This session is about defending, both individually and as a unit. It’s crucial we practise this because we need defenders to recognise when to move forward and challenge an opposing striker, and when to hold back.
The session examines the relationships between defenders, and rehearses players in picking up opponents quickly and effectively. It’s a practice that builds, encouraging players to adapt their understanding to new situations and challenges, as well as refining basic defensive principles including staying on their feet, being aggressive and recovering to good positions.
What do I get the players to do?
Setting up 8v4 plus a keeper, as shown, the practice beings with a ball on the halfway line. Red defenders must play forwards to any attacker. Now, one blue defender comes forward to engage the red attacker, forcing him to play back to a defender (sideways passes are not allowed). After the pass is returned, blue defenders bounce back into their original positions. Players must stay in the lanes marked out by the cones (1a).
How do I progress the practice?
Now the 8v4 is made ‘free’ – we allow red attackers to turn and attack the goal when they receive the ball, thus creating a 1v1 situation. In addition, blue defenders can now move out of their lanes, assisting each other with the closing down of an opponent (1b).
We now add blue midfield players, whose job it is to press the four red defenders. Red defenders can now play sideways (2a), but the aim remains to release a pass into an attacker, who then turns and moves towards goal. Blue defenders must engage the red attacker with the intention of winning the ball or forcing a backward pass (2b).
What are the key things to look out for?
Blue defenders must aim to prevent an opponent from turning. Defenders not engaged with the play tuck in to cover, being aggressive, and staying on their feet at all times. And as soon as a move breaks down, they must recover into their initial defensive positions. Good communication is vital in maintaining organisation.
How do I put this into a game situation?
On a half-pitch, set up a 7v7 small-sided game (plus keepers) with a goal at each end, as shown (3a/3b). Encourage players to play forwards and make sure defenders are ‘bouncing in and bouncing out’ when balls are played into attackers.
Players should utilise the individual and team/unit defending skills rehearsed in the first two practices, putting them into use in a full game situation