Grassroots Coaching

UEFA B Coaching – Defending Deep to Counter Attack.

Following on from the previous blog article, we now look at how to coach a team to defend deep and then counter attack. In this UEFA B coaching topic, the defending team are giving up ground and defending deep, in and around their own penalty area. Typically, this might be an away team who are 0-0 or winning the game.

Unlike the previous topic, where the defensive unit pushed higher up the pitch, therefore pushing their midfield higher enabling them to be close to their forwards and being able to pile on the pressure. The defensive unit have dropped back making sure there is no space behind them to exploit, pulling the fullbacks tighter to the central defenders. This will pull the midfield unit deeper and closer to the defensive unit. The midfield unit will also be tighter together centrally and will be looking to shield central passes into the central attacking team. The forward unit might well drop one of the forwards into the midfield area to boost the numbers and will try and let the central defenders of the opposition have the ball whenever they can, rather than the full backs.

The defensive team are defending deep, with players behind the ball. They will be compact centrally, making it difficult for the opposition to pass forward centrally, either into the central forwards’ feet or behind them into space. They will be trying to force the opposition to go backwards or square. They will be trying to keep the ball in front of them as much as they can.

Sooner or later the opposition will try and force a pass or a cross into the central danger area, where the defensive team have numbers. Sometimes, this will be a good pass or cross and the defensive team have to defend it. But, there might be times when it is a poor pass, poor cross, or poor control by the opposition. Because the defence have large numbers, they will also be able to apply pressure and cover around the ball. The midfield players who are shielding their defensive unit might even intercept the central forward pass. The defensive team are waiting for the opportunity to win the ball through interception, pressure from behind, or pressure from the front.

The Response

Once they win the ball, they now have to look to counter attack. But they are a long way from the opposition goal, so they have to look to progress the ball forward quickly and further up the pitch and to get players breaking forward quickly to support the ball and even run beyond it.

They can counter attack quickly by passing the ball forward. Ideally, one pass over the top to a forward running player into the space behind the opposition defence is the best way. If not, it can be done in two passes, for example a forward pass, where a set back and a third man run into the space behind the defence. Or even a long forward pass, a flick on and a runner behind. It might be they counter attack with more than two passes, but the passing will have to be quick, direct and accurate, with at some point a forward pass for a forward runner behind the opposition defence into open space.

Another way to quickly counter attack from deep is for a player to run quickly and directly with the ball. By running quickly with the ball, they will run away from any recovering players, will progress the ball forward up the pitch quickly and under control and force the opposition players behind the ball to either come to the ball or back off and concede space. The player running with the ball will need other counter attacking players to make runs that create space for the player running with the ball and to make runs off of them for a pass or a cross behind the retreating defenders.

Again, when counter attacking, they will need to be careful that they have a defensive balance to the counter attack, so if the ball is lost, they aren’t counter attacked against!


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