Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


Get The Better Of Cheats In Six Steps

BY Alistair Phillips GUEST BLOGGER

Despite the best efforts of football’s governing bodies, some teams bend or even break the rules to give themselves an advantage. Here are some handy hints to help you get
the better of match day cheats…

STEP 1 RUN A CLEAN TEAM

Make sure your own team is squeaky clean and that all players understand the rules of the game and the expectations of players as stipulated in your FA’s Code of Conduct. If you have to take any form of action against a team that does turn out to be cheating, it will be taken much more seriously if you and your own players have a reputation for fair play.

STEP 2 STICK BY THE RULES

Prior to kick off present the opposing coach with your list of your registered players. By doing this you should encourage them to do the same thing and you will be able to check they are using only properly registered players. It also sets out your stall as a stickler for doing things the right way and as someone who holds the rules of the game in high esteem.

STEP 3 REMAIN DISCIPLINED

If a team you are due to face has a bit of a reputation or you have experienced problems when playing them in the past, remind your players of the need to remain disciplined at all times. Tell them not react to any heavy challenges or verbal provocation during the game but to inform you of any problems they have at half-time and at the end of the game.

STEP 4 CHECK WITH THE REF

When the referee arrives, make sure you introduce yourself and go through a few points briefly before the game. Ask that he punishes bad behaviour and foul play, perhaps letting slip you have had some problems with this in previous games. Then go to your opposing coach and relay the contents of your chat, making sure they are happy with this in advance.

STEP 5 DON’T INFLAME THINGS

Be vocal if you see any cheating during a game but in a way that will not inflame the situation. Remind your team to play to the whistle if a decision goes against you and try and establish eye contact with the referee when you do this. If things have got really bad, speak to the ref at half-time but remember to invite your opposite number into the conversation if you do so.

STEP 6 ALWAYS SHAKE HANDS

At the end of the game make sure your players shake hands with all opposing players. Listen out for any ‘under-thebreath’ remarks and, if you hear any, act on it by reporting what you hear to your opposing coach first. The match may be over but your opponents will remember this before you play them next time. Remember to congratulate your team for playing by the rules.



Press and drop in tight areas

davidscwnew

This game is about pressing and dropping in tight areas of the pitch. It helps your players’ decision-making skills where overloads are concerned – their judgment of when to press and when to drop during a game, depending on numbers and position on the pitch.

Playing in exercises that have a game structure helps players understand training principles.

How to set it up:

  • This game requires cones and balls.
  • Use two 30×20 yards areas with a gap between of 10 to 20 yards. The bigger the gap, the fitter your players need to be.
  • Two teams – whites and greys – play 4v4 in each area, with a five-yard cone goal at each end but no keepers.

Getting started:

  • Start both 4v4s at the same time, instructing one team when to press high and when to drop back to cover lower down the pitch. Play for five minutes.
  • Now assign numbers – in both boxes whites are 1, 2, 3 and 4. Greys in both boxes are 5, 6, 7 and 8.
  • Returning to the game, when you call out a number the two players who have that number must switch pitches to create overload scenarios.
  • Play for a further five minutes.

Progressing the session:

The players now don’t have numbers, and can play in either box. If greys are winning in one box but losing in the other, players can switch to assist, leaving team mates behind to defend their lead. Play for 10 minutes.

Why this works:

As the players switch pitches they leave and join different overloads, adapting their game in the process. In the progression, the decision of when to support the other team is left to the players. The challenge is very match-like in that respect – when to press and when to drop.



Cut out the pass

davidscwnew

One of the things the modern greats like Xavi, Lionel Messi and Yaya Toure have is the ability to receive a ball under the pressure of onrushing opponents – it seems to me they don’t need any space at all to control the ball and keep it away from an opponent.

Of course, you and I are coaching young players who can easily be put off by a player running towards them – they need a lot of space to control the ball.

Defenders must close down opponents quickly so they reach the player at the same time they receive the ball. With no time to get it under control, it will be much easier for the defender to step in and win it.

How to play

  • Using the penalty area, mark out an area the same size opposite it with a 10-yard "no man’s land" between the areas, as shown in the top picture.

  • Play 5v5. Use a goalkeeper, two defenders and two attackers on each team.

  • Put two attackers from one team and two defenders from the other in each half.

  • Players must stay in the area they start in.

  • Toss a coin for kick off, play starts with the goalkeeper.

  • Restarts are by the goalkeeper if the ball goes over the end lines. There are no corners. Take throw-ins as usual.

  • Play is continuous – when a team wins the ball, it looks to pass and attack the goal.

  • Attackers must create space for the defenders to pass to.

  • Defenders must try and win the ball from the attackers.

How to advance it

  • The passing player can follow the ball into the attacking half.
  • Widen "no man’s land" to 20 yards to make passing and timing of runs harder – do this by moving the orange/outer area back 10 yards but keep the areas the same size.

  • By making "no man’s land" wider, you make the pass longer giving the defenders more time to see the ball and close the attackers down.

  • It also means that it will be harder to make the pass accurate because the player will need to think about power.



Chaos in the last few minutes – letting in late goals

By David Clarke

davidscwnewEarly 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!



Big respect to the opposition

David ClarkeWe’ve all seen or heard about the team leading 15-0 whose coach says “play as if it’s 0-0”. And when the 16th goal goes in the team is celebrating as if it’s won the league. Never mind the fact that the losing team has given up long ago…

That said, I’m not a huge fan of the way some teams will hit double figures then put the goalkeeper up front or substitute half the team. That doesn’t make the opposition players or manager feel any better either – they just think the team is showing off.

It’s a difficult call to make, but there are other ways you can deal with the situation.

Last weekend, we were playing a team a couple of places below us who had won 7-1 the week before, so we were expecting a hard game. But we coasted into a 3-0 lead and I became a bit uneasy that things would get really bad for our opponents.

However, they had a really good spell and pulled it back to 3-2. This made for a much better game; my team had to think hard about how they were playing, and it was a lesson for them assuming the job was done so early.

By half-time though we were 5-2 up and I could see some of the opposition players’ heads had dropped. So for my team talk at the interval I challenged each of my players to touch the ball in the build-up to a goal. If they could do that, they’d get to choose what training we did the following week.

Of course, the opposition didn’t realise we were now playing this way – they could only see a switching, shielding, passing and movement process that offered more situations where they might, in theory, win the ball.

The parents of my players had something to concentrate on as well – watching players getting into good positions for the pass.

It became a much better game and really gave my players a good work out in the second half. The score in that half was 2-2 so both teams had played well. Neither of our goals came from every player touching the ball, but it’s something to aim at next week, or the week after.

This tactic led to a much happier conclusion to the match, although I know some of the parents on my team had been muttering that “nobody does this when we’re losing”!

That was a fair point, but if we can share ideas such as this, maybe that will change?



When my players win the ball they can’t launch quick counter attacks

David Clarke

By David Clarke

Changing the dimensions of the field is a quick fix to a lot of problems.

  • Making the field larger gives the attackers and midfielders more space to show off their skills.

  • If a team is not scoring, increase the size of the pitch until they learn how to pass, shoot and score. Gradually reduce the pitch to the normal size and they will have learned what they have to do to score.

  • Making the field smaller helps the defending team by reducing the amount of space they have to cover.

The problem: Your team is not taking advantage when they win the ball to turn defence into attack.

The solution: Use a long narrow layout with small goals to force players into fast, direct attacks through the middle of the pitch. Attacking small goals needs swift passing to break the defence down and create opportunities to score. The shape of the pitch will force play to be quick and direct.

Set up a pitch that is 50 yards long x 10 yards wide, to create a tunnel effect where the players’ focus is narrowed like a racehorse wearing blinkers. Play games of 3v3 with small goals. No goalkeepers. Restart with a dribble or pass from in front of the team’s own goal.



We lost 2-1 but it created a great session

David Clarke

2v1/3v2 transition game

OK, I’m going to say it – my team absolutely pummelled their opponents at the weekend and, yes, you guessed it, we lost 2-1. The number of times my players had an overload in their favour in front of goal was unbelievable and yet they didn’t exploit a single chance.

So what will we be working on this week? This session which exploits 2v1s and 3v2s in front of goal.

How it works

The advantage switches as the attack changes direction after every phase of play.

How to set it up

Use a 40 yards by 30 yards area with a goal and a goalkeeper at each end.

How to play it

  • The central player dribbles on to the pitch and passes to one of the two opponents.

  • Immediately, a 2v1 situation begins.

  • Once this ball is played, two team mates join the defender and a 3v2 game commences in the opposite direction.

Rotate your players

  • Rotate the players’ positions so both teams have a chance to attack 2v1 and 3v2.



2-0 up and under the cosh – how to defend a lead

David Clarke

You’re 2-0 up against your closest rivals, so how do you see out the win?

This was a question which posed itself last Saturday morning in a match my Under-10s had against the team that shared top spot in the league with us. We were level pegging in the table but they had played a game more.

We knew therefore that a win would offer us a healthy advantage at the top. Sometimes we all get too carried away with scores and results but in this instance it was a big game against a team of a similarly high standard. The only real difference was in terms of tactic – we typically pass the ball whereas they kick it long.

These occasions can be intimidating affairs for the players involved but we have such a friendly atmosphere at our club that both groups were laughing before kick-off and thoroughly enjoying the occasion. The first five minutes were very tight; no-one gave an inch. We won a corner, giving us chance to put into action something we’d been practising in training. A quick exchange worked, the ball ended up on the head of our attacker, and we were 1-0 up. A few minutes later we got another corner – same routine, same result! 2-0.

What is it about a 2-0 scoreline though that makes the team in the lead sit back?

Because sit back we did! It was frustrating for me and the players’ parents too as we watched our well oiled machine begin to choke. What I really enjoy about my side though is that they can think for themselves – for a while they worked it out, pressing the opposition, holding the ball and concentrating on their passing game.

But by the midway point in second period, the skill of the other team in spraying passes and sticking to a tactic at which they were well versed meant I needed to change things, or they’d quickly be back in the game. So I dropped a player from midfield into defence and locked it up tight. I knew this would relinquish possession in midfield but against a long ball team most of those central players were being bypassed anyway.

I also pulled a player back from the frontline and sat him in front of the defence – it was like Fort Knox. We could repel any invaders that took us on. I wouldn’t normally have gone so defensive, but we’d played a pressing game and our stamina levels were flagging. Pulling players back actually made the other team’s tactic less effective, and on a day where league points mattered more than the spectacle, a defensive ploy seemed the right thing to do.

I wouldn’t play this way every week because youth football is about so much more, but it ensured we held on to win the game.

Watch the highlights of Inter Milan winning the 2010 Champions League 2-0 against Bayern Munich

Soccer defence drills and games



Learning from losing

David Clarke

Learning to lose graciously is one of the hardest lessons any young sports person has to take on board. Young players learn a lot from losing, providing they can accept it, analyse why they lost and know what they can do to improve next time.

It’s okay to show some emotion…
Many psychologists believe you shouldn’t deny children the opportunity to show their emotions when they lose. It’s okay to feel upset but they need to know where the boundaries are in terms of displaying emotion. Set standards of behaviour for your players and have sanctions if they don’t follow them. For example, showing dissent towards a team-mate or the referee means they start on the bench for the next game. They will soon learn to control their emotions better. Always acknowledge your players’ disappointment and show sympathy but emphasise the positive elements of the performance. It is important that players go home after a game with a positive mindset.

They should know that, despite the result, they have achieved and learned something.

Win as a team, lose as a team…
Football is the ultimate team sport and no one individual is ever responsible for a win or a loss. Create a team sprit where players encourage their team-mates rather than point blame at individuals. Good teams have been ripped apart over the course of a season by one or two ‘blamers’. If you have any of these types identify them quickly and speak to them about their attitude and the effect it is having on the team. Try giving them responsibility within the team as ‘motivators’ instead. It is then their job to go straight over to a player who has made a mistake and get them back in the game.

Remember you’re the role model… You cannot expect your players to accept losing if you don’t. You need to keep your emotions under wraps especially in front of the players. It is often easy after a game to look for excuses, but is a lot harder to look at yourself and your players and ask, ‘What could we have done better?’. Despite what many armchair critics think, referees are very rarely responsible for the results of matches. Develop a ‘never blame the referee’ culture in your squad and lead by example. Encourage players to shake the referee’s hand after games and thank him for doing his job.

Focus on performance… If you are going through a bad patch of results, one way of keeping players motivated and focused is to de-emphasise winning and focus on improving skills. Set realistic goals within the game – for example, “This week I want us to make eight out of 10 first-time tackles”. This means if the team achieves its goal the players win, regardless of the result.

Watch players show their emotions after losing:



Pre-season: winning the 1v1s

DCWin the 1v1s and your team is well on its way to winning the game.

If your player has the ball or is trying to win it in a 1v1, he needs to analyse the situation and opponent. It is vital to make quick decisions and use movement, skill and a change of pace to win the 1v1s.

This competitive game replicates the 1v1 situations you would get in matches. It requires both physical and mental skills to get a higher score than your opponent.

Go for broke or bank easy points?
Decision making is an important part of any young soccer player’s make-up. Every time they play a match, whether it’s for a team or for fun in the playground, there is a decision to be made when they get the ball.

Often they are faced with situations where there is an easy route where their team keeps the ball – a simple pass or sideways movement into space to slowly build up play – or a more difficult route with more to gain – attempting to dribble past a defender for example.

By playing this game you can help your players to see the results of their decisions. Because they keep the ball when points are scored they could quickly build up points by going to one of the easy cones. Or, if they find they are a lot of points down with only a few minutes left, they must go for the harder cone to quickly score points.

All your players – defenders, midfielders, attackers – should take part in this game. It can be used for any age group.

How to play it

  • Tell your attackers to keep the ball moving.

  • They need to use moves and turns like stepovers, dragbacks and dummies to lose the defender.

  • Tell them to take every opportunity to score points.

  • The way to do it is to keep the ball close to their body.
    When a player scores a point they return to the starting cone and try to score another point. They keep possession of the ball until it goes out of play or they lose the ball to the defender.

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