Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Think attack, think advantage, think win

By David Clarke

David Clarke

Young players often find it difficult to make quick decisions during a game, so getting them used to thinking quickly and smartly should be part of any coaching schedule.

There are lots of ways to do this and it’s always good to add a fun element.

This session gets players making decisions and scoring points for their team – specifically in overload situations but also in 1v1s – with the use of five cards.

Players must react quickly to the instructions on the cards in order to score points or prevent opponents from doing so.

You need to make five simple cards with player combinations and points on them.

So the cards might work out something like:

1v1 = 5 points

3v2 = 4 points

4v2 = 3 points

2v1 = 2 points

3v1 = 1 point

How to set it up:

  • Create an area measuring 40×30 yards. For younger age groups, reduce the size.

  • You’ll need balls, bibs, cones and goals.

  • Put a goal at each end with a keeper in each.

  • Split your squad into two equal teams – one attacks while the other defends. The defending team must divide itself into two groups, positioned at opposite ends of the pitch.

  • The attackers stand to one side near the halfway line.

Getting started:

  • You need a captain for each team. The attacking captain holds the cards and decides what combination of attacking players works best for each situation. This involves looking at the defenders at each end and deciding which players he would favour his team going up against.

  • The captain hands you the card for the combination he has chosen. His team earns the points shown on the card for each goal scored.

  • Play the ball to the attackers and inform defenders of the chosen formation. Defenders approach once the attackers begin.

  • If a goal is scored, the team attacks the other end in the same combination until it fails to find the net. At this point, attackers return to the halfway line and a new card is drawn.

  • Play until all the cards are finished, then swap each team’s role. The team with the most points wins.

  • Each player must be involved at least twice, and make sure you change captains.

Why this works:

This is a session that requires players to be alert across a number of very different "attack versus defence" scenarios.

And while a 4v1 overload would rarely occur in any game, being able to use every player, stretching a defender and offering forwards a number of passing decisions is good practice.

Sometimes, having too many players in an overload can actually be distracting because players hide away from taking responsibility.


Simple practice to keep the ball – use the space

David ClarkeA lot of the basic exercises that teams work on in training involve passing to a team mate. So once players are proficient in that, it’s time to coach them in passing into space.

One of the great things about passing teams is that they know how to use space to maximum advantage, and the effects can be devastatingly good.

Even as individuals, the ability to anticipate where a team mate is moving to is an important part of player development – and one that initially takes a while to master. While this can be frustrating for coaches, rehearsing and practising using space will eventually work, so always persevere.

The size of the playing area is important in this practice, because the bigger that area the easier the task is. Therefore, start off in a space measuring 20×20 yards, then make it bigger or smaller depending on how your players cope.

 How to set it up:

• In your 20×20-yard area, mark a halfway line to create two boxes.

There are three attackers and two defenders.

• In one box it’s 1v1, while the other has two attackers and the remaining defender in it.

Getting started:

• The idea of the game is to have continuous 2v1s in each box. So for their team to retain possession, one of the attacking players has to move each time the ball changes boxes.

• Start the game in the box that contains two attackers. They must combine before passing to their team mate in the other box.

• As soon as the ball is passed, one of the two players must move into the other box to create a new 2v1 overload. All other players must remain in their designated box.

• While attackers must always be on the move, looking to create space for the pass, defenders are more cautious. They defend passively at first, so can only intercept or force an error, rather than tackle. If they do succeed in winning the ball, they simply put it out of play.

• Time to see how long the attackers can keep possession of the ball.

• Play for five minutes then swap teams around so each player has a go at both attacking and defending.

• Award extra points for feints or skills that create space for the pass.

 Developing the session:

• You can develop the session by instructing attackers to make three passes before sending the ball into the other box.

• Encourage attackers to produce a two-touch game so that they control and pass in one fluid movement.

• Allow defenders to tackle.

Why this works:

To retain possession of the ball, attackers must create space to pass into, at the same time sending the defender the wrong way. They need good skills and sound technique to prevent defenders from winning the ball. This is a skills workout that makes players think about moving, and how their movement creates space that the defender cannot defend. You should see signs of improvement in your players if this session is run over a handful of consecutive weeks.