Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

My top five box to box players

Yann M’Vila (born June 29, 1990) is a French football player of Congolese descent who plays for French club Rennes in Ligue 1. He operates as a defensive midfielder and is described by his club as a player who possesses “excellent defensive abilities” and “impressive physical strength”

Xabier “Xabi” Alonso (born November 25, 1981) is a Spanish World Cup-winning footballer who currently plays for La Liga team Real Madrid.

Sami Khedira (born April 4, 1987) is a German international footballer currently playing for Real Madrid and the German national team. He is considered a dynamic midfielder with ‘flawless aerial ability’ who can cover a lot of ground and quickly join in the team attacks with his powerful mid-range shooting.

Bastian Schweinsteiger (born August 1, 1984) is a German footballer who plays as a midfielder for Bayern Munich and the German national team. A right-footed player, he is capable of playing out wide or in a more central role.

Stuart Holden (born August 1, 1985) is a Scottish-born American soccer player who currently plays for Bolton Wanderers in the English Premier League.

Why Rooney is the best defender

There is no better proponent of the art of defending from the front than Wayne Rooney of Manchester United and England. His defensive qualities set him apart from the other best attackers in the world – think of Cristiano Ronaldo or Francesco Totti neither would be seen charging the defenders high up the pitch where his bubbling enthusiasm can often see him win the ball back in his opponents half.

His movement when Manchester Utd lose the ball means that as the full backs advance Rooney can fill in as a third defensive midfielder blocking the attacking runs of the defenders.By forcing the play back he creates space in the centre of the pitch for Manchester’s more creative players like Ryan Giggs and Darren Fletcher to flourish.

These creative players then use the space to slip balls behind the opposing backline for Rooney or his striking partner to run on to making it hard to defend against.

This idea is something I like to make use of during my coaching sessions. If I can get the attackers in my teams to push high up the pitch to close the opposition defenders down before they are out of their own half it can force a mistake which opens up huge opportunities for my team to attack the space behind the defence.

Why a simple through ball is better than a long pass

dave clarkeCharlie Adam’s name was among an elite set of players at the PFA player of the year award. Samir Nasri, Scott Parker, Carlos Tevez, Rafael van der Vaart, Nemanja Vidic and the winner Gareth Bale. Adam has had a fantastic season but has felt the pressure of being one of the main reasons Blackpool did so well in the early games.

Adam is central to the way Blackpool play with his passing that sets his attackers free and as he struggled to find his form so too have Blackpool.In the recent loss to Wigan Athletic Adam lost the ball in a move that resulted in a Wigan goal for Charles N’Zogbia.

Adam needs to look at his game and whereas early on in the season he was setting Blackpool’s attackers free with long raking passes now the passes are getting sloppy. He needs to pass shorter to get his accuracy back and go for more simple moves to set attackers free.

The simple through ball to his attackers would work just as well as one of his long passes – and they are a much easier route to goal. This is how young players should be aiming to build their attacks, using short accurate passes with the occassional long one into space behind the defence.

Defenders won’t be happy if your creative midfielder keeps giving the ball away… and neither will you.
Check him out below:

A new name in the frame for Head Coach


Dave Clarke

When a big club goes through a bad patch there is the usual talk of how the coach will be sacked and who the replacements could be. It is interesting to see the names that come up. They are usually the same names, Jose MOurinho, Gus Hiddink, Harry Redknapp, Marco van Basten, a few ex players of the team involved and Pep Guardiola.

But a new name has been added to the list – Andre Villas Boas. He’s the hottest young coach in Europe at the moment, and his record this season has been outstanding. Porto have won the league with games to spare – p26 w24 d2 l0. Villas Boas has also taken Porto to the semi-finals of the Europa League beating Spartak Moscow 10-3 on aggregate in the quarters.

He has been called Mini-Mourinho – like Mourinho he wasn’t much of a playerand was given his chance in management through Sir Bobby Robson when he was Porto manager. He hired him to work in the club’s scouting and statistics department, and then arranged work experience for him with George Burley at Ipswich Town and to take his coaching badges at Lilleshall.

When Mourinho came to Porto he promoted Villas Boas to be the club’s head of opposition scouting. When Mourinho moved to Chelsea and Internazionale, he took Villas Boas with him. “I travel to training grounds,often incognito, and then look at our opponent’s mental and physical state before drawing my conclusions and presenting a full dossier. José is obsessed with detail,” he explained his job.

In 2009 he left Mourinho to take over as manager of Academia in Portugal’s top division. He saved the team from certain relegation catching the eye of his former employers at Porto and they gave him the top job there. He plays a fast 4-3-3 formation, with a pressing and very organised style. It has brought success to Porto and put his name in the frame for a number of big clubs – Chelsea being one of them. Watch out Carlo.

Click here to see a scouting report from Villas Boas when he was at Chelsea.

Young players like attention – so make sure they get it

dave clarkeIsn’t it fantastic when you see young players come through the youth system and end up playing in the English Premier League? It’s getting less and less frequent that this happens at one of the ‘big’ clubs, but in April at Liverpool John Flanagan, 18, made a fabulous debut in the 3-0 win against Manchester City.

Academy director, Frank McParland, and the technical director, José Segura, have produced some good players at Liverpool who are now pushing for inclusion in the first team squad like Flanagan has done.

Raheem Sterling, Andre Wisdom, Jésus “Suso” Fernández, Michael Ngoo and Toni Silva are all home grown players keen to make it in the game. Flanagan reckons the appointment of Dalglish as temporary manager is key to the development of youth team players.

“Kenny has been a big help to me and the other young players. He’s been working at the club for the last two years and he was at the academy so he knows all of the youngsters well. He’s always a big help to us, telling us what to do. It helps us just the fact that we already know him well from the academy because it means that he knows us well too.

YOung players like the attention of the manager it gives them something to put in a good performance for. If you have players that are not in the first team or regularly get subbed make sure they know you are watching out for them so they try their best when they do get a chance on the pitch.

Young players should always be included in the team or you could dent their confidence and that would be to the detriment of your team.

Running without the ball to create space

dave clarkeI will often play with just one attacker up front and three midfielders controlling the middle of the pitch supported by two wide players.

The player up front is there to create space by running off the ball and dragging defenders away or getting beyond the opposition defenders to run onto through balls from midfield.

This works best when my team is counter-attacking – if we play short passes and build up to the penalty area the attacker is focused on movement to draw the defenders away rather than run onto the through ball. This means the attacker in this role has to be clued up when the team moves forward.

Compare this to Fernando Torres at Chelsea. He thrives on though balls and although Chelsea
can be devastating on the break and play some raking balls down the wings, the coach Carlo Ancelotti prefers short-passing build-ups. You often see a few quick interchanges outside the box before a quick release.

Torres is not at his best in close-range build-up. When he plays for Spain the coach Luis Aragones uses Torres’s acceleration and direct running as decoys, getting him to stretch defences and give the Spanish ball players more space to play.

Ancelotti recognises this: “He likes to receive the ball at a certain point, so we have to improve this. Sometimes he moves well on the wrong side of the centre-back and the ball does not arrive.”

When Torres played for Liverpool the majority of his goals came come from running into space, getting to loose balls first, catching defenders out and running on to through-passes.

So remember if you are coaching your team to play a formation with one player up front you have to play to their strengths and get them to exploit the space they create behind the defence.

My top five free-kick takers

By David Clarke

There is nothing better than seeing a free kick go rocketing into the top corner of the net.

It’s an important part of the game like the penalty takers or corner takers – technique is vital for direction and power, whether it is a whipping cross with the left foot floating into the far corner or a thunderbolt shot, with the laces.

Check out my top five below:

Here are my top five takers:

1. Juninho Pernambucano (Brazil, Leon)

2. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal, Real Madrid)

3. Shunsuke Nakamura (Japan, Celtic)

4. Robert Snodgrass (Scotland, Leeds United)

5. David Beckham (England, LA Galaxy)

How to take a free kick