Defending positions

This is a defensive practice that teaches players how to hold the line, whilst defending threat that emerges through the middle and well as from wide areas. It looks at technique and positional play, as well as elements of concentration, and is a session that really focuses defenders in the lead-up to match day.

We’ll rotate players for all practices so that each can experience the differing roles.


Up to half pitch
Balls, cones, goals
Number of Players
Up to 11
Session time
Wide practice 10mins
Grid practice10mins
Grid game 15mins

What do I get the players to do?

Wide practice

We set up as shown and begin with a pass being fed into the left-sided striker who feeds the left winger in the blue coned area. An onward pass is played to the overlapping winger who is pressured by the right-back. The winger retreats back across the line of cones before crossing for defenders to defend against the second striker (1a). We now repeat on the right.


• Defenders must stay aware to a long cross-field pass being made, and here push out accordingly

How do I progress the move?

Instead of cutting back, the overlapping winger returns the ball for his team mate to deliver. Alternatively, the ball can quickly switch to the opposite wing, either via the server or from a long cross-field pass. The back four must now push up quickly (1b ).


• The right-back pressures his man, leading to the overlapping winger cutting back to send a ball across into the box

What are the key things to look out for?

Defenders must move up and down as a unit, adjusting to the progress of the ball. Any attacker in possession must be pressured. For individual roles, the right-back watches and pressures the overlap; the first centre-back comes out to pressure his striker but must be ready to drop and cover his right-back; the second centre-back covers the second striker; while the left-back defends the far post, aware of a potential switch.

Grid practice

Playing 3v2, a server feeds the ball to the attacker on his side, who stays deep or runs into the attacking area (2). Attackers can switch play square or diagonally.


• In the Grid practice, the server can pass right to begin the attack. Here, he lays a pass to the attacker who stays deep. Defenders must protect the hatched area

Defenders must limit the threat of attackers getting into the hatched area. Defending must be in relation to the ball and the central attacker, and offsides apply.

What are the key things to look out for?

Defenders must display good body shape and position, quick feet, clever movement, and the willingness to defend ‘critical’ space. The relationship with keeper is important – requiring constant communication when heading, blocking, tackling and intercepting, plus strong technical skills.

How do I put this into a game situation?

6v4, attackers can now switch the attack in either direction but are restricted to staying in their own half (3).


• In the Grid game both goals are defended, and each pair must be alert to a switch of play

Share this

Follow us