But nothing had worked because, simply, they wanted to be told that everything would be okay and they wouldn’t be easily beaten.

So this time I took a simple, honest approach, telling them that hard work would compensate for the loss of players, and how if everyone put in an extra bit of effort we could make up the difference.

The reality was that the three who had failed to show comprised two strong covering players and a speedy trickster. So how was I going to cover that tactically?

Well, the pitch seemed particularly narrow, so my first move was to sacrifice the left-back position and tell my defenders to cover left. The defenders were sure they could manage – great.

I wanted to leave my four-man midfield as it was, so that left a lone striker up front, but we’d give it a try. It was an exciting challenge.

And I’m pleased to say the formation worked well. The opposition didn’t really take advantage of our left defence problem – they had a fast winger but he continually attacked our right-back. The only thing that let us down was support in attack – we created more chances than them but couldn’t get shots away, and when we did, there was no-one to follow up.

The game finished 0-0 but the players were magnificent and it was a great lesson in how hard work can overcome a numerical disadvantage. In many ways, it was probably the best game we have played all season.

The moral is don’t be put off by what might appear to be a major setback. It’s from such events that we usually learn most about ourselves and our players




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