This is a dedicated session that teaches players the key points involved in being a solid defensive team – namely patience, and the ability to delay the opposition in order to allow for cover and support from team mates.
Within this, we include the importance of good communication, and the acceptance that, at its heart, good defending is about players having strong 1v1 skills.
Players should build understanding as the session progresses, putting that into practice at the end with a 10v10 game.
What do I get the players to do?
We begin as shown, on a half-pitch, with channels converging towards goal (1).
The coach serves out to an attacker. When he receives the ball, his immediate opposing defender must move in and press the man. The attacker has eight seconds to either shoot or cross the ball into inrushing team mates. Once the move ends, the coach serves in to a different attacker, until each man has had a turn.
For the next practice, we use only one channel line. This ‘cut off’ area can’t be crossed, meaning play is directed to one side of the pitch (2). There is no initial 1v1 – this is an immediate 4v4 clash, and the coach must vary passes to different attackers on each restart (3). Offsides count, and should defenders turn over possession, they can score a point by running the ball over the baseline.
We now expand again, to a 6v6 game, with no marked restrictions. Defenders must follow the path of the ball and move as a unit (4), yet also compact themselves when the ball is in central areas, so defending the width of the goal (5).
Narrow or wide game
Finally, we move into two thirds of a pitch – a central goal at one end and two 8-yard wide goals at the other (6). This is 10v10, with defenders having to counter narrow and wide attacking threats.
What are the key things to look out for?
Good defenders need to have excellent 1v1 skills; they must delay the opposition and pressure the ball to allow for cover and support. The nearest defender must always be the man to pressure, but strong team communication, a good mental attitude and considerable patience is essential in creating a resilient defensive unit.