26 Mar 2013
Coaching a Team to Defend as a Team in a Small Sided Game
I am often asked how coaches can effectively coach a team. Many coaches can put on practices and drills to improve players’ techniques and skills, but coaching a team to work together to achieve a specific team objective can be difficult and intimidating for many coaches. In this blog, we look at the topic of coaching a team to defend effectively as a team. In this example, we look at a UEFA B practical curriculum topic and play an 8 v 8 game. The principles and structure of defending shown here are equally applicable to coaching 4 v 4 games through to 11 v 11 games.
- It is important that the coach adopts a coaching position off the pitch that enables them to see all the players.
- By being able to observe all the players and the action, the coach can see what is going well and where mistakes happen.
- This skill of observation and analysis is crucial for the coach to be able to effectively coach the topic.
ORGANISATION AND START
- Play 8 v 8 on a 70 x 50 yard pitch.
- Organise the teams to play a 3 – 2 – 2 formation.
- As an initial starting point, the team you are coaching give the ball possession to the opposition team in their defensive 3rd. A good start point is for one of the midfield players to pass the ball into the opposition GK.
- The coach should check that as soon as the opposition have good possession, the team they are coaching adopt a compact, central team shape.
- Encourage the GK and defensive unit to take a position in relation to where the ball is and be compact and central.
- This will push the midfield unit to a central position in relation to the defensive unit.
- The forwards should look to recover quickly behind the ball.
COMPACTNESS OF DEFENSIVE SHAPE
- Here you can see the way the team have got behind the ball and have a compact, central defensive team shape.
- From this position the team can defend the central area. They can defend their goal and they can put appropriate pressure on the opposition wherever they play the ball.
DEFENDING FROM THE FRONT
- It is the coaches responsibility to coach all the players on their roles and responsibilities when defending as a team.
- But, to start with the coach needs to work in a logical progressive fashion, so they start with coaching the forward unit with defending from the front.
- Once the forwards know their jobs, the coach can move onto coaching the midfield unit, the GK and defensive unit and then coaching the team to work and defend together.
- As the ball is passed or distributed in the opposition defensive 3rd, the forwards have to decide if they can win the ball. If they can, they should do so.
- But if the opposition have good possession, the forwards should react by taking positions where they shield the central forward pass, making it difficult for the opposition to easily pass forward centrally.
SHIELDING THE FORWARD CENTRAL PASS
- To reiterate, if the forwards think they can win the ball, because of a poor pass or poor touch, then they should do so.
- But if they can’t their job is to communicate together and to make it difficult for the opposition to pass accurately forward centrally.
- They need to work together and make sure they aren’t too close together, too far apart, too close to the ball or too far away from the ball.
- If the opposition find it hard to pass forward, centrally and accurately, they will generally pass the ball long and direct. Which we will deal with later, when we look at coaching the defensive unit.
- Or they will pass the ball across the pitch and try and get a player in space to be able to run with the ball or pass forward, centrally and accurately.
- The forwards should look to try and deflect the play and encourage the opposition to pass the ball across the pitch.
- As they pass the ball, the forwards should adjust their position so that they make it difficult for the opposition to pass accurately forward centrally.
- Again, if they can win the ball, they should do so.
- As the ball is passed, the forwards should move as the ball travels.
- They are looking to make it difficult for the ball to be passed forward accurately and centrally.
- If there is an opportunity to win the ball, they should do so. But if not, they should be patient and disciplined.
TRIGGERS TO PRESS OR WIN THE BALL
- The forwards should recognise and react to triggers that might allow them to pressure or win the ball.
- The triggers are a slow or inaccurate pass.
- Passes that go behind players.
- Poor control of the ball.
- Poor support for the player on the ball.
- If one forward decides to pressure the ball, the second forward should back them up and provide cover.
- Communication and timing of the pressure is very important.
- Once the coach is satisfied that the forward players know their jobs, then they can move onto coach the midfield unit.
- The midfield unit should adopt positions that allow them to shield or intercept forward, central passes: To be able to pressure and cover passes to the opposition midfield and to be able to track midfield forward runs off them.
- The midfield players should communicate with the forwards and with each other.
MIDFIELD AND FORWARDS WORKING TOGETHER
- As the ball is passed, the midfield and forwards should all work together and move like they are linked by elastic.
- If the opposition pass the ball quickly and accurately, there will be times when the forwards will not be able to move quickly enough to shield the forward pass or stop the run with the ball.
- In this situation, the nearest midfield player to the ball now reacts and shuffles over to effect and shield the ball.
- The next midfield player shuffles over with them, providing cover and shielding the forward ball.
- The forward furthest from the ball drops into midfield.
- The forward closest to the ball drops and makes it difficult for the player on the ball to pass forward centrally, particularly into the midfield area.
- In this graphic, you can see how the midfield and forwards have adjusted and reacted to a situation where the opposition have broken the forward defensive line.
- The opposition have progressed, but are faced with a situation where it is difficult for them to progress down the pitch effectively.
MIDFIELD PRESSURE AND COVER, FORWARD REACTIONS
- If the ball is passed centrally into an opposition midfield player, then the nearest midfield player applies pressure, to intercept the ball or to prevent the midfield player turning with the ball.
- The second midfield player provides cover in case the pressure player gets turned or beaten.
- The forwards react to pressure the ball from the front and try and win it from poor control resulting from the pressure.
COACHING THE DEFENSIVE UNIT
- Once the coach is happy that the forward and midfield units know their jobs and individual and unit roles and responsibilities, they move onto to coach the defensive unit and GK.
- The GK and defensive unit should always adopt a shape where they are in a good position in relation to wherever the ball and opposition forwards are.
- They should be goal side of the attacking players and should be in a position where they can comfortably deal with any long balls over the top.
- They should be compact and central, to be able to defend the goal and should look to have at least one more defender than the attacking team have forwards.
- The defensive unit should all move together, keeping compact, as the ball is passed.
- The forwards and midfield should also move with the defensive unit, so the whole team adjust their shape as the ball is passed.
- The coach should check that there isn’t big spaces between players in the defensive unit and that the players aren’t too compact and too close together.
- They should also observe that they aren’t too deep, allowing balls to be dropped over the midfield players into forwards feet or pushed too high, where the ball over the top for a forward running behind them causes problems and makes it a race for the ball.
THE DEFENSIVE UNIT DEALING WITH LONG BALLS OVER THE TOP
- The defensive unit should always be in a comfortable position to deal with any long balls over the top.
- The nearest defensive player to the ball should be ball side of the attacker with the other two defenders in positions where they can deal with long balls centrally or diagonally.
- It is far better that a forward receives the ball with their back to goal so that defenders can apply pressure, than be too tight and vulnerable to a long pass over the top into space where the forward can run off them and be in on goal.
THE DEFENSIVE UNIT DEALING WITH LONG, HIGH BALLS
- There will be times when the opposition will go long and early to their forwards.
- If the defensive unit are in good positions prior to the long ball, then they will be able to deal with it much more effectively.
- The nearest players to the ball should communicate and attack the ball.
- The other two defenders should quickly drop and provide cover for flick ons or if the ball is missed by the attacking player.
- They will need to provide cover centrally and adopt positions that have a good angle and distance of cover.
- The midfield should look to track any opposition midfield players that make runs to support the long ball and to make sure they recover and are first to any drop downs or loose balls that result from the challenge on the ball.
- The forwards should make sure that if the ball is cleared forward they are in a position to try and get to the clearance first.
- Whenever the ball travels backwards or square, the team should appropriately compact play by squeezing to the ball as a team.
- It is important that they do this together as a team, while retaining their team shape.
- They should not look to squeeze and compact play if the opposition have possession, as the danger is the team will be moving forward and their balance will be the ball can be passed over them resulting.
COACH POSITION, OBSERVATION AND ANALYSIS OF PERFORMANCE
- It is important that the coach adopts a position where they can observe all the players.
- A position off the pitch and to the side of the gaol is a good position.
- Try and observe not just where the ball is, but where the ball is going to be. By doing this, the coach can also see if the players in the team being coached are reacting defensively in the correct way.
- Observe that the team have a good defensive shape in relation to where the ball is as this provides the defensive foundation for effective defending as a team.
- Team shape in relation to where the ball is. Compact and central.
- Defending from the front, coaching the forwards. Start with coaching the forwards on their individual roles and responsibilities and how they communicate and work together.
- Move on to coach the midfield players on their individual roles and responsibilities and how they communicate and work together. Link the midfield with the forwards, so they communicate and work together.
- Then work with the GK and defensive unit on their individual roles and responsibilities and how they communicate and work together. Link the midfield and the forwards with the defensive unit, so the team communicate and work together.
- Let the game flow and be competitive and observe the defensive performance of the team.
- Do they react and defend as individuals, as units and as a team in the way they have been coached.
The practice has been designed using Coaches Chalkboard. Coaches Chalkboard is FREE, is easy to use and enables a coach to design, print, save and share training practices, tactics and formations for games with other coaches and players.
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