Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice


How Chelsea’s Antonio Conte uses the full pitch to win matches

davidscwnewWatching the Euros instead of standing coaching my players gives me a good chance to see how some of the world’s greatest coaches approach games where the opposition poses different problems.

Chelsea’s new boss Antonio Conte gave a wonderful performance in matches before they lost out to Germany on penalties. He was faced with two different types of games but his ability to get the best out of his players I noticed usually relied on them cleverly switching play in attack to create space when it was difficult to find any because the opposition was closing out any obvious space on the pitch.

And when defending, Italy’s formation makes perfect use of the players available. In Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, Italy have the best defensive unit in European football.

Italy still has the best coaching academy in the world. They produce generations of coaches capable of organising players into effective teams, something that Conte has taken on at the European Championships.

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His tactics are a big part of the success he brings to teams. He said “When my teams attack, we do so with five players. It used to be four but now it is five. Attack with five, defend with five”. This means his attackers can spread right across the pitch finding any space that is available.

Italy’s performances against Sweden and Spain were entirely different, with both exploiting noted weaknesses but in each case Conte used switches of play to create goalscoring chances.

Against Sweden, Conte knew that he would face a side sitting deep in their own half, looking to take advantage of the counter-attack and free-kicks. As a result, Italy were patient, stretched the play from side-to-side when looking for an opening, and defended in numbers whenever they lost possession.

Against Spain, far from sitting back and limiting space in the final third, Italy charged at Vicente Del Bosque’s team, robbing them of the chance to build any tempo or rhythm.

Spain’s style of football depends on the players being very compact so that they can begin their mesmerising short passing game and work their way up the pitch.

When Italy attacked, they took advantage of this narrow team shape – constantly switching play to break up the compact Spanish team and give themselves a chance of scoring.

They constantly played the ball into space, dragging Spain around. It’s exhausting to defend against and when Spain would eventually win the ball back, Italy would press high up the pitch and surround their players to stop them passing.

“We have been working very intensively for a month now, tactically and physically, in a bid to surprise people and we have already succeeded in that,” said Conte after that 2-0 win over Spain.



FIFA Ballon d’Or: Bastian Schweinsteiger session

Bastian Schweinsteiger was one of the players of the World Cup in Brazil and in the final was one of the star players even having his face stapled when he split it in a head clash. Germany won the world cup and he played such a huge roll but he is not just a strong player, his ability on the ball to play passes and make himself available for the return is second to none. 

Watch the Tactics Board session on the link below that helps to develop players to have that ability to distribute the ball with pace and accuracy.

TO WATCH THE TACTICS BOARD CLICK HERE: https://app.vzaar.com/videos/2189419



Goalkeepers can counter attack

davidscwnew

Goalkeepers like nothing better than having the ball in their hands, running to the edge of their area, then blasting it into the sky.

But throw-outs can be better, not to mention more valuable, because the ability to throw the ball quickly and accurately is becoming an increasingly important skill for goalkeepers in the modern game.

Many of the world’s top keepers can throw the ball more than half the length of the pitch, and the distance and accuracy they can achieve is a big counter-attacking weapon for the team.

The overarm throw allows your goalkeeper to clear the ball over a long distance and at a great height. And it can be more accurate than kicking the ball.

Here’s my seven-step guide for goalkeepers looking to master the art of the long throw:

  1. Tell your goalkeeper to adopt a side-on position and put their weight on the back foot.
  2. Your goalkeeper’s throwing hand needs to be positioned under the ball, and their throwing arm kept straight.
  3. The non-throwing arm must point in the direction of the target.
  4. The goalkeeper can then bring this arm down as the throwing arm comes through in an arc over the top of their shoulder.
  5. The goalkeeper’s weight should be transferred forward as the ball is released.
  6. It is similar to a bowler’s action in cricket.
  7. Over long distances, get your player to concentrate on powering the arm downwards on the same line as the target spot. This will help with his accuracy.


Winning without the ball

davidscwnew

Call me strange but I like watching my team when we haven’t got the ball. In one of the matches we played this week my U10 team was attacking – all the players were in advanced positions. The opposition defence won the ball and were moving quickly to counter attack.

What was great to see was my players moving to cover the space they had left. The nearest player went to the ball and the others moved to cover. It was a great example of getting into a good defensive position and it stopped the counter attack immediately.

By moving into this defensive block, they were playing a compact game making the pitch smaller for the opposition by covering the space behind them.

This is a great tactic for young teams, they can work hard and win the ball back when they have lost it – but remember it is hard work and needs committed players!

To practise this I use a warm-up and a small-sided game:

 

Warm-up

  • Lay out several rows of two cones, about six yards apart.

  • Split your squad into pairs.

  • Players pass to their partner, then follow behind the pass and try to slow the advancing player using a jockeying technique – blocking the player’s movement without contact.

Small-sided game

  • Play a small-sided game on a pitch 30 yards long by 20 yards wide. I’ve shown a 4v4 in the picture but depending on the size of your squad you can use 3v3 or 5v5.

  • The player with the ball takes three touches on the move before they can pass. Players cannot kick the ball three times quickly when they are stationary.

  • No tackling at first, only jockeying. Allow tackling once the game has been played a few times. Opponents must close down quickly before the three touches are taken.

  • Play first to five goals or time it for 10 to 15 minutes.



A pressure and overload game that keeps on evolving

davidscwnew

This game is about pressing and dropping in tight areas of the pitch. It helps your players’ decision-making skills where overloads are concerned – their judgment of when to press and when to drop during a game, depending on numbers and position on the pitch.

Playing in exercises that have a game structure helps players understand training principles.

How to set it up:

  • This game requires cones and balls.
  • Use two 30×20 yards areas with a gap between of 10 to 20 yards. The bigger the gap, the fitter your players need to be.
  • Two teams – whites and greys – play 4v4 in each area, with a five-yard cone goal at each end but no keepers.

Getting started:

  • Start both 4v4s at the same time, instructing one team when to press high and when to drop back to cover lower down the pitch. Play for five minutes.
  • Now assign numbers – in both boxes whites are 1, 2, 3 and 4. Greys in both boxes are 5, 6, 7 and 8.
  • Returning to the game, when you call out a number the two players who have that number must switch pitches to create overload scenarios.
  • Play for a further five minutes.

Progressing the session:

The players now don’t have numbers, and can play in either box. If greys are winning in one box but losing in the other, players can switch to assist, leaving team mates behind to defend their lead. Play for 10 minutes.

Why this works:

As the players switch pitches they leave and join different overloads, adapting their game in the process. In the progression, the decision of when to support the other team is left to the players. The challenge is very match-like in that respect – when to press and when to drop.

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When my players win the ball they can’t launch quick counter attacks

David Clarke

By David Clarke

Changing the dimensions of the field is a quick fix to a lot of problems.

  • Making the field larger gives the attackers and midfielders more space to show off their skills.

  • If a team is not scoring, increase the size of the pitch until they learn how to pass, shoot and score. Gradually reduce the pitch to the normal size and they will have learned what they have to do to score.

  • Making the field smaller helps the defending team by reducing the amount of space they have to cover.

The problem: Your team is not taking advantage when they win the ball to turn defence into attack.

The solution: Use a long narrow layout with small goals to force players into fast, direct attacks through the middle of the pitch. Attacking small goals needs swift passing to break the defence down and create opportunities to score. The shape of the pitch will force play to be quick and direct.

Set up a pitch that is 50 yards long x 10 yards wide, to create a tunnel effect where the players’ focus is narrowed like a racehorse wearing blinkers. Play games of 3v3 with small goals. No goalkeepers. Restart with a dribble or pass from in front of the team’s own goal.



Sometimes simple is best – try 2v2

David ClarkeI often set up a number of simple 2v2 games for my players to give them plenty touches of the ball and force them to think tactically and make decisions about when to drop when to tackle when to intercept or when to dribble or pass. There’s a whole lot of coaching going on in this one.

What I look for: quick defenders who move the ball quickly when they win it; good defensive positions – individual and pairs; awareness of space.

Key points

  1. Speed – keep passes and touches to a minimum and be ready to spring into action.
  2.  Move directly towards the goal/target.
  3.  Sometimes, the fast break is not possible. It is important in these circumstances for defenders to keep possession and wait for the chance to play a forward pass.

 

How to set it up

Play 2v2 in a 20 yards by 10 yards area, split in two halves.

How to play it

  • Each team lines up on its goal line.
  • Play a 2v2 with the defending team restricted to its half.
  • To score a point, an attacker must dribble the ball across the defenders’ goal line.
  • If the defenders win the ball, they can launch an immediate counter attack.
  • The attackers then have to get back to defend as quickly as possible.
  • Once either team scores a point, or the ball goes out of play, possession is handed back to the original attacking team.
  • Play for, say 2 minutes, then swap team roles.

How to develop it

  • This time, if the defenders win the ball, only one can enter the opposition’s half.
  • The defender in possession can either dribble towards the goal line or pass to their partner, who breaks quickly into the other half.
  • If the counter attack isn’t possible, the only way a player can release their team mate into the opponent’s half is by crossing back into their own half with the ball.