Defending crosses


Half pitch


Balls, cones, goals

No. of players

Up to 22 (11v11)

Session time

Practices 10mins each, game 20mins

You only have to look at the number of goals scored from crosses in the Premier League to know why it’s important for us to practise this session.

It works primarily on players’ recovery runs when out of possession, and teaches the best runs to make out of possession in protecting the goal.

It also incorporates player mentality, and we can bring other team scenarios and philosophies into the practice too.

We’ll run the session in the days leading up to any game in which we know the bulk of the other team’s attacking threat is going to come from the wings. 

What do I get the players to do?

Central defenders: body position

Setting up as shown in the diagram (1), centre-backs run towards their own goal to defend the crosses coming from alternating sides. They must have an open body position so that, in practice, they can see any potential attackers.


• In the first practice, defenders retain an open body position – so they can see the ball and opponents at all times – in defending crosses from the flanks

Progress with attackers in place – the centre-back must be ‘touch tight’ and goal side.

Back four recovery runs

This time, full-backs are added. In the example shown (2), the right-back must force his opponent down the line. This allows the other defenders to take up good crossing positions. The two centre-backs will recover centrally and defend the cross, while the left-back also recovers into the box. Progress by using attackers.


• With full-backs added, the defender looks to force his opponent down the line

Push up and condense

With the same set-up, if the attacker cuts back onto his right foot, centre-backs and the opposite full-back must push up and condense the space (3). It is important that the opposite full-back is switched on, so communication and awareness of players is key. Again, progress as opposed.


• When the attacker cuts back inside, defenders react and push out

Recovery runs

We now add in four midfielders (4). An attacking player serves the wide player, who will cross into the box. The defending team must make recovery runs – central midfielders defending the key area on the edge of the box, while the wide midfielder doubles up with the full-back. The opposite wide midfielder makes a recovery run to the edge of the area. Progress as opposed.


• In Recovery runs, central midfielders drop back to defend the key area on the edge of the box

11v11 game situation

We move to an 11v11 game situation played in the space between the two penalty boxes. A player from each team occupies the attacking half of each left and right channel. The ball must go through the central midfielders, who then pass it wide for the cross – wide players in their channels cannot be tackled. The opposing team must defend the cross using the tactics and runs rehearsed (5a/5b).


• In the 11v11 game situation, play works through central midfield before being spread out to the wing. In this example, defenders retreat


• On this occasion though, the winger cutting back means defenders push out and midfielders compress space

What are the key things to look out for?

We’re looking for good organisational skills, positional sense and positive defensive play. Players must be versatile and reactive to different types of attacking threat.


  • Ball movementBall movement
  • Player movementPlayer movement
  • DribbleDribble
  • Optional movementOptional movement