This session is about encouraging understanding between the back five (four defenders and a keeper), and teaches them how to cope with long aerial deliveries, be they from the opposition keeper or outfield players. The aim here is to improve heading technique, and to highlight the importance of cover when defending.
It’s important to practise this because keepers deliver more balls into the opponents’ middle or final third than any other player, being in contact with the ball up to 60 times per game.
This practice is successful every time a goal isn’t scored or an opposition restart isn’t awarded.
What do I get the players to do?
Setting up as shown, the server delivers a high ball for reds to defend under minimal pressure from blues (1). We encourage communication, cover and good technique – namely heading away using height, distance and aggression.
Players must react to where the headers go – so moving up, working as a group, squeezing and holding.
Re-run 10 times, then swap team roles.
Now attackers are active, and one drops deep to receive, so centre-backs must have the space behind them covered by the wing-backs (2). This prevents a gap appearing in the ‘primary danger’ area, where a striker could run onto a flicked header for a 1v1 with the keeper.
Allowing ‘secondary danger’
With full-backs plugging the gap, they are of course exposing the wings to attacks. Although not ideal, we regard this as ‘secondary danger’, because the attacking team still has a lot to do to score from here, and that’s unlikely if we defend properly (3).
What are the key things to look out for technically/tactically?
Central defenders must adopt an aggressive attitude, with all five players working to remove the primary danger whilst staying in line as a group. Good communication (for instance, in staying high to allow the ball through to the keeper, or dropping deep to head) is essential (4).
Wing-backs must be brave enough to get around the back of the central defenders to cover, even if it means leaving space out wide.
Wide attackers must not come infield and affect the centre-forwards, whose job it is to attack every ball.
How do I progress the session?
To progress, bring in two attacking midfielders. Two touch, they cannot go beyond the ball once it’s been served in, but can pick up second balls or knockdowns (5).
We can also bring in another line of strikers, therefore rotating back fours in attacking waves.
Finally, add an opposition keeper to deliver a variety of crosses into different areas (6).
For a full-pitch game situation, play until the ball is dead then restart with either keeper.