Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

The Lone Ranger – wins the ball and beats the keeper


Although this game is heavily weighted in favour of the passing team, the
need to make 10 consecutive passes puts pressure on the players in a
tight area.

If the defender does manage to force a mistake, he needs to show stamina
and composure to make his efforts count by scoring a goal. Collective pressure and individual responsibility are key elements of what
makes players and teams successful.

How to set it up:

  • This game uses two teams of four players.

  • One works as the passing team. The other works as defenders, though only one player works at a time.

  • Create a playing area measuring 40×25 yards.

  • At one end, place a goal and goalkeeper.

  • At the other, mark out a 10-yard square centred on the far touchline.

The rules:

  • The passing team of four players works in the 10-yard square, passing
    the ball around and attempting to retain possession.

  • One at a time, each player in the defending team must enter the area
    and attempts to win possession from the passers.

  • If the defending player manages to force a mistake or win possession,
    he leaves the ball where it is and runs towards the other goal. Receiving a pass from you, he tries to score past the keeper.

  • The defending team gains a point for each goal scored.

  • The passing team scores a point for each set of 10 consecutive passes.

  • When the passing team manages to make 10 consecutive passes, the
    defender is replaced.

  • Each defender has two attempts at winning the ball in the 10-yard
    square during each game.

  • Swap teams and repeat the game so players experience both roles.


Hit the target man and score

By David Clarkedavidscwnew

This is a great game to practise with all ages. It is all about using target men to set up attacks. Neither team can score without utilising the target man, so this is a great game to teach link-up play in the final third and reminds players not to be greedy.

It also rehearses the art of playing through opponents, and only positive and well-organised supporting runs will be rewarded with goalscoring opportunities.

How to set it up:

  • Create a playing area measuring 35×25 yards.

  • Within that, create two end zones, each 10 yards in from the goal lines.

  • There are two goals – one at each end – and keepers in place.

  • This game is best played with two teams of four outfield players.

Getting started:

  • This game has no offsides, and if the ball leaves play, you have a few different restart options:

1. You pass a new ball onto the pitch.

2. Players take a roll-in.

3. Players take a throw-in.

4. Players make a pass-in.

5. Players dribble the ball in.

  • Each team selects one player to be the "target man". This player stands in the attacking end zone.

  • The aim of the game is to make a pass to the target man, and then for a supporting player to receive a lay-off pass to shoot at goal.

  • When the target man receives the ball, only one defender can come back to attempt to break up play.

  • After a shot is made, the shooting player swaps position with the target man.

  • If a tackle is made before the ball goes through to the target man, the other team can attack in the opposite direction.

  • Restart after a goal or if the ball goes out of play.

  • The game is played for a set time period of 15 minutes.

Youth players gain experience by playing in different postions

David ClarkeA lot has been discussed lately about how coaches and managers should be using their players when it comes to positions in matches.
Certainly at younger age groups – Under-9s and below – where most matches are friendlies, you can switch players around without any fear of causing problems on match day.
I make sure that in every match I change the positions of three players. This works by giving them experience in other positions without altering the tactical make-up of the team. They swap positions after each third of the game, thus allowing them a significant amount of time in each role.
I also make it clear to those players that because I am going to use them in three different positions they will not be substituted during the game. In their minds then, they lose out in not having a set position, but on the plus-side they can play knowing they’re in action for the full duration.
Last weekend we were up against a strong side, but even in this game I made sure I moved players around, targeting my right-back, right winger and left-sided attacker. They swapped positions during the game and had to adapt to their new positions. For the first third they started in their ‘normal’ positions. Then I swapped my right-back with the right winger – a logical move. My right winger went up front as a left attacker – still attacking but from a different side and further up front.
And finally, in what might have seemed a slightly illogical move, I put my left attacker into the right-back position. That right-back slot is all about sitting deep then supporting and blocking counter-attacks, and is one of the vital roles when the team loses the ball.
The changes worked, and as I had hoped, my attacker was badgering me after the game to let him play in defence again because he liked seeing the game being played out in front of him!
That’s evidence enough that players are never completely ready for you to brand them with a position before they have tried each one out themselves! But the important part of the exercise is in making sure your players are gaining experience of playing all over the pitch. That gives them a greater sense of the game and what other players have to do.
And sure enough, all three players came off the pitch looking pleased with themselves. They had just done their bit for us, and helped us to win a particularly difficult game playing defence, attack and on the wing.

Change of position, change of fortune

DCDuring a victory for my Under-10s side, one of my defenders got injured. This was not too much of a problem as I had another player who could move from midfield to fill that role. The solution worked fine for a while until he too limped out of the action, leaving me struggling to solve the problem.
We got to half-time without too much trouble and were winning 1-0, and at that point I managed to persuade another lad to change positions and slot back into defence. He halfheartedly accepted the offer, even creeping forward into his regular attacking role at times, thus leaving holes and gaps behind him.
I was therefore relieved when my left winger came across and said to me that he would play in defence because he’d operated there for his previous team. I was surprised because I had never considered him to be a natural defender – he is, after all, a strong attacking winger, and it had never even crossed my mind to use him in defence.
But he was an absolute revelation, with excellent positioning, plus strong support and marking skills. At one point he took the ball off the toes of the opposition attacker and ran the whole length of the pitch, unleashing a brilliant shot at the end of it. I am still reluctant to play him at the back because we have some good defenders, and he is a valuable left winger, but I know now he makes a great back-up if we ever need someone to fill the role.
It got me thinking about players and how they generally begin to ‘find’ their positions around nine or 10 years of age. And yet many will play for another few years before actually discovering where they are best. What we should be doing as coaches is constantly experimenting with their roles – maybe hiding inside a player who has been labeled a ‘defender’ is a strong attacking force just waiting to be unleashed on an unsuspecting opponent. It’s rare when it happens, but on the occasions that it does, it’s always a pleasant and useful surprise.

Strikers are only as good as their coach

Sitting on the bench is not the way to give a striker confidence. So what will happen at Manchester City who have now got – at the last count – nine strikers? Carlos Tevez is one of them and he moaned about being on the bench at Manchester United. A striker needs confidence and needs to feel part of a team. At Arsenal, Emanuel Adebayor had the confidence of one of the best managers in the game, Arsene Wenger.

It was Wenger who made Adebeyor into the striker he is today – even a troubled season like the last one saw him create and score some great goals. He seems to be quite a handful for any manager. Make no mistake, under the wrong manager, the young aggressive Adebeyor would have developed into a much different striker, one more suited to Wigan than Arsenal.

dcAs a coach and manager of young players we must all look at managers like Arsene Wenger and how he nurtures his players, makes them play soccer with a passing and receiving game and makes their ball holding technique so much better.

Now he has gone to Manchester City he will be under a much different coach, and maybe he will look back and wonder how great he could have been had he stayed under the watchful eye of Arsene Wenger.

Here’s Adebayor in his last season at Arsenal…

 Soccer Skills and Drills

Owen, Adebayor, Eto’o, Ibrahimovic

DavidClarkeStrikers are big news. There is no doubt it is the glamour position of the team – no wonder every young player wants that position. Micheal Owen, Emmanuel Adebayor, Samuel Eto’o and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are all making news in Europe. Scoring goals has never been so expensive.

The importance of scoring in grass roots soccer was summed up by Sepp Blatter the Fifa President. Het said even if a side loses 10 -1 they have achieved one of the objectives of the game namely scoring goals.

But when you find a good striker it doesn’t end there. However good they are at scoring goals you need to coach them in the art of receiving and controlling and playing the right ball once they have done this – whether it’s a shot or a cross they have to know what they are doing.

Strikers need to be able to beat players, to create their own space and finish off the moves the rest of the team create.

You need to treat your striker like you do your goalkeeper and get them doing specific exercises that make them better at what they do. Watch these three clips of Ibrahimovic teasing defenders and creating space that he can exploit for his team – it shows you just how hard an attacker has to work to open up the space they need to create goal scoring opportunities.

 Soccer Skills and Drills