Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Don’t throw it, kick it – Arsene Wenger
December 27, 2009, 11:12 am
Filed under: Dave Clarke, Soccer News | Tags: , , , , ,

Writing recently in my publication Soccer Coach Weekly, I explained the technique for taking long throw-ins and how it should now be an important part of your coaching plan because it was a good opportunity to attack the opposition.

Arsene Wenger, the manager of Arsenal, has gone a step further. He believes the advantage gained by teams with a player who can take long throws is unfair. He says: `’At Stoke, for Rory Delap it is like kicking the ball. It is a little bit of an unfair advantage. He is using a strength that is usually not a strength in football”

This response came on his club’s website where he was asked if there was one rule change he would like to make. He says: “Maybe to play throw-ins by foot. Why not? I think it would make the game quicker.”

He believes the current rules are at odds with the general prohibition on the use of hands apart from the goalkeeper and suggested that the throw-in should be abolished altogether and replaced with a kick-in.

 Soccer Skills and Drills


Strong midfielders hit teams on the break like the USA did to Brazil

By Dave Clarke

If you haven’t got the ball or you keep losing it, the best way to get it back is to have a strong midfielder whose job it is to tackle the opposition, win the ball and get your team passing again.

If you are playing possession soccer, one of the things you have to take into account is winning the ball back. Sure, all your players know how to tackle but do they know what to do when they win the ball?

What you have to do is take your best tackler and show them how to stop attacks and then hit the opposition hard with some good passing.

When the opposition loses the ball they will be at their most vulnerable and your midfielder will be able to put them on the back foot with a good pass.

This will become a key tactic for match days – a player the rest of the team rely on to win the ball back.

The midfield ball winner

Tell your player to play in the hole in front of the central defenders.

Get them to close down any player running at the defence and stop them in their tracks.

You’ve seen games where the opposition kick off and runs right through your team to score. This player stops that by targeting the player with the ball and making the tackle.

And when they do get the ball,they need to be off running, passing, opening up the opposition defence.

The rest of the team have to be ready to support this role and be open for the pass.

It’s not always a great tackle that wins the ball in midfield. When USA played Brazil in the Confederations Cup Final it was an interception just outside the USA penalty area that led to a breakaway goal by Landon Donovan to put USA ahead 2-0 of Brazil.

It was a fantastic move. Landon Donovan takes possession, finds Charlie Davies and races forward, collects Davies’ return pass, takes a brilliant touch to create room on the edge of the Brazil box and fire left-footed into the far corner past Julio Cesar.

Passing and movement at its best. Watch out England.

Watch the position of the covering midfield players and the pass out of defence that set up the perfect counter attack:

 Soccer Skills and Drills

How to deal with losing – it’s an attitude thing

Every team no matter how good they are will at some stage go through a series of games where they lose more than once and the coach has to deal with the outcome. In youth games losing often means losing big, by a large number of goals because it is hard hit back – three becomes four or five or six.

What happens then is that players go sick for the next game or email you to say they had forgotten but they were going on holiday that weekend, or they just don’t turn up.

A lot of coaches turn a blind eye to this sort of behaviour and let the team struggle on.

As a coach there is a lot you can do when your team is losing to boost morale and help the players through periods when they lose. It’s a question of attitude for you and your players.

When the team lose:

  • PRAISE individuals who have played well despite the team losing.
  • PRAISE particular occasions in games when a player has done something good.
  • PRAISE players who have tried to continue playing well despite being a lot of goals behind.
  • PRAISE the individuals who try and encourage the rest of the team to step up a gear even though they are losing.

The other thing to talk to your players about is that they have the ability to put everything right the next week. To think about how they played in this match and what they need to do to put it right in the next match.

Finally explain what went wrong in the game and how with hard work in training they can put it right.

Watch this coaching video of the Nike coaches talking about their players’ attitude when they lost their first game 8-1. Remember this is a sport where you can often learn more when you lose then when you win.

 Soccer Skills and Drills

Great coaches understand the beauty of soccer

When Bobby Robson died we lost a fabulous coach, an inspirational coach. I share his love for a sport which I live and breathe – I want to pass on that understanding of what a wonderful game it is to my players so they fall in love with it like I did.

Before he died he spoke about what was important to him.

“Pele called it the beautiful, didn’t he? It’s a perfect game. It’s a game of athleticism, a game of power and competition and strength – anybody who thinks football is just a game of deftness of touch without those other things wouldn’t win. You need courage, you need steel in your make up. But it’s the deftness too, the control – Waddle, Barnes, Pele, Di Stefano, Puskas, Denis Law, George Best – the spontaneous things that players like that can do, that’s what’s beautiful.”

“And then it’s the national game. Every weekend two million people play it in this country, not watch it, play it.”

And that’s where we come in. We are coaching those players and we are the ones who sell the perfect game every week to our players. That responsibility rests on our shoulders, we make the game beautiful to them, so they enjoy it and remember for the rest of their lives how much fun they have and why they will always follow the beautiful game.

Remember the World Cup Italia 1990, when Bobby Robson so nearly won it for us…

 Soccer Skills and Drills

Have you got what it takes to be a good coach?

I remember being told before I started coaching that you have to want to coach to be a good coach -if you don’t want to do it, don’t bother trying.

One of the first things I look for in coaches I meet is passion. Not running up the touchline screaming at the players sort of passion, but a passion for coaching children how to play soccer.

If you haven’t got passion some where during your first season you will run in to trouble through either losing games and want to give it up or finding all the organizing that you have to do to run a successful team too much of a chore.

The team will suffer because the coach is not putting effort in and is merely going through the motions.

I was thinking about this during the week after reading about the ex England International John Barnes. What a player he was for his club Liverpool, although he never quite managed to bring that to the England team. He has also never managed to bring any of the success he had in his playing career to his management at Scottish giants Celtic and recently at Tranmere Rovers.

I looked in to what Barnes had to say about coaching when he was a player. There’s not a lot written, although there is one very telling interview with him by sports writer Pete Davies where he was asked if he could see himself in management.

“Not right now no. The closer you get to retiring then maybe you think, Ok I’d like to coach or whatever and some people may not have an option they can’t do anything else and they’re offered a coaching job so they do it. But at the moment I don’t think I would. I might play non-league or coach a school team or a little local side something like that.”

I was interested that he thought coaching a school team or a little local side is something you could take or leave, that it would be easy to do.

Then he said: “ I’m basically a very lazy person. If it came up then I’d do it, put it that way but it’s not something I’d like to do.”

When in 1999 he got a dream ticket to manage the Glasgow giants Celtic he must have wanted to do that I would imagine, but he suffered a series of very poor results one getting the famous headline “Super Cali go ballistic Celtic are atrocious”. He was sacked.

This year he managed Tranmere Rovers and won only two out of eleven games again he was sacked.

I think he’s missing the passion in his coaching that he had in his playing….

watch him as a player:

but he could rap!

 Soccer Skills and Drills

Xavi plays the perfect through ball

Once your players can pass and move the ball you need to get them to focus on more advanced types of passes. The through ball is a ball passed into space for the target player to run on to – a great attacking weapon. It is a skill players develop over time, theability to put a ball where an attacker can run on to it.

Below is a clip of Xavi at Barcelona playing an amazing through ball to Thierry Henry. It is such a clever ball that the defenders do not see it coming. Watch though how good recovery play from the defender and a brave goalkeeper block Henry’s attempt to score.

You can also see two great goals from the FA Cup games at the weekend. When Leeds shocked Manchester United the goal came from a perfect through ball by Jonny Howson of Leeds who played the ball into space behind the Manchester defenders. Jermaine Beckford was quickest to the ball and he beat the goalkeeper with his shot.

The second goal was in the Tranmere v Wolves game when Wolves’ Nenad Milijas played a ball through the heart of the Tranmere defence to Matt Jarvis who fired home from just inside the box.

Watch all three goals below.

You can get your players to practice playing the through ball using coned off zones at either end of the pitch with an attacker and a 3v3 in the centre where players have to compete for the ball then pass it through to the attackers.

 Soccer Skills and Drills

Turn and go for goal like Robin van Persie

Sometimes you need to get your attackers to turn and head for goal.

You need practice to get a good first touch

If you want a player who can take a pass and turn with confidence knowing that his initial touch on the ball will be good enough it involves a lot of practice.

This is what I do with my players. Using the diagram above, the striker receives the ball, turns to his left (particularly if he is right footed) and then moves to the first cone and sprints with the ball to the second cone. You need to get players A and B serving the ball in so he gets used to the ball coming from different angles.

  • A and B – 10 metres apart – serve to the striker.
  • He comes forward collects and turns to his left.
  • Then sprints between two cones – 5 metres away.
  • The two cones should be no more than 2 metres apart.

How to advance it

Keep the dimensions the same but tell your striker to turn to his right, using either the outside of his right foot, or even better his left foot – his weaker foot – to control turn and sprint through the two cones.

What you want to see is a sharp turn – not wide – so that players are under pressure to take good control of the ball. The ball should be close to the feet of your striker all the time he is turning.

Shame Robin van Persie has been injured. He has the turns the skills and the shots that are ideal to show young players what they can aim for.

Watch this video of him in action turning, running and scoring.

 Soccer Skills and Drills