Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

How Celtic beat Barcelona – the counter attack

David ClarkeWhen Celtic beat Barcelona the amount of possession tells a very strange story. Barcelona had 89% of the ball. That gave Celtic very little chance of keeping them at bay let alone scoring two goals.

But they did score two goals, and they used the counter attack to great effect.

In youth football, constructing a good counter-attack often comes down to one team being quicker than the other – a case of who can control the ball and combine before the opposing team has managed to recover its position. The quick counter-attack requires players in a team to react with speed and concentration, and often the most important man will be your striker, who receives the ball under pressure from a defender.

He must control it and either shoot at goal himself, or be aware enough to lay it off into the path of a supporting attacker. Speed is vital because the opposition players will be recovering their positions at pace as, often, a lone defender holds up play. Using this exercise, you can replicate counter-attacks in training, perfecting the process using recognised support and teamwork, rather than just raw pace.

Counter-attacking talent is as much about routine and teamwork as it is the ability to control and pass. By rehearsing this move, attackers become accustomed to knowing the right areas to run into, and when to make their move.

Defenders must also practise getting back at pace, watching all the time the movement of their lone team-mate in order to prevent the attack. Counter-attacking talent is as much about routine and teamwork as it is the ability to control and pass. By rehearsing this move, attackers become accustomed to knowing the right areas to run into, and when to make their move. Defenders must also practise getting back at pace, watching all the time the movement of their lone team-mate in order to prevent the attack.

Practice makes perfect, and although workmanlike in training, the counter-attacking move can prove hugely valuable and visually brilliant when played out in a match situation.

How to set it up:

• Set up a playing area measuring 30×20 yards.

• There is an 8-yard zone at each end of the pitch. At the near end this is marked by cones across the pitch, while at the far end it’s best to use a pitch marking or cones on either side to denote the line.

• There is one goal, with a goalkeeper in place.

• Put two teams of three players in the near end zone – one acts as attacking support, the other as defending support.

• Place a striker in the middle area of the pitch, and a defender in the zone near the goal.

Getting started:

• The coach serves the ball out to the striker.

• As soon as that pass is played, the attacking support can move.

• When the lone attacker controls the ball, the defending support can move, as can the defender in the far end zone.

• Attackers must work together to move the ball forward and finish with a shot on goal.

• Replay the move so that players become comfortable in their roles, but going forward, experiment with different conditions to keep the counter-attacks challenging.

For instance, change the time between defenders and attackers moving by calling out “attack go” and “defence go”. Also try varying the number of players in the near end zone in order to favour either defence or attack. This also means you can involve all members of your squad at once. • Rotate players often so that everyone samples the demands of each role.



Have you got what it takes to be a good coach?

I remember being told before I started coaching that you have to want to coach to be a good coach -if you don’t want to do it, don’t bother trying.

One of the first things I look for in coaches I meet is passion. Not running up the touchline screaming at the players sort of passion, but a passion for coaching children how to play soccer.

If you haven’t got passion some where during your first season you will run in to trouble through either losing games and want to give it up or finding all the organizing that you have to do to run a successful team too much of a chore.

The team will suffer because the coach is not putting effort in and is merely going through the motions.

I was thinking about this during the week after reading about the ex England International John Barnes. What a player he was for his club Liverpool, although he never quite managed to bring that to the England team. He has also never managed to bring any of the success he had in his playing career to his management at Scottish giants Celtic and recently at Tranmere Rovers.

I looked in to what Barnes had to say about coaching when he was a player. There’s not a lot written, although there is one very telling interview with him by sports writer Pete Davies where he was asked if he could see himself in management.

“Not right now no. The closer you get to retiring then maybe you think, Ok I’d like to coach or whatever and some people may not have an option they can’t do anything else and they’re offered a coaching job so they do it. But at the moment I don’t think I would. I might play non-league or coach a school team or a little local side something like that.”

I was interested that he thought coaching a school team or a little local side is something you could take or leave, that it would be easy to do.

Then he said: “ I’m basically a very lazy person. If it came up then I’d do it, put it that way but it’s not something I’d like to do.”

When in 1999 he got a dream ticket to manage the Glasgow giants Celtic he must have wanted to do that I would imagine, but he suffered a series of very poor results one getting the famous headline “Super Cali go ballistic Celtic are atrocious”. He was sacked.

This year he managed Tranmere Rovers and won only two out of eleven games again he was sacked.

I think he’s missing the passion in his coaching that he had in his playing….

watch him as a player:

but he could rap!

 Soccer Skills and Drills

The ups and downs of the beautiful game

dc1It was refreshing to see that Celtic has chosen a manager not on the latest results his team produced but on the way they play the game.

Relegated from the Premiership at the first attempt, Tony Mowbray’s West Brom have been praised for the way they play. When they won promotion in 2007 from the Championship against teams who played with one up front and nine men behind the ball – Mowbray remained true to his ideals. Much as he has this last season only to see his team fail. But Celtic have recognized in his team the core of something special, something that will excite the fans and bring more trophys.

The words he spoke at the time reminded me of my own experience a couple of seasons ago when I took over an U14s team that hadn’t won a single game for two seasons. Eventually the team was turned around and I can look back on the first 5 or 6 games when we played well but lost every one in the same way that Mowbray does:

“It hasn’t always been easy. There have been times I have been sitting in other managers’ offices having a beer after games and they have been drooling about our style, telling me how great it is and what good footballers I have almost to a sycophantic extent… on the back of them beating us 2-0. That is hard to accept, but you don’t change what you do, you just try to become better at it,” said Mowbray.

I remember well after losing 2-1 the manager and his coaches coming over and expressing surprise we had lost considering how well we had played. We hadn’t won a game all season and their words made us even more determined to play the way I was coaching them, and if you cannot retain possession, master the football, attack on the flanks and in expansive fashion, your team will never progress.

At West Brom Tony Mobray has introduced a culture right through the club that is based on skills, technique and the ability to hold onto the ball. Here is the Academy team at the Soccer AM Skills School:

 Soccer Skills and Drills