Grassroots Coaching

UEFA B Coaching – Defending Against a Counter Attack

I recently received a question on a UEFA B coaching topic, one which is very relevant to the way football has evolved tactically. The question was how do you Coach a team to defend a counter attack.

Imagine game situations where a team will have to defend a counter attack in a game. It is when a team are attacking, they have lost the ball and have committed players forward and the other team gain possession and look to attack quickly and directly. The team now have a problem as they are going to be outnumbered by the attacking team. There will be space behind them as they are probably going to be pushed up as they would initially have been attacking and they will have players who would have been committed forward to the attack that are now out of position.

In the two Semi Final Capital Cup Games, both Aston Villa and Chelsea will have to attack and commit players forward to overcome their first leg deficit. Both Bradford and Swansea will look to sit behind the ball, protect their first leg leads and counter attack quickly when they have the opportunity.

The Scenario

A game situation scenario could be something like this:

In a 8 v 8 small sided game. Team-A are attacking and have an overlapping attacking wide situation, where the overlapping fullback receives a pass from the attacking wide player and the fullback makes an attacking cross into the box. Two A-Team players make runs to attack the cross in the penalty area and another A-Team player is sitting on the edge of the area, leaving two A-Team defenders who have pushed up and are on the halfway line (Team-A – 7 outfield players).

The defending Team-B leave one player up against the two defenders; there is one Team-B player out wide defending the cross and three Team-B defenders defending the cross in the area. Leaving two Team-B players to defend the edge of the area. (Team-B – 7 outfield players).

The ball is crossed in and the ball is cleared centrally past the A-Team attacking player on the edge of the area and into the space in front of the A-Team two defenders on the halfway line. Both of the Team-B players on the edge of the area break forward, one of them gets to the ball. Team-A now have 5 players who are in front of the ball and momentarily out of the game. The two wide players who combined for the cross wide, the two players who made runs to attack the cross and the player on the edge of the area.

Team-B on the other hand are now in possession of the ball centrally, they have the player on the ball attacking the defenders quickly, the attacker who stayed up for the corner and the breaking player. So they have a 3 v 2 counter attacking situation, with space in front of them and possible space behind the two defenders to exploit in the counter attack.

The two defenders of the A-Team have a problem. They are faced with 3 attackers who have the ball and are attacking quickly. They also have a lot of space behind them.

The Strategy

Unless the two outnumbered Team-A defenders are 100% certain of winning or intercepting the ball, they must not go to or try and press the ball as this will leave the central space behind them for the attacking team to exploit. The two A-Team defenders need to try and slow down the attack and buy time for their team mates to recover.

They do this by backing off together centrally as the attack progresses and making it very difficult for the attacking team to pass the ball centrally into the space behind them. They try and force the attackers to pass the ball wide and away from the goal. By deflecting the attack this way, they are buying time and delaying the attack. The two A-Team defenders have to recognise what to do if the attackers make badly timed or angled runs behind them and run offside and also if the attack gets close to the goal where a likely shot needs defending or blocking as defending a direct shot from a dangerous shooting position will always become the defensive priority in this situation, rather than worrying about delay and deflect.

The two A-Team outnumbered defenders will need to communicate with each other and work as a unit. The goalkeeper should also be looking to communicate with the two defenders and take a position where they can sweep behind them and be able to deal with any through balls that aren’t accurate or well weighted.

Whilst the two A-Team outnumbered defenders are delaying and deflecting the counter attack, the nearest A-Team players who are in front of the ball are looking to break their necks and recover back as quickly as they can. From a technical point of view they should make their recovery runs as quickly as possible and initially in a straight line directly back to the centre of the goal they are defending. If at any point they can intercept or win the ball in their recovery, they should do so and stop the attack. As they recover they might have to think about changing the angle of their recovery and recover into dangerous spaces the two A-Team delay defenders leave or to track runners who are looking to get behind the defence. Again, communication between all the defenders and the GK is vital.

Here is a video of a functional practice to improve a team’s Defending capabilities against a Counter Attack and defending when outnumbered. Don’t forget to let me know what you think about this activity or blog post in the comments below. It’s great to hear from our visitors!

Football Association Football Coaching Level 2 – Defend when outnumbered

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