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Why watching games helps your coaching… just like Benitez

David ClarkeI watch as much soccer as I dare… As a coach it really helps me to see situations that I can write about. Watching a team defending deep or seeing players caught out of position is a good way to test your technical ability in analysing games.

With so many leagues and cups being played in grass roots, pro and international levels it is a fantastic opportunity to watch top class games. I have always thought that being at a live game rather than watching on TV gives more opportunities to see what is going on in the game.

I will often watch one player when I am at a live game, say an attacker, and watch them for 10 minutes and jot down what they do during the game. Movement and position and what they do in attack and where they go when the team is defending.

I can learn a lot by watching clever players and their movement – then pass it on to my own players so they know what to do at every moment in a game. Being in the right place at the right time is one of the keys to success for a young player, it just makes everything that bit easier.

Last month I was listening to Rafael Benitez. Without a job since leaving Inter Milan in the final days of 2010, the Spaniard was talking about how he keeps up with the events in soccer.

This is what he does when he watches games, much like myself:

“I try to relax when I am watching a game but it is something you cannot change, you are analysing the game. You are watching what will happen and why it is happening. I’ll be watching with my wife and I’ll say ‘goal’ then two seconds later it’s a goal. Because you can see the positions of the defenders, the winger may be free or the full-back goes late or something like that. So without thinking too much, you are just analysing.”

Watch Benitez talking to former England and Arsenal legend Ian Wright, now working with Absolute Radio in London


Ramires v Barcelona: My top six goals scored from an angle

David ClarkeBy David Clarke

Champions League Semi-Final 2012: Barcelona v Chelsea

Ramires is the king of technique. His goal for Chelsea against Barcelona when his team was 2-0 down with John Terry sent off was as good as you will see. An impossible situation, but the through ball to him from Frank Lampard just before half time putting him into the penalty area at an angle to the goal was perfect. His finish was sheer class.

Here’s my top six goals scored from tight angles:

Ramires, Barcelona v CHELSEA (2012)

Marco van Basten, HOLLAND v Russia (1988)

Gabriel Batistuta, FIORENTINA V Arsenal (1999)

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, CHELSEA v Manchester United (2001)

Ronaldo, REAL MADRID v LA Galaxy (2011)

Robin van Persie, ARSENAL v Barcelona (2011)

Simple tactics for throw-ins

By David Clarke

David ClarkeI 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.

Soccer coaching tips to boost player throw-ins

Don’t punish mistakes

One thing the world’s best young players have in common is an ability to show great technique on the ball and they all do something to create space for themselves and to make it harder for the opposition to win the ball off them.

Add that to the fact that they all have the ability to make a fabulous end product be it a shot or a pass and you can see why they are recognised as the top young talent. But your players can have their own admirers if you work on their technique and skills.

In my U11s team I have players with different skills that complement each other and create an excellent team between them. One is a great dribbler, another has great vision to switch play, one is great at making runs for through balls.

They have all learned these skills during the sessions I have run for them.

The best way to let this happen is to run sessions that let your players express themselves in an atmosphere of learning and not one where making mistakes is punished.

Watch this video of some of the world’s best young players below:

More team management advice