Decisive defending


60x90 yards


Balls, cones (or poles)

No. of players


Session time

Netball 5mins, diagonal goals 5mins, gates game 30mins, 11v11 game 25mins

Being decisive at the back is vital, because the stronger the defensive principles the more defenders can make opposition attacking play seem predictable.

We use this session to focus on showing the opposition outside from the front, incorporating solid formation play and effective covering of team mates. The emphasis is always on getting the ball to the relative safety of the wing.

This practice also relies on midfielders and forwards being aware of their role in the defending process. It’s a complete team mentality.

What do I get the players to do? 


To focus players on moving well to receive passes, we start with the ball in hand, playing a 3v3 throwing and catching game in a 15×15-yard area. Teams score by receiving a pass in either 3-yard wide goal, placed in diagonally opposite corners. A player in possession cannot move with the ball, and must rely on other players to make space for themselves (1).


• In the warm-up, ‘netball’ is played first. The player in possession cannot move, meaning that his team mates must be fluid at all times

Diagonal goals

We now progress to a normal football game, with each team looking to score by passing to a team mate in the goal (2).


• Play then progresses to normal football

Gates game

We now create a 60×90-yard playing area. Using cones or poles, three 3-yard goals are spaced evenly along the longer sides – one centrally with the other two 10 yards in from each edge. This is an 8v8 game with no restriction on touches.

The formation players adopt depends on whether we want to rehearse a high press (emphasis on attacking numbers) or mid press (emphasis on midfield numbers). A coach stands on each side, behind the line, and moves in relation to where the ball is. Players cannot score through a gate that a coach is covering.

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

We expect defenders to force play to one side, with supporting team mates in turn pressing to keep the ball in that area (3a).


• In the gates game, effective pressing moves play away from the central area

Defenders need to be aware of attackers switching play, and must track runners without compromising the guarding of gates (3b/3c).


• A clever switch creates danger but blues press quickly to close down the space


• A tackle is made, leading to a counter-attack and subsequent goal

We regard it a defensive lapse if a goal is scored by any method other than a counter-attack.

How do I progress the session?

We progress by moving play into an 11v11 game. The premise here is to isolate space in the centre by forcing the ball to one side. This applies to defenders primarily, but we look for midfielders and attackers to do likewise, flooding the midfield and keeping play away from central danger areas (4).


• In the 11v11 game, blues press high up the pitch, determined to force play to the wing



  • Ball movementBall movement
  • Player movementPlayer movement
  • DribbleDribble
  • Optional movementOptional movement