Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Cut out the pass


One of the things the modern greats like Xavi, Lionel Messi and Yaya Toure have is the ability to receive a ball under the pressure of onrushing opponents – it seems to me they don’t need any space at all to control the ball and keep it away from an opponent.

Of course, you and I are coaching young players who can easily be put off by a player running towards them – they need a lot of space to control the ball.

Defenders must close down opponents quickly so they reach the player at the same time they receive the ball. With no time to get it under control, it will be much easier for the defender to step in and win it.

How to play

  • Using the penalty area, mark out an area the same size opposite it with a 10-yard "no man’s land" between the areas, as shown in the top picture.

  • Play 5v5. Use a goalkeeper, two defenders and two attackers on each team.

  • Put two attackers from one team and two defenders from the other in each half.

  • Players must stay in the area they start in.

  • Toss a coin for kick off, play starts with the goalkeeper.

  • Restarts are by the goalkeeper if the ball goes over the end lines. There are no corners. Take throw-ins as usual.

  • Play is continuous – when a team wins the ball, it looks to pass and attack the goal.

  • Attackers must create space for the defenders to pass to.

  • Defenders must try and win the ball from the attackers.

How to advance it

  • The passing player can follow the ball into the attacking half.
  • Widen "no man’s land" to 20 yards to make passing and timing of runs harder – do this by moving the orange/outer area back 10 yards but keep the areas the same size.

  • By making "no man’s land" wider, you make the pass longer giving the defenders more time to see the ball and close the attackers down.

  • It also means that it will be harder to make the pass accurate because the player will need to think about power.


Barcelona team playing basketball at training on Saturday

Olé, Olé, Olé

David ClarkeBy David Clarke

Spain can keep hold of the ball with passing and movement almost at will – and it is something youth teams can strive to emulate. But it’s not just Spain that are showing how player technique and fast passing can result in huge success for the team. Fast passing is a key element of Euro 2012.

But it’s not just a case of telling players to pass they need to practice until they have the technique, touch and composure to make it work.

Try this session to help create a good passing team.

Key factors:

  1. In order to be composed on the ball, players need to have a good first touch and passing ability.
  2.  When keeping the ball, communication is vital and helps make up the mind of the player in possession.
  3.  Passing the ball is not enough. Players need to follow this up by moving off to receive again or to create space for the player on the ball.


How to set it up

  • Use a 40 yards long by 30 yards wide area for the session.
  • Use a pitch 60 yards by 40 yards for the development.

How to play it

  • Split the group into two teams.
  • You pass to the black team and call the name of a white player to run into the other half to win the ball.
  • If the white player wins the ball, play transfers to the white team’s half and the black player who gave the ball away tries to win the ball back.
  • If a team makes five passes another opponent runs in to help his team mate.
  • If another five passes are completed, another opponent runs in to help and so the exercise continues.
  • The winning team is the one which forces the opposition to commit the most players into their half during 15 minutes.

How to develop it

  • Play a small-sided game with four neutral players playing outside the pitch as full backs and wide players.
  • Outside players are limited to two touches and cannot pass to each other (use cones to block the channels). T
  • he team in possession tries to build an attack and score by using the outside players.
  • This game ensures the team in possession is spreading out and using the whole of the wide pitch.

Your coaching focus should be on technique

David Clarke

If you have one New Year’s Resolution make it that you are going to improve the technique of every player you coach – everything a player does on the pitch is about showing good technique.

Everything has a label – control, dribbling, shooting, first touch – but it all relies on good technique.

Technique is the bedrock of a young player’s success in soccer – there are of course other essentials like agility, balance, control and speed, but technique is the crowning glory.

Technique isn’t just Xavi or Messi’s close control. David Beckham has kept his career going for a second decade because his technique keeps him in demand. He doesn’t play anything like Xavi or Messi but he can do things with a ball they cannot. And vice-versa, you wouldn’t see Beckham involved in short passing, lightening quick moves up the pitch because he could never be Xavi.

So it’s about a player finding out what they are good at and practicing that skill. Repetition of the technique is a key factor in this. The more you can get them to repeat the technique the better they will become.

Watch the technique, even on the beach David Beckham can take accurate free-kicks!


Barca dominates Ballon d’Or

DCNo fewer than eight of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona players have made this year’s 23-man group for the FIFA Ballon d’Or, and leading the octet is a man bidding to win football’s top individual honour for the third year in succession.
Lionel Messi is on a hat-trick of wins and having already scored 45 times in 47 competitive appearances in 2011 should be favourite to win again. Cesc Fabregas, whose transfer has taken the shortlist’s Camp Nou contingent from six to eight, agrees with that: “I would put my hand in fire that Messi will win the Ballon d’Or,” said the former Arsenal captain. “He is a natural winner and a motivated fighter. What he has done we won’t see again. He gives everything and scores goals.”
Neymar’s inclusion is of interest, he is only 19 and plays for Santos in Brazil. Since the shortlist system was introduced by FIFA in 2004, only one player based outside of Europe has ever featured, and that was Boca Juniors’ Juan Roman Riquelme.
Neymar said. “There is no need to leave Brazil in order for the world to see us anymore,” he said after learning of his nomination. “It is a big happiness to be on a list like this. I have everyone to thank.”
2011 FIFA Ballon d’Or shortlist
Eric Abidal (FRA), Sergio Aguero (ARG), Xabi Alonso (ESP), Dani Alves (BRA), Karim Benzema (FRA), Iker Casillas (ESP), Samuel Eto’o (CMR), Cesc Fabregas (ESP), Diego Forlan (URU), Andres Iniesta (ESP), Lionel Messi (ARG), Thomas Muller (GER), Nani (POR), Neymar (BRA), Mesut Ozil (GER), Gerard Pique (ESP), Cristiano Ronaldo (POR), Wayne Rooney (ENG), Bastian Schweinsteiger (GER), Wesley Sneijder (NED), Luis Suarez (URU) David Villa (ESP), Xavi (ESP)

Let your players showboat to win the 1v1s

davidscwnewI know it can be irritating sometimes when your team is playing well but everything is undone by a player who tries something different and ends up losing the ball – a backheel for instance.

However, you should let your players try out these little acts of showboating because if they can use them at the right time it could be the thing that lets them win the 1v1s.

This is all about the player making the right decision when to use a clever bit of skill, but with some players the only way they will learn when to do it and when not to do it, is to get it wrong during a game.

So if a player tries to dribble out of their own penalty area rather than pass it out and they lose the ball the team suffers and what seemed like a good idea to the player is clearly seen to have been a bad idea.

Let the players try out skills they have learnt at home from watching the professionals on TV and don’t be cross when they make the wrong decisions. Players who learn when the right time to use clever skills is will probably end up being match winners for your team.

In the clip below watch Gotze, Alves, Bale and Lewandowski use showboating skills to win the 1v1s.

Why thinking you can win against the odds isn’t madness

Nelson Antonio Haedo Valdez went from Werder Bremen’s youth team to the first team, winning the league in 2003-04, and was chosen to play for his country Paraguay. He went from Borussia Dortmund to Spain this summer, becoming the most expensive player in Hercules’ history, at €3.8m.

He doesn’t score that many goals, he creates space and opportunities for team mates by running through from deep and dropping off the front.

But when he went to the Nou Camp with newly promoted Hercules he scored two goals, goals that were big in the history of his club. Goals that sunk the great Barcelona – Xavi, Pique, Iniesta and Villa.

Herculés coach, Esteban “Sardine” Vigo, a former Barcelona player, predicted that his side would win 2-0 – was he mad? Barcelona had not been beaten by a newly promoted side for a decade.

Barcelona had won 17 out of 18 at home last season, drawing the other. They had not lost a league game at home for 16 games. Since Pep Guardiola made his managerial debut in La Liga they have not once been beaten by two goals in the league. Madness.

“See,” said Vigo, “I’m not mad after all.”

“They played brilliantly. All I can do is congratulate them,” said Guardiola, Valdez said: “The key was solidarity and sacrifice. This is a dream come true.”