Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Barca dominates Ballon d’Or

DCNo fewer than eight of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona players have made this year’s 23-man group for the FIFA Ballon d’Or, and leading the octet is a man bidding to win football’s top individual honour for the third year in succession.
Lionel Messi is on a hat-trick of wins and having already scored 45 times in 47 competitive appearances in 2011 should be favourite to win again. Cesc Fabregas, whose transfer has taken the shortlist’s Camp Nou contingent from six to eight, agrees with that: “I would put my hand in fire that Messi will win the Ballon d’Or,” said the former Arsenal captain. “He is a natural winner and a motivated fighter. What he has done we won’t see again. He gives everything and scores goals.”
Neymar’s inclusion is of interest, he is only 19 and plays for Santos in Brazil. Since the shortlist system was introduced by FIFA in 2004, only one player based outside of Europe has ever featured, and that was Boca Juniors’ Juan Roman Riquelme.
Neymar said. “There is no need to leave Brazil in order for the world to see us anymore,” he said after learning of his nomination. “It is a big happiness to be on a list like this. I have everyone to thank.”
2011 FIFA Ballon d’Or shortlist
Eric Abidal (FRA), Sergio Aguero (ARG), Xabi Alonso (ESP), Dani Alves (BRA), Karim Benzema (FRA), Iker Casillas (ESP), Samuel Eto’o (CMR), Cesc Fabregas (ESP), Diego Forlan (URU), Andres Iniesta (ESP), Lionel Messi (ARG), Thomas Muller (GER), Nani (POR), Neymar (BRA), Mesut Ozil (GER), Gerard Pique (ESP), Cristiano Ronaldo (POR), Wayne Rooney (ENG), Bastian Schweinsteiger (GER), Wesley Sneijder (NED), Luis Suarez (URU) David Villa (ESP), Xavi (ESP)

Defending against the overhead kick – Wes Brown v Vincent Kompany

dave clarkeOnce all the talk of the Wayne Rooney amazing overhead kick against Manchester City had died down I began to take note of other overhead kicks and how to defend against them.

Rooney’s goal at Old Trafford was a spectacular winner, but often in these situations the referee blows the whistle for dangerous play. On the same ground in the FA Cup Manchester United were playing against Blue Square Bet Premiership non-leaguers Crawley Town and the minnows were a goal down when Crawley striker Matt Tubbs almost did the same thing as Rooney.

His spectacular overhead kick just cleared the bar, but this time the referee blew for a free-kick – had the ball gone in the net it wouldn’t have counted.

This would have been very contentious because of the occasion and the scoreline. However, the difference in this case was that the Manchester defender Wes Brown put his head in the way… so it was considered dangerous play. If Vincent Kompany had done the same against Rooney it would probably have been considered dangerous play as well.

In youth matches I’m sure most referee’s would blow the whistle for dangerous play if your players hold their ground and try to win the ball.

Watch the clip below and around 3.40 minutes of it you will see Matt Tubbs’ attempted overhead kick and Wes Brown putting his head in danger.

Do your players have skills like Manchester United? Then show them off online

If you think your players’ skills could rival the likes of Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs or Nani, and you can take a short video clip of them doing the skills then read on.

Manchester United Soccer Schools (MUSS) are running a competition encouraging aspiring footballers, aged eight to 18, to learn more skills. The 6 core skills that qualify for this are:

  1. Fake pass.

  2. Stop turn.

  3. Flick behind.

  4. Roll across.

  5. Drag back.

  6. Stepover.

The clip should show at least one of the skills and be 60 seconds long. A coach, a parent or guardian must then submit it on behalf of the player.

If you do take a video clip of one of your players, for the competition, then also send a copy to me and I will put the best ones up on my Soccer Coaching Blog.

To get you started here’s a clip showing the drag back in action and how to coach and practice it.

Hit the target like Wayne Rooney

Can your players hit the target? I don’t know whether my U9s can because they won’t try. They had 16 corners at the weekend and not one shot from those corners. It was so frustrating, they passed and passed and passed, right in front of goal, it was almost as if they were too shy to shoot. Of course I love a good passing move, but from a corner I want them to be more direct – I want them to shoot!

So at my training session tonight I will give them target shooting practice.

The way to do it is to put some balls just outside the penalty area and get your players to shoot at goal from there.

Watch this clip of Wayne Rooney practicing shooting from outside the area and get your players doing the same thing.

 Soccer Skills and Drills

Even Wayne Rooney gives himself targets

DavidClarkeWhen you’re a striker you need to hit areas of the goal that the goalkeeper is not going to reach. That means the four corners. Top right, bottom right, top left and bottom left.

So you need to get your strikers hitting these areas in training so they can do it in matches.

My U14s have missed two penalties this season because they hit the ball straight down the throat of the goalkeeper. They need to be making the goalkeeper work hard, because it’s a big goal and if players can hit the corners the goalkeeper is going to struggle to get there.

Watch this clip of Wayne Rooney hitting balls at the corners of the goal and get your attackers doing the same.

 Soccer Skills and Drills

The goal from this corner should have been given

I love this corner – very clever and something to think about for our youth teams.

My only worry about using it is that if an official at a top premiership game can disallow the goal for not taking the corner correctly what will an official at a youth game do?

Watch the clip. In the Manchester United v Chelsea game on Sunday, Rooney walks to the corner  – plays the ball – but it looks to the opposition like he has just left the ball for someone else to take the corner. Ryan Giggs goes over and then accelerates away with the ball, crosses it and Ronaldo scores. The Chelsea players just stand and watch. Clever.

But the linesman flags for the ball not being played from the correct place even though it had.

How annoying that the players try something different, and score a goal only for a linesman to flag for a foul corner. Too clever. Where Rooney fell down was that he should have said something to the linesman as he played it.

The best and the worst (so far)

We’re almost at the half way point of Euro 2008 and as my good friend Sian would say, I’m loving it. Time then for a quick half-way-stage pub-list.

Match of the tournament (so far)

Got to be Turkey 3 Czech Republic 2 for sheer drama, and for Petr Cech dropping a clanger right on the toe of Turkish player Nihat to score the equaliser.

Other candidates include Croatia 2 Germany 1 for the Croats spirit, Slaven Bilic entertaining us all from the touchline, and for the guilty schadenfreude of any German defeat (with apologies to our German readers).

Team of the tournament (so far)

The Netherlands – might have been tempted to protect their early leads against the mighty Italy and France, but where’s the fun in that?

Players of the tournament (so far)

In no particular order:

Deco, Portugal – he has it all – he can pass anywhere, he has great vision, he can tackle, he can dribble, he can score, and he runs the games he plays in. However, it will be interesting to see how he and Portugal cope with tougher midfield opponents against Germany in the quarter-final.

Andrea Pirlo, Italy – has many of the same attributes as Deco. If he had a better striker to aim for than Luca Toni, Italy might not have made such heavy weather of their first two games.

David Villa, Spain – you get the feeling he won’t miss if he gets half a chance. Along with the god-like genius of Fernando Torres, the best strike partnership in the world at the moment.

Wayne Rooney – only joking, couldn’t resist.

Most irritating player (so far)

Cristiano Ronaldo – just because.

Referee of the tournament (so far)

Howard Webb, for taking a stand against outright cheating and awarding a penalty to Austria for holding in the penalty area in their match against Poland. At last someone has the guts to uphold the laws of the game.

Worst prediction of the tournament

Dwyer Scullion, predicting that Italy couldn’t win the tournament with their style of play. Since then, they’ve had countless shots and headers on target and if they had a more potent striker than Toni, they might well have scored more goals than the Dutch by now.

Feel free to agree, contradict, ridicule etc. I’ll have another stab at this completely futile exercise after the final.

Dwyer Scullion, Publisher, Better Soccer Coaching

Any value in formations?

Slaven Bilic, Croatia national team manager (and former Premier League player) last week said that he believes formations to be dead, ‘with successful teams essentially being about squeezing space and attacking in numbers’.


I’ve wondered about this myself. If you have a team with players of the quality of say Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez, Wayne Rooney etc. at Manchester United it’s a fair question to ask how important formations are in that scenario. Throughout the English Premier League season just finished United’s tactic seemed to be Attack! Attack! Attack! It’s thrilling to watch, even for a Liverpool supporter.


However, Rio Ferdinand in a recent interview confirmed that there is indeed a bit more to it than that., describing ‘formations as important to us’. I had always assumed that United started 4-4-2 and just let their flair forwards roam pretty much where they wanted, but Ferdinand reveals a more thoughtful approach.


Without going in to too much detail, Ferdinand describes a mobile 4-2-4 formation depending on whether or not they are in possession. However, he also reveals a 4-5-1 formation in some of the tougher away games last season – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool. There’s also a different approach again in European competition which is closer to Chelsea’s favoured 4-3-3, with one up front and two wide men.


For me, ultimately it’s about the players. If you don’t have the players who can adapt you end up playing with one formation regardless of the team you’re playing against. That’s the difficulty faced by many of the second tier Premier League sides. The players may have the same skill and fitness levels but they don’t necessarily have the same ability to understand the game in real time and adapt their role and formation according to the coach’s instructions. I really think that that is what Sir Alex is looking for in his players as much as anything else – a good soccer brain and the ability to follow orders.


As far as United are concerned I’m a little disappointed with this information. I had hoped to be able to dismiss Sir Alex’s contribution as buying up all the top talents in world football and sending them out on the pitch with as flea in their ear. And there are many who believe that the real tactical nous in the United set up comes from assistant manager Carlos Queiroz.


But that would be churlish. Ferdinand, and others before him, reveal Ferguson to be a master tactician. Personally, I remember the master stroke he pulled in the 1999 Champions League Final in which he played Ryan Giggs and David Beckham out of position until the last 10 minutes, then switched them around and scored two goals to steal the victory from Bayern Munich.


It will be interesting to watch the impact of formations and tactics in Euro 2008. There is a huge amount of talent on display and some of the finest players and coaches in the world are pitted against each other.


Please feel free to post any tactical observations on this site as the tournament progresses.

Dwyer Scullion, Publisher, Better Soccer Coaching




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