Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: defending, force play, predictable, pressing, Switch play, tactics
An important characteristic of modern teams is their ability to control the game even when they haven’t got the ball. The whole team plays a part in this tactic with the intention of forcing the opposition into awkward situations.
The formation succeeds by covering all avenues of opposition attack, meaning that play is stifled. It relies on pressing as soon as the opposition has the ball. The defending team always keeps the action in front of them and tries to stop any balls through the centre or in behind.
This tactic requires good fitness from players because it is hard work. And for pressing to work, the team must prevent any switches of play as this will give overload initiatives to attackers. But performed well, the game rewards are significant.
How to set it up:
Set up an area measuring 30×20 yards. Make three 10-yard zones across the width of the pitch.
You will need bibs, cones, balls and goals.
The players in the middle zone must prevent other teams passing through them.
This featured session uses nine players split into groups of three (one group in each area), but it will work with any equal denominations.
No balls are allowed over head height.
Players are restricted to two touches.
Play starts with either end zone team. Players pass among themselves before threading a ball through to the team in the opposite end zone.
For the first two minutes, the middle team is not allowed to move any player out of its zone.
After two minutes, allow one player from the middle zone to go forward into an end zone to press the ball. Play this for three minutes.
If the ball is intercepted, play restarts at the other end.
Rotate play so that each team fulfils defensive duties in the middle.
Now try this:
Remove the zones and add two goals, with a keeper in each. Also add a halfway line.
Keep the teams in threes but this time the middle team attacks one end, then turns and attacks the other.
The outer two teams must defend the area and clear the ball using the pressing technique.
If a goal is scored, play restarts with the middle group and they attack in the opposite direction. If a tackle is made, the defenders’ reward is to now switch places with the middle group, thus becoming the attackers.
Why this works:
Pressing the ball is a great tactic for winning back possession. This activity shows the value in doing that, compared to standing off waiting to intercept. Pressing means opposition players rarely settle on the ball and mistakes can be forced, either through poor control or a rushed pass.
Take out a 97p trial to Soccer Coach Weekly today.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: attacking, late goals, losing, tactics, winning, winning 1-0
By David Clarke
Early last season I was frustrated with my players because they were throwing away matches by defending too deep in the last few minutes. We were playing 25 minutes each way and, for every minute except the last 10, we were the better team. Looking at my notes at the time, I was having trouble keeping my players focused on their formation for the whole match. Instead, as they neared the end, the team began to just clear their lines.
Lone attacker too deep
My lone attacker in the 2-3-1 formation we played was so deep, he was playing in our penalty area. So, when we won the ball, there was no outlet and it kept coming back until we eventually buckled under the pressure.
This is a common problem you see all the time, even at the top level of the game. If you are winning 1-0, why not just stop the other team scoring? It’s something the Italian clubs and national team have always been famous for.
However, to do this, you need to play a different formation. I found it difficult during the game to persuade my attacker to leave his deep position and take opposition players away from our goal by staying near the halfway line. In his young mind, he was helping the team win the game.
Makes sense to play the same way
There was no point in shouting at him during the game. I had to wait until training and explain it to him. Eventually, over the course of a few weeks he, and the team, realised that if we were winning 1-0 by playing a certain way, then it made sense to play that way until the final whistle.
However, we had a few tears along the way. My centre back took my instructions literally that we should be attacking in the last 10 minutes.
With a couple of minutes to go in one game, he charged up the wing with the ball and went past one, past two, past three… then he lost ball and the counter attack caught us out!
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!
Take out a 97p trial to Soccer Coach Weekly today.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: astro turf, skills, tactics, throw-ins
Last weekend, we were lucky to find our game was on given that most of the country was under water – we played on astro turf as our usual pitch was too wet. It was a fast game, requiring player reactions to be somewhat quicker than normal.
But whether on a fast surface or not, I always ask my players to think about performing quick, instinctive actions all the time anyway. Sure enough, on Saturday, we scored an opportunist goal thanks to one of my players taking a quick throw-in while the opposition was still getting set up to defend the set play. After the ball went dead, my winger ran over, picked it up and threw it first time into the path of one of our attackers. Two touches later, and the ball was in the back of the net before the keeper had even realised what was happening.
Something like a quick throw-in can make a huge difference in matches, and particularly in youth football where players are not as ‘tuned in’ and alert as they are in the pro game. Of course, players need to show good technique if they are to take advantage of the situation. In fact, after we had used the quick throw-in successfully, another one of my players repeatedly tried to replicate the tactic, and on each occasion he was penalised for lifting one of his feet off the ground.
I know he felt frustrated about it – he was trying to perform the throw quickly, but as a result lost sight of the action itself. You could say he was quick, but couldn’t keep to the rules!
But it’s still worth using quick throw-ins at every opportunity in your coaching sessions. Get players to try it under timed pressure – each time there’s a throw-in they have only 10 seconds to get into position and perform the action.
Of course, to make the most of this in game situations you’ll need for each player to excel at the technique. A lot of teams will have one or two players who are specialists, but if you want quick throw-ins, they’ll need to be performed by the player nearest the ball.
Tell your players to remember:
- To take the throw-in from where the ball went out of play
- That their team mates can’t be offside from a throw-in
- That another player has to touch the ball before the thrower can touch it again
- That a goal cannot be scored directly from a throw-in
- And that opponents must stand more than two yards from the thrower
Try it out! It’s a great feeling the first time your team proves that something as basic as a throw-in can be utilised to such devastating effect!
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: Gerrard, goals, pass, score, space, switching play, tactics
By 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.
- 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.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: attack, lose, parents, score, shoot, tactics, touchline tale, win
I’ve heard a lot of things shouted at soccer games in youth leagues, but something that I was confronted with at our game last weekend was a new one for me.
It was hot on the heels of a meeting I’d had the day before where the blueprint for youth soccer in England had filled my world with hope for the future of the game. But the positivity and fair-mindedness that I’d experienced was quickly stifled in the reality of an Under-11s match.
We were playing against a strong, tough-tackling, hard-kicking team who were hitting balls at our defence with alarming regularity. Supporting this extremely hard-working team were a group of parents intent on winning, and winning whatever it took.
We adjusted to the pressure and at half-time it was 0-0. We now had the slope of the pitch in our favour. Our slick passing and movement began to gain us the upper hand, and the through-ball exercises we had been working on earlier in the week were looking as though they might pay dividends.
It was at this point one of the opposition parents, obviously realising his son’s team were losing their edge, began shouting warnings. Nothing unusual in that, until a final instruction came: “Don’t let them play!” he screamed. “Stop them playing!” This ‘tactic’ was promptly followed up by other parents. They were trying to end this absorbing game as a contest.
I remarked to the parent how much the players were enjoying the tactical battle, and that shutting down and stifling the game was a real shame… but of course I was ignored and the bluntly shouted instructions continued. This tactic actually allowed us to switch play more easily, and as my players began to pick off the tiring opposition players we found better chances to score. Late on, we finally found the net.
We held on to win the game, and the post-match atmosphere between the two sets of players, if not the parents, was good. It was our opponents’ first loss of the season and those around the sides of the pitch took it badly.
But what they failed to see was that it was a good close game. And it might have been even closer had they let the players continue in the same manner with which they’d approached the first half.
At the end my players said they had enjoyed winning 1-0 much more than the previous week when they’d triumphed 8-0, but I think even they felt the spirit of the game had gone in those final phases. That was a shame, because up until then there had been two styles of play cancelling each other out, providing a platform for an abundance of skill all over the pitch.
If only the parents hadn’t got involved…
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: attacker, defender, positions, specialist positions, tactics, when to specialize
A lot has been discussed lately about how coaches and managers should be using their players when it comes to positions in matches.
Certainly at younger age groups – Under-9s and below – where most matches are friendlies, you can switch players around without any fear of causing problems on match day.
I make sure that in every match I change the positions of three players. This works by giving them experience in other positions without altering the tactical make-up of the team. They swap positions after each third of the game, thus allowing them a significant amount of time in each role.
I also make it clear to those players that because I am going to use them in three different positions they will not be substituted during the game. In their minds then, they lose out in not having a set position, but on the plus-side they can play knowing they’re in action for the full duration.
Last weekend we were up against a strong side, but even in this game I made sure I moved players around, targeting my right-back, right winger and left-sided attacker. They swapped positions during the game and had to adapt to their new positions. For the first third they started in their ‘normal’ positions. Then I swapped my right-back with the right winger – a logical move. My right winger went up front as a left attacker – still attacking but from a different side and further up front.
And finally, in what might have seemed a slightly illogical move, I put my left attacker into the right-back position. That right-back slot is all about sitting deep then supporting and blocking counter-attacks, and is one of the vital roles when the team loses the ball.
The changes worked, and as I had hoped, my attacker was badgering me after the game to let him play in defence again because he liked seeing the game being played out in front of him!
That’s evidence enough that players are never completely ready for you to brand them with a position before they have tried each one out themselves! But the important part of the exercise is in making sure your players are gaining experience of playing all over the pitch. That gives them a greater sense of the game and what other players have to do.
And sure enough, all three players came off the pitch looking pleased with themselves. They had just done their bit for us, and helped us to win a particularly difficult game playing defence, attack and on the wing.
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: 11-a-side, match day tactics, tactics
Last season my half-time team talks were full of drama – you might remember me talking about individual half-time chats the previous season and how successful that was. Well last season one of my teams went to 11-a-side and that made what happens at the interval all the more important.
Overnight, tactics became a huge problem. Who covers what, why, where and when all featured in a very rushed team talk at half-time during our first match.
What didn’t help was me forgetting to bring along my tactics board. A lot of my players like visual learning at half-time better than verbal learning and so I had taken to using a board in pre-season matches, and training sessions too. This had worked well, but on this occasion I’d left it at home.
I wanted to show my players how to deal with an opposition striker who was playing right on the line, and feeding off through balls played into the space behind my defence.
We kept getting caught out because one defender was constantly dropping back to pick the striker up, scared that the linesman wouldn’t flag for offside. I wanted to show the back four how to deal with the threat by keeping a strong line and stepping up when the through balls were played.
Or, they could sit deeper as a unit and win the ball off the striker before hitting the other team on the counter. But I had no board to help me express this. Looking around I saw a tower of cones. I picked them up and placed four on the ground to represent our half of the pitch.
Using additional cones I took my players through, step-by-step, where the defending was not working. Of course, I went for the positive angle – namely that we hadn’t let any goals in and were defending well, but we could do even better… I’m pleased to say the makeshift tactics board worked, and it seems I am not alone in improvising.
Other coaches have revealed to me similar ideas, one laying down water bottles, another even using half-eaten oranges! It all goes to show that when the need arises, it’s not only your players who need to be creative!
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Refereeing, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: Arsenal, euro 2012, heading, Ligue 1, Montpelier, olivier giroud, shooting, tactics, Tours, youtube
During Euro 2012 the false or fake striker was a huge talking point for the top teams throughout the world and how tactics work around not having a traditional striker – but slipping under the radar at the same time was a proper striker who could take the Premier League in England by storm.
Olivier Giroud won a French League title with Montpelier in May then got drafted into the French squad for the Euros. But his rise has been far from spectacular he has learnt his trade – he started off at the boys’ team Olympique Club de Froges then Grenoble’s youth academy. It was here that he was spotted by Tours in France’s Ligue 2 and then to Montpelier. Now he plays for Arsenal in England.
“I can play as a lone forward, in partnership with a second forward, or in front of a No10,” he said. “I’ll adapt my game to different situations. That’s my job. I’ve worked hard to add some explosive power to the first few metres when I make a run with or without the ball.”
Giroud scored 21 league goals in his team’s league winning season. He is a striker who relies on stature and physical presence and with his aerial ability he should scare a lot of defences in the Premier League, but he is also a thinker and very quick with the ball at his feet.
I’m looking forward to seeing how he will adapt to playing outside of France, but most of all it will be refreshing to see a skilful centre forward giving defences a hard time in England.
Watch him in this video and see the range of skills he possesses…
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer Coaching, Soccer Fitness, Soccer News, Soccer Skills, Soccer Team Management, Soccer Training | Tags: creating space, drills, exercises, sessions, tactics, throw-ins, tips
By David Clarke
I find that when young players pick up the ball for a throw-in and are faced by one of their team mates very close to them they usually end up doing a foul throw because they aren’t throwing the ball very far.
The way to stop them doing this is to give them tactics that both the thrower and receiver have practised before the match.
A player too close to the thrower is not in a good position anyway. What you are looking for is a player on the move who can take the ball in their stride and use it to advance your team up the pitch.
Throw-ins are good attacking weapons but you also need to be able to make the most of them when you are defending as well.
I use these four throw-in tactics to give all my teams good basic ideas so they know what to do when they pick the ball up. You should try them too.
In diagram 1, player A throws to player B who gives the ball back to player A with the inside of the right foot on the volley.
Once your players have done it a few times with their right foot, player B does the same this time using the left foot like diagram 2 – again playing the ball from the throw-in before it touches the ground.
Concentrate on the quality of the throw-in
Player A should always make sure his throw makes it easy for player B to move to the ball and volley back. The throw should put the ball at the right height, in the right spot and at the right pace.
Make sure your throwers concentrate on this, aiming the ball in the general direction of player B is not good enough.
Players shouldn’t be put under pressure
A ball thrown at chest or head height will put player B under pressure, as defenders will have a chance of intercepting as player B tries to control the ball.
How to progress
You can progress the throw-in practice, as we have done in diagram 3, by adding a defender and another team mate.
Player A must then disguise his throw, so the defender runs to the wrong player.
Support and move from the throw-in
Add another defender, as in diagram 4. This time the thrower and his attackers must support each other once the initial throw has been made.
Player B receives the ball, passes to player C then supports the pass so player C can pass back to him. Or player C can pass long to player A who has run into an attacking position down the wing.
Alternatively, player B can either play the ball back to player A and set up an attack, or retain possession, and still set up a 3v2 situation.