Delay, deny and dictate

This is a defending session. It is made up of three practices that are all designed to focus on denying opponents the opportunity to progress and penetrate with the ball.

Each practice is competitive and game related, and all of the players are fully involved in each practice, but their roles can be rotated so every player gains experience of both the defensive and offensive functions. Each practice features players in possession, players out of possession and players in transition.

SET-UP

Area
60×40 yards
Equipment
Balls, bibs, cones, 4 small goals
Number of Players
Up to 16 players + 2 goalkeepers
Session time
Defending game: 20mins
Quarters game: 20mins
8v4 game: 20mins

What do I get the players to do?

Defending game

We set up an area of 60×40 yards split into three 20 yards zones. We have a goal and a goalkeeper at each end and we’re using 12 outfield players, divided into two teams of six plus keepers.

We give players a minute to choose their own formation and strategy, so they can discuss how they’re going to defend, and then we play a 7v7 game, as shown [1]. We set players the challenge of winning the ball in all three of the different areas of the pitch – the attacking third, the midfield third and the defending third.

1

1. Play 7v7 including keepers. Players choose their own formations and strategy – they have to decide how they’re going to defend
2. Challenge teams to win the ball in all three zones. Here the reds win possession in the midfield third and recycle the ball to launch a counter-attack


Quarters game

We set up in the same 60×40-yard area, this time split into quarters. We’re using 16 outfield players, with a 2v2 being played in each quarter, but you could play 2v3 or even 3v3 – numbers can vary depending on your needs and the ability of your players.

Play starts separately  in each quarter with a pass across the quarter to one of the opposing players. One team is defending the central line and the other team is defending the outside line, as shown [2]. Teams score by dribbling over the line that their opponents are defending.

2

1. Play starts separately in each quarter with a pass across the quarter to the opposition. The receiving pair then attack in a 2v2. In this quarter the reds have started with the ball
2. It’s a 2v2 in each quarter, with one team defending the outside line and the other team defending the central line. Here the blues have played the starting pass but they soon regain possession
3. Teams score by dribbling the ball across the line they are attacking. Here the reds score by running the ball over the central line
4. Look for teams to press, tackle and intercept. Here the reds win possession and immediately launch a counter-attack


When defending, players should be pressing, tackling and making good interceptions. We set them challenges, such as: can they stop a forward dribble or pass in a 1v1; can they score within five seconds of regaining the ball.

What are the key things to look out for?

We want to see that players recognise the triggers to press and the triggers to delay, and that they can defend with a compact shape.

It’s also important that when one player presses, a team mate covers defensively and balances the play. Similarly, players should exhibit control and restraint, so they don’t just throw themselves into rash challenges when defending 1v1.

How would I put this in a game situation?

8v4 game

We set up in the same 60×40-yard area, this time divided into three zones with two small goals at each end. We’re using 12 outfield players split into a blue team of eight and a red team of four. The team of eight starts with four players in each of the outer zones – they must keep possession and score by successfully passing the ball to the other end zone. The team of four presses from the central zone and looks to block passing routes from one end zone to the other.

One red player can break out of the central zone to press in an end zone. If the pressing team wins the ball, they can counter-attack by shooting at any of the small goals, as shown [3a].

3a

1. The blue team must retain possession in the end zones. They score a point if they are able to pass from one end zone to a team mate in the other
2. The red team of four presses from the centre zone and looks to block passing routes from one end to the other
3. One red defender can break out of the centre zone to press in the end zones
4. If the pressing team wins the ball, they can score in the small goals

When the ball is with the blue possession team in one end zone, a team mate from the opposite end zone can drop into the central zone to receive the ball, as shown [3b].

3b

1. The red pressers should move as a unit, blocking the passing routes closest to the ball. But here they have given opponents too much space
2. When the ball is in one end zone, a blue from the opposite end zone can drop into the midfield to receive and play the ball onwards


What are the key things to look out for?

We want to see that the central players understand when to press and when to delay. They must also retain their shape and defend as a unit, moving together to stop the forward pass.

The possession team need to recognise when the opportunity to penetrate the central zone presents itself and should not try to force the play.

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