Defending in the final third

This session examines defending in the final third, specifically through the organisation and movement of the back four.

While we focus on the defence, it’s important that all players on the pitch know their jobs and are prepared for all eventualities.

This is an important session for us and comes with a number of variations designed to keep players on their toes and alert.



Half pitch


Balls, cones, goals

Number of Players


Session time

Phases 1 and 2

15mins each,

game 20mins

What do I get the players to do?

Phase one

We use a half pitch with 10-yard channels on each side, placing cones diagonally from the halfway line to the corners of the penalty box. There is a central 15×12-yard box just inside the half and two 5-yard target goals to the left and right.

Three players in the box play five passes before one is released to join two team mates further up the pitch (1a). The players attack 3v2 against two defenders, looking to score, whilst be careful to remain onside. Should play be turned over, the defenders counter-attack, attempting to pass through either target goal.


• In Phase one, after five passes the player emerges to create a 3v2 attacking overload

How do I progress the session?

Now, the centre-backs drop onto the 18-yard line and a deep delivery this time comes from one of the wingers positioned in the channels (1b). We repeat with a deep cross from the opposite side, then re-run the drill. The set-up is then repeated but the winger crosses from further up the line (1c).


• In Phase two, the supply line is a cross from deep into the penalty area


• Phase three features a cross from an advanced wing position

We now also rotate defensive personnel to offer new challenges for defenders and to see how results differ – for example, two full-backs, or a centre-back and left full-back, or a centre-back and right full-back.

Phase two

In the second phase we remove all cones and bring in a back four. This defence is tested against four  attackers and two wingers. The serves are as follows:

  • central and from deep, to land in the 18-yard box (2a)
  • received by the wide attacker, who takes on the full-back in a 1v1 and crosses, with defenders dropping back to clear
  • from the left then the right (2b)
  • a floated pass into the six-yard box
  • a grounded pass to an attacker who has dropped short to receive (2c)


• Phase four features five waves of attack – the first a simple chipped pass through the middle…


• Next, a 1v1 on each wing prompts balls to be crossed in from either flank


• Now defenders move out to repel another lofted ball, while a short pass presents the fifth attacking wave

What are the key things to look for technically/tactically?

Defenders must position well, track opposition movement, cover, communicate and close down. They also need to judge the right time to make a tackle, as well as squeezing so as to compress space.

This is a quick-paced session that we assess continuously as play develops.

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