Defending as individuals and pairs

We often think of the defence as a unit comprising four or more players, but it’s common for one or two defenders to find themselves in situations where they are exposed to an overload of attackers.

This session is performed regularly, and is one where concentration and communication are absolutely essential.


40×30 yards, two full-size goals, 2 cones marking the halfway line, 4 more marking entry gates
Goals, balls, cones
Number of Players
12 to 20

What do I get the players to do?

The keeper throws the ball out to one of his three attackers. Ahead of them are two defenders. The attackers must progress into the opposing half, exchanging passes and looking to fashion a shot on goal (1).


• Attackers approach with a 3v2 overload

Defenders must organise themselves well, tracking the ball but also looking for attackers running into space. The move will end either with a goal or a defensive clearance (2).


• They must combine to beat the two defenders and move in on goal

Now switching direction, the two defenders become attackers and are joined by another player from the side. The three initial attackers exit the pitch and return to their gate. They are replaced by two players who now act as defenders, thus creating a new 3v2 overload, where the attacking keeper begins play (3). Keep rotating this set-up for 15 minutes.


• The move ends and play switches – defenders are now attackers and vice versa

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

Although a simple attacking drill, this is very intense for defenders. Jockeying and backtracking techniques work muscle groups, particularly as defenders have to adopt a low body stance whilst moving backwards. Quick feet are essential, as is good shot-blocking. We also look at position, distance from the ball, directing of the opposition, plus communication and knowledge of when to cover and when to press. 

How do I progress the session?

Change the width of the pitch as this dictates the level of difficulty for defenders – the wider, the more challenging. Also look at the number of touches allowed – a two-touch game for attackers works defenders as a pair, while all-in for attackers provokes 1v1 dribbling for defenders to adjust to.

How would you put this into a game situation?

Play 6v6 attacking one goal on a half pitch, with the emphasis on full-backs and centre-backs finding and holding position. Attackers must produce overload scenarios, but the defensive line needs to counter the threat by pressing as individuals, or closing a man down in tandem (4/5/6).


• A 6v6 game situation on a half pitch


• The winger and midfielder combine. Defenders must chase back to cover


• One defender prevents a pass into the six-yard box while another closes down to block the shot

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