Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Coach yourself a Carles Puyol – Barcelona legend


By David Clarke

Barcelona’s captain Carles Puyol is known for his intense commitment and strength as a defender. According to Barcelona’s head doctor, Puyol is “the strongest, who has the quickest reactions, and who has the most explosive strength”.

Love him or loathe him, he is the sort of player who gives everything for the cause, who prides himself on being alert to wave after wave of attacking threats in and around the box. He is also the sort of player who is not afraid to put his body in harm’s way. And he’ll grab you the odd goal or two.

Ensuring that your players are back on their feet after a good tackle or clearance and ready to combat a second wave of danger is essential.

To keep them alive and reactive, here’s a defensive move that asks for quick reactions and tireless commitment to the cause.

How to set it up:

  • Create a playing area measuring 10×10 yards.

  • The drill requires four servers and one designated defender.

  • Each server starts on a different side, with a ball.

  • Place your defender in the middle – his job is to react to a different serve from each player around the area. After each serve, his task is to keep the ball within the box.

Getting started:

  • Starting on the left-hand side, server 3 throws the ball up for server 1 to head into the middle. The defender tries to stop the ball from going out of bounds.

  • Immediately, server 2 passes a ball towards the opposite line. The defender must now react, running to slide and stop the ball from crossing the line.

  • Now server 3 dribbles onto the pitch and attempts to get to the line opposite. The defender tries to stop him.

  • Finally, server 4 throws the ball over the defender’s head and attempts to run around him to win it back. The defender’s task is to shield the ball, letting it run over the line. If the ball stops dead before the line, he can then kick it clear to the left or the right.

  • Now rotate so that a different player acts as the defender.

Why this works:

Adopting the mindset that a defender’s job is rarely complete is absolutely vital if players are to counter all of the threats on a match day. After each phase of this drill, the defender needs to be alert to a new test, reacting quickly to each ball and clearing the danger.

Each test offers a new skill, and provides you with a quick-fire snapshot of where the defender’s game can be improved.


Simple defensive block session


This game works on reactive speed and forces the players to work at match speed in order to be successful.

Set up an area 25 yards square with three poles, three balls and one goal.

The steps

  1. Split your players into two lines with one line acting as defenders and one line as the attackers.
  2. The players pass the ball back and forth. On your whistle, they quickly run around their poles.
  3. The attacker must then shoot first time and the defender must try to clear the ball or block the shot.

What to call out

  • “React”
  • “Get in line with the ball”
  • “Stop the shot”

Closing ranks at the back

davidscwnewGetting your defenders to close ranks on an attacking threat is vital for taking control of defensive situations in a match. Give the opposition time on the ball in your half of the pitch and they will find it much easier to create goal scoring chances from good passes.

All your players should be able to quickly close down the opposition no matter where they play on the pitch. If attackers are helping out the defence, they become an important part of helping to close the opposition down.

What you want your players to achieve when they are closing down is to make it harder for opponents to pass the ball. The discipline needs good timing and anticipation so the defender can stay balanced on their feet.

  • Try and anticipate while the ball is moving
  • Concentrate on the opponents around the ball
  • Wait until the right moment to make the tackle
  • Try and stay standing at all times

I use this game to get my defenders moving to block the pass and keep attackers at bay. They need to watch the ball at all times and keep tabs on the opponents.

How to play it

  • Defenders start on the edge of the pitch and pass the ball across to an attacker.
  • Defenders must follow the ball to mark the attackers.
  • Attackers can only have three touches each and must cross the line of cones before they can pass to attacker 3, who must stay off the pitch at the defenders’ end.
  • Defenders must move to block passes to attacker 3.
  • Defenders should have their knees slightly bent in a crouching position, and be slightly side on to the attacker.
  • Defenders should be close enough to the attacker to pounce if a chance to tackle is offered.
  • Defenders should stay on their feet and move quickly.
  • Good communication between team mates is necessary when passing or covering the space to block.