The session looks at the core ideal of defending the box, and with it, the goal. It uses 1v1, 2v2 and 3v3 systems working in a unit, highlights crosses into the box and works on phase of play against attacking formations.
It’s important to practise this in the first place to achieve what I deem the first step in winning a game – namely keeping a clean sheet. If you can do this the likelihood is you will win the game.
It’s also vital to forge partnerships in defending, with players always knowing where to be when dealing with a ball in the final third. This cements our defensive thinking whilst also providing the platform for the other key element of the game, attacking.
What do I get the players to do?
In the first practice we set up as shown on a half-pitch in 2v2 situations. The keeper begins by feeding the ball in to the attackers, who approach the box. Defenders’ first priority must be to ensure any shot is prevented, and to try to work play so they force a 2v1 situation against the man with the ball, using good communication and adjustments in position.
Moving into 3v3s, as shown, attackers must now make a sideways pass on the way to attacking the goal.
3v3 plus wingers (3a/3b)
Now we add a wide attacker on each side, meaning defenders must patrol what’s in front of them as well as protecting space left and right. They must adjust and squeeze from the keeper’s serve, preparing to reposition should a crossing situation develop.
Phase of defending (4a/4b/5)
The final practice is 8v7 plus a keeper, and we set up with two defensive midfielders in front of a bank of four plus a midfield pivot who keeps play variable and the tempo high. Wingers are supported by overlapping team mates who must cross or drive inside, while midfielders support and drive forward into the lone striker.
What are the key things to look out for?
Initially our focus is on players defending as individuals – we want them to assume excellent technical control, clarity of thinking and patience.
Next we want to see smart supporting roles with players being able to adjust positions without relinquishing a tight and resilient defensive mindset.
Players must know the key areas to defend, particularly when the threat comes from crosses, and all the time playing in a way that ensures they are compact and hard to break down.
How do I put this into a game situation?
Running this as an 11v11 is important because it brings about match realism. We will use a standard set-up but condition players to defend in certain ways – namely inviting the ball into the final third with those further out being passive, then instructing defenders to protect the goal; or going to the other extreme and defending from the front. Either way the defensive operation must be organised, strict and decisive.