The back four

This session is all about making sure the defensive unit is organised. A strong, intelligent defence is crucial for keeping clean sheets, and achieving that aim is halfway towards winning matches.

No matter who the opposition is, there will come a time in every game when the back four will be asked the toughest of questions, and their ability to provide the right answers will have a huge impact on the final outcome.

We practise the following move for 15 minutes, add an additional player and repeat, switching between the left and right sides of the pitch. We then put it into a 20-minute game situation.



Half pitch


Balls, goal

Number of Players

9 (goalkeeper,
4 defenders,
4 attackers)

What do I get the players to do?

The goalkeeper releases the ball to a line of four attackers who, having started at the halfway line, approach on the left-hand side of the pitch. Three defenders approach, with the left-back only able to support his team-mates when the attack is less than 30 yards from goal.

Organise defenders so that the nearest to the ball moves forward to close down the man, and ensure that each player knows his position across the back four. In a confined area of the pitch, the defenders should work together to suffocate space and clear the danger. When this happens, or should they win possession, they pass it back to the keeper. If the attackers find a way through look for defensive recovery runs to be made.

How do I progress the session?

Progress this by adding a fifth attacker on the other side of the pitch. If play is switched the left-back needs to delay the forward progress of this extra player, allowing enough time for his fellow defenders to come across.


• Four attackers progress forward with the ball.


• Defenders must be alert to attacking patterns.


• A fifth striker creates a positional challenge for the left-back.

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

Ensure good lines of communication throughout, with defenders less than 15 yards apart and always looking to hold position, as well as being ready to make good recovery runs should play be switched quickly. In addition, the back four should always be looking to maintain a high line.

How would you put this into a game situation?

Play in the space between the two 18-yard boxes and across the full width of the pitch, with a goal on each 18-yard line. This game is 7v7 but uses two additional neutral players.

Each side lines up with four defenders and two attackers. The two neutral players in the middle will join the side in possession, in effect offering a four-man forward line which approaches four defenders.

Allow free movement of full-backs as well to create possible attacking overload situations and encourage the game to flow naturally.

When possession changes hands, the two neutral players switch sides. Always look for players to display the technical and tactical principles rehearsed in the moves at the start of the session.


• Neutral players in the middle offer two more attacking outlets.


• The right-back comes forward to create a 5v4 overload.


• Possession changes hands and the neutral players switch allegiance.

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