Grassroots Coaching

Football Coaching – Defend as a team in an 8 v 8 game

We have recently seen Chelsea do an outstanding defensive job on both Liverpool and Atlético Madrid and Crystal Palace, under Tony Pulis have built their impressive run of form on the basis of a solid and organised defence.

Most football coaches don’t have 22 players available to work on the team defensively, so one method is to play small sided games, where defensive principles can be coached, which can then be scaled up to 11 v 11.

Football coaches should understand and apply the basic defensive principles of defending. Once possession is lost, the team look to get behind the ball, get a defensive shape, which is narrow and compact and allows players to adopt positions in relation to where the ball is.

From this graphic you can see how Chelsea are compact and narrow, ensuring there is very little space for Atlético Madrid to pass forward to dangerous attacking areas.
When coaching a team to defend, initially there needs to be a structure to the session. In the video, the defensive team in the 8 v 8 game are set up in 3 – 2 – 2 formation on a pitch size of 70 x 50 yards, or a relevant size for the age and ability of the players.

Defending in team play starts from the front. So when the ball was in possession of the opposition defence, you should look to coach the strikers, to get them to understand how to react quickly when the ball was lost, to recover behind the ball and to work and defend as a pair. They needed react to triggers, so for example if the player on the ball had good possession, then there was no point in trying to pressure the ball as they would easily be passed by. Their roles were to try and stop the ball behind passed forward into key attacking areas and to try and force play across the pitch and to keep the ball in front of them. They had to work as a pair communicate and react together as the ball was passed across them.

Once the strikers understood this initial role, you should look to move onto work with the midfield. They had to communicate and encourage the strikers, move as the strikers moved and ensure that if the ball was played into the opposition midfield players, they were in a position to apply good pressure and get tight, with the second midfield player providing cover. They also needed to understand that they also had to adopt shielding positions that made it difficult for the ball to be passed into the opposition’s strikers and to track any runs from the opposition midfield players.
The forwards now had to link with the midfield, so that if any pass went past the forwards, they turned, recovered and applied pressure from the front.

The third unit that then should be coached was the defending unit and the GK. The first thing to work on is their positions as a unit and individuals in relation to where the ball was and how they reacted and moved as the ball moved. Look to coach them to move and communicate together as a unit and ensure that there were no big gaps between them and that they were in a position goal side of the strikers so that if any ball was passed over the top or past them, they put themselves in a position to win any race and that they kept their shape and discipline. The GK also played a big part of this defensive unit, communicating and positioning themselves in relation to their defenders and the ball.

Any time the ball was played forward it is important that one of the defenders applies pressure on the ball and the other two dropped and provided cover
This was then linked to the midfield, so that whenever the ball was played forward towards the opposition forwards, there was pressure and cover from the defenders and recovery runs from the midfield and forwards, to be first to any knockdowns

The game was then allowed to flow and the coach should observe and analyse the play and watch the whole team to see if they were applying and working towards what they had been coached. As the game progressed, it was also important that the team to understand the need to compact play as the ball was played forwards or sideways.
Watch the video to see how these defensive principles can be coaches in an 8 v 8 game

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Assessment Level 2 Assessment UEFA B Become Better Players Coaching Sessions Defending Defending Sessions Defending Tips FA Level 2 Formations Tactics UEFA B