Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Get your players to look up and look around

davidscwnewI run this session to get my players looking around when they have the ball. It means they’re aware of where their team mates are and where there’s space on the pitch that can be exploited.

For the session to really work, players that are not in possession need to look to see where opposition players are so they can see where they are able to receive a pass.

I usually run a handball session first so players get a feel for the positional elements without worrying about ball control with their feet.

Handball

  • Set up a 25×15 yards area as shown in the top picture, with flags (or bibs) of the same colour on the corner poles.
  • The game is 6v6, with players in a 2-3-1 formation.
  • When a player passes the ball, he must shout out the flag colour. The team gains a point after making five consecutive passes. Passes must be from the chest and cannot go above head height.
  • If a player is tagged with the ball in his hands, or a pass is misplaced, the other team takes possession.
  • Make sure players stay on the move and are at match pace, and change the flag colour throughout the game.
  • Play for five minutes.

Football

  • For the second part, use a 40×30 yards area, as shown in the middle picture, with small goals.
  • In a 2-3-1 formation, players must defend the goal while trying to score in the opponent’s goal, but before they pass the ball, they must call out the two flag colours.
  • Each team must make four passes and call out colours correctly before it can score.
  • Change colours at regular intervals, as shown in the bottom picture, to keep players on their toes.
  • Play for five minutes.

Technique and tactics

  • Players adopting a side-on body position for receiving and moving forward will be able to see both ends of the pitch, and more flags. It’s easier to tell young players they need to see both flags rather than expecting them to understand the technique behind opening their body to play.
  • Players also need to concentrate on good passing and control, in all areas of the pitch.


Great way to switch play

davidscwnewSwitching play (moving the ball from one side of the pitch to the other) will allow teams to create significantly more space on a football pitch. And that, in turn, can lead to better goalscoring situations.

Changing this angle of an attack requires intelligence and reasonable passing ability, but get it right and it’s a potent weapon for your team.

Here’s how to do it.

How to set it up:

  • Set up a 45×20 yards playing area.
  • On both long sides, position three goals using poles or cones, each five yards wide. Each team protects three goals.
  • In the area, a 4v3 takes place. The overload is designed to help one team achieve the coaching focus.

Getting started:

  • Teams must maintain possession, use quick switching of play to find space – with both short and long passes – and score in any of the goals.

Progressing the session:

  • After 10 minutes, add two players in sweeper roles behind the goals their team is defending. The opposition cannot score in a goal the sweeper is protecting.
  • Rotate players regularly.

Game situation:

  • Set up a 50×40 yards area with a full-size goal at one end and three small goals at the other. Play 5v4 (including the keeper), use normal rules. The team with the overload attacks the three goals. Here, look for switches from deep and quick breaks forward.

Why this works:

The session encourages forward angled passing, one-twos and through balls, and rehearses offensive as well as defensive principles. Teams that can hold onto the ball and make use of the space will create lots of scoring chances.

* Editor’s choice *

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Patterns of play

davidscwnewPatterns of play are essential to the game. They can begin with any player on the pitch, and range from extremely simple to frighteningly complex! But the more players practise them and understand their effectiveness, the better the rewards for your team.

Here’s a game I use that starts with my full back. It doesn’t involve any long balls, but does require crisp, accurate passing. See if it works for you!

What to do

  • Set up as shown in the pictures above. There is a target man (T) at each end of the area, plus two neutrals (N) and a 3v3 in the main 50×40 yards area, not including the centre circle, which has its own 2v2. Players cannot step over area boundaries.
  • There are two balls in play at all times, starting with the target players who play out to the full back.
  • Teams score a point by receiving the ball from one target man and pass it the length of the area to the other but each player on the team must touch the ball. This doesn’t include neutrals, who play for the attacking team.
  • Tackling is only allowed in the centre circle, although blocks are allowed elsewhere. If play is turned over in the centre, the ball must go back to a target player for a new move to start.
  • When a point is scored, target players restart by passing the ball to a player on the non-scoring team.
  • Increase the game’s difficulty by making the neutral players defenders. If they win possession they return the ball to a target player.

The practice

  • The game is great for practising moving patterns through midfield.
  • It encourages players in the main area to be constantly on the move to help those in the centre.
  • Players must be alert to opportunities to pass, particularly because a team could find itself in possession of two balls at once.
  • Players must learn to pick up on preferred patterns of play from players in designated positions. The game encourages players to read and learn others’ preferences.


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.



How Ronaldinho creates space for AC Milan

Ronaldinho gave a timely reminder to the Brazil coach Dunga that he is back on form. In the recent Champions league match playing for AC Milan against Olympic Marseille.

There’s been a lot written about how poor Ronaldinho’s form has been over the last couple of seasons but seeing that game is a pretty mouthwatering preview of what we can expect in the World Cup, if he gets picked by his international coach, but if he keeps this form up I can’t see him being left out.

How his team mates didn’t score from some of the passes he made I don’t know. What I lke is the way he creates space by skillful turns and skillful passes. When I write about passing the ball into space for players to run on to it is sometimes hard to get the point across, Ronaldinho does it for me in this game.

Show your players how Ronaldinho uses skill to create space for himself and then he plays the ball cleverly into space for players to run on to rather than to the player. He will often target an area to pass into where there are no players but where one of his team mates can be first to the ball.

It’s a masterclass in how a player can make a team play exciting attacking soccer. Watch this clip of him in the game:

 Soccer Skills and Drills




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