The dedicated defence


Up to a full pitch


Balls, cones, goals, mannequins

No. of players

Up to 21

Session time

Unopposed and opposed back four 10mins each, 8v6 25mins, Full pitch game 35mins

This session is all about defensive positions. It looks at how players should act when the opposing team has the ball, working firstly with units and then with all of the team together.

It’s important to practise this in order to retain defensive shape when out of possession. Players need to look at which side to show, which side to mark, as well as assessing defensive distances and planning how to win the ball back.

This is relevant to every match we play in, and we practise the session each week.

What do I get the players to do?

Unopposed back four

The first set-up coaches players in adopting the correct position in relation to the ball, and each other. Four mannequins occupy perceived attack positions (two centre-forwards and two wingers). The coach moves the ball from side to side, backwards and forwards. The nearest man presses the ball, while the back four move in relation – side-to-side, squeezing out and dropping off (1).


1. In the Unopposed practice, the coach moves the ball across the pitch
2. A defender moves forward when he is the nearest man to the ball
3. Defenders must work side-to-side in relation to the ball

Opposed back four

Now the mannequins are replaced with attackers, who are all two-touch. Attackers are not looking to score though, they just keep the defenders moving – forwards and backwards (2), and side to side (3).


1. In the Opposed practice, attackers link up without trying to score in the goal
2. Defenders react to the ball going wide by moving across the pitch
3. A defender moves forward when he is the nearest man to the ball


1. Defenders must react to the ball being switched across the pitch
2. In particular, the full-back must quickly recover to mark his man
3. Other players move in relation to the ball whilst staying close to their man

Defenders must mark on the correct (goal-)side, should be tight, remaining close enough to the ball to affect play. The nearest defender must assume a position as if he is about to win the ball, using good communication with team mates at all times.

8v6 attacking overload

Now we bring in additional players to make an 8v6 (4). Attacking full-backs are two-touch and all other players all-in. Attackers can now score; if the defending team wins the ball it must find the coach.


1. In the 8v6, defensive midfielders work in closing down attacking team members and forcing play wide
2. The back four again moves in relation to the ball

Defenders adopt the same principles as before, but full-backs must now ensure they get out to the wide men quickly (because wingers are being supported by other wide attackers) (5), halting their forward momentum, showing them down the line and stopping crosses. Centre-backs move across when the ball is played wide, and the opposite full-back tucks in to leave the furthest attacker, but he must be ready to recover. Defensive midfielders work across the ball.


1. Closing down quickly forces the winger to move the ball back inside
2. Defensive midfielders assist the full-back closing off forward passing opportunities

Full-pitch game

This is 9v9 outfield plus a neutral who plays for the attacking team. Attacks begin with the keeper feeding a centre-back. Opposing centre-forwards must show one way to play, therefore making play predictable, and enabling other defenders to get into their positions in relation to the ball (6).


1. In the Full pitch game, the keeper begins each attack
2. The attacker forces the receiving centre-back to play either left or right in stimulating the patterns of defensive movement previously practised

As before, the nearest man presses, while the midfield screens the front, closing down if the ball goes into that area.


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