The art of pinning

This session is about coaching players – of all shapes, sizes and abilities – to use their bodies to peg back, pin and manipulate a defender in order to gain more time and space, for both themselves and the team.

I think it’s important to coach this because, in my experience, young British players still have some way to go in perfecting this skill compared to their European counterparts.

Essentially, the better we are in tight spaces, the more we will retain possession. The master of this was Kenny Dalglish – brilliant at stretching play, thus leaving room for others to exploit.


Up to 60×40 yards
Balls, cones, goals
Number of Players
Up to 16
Session time
Two-channel practice, three-zone game and 8v8 game – 20mins each

What do I get the players to do?

Two-channel practice

Setting up as shown, the ball is rolled in to the striker. He must pin the defender, using his body and skill to manipulate a shot on goal.

If the defender wins the ball or out-muscles the striker, he must move into box two and put his foot on the ball to score a point (1).


1. In the left channel, the attacker pins and rolls in order to find a route to goal, while in the right channel the defender has stolen the ball and moves into the other box to score a point
2. Realise where the space is, and shield the ball away from danger in order to buy time for team mates to make a receiving option
3. Put weight on the heels, forcing defender back towards his goal
4. Use the body and skill to roll the defender where possible
5. Get the body low (using a low centre of gravity) to hold off the defender

What are the key things to look out for?

There are two common mistakes. The first is when a small player comes to meet the ball and gets bundled over. In this instance, his weight is probably  on his toes and his centre of gravity is too high.

The other mistake is when the player touches the ball too early, thus not being able to let the ball’s momentum help him turn. Here, he must get his body position right and take the line of the ball when looking to turn.

How do I progress this?

We can progress by varying the speed and type of pass, and by changing the angle of entry into the box. Also allow the striker to pin and then move the ball forward out of his feet in looking for the next pass.

Three-zone with winger game

Set up 8v8, as shown, in a 40×30-yard area (2a). The coach serves to a midfielder who must find one of his strikers in the end zone, for a 2v2 situation.


• From the serve, the midfielder pins and rolls, feeding his attacker who pins and receives, before laying a pass into his fellow frontman

The striker  must pin defenders with the option to turn and shoot, interlink with a team mate for a shot, or set back for the midfielder to shoot in his zone (whilst being alert to rebounds).

He may also play wide into the winger’s box for a cross (2b). If the keeper wins possession, he throws the ball directly to one of his strikers, otherwise restart from the coach.


• In this instance, pinning enables the ball to be sent wide to the winger, as players reorganise for a cross into the middle

8v8 game

(not illustrated)

On a 60×40-yard pitch, teams set up 1-3-3-1 and 1-2-3-2. Use cones to mark offside lines, which should be set deep.

We want to see the type of individual brilliance and technical detail practised earlier in the session, with strikers always encouraged to buy time for their midfield runners.

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