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.
Balls, cones (or poles), goals
Number of Players
Up to 20
1v1s 5mins, 4v4s 5mins, 6v6s 5mins, Narrow or wide game 15mins
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.
Defending against the counter-attack and reacting quickly to these transitions of play is important. That’s because in the modern era, once teams win possession they are capable of breaking forward at great speed and with real quality. The ability to make the correct countering defensive decisions is a core part of being a successful defender.... MORE
In this session, we try to give players an understanding of their roles and responsibilities in defensive zones in and around the box – this includes defending individually and as a back four unit. We also look at covering, team balance, and the ability to support. It’s important to practise this because, more than anywhere... MORE
“…fantastic… I encourage all my coaches to read it,”