Low block & emergency defending

This session is all about employing a low block and rehearsing players in emergency defending.

Most teams will employ the low block at some point during a season. The key principle of this team tactic is to block the middle of the pitch, starve the opposition of space in terms of vertical lines and prioritise showing the opposition wide.

If the low block is breached, or if the defenders are facing a counter-attack, they should resort to emergency defending.

We want to see players demonstrating that they have developed a clean sheet mentality and can handle defending in 1v1 situations when required. We also want to see the defenders making quick decisions about whether to press, recover or retreat. They should ultimately get in a position to regroup and defend with a narrow shape and prevent penetration from both central and wide attacks.

SET-UP

Area
Two thirds of pitch
Equipment
Balls, bibs, cones, 2 mannequins,
2 full size goals
Number of Players
Up to 20 players + 2 goalkeepers
Session time
Practice 1: 20mins
Practice 2: 20mins
11v11 game: 20mins

What do I get the players to do?

Practice 1

We set up on just over half a pitch, with a goal and a goalkeeper at each end. The playing area is coned off in a funnel shape, as shown [1]. We position a mannequin on each flank at the wide end of the funnel, as if they were wingers.

We’re using 15 outfield players, split into a blue team of seven and a red team of eight. This is a phase of play and the reds are set up as if they were part of a 4-1-4-1 formation defending the wide end, whereas the blues form part of a 4-2-3-1 formation and are defending the narrow end of the funnel with a low block.

Play starts with a pass out from the goalkeeper to a blue full back, who receives and plays a long pass up the pitch in the direction of one of the mannequins, as if he was passing to his left winger. However, the red right back intercepts and play goes live.

The reds now attack the narrow end of the funnel and must try to score in the goal as normal. If the blues regain possession, they have to counter-attack quickly and must get a player over the half way line to score in the goal at the wide end.

1

1. The blue full back receives a starting pass from the keeper and plays a long ball up towards the mannequin in the left wing position
2. A red full back intercepts the long pass and play goes live. The reds switch play and attack the narrow end of the funnel and try to score
3. The blues are defending with a low block but here it is penetrated and the blue must go 1v1 to stop the red attacker
4. If the blues regain possession, they should try to get a player over the halfway line into the zone in front of the goal. He can then try to score in the goal


What are the key things to look out for?

The team defending the funnel end should be defending with a narrow shape, in order to block and cut off passing routes; at the other end the defenders should force play wide by blocking off the centre. This means that 1v1s will naturally occur in both narrow and wide areas of the pitch and other players must cover this situation – we want to see them supporting the play if their team wins the 1v1, and they should block, tackle and force the play if the 1v1 is lost.

What do I get the players to do next?

Practice 2

We set up on half a pitch with a goal and a goalkeeper at each end. The corners of one end are coned off from the goal, as shown [2], and a mannequin is positioned on each of the flanks.

We’re using 15 outfield players, split into a blue team of seven and a red team of eight. Again, this is a phase of play and the teams are set up using the same partial formations as in the previous practice, this time with the reds defending the funnelled end of the pitch and the blues defending the wide end. Two red fullbacks are locked in the coned off corners with the mannequins, while the remaining players are in the central area.

Play starts with the blue full back attempting to switch the play to the ‘winger’ mannequin on the far side of the pitch, but his pass is intercepted by one of the red full backs. On intercepting the ball, the red full back passes to a team mate in the main playing area and then can follow his pass and join the play.

The reds are then free to attack the wide end of the pitch as normal. If the blues gain possession, they must attack the coned off goal centrally.

2

1. Play starts with the blue full back attempting to switch play to the far mannequin, as if it was a winger
2. The switch is intercepted by the red full back, who passes to a team mate outside the coned off corner. He is then free to join the play in the main area
3. The reds attack the widest end of the pitch. Here the blues have forced the ball wide but a well-timed central run from the red striker penetrates the low block
4. The blue defenders must recover quickly to stop the attack. If they win the ball, the blues should counter-attack the goal at the narrow end


What are the key things to look out for?

We want to see both teams defending with a low block – one should be forcing the play wide where the pitch is at full width and the other should be blocking passing routes and balls played between the lines where the pitch is cut off. Both teams will have to recover and use emergency defending if they lose the ball.

With a turnover of possession, we want to see players reacting quickly and covering the centre of the pitch.

How would I put this into a game situation?

11v11 game

We set up on just over half a pitch with a goal at each end. We’re using 20 outfield players and two goalkeepers, split into two teams of 11. We would suggest that coaches set up the two teams in the formations that they employ on a regular basis.

The blues are defending the penalty area end of the pitch and they have to get their centre forward (the number 9) over the halfway line when attacking. They then have five seconds to score, as shown [3]. If one of the other blue players receives the ball over the half way line, such as the either of the wingers, they must cross for the goalkeeper to catch unopposed and then play restarts from the keeper.

The team attacking the penalty area should play as normal.

We make sure players employ a low block and use all they have learnt about emergency defending from the previous practices.

3

1. The blues defend the penalty area end of the pitch. Play starts from the keeper and the defenders build up from the back
2. The blues must get their centre forward over the halfway line. He then has just five seconds to score
3. If one of the other blues receives the ball over the half way line, such as one of the wingers, they must cross for the keeper to catch unopposed and play restarts from there
4. The red team attacks the penalty area end. They play as normal

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