Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Score with both feet

davidscwnew

The best attackers can shoot with either foot… is this true? Well attackers that can shoot with either foot have more opportunities to score so the individual will be much better placed if they can score with the foot that naturally takes the ball towards goal.

The complete attacker should be able to at least direct the ball on target with both feet even if one has a more powerful shot than the other.

Young players instinctively go for their preferred foot so you need to get them shooting with both of them or they will come to rely on one foot rather than the other.

I often see attackers, even professional attackers, making awkward shapes with their bodies so they can use one foot rather than the one they should use. Once again it’s down to the amount of practice they do and how they practise.

I like this great exercise  to get my players shooting with both feet:

How to set it up

Use an area 40 yards by 30 yards with two goals and two goalkeepers.

How to play it

  1. The shooter makes a long pass to the coach and runs to receive the ball back.
  2. The player now shoots with one foot.
  3. After shooting, the player reacts and runs to receive a second ball from another server and shoots with the other foot.

How to rotate it

After completing the circuit, the player becomes a server for the next shooter.



Robben and Ronaldo’s speed shooting

davidscwnew

It must be a close call as to who is the faster player, Bayern Munich’s Dutch star Arjen Robben or Portugal and Real Madrid hero Cristiano Ronaldo. Both can run and change direction at speed, and both possess a potentially devastating end product to boot.

Many people assume that speed is in-built, but it can certainly be taught and improved. Control, meanwhile, is something that even more easily, over time, can be fine-tuned. So here is an exercise that combines both.

How to set it up

  • Make sure your players are warmed up before they try this.
  • You need 10 cones, a ball, a goal, a stopwatch and a timesheet.
  • Create a five-yard square around the penalty spot.
  • You need two gates, each two yards wide, each side of the penalty “D”, and 20 yards from the goal line.
  • Make another gate in the centre of the pitch 24 yards from the goal line, and place the ball here.

Getting started

  • Players initially face the goal. On your whistle, players turn around and sprint towards the ball. Start the clock.
  • They must then dribble it around the course as fast as they can. The choice of direction is yours.
  • When they return to the starting area, they shoot into either corner of the goal.
  • The clock stops when the ball hits the net.

Why this drill works

Fast, focused, and in control. These are the things you want your striker to be. This drill demands the use of both feet and lightning quick movement, agility, co-ordination, the necessity to change direction and, ultimately, the ability to shoot at goal.

Get your young players to train in this way and they will replicate the positive benefits of this in match day situations.



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.



Receive, control, turn, dribble

This move is designed to get players focused on receiving the ball and moving off. It relies on a good first touch and develops into a passage of play that can open up space for your team to exploit.

How to set it up

  • You need three players for this exercise, plus a good number of balls and cones. Create a two-yard square control box.

  • From each of the two left-hand cones of the box, walk diagonally for 12 yards and create two more identical coned squares.

  • From each of the two right-hand cones of the box, measure five yards at a slight angle, placing two cones at these points.

Getting started

  • Two players in the left-hand boxes take it in turns to play balls to the player in the control box.

  • Get the serving players to pass balls at different heights so the player gets used to controlling it with different parts of his body.

  • The receiving player must control the ball with one touch, ensuring he keeps it within the square.

  • He turns after controlling the ball and dribbles it to the top cone, then sprints to the second cone.

  • He leaves the ball at the second cone and sprints back to his control box, ready to receive a pass from the other server.

Why this works

This is a fast-paced move that combines instant control with the need to get the ball and the player on the move quickly.

Making your player vary his turning direction once he has received the ball will shape his mindset so that he is always aware he may need to turn away from tackles coming in during a normal game.



Advance the pass

davidscwnew

This advanced passing and moving exercise gets players thinking about where they are moving as they control and pass the ball. It helps young players perfect the weight and accuracy of the pass while they are on the move and looking around them for the player to pass to.

How to set it up

  • Set up an area 30 yards long by 20 yards, with a cone at each corner. Have a queue of players at the first cone and one player on the next three cones.

  • The game is continuous but because there is a lot of passing and movement, it relies on your players to listen and then perform the tasks using good technique, running and passing skills.

What you want to see in your players

  • Follow the steps in the diagram. Your players will have to concentrate as you talk them through the steps. Read the diagram carefully so you can see how the ball is moving around the cones.

  • Make sure your players are concentrating on all the aspects of the exercise – passing, controlling, awareness and moving with ease around the cones. Explain to them that the weight of the pass and accuracy of the pass are vital to the exercise.

  • When you have run the exercise for 10 minutes (or less if you are only using a few players) have a drinks break then tell your players you want to see them do it again at full speed for five minutes. They will either be brilliant at it or have a great deal of fun and laugher trying to be brilliant at it!

  • End with a small-sided game where you want to see some of the aspects the players have learned in the session.



Make the most of possession play – dribble or pass?

davidscwnewBy David Clarke

When players feel pressure in matches, it can often affect their ability to make decisions. You will undoubtedly have players who dribble brilliantly in training, yet “panic pass” in matches. Other players will hesitate when on the ball and a great opportunity to pass to a team mate is often lost.

Knowing when to surge into space with a dribble or when to switch play with a good pass comes from lots of practice – and you can’t expect players to learn this on their own.

Therefore, it’s a great idea to set up situations where they have the choice, because making that call can be vital to their development.

This session shows players where options present themselves, then develops into a small-sided game, in which the right decision will give their team the advantage.

How to set it up

  • Create a playing area measuring 30×25 yards.
  • For this session you’ll need bibs, cones and balls.
  • There are two teams of four players.
  • Set up three small goals – spaced equally apart – along the longest sides.
  • Each team must defend its goals while trying to score in the other three.

Getting started

  • Players score by dribbling or passing the ball through the poles.
  • Players must react quickly to situations around them, looking for areas on the pitch where there is space to exploit. They should look to mix dribbling with passes to team mates, but every decision is made with the aim of retaining team possession.
  • Play for 15 minutes.

Developing the session:

  • Develop the session by making the area 50×30 yards with two five-yard end zones.
  • The players must get the ball into the end zone by passing to a player who has run to meet the pass, or by dribbling into the end zone themselves.
  • Players are not allowed to stand in the end zone waiting for a pass – they must always be on the move.
  • You can award an extra “goal” if the attacking team makes five consecutive passes before scoring.
  • If players find the session easy, reduce the size of the scoring zone at each end by a yard. For younger players, increase the size.

Why this works:

This practice rehearses players in the logic that clever dribbling can move the ball into areas where there is space to be exploited. A final pass to a team mate should make the creation of goalscoring chances that much easier.

Players are also encouraged to score with a pass which represents a quicker route to goal than a dribble. The decisions depend on the player’s ability to read the space and that will come as they practise this session.

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Keep the ball under pressure

By David Clarke

David ClarkeEncouraging your players to keep the ball for your team is a vital part of your training sessions. Different age groups need different levels to practice at – and I know some of you will have teams that are more advanced than others, so here are three different levels of exercise to practice possession soccer.

Make use of a simple 2v1 game

In diagram 1 the two white players pass and move around the square while the grey player has to try and win the ball. If he wins the ball he replaces one of the white players and the game goes on. To advance this game tell the white players they can only have 2 touches on the ball before they must pass. Once they have got the basics of the game add more players to make it a 3 v 2 or a 4 v 2.

Expand the play so you are using 10 players

Moving to more advanced exercises you can expand the play further like diagram 2. For this one use 10 players and an area 30 yards x 20 yards. Set it up so you have five attackers inside the area. Two more attackers – one on each of the longest sides of the area – can move up and down to support the play. Three defenders inside the area try to win the ball back.

They must win it back twice, then one of the three swaps places with an attacker – and the play continues.

Move it to a 6v6 game

You can then take it a stage further like diagram 3 where we have a 6v6. Go back to a square pitch either 30 yards x 30 yards or 20 yards x 20 yards depending on the age and ability of your players. You need to have a player from each team on each side of the square, with 2 from each side inside the square. The team that starts with the ball must keep it for as long as possible using team mates on the edge of the square.

The player who receives the ball on the edge of the square can either pass or run into the square with the ball and the player who passed the ball out has to take his place on the side of the square.

The team trying to win the ball can only use the two players in the centre until they win it – players on the edge of the square cannot tackle.
Key coaching points

  • A good first touch on the ball when receiving.
  • Play the ball first time whenever possible.
  • Count the number of passes to make it competitive.
  • Players should use the inside and outside of each foot.


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.



Midfield magic – play like Frank Lampard

By David ClarkeDavid Clarke

Combining pace and aggression going forward with the wherewithal to track back, this is a move inspired by one of the best in the game, Chelsea ‘s Frank Lampard. For over 10 years, the England man has proved a pivotal force in the centre of the park, so here’s an opportunity for your players to try out some of that classic Lampard box-to-box play.

How to set it up:

Play 3v3v3, in an area of 30×30 yards. There are three goals, two in each of the corners and one placed on the opposite side in the middle. One player from each team acts as goalkeeper.

Getting started:

  • The practice starts with one player from each team attacking the goal to their left – unopposed dribbling and shooting in turn.
  • Players must concentrate on controlling the ball and approaching each goal at an angle.
  • At the end of each attack, the two attackers move clockwise around the playing area, ready to attack the next goal. Goalkeepers remain where they are.
  • To advance this, add defenders to the practice so your attackers have an additional obstacle. l Make sure you rotate players so that everyone gets a chance in each position.
  • You can also switch play by attacking each goal from the right-hand side.

The key elements:

  • The focus is on individual skills such as dribbling, shooting and 1v1 attacking and defending.
  • Highlight those players who are using good technique and creating space.
  • Don’t be afraid to stop the game, pointing out to your players what they are doing right and wrong in terms of technique and positioning.

Why this works:

Play is centred on a tight area that represents the compacted nature of the midfield. Therefore players are forced to make quick and efficient decisions in attack and defence. Rather than undertake an exercise that encourages a player to pass, this is a great move whereby taking on an opponent can be shown to have a much more dynamic effect on the game, something that is good for players to recognise in a full match situation.



Cream of English U17s well beaten by Qatar academy

Watching the Qatar Aspire Academy U17s playing in the Milk Cup youth tournament in Northern Ireland its hard not to be very impressed. The players are individually very skilfull and Qatar is developing a wonderful team.
They won the final against Manchester Utd U17s 5-1. Utd are known for having a very strong team but had nothing to give against these boys.

Qatar also beat a Brazilian youth team 6-1 and a Dutch youth team 7-1… watch this space.

Here they are beating Manchester Utd with some fabulous play.




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