Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Getting things wrong as a coach is part of your learning curve

dave clarkeFaced with entertaining the team that has scored the most goals in our league last week I decided to play three defenders for the first time this season, bring my wingers into midfield with a lone striker up front.

It meant my team was sitting deep allowing the opposition to come on to us. It was a tactic we used to great effect last season hitting teams on the break after they lost the ball to us. It relies on us keeping a clean sheet up to half time then adjusting the team accordingly to try and get a goal. We have been much more attack minded this season and are the second highest goal scorers in the league so I was expecting a lot of shots on goal.

Unfortunately the plan was never tested properly because we let in two early goals and then struggled to change our tactics to get ourselves back into the game. Such was the intensity of the match I was finding it hard to get my views across to the players – not helped by the squeeling parents around me.

We found it hard to take the initiative back and all our hard work in training where we practice compact defending had gone to waste.

In the same week Steve Bruce the manager of English Premier League team Sunderland also decided to play three centre-backs to deal with Stoke City’s threat from set pieces, but the plan did not work for him either as the home side scored all three of their goals this way. The final two Stoke goals were similar – coming from excellent Jermaine Pennant free-kicks, and converted by Robert Huth, who is ironically enough a centre-back.

It is disappointing when your tactics don’t work, but it doesn’t mean you were wrong to try it. As a coach using tactics in matches should be part of your game. It’s not just the players that need to experiment – getting things wrong is part of your learning curve as a manager.

Watch these highlights of Sunderland playing Birmingham in which both teams use three centre-backs and both get caught out.

 Soccer Skills and Drills


My five best attacking centre-backs

dave clarkeHow many professional teams won at the weekend due to a centre-back scoring from a corner? They do it so often because they are the players who practice outjumping their opponents when they are defending – hence they can do it when they are attacking.

A lot of youth teams keep their centre-backs covering on the half way line, rather than see them get up into the penalty area for a corner in case the defending team wins the ball and makes a quick break. But you don’t have to be so cautious, other players can cover, it doesn’t always have to be your centre-back.

When you are coaching attacking situations make sure you use your centre-backs to attack the ball as well as your strikers. They can learn a lot from positional play when they are attacking so they can understand how to defend the same situation.

My five top centre-backs to use as an example to your players are:

  • Gerard Piquet, Barcelona
  • Nemanja Vidic, Manchester United
  • Carles Puyol, Barcelona
  • Lucio, Inter Milan
  • Thomas Vermaelen, Arsenal

Watch the clip below of Gerard Piquet scoring for Barcelona: