Match specific defending


Up to 3/4 pitch


Balls, cones (or poles), goals

No. of players

Up to 20

Session time

1v1s 5mins, 4v4s 5mins, 6v6s 5mins, Narrow or wide game 15mins

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.


• The coach serves and a 1v1 develops – here the attacker dribbles forward, with the defending closing down the space


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.


Play is now concentrated to the middle and right of the pitch in a 4v4 attacking move
1. The holding midfield player drops back to support the full back and cover the run of the forward


Defenders must react accordingly, given that a new ball is served to each attacker on restart
1. As the ball is played centrally, the midfield player presses, while the defenders drop off to compact the space in front of goal


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).


• In the 6v6 game, defenders must move as a unit depending on the progress of the ball


• Defending the width of the goal – the area immediately in front of it – is essential

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.


• In the 10v10 game, each team has a different defensive role – narrow for one side, deep for the other

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.


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