Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

What do midfielders bring to the party?

DavidClarke1When you pick midfielders for your team you need them to be able to tackle well, hit accurate long balls and shoot at goal.

It’s a hard position to fill which is why players like Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard are so important to their team.

You need someone who is more than just a link up player. They must be able to break up attacks and provide some level of defence for the players behind them. Youth teams are vulnerable to attacks through the midfield and must tackle to force play away and give defenders more space, and time, to see where the danger is coming from.

Watch these two clips of good midfield play, they play at different levels but both can do what you want to see in a midfielder.


Picking players to take free-kicks

DavidClarkeTaking free-kicks is good practice for getting your attackers used to shooting at goal. If a player can kick a good shot they can usually take a good free-kick.

But you shouldn’t restrict the free-kick takers to attackers. Often your defenders will be the ones that can kick high and long, ideal for free-kicks that are further out from goal. You will probably want to have close range free-kick takers, long range free-kick takers and also remember you may need someone to take free-kicks from wide position where the ball will be crossed rather than shot at goal.

It all comes down to your training sessions and making sure you put some time aside for free-kick taking. Have a competition and pick the winners – but remember young players kicking power will change as they get older, keep an eye out for the ones that are improving and encourage them to try free-kicks.

Here are some clips showing a player practising taking free-kicks from different angles around the penalty area, Steven Gerrard with an unusual way of practising and a compilation of some of the world’s best free-kicks.

Fabio Capello to Save English Football
Fabio Capello was appointed England national team manager on 7 January 2008. Fabio has an almost perfect soccer CV. He has played for and won trophies with Milan, Juventus and Roma, as well as the Italy national team. He has managed and won trophies with Milan, Real Madrid and Roma.So we know he’s good. But what is he worth? Well, his annual salary is £6m (around US$12m). That’s around £13,561 a day. Give or take. Plus expenses.

And what does he do to earn his salary? Well, he watches lots of matches. He appears before the press every now and then. He fires and appoints other coaches and assistants on a regular basis. He does the occasional photo opportunity to help with his and the FA’s public profile.

Oh, and occasionally he gets together with the England players for a spot of coaching before a friendly. A total of five days since his appointment in January. At a cost of around £2.5m to the FA. He picks the team, he calls the tactics and he makes the substitutions.

And what of his coaching style? What is he bringing to the English game? The word most often associated with Capello is “discipline”. Predrag Mijatovic, who played under him at Real Madrid describes him as “A painful but necessary medicine”. Roberto Carlos at Real said of Capello’s style “There will be no spectacle, it will be 1-0…But the team will be there, correctly set up and balanced on the pitch. And always winning.”

I really hope so. I’m as disappointed as the next fan that England aren’t at Euro 2008 (and I’m Irish!). And maybe Capello can secure qualification for World Cup 2010. Clearly, the FA believe that if he can his astronomical salary will have been worth it.

But here’s the thing. Forget 2010 for a minute. What about 2022? If England are successful at that tournament it will have been down to the likes of you and me as youth coaches. Somewhere out there on the playing fields of England are the future generations of Steven Gerrards and Rio Ferdinands. Hopefully they’ll play a more expansive and open style than we’re used to from Capello. And we’ll have done it for a heck of a lot less than £6m a year. And we’ll spend an awful lot more time with our players.

That’s not me being bitter – that’s me being proud of what we’re doing for the future. I’m realistic about the commercial imperative of steadying the England ship and hiring the best available coach at whatever cost. In the short term England might even win something. But the long term is down to grassroots coaches doing it for free week in week out, year after year.

The FA know this. Let’s see some more support. Let’s see some action.

Dwyer Scullion, publisher, Better Soccer Coaching



Boring Premier League?

After spending weeks telling us how the end of this English Premier League season is the most exciting for years, the media is now full of stories about how boring it is. So which is it?


The boring argument is based around the idea that only four teams can win – Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool (indeed many would exclude Liverpool from that list, but not me). It’s certainly true that these teams have access to resources and players way beyond what the rest can manage.


Have you watched many games played by the Big 4 this season? Did you find Manchester United’s sweeping attack play boring? Or Arsenal’s clinical and incisive high-tempo passing? Or how about Fernando Torres in front of goal, feeding off the sublime passing of Steven Gerrard? Yes, really boring.


So, we know that these teams play some of the most exciting and attractive soccer in Europe. But yet it’s supposed to be a boring league? Why is that? Is a West Han United fan bored watching their team fight for a 2-2 draw against Newcastle United? Or were Fulham fans bored on the last day of the season as they battled to stay in the Premier League?


If your only interest in soccer is winning the league, yes, the dominance of the Big 4 might become a little boring. But that’s not how soccer fans see it. They don’t spend many hundreds of pounds each year on tickets thinking they’re going to be bored all season. They do it because they love their team and there are few things more exciting than watching your team competing in such an exciting league.


They also do it because there are great players throughout the Premier League – it’s not just about Ronaldo, Torres, Rooney etc. What about Dimitar Berbatov, Daniel Alves, David Bentley, Ashley Young, Obafemi Martens, Michael Owen, Dean Ashton, the list goes on.


And it’s not just season-ticket holders who get the excitement of the Premier League. Ever taken a child to a Premier League game? Try telling them it’s boring.


And was it ever really that different? West Ham United fans have never really held out too much hope of winning the league, but they know that they might be able to Manchester United or Liverpool on their day – indeed they’ve beaten both more than once in recent seasons. Now, that’s exciting.


So let’s just enjoy it and let it inspire the players we coach. And don’t forget, the season’s not quite over. If you want real excitement  check out the Football League play-offs.

Dwyer Scullion, Publisher, Better Soccer Coaching