Preparing the back four

This is a purely defensive session in which we structure the back four against opposing attacks with different formations. It is an excellent session when preparing for matchday.

It is game realistic and enables us to prepare for the forthcoming opposition’s formation by practicing against two or three forwards, or a lone frontman.


Half pitch
Goal, balls
Number of Players: 12
6 attackers (4 midfielders,
2 forwards)
5 defenders (2 centre-backs, 2 full-backs, 1 defensive midfielder)
1 goalkeeper

What do I get the players to do?

We play 6v5 in the attackers’ favour. The number of players can be altered depending on specific team formations, but we work on a back four, adding in one defensive midfielder to make five defensive players.

Serve a ball to any of the attacking players. Defenders approach and tackle, attempting to win possession. When possession is gained, either a point is won automatically, or the defender has to play the ball between two poles placed four metres apart on either side of the pitch.

The ball then goes back to the coach. (1a/1b/1c)


• Attackers receive the ball and move forward.


• Defenders winning the ball score a point.


• Server restarts play. Defenders should be aware of different attacking formations.

How do I progress the session?

If defenders are increasingly winning the ball, they need to be encouraged to take it to halfway, keeping possession. If they are intercepted though, the game remains live. Repetition of this session allows players to build confidence and gain a clear understanding of their role. (2a/2b/2c)


• To progress, keep the game live when defenders win possession.


• Defenders encouraged to take the ball forward to halfway.


• If possession is lost, defenders must track back, or attempt to hold up play while other covering defenders regroup.

How would you put this into a game situation?

Add more players, for example 7v5 or 8v6, building up to 11v11 when working on full team shape.

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

We’re looking at the relationship of the back four, and within that, the movement and positioning of the full-backs, plus each player’s recovery position. We need to make sure that every defensive player is clear in their role and their decision-making. We will look as well for each defender’s ability to delay the progress of the opposition when not in possession, so allowing time for fellow defenders to retreat.

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