Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

The Brazilian attacker

David ClarkeAre you Jairzinho in disguise?

Brazil have a team that could win the next world cup not just because it’s on home soil but because they are beginning to put together a fabulous young team that will give Spain and Germany a run for their money.

They play a fast passing game 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 and at the top of the formation is a young striker called Lucas Moura – and finally it seems Brazil have a player to match the Brazil great Jairzinho.

Like Jairzinho, Lucas, aged 19, can play as a quick forward or winger and will hope to emulate his fellow countryman. Jairzinho was part of the legendary Brazil team that won the 1970 World Cup – he became one of only three players to have scored in every game his team played in the tournament.

Lucas has a low centre of gravity and runs with speed at defenders, dribbling past them or using skills to beat them. He has also been compared with Porto’s Hulk and AC Milan’s Alexandre Pato, but I like to think of him as Jairzinho.

He’s being chased by Inter Milan and Manchester United both of whom hope to prise him away from Sao Paulo but it’ll take a lot of Euros.

Lucas also wears Jairzinho’s number seven shirt for the national team.

Watch him in action in the clip below:

See also The English playmaker

See also The German defender

How do you celebrate victory?


Dave Clarke

When my team wins cups or leagues we always celebrate with a get together where any of them or their parents can stand up and say something about how well they have done during the season.

Last season one of my players was the lead role in Billy Elliot: The Musical at our local theatre and he stood up and sang one of the songs from it. It made it a special occasion and one that everyone enjoyed. Hopefully this season someone will be able to do something similar.

I was reminded of this when I saw that AC Milan’s Kevin Prince-Boateng had kept a promise to do a Michael Jackson routine if his side won the Serie A title in Italy.

The Italian giants won their first league championship in seven years with a 0-0 draw at Roma last week, and they celebrated their title with a resounding 4-1 thrashing of Cagliari in front of their home fans on Saturday.

After the game Boateng, in his first season with the Rossoneri, stole the show by dressing up and performing Jackson’s dance moves, including the moonwalk.

what a great way to be part of a team experience and take winning in the spirit it should be taken – players showing their human side.

Coaches should learn from each other like Ancelotti

dave clarkeChelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti has released a book called The Beautiful Games of an Ordinary Genius. It’s a good read and I can recommend it to any coach who wants entertainment and some coaching advice. In the book Ancelotti reveals that his predecessor Jose Mourinho left an archive of training exercises at Stamford Bridge from which Ancelotti says he has learned a lot.

Amazing that a coach of his experience still gets ideas from reading what others have written. Maybe I’ll introduce him to Better Soccer Coaching! But the point shows we all need information to help us be more creative with our own coaching.

“It is a sign of his considerable intelligence that he does not try to do everything himself,” writes Paolo Maldini, in the foreword of the book, and Ancelotti also explains what he learned from Arrigo Sacchi, Nils Liedholm and Sven-Goran Eriksson as well as the “teeny-weeny bit” he picked up from Fabio Capello.

He himself has been a very creative coach and has ideas to share with the rest of us. Ancelotti details with pride how he devised the Christmas Tree formation and responded to Berlusconi’s

He also reveals that he has kept meticulous files on matches, and as Sacchi’s assistant, he had to note down every single kick and run of every single Italy game.

Interstingly his one big remaining ambition is to coach an African team at the World Cup because, he explained at yesterday’s launch of the English edition of his book, “they have the physical and technical skills but do not yet produce teams worthy of their potential”. That’s what Ancelotti tends to do with the teams he takes over.

He was also a good goalscorer – watch the clip below when he played for AC Milan with Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten

Why Gerrard is a good half-time team talk

dave clarkeI was reminded of how crucial a half-time team talk is this week… when I didn’t give one. It was a friendly match and at half time I was collared by a parent trying to sort out his child’s registration in the team.

By the time I had sorted him out half time was over and we were back on the pitch. I had done nothing with my team. This resulted in an early goal for the opposition and me trying to reorganise and get messages to my players – essentially the half-time team talk.

The half-time period in a match is not just about refuelling and physical therapy. It’s a crucial time for the coach and team to gather their thoughts and prepare mentally for the challenges of the second half.

Looking back to half-time in the 2005 European Champions League final, with Liverpool 3-0 down to AC Milan, according to his Liverpool colleagues, captain Steven Gerrard was distraught and was ready to concede defeat. Afterwards, all he could remember of half-time was the manager getting his pen out, writing down the changes he wanted on the board and telling the team to try and get an early goal, as that could make the opposition nervous. But Gerrard said he just couldn’t concentrate – but that one thought stuck in his mind.

And they got that early goal and Liverpool went on to draw the game and win on penalties.

Because you only get a very short amount of time tell your players one or two things that can help influence the second half – just like Gerrard and the early goal, and is the only direct opportunity the coach will have to speak to all the players and to influence the second-half performance and result.

What you tell them will, of course, depend on the score and the coach’s perspective of the match. You must also take in other factors, such as the context of the game – eg is it a cup match in which the loser gets knocked out? Is it a league game and what are the league positions of the teams contesting the game? Is one team an overwhelming favourite to win the game? Is the team winning but not performing well?

These will help you decide what to say to your team, just make sure it’s positive. A coach I know once said: “Don’t get too carried away, this lot you’re playing aren’t very good.” His team were winning 4-0 at half time and went on to lose!

Here’s the hightlights from the 2005 European final

Young strikers should take second chances

dave clarkeA big part of being a striker is being in the right place at the right time, following up shots to put any rebounds in the back of the net. In a youth game spectacular goals are a rarity – but rebounds are plentiful.

When I think about players following up to put away rebounds I think of Pippo Inzaghi when he was in his pomp at AC Milan. He was always in the right place at the right time to pop the ball into the back of the net when it had been parried by a goalkeeper.

I like my strikers to follow any shots however feeble they are because young goalkeepers often push the ball away rather than risk catching it giving predatory strikers a second chance to score a goal.

So when you are coaching strikers make sure they keep on their toes once the shot has been sent goalwards and are ready for any rebounds coming their way.

Watch this clip of Inzaghi and see how he is always in the right place at the right time.

Soccer shooting drills

Kaka can do it blindfold

Here’s a great piece of fun you can have with your players – never mind pin the tail on the donkey, in this game you’ve got to see who can keep the ball in the air the longest (the most kick ups) while blindfolded.

Young and old can try this, it isn’t easy but you’ll have a lot of fun doing it. Keep a list of who can do the most and try to beat it for 10 minutes at the start of your training sessions. You’ll be amazed how many turn up early just to try to beat the record

Watch Kaka below doing it blindfold and copy his style!

The best defenders block the ball

One of the problems for defenders is that when they are closing down players a clever attacker can break away with the ball into goal scoring positions. The best defenders will stay with the attacker and get a block on the shot or a last second tackle to poke the ball away.

This situation is quite likely in youth soccer when young players lose concentration at the back and an attacker gets free with the ball. Rather than stand and watch the drama unfold they should be running to get back and cover the attacking player.

There will always be opportunities for a defender to recover when they have made a mistake or the attacker has worked their way free from the covering defence.

As coach you should be encouraging your players never to give up when they have lost the ball and work hard to win it back and stop the opposition scoring.

Check out the clips below of two of the world’s best attackers making last ditch tackles and blocks to save their team losing a goal – Alessandro Nesta of Italy and Carles Puyol of Spain show how giving up just isn’t in their vocabulary.

Soccer drill to coach the block tackle